Success through the lens of value

Albert Einstein Success

Albert Einstein put it well: being a person of success is not the same as being a person of value.  In leading one of our organizations through a decade of growth, my personal definition of leadership success has become clearer thru our focus on values.  I now see success as the results we receive when exemplifying our core values in word, thought, and deed.

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Whemiller is a prominent influencer of my thoughts on leadership success.  He has an excellent video on successful leadership.  I recommend watching it to better understand the rest of what I write.

Almost 4 years ago, I began a journey to lead our management team towards a healthier culture.  It has been a difficult journey.  Moments of what appeared to be success quickly drowned in the swift currents of failure.  In early 2013, I recognized that success is based less on what happens inside of an organization.  It is more about what happens outside of an organization.  As John Maxwell writes “Leadership is influence”.  Since 2013, we have watched our organization’s influence reach far outside of what we do at work each day.

Recently several individuals from the front lines of our team shared with me how being a part of our organization has helped them be a better friend, a better father, a better husband, a better leader, and a better person.  They shared how becoming an organization that lives out our core values has reached into the homes of our clients and our team members.  For me, there is nothing that will ever happen in our organization that will make us more successful than this. Success dwells within the influence we have on others, and the value we help them to see in themselves.

Becoming an organization of success is living out your core values.  That can sound like a daunting task or maybe some might say a worthless endeavour.  I will say that yes it has been daunting at times, but every drop of blood, sweat, and tears has been worth it.  Here are just a few ways that I have seen success through the lens of our organization’s core values:

  • That’s not the excellent way – One of our core values is excellence. As I was filling up my coffee cup one day I overheard two co-workers having a discussion on how to do a specific task.  After finishing a passionate description of how the task should be done the other person simply asked, “Is that the excellent way of doing it?”  It was quiet, then the first person replied, “No” and then immediately pointed out how his own idea could be improved upon.  Hearing this interaction showed me that our front line team members were living out our value of excellence.
  • What can I learn today? – Another core value we embrace is education. Asking great questions leads to great conversations.  A favorite question of mine is “What did you learn today?”  In our organization, a valuable education tool we use is called The Birkman Method.  We use this to better understand ourselves and others.  By connecting people’s perspectives, we build better relationships.  A team member told me that after he went thru the Birkman Method he understood others people’s perspectives better.  I asked him how this had impacted his life and his answer was immediate and passionate.  “I argue less with people. Before I tried to always get people to see it my way, now I know how to see their perspective.  I have healthier relationships.”
  • Serving our communities – The final core-value that our management team choose was humility. I cautioned them that they were setting a high bar.  They were adamant that this value existed within our team and that they desired to empower our communities thru serving with humility.   A few weeks later I experienced our team living this out. We had an organization that approached us requesting a substantial financial donation.  I realized that this would push us beyond what we had agreed to for the fiscal year.  With some trepidation, I brought the request before our management team.  After explaining it, I asked if anyone had any questions.  There were no questions and it was unanimously agreed to grant the request.  I expressed my thanks to the team and was preparing to close the meeting when our  a member of our management team said he had a question regarding the donation.  He asked why we were only giving what they asked for when we knew they needed more and we had the ability to give more.  They then all agreed to give even more!   As I have watched our team in action, they do not think less of themselves, they think of themselves less, and in doing so put the needs of those they serve in our organization as a top priority.  This creates a healthy culture that serves our communities.

As Albert Einstein reminded us, Let us pursue becoming men and women of value as we humbly lead towards success.  May our success always be producing richer relationships that spur us on to build better communities!

Learn to lead, and lead to learn.

Leadership – After you are gone

past present future

Think much? We all do a lot of it. Rene Descartes summed it up well in his famous quote   “I think therefore I am”.  With all the thinking we do it’s healthy to look at what we think about. When was the last time you spent a focused period considering what you think about?  To live and lead well it is important to not only bridle our thoughts but to evaluate them and ensure they are producing healthy results.

I have spent time over the last few weeks looking at how I think and what I think about. My thoughts can be broken into 3 sections.  The past, now, and the future. Within those 3 sections I find 2 themes in each. These themes are “myself” and “others”.  In each of those themes is located events, actions, and emotions.  As I continued to examine each section I quickly realized just how much time I spend thinking about now and also the past.  I do think about the future, but not as much.  However,  what I think about the future, how I think about it, and why I think about it are critical factors in defining how I act in the “now”.

Future Thinking…  There is a clear difference between thinking about the future, trying to control the future, and being controlled by thoughts about the future.  I am referring to thinking about the future. For me it is about taking what I am doing today and thinking about how it will serve and benefit others in their future.  Am I preparing for those that come after me?

“A telling measure of a leaders impact is after they have departed. Great leaders build for the future even if they have no profit from it or accountability to it.”

Future Impact…  How can you change your future impact?  Think about how you lead each day. Are you actively creating an environment that is healthy? Will it be easier or harder for those that fill your shoes?  Will your son be a better father because you think of the future him? In your occupation, will the person that fills your role be able to do a better job because of what you have done? These are just a few of the many ways that we can impact the future.  It can be difficult to spend time now preparing for a future in which you may not be present but it is inescapable that your actions in the present will be felt in the future.

Think well, lead well, live well.


Are you choosing a scheme or a theme?

How many choices did you make today?  Have you ever thought about that question?  Research points to the average adult making approximately 35,000 choices every day. Taking 16 hours as the average time people are awake each day that means we are making 2187 decisions an hour.  Let’s break that down further and say that only 0.5 (half of 1) percent of those choices are critical and life affecting.  We are still left with at least 1 life affecting critical choice every hour we are awake.  I don’t know about you but that is a sobering thought for me.  So how do you make choices?

I find my choices can easily be broken up into 2 categories.  Choices built on schemes and choices built on themes.  In examining my choices these are 5 points I find in each of them.

Choices that are built on schemes

  1. It is made for the primary purpose of personal gain.
  2. It is made with little thought for future sustainability.
  3. It is made with little council of others.
  4. It is made based on unrealistic promises and fantasies.
  5. It is made regardless of what it costs others.

Several days ago I read an article talking on schemes and themes.  This quote from that article really impacted me.
“You graduate from schemes to themes when you have a vision that helps people. ~James Altucher”

The vision we have for our company is “Technology well connected, Customers well informed, Communities well served”.  As I look back over the years I see how the creation of this vision has transformed my leadership from one filled with choices built on schemes to one with choices built on themes.

Choices that are built on themes

  1. It is made for the primary purpose of others gain.
  2. It is made based on future sustainability.
  3. It is made only after the council of many others.
  4. It is made based on truth and facts from experience
  5. It is made only after counting and considering the costs for all.

Having a vision brings purpose and clarity to the choices that you make. I leave you with this quote from Alice in Wonderland.

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Choose wisely, give freely, lead lovingly!


Learning in the storms

leaders-are-learnersAs the year begins to draw to a close I find myself thinking back on 2014, my leadership roles, and what has been accomplished. As I’ve thought through these accomplishments I quickly realized that while the accomplishments are important, the lessons I learned in those accomplishments are what remain most prominent for me.

Leadership requires solitude  At most times I have anywhere from 5-10 people around me with whom I can speak and confer. Seeking counsel is wise, effective, and needed but there are also times that you must retreat to your quiet place to think and pray in solitude. In solitude I find clarity, focus and peace.
Luke 6:12-13 “ In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”

Big wheels turn slowly  Leading people through change and growth takes time–lots and lots of time.  Often the wheel turns so slowly that it appears to have stopped.  Give people time.  This one is hard for me; I like results, and I like fast results even more.
James 5:7 “Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”

Little things matter – It is the little things that build you up, and it is also the little things that tear you down.  Every big thing is always made up of little things.  What seems little today can be of utmost importance tomorrow.  Little things done well become great things well done.
Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” 

Be a cheerleader – Cheer on those you lead.  Continually choose to celebrate the commendable, excellent and pure things.  People do not need to be reminded of their failures nearly as much as we think they do.  Most are acutely aware of them.  What they need is to be encouraged!
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Always be a student – Learn to study in everything that you do, study those around you, listen to what people say.  Listen more than you speak; this is hard for me!  I am often inspired by a friend of mine in his 80’s who still has a passion for learning and actively seeks to learn each and every day.
Proverbs 1:5 “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”

As in life, so it is in leadership. Storms come, and storms go. Where they come from and why they come are often left unanswered.  Leadership is not the pursuit of a stormless horizon, but rather a pursuit of God’s peace to withstand the storms we see upon the horizon.

Hold fast, lead well, and live strong.


There is always something to be thankful for


A thankful life is one that is inspired to express, in all forms, an attitude of gratitude.

Psalms 100:1-5 says,

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

I haven’t always been a thankful person,  but by God’s steadfast love and faithfulness I continue to learn how to live each and every day with a thankful heart.   In this journey I have seen the fruit of thankfulness.  Here are a just a few of the fruits I have seen in my own life from an attitude of thankfulness.

  1. Forgiveness – Thankfulness can’t abide with bitterness, malice, hatred.  The more thankful you become the easier it becomes to forgive.
  2. Clarity – Thankfulness brings clarity to much of life.  It is in your thankfulness that you can see the good in all circumstances. There is much in life that can only be seen through the lens of thankfulness.
  3. Gentleness – Thankfulness brings out the gentleness within.  Think of the gentle people you know,  are they people who are also thankful?
  4. Peace – As you become more thankful you become more contented, and contentment is a catalyst to peace.

May we take this day of thanksgiving to express our thanks to God by what we do and say.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Don’t settle for making a living, pursue making a life!


Giving can be a difficult topic for one to ponder.  The words in Acts 20:35 have been front and center for me over these past few weeks.    “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Here are 5 things I challenge each of us to give freely, expect nothing in return.

  1. Our Time– Time is something that is finite for each of us.  It cannot be stored, multiplied, or created.  To give of our time is to give that which can never be replaced.  It is most often the hardest thing to give.
  2. Our Money–  Make as much as you can so you can give as much as you can.  These words, spoken to me by my grandfather when I was younger have helped me in learning to give of my finances.  Grandpa also told me that when he found his finances were lacking the first thing he did was to give a little more.
  3. Our Love – A favorite quote of mine is by George MacDonald. “It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another”.  God set the standard of loving first, even when we were yet sinners, and we are called to follow by loving the unlovable.  Rick Warren wrote in his book The Purpose Driven Life, ” You can’t call yourself a loving person until God has put an unlovable person in your life”.
  4. Our Respect – Respect is often seen as something to be traded,  if you respect me then I will respect you.  For this to work you must always be judging those around you, deeming them worthy of your respect or not.  It is tiresome, futile, and always ends in isolation with few ever being worthy of your respect.  The reverse of this is seeing each person as God’s creation, created in His image.  Our respect is then not given based on their actions but on our love of their creator, God.
  5. Our Failures – This one might strike you as a bit strange, let me explain.  If you had to write of list of the top 10 things you have learned in life and how you learned them I would dare to say that many would be of how you learned through failure.  Failure is not something we naturally are drawn to share.  We like to be seen as strong and successful.  But it is in those failures, frailties, and suffering, and the sharing of them, that we are able to bless and encourage those around us.

The thrill of making a living lasts only a day,  the thrill of making a life of giving lasts a lifetime.  Let us step forward in the giving of ourselves and all that we have.


Focus on The First 48


I think we all can remember our first week at a new job,  some of it good, and some probably not so good.  I have experienced both.  The last time I was hired I noticed something different during the first week.  Previous employees of the company would stop by with coffee and donuts to visit with the current employees and the owner.  That experience had a very positive impact on my first impressions of who I was working with.  I am still with that company 10 years later, now as the owner and CEO.

As we continue to grow I have learned many valuable lessons about hiring.  At the top of my list is The  First 48 hours.  Focusing on the first 48 hours of engagement with any new person to your team is critical to future results.

Your new team member is influenced by the following 5 things when they enter your organization.

  1. How do people speak to each other? – When we speak, our tone, our timing, and our attitude are dispersed into what we say. What will they hear?
  2. Do people help each other? – People need support.  Our support for one another should be visible as much as it is audible. What will they see?
  3. What do people say about their manager? Respect is hard fought for and easy to lose. The current and previous actions of the leaders within your organization will be among the first thing new team members hear about.  Some people have long memories.  Make right the wrongs and keep a short list.
  4. What do people say about the organization?  Keeping your team involved in how the company is doing is the responsibility of it’s senior executives.  Teach those that are willing to learn about what the management does.  This happens most effectively through leadership development.  You future leaders should be on your front lines.
  5. Do you follow through on what you say? During the process of hiring you will have made some commitments.  If you didn’t’ then your hiring process needs to be evaluated.  Often the focus is on what the new person can bring to the table.  Make sure you spend time to make some commitments to them.  Differentiate between the long and short term, set a couple of each, and follow through!

Your new team member will make an important decision within the first 48 hours of engagement.  They will decide if they are going to trust the leadership within the organization. Strive to do all that you can to show them you are trustworthy.  It isn’t easy but it is possible.



You don’t need to know it all


know it all


One of the many dangers in leadership is the compelling drive to know it all, or at least attempt to.  Relax,  you don’t need to know it all to be a highly effective leader, knowledge can be useful but focus on knowing things that will make you a better leader.  Here are 6 knowledge points I have found helpful.

  1. Know how to give and to accept trust – Trust is the roadway upon which we deliver and receive within relationships.  learn how to build those roads, how to use them, and how to maintain them.
  2. Know how to give and to accept thanks – Giving thanks is often overlooked, even if it was part of their job and expected of them let those around you know you are thankful for their work,  and if people thank you, listen closely to what they say and graciously accept it.
  3. Know how to give and to accept advice – Profitable advice is often given in the wrong way at the wrong time.  Learn to know how to spot the opportunities to speak into people lives and surround yourself with people that will speak profitable advice into your own life.
  4. Know how to give and accept responsibility – You don’t need to be responsible for everything.  Learn to give responsibility to others and to be transparent in your own responsibilities.
  5. Know how to recognize your limitations –  You can’t do everything and you were never meant to do everything.  Whoever first said “I can do anything” has led a lot of people down a painful road.  Know that there are some things you just can’t do.
  6. Know your purpose – Your purpose should be in close alignment with your talents.  Having a purpose that is not achievable with your talents is painful for you and for those you are leading.  Know what your talents are and embrace them.

The next time you feel absolutely compelled with the need to know,  step back, think it through, and consider that maybe you don’t need to know.   Do you have a knowledge point you have found helpful?  Feel free to share it in the comments!

Are you a walking tax or a walking dividend?



A tax or a dividend,  that is the question.  Today on my way to work I was listening to an audio book by Stephen Covey called The Speed of Trust.  It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.  I have a lot to learn on the topic of trust and find this book most helpful.

The question of being a tax or a dividend revolves around trust.  When you engage with those around you are you taxing the trust out of the relationship/sitatuation or paying a dividend into it?  Do you leave it better than when you arrived?  Trust is hard and it is complicated, but there are some simple basics to using it.

1) You control how you display your trust – Everyone has the capacity to trust,  no matter what life has done to us, for us, or by us, in the end it always comes down to a choice, the choice to trust or not.

2) Trust is learned, grown, nurtured, and developed. It is most often a deposit on an unseen future.

3)  It is risky to trust people, but it is an even greater risk to not trust at all.

A few weeks ago I had 2 young men show up on my doorstep on a Sunday afternoon.  As I answered the door I wondered to myself why are they here?  It turns out they were inquiring if they could have the old hay bales off my septic field.  As it was I had been dreading having to haul them off the field and dispose of them as they had served their purpose for a few winters.  Quietly thanking God in my heart for saving my back the strain of lifting these I told the men they were happy to haul away as many as they wanted.

Upon looking out in our driveway I noticed they were driving an SUV.  I asked them how they were going to haul them,  “We’ll put them inside our vehicle” was the response.  I had a choice to make at that point,  I had a perfectly good utility trailer sitting beside my house and could give it to these 2 men whom I had no idea where they lived or who they were.  I choose at that moment to extend the offer for them to use it.  As they left down the driveway with the bales I thought to myself,  I hope they learn from this that people still do trust each other.

As I told the story to my wife later that evening she  looked at me with the look only she can give me,  you did what?  Thinking back on it at that time I did realize it seemed a little foolish. I had no idea where my trailer was and no idea who I gave it to.  They gave me their names but with my memory those were long gone.  I explained to her that I was hoping to show them to extend trust even in situations where guarantees are not evident.  Sunday evening I went to bed and there was no trailer beside my house. On Monday as I drove down the driveway and off to work  I could not help but notice the spot where my trailer used to sit.  I wondered,  will it come back?  I choose to continue on trusting.  Monday evening I came home from work to find no trailer…  even though my wife could legitimately being to question my wisdom she refrained.  On Tuesday as I left for work I looked over beside our house and there sat my trailer.  I decided then and there that trust is worth the risk, and looking back now I see that it was then I was paying a dividend.


Stay on your knees and listen…


Stay on your knees, and listen.  I heard that story this morning about 3 young brothers that were raised by their mother to pray.  Each time they were finished praying, their mother would say, “Stay on your knees, and listen.”  She would then teach them Godly counsel as they knelt listening. 

As we kneel to pray do we also kneel to listen?  I confess that most of my time on my knees is spent speaking, not listening. The definition of hearing is the faculty of perceiving sounds, the definition of listening is to give ones attention to a sound.  I find it hard at times to listen. Listening is not the same as hearing, listening is an act of submission that is learned and must be actively practiced.  Just like most things, the more you practice it the better you get.  The more you listen, the less you find the need to speak, and the more you can say with fewer words.  

Tomorrow, instead of hearing lots of things,  try listening instead.