The Every Day Leader: Reaching out to a messy world

This morning before the sign was flipped to the “open” position at our nonprofit agency, I had already spent ten minutes on the phone with a grieving father, and another twenty minutes with a mother who spoke only through the sobs of losing her adult son.

The sadness, the guilt, the loss…it was more than either of them knew what to do with, it was all-consuming. For years addiction had consumed their son and virtually destroyed their marriage. Now, here they are talking to a stranger, thanking me for caring for their son, knowing that we had befriended and helped him during his time of need. Immediately following that conversation I moved to another with an older gentleman, at the opposite end – facing the winter season of his life, who had lost all of his family relationships from mental illness and bad decisions.

Struggling. Lonely. Searching. Longing for life to be different, and yet, feeling there is not much hope of it actually being different. He was wanting, more than anything, to simply have someone just willing to talk with him.

In both of these situations, life took unexpected twists and turns. Life got messy. All of these folks walk their journey alone, feeling like they don’t belong.

I wonder how many others walk it alone?

How often do we assume everyone is okay and that they have someone to rely on? If we realized how many people we see each day that are alone and hurting, would we be more willing to reach out and care about them?

I wonder if we only knew, would we act differently? Would we take more time out of our busy days? Would we take the time to speak and truly care how someone is – to make eye contact and see the hurt? I wonder how different our world would be if each of us lived this way.

Next time you see someone, no matter where you are…take the time to care.

Isn’t that what we all strive for, to know that we matter to another? Our business, our non-profit, our life…we strive to know that what we do matters, that we matter. I know that when I take the time to simply listen, to care, and to pray for those who are hurting, it is in those moments, I know that my life matters.

As Every Day Leaders, it is the little things we do each day that can leave a lasting impact. May we never forget that every moment really does matter!

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The Every Day Leader: Beep. Beep. Beep…

Beep. Beep. Beep……

I won’t look… it can wait.

My thoughts immediately wonder… what if it is something important?

The temptation often proves too great and I look at my cell phone to read the text. I can be sitting in a meeting, maybe even lounging with family and I hear it.  I am wondering who it is, what is going on, and whether it is something I need to respond to.   I am immediately distracted and my attention is immediately divided.  Today’s generation of kids – my kids– are a generation that have their cell phones on them at all times…. It is like it is an extra appendage!

I wondered… when in the world did I become the same way?

Is undivided attention something that is a thing of the past?  Do we even remember how to be totally engaged with others anymore?

Where are you?

What are you doing?

Are you focused?

Do you pay attention?

Each moment you are with another, are you engaged? 

Are you present? 

Are we talking with them and actively listening?

What kind of life are we really living?

Be present NOW.

As everyday leaders it is up to us to purposely live with others.  To think with them, talk with them, to listen to them, to love them, and to let them KNOW we care.

What does this look like?

It means savoring every moment you have, without being distracted or multitasking.  It means that those you are with know you care enough to give them all of your attention. It is being intentional and behaving in ways that show that moments matter. 

Every day leaders, intentionally engaging in the moment to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Hidden

What is it about white picket fences that we like them so much? Stories are written about them, little girls dream of growing up and owning homes with them and often times we are drawn to houses that have them. There is something special about seeing a pristine white picket fence around a house.

When we moved into our house, I was thrilled to have a little white picket fence around the back yard.  When I look at it,  I am filled with warm memories of growing up on a farm.

This fence looks beautiful from the back porch, all nice and white with a few plants growing along the side to enhance the look.

An up close look though tells a very different story.  When you look closely at some of the boards you will see that many of those boards are rotting and some are even broken off at the bottom.  If you push a little too hard, you might just push all the way through! 

What looks beautiful on the outside… IS NOT what you see on the inside.

This can be true of us Every Day Leaders too. We  often look fabulous on the outside! We have just the right look and talk, our actions seem to say we are leaders but what you may find on the inside is far different.  Our outside is nothing more than a facade, hiding our true selves.

 As Every Day Leaders seeking to live a life of intention, our lives should look the same on the inside as the outside.  If we claim to be someone with integrity… is that reflected all the time, even when no one is watching? Integrity is doing the right thing ALL the time. It is being who you say you are and doing what you said you have done, this includes on paper too.

If we say you can trust us, does this change depending upon the situation, the person we are with, or the opportunity presented? Trust is hard to get, easy to lose, and extremely difficult to get back. Customers are often lost over broken trust and employees are less productive when they don’t trust their leadership.

When we say that we care about someone, is it only for the moment or are we  willing to truly show that we care even if it means being inconvenienced? Words are easy to say but do our actions speak loudly that we do care about those we lead? Do we take the time  to show them by getting to know our employees and those around u?. Do we take time to help them work in their strengths to be more successful? Or is it all about our success and how they can help us achieve it? As a leader when you truly care for those you lead, you will do everything possible to help them be successful, knowing their success is your success.

If I am going to follow someone, I want to know who they are, not just who they say they are. I want to know they are consistent and that their words and actions are the same.

What image are you portraying to others? What things do you say and do to create that image?

The picket fence is a great reminder to us as leaders that looking good to others on the outside is not all we want to be or should strive for.  We should always strive to be the same on the inside as what others see on the outside.

Our character counts.  Not the way we look or dress, what we own, or even our position, but what really counts is that which is deep inside us. And that which is deep inside us will always define us. It is this character that is inside us that is the true influence on the lives of those around us. 

The Every Day Leader, living a life of intention, being our best selves – inside and out.

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Thinking of Others

She pulled at my hand begging me to come out to the porch.  As we walked outside my sweet little four-year granddaughter had given me a gift.  Not just any gift, but a gift of her expression of love.  She had picked some flowers from the garden and carefully lined them up on the porch to look “beautiful” for me. 

This was a simple expression of thoughtfulness and love through the eyes of a four-year old.

 

I smile as I think of that gift. I smile because it was done in love. I smile because she was thinking of me and I smile because I felt loved.

Each of us needs those kind of gifts.  Each of us have the ability to give those kinds of gifts to others.  These are simple expressions that show we care about those around us.  They don’t have to cost us much, sometimes just time and effort and making the choice to do it.

Thoughtfulness takes time.  It starts with getting to know those around you.  Each of us have someone in our life that we, as everyday leaders, have been entrusted to influence.

Whose life are you influencing right now?

Have you taken the time to get to know those people, not just on a name basis, but really know them?  If we take the time to learn about those around us, we gain new insights into them and their lives. We hear what they are dreaming about, we hear what they struggling with, sometimes we simply offer the gift of much-needed laughter.  If we are intentional we have the opportunity to learn so much more than just a simple good morning and how are you!  Even in our personal lives with our own family members, how often do we get so busy that we don’t know what is really going with them or what they are thinking?

What about those that you work with or that work for you?  How much do  you know about them?  How about our neighbors?

When was the last time you took time for a cup of coffee to check on a friend?  Are you the leader of a group?  How much more would those who work for you thrive if you took time to invest in them?

Simple ways to express you care and show others that you value them:

  •  A simple  phone call
  • Send a card
  • Meet for coffee
  • Schedule a lunch
  • Help them accomplish a dream
  • Surprise them with something they would never do for themselves but would love to do
  • Practice active listening

For those who are team leaders or managers, here are some ways to show you value those who work for you:

  • Keep an open door so people know you are approachable
  • Take time to say hello to each person in the morning
  • Surprise them with them with something thoughtful
  • Write a thank you card and express your gratitude for their hard work

We all need to know that others care about us.

Today, think of those in your life that you touch.  Maybe there is someone you have meant to reach out to but simply haven’t taken the time.  Don’t let another day pass, take the time today to do something thoughtful.

Be thoughtful.  Value another.  It is an intentional way of life that can truly make a difference!

Everyday leaders.  Living a Life of Intention.  Giving the gift of thoughtfulness.

The Every Day Leader: Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day.  For some of us this is a great day that reminds us of the incredible love we have had from our mother.  It may also remind us of the gift of our own children. 

Yet for some, this day may bring memories of sadness due to a loss of their mother or child. It may be sadness for not having a relationship at all or even having a strained one with their child or mother.  Maybe it’s a hurt from having an estranged child.  Whatever the reason, Mother’s Day can be a day that reminds us of a heartache that is all too real and testifies to the messiness of life.

My mother gave me an amazing gift… unconditional love. The gift of having someone love you and invest in your life in a way far beyond what I could have ever imagined. I think back and I never doubted the love of my mother, no matter what, her love was there for me regardless of what I did.  She modeled before me what true love was.  It was through that example that I was able to model this  to my own children.

I have met many who never grew up with the kind of love that I had from my mother, yet God has blessed their lives by giving them this incredible gift of love by another.  A person who was willing to invest in them, love them, teach them, train them, hold them accountable, pray for them, listen to them, encourage them, spend time with them, and be there no matter what.

These individuals are our every day leaders. They have chosen to invest in the lives of another and make a difference where they can, instead of selfishly holding back.

How about you? Is there someone in your life you can invest in? Someone, who would benefit greatly by your time, guidance, and wisdom? Each day God gives us opportunities all around us to be used to make a difference. Imagine the impact you could have on just one life if you lived intentionally, willing to pour yourself into another.

Investments take time, it could be just one hour a month or an hour a week, but the rewards are eternal.  The time you take can change a life forever.  Is this not what we are put on this earth for?  God calls us to connect with others, to walk with them on their journey of life – no matter what that journey holds.

Making an investment in the life of another will come at a cost.  It will cost you to be vulnerable to another, real and authentic. It may mean having to confront in love when misunderstandings happen.  But in the end, it will be a cost well spent. You will not be disappointed.

 I challenge and encourage you today to seek out that person to invest in.  Your investment could be life changing!

I want to be that person. I want to be the one that intentionally seeks out someone to pour my life into knowing that the gain is far greater than any loss.

 

The Every Day Leader: The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of who we are, the message is the same no matter where we live, the color of our skin, our backgrounds, our social standing, or our financial standing. We as humans really want to know from the rest of the world and from those around us:

Do we matter?

Does someone care about us?

This simple yet profound point was driven home to me not to long ago when I recently helped one of our clients. This gentleman comes to seek our assistance at least once a week. While it’s a struggle for him to get out of the car,  he still comes. He comes not necessarily for what we have to offer in material things, but he comes seeking the companionship, to be acknowledged, and to know that someone cares about him. I have seen the loneliness in his eyes; I know he has no family and no real friends. I have heard him wonder out loud if God has abandoned him.  He is no different from many others I have known over the years.  Does my life count?  Does anyone care?  Where is God anyway?

If as business owners, nonprofit directors, and leaders what if we intentionally made an effort to do everything with this message that people do matter?  If we truly lived and lead like this, would our lives and those around us look differently?  Would our businesses or organizations look differently?

People matter more than:

 Tasks

Processes

Life issues

The high stresses of the job

The deadlines

 

As leaders we don’t have the choice to say that I will put people first WHEN the business is successful or the organization has reached its goals.   We have to decide in the beginning that people matter, that they matter more than anything we will do in this life. When we choose to put that kind of emphasis on people and relationships we will soon see that it is in those moments that our own lives begin to take on a whole new meaning.

The little things we do today can and will leave a lasting impact…

 May we NEVER forget that EVERY MOMENT matters!

 

The Every Day Leader: Living Life Intentionally

The innocent acts of children can teach us so many valuable lessons. I sat on the bed the other day and watched my beautiful little one and half-year old granddaughter struggle to dress herself. She insisted she could “do it herself”, no help was needed nor would she take any. I leaned back and smiled and watched her as she was so intent on accomplishing her task.

Are we any different then this precious little child as adults? Do we not still not insist on doing things ourselves and being so very independent? How often have these same thoughts run through our minds that “we don’t need anyone else?” How many times have we followed this line of thinking to the point of even shutting others out of our lives, even at the very times we need them the most? We deliberately choose to walk the long road of our journey alone instead of allowing others to come beside us and help carry the load. As I watched my granddaughter I wondered if this is really what God had in mind when He made us?

The Bible is full of references to: fellowshipping with one another, the importance of breaking bread together, the power when two or more are gathered in His name to pray, and the relief one gets to know that there is in fact someone coming along side them to help carry the burden.

Even as Christians we justify our actions of independence and act as if these very same scriptures do not apply to us.  We even take it a step further and become the king and queen of pat answers as we say we are “fine” or “all good” when asked how we are by a passerby or someone who cares and we quickly walk on or change the subject making sure that the “road closed” sign stays in place and we walk alone.

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The problem with a “road closed” sign is that life is messy and the road is often bumpy with more twists and turns then we ever wanted.  We know we desperately want someone to share the road with us but we have guarded ourselves so much that not only do we not know how to reach out; our pride often prevents the “road closed” sign from coming down.

On the flip side of this scene is the people who are so busy that they have developed tunnel vision to the hurting that are around them. They breeze through their agendas, their schedules, their to-do lists, and their day and never look up to see that there are others in this world who desperately need. They need them to be engaged, to offer a hand that helps, a listening ear, a smile, a hug, a phone call, or even a letter or card letting them know they are seen and are cared about.

It was not that long ago that we lived so very differently. Our front porches were our living rooms filled with neighbors who we knew by name. We sipped our sweet teas and lemonades and we caught up on each others day. We knew the intimate heartache of each other and we never shied away from offering a shoulder to cry on, a soothing word, a hand that helped, and we never expected anything in return.

Today we live in our perfect houses and our porches are super clean from lack of use. We drive in and out of our garages shutting the door and keeping the world at bay. We live our lives, oblivious to those around us, never even knowing who are neighbor is, their name or even who is in their family.

Being independent is not always a bad thing but when it shutouts the world, a world who desperately needs us and one that we desperately need, then it may be time we reevaluate our position and what independence really is.

Life was intended to be lived intentionally with others.To be walked side-by-side and shared with those around us, with those who care, and with those we encounter.

May we strive to live out Galatians 6:2 with all those we meet. May strive to be intentional on not shutting out those who care and love us the most.

Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ