Listen to the five-minute Passion: Part 3 audio program from Coach’s Corner.
Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion. (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel)
Today’s post is the third in a series on passion and the very important role it plays for anyone, but especially Christian leaders. Today’s post is about what to do if your job doesn’t align well with any of your passions.
I’ve run into this many times with the organizational leaders I’ve worked with. Of those people, many were able, with some coaching, to connect their work to one of their passions after some exploration and creativity. But 10 or 15 percent of these leaders came to realize that their current vocations just didn’t align well enough with their passions, or their beliefs, values, or gifts. So they chose to pursue something else that might.
This happened with me when I moved from the world of automotive engineering into the world of people development, then leadership development, and now Christian leadership development with most of my efforts focused on pastors.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Before considering a significant change in vocation, you should look at some less obvious ways you can connect your job to one of your passions.
Three ways come to mind for how to connect your current work to one of your areas of passion:
First, it’s not uncommon for a leader to already be working in an area of passion, but not realize it. The challenges and tasks of everyday performance can cloud one’s vision of the bigger picture.
Sometimes it’s as simple as getting a “wake up and smell the roses” call. Several things can prompt this, including a good coaching session, but whatever it is, it turns out to be pretty simple. Just a different perspective to see that you are already in a great job—a great fit for who you are—and all you needed was to be able to see that.
The second way you might connect your current role to a passion is to look for creative ways you could integrate one of your passions into your work. Here are a few examples of this
- Maybe extreme goal setting is a passion for you, like it seems to be for Jim Dryer. So set some crazy goals for yourself and work harder than “anybody in their right mind” and do whatever it takes to reach those goals. Of course you can run into life-balance issues with this one but it’s at least worth considering.
- Maybe helping people who are in tough situations is a passion for you. If so, I’m guessing that you work with people—maybe people who work for you—that right now are dealing with a tough situation. Because you see them regularly you might have a better chance of making a difference to them than anyone else in their life. You just need to recognize the opportunity and realize you can integrate your passion for helping people into your regular day.
A lot of the sage advice from Karen Mulder in her Wisdom of the Wounded radio show can be carried out right within your own job.
- Ask someone who’s struggling to go to lunch with you and then let that person share. Just listen, don’t try to fix anything.
- Drop a note on that person’s desk saying you believe in him or her and that you’re praying for that person.
There are many possibilities if this is one of your passions, and you probably have a job that puts you in just the right place to act on this passion.
The third way to connect a passion to your job is to see your job as the vehicle for making a living, which allows you to pursue your passion outside your work.
Passion for family might be the most common example of this. Many leaders work very hard to provide a good life for their families. They may not love the work they do, but they love what it allows them to do for their family and for God.
Basketball is one of my earliest passions in life; this unfolded for me when I was ten. I used to work for a company that had it’s own fitness center, and I would play basketball every morning with my colleagues. Every morning! My job had nothing to do with basketball, but my job made it possible to experience this great passion every day. I loved that job largely because of this.
I remember during this season in my life telling people, “You could offer me double the money to work somewhere else where I wouldn’t be able to play ball each morning and I wouldn’t take it.” Life was great then! Still is, but for different reasons now.
There’s a great story called The Dream Manager written by Matthew Kelly, which exhibits this third way of connecting your work to your passion. It’s a leadership fable about how people gained some passion for their mundane cleaning jobs because they came to see them as a way to realize a dream, like being the first in their family to own a home or to graduate from college.
So maybe your vocation doesn’t naturally align with your passions. This might mean you should pursue another line of work. But maybe you could try one of the three options I mentioned:
- Wake up and smell the roses.
- Creatively integrate your passion into your job.
- Realize your job allows you to make a living so you have the resources to pursue your passion outside your work.
I hope this series on the importance of passion and how to manage it has been helpful. If you can align your work—your leadership—with some true passions, you will have an unfair advantage over others who aren’t aligned with a passion. It will fuel you to do better, go harder, and go longer than those that have less passion.
Think about these things this week. And as I often suggest, discuss this with a friend or family member to see what they think.
Until next time, I pray that you experience God’s rich blessings.
Post by Rodger.
Image by iStockPhoto.
This is the second post in a series about passion. You may want to read Passion: Part 1 if you haven’t already.
Listen to the five-minute Passion: Part 2 audio program from Coach’s Corner.
What is it that makes ordinary everyday people do extraordinary things?
Today is the second post in a series I’m doing on passion, and the very important role it plays for anyone, but especially those of us that bear the challenge and cost of being a Christian leader. In today’s post I’m talking about how to discover your passion. It can be a little tricky cause sometimes it will disguise itself in other clothes.
Let me tell you a story about someone I’ve met several times and have been able to ask what it is that drives him to accomplish such extraordinary feats.
His name is Jim Dryer and he is a swimmer who has broken several world records. As I got to know and understand Jim a bit I came to believe that he isn’t that passionate about swimming. I’ve also come to believe that he’s not that good of a swimmer. Some of my swimmer friends tell me that it takes him many more strokes to do a lap than one of our better local swimmers.
Jim, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re okay with me saying this!
Jim’s world records have come to him by swimming across Great Lakes, like Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Google him. What he has done is fascinating and extra-extraordinary.
So if he’s not passionate about swimming, or even that gifted at swimming, and passion is one of the most important attributes of any highly accomplished person, what is it that makes him so good? What is it that he’s passionate about?
Jim has an ultra-marathon mindset. He loves to set ridiculous goals, the kind that make others think “Jim, you’re crazy, really crazy.” Then he goes out and accomplishes those goals.
Swimming just happens to be the vehicle Jim has used at this stage in his life to accomplish really difficult goals. Jim has faced death a few times during his marathon swims—one time after not being able to finish a swim because his body was shutting down, his heart stopped in the emergency room! But he continues to pursue these amazing feats.
Why? Passion to set amazing goals and then accomplish them. It would be easy to misunderstand Jim’s passion as being for swimming. But as you’ve heard, I’m convinced that’s not it.
Passion can make ordinary people do extraordinary things:
- Like risking their reputation on a decision because they have to do something
- Like putting in much more work that others on a particular area of their job
- Like holding others accountable for their actions when every fiber in their body says to let them off the hook… but it wouldn’t be right for the mission.
- Like putting their very lives at risk, like so many great leaders have done.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
If you haven’t found something worth dying for, you aren’t fit to be living.
Wow. These are hard words, but they’re good convicting words for Christian leaders!
So as a leader, which do you think is more important to align with: your gifts or your passions?
Of course my answer would be both. But if my greatest passions don’t align with my greatest areas of giftedness, then which would be better to align with?
I’d bet on the leader that is aligned with her greatest passion as long as she doesn’t completely lack the level of giftedness required.
I love seeing highly gifted leaders—or gifted athletes or musicians. But if they lack a high degree of passion, their impact on the world will be less than someone with less giftedness and more passion.
So do you have this kind of passion for something? This is worth praying about. Passion can be a tricky thing to identify in yourself. Thankfully I’ve had some perceptive people in my life who noticed some passions in me more clearly than I could have noticed them myself. And thankfully some of them shared their perceptions of me with me.
When I talk about leadership, or the new physics and how it relates to faith, I’ve had people mention to me that they see something come alive in me, a higher degree of excitement and passion.
What a gift it is when people help me see myself more accurately. By the way, this is a gift worth passing on to others so I will, at times, share what I perceive in others to be a passion for them. Sometimes they are aware of it, sometimes not so much.
Think about it this week. Maybe ask some people who know you well what they believe your top area of passion is. Maybe you could do the same for them. Then pray about it, think about it, consider what it would mean to align your life to include your work with this passion.
Next week I’ll share about what you might do if your work just doesn’t align well with your passion. Until then I pray that you experience God’s rich blessings.
Image by notsogoodphotography.
Listen to the five-minute Passion: Part 1 audio program from Coach’s Corner.
Recently I was swamped: not getting all of my work done, not spending enough time with my family, and feeling overwhelmed. Then an opportunity came up to go to see my favorite college basketball team play, an endeavor that with travel would eat up six hours of my day, and I jumped at it.
Today’s post is the first in a series I’m doing on passion and the very important role it plays for anyone, but especially those of us that bear the challenge and cost of being a Christian leader.
This scenario I described above, this carving out of time I didn’t have to do something I love, has happened many times in my life.
Sometimes this illogical decision happens within my work, when I carve out extra space to devote a lot of focus to one particular area of my work that I have greater passion for, even when it isn’t the most important area at the time.
Why would I do this? Why would I go to the basketball game, eating up many hours, or work on a lesser important aspect of my work, again eating up hours, when I’m already feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done.
The answer of course is: Passion.
Passion fuels us!
I know some leaders who believe that passion is the number one characteristic for any successful Christian leader. If this is so, we’d better pay some real attention to our passion. Maybe “passion management” is more important than “time management.”
If time management is being intentional about spending our limited time on the highest priorities, then passion management might involve being intentional about spending our limited passion on the things that we really care about—things that we are really driven to do or those things we really enjoy.
Making good time management decisions at the cost of poor passion management can eventually lead to burnout. I know several leaders who end up working way too many hours because their passion drives them to do it. They are happy to do it. Of course it usually causes problems with their families and even friends, but if they are doing what aligns with their true passion, it’s not a problem for them. Their work gives them the very meaning and significance we all desire, and they just can’t seem to get enough of it. It gives them life.
If you’re in a job where you have to manufacture the passion needed to do well, you might be lighting a match and starting a fire that could lead to you burning out.
However, if you’re able to work on things that are fueled by your natural passion, you’ll have all the fire you need to go the distance.
What do you think? Did Noah have passion for his huge task? How about Moses? And what about Jesus? Isn’t his passion the very thing that got him to the cross?
So I’ve already shared with you that I’m passionate about college basketball. So what, that’s just for enjoyment.
Back in the 80s when I was an engineer at General Motors I was surrounded by car nuts.
- They went to the races.
- They loved going to the GM proving grounds to drive the new cars and test out the latest advancements.
- They lit up when they saw a twenty-year-old car model. They could tell the year just by some detail on the bezel that went around the tail lamp, and they seemed to know every part of an old Oldsmobile Cutlass.
I enjoyed my engineering job and I enjoyed cars. But my colleagues were nuts over them. I finally decided it was best to let them compete for the best engineering jobs at GM. Better for me to pursue something I had greater passion for.
When I was in engineering school I also taught tennis. I really enjoyed it, and I assumed that I enjoyed it because I had a passion for tennis. As I got older and moved away from tennis, I was surprised to find that I didn’t miss it much.
I later came to learn that the real passion for teaching tennis was the teaching, not the tennis. Teaching tennis was just a fun way to experience that high that comes when others experience that magical “aha” moment.
You teachers know what I’m talking about. I love that, and I know many of you do too. It’s great when I experience an “aha” moment of my own, and it’s great when it happens to someone else and I had something to do with it. It’s a passion of mine to see someone grow right before my very eyes, especially when its around leadership.
Do I like tennis? Yes. Do I have a lot of passion for it? No, I don’t. But I still enjoy teaching tennis from time to time, because I have a passion for teaching.
It’s this very passion for teaching that has led me to the weekly recording of this show, and now to this blog.
So, What are you passionate about? Think about it this week. In my next post I’ll talk about some ways to discover what some of your passions are, and why it can be tricky to identify them correctly.
I hope you’ll join me. Until then I pray that you experience God’s rich blessings.
Image by Thowra.
Today I’m talking about values—specifically, about when values collide. (Boom!) Values are the things that are important to us as we interact with the world. Values are things like creativity, unity, standing firm, optimism, or timeliness. No one would say any of these values are bad. However, we all prioritize our values differently. And we often interact with people who have different values than we do, and that can cause friction.
Exhibit A is my husband, Josh, and me. I live in a way that shows that being carefree is high on my list of values. I don’t stress out very easily about things that get lost or plans that change. The small details of life don’t weigh me down, and I can be really flexible. The bad side of this is that I’m forgetful and can veer into being careless. In this past two weeks alone I locked my keys in my car, lost the key card to my office building (after having it for only two weeks), and spent at least an hour of my life just looking for my cell phone. When I get groceries, I’m really fast, but I forget three things on the list.
Josh, on the other hand, behaves in a way that shows that being careful is high on his list of values. He plans out everything. He always knows where his keys are. He has systems to help him keep his life organized. He almost never loses anything. The bad side of this is that he can be inflexible and can veer into being fastidious. He doesn’t like to change plans, and he is so routine-oriented than small changes in his routine can stress him out. When Josh gets groceries, it takes him forever, but he gets every single thing on the list, plus three more items he thinks we might need.
These are equally valid ways to live, but it doesn’t always feel that way when someone with a strong value of being carefree lives with or interacts with someone who has a strong value of being careful. Our values collide, and that often results in an argument. And usually the undercurrent of that argument is: “Why can’t you be more like ME?” We both believe that our values are the right values, and that’s dangerous ground to walk on.
So how do you interact with someone who has such different values? Josh and I have managed to stay happily married (most of the time) for 11 years, and this has come up for us time and time again. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Look at behavior through a values lens. I find it very helpful to look at Josh’s behavior as an expression of his high value for carefulness—and not as a well-constructed way to drive me crazy. God created him as a careful person and his actions show that. He’s not trying to slow me down or stress me out by pushing back on a last-minute change of plans; he’s asking me to slow down so he can process the way God created him to process to make sure I’ve thought through everything—which I often have not.
Remember the good when you experience the bad. Values exhibit themselves in both good ways and bad. I easily get annoyed with the negative aspects of Josh’s carefulness and gloss right over the good aspects, and he does the same with me. When I get frustrated with him for being careful, I’ve learned to remind myself of the good aspects of his carefulness. For example, we never get lost because he always has taken the time to get good directions, while I often stop at gas stations or drive in circles squinting at house numbers because my directions are only 90 percent complete.
Remind yourself that your way is not the only way. This one can be really hard. Josh struggles with this whenever I lock my keys in the car or lose my phone. To him, it’s so simple to know where everything is all the time. Keys in hand? Okay, then lock the door. Walk into the house? Put cell phone in basket by door. Easy, right? Sure, but there are other acceptable ways to live, and for me, occasionally having to call a locksmith is a small price to pay for the big picture of how I live life—happy and carefree and always a few minutes ahead of myself. Both ways of living have their own benefits and drawbacks. All values do.
Leaders need to take this especially to heart, because you will be leading people who have different values than you do. This might be something you interview for when you hire someone. (Rodger did a great post on that. Take a look at it here if you want.) You can teach people new skills, but it’s a whole lot harder to change their values and how those show up in their behavior. If you are hiring an accountant, go for someone careful like Josh. If you’re looking for a youth group leader, a carefree person like me will work better.
This week, take a look at yourself and your behavior. What are some of your values? Where are you having conflict with your spouse or friends or teammates? Could there be some values colliding? If so, how can you learn to live with those differences, or even celebrate them?
Post by Meredith.
Image by Peretzp.
Listen to the five minute Gifts and Effort audio file from Coach’s Corner.
“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God” (Leo Buscaglia).
Gifts—the unique and “natural” talents that God put into each one of us—are different for each one of us.
Romans 12:6-7 (NIV) says,
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach…”
As I’ve mentioned, people have a myriad of different kinds of gifts—spiritual, physical, mental, even emotional.
I’ve also talked about how you can identify and develop your gifts. This includes asking others what they see in you, because we are often blind to our own gifts and talents.
And I’ve said that knowing your gifts alone isn’t enough. There is a partner to knowing your gifts that needs to be included—something even more important than knowing your gifts in the first place.
It’s not helpful to teach about gifts and talents without also teaching about this other key characteristic. Of the two, it’s the more important.
What do you think it is?
Recently I was talking with a long-time leader of our local Boys and Girls Club. Her name is Mary Carrizales. She’s a great leader whose influence has changed the lives of thousands of young people.
Not knowing I was working on a message about gifts, and totally unsolicited, Mary started talking about the most important aspect for kids who want to realize their full potential.
Many of the kids Mary works with come from very difficult situations, and honestly, the deck is stacked against them. She said she’s seen tons of these kids with natural talent, with clear gifts. And many of them waste it.
Mary said the one key thing that determines how well they will do is persistent hard work.
President Calvin Coolidge would have agreed with Mary. He’s quoted as saying, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.”
I’m privileged to know a swimmer who holds some world records, and I’m told by other swimmers that he’s not really a very good swimmer. Nobody would watch him swim in a pool and say he is gifted.
So how does an average swimmer set world records? Hard work, persistence, and crazy long distances!
In 1998, Jim Dreyer swam across Lake Michigan—about 65 miles—and then later, he swam across Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and finally, the last and craziest of his Great Lakes crossings, across Lake Superior. Or, as Gordon Lightfoot called it in his famous song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, “Gitche Gumee.”
In swimming across all of the Great Lakes, Jim has set several ultra-marathon records.
I asked Jim, who just two and half years earlier had learned how to swim, what
made him think he could swim across Lake Michigan, a crazy and dangerous thing to do. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Because once I get in that water in Wisconsin, I know if I’m conscious, I’m swimming.”
He said this with a very intense look in his eye, almost as if he was thinking, How dare you doubt me? He then went on to tell me about all the research he had done, which was extensive. He knew what the normal currents were in Lake Michigan, what the best week would be for weather and wind, where the shipping lanes were, and all kinds of other things.
He told me about his intense training schedule, including several all-night training swims. And on August 3 of 1998 he swam across the lake, even though the weather was far from optimum and the currents fought him most of the way.
He even fell asleep at one point while he continued to swim. Unfortunately it was while it was pitch black out and he started to swim away from the floodlight coming from the guide boat. It was a very scary few minutes for the crew, who lost sight of him while he was sleeping—and swimming! Wow!
With his hard work and persistence Jim broke swimming records, even though he’s not a gifted swimmer.
Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers contends that it takes10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something.
If you learn something quickly and have passion for it, that should make a real difference. And it will still take tons of hard work and persistence to do it so well that it brings glory to God.
In Colossians 3:23 Paul says,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
I’m sure Mary Carrizales, Jim Dryer, and Malcolm Gladwell would all agree: do it with all your heart!
And as I’ve said before, both talent and hard work come from God’s grace! If you put them together, you certainly have the chance to bring God great glory.
This possibility reminds me of one last concern.
Let’s say you’ve discovered one of your special gifts. You have worked very hard at using it and amazing things are happening. It would be very easy to lose track of the role of God’s grace in this.
- Are you using this gift and your hard work for God, or for you?
- Are you doing the things God wants or what you want?
- Are you using the gift in God honoring ways or ways that would please the adversary?
For instance, do you use your athletic gifts to destroy others and become arrogant?
Do you use your gift of humor for vulgar and hurtful jokes or for wholesome laughter?
Do you use your business acumen to take advantage of others or to bring real value to the marketplace?
I hope you have discovered your gifts. I hope you have a work ethic that leads to mastery of these gifts. And I hope you use your gifts for God’s mission and God’s glory.
Remember the quote from Leo Buscaglia: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on gifts and talents. I’ve enjoyed pulling these thoughts together for you. If you want to read more of them, or maybe read them again, check out my previous posts at www.coach-corner.org.
Post by Rodger.
Image by Where There Be Dragons.
Listen to the five minute gifts and strengths 2 audio file from Coach’s Corner.
“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” This is a quote from Leo Buscaglia—and I like it.
In “Gifts and Strengths—Part 1,” I introduced the concept of gifts—the unique and “natural” talents that God put in each one of us.
I talked about the work that the Gallup Organization has done on the study of gifts, which they call “talents,” and I gave the definition they use for talent:
A recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.
In 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul says, “But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” I want to explore how you can discover and develop your gifts.
As I mentioned in “Gifts and Strengths—Part 1,” there are many kinds of gifts—spiritual, physical, mental, and so on.
These gifts, these “recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied,” were put in us by God, either through our DNA or through some experiences we have had that God used in shaping us. But many of us don’t know we have these gifts.
I’m pretty sure that God wants us to discover our gifts and use them for his glory, and for his mission.
How do you feel when you give someone a special gift and then they choose to use it? Don’t you take great joy in seeing your gift being used and valued?
And how about if they tell everyone that this cool gift was given to them by you? Even better, right?
I’m guessing that God is no different in this respect. I bet God loves it when we seek to learn what he’s given us and how he would like us to use it. And then—when appropriate—letting people in on the fact that we know this special thing didn’t come from us but from God.
I believe one of the reasons we exist is to accept God’s numerous gifts and blessings, to develop them and use them to their fullest for God’s purposes, and then to give God praise for these gifts—all to pursue God’s mission and glorify God’s name.
So how do you discover your own gifts?
Well, it can be tricky, because many of us don’t see our gifts. We know that some things are just plain easy, and obviously easy for everyone.
Take walking for instance. This is an amazingly difficult physical task if you break down all that has to happen. And yet, for the great majority of people, walking is very easy. We assume it’s easy for others, and by and large, it is.
But there are other things that are also very easy for us—and, like walking, we assume they are easy for everyone else. We’re not paying close enough attention to realize that these things aren’t easy for everyone else.
For instance, some people just know how to harmonize when singing. They might think, “Doesn’t everyone know what notes sound good together? Nope; it’s a gift.
Others just seem to be natural the first time they have to do some public speaking.
Others are just naturally funny. Some are naturally empathetic. Still others are very logical in everything they do. The list could go on and on.
It is a stumbling block that many people just don’t think they have special gifts. Even Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
I just don’t buy that. I believe it’s obvious that in addition to being passionately curious he was also very smart, very gifted. And by the way, where did Einstein’s passionate curiosity come from? There’s no doubt in my mind that it was a gift from God.
Another stumbling block that gets in our way of discovering and embracing our gifts is our sinful nature, which leads us to try to earn God’s grace. If we didn’t have to work hard for something, for many of us, it’s difficult to accept it. Our ego wants credit!
God gives us gifts purely because of his grace and love. We don’t deserve them at all!
We also may feel that it’s unfair that we would be given certain gifts that God didn’t give to others. If fairness is a big value of yours, you might struggle to accept your unique and free gift from God. Because of this, many resist fully embracing their gifts and letting God’s grace shine through them.
We need to get over these stumbling blocks if we are to use these special gifts for God’s mission and for God’s glory.
Here are suggestions for how to discover your gifts:
1. Start by looking at yourself. Ask yourself, what’s easy for me that apparently isn’t easy for others?
Ask yourself what you have learned more quickly than others. Think about those times when others struggled to learn something, but it just came more quickly and easily for you. This is a great clue that you have a gift in this area.
2. Pay close attention to what people say about you. You might even ask people who know you and love you: “What do you see in me that may be a gift? What looks like it’s easy for me but isn’t for most others?”
I believe that people around us see our gifts better than we see them ourselves. It’s sort of like seeing yourself on video. I make all kinds of new discoveries about myself when I see myself on video, yet people who know me learn nothing new about me by seeing me on video. They already see me clearly (for the most part anyway).
3. Another thing you can do to discover your gifts is use assessment tools. You might check out the book Now Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham, which includes an online assessment. You might also check out the tools found at AssessMe.org
So in order to discover your gifts you can look at yourself, listen to others, and use assessments. Let’s assume you identify a gift or two that you think you may have. Now what? How will you develop it?
Well, start using it. Learn all you can about it. Test it out. Ask for feedback. See how you feel when you use it.
- Do you get scared and feel miserable, or maybe scared and excited?
- Do you do better than you thought you would? Did you feel a little out of control, like this gift was starting to get some expression and you couldn’t hold it back anymore?
- Do you feel invigorated afterward?
If you say yes to these questions, there’s a good chance it is a gift. So go for it!
If you have any questions for me about gifts, or want to share any impact this session has on you, please send me an email at email@example.com.
Post by Rodger.
Image by Moyan_Brenn.
Listen to the eight minute Gifts and Strengths—Part 1 audio file from Coach’s Corner.
What do you do well that didn’t come from God’s grace? You know, something you worked really hard at and developed on your own without special grace from God?
There must be something, right?
Okay, some of you Christian leaders are saying right now “IT ALL comes from God! Yes, we work at it, but even our efforts are a gift from God.”
Could this really be true?
Well let’s think it through. How did you come to be a person who worked so hard? Were you born with it? If so, I guess it would be a gift from God through no choice or effort of your own.
If not, then you must have learned to work hard along the way, and I bet someone taught it to you—either by modeling it or by outright teaching it to you.
Maybe it was someone who told you you’d never amount to anything, and then God turned what was said into a motivation for you—using what was meant for harm into something for your good.
Romans 8:28 (NIV) says this,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
I really believe that all of the good things in you and around you are a pure gift from God. You didn’t choose your DNA, your parents, the people that came into your life and invested in you, where you grew up, the good things that helped you, the bad things that God turned for your good.
Everything good comes from God.
Now, the stuff you choose and develop in yourself that isn’t good, well that’s a different story, maybe for a different Coach’s Corner segment. Today, however, I am talking about GIFTS—specific and good things that God put in each of us.
There are many different kinds of gifts that God has given each of us. Of course we Christians are familiar with the concept of spiritual gifts like those described by Paul to the Corinthians and Ephesians. These are gifts like wisdom, knowledge, faith, and healing. And Paul goes on to share that some are gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These are spiritual gifts.
But God also gives us physical gifts. Let me share an example that stuck with me twenty years ago. My company brought an impressive Olympic swimmer by the name of John Naber in to share inspirational insights about what it takes to be a gold medal performer.
John, who is six foot six, won four gold metals in the ’76 Summer Olympics. In his speech he raised his humongous hands and referred to them saying,
These are a gift from God. These gave me an unfair advantage in the pool.
He then mentioned that he also had a matching pair of huge feet, and then claimed they were webbed. We laughed.
Large hands and feet are an example of physical gifts from God. Of course if he was trying to be a tailor or a jockey his body would be anything but a gift. Aligning what we’ve been given with what we choose to do is what determines if we will glorify God with our gifts.
In addition to spiritual gifts and physical gifts God also gives out intellectual gifts. Some of us learned in our early teens that we had gifts in math. Others learned about gifts in reading and writing. And still others learned about gifts in art.
We can all learn to do math and read and do art, but you have to admit that some of us learned these things much quicker and easier than others did. Rapid learning is a clue to a gift. What did you learn quicker and easier than others?
God also gives mental-toughness gifts. I’ve heard several athletes say that the game they play, whether golf, basketball, baseball, or whatever, is played between their ears. Once their physical skills have been honed, they believe they are basically equal to the others that are the best in the world.
The top athletes say the real difference between being a champion and just another competitor comes down to mental toughness. Those who can hit the big shot at the biggest of times, win the biggest games. While many wilt under pressure, some seem to thrive on it.
There are other kinds of gifts too, but I’m going to stop there. I think you’re getting my point that there are many kinds of gifts.
Marcus Buckingham, when he worked with Curt Coffman at the Gallup Organization, called gifts “talents” and defined talents this way:
A recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.
Their contention was that every normal human being has at least one of these gifts. Every person has at least one thing that they can do better than most. They may not be a one in a million, but each person is at least a one in ten thousand. And these natural talents are nothing other than gifts—Gifts from God.
This all sounds great! It’s really good news—except for one thing. Many of us never come to fully realize what talents we have been given.
Marcus Buckingham is one of the leading experts in this area of study. I heard him tell a fictional story about a man who loved to study military generals. This man died and went to heaven. When he arrived at the pearly gates he told St. Peter he was dying to ask who God created as the greatest general of all time. St. Peter quickly said, “Oh that’s easy. It’s Carlisle Van Rempen Stadt.
“Wait a minute!” the man said, “I know Carlisle Van Rempen Stadt… he’s the cobbler in our little town. You can’t mean him.”
St. Peter said, “Yep, that’s the guy. God created him to be the best general of all time, but Carl never realized it and therefore never pursued it.”
I heard that story over ten years ago and it obviously left an imprint on me. It makes me wonder if God created me to be one of the best at something and I’m failing to find out what it is and then pursue it.
Interesting stuff right? But what does it have to do with leadership?
It’s our job as leaders to figure out our own gifts and use them—to be great stewards of our gifts, just like in the parable of the talents.
It’s also our job as leaders to develop our people—to help those on our team to figure their gifts and work at developing them.
Neither of these is an easy task, and both can be a lot of fun!
In the next post in this series, I’ll talk about how to discover and develop your gifts and the gifts in those who work for you. Until then I pray that you experience God’s rich blessings.
Post by Rodger.
Image by Jayhem.
My husband and I like to watch TedxTalks. We’ll often watch a few in a row, and I find that they are mostly in one ear and out the other for me. The next day I rarely remember much of what was discussed.
Joe Smith, however, caught my attention, and has actually changed my behavior. Smith gave a four-minute TedxTalk on handwashing. The whole four minutes, he repeated a method to dry your hands completely with just one sheet of paper towel. The reason? Reducing our use of paper towels would have a huge positive impact on the environment. The method? Wash hands. Shake, shake, shake them off. Get one piece of paper towel. Fold it in half. Dry hands.
Five minutes is a long time to talk about drying your hands. Smith repeats himself a lot. He shows the audience how to dry their hands with just one paper towel over and over. By the end of the TedxTalk, I commented to husband Josh that this wasn’t the most interesting talk I’d seen.
And then I washed my hands before my next meal, shook them off, and dried them with one paper towel. Then later that day I used a public bathroom, washed my hands, shook them off, and dried them with one paper towel. I find myself always following his method for drying my hands—usually without really thinking about it—and I feel good about lowering my use of paper towels in the process.
Joe Smith gets mission and vision, whether he knows it or not. The mission? Cut down fewer trees. The vision? Teach people how to use just one paper towel to effectively dry their hands. It’s simple, it’s bold, and it’s hard to forget. How amazing is it that this four-minute TedxTalk completely changed my behavior?
Is the vision you have for your business, church, or nonprofit this simple, clear, and compelling? Does it move people to action? So many vision statements I see are long and vague and don’t really say anything about what an organization is actually doing. Take some time this week to look at your vision statement. Can it change someone’s unconscious behavior? Does it help you take concrete steps to living out your mission? If it does, that’s awesome. But I’m guessing that for most of you, your vision statement doesn’t do that.
So what can you do to help reframe it? What are some steps you can take to make your vision statement simple, bold, and unforgettable?
Post by Meredith.
Image by Gagilas.
Listen to the nine-minute Solitude with God audio program from Coach’s Corner.
I like to be alone…together. No, I’m not talking about being alone with my wife, with my family, or with my friends.
I like to be alone, all alone, so I can be together with God.
Do you notice a significant difference between Christian leaders and non-Christian leaders? Should there be a significant difference between them?
I’ve worked many years in the for-profit business world, and I’ve been highly engaged with many non-profit organizations, and now in my work I’m intimately connected to pastors and church leaders.
I’ve seen a lot of leaders, many of them Christians and many of them not. Sometimes it’s easy to see a difference—and often it’s not. Why would this be?
My observation is that many of us Christians quickly forget what we profess to believe when facing tough decisions, or pressure, or highly anxious people.
I’ve often talked about the impact of anxiety on our ability to think straight, and how it affects our ability to remember what we profess to believe and value.
Our world is an anxious place. Whether you’re in the for-profit world, the non-profit world, or the church world, you will face anxious people and anxious situations.
So what can you do to be less anxious when everything around you is trying to entice you to join the anxiety party?
Spend time with God! Alone. And do it often.
Even Jesus went to lonely places to be with God.
God is not ever anxious! And just like anxious people and situations draw you toward becoming anxious yourself, time with God seems to just naturally make you less anxious—and eventually even calm.
A couple of years ago I was coaching a pastor who was being asked to go from the second chair to the lead chair in his church. He had been a lead pastor before and knew the effect it had on him and on his family, and he didn’t want to go there again.
During a time in prayer, he clearly sensed the Holy Spirit telling him that if he would spend an hour with God each day—not just when he was working on his sermon or studying for work purposes, but just being with God through his Word and through prayer and silence—then he would be fine in the position of lead pastor.
When he was describing this to me, something inside me resonated. I believed the Holy Spirit was telling me to do this too. So I began to get up early enough to spend an hour, sometimes more, in God’s Word and in an intentional relationship with God.
Even just talking about this gives me a sense of calm. Virtually every day I’m reminded of God’s power, of God’s love, of God’s promises to me.
I’m also reminded of the fallen nature of our world, of the people I will come into contact with, and of my own fallen condition!
I’m pretty sure that this time with God makes me a different person. I’m pretty sure this time with God makes me a different leader—hopefully a Christian leader who reflects the truth and love of Christ.
I know you’re incredibly busy as a leader! I can imagine many of you saying right now that you’re too busy to take this much time to be with God. I get it. I too am not getting everything done that needs to be done in a day.
Even though that’s true, I’ve come to believe that I need to be with God!
I think it was Bill Hybels who wrote about being too busy to not pray!
Why is prayer and quiet time with God so important for a leader who is so very busy?
Quiet time with God reminds me who I am and whose I am.
Quiet time with God reminds me what I believe and what I value in life.
Quiet time with God makes me a less anxious person; it makes me a calm person.
When I’m calm I think more clearly and make better decisions.
When I worked in the automotive design business and felt great pressure to get work done faster than we could really do it, someone came up with this expression: “It seems like we never have enough time to do something the right way, but we always seem to find the time to re-do it when it turns out to be wrong.”
Being calm helps me to do the thing right in the first place and not have to re-do it later.
When I’m calm, I also treat people better. When I don’t treat people on my team well, it either costs their full engagement in our mission or it requires me to go back and clean up the mess I created. Neither of these is a better outcome than just treating them well in the first place.
When I’m calm, my decisions are better, my relationships are better, and my mental and emotional health is better. Even my physical health becomes better!
So what do you think? Are these good things for a leader?
One of the things I do when I’m with God is read from Sarah Young’s devotional Jesus Calling. These are messages she sensed from Jesus each morning after just being still in his presence.
As I was in the middle of constructing this message over a few days, one of these daily devotions included the following:
Be still in my presence, even though countless tasks clamor for your attention.
Nothing is as important as spending time with Me. While you wait in My presence, I do My best work within you: transforming you by the renewing of your mind.
If you skimp on this time with Me, you may plunge headlong into the wrong activities, missing the richness of what I have planned for you.
Sound like something important for Christian leaders?
If I plunge headlong into the wrong activities, it’s not just me that gets affected, it’s also the people who follow me.
Another thing I do is spend time enjoying the Bible—not just trying to get through it, but engaging it at a comfortable pace and following where my curiosity takes me.
I spend the great majority of my time doing just these two things while also talking to God as I’m reading.
I also spend time with God in more formal prayer. I like “ACTS” prayer. The “A” stands for “acknowledgement,” so I spend time acknowledging who God is—how awesome and merciful he is. Thinking about who God really is and what his character is blows me away. It makes me want to praise him!
The “C” stands for confession: I spend some time confessing my sin, admitting where I fall short of what God created me to be and to do.
Anything that separates me from an intimate relationship with God is sin. That can even be making an idol out of going to church or being too busy doing “good” things to be with God.
If something separates me from my relationship with God, it is sin.
Next in the ACTS prayer is “T,” where I spend time expressing my thanksgiving to God. And this is an amazingly long list. I’m often overwhelmed with all that I have to be thankful for.
I believe that every good thing in me and my life is a pure gift of God’s grace, and I’m so blessed to have so many good people and things in my life.
The “S” in ACTS prayer is for supplication—I ask God to intervene in my life and in the lives of others. And God has promised that whatever I ask for, if it’s done for God’s will, it will be given.
So that’s it: why I think all Christian leaders need to spend significant time alone and together.
If you aren’t already doing this, please try it this week and see what happens.
If you do, I’d love to hear about it. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post by Rodger.
Image by Iansthree.
Rodger shared in Monday’s post about the blindness all of us have (check it out if you haven’t already). That got me thinking about some of my own blind spots.
I started my career in publishing, and since then I’ve always kept a finger in it. In addition to my work at the RCA, I occasionally take on proofreading assignments from a publisher in town. I started proofreading my senior year in college and have done it fairly consistently for the last fourteen years. People keep hiring me, so I must be fairly good at it.
But I have a big blind spot.
I cannot proofread my own work. I think I can, and I’ve certainly tried, but whenever I then run it by other people, they almost always find some glaring error that in someone else’s writing I would have picked up no problem.
I wonder why I have this big blind spot with proofreading. I’ve tried to work around it, but I miss things no matter how careful I am when I’m proofing my own work. I’ve talked to other writer/editor types who have the same experience. So now that I know about this (rather mild) blind spot, what should I do about it?
In John 9:41 (CEB), Jesus says this:
“If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Interesting. It seems that Jesus is saying that once we are aware of a behavior we were formerly blind to, we’re responsible for dealing with it. In my proofreading blind spot, it means having someone edit and proof my posts and other writing before they go live no matter how grammatically perfect I think they are. (Thanks, Ann!)
I have some other behaviors that I know about now, but that used to be blind spots. One I’m not so proud of is my tendency to react defensively when my husband offers me constructive feedback. I didn’t realize that I was always responding defensively. Once he brought it up the blinders came off. (Let’s be honest here, it took him more than a few times bringing it up before I actually heard what he was saying.)
Now that I know about my tendency to be defensive, I’m responsible for managing it. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary for me to change my behavior if I want to live into the person God created me to be.
What about you? What are some blind spots that have been revealed to you? And what are you doing about them? If you’re not aware of any blind spots, let me promise you that you still have them. A trusted friend or family member can tell you what at least some of them are, if you’re willing to humble yourself and listen. God is light; he shines away the darkness, and there is no blindness where there is light. Let’s all try this week to live in the light.
Post by Meredith.
Image by F. C. Photography.