30 August 2010

What happens when you just get stuck?

Last summer, I was in western Kenya.  Outside Eldoret, it had been raining after a long dry season so there was deep red Kenya mud everywhere.  We were following our host to his home, when suddenly he turned off the paved road across a steep muddy ditch with out a bridge or culvert.  I attempted to follow, but without his momentum, my van just began to spin.  The harder I revved, the faster the wheels turned and the more the mud flew.  But try as I might, I just got deeper in the mire.

I revved; I tried; I gunned it. But we didn’t go forward.

And I’m a good driver.  I know how to get out of mud.  I know how to cross ditches.  I know how, because not only have I done it many times before, I’ve helped others through the same predicament.

Sometimes people – good people, honest people, visionary people – end up spinning their proverbial tires and getting nowhere.

They are stuck.  The more they try to go forward, the more energy they exert, the more frustrated they become.  They just aren’t moving.  What is supposed to work just isn’t working. The way it’s supposed to be, just doesn’t happen, so they end up caught in mire – not of their own making, but a mire nonetheless.

Here are some ideas of how to get unstuck:

    • Take some time to silence your mind… sometimes thought patterns are whacky when you get frustrated…
    • Reevaluate your approach to the situations you are in...
    • Listen to new ideas in your head and heart that might move you forward...
    • Get a strategic outsider to listen to your dreams… Stuck

Coaching is about moving people forward, not just about getting the wheels spinning.  The coach is the strategic outsider who comes with a new set of eyes and ears – not to tell the “stuck-ee” what to do and not to analyze why they are stuck, but to help them realize a way forward.  The immovable person knows how he got there, he wants a way forward!  And the coach makes it his job to see that he does!

Coaching is not about getting the wheels spinning.  Most anybody can do that.  Coaching is about providing better traction to ideas that the “stuck-ee” has already.   A coach helps the one who is stuck to rethink and move forward.

20 August 2010

What We Feel is Not Who We Are...

“Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.”            - Henri Nouwen

(thanks JR Woodward)

08 August 2010

“How do you restore a Golden Boy?”

My question of the day seems to be: “How do you restore a Golden Boy?” I’m not sure why this particular question at this particular time, but these are some thoughts…

What is a “Golden Boy?” A Golden Boy is someone who has great expectations of achievement placed on him by others and/or himself. A Golden Boy “shines” – you can just see him in a crowd! – He excels academically, cosmetically, athletically or spiritually. Most times, he is an awesome combo of several (if not all!) these characteristics. He is expected to do great things, has all the right background, grooming, breaks and connections. He is destined – so it seems – to excel.

Golden Boys – and Girls for that matter – seemed to live a charmed life. They have all the right stuff. Everyone expects them to do well. They are high school senior class superlatives, college fraternity presidents and football stars. They are photogenic, charismatic and gifted. They are the ones who marry their sweethearts, rise to the top and are known as “born leaders.” In their “world of choice” they make the right moves, know the right people and communicate with fire and passion.

You know these people. Maybe you’re one of them. DAVID: perfection by Michaelangelo

So what happens when a Golden Boy never seems to get out of the chute? What happens when a Golden Boy doesn’t live up to expectations – both of himself and others? What happens when a Golden Boy becomes an “Also Ran,” never quite living up to expectations?

Or what happens when he comes out like gangbusters but fails to launch, only faltering and sputtering, never really finding himself, his course or his mark? What happens if marriages fail, finances falter and careers get off-track?

Or if he fails repeatedly? What happens if he has moral failures? Not just once but over and over?

How does he get back to where he once was – in potential and performance? Seems to me that on-ramps to success are harder to find in our world than before. And I don’t see room for many second chances. But there have to be some.

So as I meditated and thought on this question of the day - “How do you restore a Golden Boy?” this story from the life of Elisha came to mind:

(2 Kings 6:1-7) The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live." And he said, "Go." Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?" "I will," Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!" The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. (NIV)

As leaders, whether in our family, our home, our workplace or our church, part of our job is in restoration and reconciliation. Cleaning up messes and putting things to right. So here are my thoughts on getting Golden Boys to the right place – or at least to an on-ramp…

  • Evaluate Relational Connections –
    • It is important that connections be made and maintained. The relationships that we have are part of God’s networking way. He brings people together for His purposes. If there are tarnished Golden Boys in your relational network, I can almost bet that you are there as part of their redirection and restoration.
      • Elisha was more than just a prophet in this story. He was more of a mentor, companion and a coach. (It appeared that the “company of the prophets” wanted him around – even on a supply run for the new digs. Just wanted – it seems – to hang out with him.)
    • If relationships are broken – assist them in mending them and restoring them.
    • People assist people to get where they are going in their personal journey.
  • Ask the right questions without rebuke, reserving judgment –
    • As a strategic outsider (Elisha didn’t lose the axhead; he was not part of that story… although he was nearby, he we not part of the loss), don’t give instructions, but ask the right questions:
      • What was the last thing you did when you sensed the edge, the sense of achievement, the sense of God’s favor?
      • When was the last time you sensed that you had the edge?
      • What would having the edge look like in your life today?
      • What steps could you make to restore the edge?
  • Help lead them toward Repentance –
    • In an “I’m-Good-Without-God-World”, it seems hard for people to repent.
      • “Since I’m good – and probably “Golden” – it must be someone else’s fault that I’m not succeeding.” Repentance is a hard sell to Golden Boys – even failed and tarnished.
      • Repentance requires ownership of the deeds, attitudes and motives that led to their demise. What happened actually happened because of something. Probably not random acts of the universe. Probably.
      • You cannot repent of something that’s someone else’s fault. Just can’t.
    • How does one really repent, besides just saying I’m sorry?
      • Go back to the place where you lost the axhead – the edge, the sense of achievement, the sense of God’s favor…
      • Sometimes this is an actual place, but at least a real set of circumstances…
      • Sometimes there is a genuine need for restitution…
  • Help lead them toward the goal –
    • When Golden Boys actually lose, it’s often a whole new experience for them.
    • It is hard to focus on moving forward when maintaining is such an effort.
  • Look for a miracle…
    • Floating axheads do happen, but not everyday
    • The right stick in the hands of the right man cast into the right river at the right place at the right time can make iron float.
    • There is a “window of opportunity” for floating axheads
    • The time for reaching out his hand and taking it is limited
    • Getting the edge, getting back on the on-ramp are often about getting the hindrance – whether internal or external – out of the way and moving forward…
  • The right coach can help Golden Boys become golden once again.

04 August 2010

The Hoodie of Leadership...

Phyllis and I were with a large group of teens doing a tourist sight-see of a Scottish castle.  It was an amazing edifice over-looking the Firth, furnished with everything authentic and ancient.  The paintings, artwork, guns and swords on the wall were authentic and the antique carpet on the floor was the real-deal-meal.

Ronnie, the Scottish tour guide, took us from century to century as we went from room to room.  One of the young ladies in the group - I'll call her Mary - was feeling sick, so as the tour moved from room to room she either sat on the floor or found a seat in the corner.  And usually she lagged behind in the group last to leave a room.  As we moved from a small sitting room to another, all of a sudden her sickness intensified, she doubled over and began to throw up.  One of the young student leaders - we'll call him Joseph - immediately took off his nice, white designer hoodie and shoved it in front of Mary.  And she vomited and vomited and vomited.  Others were involved finding plastic bags and holding the hoodie while Mary was sick.

Mary felt better and could now smile; the tour continued; the workers in the Scottish castle scurried to clean Mary's accident off zillion dollar antique wool carpet and Joseph dumped his hoodie in the trash.

Afterwards, I took Joseph aside and I commended him on his leadership.  I said to him, "You demonstrated a true leadership ability because your actions were: Immediate, Decisive and Sacrificial.  When you are a leader, you have responsibilities 24/7 and as you carry out that responsibility, you acquire greater authority.  And as a Christian leader, you want to walk in God's authority."

And that's the way leadership has to always be:

  • Immediate
    • Crisis can't wait for the leader to lead.
    • True leaders must be able to think on their feet and take immediate action.  I think that's why you have to "pray early" so that you are spiritually ready for the day.  Leadership requires immediate action, so prior meditation and heart preparation is necessary to make quick decisions. Our days come at us from 360 degrees at the speed of life. Leaders can respond with immediacy.
    • One of my friends described his pastor: "He might not have always been right, but he was seldom in doubt."  In other words he was able to take immediate action.
  • Decisive
    • Crisis can't be sorted out in a committee.
    • Somebody has to make a decision.  A leader is the one who decides.  Leaders carry responsibility.  Break  that down - responsibility: the ability to respond.
    • The ability to decide under extremely demanding circumstances is the mark of a leader.  Decision making in the comfortable quiet is one thing, but being decisive "under fire" is another.
  • Sacrificial
    • There is a price to be paid for leading.
    • Costly decisions are part of leading.  Not decisions that just cost everyone else - anybody can make those.  Costly decisions and extreme actions that are personally expensive is one of the hallmarks of Christian leadership.  True Christian leadership shows others the way through personal sacrifice.

Joseph did that.  He thought on his feet and saved Mary a lot of embarrassment and the castle a big clean-up.  In the process, he lost a great hoodie.  But in my book, he's on his way to a great life of serving God and His People.

Anyway, he bought a new "Scotland" hoodie when we got to Glasgow.  And that hoodie now has a cool story to accompany it.

(I've changed up the names so as not to embarrass anyone who might be sensitive.)