Archives For Work

get things doneWho hasn’t struggled with productivity? All of us want to be more productive.

Perhaps one of the best places to start is to identify what’s holding you back.

In my own life I have identified eight things that get in the way. Just being able to identify them has proved helpful.

  1. Perfectionism. This shows up when I sit down to type out a message or a blog post. I have to force myself to hit the publish key for the blog to go live. Yes, I could rewrite it, but then I could rewrite it again and it would never go out.
  2. Pain. While physical pain can definitely cramp your productivity, I am thinking more along the lines of emotional pain. It is so widespread and all of us encounter it. And it will slow you down. It has your attention, not the project you are working on.
  3. Procrastination. I wish I could tell you that I never put anything off. But I can’t. Sometimes I just don’t want to jump in and get started. Precious moments are wasted.
  4. Play. To be honest this is not an issue for me, but I have seen it in others. There is nothing wrong with having some play time, but once again, there is a time and a place to play.
  5. Pressure. Deadlines, projects, outside pressures, and even things coming up can distract you and cut into your productivity.
  6. Pace. It’s not unusual for me to use thirty resources when putting together a message. If I don’t properly pace myself, or if I get sidetracked into another resource, then I’ll have to hurry at some point which means that I may not be able to consult a very helpful resource. All because my pace was wrong.
  7. Process. When it comes to writing many times I have to force myself to just sit and write or type. If I try and edit at the same time then I lose some valuable thoughts and it slows me down. The process is something that I face every day.
  8. Pandemonium. Chaos and Clutter. Guilty on both counts. Both include multiple things. It may be numerous things on my to do list, too many obligations, too many conflicting opportunities, and too many things on my work desk.

Just looking at these eight things may help you realize how easy it is to be less productive. These things seem to be ubiquitous. You are always fighting them.

So what’s the plan to overcome these hindrances? That’s coming in the next post.

iStockEncouragementOne of the inevitabilities of life and the ministry is that people will abandon you.  Not everyone will go the distance with you.

The fact is, we live in a quitter culture.  People walk away from their jobs, their spouses, their new year’s resolutions, and their churches.

Near the end of the apostle Paul’s ministry some of his coworkers abandoned him.  That absolutely amazes me.  Just the thought of being able to serve alongside Paul fires me up.  But people left him.  My guess is, based on typical human reasoning, they had “good reasons” for leaving Paul high and dry.  After all, they had “justifiable concerns” of Paul.

Over the years I have followed some pastors with incredible ministries.  Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Perry Noble.  Their stories are similar.  They have all had good friends and coworkers abandon them, and of course, all left for “good reasons.”  In every case it was the pastor’s fault.

So I’m sure it was the same for the apostle Paul.

Perhaps those who abandoned Paul were concerned that his prison sentence showed that God was not in his minstry.

Whatever their reasoning they left.  But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16 is asking God to greatly reward Onesiphorus who stood with him and encouraged him while he was lanquishing in prison.  “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains...”

My guess is you will cross paths with someone this week who has been abandoned by someone.  They are feeling incredible loneliness.

Stay alert and take the time to step in and encourage.  You will be glad you did.  And God may just happen to shine on you, and even your family.

IMG_1037The NBA season is winding down and things are getting tense.  The Miami Heat tend to have more pressure than some of the other teams. They supposedly put together a dream team a couple of years ago in hopes of winning a championship.

Fortunately they have been able to win back to back championships the last two years. Prior to those championships, their star player, Lebron James, appeared to struggle at key times, i.e. the end of the game. He has been labeled as a bad closer.  Before he was criticized for not coming up big at the end of games with a clutch, game winning shot or play. Fair or not that was the word in the media.

Now I can’t say for sure, but is it the pressure?  We all play differently under pressure. Michael Jordan loved the pressure and always wanted the ball at the end of a close game.  He typically delivered.

But let’s look at the pressure in our own lives.  Perhaps it’s a job interview.  Some great employees are terrible at interview time.  Why? Does the pressure of getting the job hurt their chances?

What about your child who just had a stellar year on the soccer field. Put them in the tryouts for the next level and they have a bad showing. Is it the pressure to perform?

Is it the constant scrutiny? More than likely it is due to increased performance expectations? As a parent it’s a trap that we can easily fall into. Over the years I have watched parents become visibly upset when their child struck out in baseball, missed a shot in basketball, or missed a kick in soccer. As if our kids needed more pressure.

Pressure. You can’t escape it.  It shows up repeatedly.  And when it does it robs you of joy and takes the fun away from the event.

So what can we do to counteract the downside of pressure?

1. Learn to relax. If you miss the basket, will it matter in ten years. For Lebron it may, but not for you.

2. Lighten up with others including your kids. If will be much more fun and enjoyable. It will definitely make the ride back home more enjoyable.

3. Love the pressure. Be excited that you are the one in the position to score. You got the second interview. You have the ball with three seconds left. Relish the moment and make the most of it.

4. Learn from any failures. No one, absolutely no one is perfect under pressure all the time. Learn from it and move forward.

Be honest, where are you allowing pressure to hurt your personal performance?

Toxic WasteIt’s so easy to overlook culture. At times it appears to be like carbon monoxide.  You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s there.

The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.

Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of.  It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.

While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.

Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it?  God did. And He set the example for all of us.

At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities.  Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.

Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.

To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun.  Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them?  No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture.  We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.

Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church.  One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”

In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.

Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll.  I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker.  You will be glad you did.

Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.

Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.

We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!

iStock_000007680150XSmallEvery week I have the opportunity to play basketball with guys much younger than I.  Because I have played sports since I was a kid, there has always been some competitiveness inside of me.

As I get older I often tell Carol that I when I can no longer keep up on the court I will hang up my basketball shoes.  Now that will be a tough day. Right now my goal is to be able to play until I’m sixty. Keep in mind most of the guys I play with are in their late twenties or thirties.

Fortunately for me I was blessed with some speed in the game.  Actually it was speed not skill that often kept me on a team.

But the reality is as I age I will slow down.  And when the day comes that I can no longer keep up, I will stop playing.

Now think how uncomfortable that is.  How often does someone in the workplace approach their boss and admit that they are not keeping up? How hard is it to approach someone and tell them they are no longer keeping up?  I still recall the days in steel erection where some guys just could not keep up, and we had to let them go.

One day you and I will leave our jobs.  One day I will have to quit playing basketball.  One day you and I will have to stop driving our cars.

Those will be tough days.  But they are coming.  And yes, it will continue to be one of life’s most difficult questions.

Am I still able to keep up?

iStockValuesRecently I had coffee with a friend who had worked with Lou Gerstner, one of my favorite CEO’s.  Back in the 1990’s IBM was about to go under. They reported the biggest corporate loss of all time, and Gerstner was brought in to restructure and rebuild the company.

While initially IBM was forced to lay people off, today they boast a workforce of 400,000 and the company is thriving.  However, in the midst of the turmoil Gerstner fired the #1 producer in the company!

Why would he do that?  Because the employee operated against the cultural value of teamwork.  On a side note I totally understand.  At New Hope Church we believe people are hurting and living with a great deal of stress.  The church should be the one place they can come and be accepted and welcomed. If you have a hard time accepting everyone, then you would be uncomfortable in a leadership role at New Hope. One of our core tenets is a welcoming atmosphere.

Back to IBM.  After they fired their #1 producer what was the fallout? There wasn’t one.  The company never missed a beat.

Think about it.  The #1 producer was not indispensable.

As Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin, “Every day, bosses, customers, and investors make hard choices about whom to support and whom to eliminate, downsize, or avoid.”

In most fields tenure is no longer a guarantee. You must show up every day living out the company values.

Perhaps now you know the answer to the question, “Are you indispensable?”

iStock_000016667486XSmallFour of my kids have had various jobs and worked for different bosses.

Some good, and some not so good. So we have had discussions as to how you treat and respond to difficult superiors.

Years ago I worked in retail for a while, and from my perspective the manager was very different. I never got close and never really had a conversation with him. To be honest, my point of view may have been skewed.  However, my immediate boss in the jewelry and silverware department was incredible.

At any rate, the day came when the manager of the store approached me about taking on a large in-house project. Basically I would be doing him a huge favor. This was before bar codes and my job was to go throughout the store and essentially give every item an identifier according to the method of my choice.

It was all to be done manually and I could have declined. However, I gladly accepted the challenge.

All of us will be asked to do things that we may not be excited about, but if our manager or superior asks us, why not jump at the chance?  I once asked a guy who worked for me to take out the trash and he balked. Let’s just say that that did not go over well with me at all. At the same time I gained a little insight into his character.

Sure I understand human thinking.  Why make the boss look good? Why help him out? That’s basically what I was doing for my former manager. But I had no problem with that.

It’s so easy to be self-centered and walk away from projects that do not interest us. But you are better than that. Furthermore the project you walk away from may be the very thing that will aid in your personal development.

This week while others are complaining about the boss, have the character to perform well, take the initiative, go the extra mile, or display a positive behaviors.

What can you do today to set the mood for the entire week at work?



iStocklackofrecognitionHave you ever been in a group setting where the compliments were being dished out, only to realize none were coming your way?

This is huge, so let’s take just a moment to think about how it can impact you.

Feeling under appreciated has led many to leave their jobs, their marriages, and their friends.

It has even led some to lose their loyalty to their country.

Let’s go back in history. In 1775 one of George Washington’s aggressive military leaders led an attack on Quebec. It was during a driving snowstorm in the middle of December. While the Canadians proved stubborn and a surrender was not forthcoming, the leader’s valor was praised by Washington. During the attack this leader also took a musketball in his leg.

However, the leader’s colleagues had a different opinion, despite the fact that he was also a hero in earlier battles. His accomplishments were ignored, and to add insult to injury, he was criticized for overspending (after all, he was an American). By 1779 he was to be dismissed for misuse of funds. However, Washington insisted he stay.

You know the man I am talking about. It was being under appreciated that eventually led him to turn on the American armies.

Benedict Arnold, perhaps the most infamous traitor of all time, may have gone down in history with an entirely different ending had he been properly recognized.

That’s where you come in. None of us will probably ever get all the praise we feel like we deserve. But you cannot allow that to poison your soul and lead you to walk away from what is valuable to you.

On the other hand, think of others. Perhaps there is someone in your own life who is feeling under appreciated.

Never underestimate the power of appreciation.

Who can you show appreciation to today?

Happy active family jumpingWhen life gets hard, our attitude and outlook on life typically take a nose dive. As you look around and see all the pain and suffering, you sometimes lose hope. You don’t have to look far to see the pain in others either.

I’m sure we would all like to be a little more positive. But at times we wonder if it’s possible.

The apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was in jail. And the theme of that letter is joy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think joy would cross my mind.

Joy in a prison cell is not what you would expect. While I do not want to dig into that particular book today, I would like to share a few practical things that have helped me over the years.

These are simple, but it will take discipline to practice them every day until they become a habit.

The 5 Habits

1. Start the day with gratitude. What better way to start the day than being thankful. I don’t care what’s going on, there has to be at least a half dozen positive things you can identify.

2. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Every day marketers try to make us unhappy and wanting more stuff. Then when you realize you cannot afford what they are selling, you start feeling down.

3. Be generous. Most people think only of monetary giving when it comes to generosity. And that’s important.  But you also may have an opportunity, perhaps today, to be generous with your time or your talents.

4. Exercise. You will feel better and be happier.

5. Eat healthier. I am amazed at the shopping carts in the grocery store filled with soda, ice cream, desserts, and frozen processed food. We treat our cars better.  Don’t underestimate the impact of a healthy diet on your energy, attitude, and overall sense of well-being.

So what habits are you starting your day with?

iStockWinningMark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark.  That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle.  Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible?  I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!

Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.

But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.

Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.

We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).

A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.

Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.

A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.  Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!

Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him.  In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.

Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.

You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.

What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?

1. Never give up on yourself.

There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.

One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”

For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills.  When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.

Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.

Neither can you.

2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?

Some are with you only because it’s convenient.

3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.

Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.

Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.