Reclaiming the purpose of your work week

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” -Proverbs 22:1

Have you ever had someone’s name come up in conversation, and you just rave about that person? You speak well of them, you tell about their outstanding character, you love to be merely in the same room as them.

This is a person with a “good name.”

A good name is ultimately what lasts. Riches don’t go with you to the grave, but your character does. The problem is that we tend to lose focus in the working world. It lures us to build up money and accumulate things. And we end up forgetting about the most important task that the 40 hours a week should see us doing—that of building good character.

So how do you start to focus on building up a good name instead of building up riches, which come and go?

Here’s four ways to start:

1. Allegiance to God, not man. We have to yield daily to His principles and start to live in the reality that we are working for the Lord first, our boss second. When we have the mindset of working for God, we pay more attention to his rules, his ways, and his directions. As our boss and the one we serve, he desires vastly different things than many of the bosses that we will encounter. Stay always in the mindset that you are working for Him and serving Him first, and His ways will gradually become yours. God isn’t interested in making you rich (“Oh how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!”)—he’s interested in making you more into the image of His son.

2. Loving others more than yourself. When we are self-centered (which is a lot of the time!), we focus on what will serve our kingdom best. For me, this generally leads to giving more time to myself, spending more money on myself, and thinking about myself. I’m essentially putting my resources into puffing up my own world.


But when you start to focus on others and spend time learning how to love them, two things happen. You start to build others up, and by doing so, you become more of a servant-hearted person. There are few people I know that would rather spend time with someone who’s prideful rather than someone who’s humble.

3. Integrity. Simply put, you’ve got to be the same person…everywhere you go. Many people build up a good name for themselves at work, but their home life is a train wreck. It’s not worth it to receive accolades as a professional but fail as a brother. It doesn’t build one area of your life and neglect the rest. Your name is a holistic representation of who you are. It comprises your work self, your church self, your personal self, your family self, and more. The task is to bridge any gaps that remain and fix inconsistencies.

4. Gratitude. Many go through life blazing their own trail and leaving a cloud of dust behind them. They use people to get what they want and step over people to get to the top. What they’re leaving behind them is a trail of people who think poorly of them because they’ve been treated poorly, which in the end doesn’t serve the person at all. Who wants to be at the top, only to find that everybody hates you?

The antidote to this path is gratitude. Yes, fight hard, become better at what you do. But thank the people that help you along the way. Thank your mom and dad for raising you and teaching you. Thank your boss, even if they weren’t so great (you can always learn something from tough people).

Thank your teachers, your friends, your spouse.

Thankfulness yields a good trail of people who think well of you. We live in a world of overworked, under-appreciated people. So when people feel appreciated, they appreciate you back. A hand-written note truly does amazing things to the heart. I’ve seen people change their countenance before my eyes when I’ve handed them a thank-you note.

What about you? What has your experience in the working world been like? What steps have you taken to make sure you’re pursuing the right things? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Two Leadership Lessons I Wish I’d Known

I was asked to talk to a local high school class about leading a business.  Great kids, who were quite attentive (or just may have been glad to not have homework). Leading…hmm…what did I not know back in my high school days?  What did I assume it took?  And as I thought about it, what do my employees think it takes?  What ideas am I intentionally, or unintentionally, communicating about what it takes to succeed at our company?

So I started our time by asking the class - what do you think it takes to succeed in business?  As you might imagine, they listed all sorts of things – intelligence, luck, skill, creativity, who you know, money, good looks (obviously, they weren’t talking about me), power, etc.

I then asked them how things got done in a business – “By hard work,” they said.  “Through planning, by getting the right people together….”   They all quickly came to one conclusion – through people.

How interesting…the first list included a lot, but not people.  And then the realization that people are what makes it all work.

Lesson One I Didn’t Know – People are the thing that makes our business grow.

“So,” I now asked, “how do you lead people?  What is leadership?”  They had all sorts of definitions, but we talked further about two we’ve all heard before:  leadership is influence (Maxwell) and leadership is getting things done through others (various).

Given that, who has influenced you the most?  How did that happen?  The names that came to mind included coaches, teachers, grandparents, parents, friends.  OK – then tell me what you thought about them.  What was it about them that you chose to follow them in those moments?

The thoughts came quickly as I wrote them on the board…“Respect (for me), they listened, he was patient, she cared, they stuck by me when it was hard, he explained things to me, she didn’t get mad when she should have, they forgave…”

Looking at the list, themes came through.  Patient, kind, self-control, humility…  Is that the kind of leader you want to be?  “Yes” was the resounding answer.

Since it was a Christian school, two scripture passages came to the forefront – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 6:22-23.  You might want to look them up if its been awhile.   I’ve since learned also of a book call “The Servant” by James Hunter - a great business fable that covers this second lesson.

Lesson Two I Didn’t Know – Lead by loving your employees.

Love people to lead.  Serve.  Go figure.  I wish I’d learned that earlier, and am so glad I know it now.  You?

Lead with Love

The conclusion of Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge has stuck with me for years. The authors quote one of the exemplary leaders from their research, who said, “The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have a greater desire to get things done …” Kouzes and Posner acknowledge, “’Staying in love’ isn’t the answer we expected to get” in their extensive research on leadership. Then they conclude: It finally dawned on us how many leaders used the word love freely when talking about their own motivations to lead. Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. … Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.

Let me suggest three ways that you can let this challenge your leadership:

  • Love your staff. It’s tragic if those who work for you don’t feel loved by their Christian Love is at the center of the gospel. Sure, those staff members aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. So do you. No matter what challenges you face, they need to know that you love them.
  • Celebrate the ways that God has blessed your organization. Another frequent leadership mistake is the failure to celebrate. Celebrations should give credit to God and demonstrate how much we love the work that God has called us to do. In your rush to achieve the next strategic milestone, don’t forget to be thankful for your past successes.
  • Reflect on the depth of your love. If love is the secret to leadership success, then make the time during your summer vacation to think about whether you love your leadership role. Do you love the people, the mission, and your unique role? If leading is more of a burden than a passion, then it may be time to work on a transition strategy.

I hope your summer will be filled with love, and I hope that it will overflow into every aspect of your leadership.

Four Agreements

One of my Perfect Year intentions is to reread a handful of books that were (and still are) very meaningful and significant to me. The one I just finished reading is The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. The lessons from this book are amazingly insightful and powerful. The following is an overview of the meaning of each of The Four Agreements based on the book. File under “how to live unfettered.”

Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Impeccable means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others.  It means not rejecting yourself.  To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.” What you put out energetically in your word will return to you.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own thoughts.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said.  If we didn’t agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally.  If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us. Remember — it is not about you!  Others’ actions and words are based on what they believe and their belief system.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling.  We believe we know their point of view, their story.  We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. 

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward.  Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself. Live in the moment, be fully alive right now. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a natural outcome.