Friday Discussion: Are You a Pet Lover…or Not?

Here’s my dog NaJe…She’s named for our boy’s Nathaniel (Nate) and Jeremy. She’s been a special dog.

In honor of my dog’s 11th birthday…Let’s talk pets today…

Are you a dog lover, a cat lover, or neither?

Do you like an inside dog, an outside dog, or neither?

Tell me about your pet….is he or she like a member of the family or just nice to have around? Is your spouse the bigger animal lover and you simply tolerate his or her wishes?

Let’s talk pets….

What’s the most exotic pet you’ve heard of someone having…or you have had? Anyone have one of THESE AS PETS? (See the 10 weirdest animal discoveries of 2010…did you know they are still discovering them?)

I saw this couple’s yellow snake pet in Chicago recently…would you consider this animal a pet? Be honest, does it bother you when someone calls a snake…or a ferret…or a _________….??? (I think their pet would like to eat my pet…)

Would you give a snake a name? What’s a good snake name?

BONUS QUESTION: What’s the best name for a dog? Are you like traditional names (Spot, Lucky, Max) or a creative name like NaJe?

Let’s talk pets.

Almost Isn’t Good Enough: Wayne Elsey’s New Book

As a leader, there are two qualities that really I value in other people, drive & selflessness. In most circles, these two words seem contradictory & rarely used in the same sentence. However, both of those words describe my good friend, Wayne Elsey. Wayne is the Founder & CEO of Soles4Souls. His drive has lead Soles4Souls to become one of the fastest growing non-profits in the country, but his attitude reflects total selflessness.  A few months ago, I interviewed Wayne in my leadership series. You can read it HERE.

This week, I had the opportunity to celebrate another milestone with Wayne, the release of his new book Almost Isn’t Good Enough After checking it out, I realized this book is unique. I can’t classify it as an inspirational, leadership, or business book because it incorporates all of those categories. Opening with Wayne’s story and; motivation to start Soles4Souls, the book goes on to share the principles that have driven the organization to where it is today. Each chapter highlights a principle that can drive your organization to fulfilling its overall mission.

The thing I love about Wayne and this book is the fact that, in the end, it all comes back to making a difference in the lives of others. Last night, Wayne told me that if this book could impact just one person to do something impactful, he’ll consider it a win. I know he genuinely means that.

The book officially releases December 26, which by way is the anniversary of Wayne’s calling to start Soles4Souls. Here is the cool part: For every copy sold, you will provide 10 pairs of shoes to a people group that you choose. So, buy 1 copy and give 10 kids their first ever pair of shoes. Buy 5 copies for you and your friends and provide a whole village with shoes. It’s a beautiful thing.

I would encourage you to pre-order your copy HERE. From now until December 26th, you can purchase 2 for $20 or 5 for $45.

This book is a powerful resource for every pastor, nonprofit leader, professor or business leader. At the same time, it is a must read for anyone who thinks they can’t do something to change the world. It’s a book that I would share with 50 year old CEOs and 18 year old college students.

Are you familiar with the work of Soles4Souls?

In honor of Wayne’s heart for good non-profit organizations, name one non-profit you are impressed with these days.

Sometimes Slow Is the Right Pace…7 Examples

Don’t rush every decision…every movement you make doesn’t have to be made at rocket pace…

I recognize the pace of life and the speed at which the world is moving…

But sometimes wrestling for a while with a decision is the better option…

A few examples I’ve learned the hard way:

  • Be slow to add someone to paid staff…
  • Be slow to make changes that alter vision…
  • Be slow to make assumptions without facts…
  • Be slow to sign for borrowed money…
  • Be slow to repeat someone else’s story…
  • Be slow to offer correction to someone until you’ve built a relationship…
  • Be slow to sign a partnership agreement…

There will always be exceptions…you don’t want to miss out on great opportunities…most of the time I’ll be one encouraging you to dream big and take a risk…even to move quickly…

Today I feel the need to suggest to you the slower option…

Is this something you need to hear?

Could you add any examples to my list? Perhaps we could learn from your experiences…Please share…

For a similar thought, read THIS POST or THIS POST

5 Suggestions for Tennessee Titans Leadership Now

Driving back from Nashville yesterday I listened to sports talk radio. The subject was the same I have been hearing for weeks. Everyone wants to talk about what’s wrong with the Titans. Everyone has his or her own theory. As I said in a previous post, (Read it HERE) I am a not an avid sports fan.  I love sports, I love watching sports, but I don’t memorize player’s names or keep up with many statistics, I just enjoy sports.

I do keep up with leadership however, and as I said in my previous post, I think the main issue for the Titans now is a leadership problem.  When leadership is uncertain or unsettled, it will impact the entire team.  That’s an organizational leadership principle, and it’s true because it deals with people, which mean you can see the principle at work in business, in churches, and on professional football teams.  (This post could have been titled “Suggestions for leadership when your team is in trouble”, which would have worked for many organizations…)

So, as one who does understand the subject of organizational leadership, here are 5 leadership suggestions I offer the Tennessee Titans leadership:

Get united at the top – Owner Bud and Coach Jeff need to get on the same page again.  Period.  The team will be unsettled as long as they are unsettled.  There have been times before when the talk was whether Jeff could keep his job, and some think that time is here again (read THIS), but Bud Adams and Jeff Fisher have mostly had a great relationship.  They need to close the door, talk (or yell) it out, then decide to be united (or not) going forward.

Decide who’s in charge – If Coach Fisher is continue as coach, he must have freedom to run the team as he thinks best.  The team needs to know he is the one making the calls. An owner can and will always have input, but on the playing field the leader on the sidelines needs control…and the team needs to know it.  That includes what to do with key players under huge contracts.

Remember the Titans – The team needs to remember who they are as a team. They’ve been known for comeback victories.  They’ve had a history of the unexpected come from behind wins. Remind the team. Energize the key player leaders on the team. Let it spread through the team and change team morale and motivation.

Get back to basics – The Titans know how to win games. They know how to run the ball strong and make the big defensive plays.  Just do what the team does best.

Play ball – At some point, the team and the coaches have to ignore all the critics and play ball. That may mean they need to quit doing interviews, quit reading the sports page, or quit talking internally about what’s wrong and focus on the winning games.  Win a few games and the talk shows will find a new subject.

That’s my suggestions.  Call me naive if you want since I’m mostly a quiet observer in the field of sports, but I think these steps would help in any organizational sense, including football.

What do you think?  What would you do now if you were in leadership with the Tennessee Titans…or an organization in trouble?

20 Roles of a Pastor

As a pastor, sometimes it feels we wear a lot of hats. This is a random list I quickly put together of roles I sometimes get to play as a pastor:

  • Mediator
  • Counselor
  • Encourager
  • Teacher
  • Minister
  • Leader
  • Social media manager
  • Advocate
  • Rehabilitation Coordinator
  • Business Administration
  • Human Resources
  • Writer
  • Technologist
  • Data analyst
  • Public speaker
  • Theologian
  • Politician
  • Motivator
  • Comedian
  • ________________

Pastors, as you can tell, there are only 19…the next is yours…

What would you add to this list?

Don’t Be Afraid of Good Management

Opinion: We have almost created a culture where the term management is seen as a negative. I believe this is dangerous.

With the rising interest in the field of leadership, the task of management is starting to get a bad name. Organizations don’t look for people with good management skills anymore, they look for leaders. It seems unpopular or not as appealing to say “I’m a manager” as it is to say “I’m a leader”.

In organizations today, leadership has overpowered management as the desired function. I have to be honest in saying I feel more qualified to talk about leadership than I do management. I’m frankly a better leader than I am a manager, but the reality is that good leadership includes a healthy element of good management and vice versa. Both disciplines are equally important for a healthy organization.   (Read my post on Three basic needs of every organization. Management fits in more of the maintenance category of those three and it’s my least favorite of them.)

The problem for the practice of management these days is that it naturally deals with an element of control, which is now seen as a negative. Read the current books and blogs on organizational health.  It is popular to talk negatively about any control issues. Leader types (like me) often rebel against any mention of control in favor of releasing people to dream and explore.

We want environments where team members are free to create, but every team also needs some guidelines and someone who can hold the team accountable to reasonable boundaries it sets for itself. Management’s role in implementing a vision is to ensure tasks and action steps are met. Good management helps the team stay on target. While leadership motivates the team to reach the vision, without management a team will have a lot of dreams but no measurable results. Managers help develop and maintain a structure that allows healthy growth to continue.

Don’t be afraid of good management. If you are a leader, part of your role is also to see that management is in place.  If you aren’t reaching the goals you have for the organization, it may not be a lack of good leadership, it may be a lack of good management.  For smaller teams, one person may have the responsibility for both functions, which is hard for many wired more towards being a leader or a manager type, but great organizations need good leadership and good management.

Have you seen this trend towards embracing leadership to the detriment of management?  How is your organization responding?  Do you see the difference in the two functions?

For further thoughts on this issue, you can read my post about leadership versus management HERE. You may also benefit by our experience learning of the need for structure and management in THIS POST.

Bring Your Old Bible to Church for ReWord Day

We are recycling Bibles this Sunday at Grace Community Church. Recently during a staff retreat we were thinking of ways to encourage Bible reading. We realized as we were talking that many of us in the room have many Bibles that we never use. Not having one could never be a good excuse for the church staff not to read the Bible. The more we talked, the more we recognized that there were probably others in our church with multiple Bibles they no longer use. At the same time, we are always conscious of people in our church and community who have no Bibles.

What was the solution? Have a ReWord Bible Day! This Sunday we are encouraging everyone who has one to bring in an extra Bible…the one on the book shelf, in the night stand, or in the trunk of your car. (I have one there.) We will then get them to people who need a Bible. We love the thoughts of someone reading the Bible someone else has already read.

Do you have an extra Bible (or two) laying around your house? What are you going to do with it?

Are We Becoming Afraid to Take a Risk?

I was talking with a doctor recently. He said increasingly physicians are deciding not to attempt private practice. They are choosing to work only for guaranteed salaries at a hospital, afraid to take a risk of self-employment. In his opinion, it’s changing the way healthcare is done in America. I can’t speak with authority about the field of medicine, but I have noticed the same trend occur in other fields. I talk with people regularly who are settling for security rather than take a risk in this economy.

In a way, it’s completely understandable. This economy is scary for everyone, even churches (even though we are called to live by faith). I am certainly not an advocate for being irresponsible. I think we should be especially wise in these days. I will say, however, that we can’t allow our fear of the unknown to keep us from dreaming big dreams for tomorrow.

My personal concern is that if we eliminate the process of taking risks from our culture, it will be the end of life as we know it as Americans. Our country was founded and made to flourish by dreamers who took big risks.  An even greater concern, and of more personal interest to me, is that we will miss out on some God-sized opportunities because we are developing a culture of fear.

Have you seen this trend? Do you have an example? Have you been scared from following the dreams God lays on your heart?

Tennessee Titans Have a Leadership Problem

Yesterday I watched the Tennessee Titans seem to fall apart on the field. From being shut out from scoring to fighting on the field to the defeated look on the Titan player’s faces on the sidelines, this is obviously a team in difficult days.

The post game shows were saying, “this is a team in trouble” or “this team is going downhill fast”. As a student of leadership, I have tremendous respect for coach Jeff Fisher and, although I’m a more silent NFL fan, I have enjoyed watching his team since the Titans came to Tennessee. I’m wondering now what it will take to bring the team back together. I suspect it’s more than getting a new quarterback.

I wonder if the biggest dilemma for the team these days is a leadership issue.

In case you aren’t familiar with recent drama, quarterback Vince Young injured his thumb and is out for the season. Notoriously immature, Young apparently stripped off his jersey and shoulder pads and tossed them into the stands after Titans coach Jeff Fisher prevented him from returning to the field in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. Fisher gave him a timeout, but Young reportedly got into a shouting match with Fisher in the locker room following the loss and stormed out of the stadium. Fisher responded by banning him from a team meeting Monday. Finally, I hear Young pulled a “class-act” by apologizing to Fisher via text message.

Anyway, here’s where the leadership battle starts. Coach Fisher is an old-school style of coach. He demands to be respected by his team, and he has the experience and reputation in the league to deserve it. It appears Fisher would be done with Young, except that owner Bud Adams says Young is going nowhere. Both Fisher and Young are under expensive contracts and the team can’t afford to buy out either contract. In my opinion, it leaves Fisher crippled as a leader.

What do you think? As a former business owner, I understand Bud Adams dilemma. He has a bottom line to protect. You can argue that point all you want, but if the team is no longer profitable, it can’t continue to operate as a business…and, make no mistake about it, professional football is a business. On the other hand, I am a leader of a team. I can imagine how it must feel to have a key player who has seemingly been given the freedom to do whatever he wants and knows the leader can do nothing about it. Fisher can sideline Young, but he can’t get him off the team. I also know that if you tie a leaders hands you cripple his or her leadership and the ability to lead well.

Do you see the problem? What do you think? Some of you football fans educate me if you want, but what am I missing? Is this a player/coach problem or a leadership issue?  Have you ever had a leadership issue where you were accountable for results, but didn’t have ultimate authority to do your work?   What would you do if you were Coach Fisher? What would you do if you were Owner Bud Adams?

Let’s talk about it…

We Wrote a Story Together

If you follow this blog, then you may remember that a couple weeks ago we wrote a story together. You can read how it started HERE, but basically I wrote an opening sentence and then different commenters each added a line to continue the story. Today I’m providing the completed story…or at least where it is today. It’s “different”, but reading it shows me how unique our minds work. I never would I have imagined taking the story in the direction it went. Have you ever been in a planning session that went this way? It’s how a team operates.

Here is our story:

Carolyn knew not to question the timing, but she had never experienced anything like this before now. She was anxious that someone so important was interested in her opinion. That she did not know what to say!!

Here she was, in a place that was both exciting and terrifying. And she could not have felt more exhilarated! The CEO, Mr. Jenkins, had asked to see her first thing this morning.

“Carolyn,” he said, shaking his head. “How did we not see this coming?!”

Puzzled, she really had no idea what he was talking about. “See what coming?”

Her mind raced as she replayed all of her hard work over the last month. But knowing about the events last week at the company HQ her pulse quickened. She tried to maintain her composure so as to appear neither excited nor nervous.

“Carolyn, the demand generated for your new book has been off the charts!” he exclaimed.

Her ADD was kicking in, this was important, she MUST STAY FOCUSED! Assured that she had, she struggled to retain her composure and asked to see the report. She turned her head quickly feigning like she was looking for something in her purse, but in reality she was executing a well-timed sniff test. See Carolyn had a history with deodorant.

She sat down, still confused and jittery. …as Mr. Jenkins announced, “You’ll be happy to know you’ve won employee of the year, and you won’t believe what the prize is!”

And then the hardest question of all:” Did I even remember to put on my deodorant this morning?” “What am I thinking? I’ve got to stay focused on the issue at hand”, which now seemed impossible as Mr. Jenkins was reaching for something inside his desk drawer.

However, since she is hardcore ADD, the thought faded as quickly as it came. As she contemplated her deodorant, her mind took her back to the place she most hated. Even though she should be enjoying this success, she felt like she was sitting in her high school principal’s office again.

Her mind wandered back to her hometown of Tribune, Kansas where Mr. Shaeffer had often had to dish out discipline to her and her friend Charlene. Where was Charlene now? Was she still alive….”What was that Mr. Jenkins?”

In that moment before Jenkins answered the question, Carolyn made a decision. It was time for a trip back home. She thought to herself, “I wonder if my name is still carved into the door to the gym?”

Mr. Jenkins answered, ” Oh, sorry…that’s just the new ring tone on my iPhone.” Sugarland’s, “Stuck Like Glue” echoed in the conference room as Mr. Jenkins pushed silence on his phone. The country music ringtone suddenly made all the pictures of Chuck Norris on the walls of Mr. Jenkins’ office make sense.

Her alarm clock was blaring in the background as she slowly woke to face her day. But going back also scared her…it had been so long since she had seen him. A secret only her dog understood. It had all been a dream- but it stirred up the desires in her to revisit her past.

She quickly scrambled to pack a bag and headed home, wondering after all these years if her secret would be revealed. On the plane, she thought more about Charlene, the murder, and of course, him.

The countryside seemed to move by in slow motion; would she ever be home; did she really want to be home? She dialed her phone with trembling hands: “Charlene?–it’s me.”

No one knew she had been there when it happened, and the shame and guilt were sometimes overwhelming. Silence crackled across the telephone wires as she waited for Charlene’s reply. And she wondered, ‘Should I really be here…should I be doing this? Does any of it really matter anymore?’
Sheepishly she pulled into the driveway, brushed a tear from her eye and slowly began to open her car door. Even the sound of the door opening and the wind as it whipped through her hair brought back unwanted memories.

The explosion knocked her to the ground.

Off in the distance a man with wire rimmed glasses looked on through a pair of military issue binoculars. The small device in his hand would ensure that the reunion would never happen. Carolyn raised her eyes up over the porch steps only to realize that Charlene was gone.

The only thing she could think to do was sit on her favorite rock in her favorite bay and think about what was happening. Carolyn was so confused! Everything was gone. Where was she! Who was Mr. Jenkins?

Rolling over in the bed she grabbed her blankets, pulled them up over her head and wished for a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep. Dreams sure have a way of ruining a nights sleep!

Something, perhaps a log floating in the rippling water, perhaps a shadow, reminded her of a long ago trip to Puerto Vallarta…Where she had visited a local Mexican restaurant. The owners, a kind indigenous family, had taken her and Charlene in for the night after their purses, with all their money and personal identification, had been stolen. Could Charlene ever understand the feelings being there brought back?

Suddenly, a gnawing feeling engulfed her as she recalled something…and it hit her: in only twenty four hours, she had left her boss standing in the office bewildered and begging her not to leave at this incredible moment of success, had shot off to see Charlene, had nearly been blown to bits, and then flown to Mexico like some asylum escapee passing into and out of reality, like some character in the first novel written by a writer with catastrophic ADD and way too much caffeine.

Startled by Bobby McFerrin singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, she answers the phone and hears a familiar voice say “I’ve been thinking about you”.

It was her Father; “You shouldn’t have come back!” He said. “You know what will happen now!”

Carolyn started to wonder where all her past friends were, just now, she needed them for support, validation or celebration, she didn’t yet know what Where were all her friends now, for support, validation or just plain help? More importantly, would her ADD allow her to make any sense of what was happening?

Right then, her phone vibrated, it was a text ” I’m not dead, meet me at our spot “. OMG, was all she could think.

The sound of sirens in the distance brought her back to the situation at hand. She knew she needed to leave before she was asked any questions. So she climbed back into the car, stared at the burning house in front of her, and made her decision. She knew that she could not talk to the police just then. She started her car and headed off to find Robert.

Though stunned by the fact that Robert was clearly not dead, Carolyn drove quickly, arriving within minutes to “their spot”– But what was that object he was carrying and why was he waving it in the air?

She pulled into a secluded spot, turned off the engine and got out of the car. In the distance she saw Robert waiting for her. Suddenly she heard a loud BANG! …as the balloon Robert was carrying burst…and she saw the person who had perpetrated this cruel action.

Could it be? “No, that’s not possible; she’s dead”, she thought as she ran to Robert. Carolyn, reached Robert right at the same moment that Charlene did.. Both of them where alive, for years she had lived with regrets that weren’t real, her world was about to change.

Because the helium that was released from Robert’s burst balloon made her voice so squeaky high that she could now sing super-hyper-soprano.

Amid the random, myriad thoughts, the bunny slippers peeping out from under Mr. Jenkins desk jolted her abruptly back into the present.

Bunny slippers, Mr. Jenkins office; what had happened to the day as it was obviously night now and she was alone in his office; alien abduction perhaps?

Carolyn shook her head trying to clear the cobwebs out-what in the world was going on? Has this all been a dream or is it really happening. Confusion took over. She needed to get out, to clear her head. But as she turned her mind saw two men in the shadows, then the same bright light and suddenly it was day and she was in her own bed; or was she?

She pulled back the covers, sat up and shook the cobwebs of sleep from her mind as she went for her bunny slippers, but where were they and where did those muddy footprints come from?

Carolyn felt a cold chill as she realized that the footprints led to the two shadows in the corner–it was Robert and Mr. Jenkins, and they were both dressed in clown suits!

“What are you doing here?”, she called out; “What’s going on?”

She hated clowns, terrified of them since she was a small child because her father dressed for one at her 5th birthday party and screamed so loudly, as he tripped over one of her friends.

Mr. Jenkins replied, “You’re still dreaming. Think real hard and you’ll wake up.” She did and all of a sudden she was awake in her own bed; no clowns or bunny slippers.

She relaxed with the knowledge that heard dear friend Charlene was, in fact, alive. But something was still not quite right.

So she had no other choice but to drop to her knees and pray “Lord, I have no idea what to do or what’s going on. What should I do?” Just then, she felt the Lord was leading her to the one place where everything would be revealed: The deodorant factory where she had witnessed the murder.She had always had a nose for trouble and now she could understand exactly what had been going on.

THE END (At least for now…)

I included links to the people who provided them. If you didn’t leave a link on your comment, to either a blog or Twitter account, or at least your full name, I didn’t assume you wanted credit for helping write this post. I did add a few names who commented frequently here or on my blog. If you added a line and want to be linked here, send me an email and I’ll happily add you. (Or, if you want your name taken out, let me know also.)

Rick Phillips , Jerry Webb, @LemonJazz, Joe Sewell, Lance Morgan, Charles Anderson, Bryan Ruffin, Esther Rennick, Lisa McAuley, Randy Gravitt, Paul Stanley, Ami Dean, and Cheryl Kosec, Felicity Shiro, Lin Pearson, Jon, Kyle Reed, Tom Jamieson,

This was fun…What do you think happens next in Carolyn’s story?

Thanks for playing along…we may try this again sometime.