Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Scares You?

Fear is a natural reaction to unsafe situations. Normally it is reasonable and it alerts us to be careful. In our nation today we fear an e-bola outbreak, terrorism, the economy, and other things over which we have little or no control.
But fears often border on the hysteric and keep us from achieving our destiny. My the fear of heights (acrophobia), is accompanied by the fear of gravity, (barophobia). I once climbed the 897 steps inside the Washington Monument only to be too scared to look out the window to see the beautiful view of DC through the tiny windows. On my first ride in a glass enclosed elevator, I immediately assumed the lotus position on the floor in the dead center of the cage. We won’t even discuss riding the cable car to the top of Masada in Israel. But one day I had to face and defeat this fear head on. 
Interstate Highway H-3 opened on December 12, 1997 after twenty years of technical, environmental, and political problems. The highway begins at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, climbs the foot hills, tunnels through the Ko'olau Mountains, exits the tunnel, crosses a viaduct several hundred feet above the Haiku Valley, descends down to the Likelike Highway, and ends at the military facilities in Kaneohe.
One of the technical and political problems encountered was the electromagnetic radiation from the high powered Coast Guard navigational antenna. The transmitter was at the bottom of the valley with antenna wires stretched around the mountain ridge. In 1991 it became my task to investigate the contractor’s claims that radiation was affecting workers and equipment resulting in construction delays. My task was to evaluate the electromagnetic environment and the contractor’s claims and provide an analysis and a report.
Arriving at the site in late afternoon after a long flight from Seattle, we received a tour of the work area. The construction superintendent drove me in his pickup truck along a dirt road and up a sharp embankment to the mouth of the mountain tunnels. The divided highway was under construction with precast concrete forms cantilevered out over the valley and no guard rails. At the end there was nothing but empty space. It looked like a pair of giant diving boards. Then, horror of all horrors we drove out to the end of the road. When my escort began to turn the truck around to go back, I realized how narrow two lanes can be with no shoulder or guard rails. I excused myself, got out of the truck and watched as it took several maneuvers   to turn completely around. Laying in my hotel bed that night, I could not sleep worrying about spending the entire next day at the end of the diving board, a hundred feet above the jungle, testing and taking measurements. Oh and did I mention my fear of bridges. (Gephyrophobia) My fear of heights and
On my way back to the site the next morning I just kept praying for God’s help. Nearing the construction zone, I heard a voice within me say. “Keep your eyes focused on your work and not the danger around you.”
Going out to the end of the viaduct and returning to the mountain was scary; but, all day long, as I focused on my work, my fears totally disappeared. I even took a break and could enjoy the view of Kaneohe Bay in the distance and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Down below was the lush jungle greenery of the Haiku Valley. The contractor was in fact correct. The electromagnetic radiation was electrifying equipment and dangerously shocking personnel and was potentially harmful to vehicles crossing through the area. They even shielded a portion of the highway for a time until the antenna itself became obsolete.

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt."  (Willlam Shakespeare) 

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote, "This is one of the greatest laws of the universe…my greatest discovery outside of my relationship with God; if you think in negative terms you will get negative results, if you think in positive terms you will get positive results. Believe and succeed."
When fear begins to paralyse you and keep your from achieving your goal in life, do these three things:
1.     Do think about where you are heading;
2.     Do not think about the things you fear;
3.     Do the things that will move you forward towards your destiny.
Then you will be well on the road to living up to your potential and becoming the person God created you to be.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Set Yourself on Fire

In an organization or in your personal life you come to times when you have to make a choice. Sometimes it feels like you are in a cold, dark cave. You know that you need to do something, but you are too tired, too cold, and really do not know what to do. St John of the Cross called it the Dark Night of the Soul. Organizations such as businesses and churches can also have a "Dark Night  of the Soul"

What you do next with your situation will determine your future. Your choices are: 1) You can curse your circumstances and give up, believing there is no escape; 2) You can wrap yourself in a blanket, get comfortable, and wait to be rescued; or 3) You can light a fire, make a torch, explore the cave, and find your way out.

Both individuals and organizations can find themselves in difficult circumstances that feel cold and dark with no apparent way to escape. Your business may floundering, you service organizations may have lost its way, or your church continues with rituals but is without the manifest presence of God.

We have witnessed many who made their choice; they curse the darkness and give up, they wait for someone to come and rescue them, or they light the fire. There is no "Book" answer that guarantees escape. But, to me there is only one reasonable response to the dilemma we face in the dark, “Light the fire.”  
Light the Fire

Fire is dangerous, just look at the wildfires in the West during the dry season. Fires in homes and businesses destroy lives and careers. But in the time of darkness and cold, a warm fire is a place of peace and joy.In the Boy Scouts we learned start a fire with simple things. All we needed was tinder, kindling, fuel, and a means to ignite the tinder.

Find the tinder

The first step to lighting your fire is to find some tinder. The Boy Scout will use, dry pine needles, pine cones or dried grass, all items which are easy to light.

The first thing you must do is find the most flammable issues in your life or your organization. What is your passion? These very sensitive places and things evoke the most discussion and emotions. Many of us are fearful of opening old wounds lest they destroy the organization. But when old wounds are not opened they cannot be cleaned and cauterized so healing can occur. Unopened wounds will just fester and hurt causing division and discontent.

Tinder also includes unmet dreams and desires, and unused or underused gifts. We need to find out where we have fallen short of our personal or corporate goals and dreams. These unmet dreams make for the tinder needed to start the fire.

John Wesley the 18th Century reformer was asked how he attracted such crowds to hear him preach. Wesley responded, "I just set myself on fire and people come to see me burn."

By setting ourselves on fire, others will not only watch, they will be drawn in to follow.

We have Ignition

Since tinder is easily ignited it doesn't take a lot of fire to get it going. As a Boy Scout we learned to ignite the tinder by rubbing two sticks together – friction causes heat. The easiest way to create friction is to begin to do something that has not been done before. Any time you have movement the friction between two objects results in heat. You must do something to cause friction resulting in heat.

Again, managers are afraid of heat because it disrupts the process, but our purpose is to escape the dark, cold cave, by lighting the fire. The leader is not afraid to start a fire to transform the organization.

Another trick I learned as a Boy Scout was to use a magnifying glass to focus the light of the sun on a dried leaf and watch it burst into flame. Solar plants have used mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a target to generate electricity. We can easily ignite the tinder by focusing attention on a particular tinder, bringing it under the light of inspection. With much scrutiny, the tinder will ignite.

Feed the Flame
Most tinder ignitions fail because there is insufficient fuel to sustain the fire. Even before ignition we must gather enough fuel to keep the fire going. An organizational fire must be fuelled by increasing the number of people who care that the fire needs to continue and grow. Some however will yell, “Fire” and run for the extinguishers. Unfortunately there are many who feel they are firemen and their responsibility is to put the fire out.

As the fire begins to burn, more and more fuel is required to take it over the top.

Bill Johnson

Monday, October 13, 2014

What makes a great leader?

Who was the greatest leader you have ever known - living or dead?
Fill in the leaders name: __________________________

What was the single, most significant characteristic that made them a great leader?
Fill in that characteristic:___________________________

Please answer the above questions before reading further.

We have asked these two questions for several years at leadership training events throughout this country and overseas. In the answers, we are attempting to demonstrate what it takes to become a great leader. As you might expect, individual answers to both questions will vary considerably in a group of fifty to a hundred participants. A consistent pattern emerges when we list the responses. This pattern further reveals answers about how people become great leaders.

Over ninety percent of the responses to the question of leadership characteristics have been attitudinal rather than a learned or inherited skill. People have responded with answers like:

Loving                 Helpful          Visionary            Purpose             Empathy
Empowering        Unselfish       Integrity              Humility           Passionate
Approachable      Honest           Godly                  Consistent        Respect For Others
What makes a great leader? The answer is attitude! All of these responses point to attitude as the critical characteristic of the person that makes them a great leader.
Phillipians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
1.     Our attitude as we begin a job directly affects the outcome.
1 Kings 11:11 So the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.
The San Francisco School Board selected three teachers for an experiment. They were told them they were selected because they were the very best teachers in the system and would each have thirty of the best students to teach. They were told to remove all restrictions and pour themselves into the kids to see how far these students can advance. These students scored 28% higher than any other group of students. But the students selected were just average students, chosen by drawing names. The teachers thought, they really were great teachers, but the teachers were just average and their names had been drawn randomly like the students.

When you begin a new project, what is your usual attitude, Excited - "I can hardly wait." Cautious - "I'll wait and see." Or Negative - "I don't want to do this." Are there certain new experiences that cause me to feel negative?

2.     My attitude toward others, often determines their attitude toward me.

At work a person's success is 13 % product knowledge and 87 % people knowledge. The four “R’s” of successful relationships, Remember their name, Request their help (ask directions), Recognize their potential, and reward their efforts.

3.  My attitude can turn a problem into a blessing or a curse.

There are three phases of a problem, realizing there is a problem, analysing what happened to cause the problem, and a choice of what to do next. Attitude comes in in making a choice, do we build or do we blame?

4.     My attitude can be my best friend or my worst enemy.

When hiring new people for any job, attitude should be the most important quality to look for. It should account for seventy percent of the decision. In psychological ratings for executive promotion the following factors are considered paramount: ambition, attitudes toward policy; attitudes towards colleagues; skills; and attitudes towards demands on time and energy. 

In surveys of why customers quit the following is critical. 1 % die, 3 % move away, 5% find other friendships, 9% leave for competitive reasons, 14% for product dissatisfaction, and a whopping 68% leave because of the attitude or indifference of an employee.

5.     My attitude, not my achievements bring happiness.

The thoughts in your mind are more important than the things in your life. Enjoy the process. Some of us have a destination disease - If only I could live there, I'd be happy. If only I could go there or blame themselves  - If I had not done that, I could be happy today.

6.     My attitude will change when I want it to change.

We can control our attitudes if we understand its importance. It is not what happens to me, it’s how we react to what happened.   We must quit blaming someone or something for our situation.

7.     My Attitude needs continual adjustment.

There is no such thing as a consistent, perfect attitude. There are several clues to the fact that our attitude needs to change; Lack of Time for self and for God, Strained relationships with co-workers, your mate tells you, if you begin to view of other people in a lesser light, and you become more cynical about life in general.

You can make adjustments to your attitude by: Saying the right words (I am Sorry - Will you forgive me?); Reading the right books; Seeing the right   people; and doing the right things

8.     My attitude is contagious.

People catch our attitudes just like they catch our colds - by sitting close to us. What positive attitudes do people catch from you? 

What negative attitudes do people catch from you?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Leader versus The Manager

Today we are reaping the results of a switch from leading to a rise in the influence of managing. 

In our politically correct society leadership has become immoral. Without leaders progress ceases and we begin to stagnate. Leadership and management are synonymous in the minds of many and there is a belief that a good manager is a good leader. This is a false assumption. We need leaders today more than ever in our history. 

I am currently reading the book, "Killing Patton" by Bill O' Reilly and note that while leaders may be hard to put up with, they are needed when the stakes are high and there is a difficult job to be accomplished.

Several years ago I attended a US Military program review held at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado outside the gates of North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego. The room was filled with brass from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. We had all gathered to review program activities which shared a common technology but were run differently by the three services. Speaker after speaker described their service’s methodology, resources, encountered difficulties, and progress. The Army and Navy used teams of presenters - civilian managers and engineers and uniformed military, each a specialist in a particular discipline.

The final presenter of the meeting was the lone Marine in attendance - a major with a chest full of medals. His presentation was brief, complete, and described a succession of victories over the technological issues plaguing the other services. Despite limited budgets and minimal contractor support they were demonstrating great strides.  When the Marine finished, the Navy Captain leading the review arose and made a terse statement,

“What we have here is the difference between management and leadership. The Army and Navy both have great managers on this program and are showing little progress. The Marines are demonstrating that leadership can resolve even complex technical issues. They have succeeded while we still struggle.”
Author, Virginia Postrel[i] in her 1998 book, “The Future and its Enemies” warned us of the coming battle between managers and leaders, who she identified respectively as “stasists” and “dynamists.” The stasists want to control all things so that mistakes do not happen, while dynamists want to be free to learn and grow by trial and error. Postrel claims the internet would never have developed if stasists were in charge.
Organizational consultant and author, Warren Bennis,[ii] widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies, lists twelve characteristics which distinguish a leader from a manager.

1.     The leader innovates - The manager administers;
2.   The leader is an original - The manager is a copy;
3.     The leader develops. - The manager maintains;–
4.     The leader focuses on people -The manager focuses on systems and structure–
5.     The leader inspires trust -The manager relies on control;
6.     The leader has a long-range perspective.-The manager has a short-range view;
7.     The leader asks what and why -The manager asks how and when;
8.     The leader’s eye is on the horizon -The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line;
9.     The leader originates -The manager imitates
10.  The leader challenges it -The manager accepts the status quo;
11.  The leader is his or her own person -The manager is the classic good soldier;
12.  The leader does the right thing - The manager does things right;

While it may not be politically correct to strive to become a leader, our nation’s political system, religious communities, and industries need leaders who are not afraid to take the reins and lead us to a better future. In politics, the attitude has changed from what is right for the nation to what is right for my party. In the church pastors have devolved from leaders to managers, giving in to church factions rather than stand for the word of God. And in business and industry we have given up the future for immediate rewards, the bottom line has replaced innovation and progress. 

It is no wonder live in a declining society. But when new leaders are allowed to step forward and lead, they can lead us back on the right track. Romans Chapter 12 includes the spiritual gift of leadership. It tells us to lead with diligence. The Greek word translated "lead" is to be ranked above or head and to take charge. This is not a politically correct term but it is what this nation needs today.

Romans 12:8 (NKJV) he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 

[i] Postrel, Virginia, The Future and its enemies, The Free Press, a division of Simon and Shuster, Inc, NY, NY 1998
[ii] Bennis, Warren, On Becoming a Leader, Basic Books; Fourth Edition, Fourth Edition (March 3, 2009)