When our daughter, Caroline, was born and severe health complications quickly ensued, Carla and I were driven to our knees, crying out to God for healing. Amid fear and fright, we sought his peace. When we felt less than confident that the story we’d imagined for ourselves as new parents wasn’t going to play out the way we’d thought, we sought God’s confidence.
Here’s Carla’s story. For the squeamish, it does get detailed.
March 1, 1994, was an incredible day. My due date had come and gone, and now Preston and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new baby girl, Caroline. Caroline arrived at 7:29 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1. We were overjoyed and felt so blessed to welcome a new, healthy baby girl into our family.
Later that afternoon, as is typical after most deliveries, the nurses came into my hospital room to check on me, take vital signs, etc. After removing my catheter, they noticed something wrong: there was urine leaking onto my bed. Several nurses came in to look, doctors were called in, and shortly after that, I was wheeled over to urology specialists’ offices. During the delivery process, we found out that my bladder and vaginal wall had been torn, therefore forming a hole through both, which had caused urine to flow directly from my bladder through my vaginal wall and leak onto the bed (or anything else).
At first, neither my doctor nor the specialists knew what to do. Once the specialists had discussed the matter, my OB-GYN (who had delivered Caroline) came in to explain these findings to us. He admitted that he didn’t know how this had happened, and, although he had delivered thousands of babies, he had never seen this before. He was concerned, and he offered to pray with us.
The next day, we took Caroline home, but it wasn’t the homecoming I had envisioned beforehand. I went home with a catheter and wore adult continence garments for the next six weeks while we met with specialists to develop a plan that would hopefully lead to healing. During the weeks that led up to the surgery, my OB doctor would call to check on us and let us know that he and others he knew were praying for us. Many surgeons are egotistical and don’t acknowledge their humanness. This doctor was different. He was bold in his faith and humble in his approach, and, because of this, I was learning more about Christ.
There was a lot of uncertainty going into the surgery. Ahead of time, we had agreed to various approaches based on what they could find once I was on the surgical table. One method was somewhat invasive and another one much less so, but I wouldn’t know which method they would implement until I awoke from anesthesia. During the weeks leading up to surgery, our only option was to pray for a medical plan of action that would be successful, for skilled minds and skilled hands for the physicians, for encouragement, and for adequate care during this time for our new baby girl. We asked family, friends, neighbors, and everyone around us for prayer.
Finally, the morning of surgery came, and it was time for my family to leave my side and allow the staff to take me back. As I was being wheeled down to the pre-op room, I heard someone call my name. It was my physician; he had come to walk me into surgery. (He was not a part of the urology surgical team). He held my hand and prayed over me.
I’m happy to say that the report was good when I came out of the anesthesia later that day. The team had been able to make the repairs in the least invasive way, and, thankfully, the outcome looked very hopeful!
I cared for a newborn baby for several months following the surgery while wearing multiple urinary medical devices. Needless to say, I stayed home quite a bit. It wasn’t an easy time, but it was a season when God was allowing me some time alone with him to talk things out. I did a lot of praying.
At times, I remember wrestling with my feelings and thinking, Am I going to trust that God is good and that his plan for me is good, even if my body doesn’t function properly and I must wear these urinary devices for the rest of my life? Am I going to trust him no matter the outcome?
God was patient with me, and he allowed me to talk about these things out with him. Ultimately, after spending much time in his Word, much time in prayer, and listening to godly counsel, I began to accept the fact that, no matter the outcome, God loves me and cares for me. He will always be there for me. He is my maker and my helper.
Several months went by before I could attempt going to the restroom on my own. I’ll never forget the day I was allowed to try. Right away, I knew I was healed. God is good, not because he chose to heal me—he certainly didn’t have to do that—but because he is a good father. That’s his character. His plans are for good, even though we may not like them at the time.
Looking back, I’m very thankful he took me on that little journey years ago. I learned to trust him, and he hasn’t failed me yet.
To add to Carla’s story, I remember sitting in the waiting room with her parents and my grandparents during surgery. We were hopeful that the procedure would be successful, but we were prepared for the worst. I’ll never forget the post-surgery debrief with the surgeon. It was as if he couldn’t believe how simple the surgery was and how well it had gone versus how he initially thought the situation would be resolved. It was a miracle. We were absolutely delighted and thankful. We all jumped for joy and thanked God for his incredible mercy. The surgery was successful, and Carla’s health was restored.
Carla and I will always look back at this milestone and be thankful for God’s answer to our prayers. We didn’t have anywhere else to turn but to God, to place our hope and confidence in him for a positive outcome. Despite daunting circumstances and an undesired prognosis, we prayed to God because we trusted him. When I saw God move and do what seemed impossible, it both reaffirmed and further established my confidence in God.
What does God-confidence look like? It’s when you move from elevating God over self. The Bible says, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Corinthians 10:12 – The Message).
How does one cultivate God-confidence?
- Seek his empowerment.
- Request God’s wisdom to navigate unchartered territory, make decisions, and solve problems.
- Seek his strength and protection to face opposition or challenging circumstances.
- Trust he’ll provide and ensure an outcome that works for the good.
- When success comes, give credit to God and be thankful.
- If success doesn’t come, don’t let your God-confidence be shaken but let it grow through adversity.
How different would your life look if you moved from self-confidence to God-confidence? How would your home life change? How would your organization, community, or school grow? How would your world transform?
If you sincerely trust him, God will do wonderful things in you and through you. As you make a positive difference in the world, you will be in marvelous fellowship with the One who made you. You will be engaged in his enterprises, risking your life for him and his kingdom. Focusing on God and not self will make your confidence soar, and you’ll be energized to do and achieve more than you imagined possible.
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Thanks for reading. Cheers!
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Evan, my co-worker at our multi-billion-dollar consumer products company, stopped me in the parking lot. “Have you noticed how execution’s gotten sloppy over the past year?”
He looked down. “Not too long ago, this was one of the best-executing markets. I’m very disappointed. What’s happened?”
I paused. I did know what had happened, but if I told Evan the truth, I knew there’d be consequences. Maybe even for Evan himself. But integrity is a word that means something to me, so I mustered up my courage and told him what I knew. “Did you know the local management team is running a side business out of the office?”
Shocked, he just said, “No.”
“The local team is focused on building their side business, and they’re using company assets for personal gain. They’re violating our Code of Business Conduct, and they’ve lost focus on their primary job responsibilities. That’s the reason execution is so sloppy.”
I could tell that Evan didn’t quite believe me, so I walked him over to a manager’s company vehicle in the parking lot.
“See that?” I pointed to a window decal on the manager’s windshield. “That’s the logo for their side business.”
He shook his head.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too. If you poke around, you’ll probably find out what’s going on.”
“I will, Preston. I will.”
True to his word, Evan poked. He discovered that the local management team had invented a new sports gadget and were leveraging the company’s people, tools, and supplies to build their side business. Over time, they’d become so consumed with growing their business that they neglected their primary responsibility: marketplace execution.
If questioned about negative business results, the team deflected the inquiries and pointed to factors “outside of their control.” They disguised their side interest by saying all of the right things to upper management. Consequently, the team was left alone to work on their own business on our company’s dime. Eventually, their audio and video didn’t match. Without accountability, the team had abandoned their integrity and slowly moved into corruption.
After my conversation with Evan, I knew that the circumstances and potential consequences would escalate. I called my manager and told him about the conversation. My manager told Human Resources and other leaders about the potential Code of Business Conduct violation.
Following an investigation, several local market leaders were fired for leveraging company assets and personally gaining from their efforts.
Looking back, I’m glad I made the right decision even though it was tough and even though I was saddened that a number of employees lost their jobs. But the experience reminded me of the necessity of integrity—with others and with myself.
I learned that when you become a person of integrity, you can become a leader, others will follow because of your honesty.
Unfortunately, one more potential consequence came to pass as a result of that side-business hustle operation going on right under my nose. The investigation also revealed that Evan might have seen the signals but had turned his head and ignored them. Regardless, he was found to be complicit and was forced to retire.
It was a bittersweet moment. I’d worked with the team for years and didn’t want any harm to come to them. At the same time, I knew I needed to expose the wrong I saw. For years after these displacements, I worked in fear of retribution, thinking that someone would take revenge for my standing up for what was right.
Gratefully, that never happened, and I remained true to my value of integrity. Now, anytime I’m tempted to skirt the truth in my words or actions, I think about that side-business logo that ultimately cost multiple people their jobs.
It doesn’t take much for a house of cards to fall.
That’s why it’s essential for leaders to lead with integrity. If you’re the one responsible for building a strong team or a strong company, your peers and employees need to know they can trust you.
Being integrous is hard but worth the cost because it will be your best friend and help you achieve your goals. So, how does one measure his or her integrity? In John C. Maxwell’s book, Becoming a Person of Influence, he offers ten questions to evaluate your integrity[i]. As you read the questions, rate yourself from 1 to 10, with ten being fully integrous and 1 with no integrity:
#1 How well do I treat people from whom I can gain nothing?
#2 Am I transparent with others?
#3 Do I role-play based on the person(s) I’m with?
#4 Am I the same person when I’m in the spotlight as I am when I’m alone?
#5 Do I quickly admit wrongdoing without being pressed to do so?
#6 Do I put other people ahead of my personal agenda?
#7 Do I have an unchanging standard for moral decisions, or do circumstances determine my choices?
#8 Do I make difficult decisions, even when they have a personal cost attached to them?
#9 When I have something to say about people, do I talk to them or about them?
#10 Am I accountable to at least one other person for what I think, say, and do?
Did any of those hit home? Take some time to reflect and choose your three areas that need the most improvement. Then, pick your top area of needed improvement. Ask yourself, why is it essential for me to improve in this area? How will I become a better person and a better leader? Why will it be important to others? What actions will I take to grow, when will I start and who will hold me accountable?
Take time to write down your answers to the above questions. Let the words from my lips move to your fingertips. If you do, you’ll know what you think by reading what you write. Also, share what you’ve written down with someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Real change begins when you are vulnerable and transparent with someone and ask for their support.
I’ll end with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “God grant that men (and women) of principle be our principal men (and women).”[ii]May you be integrous in all of your ways and be a man or woman of principle.
[i]Excerpt From: John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan. “Becoming a Person of Influence.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-a-person-of-influence/id607555354
[ii]Excerpt From: John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan. “Becoming a Person of Influence.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-a-person-of-influence/id607555354
A few weeks ago, I attended a team reunion in Sandestin, Florida. It was an excellent time to reminisce and reflect on one of my favorite periods in my career. Why? As a team, we accomplished great things. Personally, I was considered a strategic business partner and was empowered to make a difference. Before I tell you about the reunion, let me give you a little context…
Back in 2001, I was my company’s representative in Montgomery, AL responsible for gaining alignment, developing relationships and delivering positive business results with the local bottler. The family-owned operation was recently acquired by a more massive bottler. The family ownership was well respected, had great community relationships and delivered outstanding customer service.
When the new bottler took over operations, the transition didn’t go smoothly. Based on missed deliveries, inferior execution, high turnover, and many broken promises, the new operators lost credibility with the customers and the community. Most of the original leadership team was released, and new leaders were assigned to clean up the mess.
I was part of the new leadership team assigned to turn things around and knew I was stepping into a tough situation. The relationship between the company and its bottlers was tenuous. I knew that to become a trusted member of the team, I’d need to win their hearts by investing time with the bottler’s leaders and connecting with them personally. I started by learning about the local market, going on trade rides to get a sense of what the front-line associates needed, asking a lot of questions, listening and breaking bread together – the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right?
I quickly realized that the new Montgomery market leaders were the real deal. To gain a seat at the table and align with them, I provided thought leading insights and value-creating solutions to help the business grow. I built credibility with the team leader, and over time, I was entrusted to develop and drive the local market strategy and steward key marketing asset relationships (e.g., University of Alabama, Auburn University). I’d moved from just aligning with the bottler’s leadership team to become their strategic business partner.
How? Through being trustworthy, sharing a common purpose, promoting transparency, being humble and always maintaining a sense of humor when things got tough. More on the five steps to developing strategic partnerships at the end of the story.
After a lot of hard work, our team’s execution improved significantly, and our business results exceeded expectations. The team was nationally recognized for its efforts, and a number of us were promoted due to the successful market turnaround.
Back to the reunion. . .
I was honored to be part of the Sandestin, FL festivities. There was only a hand full of company representatives invited to the reunion, but I was the only one to attend. It was great to see all of the people. We hugged and shared fond memories. During dinner, about 15 people stood up and shared funny stories about something that happened during our time together. We all enjoyed laughing at the stories and ourselves.
As we were going around the table, I realized that I’d be the last person to speak that evening. I sat thinking to myself, “What am I going to say that hasn’t already been said?” . . ..
Then it hit me. Talk about partnership. . .
You see, my current role has me in a position to influence strategic partnerships around the globe. It’s easy for me to do because I experienced what it was like to be a strategic partner with my former teammates in the room.
After a few opening comments, I started, “Thank you for modeling what a successful partnership looks like. You embraced me and gave me a seat at your table. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it then, and now.”
“Why?” I continued, “I remember unifying phrases like, ‘One team, one goal’ or the many days traveling together to different sales centers where we got to know each other. We created shared values and a shared vision. In spite of all the obstacles we encountered, we accomplished much. The way you treated me and the partnership we developed modeled what success looks like.”
I went on, “I don’t say this to impress you but to impress upon youwhat an impact you’ve had on me. You laid the foundation for the work I’m now doing. I can pass it on. I’m leading a project helping others in North America and around the globe build strategic partnerships – Peru, Russia, the Philippines and beyond. Who would have thought a little kid like me in a small market like Montgomery, AL would have such an opportunity to make a worldwide impact?”
I paused and passionately said, “Don’t ever take for granted what we had. It was special. Through our partnership, we turned around the market, and many of us went on to new opportunities because of what we did here.”
“More importantly, let’s take this one step further. It’s said that people won’t remember what you did, but they will remember how you were treated. I’ll always look fondly on our time together because I was treated well and you embraced me as a partner. You treated me well, and for that, I am thankful.”
That’s the truth. . .. I became a strategic business partner and ultimately a friend to all involved in our accomplishments – friendships that lasted a lifetime.
Partnerships are essential to you and your team’s success. The Bible says, “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!” Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 (The Message). Great partnerships enable great results.
Do want to become a strategic partner and increase the likelihood of success? I recommend following the below five steps. . .
- Become Trustworthy: Build credibility through doing what you say you’ll do and adding indispensable value. Earn your seat at the table by providing thought leadership, developing solutions and delivering results.
- Unify through a Common Purpose: Clearly define where you’re headed, the collective ways of working together and what the partnership wants to achieve – ultimately, partners want to improve their own business results.
- Promote Transparency: Drive open and honest, two-way communication. Accept feedback as a gift. Be willing to challenge thinking and push the envelope. When faced with problems or conflict, talk things out remembering to always focus on the issue at hand, not the person.
- Be Humble: Take the position of a servant. Think less about yourself and your goals and think more about how to help others.
- Keep a Sense of Humor: Remember, laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Know when to interject humor into situations and put others at ease.
If you become trustworthy, unify through a common purpose, promote transparency, be humble and keep a sense of humor, you’ll develop strategic partnerships and become a successful leader.
And, who knows? You may even develop some life-long friendships as I did.
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A couple of years ago, I enrolled in a Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, CO. Since the conference was held in May, I decided to commute back and forth to the YMCA from my parent’s home in Fort Collins. My typical route to Estes Park was closed due to flooding and road construction. The detour to Estes Park was through Hwy 36, a winding and scenic 90-minute drive.
May is a beautiful time of year in Colorado. But sometimes the weather can be very unpredictable. That’s when I met Valarie – Winter Storm Valarie that is…On May 18, 2017, Estes Park and the surrounding area received over 30 inches of snow. To get a feel for the road conditions, view the following videl: https://youtu.be/28L1CAQqZ8M?t=5
The snowstorm limited my attendance at the writer’s conference. I was very frustrated by the circumstances I’d encountered and here’s what I recorded in my journal:
Bummed…I came to Colorado to attend a Christian Writers Conference with the goal of connecting with publishers and agents and learning how to market my book, “The Discipled Leader.” I attended the first day but missed the rest of the confrence. You see, I made some bad decisions and circumstances beyond my control prevented me from going. I planned to commute back and forth to Mom and Dad’s house during the conference. The weather forecast predicted heavy snowfall in Estes Park beginning Wednesday night. I thought that I could commute on Wednesday and then travel back up to Estes Park on Thursday morning, stay at the YMCA through Friday night and come back on Saturday.
It was snowing hard when I woke up Thursday morning. The night before, I dreamed about my journey up Hwy 36 into Estes Park and the snow storm. I stressed out during my dream and felt like I heard “don’t go.” But I did. I felt confident that I was going to make it up the pass because the road would be plowed and sanded. Heck, I grew up in Colorado and knew I could handle the conditions. Or so I thought. . .
Things began to deteriorate as I drove up the canyon. Rounding a bend, I saw a line of cars and police lights on top of the mountain in front of me. It was snowing hard, and the road was becoming more treacherous. I stopped a van that’d turned around and was coming back down the mountain. The driver told me that the police closed the road and weren’t letting anyone through. After experiencing the conditions and hearing what the driver said, I had no choice, I had to turn around and go back home before the storm worsened.
Timing – one other circumstance…When I drove home Wednesday night, the low-pressure tire sensor came on. Dad and I took it to a local dealership to have them check it first thing Thursday morning. The mechanic filled the tire with air but wouldn’t fix the leak because we didn’t have an appointment. So, I went to another tire place. The good news is that they took me right away. The helpful mechanic found a nail in the tire, plugged the hole and finished in 15 minutes. And, I guess because of the troubled look on my face, they didn’t charge me. But my tire escapade delayed my morning departure.
So, I left later than I planned. Had I left 30 to 45 minutes earlier, I may have made it to Estes Park, but I didn’t. Because of the Winter Storm Valarie, I wrote the conference lead to tell her that I wasn’t going to be able to make the rest of the conference and requested a refund. The whole thing was a missed opportunity.
I don’t know why this happened. I don’t understand. Maybe I never will. I’m very frustrated with God…I’m trying to “love him and develop people,” to disciple others. But I seem to be thwarted, resisted at every turn. It seems that all paths are going nowhere and all of the opportunities are drying up. Staying with Dad through Sunday morning and heading home.
Maybe you hear the frustration in my voice. At the time, I couldn’t understand why the circumstances turned out the way they appeared. But here’s the rest of the story…
Because of the snow storm and my returning to my parent’s house, I was able to invest the rest of the weekend with my Dad. My Mom was traveling, and Dad was at home alone for a few weeks. We hung out together and talked about life. Toward the end of the weekend, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with Dad. He later gave his life to the Lord, but that’s a whole different story.
Lastly, my enrollment in the writer’s conference afforded me the opportunity for paid agent or publisher 1:1s and was the main reason I enrolled in the conference. The goal of meeting with the agents and publishers was to pitch my book and receive feedback hoping all along that an agent would sign me. You can imagine the disappointment of not getting the chance to network with agents and publishers when you’ve been working on a manuscript for seven years.
But God was good. After the conference, I contacted some of the agents and told them my circumstances. Several of them agreed to meet with me over the phone. One of the agents I spoke with encouraged me to keep writing with the help of an editor. A year and lots of hard work later, I signed a contract with Credo Communications literary agency to represent my book to publishers.
I didn’t see it, but God was working out my circumstances even though I couldn’t see it at the time. If I’d attended all of the conference, I’d missed the opportunity to invest time with my Dad and share the Gospel with him. And, God made a way to sign with an agent even though it appeared my efforts were fruitless.
Three verses come to mind:
#1 – “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV) – God governs our world and engineers all circumstances. I had a plan, and in the midst of what seemed like a fruitless of string events, God worked things out.
#2 – “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:28 MSG) – For the Christian, the events in our lives are worked into good. We may not see it right away or ever. In the midst of my circumstances, I couldn’t see what good could come from striking out. But what I saw as striking out turned into an opportunity for something more significant.
#3 – “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:5-6) – Trusting God and that’s he’s got your back will make a big difference in how you see events in your life unfold.
What about you? What happens when you encounter circumstances that don’t work out the way you planned? Do you trust that God engineers all circumstances and works every detail into something good? Friend, I encourage you to trust God with all of your plans, and if you do, you’ll become a God-confident leader.
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On a sunny Summer day in near Branson, Arkansas, a group of folks embarked on a duck boat tour; 31 people in all. Little did they know the tragedy facing them as the amphibious vehicle entered Table Rock Lake.
Before the tour, Captain Scott looked at the weather forecast and noticed a severe thunderstorm warning. The warning didn’t deter him. He was an experienced captain and was confident that the tour could proceed as usual.
After the passengers embarked on Stretch Duck 7, Captain Scott shared brief safety instructions. He mentioned there were life jackets on board but the passengers wouldn’t need them.
Then it hit. An intense thunderstorm seemed to come out of nowhere. The storm’s 75mph straight line winds created four-foot waves. Captain Scott struggled to keep control of Stretch Duck 7. As part of standard operating procedures, he didn’t speed up the boat and try to make it to shore.
Water began swamping the boat. Trying to appear calm and confident, he told the passengers not to worry, that they wouldn’t need their life jackets and to stay seated.
Trusting Captain Scott’s words, none of the passengers put on the easily accessible life jackets. Then, for some reason, the boat’s plastic curtains were lowered blocking the exits. The passengers were trapped and couldn’t abandon ship even if the order was given.
Stretch Duck 7 began to sink and quickly submerged taking its passengers with it. Tragically, seventeen people drowned – nine members from one family perished in the accident. Fourteen people survived including Captain Scott.
View accident video here: https://youtu.be/d5TCXz3taJk
For some reason, the Table Rock Lake tragedy captured my attention last Summer. I was curious about Captain Scott’s alleged negligence and inattention to duties. I began to wonder how I would act in a crisis? What leadership lessons can be learned by examining what not to do? Why did Captain Scott dismiss the warning signs? Why did he not direct the passengers to put on life jackets? Why didn’t he speed up the boat and head to shore? Why did he put the boat’s plastic curtains down trapping the passengers even if an abandon ship order was given? Why did the passengers merely comply with the captain’s orders and not act?
I don’t know the answers to all of the above questions. The accident is still under investigation, and Captain Scott is awaiting trial on negligence and inattention to duties charges.
What I do know is that leadership has REAL consequences. The decision Captain Scott resulted in lost lives and a sunken ship. So, what should you do when faced with a crisis and avoid Captain Scott’s mistakes. I discovered the following principles:
- Hope for the best, prepare for the worst – Optimism and confidence come from preparation. But if one fails to prepare, he or she prepares to fail. Ask what’s the worst thing that can happen before a crisis strikes and do everything within your control to be ready for it. Captain Scott didn’t appear prepared for the crisis in front of him, or he had a false sense of confidence that he could navigate through the storm.
- Assess the situation – A leader’s job is to define reality. Ask what happened, what are the root causes, alternative solutions, and implications? Where do you want to be? Determine the facts and let them guide your decision making. Captain Scott’s circumstances arose very quickly, and he exercised poor judgment.
- Act quickly but not carelessly – Once you define reality, act but don’t act in haste. Captain Scott acted negligently as he tried to maintain control of the ship. Had he chosen to accelerate toward the shore and ordered the passengers to put on their life jackets, the outcome may have been entirely different.
- Convey confidence – Leaders must respond in a crisis – people look to you for assurance and direction. You must remain calm and appear confident so your followers will be confident as well. But like Captain Scott, appearing confident won’t help the situation if you don’t prepare for the worst, assess the situation and act wisely.
What does the tragedy at Table Rock Lake teach us? That leadership has REAL consequences. Our decisions and actions matter. I recommend that you take the time to think through how you’d handle a crisis – professionally or personally. Your mental preparation may make all the difference.> Read More
Trust is the bedrock of every strong relationship.
Let that sink in. . . .
Trust is at the core of all personal and professional relationships. With it, you can achieve great things with others. Without it, you’ll go nowhere.
Do you remember a time when trust was absent or broken? I do.
I once worked with a group of people. Notice that I wrote group of people– we weren’t a team. Our manager was a self-serving individual more worried about making a great impression with upper management. Again, notice that I wrote manager– the individual didn’t have a lick of leadership in her bones.
Our group was filled with dissension and gossip. We lacked priorities and direction. Our roles weren’t clear. Our business partner didn’t understand or value our business contribution. We were distracted by an underperforming co-worker who created a drag on the group’s overall effectiveness. There was no recognition of our hard work, let alone a pat on the back for a job well done. Lastly, our business results didn’t meet expectations.
Trust was nowhere to be found. We were going nowhere.
After a number of co-workers left or were exited, I found myself being the only one that our manager could rely on to get things done. The burden became very heavy. Combined with the suffocating environment, over-work, and lack of appreciation, I started to burn out.
I was doing everything I could to be a positive influence but I was met with resistance around every corner. I began to lose hope that things would get better. I remember feeling broken and desperate. I’d come to the end of my rope and was ready to leave the company.
Then, I remember praying and telling God about my circumstances. I got the sense that I should hold on. I wasn’t sure what hold on meant or why. But at that moment, I resolved to take things day by day and not give up.
The next day was my birthday. When I arrived at work, my manager called me into her office and delivered the news. She told me that she was relocating to another city and that I’d have a new manager soon.
I can still recall the rush of relief that washed over me. What a great birthday present! I thought to myself. A new hope. Light at the end of the tunnel and it wasn’t an oncoming train. I was instantly optimistic about the future.
A few weeks later, I was appointed to a new team and leader.
Yes, a team and leader – a huge difference.
Immediately, my new manager, Ron, came to visit and conduct my annual review. My former manager completed the review document before she transferred but it was Ron’s responsibility to facilitate the discussion. I was very apprehensive thinking that Ron was going to let me go.
Ron held the review in his hand as we began our interaction. He told me that he didn’t agree with my former manager’s assessment and he acknowledged the negative work environment in which I’d suffered. In spite of the circumstances, he said I was still recognized as a top performer, he believed in me and he wanted me to be part of his new team. Ron set down the review document and said that what my former manager wrote didn’t matter now. Then, he asked me if I wanted a fresh start and invited me to his new team kickoff in Atlanta. I eagerly nodded yes and thanked him for inviting me.
Upon my arrival at the kickoff, I recall sitting around a conference table feeling excited and reserved at the same time. I’d heard that Ron was a great leader and he had the ability to develop strong teams. My past experience made me doubt strong leadership and teamwork were possible. I needed to see the proof in the pudding.
And the proof began…
Ron went first by sharing about his family, values, experiences, and his passion for the University of Tennessee. He asked for volunteers (pun intended) to share something about ourselves with the team. As folks opened up, I was amazed at everyone’s vulnerability and the sense of personal connection. We laughed a bunch. It was a fun conversation and I appreciated relating to the team.
Then, Ron transitioned to discuss his team vision. He handed out a piece of paper that outlined the team’s values, direction, destination, and expectations. As a team, we discussed and aligned to the proposed vision. Then, he encouraged us to focus on others, not ourselves; to serve rather than to be served. He emphasized teamwork, prioritization, fun, and most of all trust.
I hadn’t been in a trusting environment for a while. It’d been dog eat dog for so long. But Ron’s approach inspired me to follow him and become a team player.
During the next two years, the words on the page came to life. The time was some of the most enjoyable and memorable of my career. Our team collaborated, built strong partnerships, had a lot of fun, achieved great business results and I grew by leaps and bounds.
For example, we hosted the NCAA Final Four where I personally chauffeured Derek Whittenburg, a member of the 1983 North Carolina State Men’s Basketball national championship team, to events, hung out with American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, and attended a Maroon 5 concert with the team. To top it off, our business performance results were so strong that we won a Disney World incentive for all of our families. Because of trust, we achieved more together than we could have apart.
At the end of my time on Ron’s team, I sent him a note that said, “I didn’t think it was possible to work for an inspiring leader and trust others as I do now. You’ve restored my ability to trust. Thank you for believing in me and giving me a fresh start.” Ron’s been a friend and mentor ever since.
I asked Ron the other day about his memory of the circumstances and his role. He told me, “My view of the situation was that it was the team and each person who did the heavy lifting and hard work to make things happen. I only helped facilitate and enable great people to do great work together.” Again, exemplifying his humility and leadership.
If you’re ever faced with an opportunity to build or restore trust, I recommend you:
- Be Real – Let others know who you are, your values and what you stand for. Share your dreams, passions, desires, goals, experiences, successes, and failures. Go first and let go. Risk vulnerability with others and they will reciprocate.
- Establish Credibility – Be who you say you are. Ensure that the audio matches the video – your actions match your words. Do what you say you’ll do. Practice what you preach. Keep your commitments. Follow through. Earn respect by helping others solve problems, set direction, define roles and responsibilities, prioritize, make sound decisions, remove barriers and place the team’s agenda ahead of your own – put people first.
- Enable Collaboration – Create a trusting environment where people feel safe, failure and learnings are valued, opinions or ideas are openly shared, and folks must rely on one another. Help people reach their potential and as a team, collaborate to achieve more than dreamed possible.
I’ve experienced what it’s like to trust and not trust. I flourished under a strong leader who taught me the value of building trust with others and the powerful impact it has on all relationships.
How about you? Are you trustworthy? What would your team, your family, or friends say? Does your team trust one another? How do you know?
Remember, trust is the bedrock of all relationships. With it, you can achieve great things with others. Without it, you’ll go nowhere.
If you’ll be real with others, establish credibility and enable collaboration, you’ll become a trust-building leader.> Read More
“Dammit! I don’t get this guy”, I said as I slammed the door. I wondered out loud to my wife if I’d made a bad career decision.
I’d changed companies and took a new opportunity to get us closer to home; relocating from Hershey, PA to Montgomery, Alabama. It was a homecoming of sorts. Carla and I met and married in Birmingham; our kids were born at St. Vincent’s Hospital and much of our family lived in the area. We were happy to be back.
I moved out of a successful sales and marketing role with Hershey, into a new company representative job. My new role required me to represent The company’s interests to the local bottling partner, develop plans, gain strategic alignment and help deliver results. I felt a little over my ski tips – a new role, new market, new industry and new people. I knew It was going to take every bit of my weak leadership, communication, sales, and marketing skills to do well.
Why? My primary call point, Rick, had a reputation as a driven leader, very demanding and hard to get along with. He’s a towering man with a very intimidating demeanor – like the kind of guy who could have played professional football. He’d recently been appointed as Market Unit VP and tasked with turning a very low performing operation around, sooner than later. He was under considerable pressure.
I’ll never forget my first presentation to Rick and his team. He asked me to put together a marketing plan for a local university. I thought it would be a piece of cake based on my experience. I invested two weeks pulling together detailed plans, initial creative images and felt good about what I developed.
I presented my plan during his monthly operating meeting in front of his key leaders. After I finished, I asked Rick, “What do you think?”
Rick paused and asked with frustration, “Is that all you’ve got?”
There was a long, awkward silence in the room. I felt embarrassed.
My voice cracked, “Yes.”
Rick replied sharply, “I’m expecting more. Your plan is very disappointing. Go back to the drawing board and bring back something that will help us win in the market.”
I ducked my tail, sat down and stewed.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d stumbled with Rick by not delivering on expectations. As I sat simmering, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to gain credibility in Rick’s eyes. I’m failing in my new role. I don’t know what to do.”
Fast forward a few months. I’d been working hard to gain Rick’s trust and respect without much traction. Then one day after a market execution tour, we were leaning against a grocery store check-out lane conveyor belt recapping the day.
After summarizing the sub-par execution we observed in the market, I changed the subject and said to Rick, “I know my work hasn’t lived up to your expectations. I am working hard to get better and am on a steep learning curve. I’m confident that I have what it takes and can help you turn the business around.”
Rick just looked at me.
I continued, “If you’ll take me under your wing and teach me everything you know, I will learn and do everything it takes to help you and the team win.”
Another long, awkward pause – I think he liked the pauses.
“Preston, I’ve been hard on you to see if you have what it takes. Testing you. You know what? I think you do and I know you can help me. I’ll take you up on your offer.”
From there, things took off. Rick began including me on all of his market visits and key leadership meetings. We collaboratively developed robust plans, focused the team on the work that mattered and executed with excellence. The Market Unit gained positive performance momentum and began to receive national recognition. Based on our strong performance, we were privileged to pilot new brands and packages before national launches. We also re-negotiated key marketing asset contracts in the face of fierce competition. Lastly, we became a model team, importing and exporting talent. We won under Rick’s tremendous leadership.
When I think about Rick, I don’t necessarily think about our accomplishments. I think about our friendship we developed over the years. I remember all of the windshield time we had together, driving from town to town, sales center to sales center. When you spend multiple hours every week traveling with someone, you get to know them. Under Rick’s sometimes-rough exterior, I discovered a genuine person that really cared about people. Rick and I found that we shared a number of values including our faith during our conversations. I’ll always remember the countless belly laughs we had together, the confidence he placed in me and how he took me under his wing.
Rick taught me the Coke business, invested in me personally and professionally and played a huge role in my future success. I’ve benefited tremendously from knowing and being mentored by my friend, Rick Kehr.
Rick and I still stay in touch and talk occasionally. Recently, I heard he was retiring, and I called him a few weeks ago to check-in. He said a 28-year career with Coke and seven years in the NFL were enough. “It is time,” he said.
That’s right. The towering, intimidating man I mentioned earlier played professional football during his first career and won a Super Bowl championship with the Washington Redskins – beating my beloved Denver Broncos nonetheless. Rick is a winner in whatever he does. More importantly, he’s a leader.
Rick, thank you for being you, mentoring me and leading well. You’ve made a positive difference and left a great legacy.
Leaders – do you have a mentor in your life? Someone that will invest in you and you can trust. Someone who wants you to win and challenge you to reach our potential? If not, I recommend you find one. On the other side of the coin, are you a mentor to someone? Are you investing in someone to help them grow? If not, consider mentoring someone. If you do, you’ll make a positive difference as Rick did with me.> Read More
“Hi, Preston. Guess what? I got the job”, said Linda with a glow in her voice.
“That’s awesome and congratulations. What was the deciding factor?” I asked.
“Influence. It was my demonstrated ability to influence and drive results,” Linda replied.
She continued, “I told them about the blueprint you taught me: 1) Know your business, 2) Know your partner’s business and 3) Have an assertive agenda. I walked them through specific examples of how I applied the blueprint and the positive results the team achieved.”
I was thrilled. “Fantastic Linda. I knew you’d begin to realize your potential if you learned how to influence others.”
“I can’t thank you enough. I appreciate your help in developing my analytical skills and ability to lead well. I’ll never forget it,” Linda said.
“My pleasure,” I replied. “You’ve got what it takes. Best wishes in your new role.”
When I hired Linda, I saw all kinds of potential. She had great people and communication skills but she lacked a key ingredient… Analytical skills – the ability to review market level data and develop insights. To improve her ability to influence her business partner and differentiate herself in the industry, Linda needed to be able to evaluate market data, identify value creation opportunities and solve problems.
Why are analytical skills so important and a critical part of influencing? W. Edwards Deming, the father of Total Quality Management, once said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” I agree. Over the years, I’ve observed many sales associates or company representatives rely heavily on relationships to influence others without the use of facts. Relationships only go so far. Don’t get me wrong. I believe the ability to connect with people and develop lasting relationships are paramount.
But, I also believe that we can move beyond relationships and become strategic partners by leveraging analytical skills. We’ll have greater influence with others if we can show them how to make more money, solve problems or become more productive. To do these things, one must develop analytical capabilities and turn insights into action. If we couple relationship and analytical skills, we’ll become valued business partners. Without this differentiating combination, we’ll just be another salesperson, consultant or company representative without a seat at the table.
To develop Linda’s analytical capabilities, we invested time walking through internal and external reports. I taught her the metrics and measurements critical in evaluating business performance and identifying opportunities. Then, I showed her how to translate the information into valuable insights and turn the insights into action. Lastly, Linda was assigned projects where she was required to review data, draw conclusions and develop solutions.
As her confidence grew and skill developed, she began sharing her insights and potential revenue generating solutions with her business partners. Over time, her insights, ideas, and solutions were adopted and the team began delivering results. Linda’s credibility and influence grew as she moved from a business relationship to a strategic business partnership.
What was Linda’s blueprint for success?:
- Know your business – Understand your organization’s strategies, plan, priorities, and business performance.
- Know your partner’s business – Understand your business partner’s strategies, plan priorities, and business performance
- Have an assertive agenda – Identify gaps in your collective business plan, develop solutions, and create action plans
Linda’s influence grew over time. She made a difference and helped her business partner deliver positive results. You can do the same if you couple relationship and analytical skills. In the context of your ability to connect with people, you’ll be able to help businesses make more money, solve problems or become more productive. If you do, you’ll become a strong influence and always have a seat at your business partner’s table.> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
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I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.