Be an Investor in the Change You Want to See Happen

2017-08-01 Sandi 1

Sandi and Jamar discuss his business plan

Who wants to pay less taxes for Welfare, Medicaid, and housing the incarcerated? Who wants less crime and fear of crime? Who wants to pay less in insurance premiums, because claims are down?  I bet everyone said “yes” to those three questions. Wait, there’s more! I’ve only listed the savings.

2017-08-01 Darin 2

Darin giving Andrea feedback on his plan

Who wants to add taxpayers to the economic base?  Who wants to see dignity restored?  Who wants to see families reunited and thriving?  These results are the opportunities for growth.  If any of this sounds attractive, I’d ask you to consider an investment in a business called the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), which might return the highest ROI in your outreach portfolio.  As a savvy investor, I’ve been pleased with its performance over the last 4 years. Recidivism rates for the general prison population exceed 50% after three years post-release, yet PEP graduates boast less than 7%.

2017-08-01 Sandi 3

Sandi sharing ministry information with Leo

My portfolio strategy is to build equity in our society by investing my money and time in PEP men who are committed to turn their lives around and give back to their families and communities.  PEP is the catalyst and the full-time partner to these men who work through the intensive, character development leadership academy, followed by business skill development and business plan competition for the coveted prize of bragging rights.  The program culminates with graduates walking across the stage in cap and gown to accept a diploma certificate from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Although PEP business volunteers enter prison to teach and encourage these men, I walk away from each event inspired by their hard work, dedication, and personal growth month after month. Surprisingly, it’s not all about business. Many of these men ask me about my mission ministry and explain how they plan to bless others with the profits from their businesses.  Statistics show over 78 new businesses have been formed by PEP graduates upon their release, with more than six reporting $1,000,000 in annual revenue.  For five consecutive years, PEP has reported 100% employment for program participants within 90 days of release.

Get Into JailPEP has so many ways for the business leader to invest their time and resources: work side-by-side these men in prison while they refine their plans, be a business advisor, host a transition house dinner, teach at e-School, and hire the services of a PEP graduate/business owner.

If you are interested in learning more, I would love to spend the day with you in prison and can get you a “Get into Jail FREE” card.  I have connections!  I guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience, will make friends with other business executives, and be richly rewarded with a personal handwritten thank you card from the men you coach. These men need mentors and role models of servant leaders.  Will you be that leader? If PEP does not speak to your heart or talents, I encourage you to seek out and invest your treasure in whatever change you want to see happen—be that servant leader.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all its employees.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

The Impact of a Simple Thank You Letter

Sandra Dillon: July 22, 2017


pen and paper 1In December 2011, I started an annual tradition to select at least three people who had the most influence on my life that year and to write them a hand-written thank-you letter explaining why they had such an impact.  That year, one of my chosen few was Anthony Spagnoletti, who is the owner of an auto body repair shop in The Woodlands, Texas, who brought me to Christ.  On a Friday afternoon, in June 2011, Anthony changed my life by shooing away his employees and handing off his customers to spend two hours talking to be about God and providing answers to my questions about unexplainable events that were happening in my life.  When I left his office that day, all Anthony knew for sure was that he had sacrificed several hours of his valuable time to have serious conversation about God with a woman whom he had just met hours before.

I never had any contact with Anthony after I left his body shop until he received my letter in December.  Actually, I assumed he received it and hoped that I would hear from him again, even if it was just a thank you for the thank you.  No word!  In April 2012 while driving back home from a weekend in Austin, an email appeared on my iPhone which began with “This letter is long overdue…”  Anthony wanted to let me know that my thank-you letter had made an incredible impact on him and come just at the right time.  He was questioning God and his purpose, and my letter affirmed everything he knew God to be and why he was put on this earth.  I changed Anthony’s life that day with my simple thank-you note.

Wow!  I assumed Anthony would enjoy hearing that his two hours spent with me was worth the investment.  That long-ago Friday night, I thought about everything that we had talked about.  I then slept on it, and the next morning while lying in bed, I prayed “The Prayer” and asked Jesus to be my personal savior.  The Holy Spirit came in a way I cannot explain, and my life was changed forever.  I wanted to thank Anthony for giving me that gift.  What I could not have imagined was that I gave him an almost equal gift in return through the simple gesture of writing a hand-written thank-you note.

I wanted to share this story and encourage you to think about those people in your life who have made a difference.  Next, take the time to write and express your gratitude.  If they left an edible mark on your life, do they not deserve that little bit of your time to put your thanks on paper?  You never know what impact you might make on them in return!

There is a post-script to this story which shows how the impact can live on!  In July 2017, my husband, Darin, returned to Anthony’s body shop to get his rear bumper replaced. Over the course of some chit-chat, Anthony told Darin that my letter sits safely tucked in the Bible he reads every day.  He shared that this letter is the best gift he ever received. My note of thanks is not a one-hit wonder but a lasting legacy for one Godly man. Knowing that my letter continues to have a daily impact inspires me to continue writing those annual thank-you letters and encourage others to do the same.


 

The Lenses of Leadership

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Global Leadership Summit 2016

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  How does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change.  When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you are not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it is the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you will be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that s/he cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does a leader get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget, as they strive for results, is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader both coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be? The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose, which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving those goals.   This correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church, with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  How can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let us break a myth held by some leaders, which is that people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback, if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  It is essentially cruel not to provide goals and give feedback.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals, you will not have clarity.  Entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you have left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers? What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over?  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short Scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Regardless of your religious background, your profession, or your family status, everyone of us is a leader. Global Leadership Summit is a golden ticket for some of the best leadership perspectives, insights, and best practices to become a better leader.  If you get 5% better as a leader by investing two days at GLS, is it not worth it?  GLS will be hosted on August 10-11, 2017 at over 600 locations nationwide.  Visit https://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership to learn more.

Leaders Are Servants


The Essence of Global Leadership Summit (GLS)

How do you summarize the information and inspiration that are captured and released upon those who come to Willow Creek Church (WCC) in Barrington, Illinois, for the annual Global Leadership Summit (www.willowcreekglobalsummit.com) or on those who choose to spend two days in a church, prison or other venue across the United States and Canada to soak in the wisdom and blessings via satellite streaming?  I struggle with how to convey the power of GLS to transform your thoughts, thinking, and behaviors towards becoming a better leader.  As Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, passionately loves to say, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”  My response is, “Amen! I want to hear more.”

IMG_0340For those who may never have heard of GLS, let me briefly describe the value of this annual two-day personal investment of your time?  In a nutshell, GLS brings together leaders, who are moving forward, learning, struggling, and succeeding in their fields of leadership, who have a servant heart, and who desire to share with the world their knowledge, so people can become better at leading themselves, their families, colleagues, and their communities.  As such the speakers come from diverse backgrounds and cover leadership in faith-based organizations, political arenas, businesses, and other non-profit government organizations (NGO). There is something for everyone.  The messages transcend religion, culture, and lifestyles.

Past leaders whose names you probably recognize include Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Ed Catmull, Brene Brown, Tyler Perry, Carly Fiorina, Louie Giglio, General Colin Powell, Mark Burnett, and Condoleezza Rice. Many other speakers, who may not be as well-known as CEOs and celebrities, were just as impactful in their research findings and areas of expertise.  GLS 2016 did not disappoint and included some new and returning favorite speakers advancing new topics.  This year’s lineup included Bill Hybels, Alan Mulally, Melinda Gates, Jossy Chacko, Travis Bradberry, Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Erin Meyer, John Maxwell, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Danielle Strickland, Horst Schulze, and Wilfredo De Jesus.

In order to give you a taste of GLS, I have summarized and provided commentary on one key message shared by Bill Hybels.

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  How does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change.  When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you are not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it is the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you will be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that s/he cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does a leader get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget, as they strive for results, is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader both coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be?  The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose, which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving those goals.   This correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church, with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  How can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let us break a myth held by some leaders, which is that people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback, if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  It is essentially cruel not to provide goals and give feedback.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals, you will not have clarity.  Entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you have left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers?  What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over?  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short Scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Regardless of your religious background, your profession, or your family status, everyone of us is a leader. Global Leadership Summit is a golden ticket for some of the best leadership perspectives, insights, and best practices to become a better leader.  If you get 5% better as a leader by investing two days at GLS, is it not worth it?  GLS will be hosted on August 10-11, 2017 at over 600 locations nationwide.  Visit https://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership to learn more.

Reclaim Your Life by Creating Healthy Boundaries

Create Healthy BoundariesDo you feel less joy these days?  Does it feel like everyone else owns a piece of you and there is nothing left?  Do you dream to have 15 minutes of uninterrupted time so you can reconnect with yourself?  Is your life a harried record of accomplishments and yet never-ending to-do lists? Would your personal profile be listed in the dictionary under the word “busyness”?  You may sadly chuckle and infer these questions are tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that an answer of “yes” to any of these questions is a sobering reminder of how stressed and anxiety-ridden many are as they run, not walk, on the treadmill of American life.  Unfortunately, the solution is not as easy as advertised by the late 1980’s commercial “Calgon, take me away!” in which a woman, surrounded by a chaotic home, says these four words and is then transported to a relaxing bath in a quiet room.  If only the solution could be solved so simply by the purchase of a few bath products and an evening soaking in the tub.

What’s the solution?

The solution is within your power to implement.  Personal boundaries!  They are the critical component in designing the life you want.  “Boundaries provide the structure to your character that will make everything else work” (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries affect how we relate to others, how we feel emotionally, and how we perform at work.  When you understand the impact of boundaries and choose to define them for your life, you will reconnect with your identity, find more joy, and create a healthier and more satisfying life.  The necessity of personal boundaries has emerged as a counter force to the crisis that has developed from an increasingly structureless society that values the integration of work-life, despite the rhetoric that we need to have more of a work-life balance.  American culture and work have eroded the time and space boundaries we need to focus on the priorities we value most.

How did we get here?

So how did we get to this place of exhaustion and dissatisfaction?  Work structure has changed from the typical 9 to 5 hours of operation to one in which we are to be available 24-7, where working in the evenings is just an extension of the normal work day.  Work has penetrated our home space by either design or creep.  Bortolot (2015) states that the home office is now one of the most important residential amenities.  Even if one can physically separate his work environment within the home, he may not be able to mentally escape work.  How many of you have tried to relax in the evening, only to feel the nag of work penetrating your thoughts?  Do you compromise by opening up your laptop while watching your favorite TV sitcom?  Although society praises the multi-tasker, they are usually pulled in so many directions, they struggle to enjoy anything other than the satisfaction that comes from crossing off more items on their to-do list.  Keim (2012) showed that high multi-taskers performed poorly at filtering irrelevant from relevant information, had diminished ability to mentally organize, and experienced difficulty in switching between tasks.  Keim (2012) concluded if you do two things simultaneously, you will not do any of them at full capacity.

Although our lives have all benefited from technology, the tragedy is that it has also enabled the violation of our time and space boundaries.  Personal cell phones allow access to you at all times.  iPhones and computers give instant access to data and connectivity to work.  Email has expanded our network so strangers can now reach into our personal world.  Although email was initially described as a productivity enhancement, anyone with an email address is now accessible at any time by any one.  Email and voicemail can be blessings, but without personal boundaries, you may feel email is a curse because of the pressure to respond to communication, even if unsolicited.  By definition most people are losing control over their most precious resource—their time.  Money can be earned, won, spent and lost, but time is a finite resource.

TolerateBoundaries help us define who we are and form a structure in our lives that allows us to regain control (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries protect your time, space, and relationships so that you can positively influence your world. Our society does not naturally provide the support that helps us to create and live out healthy boundaries.   Cloud (2008) asserts that “the irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control—other people, circumstances, or outcomes—that in the process they lose control of themselves” (p. 21).  The only thing you can control is yourself, so consider the decision to take control of you.

How do I reclaim my life?

  • Understand what a boundary is and what it does

A boundary is a demarcation of where you end and where someone or something else begins.  Boundaries define ownership and who controls what does and does not go on in that space.  More importantly boundaries define who is responsible for and accountable to protect that space.

  • Understand what boundaries provide and how they serve your needs

Boundaries provide the structure that helps to define our character and personality, because they describe who we are, what we want, and how we feel and think.  Clear boundaries provide security and benefit self and others, because they are not ambiguous, are predictable, and signal what we will and will not tolerate. They help to contain chaos, because one who is clear on boundaries will step in to make sure chaos is effectively dealt with.

  • Define what you feel, think, and desire

Boundaries differentiate us from others and teach us how we are unique individuals in feelings, attitudes, behaviors, limits, thoughts, and choices.  What are the things that you value most in life?  How would you ideally want to live your life?  What do you want to make a priority?  What are your vision, mission, and goals?

  • Identify the holes in your boundaries

Rebuilding boundaries is about reclaiming your power.  Power drains have numerous sources as described by Cloud (2008): need for security, need for approval, need to be perfect, need to have others see you as ideal, need to overidentify with other people’s problems, need to rescue, fear of being alone, fear of conflict, need for harmony, fear of differing opinions, fear of anger, fear of feeling inferior, fear of someone’s power, inability to say no, inability to hear no or accept limits, inability to tolerate failure of others, hero worship, lack of internal structure, and dependency to name a few.  You should identify the holes in your boundaries and address them.

  • Communicate who you are to others

Set limits consistent with your vision, mission, values, and goals and communicate them to others.  You empower others by allowing them to decide and live with the consequences defined by your boundaries.  By default, you will no longer try to control others’ decisions and actions, because you can live with the outcome of whatever decision they make. Communicating and living within your boundaries is a form of respecting others and also provides a healthy model for them to emulate.

  • Act on your boundaries

Live each day in accordance with your boundaries.  When you are in control of your boundaries, you become a more integrated person, gain greater respect for yourself, and become more respectful of other people’s boundaries.  Boundaries allow you to influence others’ behaviors toward you, which by default makes you feel whole and more in control.

What is the cost of boundaries?

Having boundaries comes comes with a personal cost.  In order to have full control, you need to have the freedom to control those aspects of your life where you have boundaries. You can only leverage them if you are not dependent on any single person or entity for survival, because the one to whom you are dependent may decide to invoke their boundaries and put you in an untenable position.  As you work on defining your personal boundaries and areas of weakness, you should also take inventory of your life to understand where you have weak capital.  Has poor financial stewardship put you in a position that you could not weather a job lose for several months should you decide to invoke your boundaries?  Would a work dismissal cause you undue hardship?  If so, you may need to save for an emergency fund to build that capital.  What about the young adult, still living rent-free with his parents, who does not like his imposed curfew?  He is not free to come and go as he pleases as a fully functioning adult, because he may be asked to pack up his belongings and move out.  His first step should be to build his financial capital so he can either re-negotiate rent for more freedom or secure other living arrangements.  Before invoking boundaries, you must end any dependency and be able to live with the boundaries that any other individual may choose to impose on you.

CAUTION:  Establishing boundaries for the first time may come with some emotionally charged responses from others in your life.  You may likely find that those people who have boundaries respect you more, and those people who do not live with boundaries will resort to behaviors that will test the strength of yours.  Think of the parent who has told his toddler no.  Toddlers use the word no to try to establish their boundaries.  When they do not get their way, they step up with more emotional persuasion.  Next may come yelling, screaming, and possibly throwing things to get their way.  They may fall on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.  They may say, “I hate you,” as a means of hurting you into giving in.  When you are firm on your boundaries for long enough, a toddler will eventually wear themselves out and move on.   You may have to repeat this cycle a few times; however, when a toddler knows his parent is firm on a boundary, compliance prevails in the long run.  This same principle also holds true for family, friends, or work relationships.

References

Bortolot, L. (2015). Four trends in home office design. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248061

Cloud, H. (2008). The one-life solution: Reclaim your personal life while achieving greater professional success. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Keim, B. (2012).  Is multitasking bad for us? Nova Science. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a life, premarital/marriage, and business coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.

What can you can learn about church in a parking lot?


Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s 2017 El Salvador Mission Journal


March 6, 2017

How many of you have hung out with the homeless?  Serving and eating a meal with them?  Fellowshipping and praising God with them?  Well, Kate and Nate Stal gave Darin and me the opportunity to walk into their ministry by helping set up Motel Church this Sunday in the parking lot of an old strip mall on FM 1960.  Many homeless live next to the “Motel” or the old Century 21 building nearby.  Because Motel Church has had to flex where they set up on the first Sunday of the month, they have kiddingly dubbed this church the Parking Lot Church.

So how does Motel Church have any connection with our upcoming mission trip to El Salvador?  God is always creative in how he speaks into my life.  As I wrote in the last journal entry, God wrote the first book that culminated with the design and launch of World Changers on Mission (WCoM).  I wrestled with whether God would start a second book in the series, and if so, I questioned how a repeat mission trip to El Salvador with LWI would begin the first chapter.  I believe I have an inkling on what God might be scripting based on what He showed me during our two hours in church.  Before I unpack His message, I want to share with you my experience as contextual background.

Motel Church entered my personal world when Matt and Holly Smith invited Kate and Nate Stal to a World Changers on Mission meeting.  Darin and I specifically wanted to hear more about the call that God had put on Kate’s heart—bringing church to the homeless.  After hearing her stories over dinner, we decided to step into Kate’s world.  Kate’s passion was contagious, and we wanted to provide support to someone who was making personal sacrifices to follow God’s call.  Rain or shine, Motel Church was holding service.

Motel Church 1We met in the parking lot of a dilapidated but functioning strip mall which sat next to the motel where some of the homeless were staying.  You might call this motel a flophouse.  Other homeless church members had been living at an abandoned Century 21 building, but recently a fence had been installed around the property to prevent squatters.  When we arrived at the strip mall, the parking lot was sporadically full with parked cars owned by those who were attending either one of two small churches located inside.  The only sufficient parking area to set up tables was near the dumpster, which adjoined another building open for business.  Kate was nervous to set up the church so close to the business in the event the owners decided to call the cops. What an awful feeling to think we could not hold church because of the fear of prosecution.

After the business owner gave us his blessing, we waited for Nate to arrive with supplies and food, so we could set up church.  Kate knew many of the homeless members, so we engaged in conversation.  Darin and I offered them drinks from our cooler, and we arranged tables, chairs, and placed Biblical resources on the tables.  What I loved was how some of the homeless men helped.  Kate did not know how many members would come to church because of the looming threat of rain and the fact that some had dispersed when the fence went up around the Century 21 building.   Previously, they had as many as 30 attend this small Parking Lot Church.  From my perspective, the numbers did not matter!  God would bring the perfect number!  As several more church members arrived, the volunteers started to serve plates of home-cooked food.

Motel Church 2As we broke bread together, I was intrigued by the stories shared by James and Amy, a husband and wife, who lived in the woods behind the motel in a 3-bedroom tent.  They had previously owned a much larger tent but had to downsize to a smaller one for some undisclosed reason.  Before they could share more, dark clouds opened their flood gates, so we picked up the tables, chairs, and food and moved them under the shallow protective overhang that provided a sheltered walkway for the storefronts.  We traded in our chairs and tables to sit on concrete planter boxes with plates on our laps.  A few more folks arrived.  Darin and I happened to strike up a conversation with Miss Karen, a woman in her 60’s, who had on a McDonald’s employee uniform.  She lived in Greenspoint and took a bus to the stop in front of the strip mall, so she could then walk across the street to the McDonald’s where she worked.  When she got off the bus, Miss Karen saw our church, was intrigued, and eventually came over to find out more.  I asked her if she lived in Houston all her life, and after saying she was originally from Louisiana, she started to pull out old photos from a Ziploc bag.  Some photos were over 50 years old and showed herself and her twin sister when they were young.  She and her twin were separated at 9 years, when they went into the foster care system.  She never saw her sister until she decided to search for her as an adult.  This search brought her to Houston many years before.  Miss Karen’s story was painful to hear, yet she spoke of it as if she expected nothing less of life.  What was amazing is how she carried her most prized positions with her—these photo memories.

Jason started our church service with the third chapter in the book of James.  What I loved was how everyone participated.  Chris, one of the homeless church members who would not partake of any of the food, read some of the verses.  Although Jason led the sermon, many people participated in the Scriptural discussion, vulnerably sharing their own testimonies.  A youth worship team, who cancelled a few days before, left us without a praise and worship agenda.  However, that did not stop one of the homeless men, who was enthralled with the message of James 3, to put his plate aside, rise, take the mic, and sing A Cappella about how God’s not dead.  These few stories provide just a flavoring of what it was like to worship with Motel Church.  God kept nudging me with thoughts of Motel Church and El Salvador.  What do you want me to see, God?

God whispered that this is how he meant us to church.  I like to refer to it as a virtual church.  Matthew 18:20 describes church in its simplest version “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (ESV).  Motel Church was beautiful, because it reflected church in its simplest design.  A church is not a building but the gathering of those who are united in belief.  Recently, God has been tugging on my heart to re-read the Book of Acts, which describes the formation of the early church after Jesus ascended into heaven to be with the Father.  As described in Acts 2:46-47, “…breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people…” (NASB).

I have walked in severe material poverty in third world countries, but surprisingly not spent the same amount of time in similar poverty situations in my own country. On a relative scale, you might consider the American homeless as one of our more extreme poverty populations.  I found it strange how two active churches in the same strip mall were holding services, yet the homeless were not or did not feel welcome.  Walls can create boundaries that separate and protect those who are behind closed doors.  Are our church walls creating boundaries that separate the body of Christ?  On the other hand, does the concept of a virtual church help prevent the slow and insidious behaviors of putting up walls of exclusion?  What resonated with me was how active and participatory church could be in the virtual.  Everyone was free to contribute and participate.  In comparison, a church with four walls tends toward passive participation where the congregation sits and is fed from a pastor.

On our last trip to El Salvador, God told me that every one of us is equipped in some way where we stand, regardless of the newness of our faith.  Jason was equipped to lead the sermon, and many of the homeless felt equipped to read from the Bible and contribute their testimonies and views.  WCoM speaks to how church, business, and mission are integrated with connectivity, dignity, and the knowledge and faith that one is equipped.  I have a feeling that God wants to show me a vision of church and has tied an element of this message with our mission trip to El Salvador.  Perhaps the next book will speak to what the church should look like, how it should operate, and what it was intended to achieve.  I am reminded of the Book of Revelation, where a unique message was delivered to each of the seven early churches.  Each letter defined for the church how it was viewed through God’s eyes, a challenge or reproach, and a promise.  In today’s climate of conflict and judgment, providing an environment where people from all walks of life can come together to share in the common bond of the love of Christ is one of the best strategies that I know of to grow the church.  Only seven short months before mission departure!  A lot can happen in seven months!

The Treasure Map in Navigating Business Cultures


How many times have you wondered whether the person you were talking with really grasped the meaning of your message as well as its intent?  What was your response?  Did you summarize your point again with the hope that this time they would get your message? Do you look for validation that you have been heard correctly? What does it mean when people just politely listen, say nothing, and gently nod their heads while you speak?  The answer?  It depends on the environment in which the person was culturized.

In this globally-based workforce with intertwined business relationships, the most effective and successful leaders will be culturally savvy.  They will first understand their culture, the culture of those with whom they work, and adjust their style with specific strategies to bridge these cultural gaps.  Although technology will continue to be an important element shaping the business landscape, those who understand how to successfully influence people across cultures will be valued and highly sought after by companies.

Early in my career, I experienced firsthand being part of American business teams who left negotiations with Asian companies, either questioning how well the meeting went or being overly confident in the outcome based on their own cultural lenses.  Only when we returned home to the United States did we learn that we had not made as much progress as thought.  How can a team or even an experienced and talented business person successfully navigate these international waters?

culture-map-book-coverThe answer lies in reading the treasure map of cultural behaviors, which Erin Meyer spoke about at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit (GLS) at Willow Creek Church.  Meyer (2014) has studied business cultures and seen “the sad truth…that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work” (Meyer, 2014, p. 10).   Meyer (2014) concludes that without cultural literacy your default position will be to judge or misjudge others through your own cultural lens and assume that differences, controversy, and misunderstandings are rooted in individual personalities.   The truth?  Cultural patterns of belief and behavior frequently impact our perceptions, cognitions, and actions (Meyer, 2014).   In her book The Culture Map, Meyer defines the eight scales that map the world’s cultures and their location on the continuum.

  • Communicating: low-context vs. high-context
  • Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
  • Persuading: principles-first vs. application-first
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top-down
  • Trusting: task-based vs. relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoids confrontation
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible time

Today we no longer fly to another country to experience different cultures, because diversity sits in the office right next door.   You may be an American supervisor of an ethnically diverse group whose style reflects the United States Culture Map.  Believing in treating everyone equally, you may be left confused when trying to coach each of your team members who come from China, Japan, Asia, and Eurograph-us-culture-mappe.   You may wonder whether your coaching is making any impact outside of your circle of American colleagues.  Your coaching style is likely straightforward with specific concrete examples (low-context) to back up your feedback couched with soft qualifiers (slightly indirect feedback).  You probably sandwich negative feedback between two positives.  Your Dutch subordinate expects direct feedback, so he may likely misinterpret the degree and importance of your message as he expects you to be straight forward with any negative criticism.   You may feel frustrated at his lack of effort and progress in affecting change.  Perhaps, you may even start to stereotype Dutch behaviors based on repeated experiences with that ethnic culture.   It is not uncommon for people to routinely experience a clash or misunderstanding of cultures.  If we learn about culture, suspend judgment, and build bridges between these cultures to facilitate trust, communication, and ideas, we would harness the potential of every team member.

Giving and receiving negative feedback is a necessary component of business but sometimes riddled with insecurity for both the giver and receiver.  How should constructive criticism be given and taken?  How should feedback be delivered to get the best result?  How much feedback is lost in translation?  How do the words absolutely, strongly, kind of, and sort of play out when delivering criticism?  The answer depends on the culturalization of the giver and receiver.   Certain phrases and qualifiers have different meanings.  Take for example a British colleague providing feedback to his Dutch counterpart.  He says, “Please think about that some more,” implying “That’s a bad idea.”  A Dutch or German colleague, who expects and is comfortable with direct negative feedback, would likely interpret that as “It’s a good idea.  Keep developing it.”

culture-map-tableIn business etiquette classes, we are instructed on the ceremonies which demonstrate respect.  In Japanese business culture, it is customary to exchange small gifts with visitors and present a business card with both hands towards the receiver who respectfully reads it upon presentation versus immediately putting it into his portfolio. Americans easily embrace these cultural mannerisms but fail to realize how communication and language may be used differently.

Frequently in my coaching practice, I reference scales ranging from 1 to 10.  Regardless of the attribute measured, I find when an issue between two people is greater than 2 units apart anywhere on a 1-10 scale, the two parties will need concentrated effort to resolve their differences.  Meyer (2014) confirms my informal conclusion when she states that “what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of the two cultures” (p. 22).  Relative positioning determines how people will view each other.

Meyer’s (2014) first piece of advice when interacting with someone from another culture is to “listen before you speak and learn before you act” (p. 27).   Understand how culture will impact the conversation.  For example, the United States is the lowest context culture with Japan having the highest context in its communication.  In simplest terms, the people culturized in America tend to communicate literally and explicitly.  They value clarity and place accountability of the intended message on the communicator to accurately convey the meaning of the message (Meyer, 2014).   On the other extreme, Asian cultures often convey messages implicitly which requires the listener to read between the lines.  Good communication is layered and subtle, and the responsibility of its accurate transmission is shared between the sender and receiver.  The Japanese have been culturalized over many generations to become skilled at “reading the atmosphere.”

I find it humorous that education can further exacerbate the cultural divide, by moving people more towards the extreme version of their dominant culture.  Highly educated Americans are taught and encouraged to communicate more effectively in writing and orally and to take more responsibility for the messages they send.   American leaders are typically rewarded for having and implementing the answers within their organizations. On the other hand, Japanese leaders are listening more to what is meant as opposed to what is said.  In my informal survey of American and Japanese business people attending a meeting, I find that at least 75% of the words spoken are by the Americans and 25% by the Japanese.   The Japanese typically spend more time reflecting and reading body language and other non-verbal clues.  When they do speak it typically includes more clarifying questions.  Many times, my American colleagues have misinterpreted the meaning of a nod, assuming their Japanese counterparts are in agreement.  In truth, head nodding is more confirmation of being heard.

In decades past, businesses have been helped by having teams take the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) (www.myersbriggs.org) and participate in team-building exercises to understand how team members prefer to communicate, process ideas, handle data, and make decisions.  These business teams were more homogenized in culture, but today’s global business environment demands everyone to be equipped with a new set of skills that embrace diversity in the workplace.  Meyer (2014) delves deeper into communication and evaluating than what I can do justice and also takes the reader through a journey to explore other important cultural attributes.  Understanding, respecting, and working with the deep roots of various cultures will forge and strengthen relationships and performance.   Culturally diverse teams will continue to populate the business landscape and every leader would benefit from learning more about cultural diversity and its impact on business success.

Reference

Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business.   New York, NY: Published Affairs. ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business and life coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She partners with clients to help them develop and grow successful businesses.  She also works with individuals to create their life plans and build better relationships by identifying and living out their personal values, enhancing their skills and competencies, and holding them accountable to execute their defined goals.   Sandra welcomes comments, questions, and feedback at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com.

Executive Survives as Substitute Teacher in Elementary School

November 2, 2016

For those who have been following my blog as a corporate executive stepping into the Texas public education system, I continued the journey by selecting my first elementary school position posted as a fifth-grade math/science substitute.  I have always held the belief that a parent’s best parenting abilities have a sweet spot that matches a certain age of a child.   As I reflect on my own parenting life phases, I believe I am a great parent for teenagers.  I understand teenagers and know how to connect with them in a way where they will listen and consider thoughts and alternate ideas. I believe my secret is in how I communicate with them, trying to remain judgmeelementary-schoolnt free, helping them see the longer-term impact of their short-term decisions, and empowering them to make the best choices.  I know that parental orders and demands are just manipulative tools that might get immediate compliance from a child but do not build sustainable values and better decision-making that will carry forward into adulthood.   The teenage years bring stress and fear into the lives of most parents, but not me, younger children with wild impulses and underdeveloped frontal cortexes are my most uncomfortable parental stage.  Now, I have chosen a classroom full of these youngsters.  Bye, bye, middle and high school kids, it is time to embrace the elementary kids and find out how the public education system is serving their needs and shaping their minds.

My substitute teaching assignment was for a half day in the morning.  I walked into Martin Elementary* about 25 minutes before the start of my assignment to check in with administration.  When I do not have the opportunity to debrief with the regular teacher, I like to arrive a bit early to review the sub instructions, which helps me to have command of the class activities before the kids enter the classroom.   My first indication of the school’s disorganization was when the main office did not have a sub sign-in sheet ready and my daily schedule was not available.  This was uncharacteristic of my previous sub assignments.  What was the morning plan?  When did classes start and end?  Where was the roster for attendance?  The administrator said she would bring a roster to my room and gave me a key to unlock the trailer which served as my classroom.  She handed me a map, pointed to the classroom, and left me to find my way.    After locating my classroom door, I walked into a double wide trailer disaster.  Two bathrooms stood in front of me dividing one side with 10 computers in various forms of disarray, partially empty bookshelves with books scattered over the floor, and disheveled cabinets half opened with contents on the ground.  The other side of the trailer had a one piece U-shaped desk formation with about 4 individual desks haphazardly placed within the classroom space.  The teacher’s desk and printer area was a disaster with paper and various stuff.  I walked over to the teacher’s chair which was littered with three jackets and sweaters.  I had to move them so I could sit down.  I had never seen such chaos and disorganization in a classroom before.

I searched for the sub instructions on Mrs. Valdez’s* desk and found a stack of crisscrossed papers with several yellow sticky notes scribble with unclear instructions and 24 popsicles sticks with numbers.  The instructions referenced using the numbered sticks for 20-minute rotations between with the computers and working through the worksheets.  Counting the number of papers, it looked as if there were only enough for one class.  What were the other classes supposed to do?  I also signed up for math and science and all these papers where grammar and language arts.   Was I in the right room?  I thought I would be covering 4 periods in this half day.   Considering the instructions, number of papers, as well as lack of roster and class times, I was baffled and concerned.  At that moment, a woman walked into the trailer to give me two permission slips for two named kids when they arrived.  I asked whether she could help me.  “Sorry, but I’m just an administrator,” she said, “but maybe one of the other teachers in a trailer across the walkway can help.”

I immediately knock on the door of another fifth-grade teacher and introduce myself and my confusion.  Mrs. McFadden* took pity on me and followed me into my classroom.  She took one look at the instructions, shook her head, and said, “If I were left with these instructions as a sub, I would be panicking right now.”  She said what I thought.  She first told me that this class was different, because all the kids stayed in the classroom the entire day, except for large group (physical education, art, music, etc.).  She said I had to escort them to gym first period and then I would have my free planning period.   I now realized the paperwork would get the one class through lunch.  Whew! I needed to rotate the kids in 20-minute intervals on the computers, but what were these sticks for?  Mrs. McFadden said, “I have no idea what the sticks would be for.  Just decide how you want to rotate them.”   She was very annoyed with Mrs. Valdez, because this was not the first time that subs had been stranded and confused, which makes the school look bad and hurts their ability to get subs.   She and other teachers had complained about Mrs. Valdez, but she said administration looks the other way.  Mrs. McFadden highly encouraged me to give online feedback about this assignment with the hopes that the administration would listen to me and act.  Oh boy, put in the middle of education politics.

With strategy in hand, the kids started to arrive and someone from the main office brought me a student roster.  The first student to arrive was a tall, African American, and cheerful girl who greeted me with a big hello.   Then she walked out of the room.   More kids arrived, and they began eating, talking, and playing.  I introduced myself and asked them questions to get to know them.  I talked a little bit about my trip to El Salvador to drill a water well to bring clean water to a school.   They were fascinated and could not believe that kids did not have safe water.  Then, the first period bell rang, and I closed the door to the trailer.   First, I took roll, and when I called out Amy*, all the kids said she was in another teacher’s classroom.  One of the kids added, “Amy always has to go to another teacher when we have a sub.”  I realized the first girl to arrive was Amy, because she was no longer in the classroom.   After roll, I explained their assignments and the morning process.  I asked whether they had used these 24 numbered sticks before.  They replied that they each had an assigned number and knew theirs—no sticks required.

First period I walked the kids to gym, and on the way, I met Mrs. Peters* who was the fifth-grade rotating paraprofessional (para).  She explained to me that Amy was pulled and should never have come into my classroom.  She is not mean-spirited or a trouble-maker but jacks up the kids.  Subs cannot handle her, so she is always removed.   Mrs. Peters told me Amy might come into the classroom during a break, and if she does I am to tell her to get out, and if she does not leave I am to pick up the phone, press the # key, and the principal will come to remove her.  Wow, ok, I have my orders.

When I returned to the trailer, Mrs. McFadden and her co-teacher, Mrs. Smith, pulled a cart into my trailer to get supplies from the cabinet.  They were gathering materials for a group project on sedimentary rock.  I asked whether I could help them.   They politely declined, but talked about going outside to pick up acorns, leaves, and dirt.  I responded that with a free period I was happy to help, and they took me up on my offer which gave me the opportunity to get to know the teachers better.  I found out that Mrs. Smith used to teach at Bloomfield* Middle School, where I previously substituted as a LIFE Skills teacher, and she thought she would go crazy based on the kids’ behavior.  She transferred to this elementary school and was much happier.

As first period was ending, I walked to the gym to escort my class back to their room.  Hopping and skipping over to me as I stood outside the gym, Amy proudly announced, “I’m packing up my things and coming over to your class.”  My calm response was, “Amy, I was told you are not allowed in my classroom, and I will have you removed if you show up.”  She replied, “But, Mrs. Watkins, the principal, said I could.”  I responded, “Unless I hear it from Mrs. Watkins directly, you can’t come with us.”  Mrs. Watkins walked over and explained that Amy promised to be good and asked whether I would allow it.  I’m laughing inside.  I am the sub, and you are asking my permission whether a kid can be in my class.  Mrs. Watkins then added that Amy would be punished and have her cell phone taken away at home if she did not behave.  Any issues with Amy and I was to immediately pick up the phone to call the principal to the trailer.   I turned to Amy and said, “Amy, you have a choice today.  You are completely in control of your behavior.  You can choose to have good behavior.”  Amy said, “I will be good.”  And off we went to class.

One of the single desks at the front of the room was Amy’s.  Obviously, she needed to sit by herself and not in proximity to the others.  Another kid, Raymond*, had a timer on his desk, and a third boy, named Charles, was dyslexic, which explained why he did not want to do his work.   After I handed out the first paper, I explained they were to return it for the second, and so forth.  I started to call out numbers, every other number starting with odd, so kids could go to the computers for those assignments.  Those that remained at their desk immediately started to break out food from their lunches.  I was told by Mrs. McFadden that the kids eat breakfast in their rooms, but this was a little much.  When Mrs. McFadden came into the trailer to pick up a printout, I asked about the food policy.  She gave a disapproving look around the classroom and said, “Mrs. Valdez always lets them eat during class.  The other teachers only allow a snack at 11 am.  I would just let them do it.”  Obviously, the teachers do not approve of Mrs. Valdez’s structure and schedule.

A few kids were focused and methodically working through their worksheets.  Those I rewarded with more computer time.  Many kids wanted to converse with me, and despite their intelligence would not focus on their work.   Mrs. McFadden also confirmed that Mrs. Valdez allowed her class to take off their shoes and walk around in socks, so Charles, began kicking sneakers around like they were soccer balls.  I had to sternly say, “We do not kick shoes in the classroom like soccer balls, sit back down and do your work.”   Raymond just sat for an hour eating and not touching his first worksheet.   The kids complained that the articles they had to read and answer questions were too long and boring.   Casey at the bat?   My response was, “Life is not easy or fair and working through assignments you do not enjoy helps develop the discipline you need to get through life.”   Heads went down towards the paper for a few more minutes of focused effort.  Amy stood up and walked over to the computer area to look over the shoulders of others.  She was not disruptive in terms of jacking the kids up, but just struggled to focus on her work.  When she did her worksheets, they were accurate, but it took her awhile to focus.   I estimated that half the class could focus and the others were either unmotivated or had stunted attention spans.  Constant gentle reminders and re-direction on boundaries and compliance was all I needed.  I used more words than I had planned, but the kids listened when corrected.   I was having no real behavioral issues at least compared to my expectations, and I thought Amy was a delight to talk with and behaved well.   The kids kept saying, “Will you come back and sub again?  You are the best sub we have ever had.”  I asked, “What is it about me that makes me your favorite sub?”  They said, “You don’t yell at us.  You talk to us.”   Yelling was a common theme I have been hearing.  Why are subs resorting to yelling?

Fast forward to 12:15 pm when Mrs. Valdez knocked on the trailer door.  I opened the door, and after she took a few steps in, she spotted Amy in the room.  With big wide eyes, Mrs. Valdez said, “What are you doing here, Amy?”  Amy came running up and told her the principal allowed her, because she promised to be good.   Mrs. Valdez turned toward me for confirmation, and I acknowledged with a nod, and then Mrs. Valdez hugged me.  She turned to Amy, hugged her, and said, “I knew you could do this. I’m so proud of you.”  Amy was ecstatic to be acknowledged.  After Mrs. Valdez and I debriefed, I announced to the class that I was going to handout 4 Golden Passes (school money for treats and privileges).   I gave the first one to Amy, because she completed all the work and her behavior was good.  I then handed out the other three passes to those who had also completed all their worksheets.  The kids were excited to be acknowledged.  They all told Mrs. Valdez that they wanted me to come back.  She turned to me and said, “If you see any of my sub assignments, I would love for you to take them.”  As I was leaving the classroom, I waved goodbye and said I would see them again.

So, what were any new thoughts about public education from my elementary experience?

  • The friendliness of the teachers towards subs is specific to the school and its culture. I felt welcomed and included, although the disorganization was initially a bit unnerving, because I have high expectations in being the best sub possible.
  • On an individual basis, teachers can do a better job preparing their subs with instructions. This not only benefits the sub who will be more inclined to take jobs but also allows the sub to carry out the teacher’s plans.
  • The kids are controlling the schools and the teachers/administration is using bribery (Golden Passes) and yelling/threats to illicit good behavior from students.

My experience with the older students in this elementary was positive, although I am gravely concerned in how they are raising and rewarding our children. Children spend about 8 hours or half of their waking lives in the school environment.  Putting academic knowledge aside, the schools are shaping the soft skills of our children and how they will interact with the world as adults.  Stay tuned for my next elementary sub experience!

 *Names have been changed to protect personal identities.

For those interested in my other public education blogs visit:A Day in the Life of a Middle School Substitute Teacher;  From Corporate Executive to High School Substitute Teacher; What Can An Executive Learn From A Middle School LIFE Skills Classroom?

Leaders are Servants, Part 1


The Essence of Global Leadership

How do you summarize the information and inspiration that is captured and released upon those who come to Willow Creek Church (WCC) in Barrington, Illinois, for the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS, www.willowcreekglobalsummit.com) or to those who choose to spend two days in a church, prison or other venue across the United States and Canada to soak in the wisdom and blessings via satellite streaming?  I struggle with how to convey the power of GLS to transform your thoughts, thinking and behaviors towards becoming a better leader.  As Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, passionately loves to say, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”  My response is, “Amen! I want to hear more.”

In 2015 Greg Lernihan, friend and church member of Willow Creek, suggested my husband and I attend GLS through a satellite location in Houston, Texas.  Fortunately, our home church, Northside Christian, decided to host this event for the first time, where we were blessed to fellowship in the leadership messages with our pastors, members, and visitors. We were so moved by the power of the experience we immediately signed up to attend GLS in the main auditorium at Willow Creek for 2016.  For the record WCC seats about 7,000 people, and the GLS 2016 tickets sold out in about 30 minutes. When 2017 tickets went on sale on August 11, 2016, auditorium tickets sold out within 15 minutes.  When you get a taste of GLS, you understand its power and typically want to make a commitment to return every year.

So what is GLS all about for those who may never have heard of this two-day personal investment event?  In a nutshell, GLS brings together real leaders who are moving forward, learIMG_0340ning, struggling and succeeding in their fields of leadership, who have a servant heart, and who desire to share with the world their knowledge, so everyone can become better at leading themselves, their families, co-workers, and their communities.  As such the speakers come from diverse backgrounds and cover leadership in faith-based organizations, politics, businesses, and other non-profit government organizations (NGO). There is something for everyone to say the least.  The messages transcend religion, culture, and lifestyles.

Past leaders whose names you probably recognize include Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Ed Catmull, Brene Brown, Tyler Perry, Carly Fiorina, Louie Giglio, General Colin Powell, Mark Burnett, and Condoleezza Rice. Many other speakers, who may not be as well-known as CEOs and celebrities, were just as impactful in their research findings and areas of expertise.  GLS 2016 did not disappoint and included some new and returning favorite speakers advancing new topics.  This year’s lineup included Bill Hybels, Alan Mulally, Melinda Gates, Jossy Chacko, Travis Bradberry, Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Erin Meyer, John Maxwell, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Danielle Strickland, Horst Schulze, and Wilfredo De Jesus.

So you are thinking, enough of the background, I get it!  I’m sold on GLS, so what did you learn? Below is just one key message (Part 1) shared by what I thought was one of the most powerful speakers, Bill Hybels, along with my entwined commentary.

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  So, how does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change. When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you’re not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it’s the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you’ll be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that he/she cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does s/he get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget as they strive for results is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be?  The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving their goals.   So this correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  So how can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let’s break a myth held by some leaders which is people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  Not giving goals and feedback is essentially cruel.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals you will not have clarity, but entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you’ve left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers?  What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over.  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Bill’s last statement ignited a passion!  My husband and I are executive volunteers for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, www.pep.org) in Cleveland, Texas.  PEP are leaders in their quest to transform men, their families, and the community by empowering ex-felons with character-building and business skills so they can integrate into society as healthy and contributing citizens.  PEP’s success is measured by its recidivism rate of 7% for those graduating from the program versus the prison population at large of > 50%.  We need to add the Cleveland Correctional Facility to the list of GLS satellites, so that at least 44 prisons will be streaming GLS live in 2017.  Who wants to be part of the team?  I’m willing to lead!