Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Five New Year's Resolutions for Leaders

1. Remember that people, not product or service is what matters. I’ve seen too many mission statements in large and small companies that talk about the importance of their customers and employees.  Posting it on the wall is a good idea; embracing it as a value is even better.

2. Find something to stop doing before you add any more tasks.  This is just as important in your private life as it is in your public life.   There are limits, don’t exceed them.

3. Continually add value to your customers and they will keep coming back. Most of us intuitively know that the cost of acquiring new customers is much greater than the cost of retaining them.  Add value and the ‘be-backs’ will be back!

4. Work on your communication skills.  Continuous improvement is the key to leaning how to communicate.  That includes not only the way we speak and share information but also the tools we use.   Keep email short, learn how to use social media properly, listen more and speak less.

5. Be thankful.  While there is typically something we can complain about, our problems are minuscule compared to the blessings that we have received.  Your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers will all respond positively to a thankful attitude.  It’s good for your health too!

These are just five resolutions and they may not be the right five for you, but they have worked for me.  I find that I need to continually renew the resolutions from the past years, as some are just too important to forget.   

If you need to lose weight, stop drinking, spend more time with your family, read the Bible more often or get out of debt, feel free to create that list as well. Then, make sure you don’t need to renew those resolutions in 2016.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Paid Holidays

It’s interesting how busy we can get around the holidays. I’ve observed that where you work or if you work doesn’t really matter when it comes to keeping busy.  Some people work retail (where you have to work during the holidays) while some get paid holidays.  They both stay busy as does the fortunate few that don’t have to work but still find the holidays as busy times with gift buying, travel and entertainment.

Being really busy may be great for the companies, the stores and the people that want you to buy the products or use their services.   There are sales on everything from computers to cars, from tablets to toys.  Restaurants, hotels and the highways are full with people eating, drinking, dining, vacationing and driving….hopefully not all at the same time.

Not the way they were supposed to be.....

Holidays weren't supposed to be like that.   There was a time when most people worked a minimum of six and often seven days a week.   As much of the economy was based on agriculture, there was always a field that needed attending or an animal that needed to be brought in or taken out. Holidays and Feasts were designed to change that routine, to rest, if just for a few days. 

Many of the holidays in ancient Israel for example were tied to the seasons and associated with different harvests.   The Passover is celebrated at the time of the ancient celebration of Pesach.  Pesach was the early spring harvest of barley.   The Succoth, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, was a late summer celebration of the wheat harvest.   These were times to pause and remember the blessings of the Lord.  While there was always some busyness associated with these holidays, they were to be different than the busyness of everyday.

Our holidays in the United States (i.e. Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Christmas, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc.) all started with the honor and purpose of the remembrance but also a pause…..a time off from work and the routines of life.  

Three-day weekends

Interestingly, the government has tried to move these holidays when possible to Monday to embrace a three-day weekend.  Unfortunately, the effort to create more ‘free time’ has actually created even more busyness as we now have the opportunity to think bigger, travel further and experience even more.

I’m old enough to remember that stores were typically closed on Sunday and most businesses were closed both Saturday and Sunday.    There was a time when looking to the future meant even more leisure time for working people and families.  I’m afraid the present trend is even more busyness. 

In your time of busyness, pause for just a moment to remember what we are celebrating and be sure to thank God as well for the many blessings we all enjoy.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Unity of the Body; Diversity of Traditions

It’s the Christmas season and I always enjoy hearing about the diverse ways people celebrate the holidays.  Take gift giving, for example, do you open your presents on Christmas Even or Christmas Day?  In Spain, children received presents on the Feast of the Three Kings.  Los Santos Reyes is the popular Latin American celebration of the Epiphany.  It is often the three wise men and not Santa Claus who bring gifts for children.  However, the American influence of Christmas has been increasingly more popular each year, particularly with the children.

To this day, many children in Germany still place their shoes on their doorsteps or balconies and fill them with something like straw, hay or grain for the three kings’ horses.  The wise men reward the children with cookies, or small gifts next to their shoes.

While our traditions are different, at the heart of our celebrations is the birth of Jesus.   The birth of Jesus is celebrated because he was the long awaited Messiah.  He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, visited by the wise men, lived a life that culminated in his earthly ministry, his crucifixion followed three days later by his resurrection.

When we celebrate Jesus birth, we embrace all of the above. This is the foundation of our faith and through these diverse traditions, we can illustrate the unity of our common faith.

Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul spoke often of unity.   Jesus prayed, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:21-23) 

It is not our traditions that ultimately have attracted people to the faith but the way that we act out or exemplify our love of God and the people (the Great Commandment).   Through the years, Christians regardless of their traditions, denominations, culture, nationality, gender or race have been the ones that have been known for both the random acts of mercy as well as their organized charities and missions.   Collectively, we care for the hungry and the homeless, the blind and the lame, the widow and the orphan.

At this time of the year, remember that it is Christ, born in a manager, that we celebrate.  We embrace our various traditions as the means of illustrating our beliefs and at the same time, the unity of our faith.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Commitment takes commitment!

The phrase ‘overnight success’ is all too often applied by the news and general public but rarely embraced by the people that are the so-called overnight successes.   Rarely does success happen overnight.    A video on YouTube may go viral and for a brief moment have lots of people viewing it but it hardly merits the word ‘success.’

Success is typically only achieved over time.  Because it is often a lengthily process the necessary ingredient includes commitment.

Commitment is more than a one-time decision; it is only proven over time.   In a way, you could say that commitment itself requires a commitment.

I have a number of friends that have decided to change the direction of their lives and are determined to do something that is altogether more satisfying, likely has more of a lasting impact and sometimes provides a financial payout.  This last result, the financial payout, is usually the least of the motivating factors.

While we measure success often in terms of dollars and cents, most of the successful people didn’t start off with the dollar objective as the primary motivating factor. If they did, they often would have lacked the commitment to be able to commit themselves to the long-term effort required to be successful.

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving and most people are aware of the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.  However at that first Thanksgiving, of the eighteen adult women that survived the journey on the Mayflower, thirteen died the first winter and another died in the spring leaving only four to help prepare the feast.

I’m an annual pass holder at Walt Disney World here in Florida and I’ve had the opportunity to go through the exhibit that highlights both the success as well as the early failure of Walt Disney.  He had the commitment to commit himself to finding the recipe for his ultimate success.

Successful people make the commitment to learn, to grow, to ask the necessary questions so that they can improve their ideas, their management style and take advantages of opportunities that come over time.  These opportunities also will require a commitment of time, materials, effort and yes, even more commitment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Moral Authority

I’ve had the opportunity as a pastor to talk with a number of people that no longer go to church.  Sometimes they are confused, frustrated, disappointed and even angry. and as a result just stop attending.

Often, there are good reasons.  Churches can certainly disappoint. In the past 2,000 years there have been plenty of occasions that point to the obvious conclusion that often the leaders, those we call pastor, Bishops and even Popes, have acted in a way that was contrary to their spiritual calling.

I can understand when people get disappointed with leadership. I’m frustrated too and know that we all suffer when one church leader stumbles and falls.  That is why, particularly in the church, we have to be careful to have the integrity, the internal conviction, that all of our actions and all of our intentions are in keeping with our calling.

What I don’t understand is when people decide to leave the church because they disagree with the essential moral teaching.   I've had the experience of talking with people that state, "the church isn't going to tell me how to live my life".  Well, If any one institution has moral authority it is the church.  Moral authority is based on principles, values and the essential truths that are truly independent of personal conviction or opinion.   Sometimes, it's just more convenient for people that are under conviction to feign indignation or a pseudo spirituality and decide to separate themselves from the truth.  When the church for example says “adultery is wrong” or “honor your mother and father”, a person may choose to leave the church because they feel under condemnation and prefer to live in the darkness.  However, leaving the church because they believe the church doesn’t have the moral authority to declare sin as sin is rebellion against God.

Jesus had moral authority.  It was said that the people were amazed at his teaching, “because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22)

The teachings of Jesus addressed not only the written rules and obvious customs and traditions that were common at the time but also the timeless moral principles for all generations.   Today, we may choose to believe that modern thinking has revised the Ten Commandments or that moral principles can be adapted and completely ignored without consequences.  However, the moral authority that has been given to the church remains.

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