Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith, Servant Leadership

Questions to Ask Yourself About Hope

advent-series-title-hope

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, and Christmas preparations are well underway. The Christmas tree is up and decorated. Most of the gifts on the gift list have been purchased, and the calendar is filled with festive activities. It’s a great feeling to make so much progress. But as I step back and admire my accomplishments, I am reminded of a more important element to consider. How is my heart? In particular, how well do I hold on to hope and pass it on the others?

For those of you celebrating Advent, this is the Week of Hope. It’s a time to reflect on the promise of the Savior, the Light of the World. Jesus Christ is the One who gives us hope. As servant leaders we are to be examples of hope to those around us, both on and off the clock. So then, how are we doing?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

How do you rate when circumstances are bad as well as good?

  • How optimistic are you about the future?
  • How focused are you on people?
  • How content are you?
  • How often do you encourage others?
  • How determine are you to move forward?
  • How well do you accept change?
  • How strong is your sense of purpose?

Hope is vital to vision. You cannot have one without the other. God is the author of hope. He came to this earth as the Redeemer to give us hope and to grow hope in us. This Advent Season, trust Him to grow hope in you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

PRAYER:

Jesus Christ, Light of the World, I hope in You. Thank you for coming to this world to save me from my sins and to give me new life. Help me to keep Your kingdom in focus. Give me your hope and renew my vision. Empower me to make hope strong in my heart, as I remember that I stand by your grace and have your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Personal Commitments as a Servant Leader

Substitute teachers have a tough job. For each assignment they step into a new environment, often with an incomplete set of instructions. They do not know the rules or routines. Most students take advantage of the situation, expecting that no real teaching will be done and no learning will occur. They test the limits. Will the substitute teacher be in control or will the students be in control?

Occasionally I work as a substitute teacher. Before every assignment I pray…for two reasons. First, I need God’s intervention and wisdom to manage a classroom. Second, I need God’s presence actively involved in my life so I can set my attitude for success.

As a servant leader, a positive approach is paramount to being in control.

Recently I received some notable comments from students.

One young man thought he should prepare me in advance. “Sorry, Miss. Your day is going to be miserable because of us.”

My response: “Nobody can make me have a bad day. That’s entirely up to me. And I choose to have a good day.”

The student nodded in agreement and gave me two thumbs up. At the end of the day he checked in with me. “Are you still having a good day?”

“Of course, I am. I choose to have a good day,” I said smiling warmly.

Another student decided to warn me of my plight. “We’re a BAD class.”

My response: “Oh, I don’t believe that. There might be some students who make poor choices, but I think you’re a GOOD class.”

The student looked at me with surprise and found her seat.

As a servant leader, I’ve made several commitments that I engage in every role—as a pastor, consultant, coach, speaker, substitute teacher, or anything else. These commitments embody my positive approach. They are behaviors that establish an environment of trust. By following them, I can be in control wherever I am and thrive in any setting.

  1. I do not raise my voice at anyone. I address people on an individual basis. Corrections in behavior or performance are made one-on-one in firm but quiet tones away from the hearing of the group.
  2. I point out the positive. I focus on what people are doing well and verbally praise them for it. Expressing appreciation motivates others to make good choices and creates confidence to try harder.
  3. I am always polite. I say “please” when making requests and follow up with “thank you.” This is another way of expressing appreciation and showing respect to others. Being rude is never warranted, regardless of the situation.
  4. I ask questions. I seek input with a desire to understand and discover. Valuing others’ insights builds relationships and establishes their buy-in to solutions.
  5. I do not ask someone to do something I am not willing to do myself. I do not assign others “the dirty work” simply to avoid unwanted tasks or because it is “beneath me.” I lead by example and strive to be authentic.
  6. I laugh at my own mistakes and admit when I am wrong. Being in charge doesn’t mean I wear the facade of perfection. As others see how I respond when I make a mistake, correct it, and move on, they feel safer when they make a mistake and a learning culture is established.
  7. I am quick to forgive. I keep short accounts and will not allow the past negative behavior of others to color my current dealings with them. God’s mercies are new every morning toward me. The least I can do is extend His mercies to others.

Servant leaders see their influence as a means to benefit others, to help others grow personally and develop servant leadership traits. What commitments have you made that empower you to be a stronger leader?

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Six Questions to Ask About Your Goals

Welcome to March! The third month of 2014 has officially begun. Remember those goals you set at the beginning of the year? How is it going? With two months behind you, this is a great time to pause and reflect on your progress. Gain more clarity and momentum for achieving your goals by answering some important questions.

Are my goals written?
If your answer is “no,” write them down. Whenever I go to the grocery store, even for a couple items, I need a shopping list. I admit, sometimes I lose it before I get there. Whenever this happens, I get distracted by all the bargains. I wander down the aisles, trying to remember what I came for. I end up wasting money, because I buy things I don’t need (after all, it was all on sale), or I waste time because I have to go back for the things I forgot. In a similar way, without written goals it is easy to get distracted. It may even cost you time and money before you get back on track.

Writing down your goals does a number of things.

  • It helps you remember them.
  • It reinforces your commitment to them.
  • It makes you accountable.
  • It gives you focus.

How often should I revisit my goals?
Having a written plan is important, but the power lies in keeping the plan continually before you. Some people begin each day by reviewing their goals. Others review their goals once a week. Decide the frequency that works best for you.

Only a small percentage of businesses that invest in the strategic planning process actually accomplish them. By far, the biggest reason is that, once created, the plan simply sits on the shelf. They continue doing business as usual without referring to their well designed plan.

Next, take a look at each of your goals and re-evaluate them with these questions.

Is this a goal I believe God wants me to pursue?
This really is the bottom line. Does the goal honor the Lord? Does the goal align with the teachings in God’s Word? Would this goal be approved by trusted, mature believers? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have a goal that is not worth pursuing. If the Lord has indeed put the goal in your heart, He will help you accomplish it.

Is this a goal I am committed to?
It’s important to be honest with yourself. Goals are successfully accomplished through commitment. If you aren’t willing to persevere during challenges, your commitment level is low. In this case, it is better to change your goal to a good idea and focus on something else to which you will commit.

What obstacles am I facing in achieving my goal?
You’re committed to the goal, but you’re still having difficulty. Step back and objectively look at the situation. Identify the obstacles and problems. You may need to enlist support from a coach to ask questions to prompt discovery and learning.

What adjustments do I need to make?
In light of the obstacles, you may need to tweak your plan. You may need to change your time line. You may need to change your approach or take a detour. Ask God for His wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, they walk.
If you can’t walk, them crawl.
But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Every choice you make is either bringing you closer to or farther away from achieving your goals. Choose wisely, and keep moving forward.

Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Three Elements of Empowering Conversation

Have you ever thought of yourself as a detective? Sherlock Holmes is a well loved fictional character known as a mastermind, observing details unnoticed by the untrained eye. What about an explorer? Marco Polo is famous for exploring China and Asia in the late 1200s, discovering practices of the unknown culture. As a leader, you may not see yourself as an adventurer like Holmes or Polo, but every day you have the opportunity to discover important details through empowering conversations.

It is natural to be geared toward solutions and coming up with answers as quickly as possible. However, this often results in solving the wrong problem. This also does not promote deep learning, the kind necessary for sustained change. By engaging in three elements of empowering conversation, you possess the keys to discovery.

Frame problems positively. View them as opportunities to be creative and innovate, not as a threats. Take time to pause and prepare yourself to enter the discovery zone. You and your team have the option to consider new possibilities for the future rather than redesign old versions of the past. Being curious is a great way to elevate energy and mood within your team. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV). Have confidence that God will provide the answers you need.

Ask, don’t tell. When facing a challenge, it can be tempting to issue directives. Certainly there are times when it is necessary to make direct statements, such as during a performance evaluation or establishing behavioral boundaries. However, empowering conversations are excellent for developing appropriate attitudes and beliefs, skills, and behavioral practices. An important part of empowering conversations is asking open ended questions. By asking questions, you assist followers in processing ideas and formulating answers. Powerful questions include: “What are we trying to accomplish?” “How else can we think about this?” “What can we learn from this situation?” Consider using double-click questions to encourage conversation. “Tell me more.” “Give me an example of that.” Even when you have a good plan, ask permission to share. “I have an idea. Would you like to hear it?”

Listen to understand. Asking is important; listening is its twin. Effective communication involves active listening–paying full attention to what is said and being fully engaged. Resist the urge to jump in with opinions and advice. Do not assume that you know what is going on. Rather, hear where your followers are coming from; zero in on their experiences and ideas.

When you are communicating with God in prayer, what is He doing most of the time? Is he constantly talking, filling every moment with sage advice and cosmic ideas? Or is He mostly listening? God, who knows our every need before we ask and the answers to all our problems, takes the time to listen to each one of us. To listen is to imitate God.1

Wise instruction comes from James 1:19. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (NIV). Listening is foundational to understanding. Leaders must be excellent listeners in order to facilitate discovery for growth and change.

1 Tony Stoltzfus, Leadership Coaching (Virginia Beach: Author, 2005), 147.