Windows & Mirrors

What are you looking at … windows or mirrors? What does your heart contain?

In his book “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins shares that one of the factors that contributes to achieving “greatness” is what leaders choose to look through when things happen. Leaders of great organizations look out the “window” when things go well to credit others for success, and look in the “mirror” to take responsibility when things are not going well. Ineffective leaders choose the opposite: they find someone or something to blame for the lack of success and credit themselves when things are successful.

A recent example of this is Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, who looked in the mirror and took full responsibility for what many call the dumbest play ever in a Super Bowl — i.e., throwing a pass at the one yard line that was interecepted. Pete could have easily looked out the window and blamed the offensive coordinator, quarterback, receiver, or team.

Windows & mirrors also apply to our hearts. John the Baptist understood this when he encountered Christ. John simply stated, “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30). Often we seek only ourselves in our vocation, our work, our relationships, our life. We look in the mirror and choose to offer our services only when the work to be done brings us honor or enhances our self-importance or standing. Our hearts are mirrors reflecting self-centered motivations, focusing on increasing me. Yet we are called to humility — to look out the window to others — so that are hearts open up to be like Jesus, centered on humble service, loving others, and enabling them to increase.

In our hearts, a window instead of the mirror forces us to look at “what’s possible” and to focus on others. Mirrors weaken our mission and impact; windows empower it.

Business Leaders - What Legacy Are You Building?

This is a critical question that all of us must answer daily. Our natural thoughts run to "how is our leadership culture working in the business?" "Is my company consistently following and living our Core Values?" Are we having Kingdom Impact on our  associates, our vendors, our clients and the industry we serve? These are the challenges of business leadership and they are our responsibilities. BUT-they should be, at best, our second or third leadership priority.

Most of us are not only business owners/leaders but we are also leaders of our families. What family legacy are we building?

A good friend of Convene-Dr. Bruce McCracken, founder of House on The Rock Ministries says--"whether we know it or not-we are building a family legacy either strategically or accidentally. And we all come to our positions with a legacy that has been passed on to us."

The Clemons Family owns and operates several significant businesses, the most widely known is Hatfield Meats. This private company is currently under the operating leadership of the 7th generation and it has combined revenues exceeding one billion dollars. At a 2014 Convene Family Retreat, Dr. Phil Clemons, recently retired 5th generation Chairman of the company, described the process of building the integrated business/family legacy that moved the family from being owners of a successful family business to being a Christ Centered Business Family.

The  Lord has called us to be be business owners and leaders--while building our family foundation and legacy.  The instruction for this multigenerational assignment is well stated in Deuteronomy 6:1-13.  I encourage you and your spouse and family to read that thoughtfully and prayerfully considering your activity in building a strong family legacy.

What family legacy building activity is on your 2015 list of strategic goals??


We are not "just like Vistage"

Describing a Christian CEO peer counsel group to someone can be difficult.  I often hear others default to, “We’re just like Vistage—only Christian.”  Sadly, I admit I’ve done it myself but am now resolved to say, “We’re not like Vistage!” There are many choices in secular CEO peer advisory groups.  They encompass a common model of peer accountability, cross-industry perspective, one-to-one mentoring, speaker workshops, and national networking.  Convene is fundamentally distinctive.

Convene’s core values hold Business, Faith, and Family as equal and parallel priorities in the fiber of our lives. Serving God with significance in all areas of our life, growing exceptional businesses, and shepherding those in our sphere of influence have equal emphasis during our Forum Days and One2Ones. We understand and believe that none of these areas can fully thrive if any one area is deficient.

Convene Teams strive to understand the heart of an issue as we seek to grow our businesses and become better leaders. Every month, our members bring real business opportunities and challenges to the team in order to obtain wise counsel from CEO and business owner peers who have similar values. Often the most obvious solutions to issues can be difficult for members to implement: their fears and preconceptions can be obstacles to clear and definite action. As a team, we seek to understand the issue behind the issue and help members make breakthroughs with encouragement through biblical principles and God’s promises.

Along with the opportunities and challenges of growing exceptional businesses, Convene Chairs work on “Inside-Out” Leadership—knowing that transformation starts from within. What we place on our hearts affects our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, priorities, actions and results, in that order. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Discovering and developing the God-given purpose for our life and business flows directly into our attitudes and actions, impacting our relationships at work and home.

As a Convene Chair, my greatest joy comes in witnessing real transformation—transformation that manifests in business growth, better leadership, and healthier relationships at work, home, and in the community that will have eternal impact.




Play Nice

One thing I find interesting about a peer advisory group is how CEOs “play" together.  Their behavior during an eight-hour Forum Day is indicative of how they interact in other relationships of their lives—both professional and personal.  This is particularly evident when a member is seeking wise counsel by presenting to the Convene Team a business opportunity/challenge. Is a CEO member distracted by email and telephone, multitasking while thinking/saying he’s paying attention to the discussion at hand?  Does she jump to solutions and give advice prematurely?  Does he strive for deeper understanding of the issue behind the issue?  Is she bored with the conversation, visibly disengaged?  Does he enjoy telling/hearing his own “war stories” without regard for the others in the room?  Does their sharing serve to sharpen the focus on the subject or does it derail the conversation?  Do their statements reflect a true understanding of the person and subject?

I’m amazed at how often members are unaware or defensive of these behaviors.  The Forum Day provides a place where we can speak truth with grace into other members' lives.  That may include calling out behavior that is condescending, arrogant, defensive, prideful, unproductive, or offensive.  When this is done in an environment of safety and love, the experience can have profound impact on the CEO's life.  I encourage members to utilize and embed the processes they learn at Forum Day into their own meetings and conversations.

St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think;” and in verse 12:16, “Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.”

The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi asks, “…Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled to as console; to be understood, as to understand.”

As Christian business owners we are called to stewardship of our companies and employees.  Our duties as servant leaders include listening to our people, seeking to understand their issues, working with them to find solutions, and in that process helping them to grow and excel in their work.


A Story...

A fairly new member with a civil engineering company in Group 6 had been experiencing losses for the last four years.  The $5-6M Company had lost $800K, $400K, $200K, and $150K respectively.  Morale was very low and seemed impossible to reverse. The member, being an engineer, is very analytical and was reluctant to act.  The group had been advising him to right-size, but the pending work that could possibly come in was keeping him from cutting too deeply in manpower. Fear was ruling his decisions. It had come to the point where he would occasionally talk about going back to the farm in Tennessee and escape the whole problem.  “I’m not cut out to be a leader…someone else should lead this company.” Finally, having a “father/son” talk with the member, I encouraged him to implement the advice of his group.  A few critical moves would put him above the waterline on costs, and a little bit of profit would be a WORLD of difference from a bunch of red ink.  After all, the employees had heard of nothing but bad news for so long, and they had lost hope of winning.  Some of his employees had NEVER experienced a profitable year.  He decided to make the moves.

The cuts were combined with a new strategic push by the member who began aggressively going after local work and avoiding international projects. (While lucrative in theory, they were long shots.)  Things began to look up right away, and since the costs were lowered, productivity went up considerably.  Sales per employee numbers rose by more than 40% in some cases, until in July profit came in at $200K. While some of that month’s profits had to be adjusted in August, he has been profitable every month since.

Some of the culture change, surprisingly enough, was provided by young new interns, college students or new grads working for $12 an hour.  Those four interns will be offered regular employment and added to payroll this month.  They are adding lots of energy and will help the company sustain the elevated contract volume for the remainder of the year.

This member's faith has been tested through this ordeal.  He really didn’t know how to live out his faith at work.  He was never comfortable interfacing with his own people, especially in confronting issues.  Early on he took my cue to “Walk the 4 Corners” (W4C/MBWA).  It really bothers him, being unnatural behavior, but he believes it is building his relationships and leadership with the flock.  He is even praying for people in the business suffering with cancer, etc.  Becoming more relational, more strategic, more confrontational, and now making a reasonable profit…his testimony as a Christian business leader is becoming rock solid.  It is also showing up in his Convene Team. He has become bolder, more engaged, and is ready to help his fellow members.  This is a clear case where assisting a member to better run his business was DIRECTLY responsible for his testimony becoming more credible.

This member is convinced of his calling to be the leader of this company.  He is committed to Christ in the business and at home.  He is one of the most beloved members of the group now and he has finally honored his group by implementing their advice.