Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Find Work That Will Allow You to Play to Your Strengths

Have you ever had work that just drained or weakened you? Perhaps it was an activity or a particular meeting that you just dreaded? Years ago, for me it was strategic planning sessions. I really dreaded them.
In 2007 Marcus Buckingham published his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. In a sea of business and professional development books, this was a book that really resonated with me. I read it once on my own, and then two more times in book clubs. In addition, our team watched a companion video titled “Trombone Player Wanted”.
Around that same time, our organization had a helpful “Building Leadership Skills” program, in which leadership and non-leadership associates who wanted to grow in their leadership skills read and discussed Buckingham’s book The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success as a group. That book was an abridged version of Go Put Your Strengths to Work. Our organization (and I) was “all in” on Buckingham’s “Strengths Revolution”.
Although there was a lot of excellent information in these books, here’s what I remember, and what continues to be helpful, more than ten years later. Some work (activities) strengthen us, and some weaken us. What strengthens me, may weaken you. Our goal should be to find work that strengthens us (lets us play to our strengths) as much of the time as possible.
In the books, Buckingham has you record all of your work activities (meetings, etc.) for a period of time (a week or two). After each activity is completed, you indicate whether the activity strengthened you or weakened you. Based on this information, you develop strength and weakness statements. That activity was eye-opening for me. Yes, strategic planning sessions really weakened me. Working with team members and mentees who were proactive about their development definitely strengthened me. Although we can rarely design a job completely to our specifications, this exercise helped me to find work for myself, and others, that would strengthen them.
I can clearly remember watching “Trombone Player Wanted” with my team. It was clear that some were excited about the concepts discussed, while others felt it was just the next “flavor of the month”, and they tuned out. For one team member, Del,  it helped him understand why he wasn’t successful on a particular assignment, and what work he needed to find to be successful at. Another team member, Jim, really bought into the strengths movement as well. Jim and I would continue to work together for the much of the next eleven years, and we would often talk about work that either strengthened him or weakened him.
We are all wired differently. The work that strengthens you, may weaken me. I recommend that you check out these books by Marcus Buckingham to help find the work that strengthens you.


3 Practical Tips on Working Effectively from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

What we are seeing happen around the world in response to the coronavirus – mass cancellations in the sports and entertainment arenas, schools moving exclusively to online classes, businesses asking their employees who can work from home to do so – is unprecedented in my lifetime. This is all being done to try to slow down the spread of the virus.
Technology allows for schools and workplaces to continue to function during times like this. I completed most of my seminary education online. For me, and others, this option allowed me to get a degree in a way that worked with my particular situation, which included working full-time and living a few hours from the seminary.
The organization that I worked at my entire career has just asked those that can work from home to do so, effective immediately. For most, I would expect that this will not be a concern at all. In fact, near the end of my career, many of my team members chose to work from home one day a week. Online meeting technologies have improved significantly over the past several years, and many people would even occasionally choose to use that format as a convenience to attend meetings even if they were onsite in our large campus.
As I started my day the last several years of my career, I would begin each morning by working a few hours at home before going into work. This was primarily to prepare for the day and to get caught up on email. I worked from home an entire workday just a few times, and frankly didn’t really enjoy it. Even though I found that I could probably be more productive working at home – due to a lack of interruptions, etc. – I found myself missing the in-person interaction with team members and others, which some may find surprising, as I am an introvert.
If you are in a situation where you find yourself working from home (for weeks, or even months, potentially), how can you make the most of it? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Settle into a routine. Determine your usual location to work, and then make sure you are logged on at the time you would normally be in the office. This doesn’t mean that you can’t work out on the deck/patio on a beautiful day, but find your default location and primarily stick with that. Some might choose to work at a coffee shop, but you would be opening yourself up to distractions and perhaps security/confidentiality issues as well if you chose to work there.
  2. Be physically comfortable. Enjoy staying in your pajamas/sweats/yoga pants! If possible, use an ergonomically (adjustable) chair, have proper lighting, etc., so that your body is comfortable sitting for long periods of time. You won’t have meetings to walk to, so make it a point to get up to stretch at least every hour. A suggestion I have heard in regards to the virus is to take a drink of water every 15 minutes. One person suggested setting a reminder on your smart phone to remind you to do so. And remember, refrain from touching your face; this will be hard to do as you sit at your computer all day.
  3. Be a worker with character. A definition of character that I’ve used for years is “doing the right thing with nobody watching”. Discipline yourself to not check social media, not have the television on, or not do household chores such as laundry, except on breaks. Be a worker – and person – that your leader can trust explicitly.

These are 3 suggestions I had on how to effectively work from home during this period. What would you add to this list?

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How to Develop a Vision and Make it Stick

Have you ever been in an organization and not felt that there was a clear direction on where the organization was going? Or perhaps the organization has a stated vision, but it’s not well understood what the vision actually means. Leaders – whether they are in a Fortune 500 organization, church, non-profit or team – need to provide a vision for those they are leading. People need to know where their leader is taking them. John Maxwell has said that a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
But how do you develop a vision for your organization, and then once developed, how do you make that vision stick? I’ve been helped in this area by two books written by Andy Stanley – Visioneering: Your Guide for Discovering and Maintaining Personal Vision and Making Vision Stick. Continue reading


Making Your Church a “Leadership Factory”: A Short Course on Leadership

I recently taught a six-week Sunday School class at our church on how to lead like Jesus. My aim was to help make our church a “leadership factory”, an idea I got from the book 3D Leadership: Defining, Developing and Deploying Christian Leaders Who Can Change the World by Harry L. Reeder III. Here’s an article I wrote titled “Why The Church Should Be Developing Leaders for the General Marketplace and How to Do It” which was the foundation for the course.

The purpose of the class was to explain how to be a Christ-centered leader no matter where you lead – business, education, government, sports, non-profits, the church, or the home. We learn about leadership in many places, including books, school, business, and seminars and conferences – why not learn leadership at the church, using the greatest leadership model – Jesus?

Below is the outline I planned for the course. I have to admit in the six weeks I didn’t come close to getting to everything that I wanted to, especially the practical applications of leadership. But you never come to the end of learning when it comes to leadership. Good leaders are always growing. Continue reading


5 Essential Qualities of a Great Leader

The subject of leadership is something I think of often. We are all impacted by our leaders, be it for good or bad, from the President of the United States to our immediate supervisor and parents. Soon, I’ll be teaching a class at our church on how to lead like Jesus. The idea behind the class is to make our church a “leadership factory”, teaching how to be a Christ-centered leader no matter where you lead – business, church, sports, non-profit or the home. What better place to learn how to lead like Jesus than the church?
As I prepared to teach the class, I once again gave thought to what the essential qualities of a great leader are. These are qualities that apply to all leaders, wherever they serve. We could name any number of qualities that would be desirable for a leader to have. For example, John Maxwell is known to say that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.
The 2020 Presidential election is fast approaching. What characteristics will voters find most important when they vote for the leader that will represent our country? Some people may focus more on competency, while others may focus more on character. There were eight manager openings in Major League Baseball after the season ended. What qualities are General Managers looking for as they fill those openings?
If you had to name the 5 most essential qualities of a great leader, what would they be, and why? And, what leader(s) would come to mind that demonstrate each of these qualities. Below I’ll share my thoughts on this. Continue reading

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Are People Surprised When They Find Out You Are a Christian?

Recently, I read David Goetsch’s book Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith. This is a good book that I would recommend to Christians on how to integrate their faith with their work.
One comment in the book stood out as I read it. The author writes: “Have you ever worked with someone and been surprised to learn he or she is a believer? How did this make you feel about the individual in question?” Immediately my mind went back to a time early in my career. Continue reading

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Leadership Courage

I used to regularly get feedback indicating that “Bill doesn’t like conflict”. Well, I’m not sure many people really like conflict, but I do know that if you avoid situations because you don’t want to deal with conflict due to a lack of leadership courage it can result in other problems. In fact, Patrick Lencioni has written that the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.
In the organization that I worked at as a leader for nearly 38 years, we often talked about leadership courage, especially in evaluating emerging leaders. But what do we mean by leadership courage?
John Maxwell has said that he has never known a successful leader who was not courageous. He states that courage is an essential quality for a leader. Samantha Pena has written that a courageous leader is someone who constantly asks themselves if they are being courageous enough, who are willing to make difficult decisions and do not back down when things get too hard.

Leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage model these 5 traits:

  • Confront reality. Leaders need to be able to assess their environment effectively and then lead based on the current reality. They have to be able to adjust their thinking and approach based on current conditions.
  • Change agent. Leaders who have leadership courage are comfortable driving change, are not afraid to challenge the status quo and take calculated risks. Susan Pearse writes “Without courage you can’t have the right conversations that lead to change. Without courage you won’t even get off the starting block as a leader.”
  • Open and honest communication. Leaders must be able to deliver the difficult messages about change in their organization, even if they may personally disagree with them.
  • Honest performance feedback. Not being honest about a team member’s performance appears to be kind, but it’s really not. Not being honest doesn’t do the team member nor the organization any favors. Giving a team member a better than deserved performance evaluation is not being fair to them, because eventually they will encounter a good leader who will be honest with them. Give them honest feedback that will help them to address any performance issues they may have.
  • Go back. There are times when a leader must show leadership courage and go back on a decision they have made when it becomes obvious that the decision was wrong. This also takes humility, a trait of all great leaders.

These are just 5 traits of leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage. What would you add to the list?