Just Good Enough Doesn’t Cut It In The Area Of Giving

Photo by Jay Nungesser

In A Hot Pursuit of Excellence

Have you ever discovered something in life that really captures your interest?

Something that consumes your thoughts? Something that drives you to spend more time, energy, and resources on that one thing? That one thing you want to be excellent in above all other things?

When I was a young man, playing the trumpet was my one thing. My parents and I poured our “extra” time, energy, and financial resources into my fledgling music career.

I practiced at least three hours a day. My parents and I travelled across town 45 minutes in each direction in order for me to take trumpet lessons once a week. I played in three different area civic orchestras which not only took rehearsal time to participate in each week, but lots of travel time and personal energy as well.

We spent money on gas getting from one music activity to another. We spent money on lessons. We spent money on music, new trumpets, accessories, and repairs. We spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in a hot pursuit of excellence for me to be the best trumpet player I could be.

Have you ever had one thing that has driven you to attempt to be the best at in this life?

Excellence In Giving

Have you ever considered that God wants us as Christians to be excellent in the area of giving? With that same passion, drive, and energy that we put into our own pursuits, God wants us to put that into giving as well.

In 2 Corinthians 8:7, we read these words written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth:

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

The word excel used in this verse carries with it the idea of abounding or overflowing. Excellence in giving means we aren’t just meeting the minimum requirements. We are going above and beyond the minimum.

Paul tells these Corinthian Christians that they are excellent in a lot of important areas. They are putting in a lot of time, energy, and resources into other areas of their Christian walk – faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love. He reminds them to put that same kind of passion, that same type of enthusiastic energy into the area of giving.

In the eyes of God, good enough doesn’t cut it when it comes to this area of giving.

Questions: So, how about you? Are you excelling in this grace of giving? If not, why not? What do you need to do to start excelling in this area of your life?

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

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.

“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?