Encouraging the Heart – How to Build Up and Speak Life!

Encouragement - Become who you are

Our hearts broken, burdened, or bored. Our hearts need encouragement. This post explores what it means to encourage the heart and begins a conversation about how to live that out as leaders, colleagues, and friends.  

Build Up and Speak Life

I believe that every person on God’s green Earth has innate value and was created with purpose and has vibrant potential to be successful in that purpose. However, we have the tendency to allow relationships and circumstances to derail our life journey and burden us away from the excellence we can achieve. We need people in our lives who can speak life into us and encourage our hearts to persevere and enjoy life.  

A couple leadership gurus named James Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a great book called “Encourage the Heart” which provides great insights into how we can build up and speak life into those around us – especially those under our leadership.  

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.” To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. xv) Tweet

The Impact of Encouragement

Every person in your life has a heart that needs encouragement. As a leader, you have the opportunity to serve others by giving or your heart “so that others may fully develop and experience their own” (Intro – xvi). People need to be affirmed for who they are the potential that is within them. They need to hear that their unique contribution is noticed, appreciated, and valued. Providing that does not require much of you, but can be life changing for the individual receiving the encouragement.   

Studies featured in the book provide evidence of the results of genuine, regular recognition and encouragement. People perform better and live happier lives when they regularly affirmed for their life and work.  

Use Names and Say Thank You

I have developed a habit that every time I go to a store or event where people wear name tags – I address them by their first name. When we go out to a restaurant, we ask the waiter or waitress for their name and aim to use it when they take our orders and refill our drinks. Often people are surprised when I use their names but I can usually recognize that they appreciate it. Try it out yourself and demonstrate to people that you recognize them as individuals and that they matter.  

I also try to say “thank you” whenever others serve me. It may be the waitress’s job to refill my water, but I can still demonstrate appreciation for her service. It isn’t difficult to thank your co-worker for the tasks they completed, or thank your spouse for grocery shopping or doing the laundry, or thank your boss for the opportunity to work for them. It isn’t difficult – but it is very impactful.  

The secret is this: we all really do want to be loved.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. 11) Tweet

Featured Photo

Image has a Creative Commons license. It was posted on Flickr by user “craftivist collective” and can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/42839495@N07/6237667320

Reference

Kouzes, James and Barry Posner. Encouraging the Heart – A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. The Leadership Challenge, 2003. 

Link to Purchase

Further Encouragement!

Read this post for more encouragement – Strength through Encouragement

Strong Leaders Thrive with Intuition as they Read People and Situations

Law of Intuition www.thestrongwork.com

Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

Some people have a gift, a natural ability, to read people and situations and make insightful decisions based on a gut feeling. They can be convinced of the right action, and often be right, before they have the facts to back up their conviction. This is what John Maxwell calls “The Law of Intuition.”

Dictionary.com defines Intuition as: “direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.” It is this special “perception” that drives natural leaders to make quick decisions while others lag-behind and perceive the leader as being brash & irresponsible, or as a brilliant risk-taker, or perhaps as a possessed fortune teller!

The Discernment of a Counselor

My wife is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has been seeing clients for almost ten years now. She has a special gift in her ability to discern the challenges or emotions people are experiencing. People naturally open up to her, even on their first conversation and even if they don’t know that she is a counselor. This intuition gives her the ability to ask the right questions that help the other person talk through their challenges to reach a conclusion or a new insight.

Just recently, she met a lady at the gym and within 30 minutes they had a very intentional conversation which ended with new insights, emboldened resolve, and even a moment of prayer. This lady later told my wife that their conversation gave her the courage to make a major life decision and that she was full of hope for the future. My wife’s natural intuition to read people provided an opportunity to touch a life in a significant way.

Seeing Through a Leadership Lens

Maxwell says that “good leaders see everything with a leadership bias, and as a result, they instinctively, almost automatically, know what to do when it comes to leading.” They don’t need all the facts and charts and speeches. They read people and situations and know “in their gut” what needs to happen to accomplish the goal or overcome the challenge.

Leaders, by intuition, see the end – the finish line, the end-zone – so they are able to encourage their “troops” and strive for excellence as they march toward that goal. Through intuition, leaders can also bring the best out of people and drive them to accomplish more than they thought possible. Strong, cohesive teams develop around strong leaders as each person is challenged to be their best to accomplish the common goal – which is revealed through the vision and intuition of the leader.

Leaders are Readers…

  • Of their situation – they evaluate on the fly, ask probing questions, and “smell” things quickly
  • Of trends – they take a broad view, perhaps years ahead, and sense trouble or opportunity
  • Of their resources – when faced with challenges they think, “Who is the best person to take this on? What resources do we possess that will help us? How can I encourage my team to success?
  • Of people – they sense what’s happening among people and know their hopes, fears, and concerns.
  • Of Themselves – they know their strengths and limitations and their current state of mind.

What if Intuition Doesn’t Come Naturally?

Maxwell explains that intuition does come naturally to some, but that the majority of people have the potential to develop it over time. With diligence and patience, the leadership ability of intuition can be nurtured so that we understand leadership and it becomes automatic. Personally, I fall into this category. I am on a journey to develop my leadership abilities. I am finding that it requires me to be teachable and disciplined to continue striving forward. Join me on that journey and let’s strive forward together!

Above all, you must care about the people you are leading and have a desire to accomplish the goal. You have to treat people as humans and listen to them in order to read and lead them.

Application Questions:

  1. Are you able to read a situation with a “gut feeling” of intuition?
  2. Do you trust that intuition? Does your initial instinct often come out to be true?
  3. What are you doing to develop your leadership ability so that this law will develop?

Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To purchase the book – Click Here.

Suggested Reading:

About the Picture

I took this picture of my wife while we were on vacation in New York City in 2009. This captured her with an upward, forward thinking vision.

The Process of Leadership Development (Law 3)

Marathon training like the Leadership Process

Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

Law 3 of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is The Law of Process. Learn with me as I describe the law and reflect on its application with developing leaders.

Introducing The Law of Process

This law reinforces the primary purpose of the Leaders Journey and is a process I’ve been (mostly) involved in since college – but has really picked up over the last couple years as I have seen value in personal growth. The general lesson is that we need to focus on the long-term process of developing ourselves through reading and being trained so that we will develop into leaders. Whether it is “general leadership” or technical/specific leadership – it takes intentional, disciplined effort through a process to gain a level of ability to provide leadership. 

Marathon Training as a Process

I grew up playing soccer – so I ran a good bit – but didn’t begin seriously running until I was challenged to run a 10K (6.2 miles) about seven years ago. Then I ran my first half-marathon and have run four more and several 15Ks and shorter runs.

 

I have learned that you cannot prepare to run a long distance in one day. It takes deliberate training and a strict diet over the course of a couple months to seriously prepare for a half-marathon – and much longer for a full marathon. Your body cannot handle the strain without intentionally building up toward the final distance of the race.

Daniel David Running a 15K

I realized this in my latest 15K this past March (right before COVID hit). My training was interrupted by a one week cold (I think) that weakened me and put me off my schedule and reduced my pace. I felt pretty good on race day so I decided to run with a group above my pace so I would be challenged. I hung with them until mile 6… then I got slower and slower and ended up with a slower time than the prior year. 

 

In much the same way, we have to engage in the long process of leadership development to gain the ability to be a strong leader. Start now with big goals so they can be realized in the future.

What Distinguishes a Leader?

John Maxwell shares the results of a leadership study – “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.”

Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress ... If I want to improve, then I’ll engage in a process and stick with it.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

Phases of Leadership Growth

  1. I don’t know what I don’t know.  Many people fall into this category, thinking (or not thinking) that learning and developing as a leader is not important or that it is only for those people at the top. They never develop because they don’t know or don’t try and remain ignorant.
  2. I know that I need to know. Then, many people recognize that they need to know something to improve or grow as a leader. They at least recognize that there is a missing piece. 
  3. I know what I don’t know. Recognize what you need to know and develop a plan to get there – even if it takes years and financial investment.
  4. I know and grow, and it starts to show. Put your personal growth & leadership development plan into action over the long haul and leadership will come naturally and your influence will grow.
  5. I simply go because of what I know. This is when you reach the phase you worked toward in phase 4. “That’s when the payoff is incredible. But the only way to get there is to obey the Law of Process and pay the price.”

He closes the chapter with a story about President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a thin, sickly kid but through the challenge and example of his father and others he became strong, knowledgeable, and a great leader due to a determined effort as a life-long learner to improve and develop his leadership ability.

Application

  1. What is your personal plan for growth? What areas are you intentionally developing?
  2. Where do you see yourself in the five phases of leadership growth?

Book Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

Photo Credit: Link to the original photo and the license.

Recommended Reading:

Leadership is Influence :: Law 2 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws

Leadership is Influence

Every person has a measure of influence over others. Our leadership ability is measured by how much (and what kind) of influence we have on those whom we lead. 

I found this Law to be impactful because he gets right to the heart of what leadership really is – and isn’t. It challenges me to think about areas where I am leading (or tried to lead) and had influence over the group (and when I clearly didn’t). A position doesn’t provide a measure of leadership ability – your influence does.

The Law of Influence

The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

John Maxwell - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

He closes the chapter with these sentences, which provides a good summary of this Law. “I love the leadership proverb that says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader.”

Mother Theresa as a Leader with Influence

John opens with a depiction of how Mother Theresa was such a great leader. She was small in stature but had incredible influence because she had faith, vision, and passion – and then worked tirelessly to further her cause. He explains how, after founding an organization and leading a team of over 4,000, she was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C. in 1994. Her speech was pointed and stepped on many toes but, instead of boos, she received respect and applause. John commented – “When a real leader speaks, people listen.”

The Five Myths About Leadership

Leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned.

  1. The Management Myth – “leadership is about influencing people to follow, while management focuses on maintaining systems and processes.” “Managers can maintain direction, but often can’t change it.”
  2. The Entrepreneur Myth – They are not necessarily leaders. They go after opportunities.
  3. The Knowledge Myth – Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” But… knowledge alone does not produce a leader. A scientist in a lab might be brilliant – but they aren’t leading anyone anywhere.
  4. The Pioneer Myth – “To be a leader, a person has to not only be out front, but also have people intentionally coming behind him, following his lead, and acting on his vison.”
  5. The Position Myth – A title or office doesn’t mean that people will follow you (at least not willingly).

Leaders Who Are Respected

To find a leader in an organization, look for who is respected and to whom people listen when he or she speaks. There are some helpful characteristics or factors that help a person gain influence and become a leader.

  • Character Who they are – begins with the inner person – the genuine person (like Billy Graham).
  • Relationships Who they know – building real relationships develops influence
  • Knowledge What they know – doesn’t make you a leader but information is vital to be able to lead.
  • IntuitionWhat they feel – “recognize and influence intangibles such as energy, morale, and momentum.
  • Experience Where they’ve been – gives people more reason to give you a chance.
  • Past SuccessWhat they’ve done – a good track record helps build respect and followers.
  • Ability What they can do - “the bottom line for followers is what a leader is capable of.” On to victory!

Abraham Lincoln as a Leader with Influence

He closes the chapter with a story about how Abraham Lincoln struggled in his early life as a leader without skills and knowledge. He blundered through multiple attempts to lead, only to be met with failure and disappointment. But he was persistent as a leader and his abilities grew so that he was able to influence the nation as the 16th President.

The featured image is a picture I took of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in London. He was so influential, that even the English chose to honor him “across the pond!” 

Application Challenge

Review the above list of leadership factors and rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 to see which one you usually rely on the most to persuade people to follow you. Which factors could you further develop to become a leader with greater influence?

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To learn about the first law of leadership – The Law of the Lid.

To watch a video of John Maxwell teaching on the Law of Influence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrZkVgl6U2c&t

Hamilton :: 5 Leadership and Life Lessons from the Musical

Hamilton Theatre

What are the leadership and life lessons we can learn from Hamilton?

Hamilton has hit our country by storm since its arrival as a film on Disney+. The musical is phenomenal and original on its own, but the timing with current events makes it all the more compelling and relevant. As I reflected on the film, I recognized a number of leadership virtues and life lessons that can be learned.

My hope is that you gain value from my reflection on the musical. I would love to hear all the virtues (and vices) that you would contribute to this list!

Have a Definite Purpose – “Not Throwing Away My Shot”

Hamilton was driven through life with a definite purpose toward big goals. He had invested in his studies and personal development. He chose not to be a victim to circumstances which would lead many to a life of poverty and insignificance. He knew that he had a shot at living a significant life – and was “not throwing away [his] shot!”

He was resolved to do everything he could to secure independence from England and successfully establish the United States as a strong nation. He surrounded himself with men who were equally driven with the same desire and resolve toward their extravagant goals. They were proactive, relentless, optimistic, and ready to jump on opportunities and strive for progress.

Why do you write like you're running out of time? …Ev'ry day you fight, like you're running out of time.

- “Non-Stop” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

I have been going through a journey to discover my own “definite purpose” in life so I can proactively strive toward big goals with excellence. A step in that journey is described in this post about developing a life plan.

Leave a Legacy – “Blow Us All Away”

The closing words of the musical are “Who tells your story?” This final song highlights that each of us leaves some form of a legacy and we cannot control how our story will be told and who chooses to tell it. Alexander Hamilton had a drive to protect his reputation and build a lasting legacy.

Hamilton and Burr share a split-stage song (“Dear Theodosia”) where they separately sing for their respective new-born children. Each of them dotes over his child and dreams of how he or she will carry on the legacy of the father. They exclaim that their respective children will “blow us all away.”

If we lay a strong enough foundation - We'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you - And you'll blow us all away

- “Dear Theodosia” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

Contemplating your own legacy is a vital part of becoming the strong person you are created to be. If we begin our journey with the desired end in mind, then we know which steps to take in order to reach that end. Choose your legacy now so it isn’t left to others to “tell your story.” This is an important part of building your life plan.

Have Patience – “Smile More, Talk Less”

Aaron Burr provides a constant word of caution to Hamilton, which he mostly ignored and disrespected, that would have provided some wisdom for his overzealous pursuits. Alexander would have made less enemies and created more unity if he had heeded Burr’s advice to be patient and friendly.

All of us could learn to smile more, talk less, and begin to truly hear people as we recognize and validate their worth and potential. This does not mean that we should be idle and passive, especially in urgent times that call for action, but it is usually unwise to brashly march ahead into “battle” without counsel or unified support.

Sometimes we need a paradigm shift in how we perceive and relate with others. Recognizing the worth of others is a valuable virtue in any leadership role.

Invest in Your Inner Circle – “That Would Be Enough”

A repeated theme in the musical is the cry for Hamilton to be content with spending time with his family. His wife Eliza clearly yearned for her husband to be home with her more often, especially during her pregnancy and the birth of their son, Phillip. Alexander was away from home so much during the revolution and the early years of the country that he failed to invest time and love into his family. The evidence of this came in two of his major life failures – his adulterous affair and the death of his son. He did not take seriously his responsibility to be a steward over his wife and children, and he paid dearly for his mistakes.

One of my great passions and life purposes is to be responsible in my role as a husband and father. I will continue to invest in my “inner circle” – my family, friends, and church community. Through my career and academic pursuits, I have found it necessary to often tap the breaks on my desires so that I can be present and strong within my close relationships.

Choose Forgiveness over Revenge – “Forgiveness. Can you imagine?”

There are moments that the words don’t reach - There is a grace too powerful to name - We push away what we can never understand - We push away the unimaginable - They are standing in the garden - Alexander by Eliza’s side - She takes his hand - … Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

- “It’s Quiet Uptown” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

The most moving part of the musical for us was when we experienced Alexander and Eliza grieving the death of their son. Hamilton had done so much to hurt his wife, but she chose to forgive him and reconcile their marriage through the journey of grieving together. They accomplish the unimaginable together because of her choice to forgive him. Her genuine forgiveness is evident in the final song as she describes all the work she did to further Alexander’s legacy after his death.

Aaron Burr and Phillip Alexander both chose revenge instead of forgiveness and that choice ruined and ended their lives, respectively.

Choose to Forgive

We have the choice on a regular basis to hold grudges and take revenge on others who have wronged us – OR to extend grace and forgive them. Revenge produces destruction. Forgiveness opens the door to healing and reconciliation. Holding a grudge hurts yourself more than the other person. Choose forgiveness and free yourself of the burden of anger and revenge.

If this is a topic you would like to further explore – please email me at thestrongwork@gmail.com

Your Opportunity to Contribute

I realize that the life of Alexander Hamilton provides many more lessons of virtues and vices. Reflecting on the lives of significant men and women enables us to learn from their success and mistakes. Please provide your own examples of lessons from the musical through the comments section below this post. Two ideas to start with are – 1) Have a Character of Loyalty and not Deception and 2) Take Responsibility for your Mistakes.

Reflective Questions:

  • Which of these virtues is most valuable to you?
  • Did you see yourself in one of Hamilton’s vices? Is that a potential area of growth for you?

Links to Images Used:

The Law of the Lid :: Law 1 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws of Leadership

Law of the Lid

I have heard it said that if you think you are leading but nobody is following you – then you’re really just out on a long walk. Have you encountered a moment when you realize that nobody (or very few) are following you? Or that you don’t quite have the leadership ability or authority that you need to influence others? John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – starts off with the concept of the “Law of the Lid,” where he explains that each of us have a ceiling on our leadership ability. Recognizing your lid is the first step to raising your leadership ability and becoming a stronger influence in others.

The Law of the Lid

Leadership Ability is the lid that Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness 

John Maxwell

Maxwell introduces the concept by telling the story of Dick and Maurice McDonald – who founded McDonald’s. They had the foresight, ingenuity and drive to open the first restaurant in 1937 and expand to a bigger one in 1948 and develop their “fast food” model. However, when they started trying to open new restaurants or sell franchises – they floundered or failed due to the limitations in their leadership ability. They hired a businessman named Ray Kroc who had a much higher “lid” and was able to make McDonald’s the massive chain restaurant it has become.  

“I believe that success is within the reach of just about everyone. But I also believe that personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be. Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.” 

John Maxwell – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The Logic of the Law:

If you have a low leadership ability (say a 2 out of 10), then you could work really hard and increase your effectiveness some. Or you could raise your Lid by learning to increase your leadership ability – and then exponentially increase your effectiveness in your work and leadership positions.  

He concludes the chapter discussing how sometimes the leadership must change – or improve – in order to propel the organization toward expansion or growth. “When talented teams don’t win, examine the leadership.”  

Short Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmXbrxcnAhM 

Applying the Law of the Lid to your life:  

1) List some of your major goals – and identify which ones will require the participation or cooperation of other people. For these activities, your leadership ability will greatly impact your effectiveness.  

2) Assess your leadership ability – and ask others to rate your leadership.
>> there are tools available in the book for this exercise.    

Read this!! – Strong Leaders Stand for Progress

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

(Personal) Independence :: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly!

American Flag: Independence

There are positives and negatives to the pursuit of personal independence. We would do well to learn to strive for the positives and beware the negatives if becoming an “independent” person is our goal.  

There has been a growing trend to desire personal liberty or “autonomy” in American society. See the graph for how Google search trends show a steady increase in searches for the term “autonomy.” People want to “cast off the shackles” of societal or family expectations and be free to do or become whatever they want. We should ask ourselves if this is a band-wagon we should hitch up to.  

  • Will personal independence help us in the strong work we are created to do?  
  • Should becoming independent be my personal goal in life? 
  • And How do I lead in a culture that is driving toward independence and autonomy? 

American Independence as a Case Study

The residents of the British colonies in America felt oppressed, misrepresented, and disrespected by King George and the British Parliament. Representatives from each colony came together and became resolved to declare independence from England on July 4, 1776. Thus, began the new nation of the United States of America. As a case study, what were (some of) the positives and negatives of the American Independence? 

(Granted – these are very short lists, but it is enough to get the point across.) 

The Good of American Independence

  • American people were no longer oppressed or misrepresented. They had the freedom to represent themselves. 
  • They were able to create government with laws according to their own values.  
  • The people felt pride in being their own independent nation, achieving peace of mind from no longer being controlled by British tyranny.

The Bad and Ugly of American Independence

  • The signers of the Declaration of Independence put their lives on the line – and many of them died for their cause.  
  • The nation had to figure out a set of core values as well as how to establish an economy.
  • The people were now separated from their founding nation, England, which before the war gave them strength and protection.
  • The act of separation, which later lead to a declaration of war, was not a peaceful beginning. Many people lost their lives for the sake of their independence.

We can transition from the case study of American independence and relate it to the positives and negatives of personal independence.  

Personal Independence

In his classic work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discussed the fact that the pathway of maturity leads you from dependence to independence. A dependent person requires other people to do things for them or even think for them. A baby is a simple example of dependence since they are fully reliant on their parents for their survival. But many adults never fully mature past this maturity stage, so they continue to be dependent on others – financially, physically, or emotionally.  

Covey says that “Independence is the paradigm of II can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.” (49) 

True independence of character empowers us to act rather be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. (50)

Jordan Peterson is a psychology professor who challenges people to take personal responsibility and focus on fixing yourself first – before you try to fix the world. (Video / Helpful article.) The message is similar. You mature past dependence in order to choose how you live and how you respond to life circumstances.  

The Good of Personal Independence

  • Independent people have the freedom to choose their values, interests, friends, career, etc. 
  • They are not controlled by society and circumstances. Their identity and emotions are not dependent on other people or what happens around them.  
  • Gives the opportunity to have personal pride and grow toward excellence in life. 

The Bad and Ugly of Personal Independence

  • Independence can produce pride, division and isolation from others.  
    • It ends with Simon and Garfunkel’s song I am a Rock where you can say that you don’t need other people and they don’t affect you. (“a rock feels no pain and an island never cries.”) 
  • Someone whose life objective is to be independent does not really care to add value to others.  
  • An independent person might see others as objects who are there simply to add value to themselves.

Interdependence is the Goal

After Covey’s quote above, he said that independence “is not the ultimate goal in effective living.” The goal is interdependence – since reality is interdependent. We live in a society, a community, and a family. Our economy is interdependent (I didn’t raise the chicken who laid the eggs I ate this morning). We are stronger and accomplish more as a community which has risen above independence to proactively add value to others.

As a leader – I strive to develop myself so I can be the best version of myself and better serve my community while adding value to others.  

As a country – the independent United States would do best if we became the interdependent United States. If individuals focused on improving themselves, we could then add value to our society – with the ultimate goal of adding value to the world. We started with a conflict. My prayer is that we mature from that conflict and grow to be a force of reconciliation and peace in the world.  

(Disclaimer: I believe that many people, organizations, companies, and even politicians have embraced this idea currently and in our nation’s checkered history.) 

Application Questions

  1. Is your goal to become independent or interdependent?
  2. Are you taking responsibility for yourself so that you can grow and then add value to others?

Reference: Covey, Stephen. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Fireside. New York, New York, 1989.

Read this post to learn more about living in community as interdependent people!

Strength through Encouragement

Encouragement

Many may think that they don’t need encouragement in order to perform at their best. “I got this! I can buckle down and get it done without encouragement!” But then we always appreciate when people recognize and affirm our hard work, personal growth, or other achievements. It does not show weakness to give or receive encouragement – but it does take some courage! 

It takes a strong leader to be a good encourager. We receive strength through encouragement to excel in our journey in work and personal life and perform at our best.  

Motivating through Affirmation

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called The 5 Love Languages in which he explains that each of us give and receive love in different ways. I find that my primary love language is affirmation – as it is for many others – so I thrive off hearing encouraging words from my wife, family, colleagues and friends.  

Dr. Chapman (with Paul White) also wrote a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace in which he takes the Love Languages concept and applies it to the workplace. As I read that book, I found that I am motivated by the cause/mission of the organization and through affirmation for my work.  

“We believe that people in the workplace need to feel appreciated in order for them to enjoy their job, do their best work, and continue working over the long haul.” (27)

“Appreciation, when expressed in the primary appreciation language of the individual, tends to motivate each team member to reach his or her potential. When we feel appreciated, we are motivated to “climb higher.” Conversely, without appreciation, we often settle into mediocre performance, often far below our level of capability.” (117-118)

Many of us could learn a lesson from these wise words and consider how we can motivate others around us through encouraging words of affirmation. Figure out what somebody does well or how they are growing as a person and affirm them through a specific word of encouragement. Look for the positive in others and build them up so they can reach their potential and become stronger versions of themselves. 

Barnabas :: A Classic Example of Encouragement

There is a story in the Bible where a man named Saul was the primary antagonist against the early Christian movement. He was committed to bringing them down through intimidation, persecution, and imprisonment. Then, he had an encounter with Jesus and made a drastic 180-degree switch to becoming a committed Christian and promoter of their message.

As you can imagine, some of the leaders in the Christian movement were skeptical of his heart change and resisted his involvement in their community and ministry. However, a brave, generous man nicknamed Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”) was willing to put his reputation on the line to trust Saul (renamed as Paul), vouch for him, and encourage the other leaders to accept him as a genuine follower.  

Building up a "Failure"

Later in the story, Barnabas gave another Christian (named Mark) a second chance after he had abandoned them on a journey. Barnabas obviously encouraged Mark and helped him mature because some years later he became the author of the Gospel According to Mark. The unique encouragement of Barnabus to build up a young man who had made a major blunder led to the writing of (arguably) one of the more important pieces of literature ever written.  

Barnabas was not a leading, central character – but he built a great legacy by giving strength through encouragement.

Application Questions:

  • When you get encouragement, does it help you perform at a higher level?
  • If you are a leader (and we all are), are you looking for ways to encourage and build up those whom you lead?
  • Think of ways that you can be brave (like Barnabas) to encourage someone who is recovering from something wrong they have done or from a failure in life?

Reference:

Chapman, Gary and Paul White. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Northfield Publishing, IL. 2011.

About the Photo

My wife and I went to New Zealand in 2013. It was a phenomenal trip! This photo was taken on the South Island near Mount Cook at the south end of Lake Tekapo at the Church of the Good Shepherd

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy this one about recognizing other individuals for who they truly are: Shift to See the Other.

Finding Community During COVID

Community

.Virtually every American (and nearly every human on the planet!) has been forced to adjust to find community during COVID in different ways. Whether you are introvert or extrovert – we all have an internal craving for relationships and shared experiences with others within a community.  

It may provoke you to ask the questions of:  

  • Why do we crave community and feel that something is missing in our lives without it? 
  • What are the different ways that we find community? 
  • How do we find community when all our normal, traditional places of community are closed or empty?

Why Do We Crave Community?

As with any fundamental “why” question, there are various views on this topic. I believe that each of us were created with this internal craving for belonging and friendship because our Creator knows that is best for humanity. We become better versions of ourselves while we are in community but become unhappy, apathetic, and (usually) unproductive without it.  

Each of us is born with different personalities, gifts, and talents – so we naturally have strengths and limitations. If it was just me (or everyone was just like me), then there would be nobody to compliment my limitations and, therefore, provide a complete picture of humanity. We are a beautiful harmony of unified diversity when we are in community – not a single staccato note or a clanging cymbal.  

We can all agree on this: We desire to love and be loved in return. This can only happen through relationships found within a community. 

The Third Place

Most of us have a first place (the home/family) and a second place (the workplace) but tend to desire a place where we can relax with familiar people in a familiar place and laugh while engaging in interesting conversations. We are envious as we watch shows like Cheers and Friends as they find unique community in a bar or coffee shop. These local places of community have become known as “the third place.”  

In 1989, a German sociologist named Ray Oldenburg wrote a book called The Great Good Place where he coined the term “third place.” We find community in these third places because we feel accepted and they encourage and inspire us to become better versions of ourselves.  

Coffee Shop Community
Coffee Shop in Ethiopia

Personally, I am fortunate to have several third places. I find this community through my church, a men’s small group, a weekly soccer game, and the co-working space where I work (Work Hub).  

This Psychology Today article and this Wikipedia page help provide more context on Oldenburg’s concepts and more explanation of third places. 

The COVID Pandemic Challenges Community

But what do you do when your typical third place is closed due to a global pandemic!?  

I went through several phases during this pandemic – and I get the feeling others had a similar experience. At first, it welcoming to stay home and spend more time with my family and get more projects done around the house. But then I began to really miss my friendships and started calling them and encouraging Zoom meetings. But then… I just needed to get out(!!) and be with people and get back to my third places.  

Community in a Solitaire App Game

I did, however, find a unique community in a most unexpected place. I had gotten a new phone and, of course, it came loaded with the promotional apps that you didn’t ask for. One of those apps was a game called “Solitaire” by GSN. I got in there and played a few games and thought it would be an entertaining and slightly challenging leisure game. But then I got invited into a club (which I didn’t know was a thing) called “Texas Four” and introduced to this special group of people from all over the United States and Canada.

They love each other. It is a special thing to experience. On the simple chat-board, they check in every day with encouragement, personal stories, prayer requests, you name it. They play for each other and encourage the team every day. I am usually in the bottom with points within the game – but I’m still encouraged along by the club.  

To the Texas Four club members – Thank you for providing a unique community during this pandemic season. I wish the best for each of you (app names) – Wanderer, Squig, Shuffles, Gran/Wa, JayRay, Jim, Mrs. Bullit, Cara, Kristine, Suemac, Cards, Sun, Turtle, Rawr, KrAzY d, Supercool, Donkey mom – and the rest. Play on!

Solitaire App - Texas Four Club
Solitaire Tripeaks by GSN

Questions to Consider:

  • Why is community meaningful and necessary for you? 
  • How did you find community during the COVID Pandemic? 
  • What do you think we can learn from my story of the Texas Four solitaire club?  

Photos in the post: 

Featured photo: This was taken of me, my wife, and a group of friends in a coffee shop in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2015. 

Inset photo: I took this photo in 2011 when I went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A local took me to an old coffee shop which explained how coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. 

Shift to See the Other

Shift to see the other

Each of us has a world-view or “paradigm” through which we see the world and make value judgments. In order to genuinely love other people who are not “like us,” we need to acknowledge and try to understand their world-view. It requires a “shift to see the other” for us to value them and their perspective so we can a mutually beneficial relationship and add value to each other. Then we can be STRONG for our work with others.  

A Small Paradigm Shift 

Notice the lady in the featured picture above. What are your initial thoughts about her – as she proudly stands in front of this water buffalo? (as for another paradigm shift… these are buffaloes. The animals in the US are Bison – in case your teachers and books have steered you wrong!)  

 I encountered this lady in a small village in India. I saw her pick up a huge pile of fresh buffalo manure with her bare hands – which of course was off-putting and puts judgmental thoughts in your mind. Then, she noticed us standing near her home and quickly brought out three chairs for us to sit in. We were a bit wary of their cleanliness – but then again, we were in India – so we gratefully sat in her chairs. Then, she was so proud of her water buffaloes that she wanted her picture taken in front of them. We reflected on her kindness toward strangers and her pride in her water buffaloes and it helped us “shift to see the other” as we stepped into her world a bit. 

Finding the Right Map

In his world-famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey opens with an explanation that we need to have “inside-out” changes within our character in order to have true, lasting influence on others. He says that “private victories precede public victories” (p. 43) to show that we should not expect change in the external world until we have right map and become the person we want to see in the world.  

He says that we have a paradigm – or “map” (or worldview) – that provides a model or theory of the world. If the map is wrong, then we will always end up at the wrong destination – and probably frustrate yourself and many others in the process.  

Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be, or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps ... and our attitudes and behaviors grow out of those assumptions.

He goes on to explain how we need to become aware of our maps and then evaluate and examine them to determine their accuracy. Then we can have awareness of the maps of others and be open to adopting them or adapting ours because of new awareness. This opens the opportunity to “shift to see the other.” 

See the Love (all around you)

One of my favorite bands these days is called The Brilliance. They opened for a concert for one of my other favorites, Josh Garrels, and I just fell in love with their music and friendly personality. They have a song called “See the Love” which hits on this subject of “shifting to see the other.” The challenge in the song is to recognize the reality of love all around you and to be a person who shines that love to others by seeing them for who they are created to be.  

Here is a short excerpt from the song: 

Learn to feel, 
Learn to begin again 
Open our eyes again 
To see our brother’s pain 

You can watch the music video HERE – or another one HERE – and read the lyrics HERE.

I hope that you are encouraged by this song and reflect on how you can be the love that you wish to see in the world.  

Application Questions:

  1. Are you willing to examine your map and the maps of others so you can shift to see the other? 
  2. How will you be the love you wish to see in the world?  

Reference: 

Covey, Shephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (Fireside, New York: 1989). 

For more on this topic, see this post: Is Your Heart at Peace or at War?