Rise Above Mediocrity – 5 Steps to Create Your Masterpiece

When we create in life the world is changed.

Jeffrey Steele, singer/song writer, leaned back from the microphone to hear about a hundred voices gain strength as his faded, still strumming his guitar.  He smiled and listened as they sang his lyrics back to him in a hushed voice:

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was trying to do

The song made famous by Rascal Flatts was written by Jeffrey Steele. He sang it at a YMCA benefit at Puckett’s with BWSC in Nashville last Sunday night. I saw in that moment how his creativity, in this case, his song, his creation, filled him with joy as he heard others sing his song back to him.

When we create in life the world is changed. We are fulfilled as we hear the world sing back our song. Reflecting on the satisfaction in Jeffrey Steele’s smile I thought of the times when I have been most creative in my work; the design of new systems, authoring, leading new teams, taking a step of faith.

Yet, honestly, in the workplace rarely is individuality and creativity expected or encouraged. Yes, with Apple and other standouts we recognize it in product design and function. But in professional service companies and many other organizations we seem to reach only to the expectation of the client or leader, rarely do we dare go higher.

We must learn to encourage the creative in our work. Creativity rises above expectations to bring something new to life.  It brings something new or something old in new way. A creative solution can deliver profit and new products by finding new paths that take fewer resources and less time. New paradigms are an act of creation.  When we each work with creativity something unique from our God-given ability and our life experience is birthed. Michael Hyatt frequently says it so well; we each bring our unique experiences and gifts to every endeavor.  In so doing something entirely new is added to the world.

Here are five steps to bring about your creative ability in the workplace:

1. Live beyond your chosen profession. Realize you are not defined by your profession. No profession or career can capture all the diverse talents,temperaments, and soul of each person. David in the Bible was not just defined by his Kingly role; he was creative; a psalmist, a lover of God, a warrior, and architect.  He was a renaissance man!

2. Live beyond the expectations of others. Many including those most close to us do not know our future, just our past.

3. Live beyond the expectations of the current task. Many of our endeavors require a modest effort to succeed but when we imagine something better with extra effort we can produce greatness.

4. Live above the routine. Routine and habits have benefit but if taken to extreme they stifle the creative. Change your routine by doing something you normally would not do to recharge your creative energy.

5. Live beyond the natural. Many times I have been prompted by The Lord to take a slightly different path than the expected, and following His supernatural lead, extraordinary opportunities and life experiences have been birthed.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your life, in your career, or in your family?  How is your workplace allowing creativity in your work?

A Story of Moving From Two Sides – His Perspective

How do you make a tough decision to move?

My wife Melanie and I wanted to write this and the following post together.  The post is how to make a tough move easier.  We each will take our turn, this post is David’s perspective. 

Deciding To Move

Months preceding the decision the pressure would build.  My wife, Melanie, and I would go for long walks and discuss what we should do.  We knew through comments made from my boss that the company wanted us to move again.  This time about 1,000 miles from Destin, Florida to the corporate headquarters in Kansas.  I had in over a decade and a half with the company and enjoyed my role.  Moving would mean another promotion and all its benefits but this wasn’t the first time we were faced with this decision.

We had moved from Wisconsin to Florida to open up a new office four years earlier.  The startup was a great success. A phenomenal team was built after we came to Destin by faith not knowing anyone.  We started in Florida on a cardboard desk with 1 laptop and the office grew to 10 staff and a $10M contribution per year to the company. But it was also one of the most difficult personal decisions we had ever made together.  Both our families, support structure, and grandparents to our three girls were in Wisconsin when we moved 22 hours away to Destin.

Now, four years later it looked like it may happen all over again. We had great friends in Florida.  We were very involved in ministry.  I wondered how a move would affect our girls?  How would it affect our marriage?  How would it affect our extended family?  What would happen to the team?  On what basis should we make this decision to move or not move?  How should we make this decision?

How To Make Tough Decisions

How do you make the toughest decisions in life?  It seems that every few years we are faced with extraordinarily tough decisions.  Perhaps you are too.  Tough decisions seem to have equally weighted benefits and costs making the path forward uncertain.

Barry Perez, leader of Harvestime Ministries gave me this advice as I asked him how I decide between two very difficult paths.  He said to use the analogy of the “The Three Harbor Lights” to make tough decisions.  It guided me through the decision to move.

There are lights along the channel as a ship comes into harbor. If the ship is on course the lights will line up behind one another and appear to be one. If you see multiple lights, you’re off target. The ship’s captain will then re-position the ship so that the lights appear to be one. In decision-making, if we can get “three lights” lining up, we may in fact know God’s will for our decision.  Below are the three lights to line up when weighing your tough decision.  If they line up you may be on target with your direction:

The Light of God’s Word.  Your decision should not contradict God’s Word or His promises.  If the decision involves a change that would make you compromise your integrity, your faith, or your obedience to the Lord it may be an indication it is not the right decision.

The Light of the Holy Spirit.  Your decision should have a peace or excitement within you. This is an indication of your inner witness from the Holy Spirit.

The Light of Circumstances.  The circumstances of your life should point to the need for the decision. God will work through us and speak to us through our circumstances.

Lining up your decision with these three lights may help you identify what is the right decision for you and your family. Do these three lights make sense to you?  Have you based a decision upon “The Three Lights”.

Trust Releases Control – 5 Steps to Victory

Trust requires releasing control to another

I prepared.  I opened my heart to constructive criticism and opened the door to the performance review. It had been 7 years of trying to get along with a boss that clearly did not like me.  Sure, I had a lot to learn when I first joined the company but after several years there just seemed to be nothing I could do to grow the professional relationship.  First, I was too maverick.  Then, later, as I gave my life to Christ, and learned to submit wholly to authority, it was something much deeper that made this boss angry with me.

The performance review suddenly turned an ugly corner.  “You’re just a maverick Dave”.  It was followed by a 10 minute emotional rant.  I am not even sure of the words anymore but I do remember the viper eyes and the curl on her upper lip as she spewed venom and ripped me.  I was floored.  I was in total submission to her authority, was making my utilization goals, and just brought a half million dollar account in the door.  I will be honest with you.  I opened up my heart thinking it would help me learn.  Instead, it made me extraordinarily vulnerable and I was completely undone. How should I now respond?

Still emotional, I prayed, “Lord, I have done well and supported the leadership.  I will not get angry with her.  Instead, I give this situation to you.  I trust you to deal with this”.  Soon after, my family and I began to pray 2 Thessalonians 3:2, “that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men”.  I was shaken for weeks not really sure where I stood at my job.  Wondering if I would be released.

The breakthrough came suddenly one morning 7 weeks later.  Someone from the corporate office flew into town.  Within hours, even though I had not said one word to anyone in the company, my boss was let go and I was given the leadership position.  Our office moved locations too, from skanky to swanky. It would be the beginning of turning the  office around and tripling revenue and profit.  It taught me that relinquishing control to the Lord is a powerful response to injustice.  David wrote in Psalm 37, ” And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him“.

Something powerful happens when we fully trust the Lord.  There seems to be a line in the sand when we encounter a situation in which we are helpless.  We must cross the line and come to a place where we say, “I give this situation to You”.

Is there an injustice in your life that is beyond your control?  Here are some steps that have helped me trust, step back, and relax while the Lord moves:

1.  Stop Trying To Fix It:  You must cease from your laboring and worrying.  It is evidence that you are not trusting but rather controlling.

2.  Understand that Trust is more powerful than Control:  Realize that He is more powerful than you.  So, as you let go a more powerful Team is on the scene.

3.  Ask the Lord to Take Care of the Problem:   This is where it all begins.  Until you do this you still own the problem.

4.  Relinquish Control:  Tell yourself that you have drawn a line in the sand.  It is no longer your problem to fix.

5.  Stand in Faith:  It takes time to move mountains.  Spend the time waiting being more productive.

What things do you need in your life that are beyond your control?  What would be the result if you took your situation through these steps?  Would you add any other steps?

 

Rise Above Mediocrity – 5 Steps to Create Your Masterpiece

When we create in life the world is changed.

Jeffrey Steele, singer/song writer, leaned back from the microphone to hear about a hundred voices gain strength as his faded, still strumming his guitar.  He smiled and listened as they sang his lyrics back to him in a hushed voice:

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was trying to do

The song made famous by Rascal Flatts was written by Jeffrey Steele. He sang it at a YMCA benefit at Puckett’s with BWSC in Nashville last Sunday night. I saw in that moment how his creativity, in this case, his song, his creation, filled him with joy as he heard others sing his song back to him.

When we create in life the world is changed. We are fulfilled as we hear the world sing back our song. Reflecting on the satisfaction in Jeffrey Steele’s smile I thought of the times when I have been most creative in my work; the design of new systems, authoring, leading new teams, taking a step of faith.

Yet, honestly, in the workplace rarely is individuality and creativity expected or encouraged. Yes, with Apple and other standouts we recognize it in product design and function. But in professional service companies and many other organizations we seem to reach only to the expectation of the client or leader, rarely do we dare go higher.

We must learn to encourage the creative in our work. Creativity rises above expectations to bring something new to life.  It brings something new or something old in new way. A creative solution can deliver profit and new products by finding new paths that take fewer resources and less time. New paradigms are an act of creation.  When we each work with creativity something unique from our God-given ability and our life experience is birthed. Michael Hyatt frequently says it so well; we each bring our unique experiences and gifts to every endeavor.  In so doing something entirely new is added to the world.

Here are five steps to bring about your creative ability in the workplace:

1. Live beyond your chosen profession. Realize you are not defined by your profession. No profession or career can capture all the diverse talents,temperaments, and soul of each person. David in the Bible was not just defined by his Kingly role; he was creative; a psalmist, a lover of God, a warrior, and architect.  He was a renaissance man!

2. Live beyond the expectations of others. Many including those most close to us do not know our future, just our past.

3. Live beyond the expectations of the current task. Many of our endeavors require a modest effort to succeed but when we imagine something better with extra effort we can produce greatness.

4. Live above the routine. Routine and habits have benefit but if taken to extreme they stifle the creative. Change your routine by doing something you normally would not do to recharge your creative energy.

5. Live beyond the natural. Many times I have been prompted by The Lord to take a slightly different path than the expected, and following His supernatural lead, extraordinary opportunities and life experiences have been birthed.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your life, in your career, or in your family?  How is your workplace allowing creativity in your work?

Knowing Your Way When the Path is Hidden

We can be directed toward our destiny even when the path is hidden from us

I was sitting at my desk on the 5th Floor of the Duluth Technology Village.  My boss of seven years was just let go.  Revenues were down 50% in the last 3 years.  Just two staff remained.  We were down to one client.  Then, I was then given the leadership position.  How could we turn the business around and stop the sinking ship?

New Opportunity

I was given an opportunity that day I was placed into leadership.  I had a vision to anchor the office with three major clients. But what steps were needed to make the vision a reality? That first day I sat at my desk and prayed.  “Lord, if you will help me build this office then I will tell others that you were the one who made it grow”.

New Collaboration

I have learned that some of the best opportunities in business are not anticipated.  Most  business plans I have seen are compilations of rigid secular strategies.  We need to write a vision and business plan.  However, growing a team and winning clients will always be more than the sum of your knowledge.  It will always involve more than you can see when you write the business plan.  Where then do you turn for direction?

The answer to my prayer came to me within the next few weeks.  I would be at my desk working and would hear, “David, I want you to go to the EPA Seminar”.  There was a seminar in town in a few weeks.  I wanted to go but had thought I was too busy to go.  A second and third time I heard it again.  Finally, I said out loud, “Ok, I will go”.  Just then I realized I was getting the direction I had prayed for.

New Success

In moments when the path has been hidden I have asked the Lord to lead me.  He has answered by giving me direction in the form of one step, one task to do in a specific direction.  After that step he gives another, and success is at the end of that path.  In these moments I pray Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, and He shall direct your paths“.

I sat down at an open chair at the seminar and struck up a conversation with the person next to me.  We immediately connected.  He was genuine and real. I followed up that initial meeting with a call and within a month or so we received our first project from him.

That first project win would be the start of many.  He was a Regional Environmental Manager of a large Natural Gas Distribution Company.  Within 3 years over $1 Million in project work would be won by our small firm from this man to whom the Lord led me.

Today I would like to encourage  you to ask the Lord to lead you in business.  Trust Him and He will direct your path. What paths in business are hidden from you?  If you are a person of faith, how has your faith helped to define direction in your business?

10 Ways Baby Boomers Can Develop Generations X, Y, and Z

ImageThis is the first work place that is comprised of four generations.  The gaps in expectations and culture are great.  Below is a list of 10 ways Baby Boomers can develop the next generation in the work place, written from the perspective of Generation X.

  1. Delegate Relationships, Not Just Work.  Relationships take time to build.  Bring along younger leaders to learn the nuances of your client relationships.  They can be silent observers yet gain much from the experience of high level meetings.
  2. Stop Promising a Transition, “When You Retire”.  Oh my, if I had a dollar for every time a supervisor over the age of 60 promised he was going to retire and hand me the ropes.   Either go or get working, uh!
  3. Identify and Mentor Your Successors.  If you are retiring or winding down in the next 5 years and you haven’t identified and groomed the next leader you have failed in your CEO, COO, or C-Suite Position.  Ensuring long term success of the company is your job.  Do it.
  4. Realize it’s Not about You and Your Career Anymore.  I expect those in corporate and project leadership to be unselfish.  You were given opportunity to release the opportunity to others on your team.  That includes your leadership role.  Don’t hoard your leadership position and create an inner circle of management that is a club of near retirees.
  5. Speak Life and Expect Greatness.  As both leader and mentor you can dramatically shape the self-image of your staff.  Tell them they will be successful.  Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live”.  Choosing life applies to the words spoken and decisions made.  You affect two generations by your words and decisions.
  6. Help Remove the Old Walls.  No company is completely modern but rather a mix of the old and new.  The productivity of your young team may be hindered by ancient corporate walls such as profit-loss centers, cubicles, and bricks and mortar.   Productivity gains await the company that will allow younger workers to create an optimum environment for productivity.
  7. Teach Life Lessons.  Take the time to teach life lessons during the day.  We all can learn from each other and teaching personal life lessons during the work day folds life into work making it rich and enjoyable.  It will also bond you to your team.
  8. Teach the Business Model.  Unless you are GE there is no book your staff can read about how your business model really works.  Teach them the reason for the structure of your multipliers, your super value position, your overhead structure, and how the company will weather a recession.  Teach everything they will need to know to keep funding your retirement (J/K, sort of).
  9. Coach the Next Leader While You are Still Around.  Why not put someone in the leadership position before you leave and stick around for a few years as “CEO Emeritus”.  It works well in academia and we are “learning organizations”, aren’t we?
  10. Value the Intelligence of a Young Team.  When my daughter came home from kindergarten and began teaching me about Venn Diagrams I knew education had changed a lot in the last 30 years.  Today’s 20 and 30 something’s are not only fast and intelligent, but they have been educated to collaborate in groups from an early age.  They understand the systems Baby Boomers are stressed to even use, much less build.  Pull out of your team the ideas they have of the future and help them create it!

Regardless of your age, what are ways you have mentored and developed younger staff to bring out their best performance and most creative ideas?

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