Moving From Broken To Superhuman: Your 5-Step Action Plan

Photo by Bindaas Madhavi

Photo by Bindaas Madhavi

My Life Fell Apart

In April of 2009, my life was blasted into a million pieces. I lost my identity as a husband, family man, Christian, and even as an ordained pastor.

I was handed a separation and divorce I simply did not want. I spent hours in prayer. People in my church prayed over me. I tried everything in my power over an 18-month time period to repair a marriage that was hopelessly over. No dice. I lost.

But, out of the ashes of destruction came a new work. New life was reborn out of the rubble of the past. Over time and with God’s help, I began Moving from Broken to Superhuman.

A 5-Step Action Plan

As a result of these incredible life challenges, I stumbled into a 5-Step Action Plan as I worked my way through my brokeness in search of healing. These five steps helped me regain my life perspective. They renewed my faith of what could be possible with God’s help and a lot of hard work.

Over the last several years, I’ve seen many people go through some major life challenges. Some are able to “walk through the fire” and not be consumed. They come out okay, maybe even better on the other side.

Others, though, seem to struggle through their difficulties. They can’t get any traction in their lives. They’re treading water and seem hopelessly stuck.

The great news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

So, how can one person emerge victorious from their problems, and another be stuck with little hope of moving forward? I believe my 5-Step Action Plan can give you the tools to move from defeat to victory.

This little ebook addresses the problems and the accompanying solutions. So, do you want to stay stuck where you are right now, or are you ready to move forward?

3D Book Cover

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If you’re really struggling with difficulties in your life right now, here’s an opportunity for you to learn and grow from my tragic experience. What do you have to lose? A better question: what are you losing out on if you don’t get my FREE ebook?

Question: If you have read my e-book, what did you think? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it. Thanks!

5 Spiritual Lessons On Stuff Management From A Busted iPod

Photo by DaveOnFlickr

Photo by DaveOnFlickr

My Daughter’s Story

My number two daughter (who shall remain nameless) recently received an iPod 4 touch as a special gift. She has been wanting this particular model for some time now and has been pretty persistent with her asking. She gave me all the special features she wanted, even the color. “Girls have to have a white iPod. You do know this, right daddy?”

A couple of months ago, my daughter’s piano teacher and I made a deal with her: if she could finish out her current piano lesson book within a certain time frame, then her daddy would buy her the iPod 4 she wanted. That’s a pretty sweet deal for her. Well, she did end up finishing her lesson book in record time. So, on a Monday evening, immediately after finishing her piano lesson and accomplishing the goal, daddy and daughter went to one of the big box stores down the street and found the exact model and color she wanted.

As we finished making that purchase, I congratulated my daughter for her accomplishment, and then I proceeded to inform her that as the owner of the new iPod, she was now responsible for it. She needed to handle it carefully and not damage it. And, if it did become damaged, then she would need to figure out a way to pay for the repairs. “Oh yes, daddy. I know. I’ll be careful with it.”

Exactly two weeks to the day of purchase, my daughter came and found me in the house. Her head was hung low, as if she had just lost her best friend. She eked out, “Daddy, I busted my iPod.” Apparently, she had dropped it outside on our concrete driveway, and this drop cracked the glass screen. Obviously, after having my little talk with her exactly two weeks prior, I wasn’t too impressed. As gently and calmly as I could, I reminded her of that conversation. The iPod was now her responsibility. If she wanted the screen fixed, then she would need to figure out a way to earn the money for the repair bill.

I am sticking to my guns on this one, too. There are life lessons to be learned here.

So, the other day, as I was reviewing this whole busted iPod scenario in my mind, I realized that this story has several great stewardship lessons for all of us who are Christ followers.

5 Spiritual Lessons On The Stewardship Of Stuff

  1. God loves us and wants us to have good things. See Matthew 7:11 and 1 Timothy 6:17. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you can relate to my iPod story. You love your kids. You want them to have nice stuff. You occasionally reward them with special, even expensive gifts, simply because you love them. The same is true with God. He is our Heavenly Father. He delights in giving us great things. He is a good God.
  2. God expects us to be good managers of the good things He does give to us. See Luke 16:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 4:2. When I bought my daughter her iPod, I laid out the expectations. I expected her to take care of this expensive gift. Technically, God owns everything. The stuff He does allow us to use, even the good stuff, He has expectations that we will take good care of it for Him. We need to manage His property, well.
  3. God is disappointed when we mismanage His gifts. See Matthew 18:32-34. I was extremely disappointed when my daughter came back to me with the report on the busted iPod screen. As a dad of two preteens, though, I do understand that accidents happen. Our Heavenly Father delights in good stewardship. He is disappointed in us in times of mismanagement. He also understands, though, that we are sinful human beings, and that we will mess up from time to time because we are imperfect.
  4. There are consequences for our mismanagement. See Matthew 25:26-30. When I first bought my daughter the iPod, I laid out the expectations and consequences from the very beginning: “ … you are now responsible for it. You need to handle it carefully and not damage it. And, if it does become damaged, then you will need to figure out a way to pay for the repairs.” After she damaged the iPod, I gently reminded her of that conversation. There are natural consequences to mismanagement, even so-called accidents. So too in life, there will be natural consequences for our mismanagement of God’s stuff.
  5. God extends grace and forgiveness in spite of our failures. See Romans 9:15-16. Did a broken iPod change my relationship with my daughter? No way! I still love her to pieces. She is my daughter and always will be. Does the same level of trust exist between us? Not so much. The same is true of God. If we are truly His children, then He loves us no matter what, even when we screw things up. Does the same level of trust exist for God? No, and I would say there’s an excellent chance that He will test us, again. He will check to see if we have learned our lesson in managing His stuff, well.

And then, this entire 5-point cycle will begin, once again …

Questions: Have you been a good manager of all the good stuff God has given you: your family, financial resources, cars, homes, talents, and special abilities? If not, why not? Have you suffered any consequences for that mismanagement? Will you be able to pass your next management test? Have you finally learned your lesson?

Leveraging The Power Of Systems For A Successful Life Or Organization

Photo by Aristocrat

Photo by Aristocrat

What Are Systems?

What does Prestonwood Church, the human body, the United States Government, Apple, Inc., and even the Starship Enterprise all have in common? They are all composed of numerous systems.

When I speak of systems in this post, I am primarily defining these as coordinated methods, plans, schemes, or procedures.

For a comprehensive definition of systems check out Dictionary.com.

Systems often share common characteristics, including [Source: Wikipedia]:

  • A system has structure, it contains parts (or components) that are directly or indirectly related to each other;
  • A system has behavior, it contains processes that transform inputs into outputs (material, energy or data);
  • A system has interconnectivity: the parts and processes are connected by structural and/or behavioral relationships.
  • A system’s structure and behavior may be decomposed via subsystems and sub-processes to elementary parts – and process steps.

Systems Are All Around Us

Systems are everywhere. Some are the natural creation of God. Some are the invention of man. In the end, though, we couldn’t survive without them. Here are some real-life examples.

Human Body: God has created our physical bodies with their own unique systems – nervous, respiratory, digestive, muscular, skeletal, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive.

Transportation: our streets and highways have clearly defined rules and systems in place that include signage, stop lights, right of way, vehicle speeds, highway entrances and exits, and so on.

Government: city, county, state, and federal each have their own unique, established systems. For example, our federal government is composed of three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. And, within each branch of government, there are organizational sub-systems in place in order to maintain as smoothly a flowing government as possible.

Business: businesses are composed of numerous systems including customer service, lead generation, purchasing, hiring, shipping, accounting, payroll, collections, and custodial.

Why Systems?

Well running systems are important to the health, vitality, safety, and growth for both individuals and organizations.

Consider your own physical body systems that I referenced above. Each system works independently and interdependently. If just one of these systems is functioning improperly, it impacts the other systems in some way. For example, the urinary system removes waste from the body. If this one, seemingly small system is not functioning properly, waste builds up in the human body and begins to shut down the other major body systems. Not good.

Also, consider the most successful organizations. Why are they so successful? Why do they run so smoothly and run large profits? Because they have incredible CEO’s? Yes, leadership is important. But, the greatest organizations have established great systems that propel the organization forward, even in the absence of the best leaders.

Show me any thriving, energetic, growing, productive person, family, business, or organization, and we should be able to uncover multiple, excellent systems in place. Great systems running in the background of our personal and professional lives simply and efficiently allow this to take place.

Got Systems?

How about you? Do you have systems set-up in your personal life? Do you have established systems in your work environment? If you lead an organization, have you ever given much thought to your current systems? Who put them in place? Were these intentional or purely accidental systems that evolved over time?

After reading this post, take this opportunity to evaluate your personal, business, and organizational systems. Perform a whole systems audit. What’s working great right now? What systems could use an overhaul?

It probably seems like a lot of work on the front end, but the end results will be worth that hard work. Take the time now to fix or create systems to propel your life and work from okay to awesome.

A Recent Post Featured Today Over At XPastor.org | 14 Leadership Lessons

XPastorSeveral weeks ago, I wrote a blog post 14 Practical Leadership Lessons I Have Learned From Being An Orchestra Conductor.

This post has gained considerable attention and traffic since that time. It’s my #1 most-read blog post to date.

Dr. David Fletcher, founder of XPastor.org, happened to read the article at that time and asked me if he could use it on his site.

So, this morning, that particular post has gone live. You can check it out and re-read my article here at XPastor: 14 Leadership Lessons … 

Thanks to David and his team for utilizing my post!

“Second Chair” Leadership | How To Lead Well In A Secondary Leadership Role

Photo by randomcuriousity

Photo by randomcuriousity

Uniquely Qualified

I’ve been somebody’s “#2 guy” for the majority of my career. I’ve been someone’s Commander Riker to their Captain Picard for almost 20 years. And, yes, I realize I’m dating myself with this analogy. Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of my favorite TV shows from the early 1990s.

My first major experience in a secondary role came during my high school and college days. During this time, I often had the privilege of playing second trumpet to strong first trumpet player personalities. In fact, I was so good at being a second trumpet player in college that I gained the attention of a hot-shot doctoral candidate who ended up forming a brass quintet down in South Florida. He enjoyed my attention to detail in following his lead, so he asked me to move down to Florida to play in his quintet.

My second and current major experience in the number two role includes holding the role of associate music minister. I’ve had the opportunity to hold two positions at two large churches under the leadership of two strong music ministers.

As a result of these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about secondary leadership roles.

Why Is The Second Chair So Special?

The number two position is unique because it requires a continuous leadership dance. There are times when you have zero authority. You are doing everything your boss wants, no questions asked.

Then, there may be times when the boss is out of commission (vacations, health problems, etc.) and you assume full authority. You call all the shots. You make the difficult decisions [Just think: Captain Picard is turned into a Borg and Commander Riker now becomes Captain Riker].

During the majority of the time, though, there is a give and take of leadership. Your boss may hand off the baton for you to lead, and then he may reel you back in and take the baton from you. Your leadership role may vary depending on project circumstances.

For those of us as second chair leaders, though, the consistent, daily action is a continuous evaluation of our leadership position. We are always asking ourselves the question, “are we currently in a position of leadership or are we supposed to be following right now?”

5 Thoughts On Playing Second Chair

  1. Always praise your boss. Publicly and privately, say nothing but great stuff about your boss. You may or may not always agree with everything he says and does. That’s okay and it really doesn’t matter. He’s the boss and you play a supporting role to him. Give him the respect that he deserves.
  2. Understand how to “ride in the boss’s wake.” This is difficult to explain if you’ve never truly led in a secondary role. If you’re a musician, then you will probably understand what I’m about to write here. When I play second trumpet to a strong first trumpet player, I’m constantly following their lead. I’m listening for their volume, pitch, articulations, phrasing, and more. I’m attempting to match and complement how they are performing. And, I do something similar in following the leadership of my bosses. I’m always asking myself, “how can I match and complement their performance?”
  3. Ask the right questions in the right way. There will be times when you don’t agree with your boss’s leadership or decisions. Depending on the situation and circumstances, you may or may not feel the need to “put yourself out there” to discuss disagreements. But, whenever you do feel the need to talk through a decision, always be sure to do this respectfully, behind closed doors.
  4. Always defer to your boss’s leadership, unless you have been clearly handed the leadership baton. In the leadership dance, if you’re not exactly sure who is in charge at a particular point in time, then always submit to your boss.
  5. When you have been handed the leadership baton, don’t be afraid to lead with excellence. Just because you’re now in the head leadership position doesn’t mean that your leadership needs to be inferior to your boss’s leadership. In fact, I’ve always attempted to make sure there was a zero perceptible dip in excellence, quality, or leadership ability when handed the baton. The mission of the organization must continue with excellence, whoever is in charge.

Questions: How about you? Do you play a secondary leadership role? Can you relate to my thoughts and personal experience? Do you have any thoughts to add to my list?

5 Strategies To Develop Your Volunteer Teams

Photo by mtsofan

Photo by mtsofan

Volunteer Development

In a normal work environment, employees are routinely and strategically developed in their professional growth. While most employees typically understand the necessity for their own proactive, self-motivated development, I’m not quite as confident that volunteers always have the same view of their individual role within an organization. Of course, volunteer development is strictly based on the type of task that needs to be performed.

For example, if you’re volunteering to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen, then a minimum of training is required (i.e. stand here and scoop these potatoes onto each plate). If you’re volunteering to teach a 5th grade boys Sunday School class at church, then I can see the potential for training in the areas of teaching, discipline, classroom management, and so on. Every volunteer position will vary in difficulty and training required to accomplish the task.

I believe the majority of volunteers show up to fill a spot. They can see and understand that there is a need. Then, they step up to meet the perceived need. I’m not always sure, though, that they understand the training and development necessary to perform their role.

If you are a leader of volunteers, then you need to passionately guide volunteers in their personal growth and development. Here are some strategies I have found useful in leading my volunteer groups.

5 Strategies For Your Volunteer Development Arsenal

  1. Model Superstardom: if you want your volunteer group to perform at an amazingly high level, then your own personal performance has to be at the extreme high-end of your own expectations. The groups that you lead will not typically rise past your own level and ability as the leader. If you desire for them to be superstars, then you need to be a superstar performer yourself, first. “You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself. “ – Gene Mauch
  2. The 5-Minute Motivational Speech: no, this isn’t shades of Matt Foley (“… living in a van, down by the river” stuff). This is actually a quasi-newer addition for me in my development arsenal. So far, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from my volunteers. They view it as spiritual devotional at the beginning of our time together. I actually view it as a way to teach and motivate my volunteers each week. Either way you view it, though, it works well as a connecting and teaching opportunity.
  3. Print and digital newsletter: for 16 years, I have done several motivational activities within the context of print media. For my own volunteer organization, we utilize a print newsletter and digital pdf version that we email out each week. Within each publication, I typically utilize these two articles to subtly and consistently develop my team. The Quote of the Week: at the top my weekly newsletter, I attempt to include a motivational and encouraging quote. You know you’ve hit a home run on a quote when members take that quote and put it up on Facebook after reading it! Note from Larry (or Note from the Leader): in this section of the newsletter, I always try to be an encourager of their successes and grateful for their commitment to the mission and vision.
  4. Workshops: whenever possible, we schedule small workshops to assist in the development of our volunteers. We occasionally will also go off site for larger workshops and conferences.
  5. Books: there have been a few occasions when I have utilized short books with smaller groups of leaders. Books are always great tools to learn and grow, even in the context of a small group. You can read through them together and have group discussions regarding what you’re learning.

Questions: Are you a leader of volunteers? Do you use any of these five strategies and have they been effective with your teams? What other strategies have you utilized and how effective have they been?