Focal Point Blog

“The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases” – Proverbs 21:1

*In America today Christmas has become a Santa-ized, materialized blur. In many quarters what is seen as just another celebration is referred to in PC terms like “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings,” rather than as “Christmas.” As a result, it’s easy to lose touch with the event that’s the reason for the season. My goal with this article is to use the answer to a Christmas question to reconnect us with what the Bible asserts is the reality of Christmas. (more…)

 

“A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired” – Proverbs 17:22

Would you agree that attitude drives success in life?

Lou Holtz, former premier football coach, today is a highly sought after motivational speaker who inspires people well beyond the realm of sports. Such a successful man surely started out with some kind of “right stuff” giving him a leg up on the rest of us, right? Wrong. Holtz came from a broken family. He stumbled out of life’s starting blocks like many of us did. Yet, he became a remarkable person. How come? He attributes his success to maintaining a positive attitude. “Life,” he says, “is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” (more…)

Create environment where people want to be.

  • Leadership:
    • Hire people who’ve overcome obstacles
    • Be Clear about what you’re looking for in an employee (Disney uses a film which outlines the Disney culture – “If you come to work without your name badge, go home.” Etc.  25% of already screened job applicants walk away after seeing the film.
    • Training – train, test, enforce.
  • Culture:
  • Everyone matters and knows that they matter. Tell them! This is the fuel that drives human performance.
  • Touch people before you touch the work. When you come in in the morning, go around talking to the people, finding out about that game, sick aunt, etc. Then start working.
  • When you enter an environment (home, work, etc.), you either make it better or worse. Your choice.
  • If something somebody (wife, employee, etc.) says annoys you, let it go. It’s not worth raising a fuss about.

Competence:

  • Be technically competent – Go to seminars, take classes, etc.
  • Have management competence:
    • Are you spending time where you are adding value?
    • Think tomorrow about how you could have done better today.
    • Life happens in a flash. Get organized.
  • Be leadership competent – Management is about doing. Leadership is about being (be there for the people, have character…)

Make customers (in our case, guests) feel special. Treat them as individuals.

Will you change the world? Probably not. But you can change your environment.

Difference between training and developing. Training is about classes and seminars. Developing is about having the hard conversations (“You’re going to have to work on this…”)

Every week we should be have hard things – relationships, projects… – to work on.

(Notes taken by attendee at a recent Leadership luncheon in Tulsa)

“Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honors” – Proverbs 29:23

*There’s an old story about a Navy warship that’s navigating through dense fog one night when directly in their heading a distant, faint light appears. As they continue, the light grows brighter. At length the captain appears on the helm to assess the situation. About that time, a voice over the radio calls on the vessel to adjust its course. The captain, an admiral, refuses to yield. Getting on the radio he demands, “No, you adjust your course.”

Several transmissions follow between the admiral and what turns out to be an ensign, each calling on the other to yield. Finally, the admiral says, “We are a U. S. Navy carrier, you adjust.” To which the ensign responds, “We’re a lighthouse.”

Some things are just bigger than we are; they transcend us. Take gravity, for example. Like the lighthouse, gravity invites us to adjust our course to its reality. If we do, we do well. But if we fail to yield to gravity’s reality, no matter how strong we might be, we’re going down.

Yielding to transcendent reality appears to be a simple matter of common sense, right? It would be except for the answer to a question that maybe more than anything else controls how we function in life. Here’s the question: “Am I God, or not?”

While we of course recognize that we’re not God, frankly sometimes we act like we are. Human beings have this tendency to overestimate our talents and importance and to think that life is all about us. Then, when we come up against a “lighthouse,” operating under the delusion that we’re “bigger,” we founder on its realities.

It was this very thing that led to huge corporate meltdowns in recent years. Universal values such as justice, honesty, fidelity and responsibility comprise a category of bigger things that transcends us. You’ll remember that a few senior executives chose to ignore these “lighthouses” and make their own self-centered interests the bigger thing. It all became a means to serve them. Theirs was the egocentric behavior that says, “I am God, and everything revolves around what I want,” as opposed to, “I exist to serve the things that are bigger than I am.” The result was predictable, these people not only foundered themselves, they took a lot of others down with them. Lighthouses always have the last say.

As with the admiral above, we may at times be ignorant of life’s bigger things. For instance, if we’ve reached the end of ourselves – life seems empty, meaningless – we may not recognize that what we’re missing is transcendence. That was my experience. Then I stumbled onto a transcendence that filled my emptiness. It was a person; his name is Jesus. “Come to me, and you’ll recover your life,” he promises. “Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” And I’ve discovered him to be a man of his word. I might add that if he is in fact the transcendent reality the ancient scriptures claim him to be, then, like the lighthouse, we do well or suffer shipwreck depending on how we adjust to his reality.

A final thought. Henry Cloud writes in his book, ”Integrity,” that it is the bigger things, not ourselves, that make us big: “As we join them, we become larger.” The paradox, Cloud continues, is that to join things bigger than we are, we have to humble ourselves by becoming smaller. “When we realize that we are smaller than the transcendent things, and we exist for them and not them for us, we grow into greatness.” Proverbs 29:23 puts it this way, “…humility prepares you for honors.”

*Many of the ideas in this article are drawn from Henry Cloud’s book, “Integrity.”

Dr. Jim Furr

 

A gentle response turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger – Proverbs 15:1At I listened in a recent seminar to Joseph Grenny present from his book, “Crucial Conversations,” I thought, “Wow, what a relevant topic!” All of us at one time or another have found ourselves needing to bring up important information at meetings, or to speak with a direct report about his subpar performance, or to work out a problem with our spouse. Sometimes we’ve engaged in these conversations, and it didn’t go well. Other times we did nothing because we refused to choose between telling the truth or losing a friend, unaware that, as Grenny notes, “a third choice is available through dialogue.” My point is who of us can’t use a tip or two on how to be more effective negotiators and conflict resolvers?My intention in this article is to outline the basic argument of Grenny’s book and to compare his conclusions with the perspective of ancient wisdom on this critical topic.

According to Grenny, if we are to master the art of fruitful dialogue in conversations where the stakes are high, emotions are heightened, and opinions differ, we must know what we want the outcome to be for ourselves and for the others involved. Makes sense, but what is the most desirable outcome of a crucial conversation?  It’s that we win, right? No, I think most of us would probably all agree that the best result we could hope for from a critical conversation is greater productivity and more unity.

Conflict produces energy, energy that can be channeled in different directions. A conflict between a husband and wife can serve to facilitate open, honest discussion, which can lead to greater understanding between the two and a better relationship. Similarly, a conflict between two engineers over the design of a product can lead to a better design than either one was capable of producing alone.

So, the goal of crucial conversations is to channel the energy of conflict in the right direction. How do we do that? Ancient wisdom says, “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (from the Bible book of Ephesians). The assertion here is that approaching conflict with humility, gentleness and patience, gives us the best chance of effecting unity and peace, resulting in greater productivity, more honesty, and deeper commitment.

Back to Grenny. In his view the goal of crucial conversations is to use them as “trust-building accelerants that improve the core of families and organizations, thus affecting everything else.” In other words, the goal of dialogue is to channel the energy of conflict in the right direction.

As to the means of achieving this goal, Grenny writes that masters of dialogue create an atmosphere where all the parties feel safe adding their own views, no matter how controversial, to the “shared pool” of ideas being expressed. Creating this “pool,” according to Grenny, will require patience, ”but the outcome will be more valuable.”

There are, Grenny adds, two essential safety conditions for any dialogue, “purpose” and “respect.” If others become convinced of our malicious intent or lack of respect, they will almost certainly react in anger, ending all meaningful dialogue. To restore free flowing meaning, Grenny advocates a gentle response that communicates our willingness to listen to their concerns and in humility an apology that emphasizes our fundamentally respect.

It seems that Grenny and his three coauthors are aligned perfectly with the wisdom of the ages. Maybe that’s why folks have found “Crucial Conversations” so helpful that over two million copies have sold.

Dr. Jim Furr

 What are the most dangerous mistakes that leaders make? Patrick Lencioni, author of ten business books with more than three million copies sold, spoke to this topic recently at a leadership summit that I attended. What follows is a recounting of Lencioni’s “most dangerous mistakes I see leaders make” plus a few comments of my own.

Becoming a leader for the wrong reason, according to Lencioni, is one mistake leaders commonly make. More than a few go into leadership because of what they believe being the leader will do for them. In Lencioni’s view people who become leaders for wrong reasons – power, money, fame – eventually run out of idealism, get bored and leave behind a trail of tears. Lencioni: “If it’s not servant leadership, it’s just economics.”

Author and Taylor University president Eugene Habecker writes, “The true leader serves people, serves their best interests…because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory.” According to Proverbs 20:28, “Love and truth form a good leader.”

In the Bible, Jesus, surely in terms of lasting impact history’s most successful leader, did not assume a leadership role because he was on a power trip or wanted more stuff. On the contrary, he dissociated himself from those things then became a leader as a means of serving. Lencioni: “The most successful leaders sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.”

Leadership mistake number two: Failing to embrace vulnerability. Lencioni recounted a meeting he had sat in on with a high-powered CEO and his direct reports, who had recently submitted written evaluations of their boss’ leadership skills.

“It says here,” began the CEO, reading from their evaluations, “that I’m not a good listener. Well, I feel I’m doing better with that. What do you guys think?” Unanimous agreement with the CEO. It went on like that for a while. Finally, at Lencioni’s prompting, one of the VPs admitted that he believed the CEO did have areas in need of improvement. His colleagues all disagreed, leaving that VP twisting in the wind.

“The CEO destroyed the trust of his people,” said Lencioni, adding that not long afterward that corporation’s board fired the CEO due to the company’s poor performance. Lencioni: “People have the right to expect us to be competent, but I don’t think you can be too vulnerable.” “A mocker resents correction, he will not consult the wise” – Proverbs 15:12.

Leadership mistake number three: Making leadership too important. Lencioni: “Our identity can be so wrapped up in our leadership role at work that we ignore our primary constituents.” Dare we ask our wife, “Do you think my job and my employees are more important to me than you are?” Lencioni again: “At life’s end what counts most is not that employees come around our bed and say what a great leader we are.”

In Ecclesiastes King Solomon records his observations of a certain senior executive: “A solitary person, completely alone – no children, no family, no friends – yet working obsessively late into the night.” “Why,” this guy asks himself, “am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?’” Solomon’s summary of the situation: “How pointless and depressing.”

Why do leaders fall into these traps, each of which can lead to disaster? Lencioni: “It’s all pride. The antidote is humility.” “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18.

So how does a leader, especially who sees himself as successful due to his own efforts, develop humility? He remembers who changed his diapers as a baby, who taught him how to read and write, who nursed him through his illnesses, who gave him his first job, who believed in him enough to promote him. Then he leans into God’s power for help in breaking old patterns of behavior.

Dr. Jim Furr

An angry man starts fights and gets into all kinds of trouble – Proverbs 29:22

People hurt people. It’s a fact. Unintentionally and, maybe, every now and then on purpose, we hurt others, and they hurt us. How we process that hurt can deeply affect our happiness in life. Mishandled hurt morphs into anger and resentment, emotions that as Proverbs 29:22 reminds us get us into troubles of all kinds.

For insight into how to recover from hurt, who better to look at than the biblical figure Job? Who has had more hurt inflicted on him than Job? In one day he lost his vast wealth, all 10 of his kids were killed, his wife turned against him, and he was afflicted with an excruciating, incurable disease. Then his friends showed up and instead of offering consolation they said, “It’s all your fault.” Job had every reason to be resentful, but it says he worked through his pain and got on with his life. How’d he do that?

He started by admitting his hurt: “If my misery could be weighed, if you could pile the whole bitter load on the scales, it would be heavier than all the sand of the sea!” In other words, he said, “God has dumped the whole works on me.”

When we have painful things in our past – a parent’s abuse or absence, a former spouse’s unfaithfulness, a deserved promotion we never got – sometimes we say, “I just want to forget about it.” But have you noticed how these things keep resurrecting themselves? Little incidents trigger stuff we thought was buried, and the searing pain returns. On the other hand, as somebody said, revealing the feeling is the beginning of healing.

So Job’s attitude is, “I don’t like it; it’s unfair; the situation stinks; and I’m PO’ed…with you, God.” He told God exactly how he felt. Ever try that? “But I don’t want to hurt God’s feelings. Besides, he might fry me with a thunderbolt.” He didn’t fry Job. Hey, God was aware of Job’s feelings as soon as he got angry. And God understood. Somebody says, “Where were you, God, when my son died?” God says, “The same place I was when my Son died on a cross.” God knows about hurt and he invites us to share our pain with him.

Another thing Job did, he forgave his offenders. His so-called friends misunderstood him, criticized him and falsely accused him. We understand how that hurts. Job had every right to resent these guys. But the turnaround in his life didn’t come until he gave up this right. He even prays for their success.

You know, sometimes the hurt can run so deep we think, “There’s no way I can ever forgive them.” I’m sure some of us have been there. Fortunately, Jesus says, “I can help you with that.” The one who forgave those who crucified him offers us his divine power to let go of the feeling that “but they owe me.”

Finally, we see from Job’s story that after we admit the pain and let God fill us with forgiveness, we can face the world again. I’ve found, as you may have, that a deep hurt can lead to an overwhelming urge to never let down our guard again lest somebody take advantage of us. And we can withdraw into a shell. But Job’s example teaches us that we’ve got to stop letting what happened in the past define us as a victim, start facing the future, and get on with living.

In the final chapter of Job’s bio it says, “God blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than he had blessed the first!” The memories faded and the pain along with them, and the rest of Job’s life turned out to be the best of his life. God says it can be that way for anybody who’s willing to let go of past hurts.

 

Dr. Jim Furr

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