I worked for my dad’s steel erection company for years, from the time I was a teenager on into my 30’s. Being the boss’s son had its privileges, but sometimes it sure didn’t feel like it.
It was not unusual for some of the guys to hurry on a job, leaving lots of little things undone, so they could head on to the next job. Unfortunately for me, my dad sent me in after them to wrap up loose ends.
This was often very challenging. I may have to burn some welds loose, cut new holes in the roof, or move a roof vent. Sometimes I had to set up a 36′ foot ladder and climb all the way to the top.
Or I may have to throw a huge oxygen tank over my shoulder and hike up several flights of stairs. Only to return and get the acetylene tank. And then return and get the hoses. You get the idea. Sometimes I spent more time getting ready to work than actually doing what needed to be done.
But don’t miss the bigger picture. At one time someone was on the roof with all the equipment at hand. But they chose to move on before they were completely done. It took at least three times as much effort to come behind them and finish the job.
It seemed to be never ending at times. But that’s the job my dad gave me for a period of time.
One day I had just about had it. I needed a break. So at the end of the day I went by my dad’s office. I walked in and complained, “Why am I stuck with all the junk work?’
And he replied, “That’s how you get good.”
Enough said. Now I understood. After all, who doesn’t want to get better, or in my dad’s words, “get good?”
That day my complaints ended. Yes the junk work continued, but now I enjoyed it.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the mundane tasks of life to the real reasons you do what you do. And that makes it all worthwhile. The power of WHY.
Recently a compelling story and its photo went viral. Apparently, an autistic boy just started middle school as a sixth grader. In case you have forgotten middle school, students can be downright cruel. So this boy found himself eating alone during lunch.
While the rest of the students were all wrapped up in themselves, eating with their friends, a Florida State University football player named Travis Rudolph entered the lunchroom and looked around.
When he noticed the boy eating alone he grabbed some lunch and went over and ate with the boy. We can all imagine what kind of impact this one compassionate act had on the boy, and his mother has posted publicly about the tremendous impact it had on her. Being sensitive to the less fortunate is an undervalued value in our society.
Actually this should be more widespread among Christ-followers. Romans chapter 14 talks about being sensitive to those who are weaker (in the faith specifically, but the application goes far wider). But for most of us, this is an overlooked aspect of worship.
The apostle Paul added that this is an excellent way to engage in an act of worship. “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” (verse 18 ESV). The word for serve is the word for worship in the New Testament.
In other words, you honor God and participate in worship when you care about the less fortunate. Perhaps because it reflects on the nature of God, Who is described as merciful and gracious.
You may find similar opportunities to worship at work. Recently my son, Gabe, who works in produce at Harris Teeter, had such an opportunity. A man came in wanting some fruit cut up a particular way. Come to find out his wife had cancer, and he needed the fruit to take back to her hospital room. Gabe spent a few minutes talking to this man, relating how cancer had also stricken his aunts. Then he went into the back and brought out the fruit cut just the way the guy wanted.
My son did not think at the time that that was an act of worship, but it was.
You may have a similar opportunity at work. The question is, “Will you worship at work?”
So what’s the solution?
Let me list eight antidotes to the eight hindrances.
As a review I will list the hindrance followed by the antidote.
Eight things that get in the way. The good news is there will always be unproductive days. I say good news because that is life. Why feel bad? You simply cannot allow that to destroy you. However, you can have better days. But you must be proactive.
What’s the biggest thing in the way of your own productivity?
Why not tackle that one first.
You’ll feel much better. After all, who wants to end the day feeling unproductive?
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.
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.
The 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?
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?
Recently 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?”
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?
When 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?
For me my dad was my role model when it comes to work. Granted, he could be called a workaholic with total justification. And he did go overboard. Perhaps it had something to do with his childhood. He never finished the 8th grade, and his family was very poor with little indoor plumbing, if you know what I mean. Let’s just say that if you had to go to the bathroom in the winter time you made it quick!
However, he taught me some things that will always be a part of me.
Another person who I have admired from a distance is Jack Welch, the well known former CEO of GE. Once he was asked about the secret to success.
Without hesitating he unequivocally said, “Find out what your boss wants and then over-deliver.”
My dad personified that.
Here were a few of his work rules. I use the word rules because in my dad’s way of thinking this is simply the way it is. Any other approach was simply unacceptable.
1. Show up ten minutes early. Hit the ground running. Walk around and make sure everyone has what they need to start the day. We all know how easy it is to waste the first ten minutes of a work day.
2. Stay late. Walk around the job site and start planning for the next day. Even today successful business people suggest that one of their secrets to success is planning the next day the day before.
3. Know what your boss wants done. For those of us working for dad this was easy. He was more than very clear as to what he expected.
4. Then exceed those expectations. Here is how it played out for my dad. He was a crane operator in the steel erection business. While the guys were eating lunch my dad would wipe down the crane and keep it spotless. Put an emphasis on “spotless” and you get an idea of what I am talking about. That would exceed anyone’s expectations. And no one would ever expect you to do it during lunch!
5. Never lower the bar. My dad never did.
And one day someone noticed. Outside the company. When this particular person was looking for a business partner for his company, he thought of my dad. And my dad was offered an opportunity that changed his life.
My dad never set out to run and own his own business. It was the furthest thing from his mind. He didn’t set out to be different. He never set out to WOW others.
He just did those five things and he stood out at work. And it paid off in a big way. Anyone can do these five things. This week you can stand out at work.
Will you? It’s your choice.