Put hundreds of imperfect humans into tight quarters day-after-day, loaded up with challenging goals and pressure-inject the situation with uncontrollable external factors…and what do you expect you’ll get? There are lots of answers to that question so let me just tell you what I’m getting at. Humans are emotional creatures and they don’t leave their feelings at home when they commute to work. No, emotions show up at work every day. And grace-based leaders are equipped to handle emotions in ways that honor their people and lift up their organizations.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines emotions as: instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. Furthermore, this word originated in mid 16th century France and it denoted a public disturbance or commotion.
Do you see where I’m headed?
In his 1970 essay The Servant as Leader, Robert K. Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leadership.” Although not a new concept, Greenleaf’s essay popularized the concept and set into motion a decades-long debate.
For me to think I could resolve that debate would land squarely on either arrogance or ignorance. No, my musings today are more observation than revelation. Of course I can’t help but also offer encouragement to leaders striving to become more servant-minded.
Grace is a word most people have heard, some people use, but few understand. Even fewer people associate Grace with the workplace.
Grace is a uniquely Christian concept that often gets confused with license, permissiveness or passivity. Some think it’s akin to the “Get Out of Jail Free” Chance card in the popular board game Monopoly. But that’s not grace. That’s a cheap substitute. Grace is a radical and powerful concept that, if fully understood and unleashed by leaders, has the potential to radically transform a workplace.
In this brief slideshow, I unpack the components of grace as articulated by Dr. Tim Kimmel of Family Matters, and adapted by me to help marketplace leaders learn how to glorify God and deliver uncommon results through the creation of a grace-based workplace.
As the world debated Tom Brady’s alleged improprieties in the Patriot’s 2015 Deflate Gate scandal, a wonderful story emerged out of Ada, Ohio. A story about purpose. A story about Jane Helser – a football seamstress from the Wilson football factory.
For 48 years Jane stitched together the 4 panels of leather that comprise an an official NFL football. Upon her retirement she reflected, “When I’m at a Super Bowl and I walk in that stadium at kick off time and I see that football sitting out there on that field; I get goose bumps because I sewed that football.”
When we think about finding purpose at work, our minds often gravitate to the grandiose. Sometimes presuming purpose is found only in the innovative or prominent positions. But watching Jane Helser, with tears in her eyes, describe her career as a football seamstress inspired me to rethink significance and purpose.
When I was a competitive athlete (more than a couple of decades ago), I didn’t particularly care for the human interest stories that worked their way into the Winter and Summer Olympics programming. All I wanted to see was the head-to-head competition. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The winners and the losers. However, decades later I find myself strangely interested in the human interest stories…for the wisdom found within them.
Interestingly, if you look deeply into the near career-ending injuries, debilitating life situations, emotional setbacks, and excruciating disappointment…these against-all-odds stories reveal a great deal about the powerful role hope plays in fueling peak performance.
If you asked 100 people to describe the conditions needed to be satisfied with their job, at least 90 would inject the word FREEDOM. In fact, most of us would say that when our jobs lack freedom they become suffocating and lifeless.
Yet, if pressed for a definition of freedom we’d likely struggle to offer a crisp one. Defining its elements would be even more difficult. To a leader committed to offering freedom to the people they lead, this makes the task of granting it elusive.
If you know me, it’s no mystery I’m a fan of Dr. Tim Kimmel. Tim, an expert on marriage and parenting, has studied this in great detail and pinpointed 4 Freedoms the human heart desires.
Today I want to touch on one such freedom…the freedom to make mistakes.
I can’t even contemplate leadership without thinking about how my Heavenly Father leads me. As a follower of Christ, underpinning everything good I’ve ever learned about leadership (in my home and the marketplace) is a distinctive and often misunderstood concept. The concept of grace!
I love Max Lucado’s word picture, “Grace is God as a heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart – poisoned as it is with pride and pain – and replacing it with his own.”
While in my first job, I worked for leader I now believe stunted my early development. I knew I had much to learn as a “fresh-out” but my boss routinely pointed out my shortcomings without any advice to help me improve. Comments like, “You’re an idealist,” or “You’re resisting me,” although accurate; provided no insight into alternative pathways or behaviors.
During one stretch she hounded me to deliver a project I knew was doomed. Instead of helping me analyze where the project was stuck, or equipping me to envision a better solution, she pressed me to deploy. Not knowing how to right the troubled ship, I finally acquiesced and released a flawed solution. She praised me for delivering – but as I presented the solution to my colleagues I knew it was dead-on-arrival. Candidly, I was embarrassed and angry. I knew this wasn’t my best work. To stand before my colleagues as they respectfully entertained my “throw away” solution… was humiliating. To know with the right coaching I could have done better…was maddening.
It would be easy to over analyze what went wrong here. In my mind it simply comes down to this…I worked for a critic and not a coach.
I’ve come to appreciate friends as the seasoning in my life…a pinch of each giving it flavor. This past week I sat outside Peet’s Coffee in Newport Beach with one such friend – Michael Regan. Michael is an executive coach and aside from loving my time with him…I always walk away with new insights into my life. That’s a side-benefit of hanging out with executive coaches. They can’t help but make you better.
Michael asked me a series of questions starting with, “What are you most fearful of in your job?” I shared my fear and Michael asked a few follow-up questions amounting to this, “Then what’s the best way to spend your time in order to prevent your greatest fear from becoming your reality?”
Said differently, “What’s your bullseye?”