Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas!!!
We hope that you are enjoying your Christmas with Family today!  We sure are!!
Our daily, 'Navigating the rope' posts will resume January 2nd, 2012!  For this next week, take some time and enjoy being with family!  

Coming soon!  
Tips on how to make New Year's Resolutions Last, 
as well as a list of attainable New Year's Resolutions! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Family Fun - Week 4

Christmas Eve has always been one of my most treasured memories from growing up.  Even as a little girl, I can remember holding a candle INSIDE a church and watching the wax drip down as my family stood together and sang, “Joy to the World!”  As we grew up, the setting changed, and even various members of our family that were able to attend changed, but the special night remained just that – special!

Whether it was the annual “matching family picture” amongst the poinsettias at the front of the church, or watching my sister and husband have a wax-flicking contest (sound dangerous?  Yes it was…), Christmas Eve was such a special night for us.  It usually consisted of 4 or so services (my dad is a pastor, so of course we attended each service put on at our church!), then heading out for a special family dinner at some restaurant we rarely got to go to.  Afterward, we would head home to open that first “Christmas Eve gift” and snuggle up together while watching a Christmas Classic – more-often-than-not we selected “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”  Christmas Eve was the beginning of “Christmas” for us, and honestly was just as treasured as the next day!  It was a day that was committed to focus on the real reason for the season, and enjoy time with our family.

For our final “Christmas Family Fun” article, we wanted to encourage you to make the most of this entire “Christmas Weekend!”  There are special Christmas Eve services held in churches across America, which means that wherever you are, there’s a place you can go.  Many of them have candlelight services, but if you’d prefer to keep your kids away from the temptation of a “wax-flicking competition” then there are services that refrain from using candles!  There are more serious-focused services, and for families with young kids (like our own!) there's many “Family-friendly services!”  The point is to go ahead and extend your Christmas Tradition and allow it to start the night before.  Take some time, as a family to enjoy a sweet service full of Christmas Songs and moments to remember why we celebrate this precious holiday in the first place.  Then, head to wherever you’re going and spend some time as a family, making your Christmas Eve just as special as the day to follow!

One last thing….
Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which provides an EXTRA SPECIAL opportunity for your family.  Many churches across America are offering Christmas morning services as well, for you to take time out of your Christmas morning to focus on Christ and his birth.  They offer a chance to celebrate HIM along with others, and embrace that He is our reason to celebrate.  Don’t miss this opportunity to train your family, and teach your kids that Jesus is the REASON we celebrate.  It’s easy to make that statement, and hang that artwork (Jesus is the reason for the season) on our wall, but it’s an entirely different thing to live a life that reflects that.  Sure, the service may mean that you can’t remain in your pajamas all 24 hours of your Christmas Day, but I encourage you not to miss out on such a precious teaching opportunity, because you want to stay in your PJ’s.  Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing, this Christmas – Jesus!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Avoiding Grinch-Like Leadership

At this time of year, it is only a matter of time until you hear the following lyrics played…

You're a mean one Mr Grinch
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus
You're as charming as an eel
Mr. Grinch
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel

You're a monster Mr. Grinch
Your Hearts an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders
You’ve got garlic in your soul Mr. Grinch
I wouldn’t touch you with a
39 and a half Foot pole

You’re a vile one Mr. Grinch
You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile
Mr. Grinch
Given the choice between the two of you
I’d take the a seasick crocodile

You’re a foul one Mr. Grinch
You’re a nasty wasty skunk
Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
Your soul is full of gunk
Mr. Grinch

The 3 words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote
Stink, Stank, Stonk

You’re a rotter Mr. Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your hearts a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots
Mr. Grinch

Your sole is an appalling dump heap
Overflowing with the most disgraceful
Assortment of deplorable rubbish
Imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super naus
You’re a crooked jerky jockey and,
you drive a crooked horse
Mr. Grinch

You’re a 3 Decker sour kraut and toad stool sandwich
With arsenic sauce!

Of all the Christmas tunes out there, this one is the least likely to give you the warm fuzzies.  Still, the funny little tune is adored as listeners recall the classic book and cartoon from the mind on Dr. Seuss. 

The Grinch would have made a terrible leader as you can imagine.  Here are a few reasons why.

He was isolated.  The Grinch lived atop a mountain outside of town with little interaction with anyone accept for his dog (and even that wasn’t pleasant).  When leaders become isolated from those they lead, the result is a perception that the leader doesn’t care for his or her followers.  Interaction with those you lead is vitally important in order to be effective.

He was bitter.  For some reason, the Grinch was bitter and it defined him.  Bitterness comes across loud and clear to those you lead.  It wears on your team to the point that they will eventually abandon you.  Deal with your bitterness and get rid of it.  When you do, your team will be much more inclined to follow you whole-heartedly.

He was self-focused.  The Grinch did not take into account the thoughts, feelings, and dreams of those around him.  If he did, he would have never attempted to steal Christmas in the first place.  When leaders become self-focused it can become easy for them to use and abuse others.  As leaders, we have to get beyond ourselves.

One positive about the Grinch, he was willing to change.  It took a lot, but somehow his shriveled little heart began to expand.  This can be true of any leader as well.  When we find ourselves displaying Grinch-like characteristics in leadership, it is time for a change. 

If those you lead wrote a song about you, would it resemble the popular Grinch theme song or would it be a different kind of tune?  As a leader, you are responsible for the song your followers sing about you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It Really Is A Wonderful Life

Old George Bailey was having a “Blue Christmas”.  Frustrated by the hand life had dealt him, he was ready to throw in the towel.  Just as he reached the end of his rope, Clarence (an angel without wings) shows him the difference his life has made in the lives of other people.  The heartwarming tale has been played and replayed each year at Christmas time.  Though the screen shows the telling signs of an aging film as images appear in black and white, the story still relates to millions who tune in each year. 

The reason the message of the film is so enduring is because we all want to know that our lives have significance.  Perhaps because it falls at the end of each year, December seems to be the most introspective of months.  We take stock of all that we are and all that we have accomplished and wonder if it really amounted to anything.  In the end, depending on your measure of success in this kind of introspection you can be inspired or depressed.

It is at this point that we have to realize something George Bailey discovers.  The key to his life’s significance was not getting out of Bedford Falls, making money, or even the success of his little savings and loan.  The key to his success was the relationships he had cultivated with those who really mattered.  At the end of the film, person after person lines up to give some spare cash to help out the down-on-his-luck Bailey.  This is a great symbol of the richness of return that we gain when we invest in relationships.  

What creates a wonderful life is the relationships we treasure with those around us.  Be encouraged this Christmas.  You have surely made the difference in the life of others around you.  If you are beginning to think about resolutions for 2012, think about the relationships you intend to cultivate and grow in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Shopping tips from Dave Ramsey

The following post was taken from Dave Ramsey's website, offering "Real Debt Help!"  It's a great reminder as you're trying to finish up purchasing those last minute gifts!!


We’ve all paid “stupid tax”—making costly decisions with zeros on the end. A lot of those decisions happen when we’re caught up in the emotion of the Christmas season and procrastinate a little too long.
Make this year different!
Here are the top 10 Christmas shopping mistakes and how you can act differently:
  1. Not prioritizing.
    Instead of getting stressed out with all the parties, baking and shopping, in addition to your normal daily life, set some priorities before you’re bombarded with a million requests. Think about which things are “must do” and which are “would be nice to do.” It’s all right to say no to keep yourself sane. Shopping for gifts is more fun when you’re not completely stressed out.
  2. Not using a budget.
    Before you make a gift list and head to the mall, set aside a reasonable amount of money for gifts. Make a commitment that you won’t add $20 to the fund every week just because you saw something cute that your niece would love. Get budgeting advice here.
  3. Using credit cards.
    Once you have your budget finalized, stay away from credit cards! You will still spend 12-18% more if you use plastic, and you’ll be paying it off come 2009! Doesn’t paying with cash sound more freeing than having a credit card balance looming over your head? You bet.
  4. Buying for everyone.
    Do you really need to buy gifts for every family member and friend you have? That can get overwhelming and expensive for everyone. Talk with them and work toward an agreement to draw names for gifts or donate money to a common cause.
  5. Not listening.
    Listen to the hints your loved ones drop about what they need or want this year. Maybe your Aunt Sally mentioned that she would love someone to help her in the garden, or Cousin Bob keeps losing guitar picks. A thoughtful gift like this will mean a lot.
  6. Not having a thought-out list on paper. 
    If you think you can spend time in “Christmas retail world” without getting distracted by all the shiny toys, you’re in for a big surprise! You’ll be more likely to buy impulsively if you do it that way. Write down what each person you’re buying for would like and stick to the list. Stay focused!
  7. Not shopping around.
    “Shopping around” doesn’t mean you have to spend 24 extra hours running from store to store to save 10 cents. Take a look at your gift list and do some comparative price-checking online before you head out into the retail and traffic madness. This will save you money, time and stress!
  8. Waiting until the last minute.
    Procrastination is not the most appealing gift out there. Don’t find yourself stressed out on Christmas Eve just because you didn’t invest a little bit of time to plan.
  9. Forgetting to plan for next year.
    Throughout the next year, look for outrageous sales on things your loved ones will need. If you time the sales just right and clip some coupons, you could land a major discount on something you were going to buy in a few months for a birthday or wedding gift. Remember to have a list and budget for this, too.
  10. Forgetting why we celebrate.
    If this season becomes all about shopping and gifts, you’ve missed the whole point. People—not things—matter. The miraculous birth of a baby who changed the world is what matters.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ho, Ho, Health! Lessons We Can Learn From Santa

He may be jolly, old, and a saint but Santa has been taking some serious health risks for generations now.  The following health concerns were taken from “The Huffington Post” which outlined some of Santa’s unhealthy holiday habits.  As they are listed below, perhaps you can relate to a couple of the these concerning fitness trends (I know I could)…

Pulling An All-Nighter – Santa does it once a year.  Who hasn’t done this before, especially at the end of a semester or to get Christmas preparations just right? 

That Heavy Sack of Presents – Hope that he lifts with his knees.

Excess Weight – Enough said.

Overexertion After A Sedentary Lifestyle – For 364 ½ days the guy kicks back while the elves do the work and then he jumps into action.  He’s got to be sore the next day.

Lurking Germs in His Beard – It’s cold and flu season.  Santa has been in close proximity with a lot of kids who sneeze and cough as they list their presents.  Pass the hand sanitizer…

A Lack of Visible Sleigh Safety – Does that thing even have a seat-belt?

Too Many Cookies and Too Much Milk – Not to mention, that milk usually sits out for a while. 

Those Trips Down the Chimney – Black Lung?

A Vitamin D Deficiency – Not a whole lot of sunshine there at the North Pole.

That Thin Red Suit – Santa has got to be a member of the polar bear club.

Traveling Too Quickly – He got to be quick to get to all those homes, but honestly – who is going to pull over Santa?

The Night Shift – Working late is sooo depressing… especially during the holidays.

Santa may be a role-model of Christmas cheer, but probably not the kind of guy you want to model your health habits after.

Read the original article by clicking here!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Family Fun - Week 3

When I was a teenager, I was in love with young kids!  Babysitting was the joy of my heart, and I eagerly looked forward to my weekends, because it meant that I got to spend hours having fun with little kids, and one family in particular completely stole my heart. 

I started babysitting Abbey, and Luke when Luke had just been born, and walked through life with those sweet kids for years.  I was there when they even added their 2 twin brothers into the mix!  I was so sad when I left for college, and knew that my treasured moments with them would be minimal, but loved the time I was able to spend with them!  We would go to the mall and ride the 25-cent rides, share chick-fil-a, and even see Santa together!  Such great memories!

One memory in particular, that I cherish, and will never forget, is the first time we took them, along with their family to a live nativity scene.  A local church in our area made an annual tradition of setting up a little manger scene, and filling it with what appeared to be several students in their ministry acting out the characters.  To an onlooker quickly passing by, it seemed to be no big deal, but to sweet little Luke, it was an early “A-ha moment.” 

We walked through the luminaries, leading the way to the manger, and upon arrival to the nativity scene we sat down in the grass and stared at Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus.  Watching it through little Luke’s eyes was precious, because as Luke saw Jesus for the first time in that manger, he looked at me, then at his family, then back at Jesus, and said “Awesome God!”

Luke got it.  He understood that it didn’t matter if it was a bunch of teenagers playing dress-up, and a doll baby rather than a real one, the picture being portrayed was one of our “Awesome God.”  He knew that this picture was one that would change our world forever…. truly, Awesome.

We’ve talked earlier this week, about being sure to make the main reason of Christmas (Jesus) shine through in your own heart.  Today, as we talk about a Family Tradition to begin in your own home, I want to encourage you to do just that.  Why not find a picture of a nativity scene, or going to a “live” one, and bringing your family.  Slow down from the hustle and bustle, and take some time to really concentrate on what Christmas is all about.  While there, remember to not just take them to see it, but in the car on your way back home (or wherever you’re headed), take some time to talk about what that baby in the manger really means.  Take the time to teach them about their “Awesome God.”

Have you brought your kids to see Santa yet?  How about making it a tradition to see the baby in the manger that has changed our world forever?  It’s nice to see a jolly old man in a red suit, but even better to see a picture of our “Awesome God.”  Go ahead and plan it!  You’ll be glad you did!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Leadership Secrets from Santa Claus

While perusing the internet this morning, looking for Christmas leadership ideas, I ran across a list of leadership lesson we can learn from none other than the famous, Old St. Nick!  I’ve listed them below for you to consider, and provided the link to which I found them below.  Enjoy!

      1.     Santa Builds a wonderful workshop – Santa has a clear purpose, and focuses on creating an environment that allows him to soar within that purpose.

      2.     Santa is like-able – “Leaders need not be friends with those they lead, but if they want to have greater influence and impact, they must be friendly personable, and likeable.”  Sometimes, as leaders, it’s easy to become stressed or frazzled, and take it out on those that are following.  Don’t steamroll others on your quest to accomplish your goals.

      3.     Santa Inspires – “Good leaders bring out the best in others!”  Santa is able to work with the elves, and encourage and equip them to want to do their best in building toys for children everywhere!

      4.     Santa is Innovative – Just because an obstacle comes his way, Santa is undeterred!  He’s willing to take risks (like finding a red-nosed reindeer to guide his sleigh in a snowstorm), in order to accomplish his mission.

      5.     Santa chooses his reindeer wisely – Santa didn’t look at Rudolph the way that others did.  He developed his own opinions of Rudolph, and determined that he would be the best fit for the position he needed.  He filled his team with A-list individuals, placing them in positions that would allow their strengths to soar.

      6.     Santa makes a list and checks it twice – “In your climb to success, make the most of what you have, create a business plan, and know the power of a deadline.”

      7.     Santa is Consistent – You can expect that from Santa, you’ll always see an older man with a great white beard and a deep “Ho Ho Ho.”  Are the people around you seeing a consistent message day-in and day-out?

      8.     Santa listens to his elves – There is no way that Santa could accomplish everything he needs to do by himself.  He has developed a stellar team to work around him, and listens to their suggestions and ideas for improvement.  Good leaders are willing to listen to those around them.

      9.     Santa goes beyond “red wagons” – “Santa understand that great leadership is about moving hearts and minds, not just about moving presents around the world.  This season, as a leader, make an emotional connection with your team, instead of just giving them a present.”

      10. Santa has a willingness to connect personally – Very few people have actually ever met the real Santa Claus, but everyone knows that he cares about you.  “As leaders we must connect with those we lead.  It’s important and makes a difference.”

      11.  Santa shares the milk and cookies – Santa doesn’t just determine what he stands for and remain quiet about it… Instead he shares his message of joy and laughter with everyone he meets.  Are you sharing your message with others?

      12. Santa knows who’s naughty and nice – Santa knows the importance of rewarding performance, and overall accountability.  Keep tabs on your team, and be sure to praise their successes, and have conversations about blunders when you can.

      13.  Santa has impact through presence – Santa has great impact whenever people see him, whether in a holiday parade or in a mall food court.  Your presence holds great impact, make sure you are intentional in your time with others.

      14. Santa holds great Project Management Skills – He knows his mission: To deliver toys and gifts to boys and girls all over the world on one night.  In order to accomplish such a huge mission, Santa has to have a plan in action and the ability to execute it. 

      15. Santa has to sacrifice – Santa sacrifices his time, energy, and even resources to deliver toys to children everywhere with efforts to make them happy.  “Leaders must find the opportunity to create lasting impressions in the lives of their members.”

      16. Santa is the best mentor – “Yes, Santa is larger-than-life, has a larger-than-needed belly, and is overly found of red clothes.  Sometimes the best mentors are different from us – have you sought mentors that can provide you with such a fresh perspective?”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?!?!

It is December 14th. By now you have been completely immersed in the Christmas season.  You have no doubt done some Christmas shopping.  Perhaps you have even attended a couple of Christmas parties.  With the big day still 11 days away, we can already begin to feel the effects of the season wearing us down.  One comedian recently wrote, "Having trouble deciding what to do with the next 4 minutes. Listen to the song Christmas Shoes or slam my face against the pingpong table."  He has obviously had his fill of holiday tunes.

At this point maybe you feel like joining Charlie Brown yelling out, "Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?!?!"In the classic Christmas cartoon, the frustrated Peanut member cries out for meaning.  Listen to the words quoted by his buddy Linus in response...

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)

This Christmas season, don't miss God who came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes laid in a manger. He came to bring peace and good will toward men... Including you! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping Track!

It’s the end of the month, and you’ve finally sat down to pay those bills that have sat quietly on your desk, waiting for you to care for them.  It’s then, that you work on writing the check for the $200+ electric bill, and the should-never-have-been-that-high cell phone bill, when you place your head in your hands wondering where all of your money went.  You know that when you started the month, you had plenty of money to cover the standard bills that would come your way, along with taking care of a few extras along the way, but now that D-Day has arrived, it seems that the money has vanished.  Unfortunately you have just found yourself buried in a case of the “missing money!”

One of the best tips that we were ever given, upon being married, was to keep track of all of our money.  In an effort to manage our family finances with expertise (and knowing that I had no idea what I was doing!) I found myself at our local library in the first month we were married, taking a class on how to manage your finances.  Honestly, I don’t remember much of what was said in that hour-long class, but the one thing I do remember is that the lady kept emphasizing the importance of keeping-track of what you spend.  She talked about the importance of developing a budget, but being sure to base your figures on actual expenses, rather than estimated costs. 

So we did just that.  Every single time that debit card was swiped, or cash left our hand, we asked for a receipt.  Every…single…time, for an entire month!  You would have thought it was snowing in our tiny apartment, because of all of the receipts we had floating around.  BUT, at the end of the month, I sat down and organized all of the receipts based on the type of expense they were.  Groceries.  Eating Out.  School supplies, etc.  Once I organized all of the receipts, I added up their totals, and put those totals into a spreadsheet I created on our computer, listed by category.  When Steve got home, we sat down and looked through all of our expenses, and developed a budget based on what had spent. 

For example, if we saw that we spent $200 on eating out, we pulled out a calendar and looked at all of the times throughout the next month that we would be eating out.  Then, we developed a budget that we thought we could stick to.   (For instance, we gave Steve $12.50 a week to spend on his lunches.  That meant that if he decided to drink a coke and eat sushi one day, totaling $12.00, then he would starve the rest of the week, or eat Ramen Noodles purchased with his remaining 50 cents!)
One of our goals was to save enough money to put a down payment on our first house, which meant that we couldn’t spend every dime that we brought home from our jobs.  So, we had to cut in some of our other spending areas, and sometimes get creative in how we functioned day-to-day.

So, how does this translate to your own family budget?  I’d encourage you to do the same.  Developing your own family budget, based on ACTUAL expenses, and not estimated costs.  That means that you too, need to have a flurry of receipts in your home, collecting over the course of a month (or two!), so that you can see how much you truly spend on various things.  Based on the figures you’ll compile, you can develop a budget that you’re able to stick to, and hopefully accomplish those financial goals you’re striving for!
I believe in you!  Good luck!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Gift of Knowing

Most people do not enjoy going to the doctor’s office.  The thought of sitting in a waiting room, listening to a chorus of coughing, thumbing through 2 year old copies of Time Magazine is not appealing.  Having someone poke and prod you before telling you something is wrong never feels like fun.  Maybe the only thing worse is going to see the dentist.

We tend to follow the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality of healthcare.  We try to avoid seeing the doctor unless something is actually wrong.  Unless we are bleeding, broken, or running a temperature, we think we don’t need do be cared for by a physician.  But if this is our attitude toward healthcare, we are missing a crucial element to healthy living… the gift of knowing.

All too often, we can be surprised by an unplanned health event in our lives.  It can seem like something out of left field.  We ask ourselves, “How did this happen?”  In many cases, going to see the doctor when you feel healthy can prevent these kinds of health events.  While the doctor cannot foresee every potential problem, he or she can catch many of them.  Your doctor can also help you chart a course toward greater health. 

Children go through regular check ups for school or to play sports.  But adults rarely have to go through the same kind of examination unless they are taking out some life insurance.  While this may be the case in much of our culture, wellness checks are KEY to prevention of many conditions.  The good news is that many health insurance plans actually cover an annual wellness check-up with the doctor.

So do yourself a favor that could impact your future health and wellbeing.  Give yourself the gift of knowing what is going on with your body and potential hazards that could arise.  Schedule a check-up with your doctor.  You are not a hypochondriac if you do.  You are simply being proactive about one of the most important things we are blessed to own… our health.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Family Fun – Week 2

“That is not for you, Mr. Browning”

These are the words that I hear every year when I go to take a cookie, tear off a piece of desert bread, or grab a homemade candy.  If I’m truthful, I know that these goodies are not for me but it is hard to control yourself when you have a plethora of Christmas treats all around you.  This is the scene in our home every Christmas.  Starting in early December our kitchen becomes a Christmas distribution center.

Admittedly, I am not the baker in our home.  I’m more like the kid at the end of the old “Shake N Bake” commercials.  I do my part and at the end announce – “And I Helped!”  The head chef at the Browning residence is none other than my wife Beth.  (I know… good looking and a brilliant cook?!? Some guys get all the luck!)  At this time of year, our little family gets baking so that we have a delicious treat for our neighbors, acquaintances, and others. 

Our little Christmas baking tradition serves a couple of purposes…

First: Family Baking Bonding Time.  If you don’t take yourselves too seriously in the kitchen this can be a really fun time.  You can talk, laugh, and enjoy some dedicated family time to doing a project together. You don’t have to be an expert baker.  (The first year we made sugar cookies.  That is the sources of the picture above.  Those were decorated by Beth… Somehow we lost the picture of the one’s I decorated.  Go figure.)  Just download a free recipe and have fun while you make it together.  Everybody can participate.  Beth oversees ingredients, I mix, Caleb pours in various ingredients, and the dog takes care of anything we drop on the floor.

Second: Sending Christmas Cheer to Those Who Are Near.  We’ve tried to make it a habit of dispersing our Christmas goodies to neighbors and acquaintances.  When I worked for Chick-fil-A I would bring in platters of cookies for my co-workers. We’ve trekked through the snow to bring loaves of Chocolate Chip Bread to new neighbors.  Bringing these treats to others is a good way to opening the door to some Christmas cheer and maybe even sharing the true meaning of Christmas with others.

WARNING: If you are going to give away something you bake, make sure it tastes good first.  In our home, I have the glorious burden of taste testing what goes out the door and into the lives/mouths of others.

So carve out some time this Christmas season to make some treats.  Your family, your neighbors, and your taste buds will be glad you did.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Leading the Withdrawn

Years ago I was invited to sit in on a staff meeting of an organization I greatly admired.  When I entered the room I was greeted by a number of staff members before finding a seat at the large table where everyone sat.  Throughout the meeting there was laughter, thought-provoking questions, updates, and a lot of discussion.  Most were participating, but there was one individual seated toward the middle of the table who seemed like he could care less.  His computer was opened and he was more attentive to whatever he was typing than to the conversation.  He was disengaged and only participated when he was called upon.  Even then he had to ask the person addressing him to repeat the question.  He was withdrawn.

Occasionally, as a leader you will face the difficult task of leading a person who has become withdrawn.  You notice the person does not interact with others in the organization.  The withdrawn keep to themselves and do anything but contribute.  They may still do their job, but it is with minimal energy usually resulting in minimal results.  Questions are met with short answers.  Objections are met with a short fuse.  This is the plight of a withdrawn team member.

Depending on what the problem is leading the withdrawn can prove to be difficult, but not impossible.  Here are some common reasons people move from dialed in to withdrawn and what to do about it.

Hurt Feelings.   This is way too touchy feely for a lot of leaders, but the reason why many team members become withdrawn is because they have been hurt.  Maybe it was another team member.   Maybe it was leader of the team. Whatever the source of the hurt, it needs to be addressed so the withdrawn person can be reengaged.  Find out the hurt, apologize if appropriate, and move on.  If this team member is in a constant state of being offended, it may be time to rethink their position.

Dispassionate About The Mission.  A common problem with people who are withdrawn is they simply do not get excited about the mission or direction of the organization.  If you find this is the withdrawn person’s issue there are two responses.  1 – If the person is an all-star on your team, they may have some valid reservations about the direction that need to be heard.  The leader needs to listen and possibly make some changes.  2 – If the mission and direction are where they need to be, then the withdrawn individual may need to seriously think about whether this is the team they need to be on.

A New Direction. It could be that the withdrawn person is thinking about a new direction in their life’s work.  It may be working in a completely different field or doing something else within the organization they are already a part of.  Sit down with the withdrawn person and figure out a plan to get them from where they are at to where they want to be.  If it is leaving the organization, help them get to the next position.  If it is changing places in the organization, keep your eyes ad ears open to moving them if you value having them on the team.

Being withdrawn is difficult.  Leading the withdrawn can be even harder.  Define the problem the person has and work the solution from that point.  Don’t assume they are withdrawn for a bad reason or that they need to be let go (though this is the case sometimes).  Work toward a beneficial solution for the team and the withdrawn member if at all possible.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Choose Cheer

So this is “the most wonderful time of year” where everyone is supposed to be of “good cheer”, right?  Long lines, traffic in the parking lots, out of stock items, family tensions, and a slew of other stressors make “cheer” seem like a distant holiday relic.  Perhaps there used to be cheer around Christmas time, but maybe it is now a distant memory captured in a Norman Rockwell painting of a different era of holiday celebration.  Has cheer become a casualty of the Christmas rush?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The answer is up to you.

We are the determining force behind our attitudes, cheer included.  You can allow the hustle and bustle of the season to rob us of the joy that is supposed to be indicative of this season.  You can blame outside circumstances and situations.  Ultimately, the choice of our holiday happiness is our own.  So why not choose cheer?

Grumbling is for Grinches.  Always fighting is for Abominable Snowmen.  At the close of this season you will have the opportunity to look back on these days with fondness or regret.  The difference will be the approach you took to the 12 days of Christmas (and then some).  Choose cheer!  You and your family will be glad that you did.

Here’s a few tips on how to choose cheer…

Say Thank You
Sing a Christmas Song (Out Loud)
Drink Hot Chocolate and Cider
Eat Christmas Cookies
Go Look at Neighborhood Lights
Bake Something For a Neighbor (Or Buy It From Kroger)
Eat a Candy Cane Just Because You Can
Start A New Christmas Tradition
Remember An Old Christmas Tradition
Sit Down For a Minute and Reflect On Your Favorite Christmas Memory
Remember the Reason for the Season (more on that in posts to come)