Monday, August 22, 2016

Are You Open or Closed? (Your Future Depends On It!)

"I'm about to say something..." my assistant Erika said apprehensively, as if to warn me of something I didn't want to hear. What followed was something she thought I needed to hear for my own good. She was right, but I would have been fine with her telling me long before this conversation we had last week.

"You could have already told me that! Why didn't you speak up sooner?" I said.

She was relieved.


After letting her know I was grateful for the input and was going to change things, I became concerned that maybe there was a deeper issue. I thought maybe Erika thought she couldn't tell me the things I need to hear. So I brought it up again later saying, "Did you not think you could tell me that?" She said she did feel that she could tell me things like this without a problem, but she appreciated the conversation.

Andy Stanley says that leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say. I believe that's true.

An important point to make is that it isn't wise to listen to just anyone. Wrong voices lead to wrong choices. It is prudent to choose well and then listen to those who surround us. If we are wise we will listen not only the people who lead us or those with authority -- but those who work with us and for us.

Erika and I have had some deep conversations about what various people's lives would look like if they were truly open to hearing what about them needs to change. What would a person's potential be if they were willing to hear about any weakness or blind spot without offense? What could their future look like if they stripped themselves of insecurity and pride and allowed someone to speak into their life and then made a change?

I made some significant changes last week due to Erika and another leader in my inner circle speaking into my life. I'm better for it today. My only hope is that next time they tell me sooner so I can listen sooner! What about you?

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Talent Is Never Enough


Yep, this is me. :)
When I was in Bible College music students were required to do juries where we would perform for two or three music professors and receive a grade. I love playing and singing and have done it since I was four years old. But I but dreaded juries. The reason for my disdain was my lack of skill with music theory.  Theory doesn't come naturally to me, but playing by ear is something as natural to me as breathing. Although I've taken lessons over the course of my life, the majority of what I know was learned by ear and watching other musicians and gleaning from them. My earliest experience with learning to play the piano consisted of listening to 33 records of groups like the Happy Goodman Family. Soon I could go up and down the keyboard with ease, but not by looking at a piece of music. This isn't exactly the skill set needed to do a music jury in college. 

I will never forget what happened to me during one of those dreaded juries. I came into the room and played for three professors and realized I was woefully inadequate for the task assigned, although I gave it my best. Moments later, Professor Betty Palma asked me to play something that I would do for church. I did so and was in my sweet spot. But, I knew it wasn't what they were looking for. 

At the end of the song, Professor Palma said to me, "Deanna, you're going to do well in church music. And here's why. You have the skill set to play, particularly in a Pentecostal church service. You are a very talented by ear player.  But more than that -- you never fail to be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there, and on time. You are always properly dressed for the occasion. And, you give your all to whatever you do. You are not the greatest at music theory or classical styles, but all of these other things will make up for what you don't have and you will succeed."

She was right.

I know a plethora of talented people but they aren't going where they want to go with that talent. 

It could be any number of things...

They are rarely if ever on time.

They make a lot of excuses.

They don't realize there is a proper time and place for everything. (i.e. what to wear for the occasion)

They don't understand authority.

They are not teachable.

They are not a team player.

They don't respect the culture of the place where they work/minister.

They lack common sense.

They lack  manners.

They don't give their best to every endeavor.

You might be really talented, but talent is not enough. 

What, if anything is holding you back?  (Hint: It's probably not someone else.)  


Monday, August 08, 2016

Leading From a Deep Well


My assistant Erika was talking to me one day and said:

"I've learned something about you. You lead from a very deep well." 

Her comment gave me pause for thought and  I recognized  a few things I do on a regular basis regarding this that might help someone.

Stay Thirsty

Effective leaders have a thirst for knowledge, wisdom, and improvement. Not a day goes by when I'm not pursuing these three things. It comes in the form of books, podcasts, classes and personal conversation. It's not by happenstance, but by a relentless pursuit. Each day I receive various insights that fill me, however my favorite times are those when I receive so much that it's like a Big Gulp. Those times would be occasions like spending a few hours or a day with a trusted mentor, or attending a leadership conference.

Resist the Urge to Rest in What You Know and What You Do

A leader can become so knowledgeable on a subject they think they know everything there is to know about it. Particularly when you are experiencing extraordinary success in an area, you can start to think it's alright to settle down right where you're at and rest on your laurels. Even if you become the greatest in the world at something, there's still something to learn. (There's a reason Tiger Woods practices as much as he does.)

Last week I was in the Louisville airport and stopped by one of the stores on the way to the gate. There was a book on leadership on one of the shelves, and I spontaneously bought it and read it on the flight home. There are entire shelves of books on leadership in my home and two offices. There are many more than most people would ever think necessary. But many more books  will join those in the future. I'm not settled in what I know about leadership or about anything. There's so much more to explore.  

When I read books I make it a habit to underline, write in the margins and compile lists of takeaways I want to put into practice. One time a very sincere Christian man said something to me at church that I never forgot. "Pastor Deanna," he said, "My wife loves self-improvement books. She has so many of these Christian self-improvement books by all the popular authors, we don't even have a place to put them all. She devours them and can't wait to go out and buy more. But for all those books that she has read over all the many years of our marriage, I can't say that I've ever seen a change in her related to any one of those books. Is that normal?" This man's question caused me to think critically, not about his wife, but about myself!  I sincerely asked myself if I was a woman addicted to reading Christian self-improvement or leadership books - but never applied any of the knowledge from them. Information without application brings no transformation. Reading books doesn't accomplish anything unless you follow up with steps of action.

Drink From the Right Places

Multiple people have offered to provide me with resources, coach or mentor me. But everyone who makes that offer doesn't exemplify who or what I want to follow. I'm not looking to end up where they're at, so receiving from their well isn't the best idea. There are a plethora of resources and people to receive from. Make sure what you're filling up on is going to lead you to where you want to end up. Take advice from people who have actually accomplished what you're trying to do. There are an awful lot of people trying to take people to places they've never been. 

There are only so many people you can realistically be in a relationship with. Choose carefully to end up with a deep well that contains exactly what you want it to be full of to pour out to those around you. 




 Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Five Thoughts I Have at 50

These aren't my only thoughts of course, but a few random ones I had yesterday while on a flight and took time to jot down.

1) I'm really glad I made it to this point. Some people despise growing older but these days my prevailing thought is, "I've made it to this point!!!" From a young age, I had a sense that time was running out.  Even as a child I felt an urgency that there was a small window of time to make a difference in the world. On my Grandma's porch, she had a sign that said, "Only one life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." I try to live every year like it's my last. I make a big deal over my goals (I call them 'Investments') every year. If some people knew they had a year to live, they would quit their job, take all their money and travel the world and relax. Not me. I'll be working hard on many things until the day I go to heaven, whenever that is.

2) I've stopped having anxiety over how long I'm going to be here. I used to be so worried about it.  I would get heart palpitations or break out in a sweat thinking about it.  Then one day my dad said to me, "You will be here as long as God wants you here" and backed it up with a scripture. That was it. I stopped worrying. 

3) The longer I live the more I realize there is that I don't know and the more I try to keep an open mind. Not to a crazy point where I am believing that O.J. is innocent  or that wrestling is real. But yes, an open mind.

4) Compassion grows the older I get. And I have discovered "compassion fatigue" is a real thing. But God is more real.

5) Bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, and all those type of things have no place in the life of a Christian, and they will kill the productiveness of someone trying to do things for God. I need ALL my energy to get done what God has asked me to do. Those sins can sap my strength more than anything. They are so heavy. It really is okay to LET GO and let God decide the outcome. You know what I find out, the more I live life? When I let go, and the other person never makes things right - it seems they eventually go through things that are unexpected and sad. And because I surrendered to God on the matter and prayed for the person -- I find myself actually feeling sorry for them. It surprises me when I begin to feel love and compassion. Try it, I think you'll see I'm right.