Work Through Challenges

Most, if not all, of us have challenges in marriage and relationships at work from time to time. We may even have an extended season of difficulty. There are some who will leave when the “going gets tough” and others who persevere, which is not easy. 

In marriage, persevering pays off!

I just finished reading the book “The Good News About Marriage” by Shaunti Feldhahn. Throughout the book she counters much of the discouraging information that has been widely publicized and generally accepted about marriage with good news based on a closer look at the data and further evaluation of all available sources. (For more information, visit

Did you know that most married couples who are unhappy will be happily married if they persevere with each other for five years?

She shares two conclusions from a 2002 article (“Does Divorce Make People Happy. Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages.” who’s lead author is Linda Waite):

  • Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.
  • Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.

She cites another report that shows similar results (“Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 Baseline Statewide Survey on Marriage and Divorce.” who’s lead author is Christine Johnson):

  • Among those whose marriages had been in enough trouble to consider divorce, the vast majority said they were glad they had stuck it out and were still together (79 percent of those married seven years or less, rising to 95 percent or more after the first seven years of marriage).

Although these studies were conducted several years ago, they show that if struggling married couples persevere and get the help they need to overcome their challenges, they are likely to come out in a better place. Not all of them, but most.

So, if you are in a struggling marriage, there is hope! I encourage you work through your challenges. I know, it’s simple to say, but not at all easy to do. But, the payoff is well worth it! (And I can say that from personal experience.)

More Of The Same?

After just two work days into the new year, I found myself picking up where I left off feeling like I was doing the same thing as before the year-end holiday break. I have higher aspirations for this year than last, and I suspect you might as well.  So, in order to achieve my goals, something will need to be different this year. What about you?

Will 2018 be more of the same, or do you need to do something different in order to achieve your goals?

Habits and routines are often difficult to break, so it’s easy to fall back into business as usual. It’s especially challenging when we want to change patterns of behavior that influence marriage or work relationships. However, in order to grow and achieve new heights, we must do something different. Otherwise, we fall into the trap of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

So, how do you break out of your routine or rut?

It starts with a choice. Make a conscious decision not to do what you have been doing.  Then, make a list of the things you need to do differently to achieve your goals. Post the list in a place that you will see daily to remind yourself about what you need to do. Share the list with someone who agrees to hold you accountable and call you out when you are slipping backwards.  When you slip (and you most likely will in the early days), re-commit to change and start over. Persevere through your setbacks and you will eventually change your behavior. More importantly, you will be more likely to achieve your goals.

This is hard work. It’s simple to say that you will do things differently, but not easy to follow-through.  When you do, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment!

How Will 2018 Be Different?

Happy New Year! The start of the new year is often associated with resolutions that are broken within the first month, if not days. Goals are set, yet quickly tucked away and forgotten.  It doesn’t have to be that way. If you haven’t taken time to reflect back on last year and to look forward to this year, spend an hour now (or soon) to do so. It will be good for you! Here are some questions to get you started.

Looking back on 2017

  • What was the best part of it personally and/or professionally?
  • What were your wins (big and little)?
  • For what are you most thankful or grateful?
  • What did you learn or how did you grow during the year?

Looking forward in 2018

  • At this time next year, what would you like to be different? If those things happened, what would that mean for you?
  • What is one thing you would like to change this year personally or at work that would have the most significant impact on your life?
  • What key relationships in your life would you like to do to build, restore, or strengthen (with your spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, etc.)?
  • How would you like to express gratitude and generosity?

Once you’ve answered these questions (as well as others you think of) and listed your goals for 2018, pick the three that will mean the most for you. Then, for each of the three, ask yourself what could stop you, slow you down, or stand in the way of you achieving them. Write down what comes to mind. For each item you listed, identify what resources (people, abilities, connections, financial, etc.) that could help you overcome them. Then (and this is key), take one step today that will get you started moving towards one of your goals. Put the list somewhere where you can see it, review it daily or at least weekly, and keep asking yourself what’s one thing today that you can do to move towards the goal. 

Goal setting is simple, but follow through isn’t easy. It is where the real work takes place. Stay committed and stick to it, and this time next year you will be able to look back at all that accomplished! 

I Was Wrong

Why is it so difficult to admit when we’re wrong?  I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who finds it hard to do. It is really simple, just not easy!

No matter how good we are as a leader, whether at work or at home in our marriage and family, we all make mistakes. There are many reasons why we may not want to admit to them, but most are likely rooted in pride, fear, or insecurity. We may be perceived as not knowing everything we think we should know. We may be concerned that if we admit to our mistake, those who we report to or who report to us will no longer trust us or they may have less confidence in our abilities. We may be perceived as being weak if we admit to our mistakes and ask for forgiveness. What are your reasons? Make a list.

While there could be some truth in any of these possible reasons for not admitting when we’re wrong, in the end, it actually may weaken our position as a leader. Sometimes, those around us already know that we were wrong, particularly if we did something to directly offend or impact them. What message are we sending to others about what’s acceptable? Other times, our error may be found out at a later time and we then have to explain why we kept it hidden. In all cases, when we know that we did something wrong and didn’t admit to it, there is an undercurrent in our subconscious mind that may impact our thoughts, decision making, or interactions with others, and may ultimately dampen our level of influence as a leader.

So, what’s the answer?

When you make a mistake, do something wrong, or offend someone, own up to it! 

  • Admit that you were wrong. (“I was wrong.”) 
  • Acknowledge how that impacted others. (“I am sorry that what I did hurt you.”) 
  • Ask for their forgiveness. (“Will you forgive me?”) 
    Wait for their response, understanding that they may not be ready to forgive you at the time…and that’s okay. The point is for you to sincerely ask for forgiveness, whether or not it is given. 
  • Commit to not doing it again and give others permission to bring it to your attention (without retaliation) if you do.

It takes humility and courage to admit when you are wrong. That’s the hard part, but once you overcome your hesitation (resistance), you’ll find that people will respect you for doing it. Your influence will increase as a leader. It’s not easy, but the more you do it, the simpler it will get. 

So, what “mistake” do you need to admit to today? Who do you need to ask to forgive you? Take action now!  You’ll be glad you did.

Leave It At The Door

It’s been said that when we go to work we should leave our personal lives at the door, and many feel that when they go home, they should leave their work lives at the door. This is easier said than done! The fact is that what happens in our personal lives and marriage influences our work, and what happens at work influences our life at home.

A struggling marriage is a significant contributor to decreased productivity at work, especially if the person involved is in the midst of divorce. So, what can we do to minimize the impact?

First, take preventative steps to keep your marriage as healthy as possible. Schedule regular date nights. Attend marriage seminars regularly. Hang out with other married couples who share your desire to keep their marriage as healthy as possible.  If you are going through challenges that you can’t get past, seek help from a qualified counselor or marriage coach before you are at the point of no return. Look for and attend a marriage seminar, conference, or retreat to learn or be reminded of tools that can help to improve communication, reduce conflict, and draw you closer (or back) together. If you’ve offended your spouse, admit what you did was wrong and ask for forgiveness. This is probably one of the most powerful things you can do to keep your marriage healthy.

So, what about helping to minimize the impact of work on the marriage?

First, save energy for your spouse! Work takes a lot out of us, but if we can intentionally make sure that we don’t spend all of our energy on work, we’ll be able to engage when we get home. Second, set boundaries. That may mean agreeing that you will be allowed to vent or talk about work for a set amount of time (eg, 15 minutes) when you get home so that you can get it out of your system. Third, take a longer way home to allow you to time to decompress before opening the door. Finally, you may need to ask your spouse to give you some time alone when you come home, maybe 30 minutes to yourself so that you can get out of “work” mode into “home” mode. There are many other things you can do, but the key is to identify what works for you.

So, set boundaries between marriage and work that allow you to be your best in both places, and be intentional about staying within the boundaries. It’s simple, not always easy…but well worth it in the long-run!

Let It Go!

As it was snowing outside today, it made me think of the song “Let it snow!” that includes the verses “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” I started thinking that as leaders in marriage and at work, sometimes (maybe often), we need to “let it go, let it go, let it go.” It’s simple to say, but certainly not always easy to do.

So, what’s our motivation for not letting go? 

It’s often a matter of control. Maybe we think our way is the best or only way, particularly if the alternative is unproven. It may be that we’re afraid of what could go wrong if we let go. We look at the downside of letting go. 

But, what’s the upside? 

It might free up time for us to do other things. It could excite the employee that gets to follow through on a recommendation, feeling empowered. It might allow our spouse to feel valued, appreciated, and heard. What other benefits would or could you experience if you let go?

The root of not letting go is most likely fear at one level or another. So, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or stressed by the load you are carrying, ask yourself what you could be taking on or holding onto that you could let go and possibly hand over to someone else. Then, take a deep breath and courageously ask someone or just let go! I know, simple, but not easy. Do it anyway.


As leaders, we need to believe in ourselves and others, and those following us need to believe in us. It’s simple enough to say, “just believe me” or “trust me,” but it’s not always easy to walk it out.

To believe is to accept something as true, or to feel sure of the truth of someone or something. It is closely tied to faith, which is defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Trust is closely tied to believing. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something, often without evidence or investigation.

So, how do we get someone to believe in us, to want to work for, work with, and follow us? We can’t force someone to believe in us. It’s a choice. Often times, people choose to follow us because our actions support our words, we follow through on our commitments, we are authentic and transparent, and we treat them well and fairly. We also need to be confident and inspiring. The bottom line is that we need to earn their trust and their desire to believe in us or our ideas.

So, if your spouse, children, or team doesn’t seem to trust or believe in you, make an honest self-assessment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I taken a genuine interest in them?
  • Have my actions supported my words?
  • Am I moving in integrity, honesty, and truthfulness?
  • Have I consistently done what I said I was going to do?
  • Have I given them enough detail and explained the rationale for my direction?
  • Have I really given them something to believe in?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then that may be underlying the reason why people don’t fully support you or buy into what you are requesting of them. If you really want to assess yourself, ask those closest to you to what extent they believe in you (or your direction), what you’ve done that keeps them from fully believing, and what you could do for them to have a stronger belief. If you are completely open to the feedback, it could be quite revealing. It’s hard work and may not be easy to hear, but it is well worth it!

Just Listen

It is all so simple to tell people to just listen, but it is not easy! To be effective and influential as a leader in your workplace, in marriage, and in your family, listening is a critical skill to have or to develop.

Maybe you are like me. I am a “doer” and a “fixer” by nature. I like to get things done, solve problems, resolve conflict, and move on. I like to help people, which is why I became a coach, and to be an effective coach, I have to be a good listener. I have to force myself to listen effectively.  

Do you think you are already a good listener? Take an honest self-assessment. If you want to know for sure, ask those who work for and with you. Ask your wife. Ask your children and other family members. Ask your friends. Feedback is essential to grow as a leader, and this could be some of the most valuable feedback you can receive. Before you ask, assure them that it is safe, that there won’t be any (none, nada, zilch) backlash or retaliation for being honest. Then, when they provide the feedback, resist the temptation to defend yourself. Simply listen and hear their heart. Then, thank them for the feedback.

So, how do you become good at listening?

  • Ask the other person if he or she wants help solving the problem or just wants you to listen. This is extremely helpful for me when my wife is sharing something with me.
  • Intentionally set aside your agenda and let the other person talk.
  • Totally focus on what the other person is saying and block out your own thoughts, preferences, and solutions. This is one of the most challenging things to do, but well worth it.
  • Pay attention to what is not spoken and allow yourself to hear beyond what is being shared. 93% of communication occurs through tone and body language, only 7% through words.
  • Ask questions to confirm your understanding or for clarification.
  • Affirm what is being said, repeating it back or paraphrasing so that the other person knows that you are receiving what they intend.

The list could go on, but it only makes a difference if you desire a different outcome than what you’ve been getting and you take action. A few questions to consider.  What would you gain by being a more effective listener? What are you missing out on from your current level of listening? What would be the impact on others if you were a better listener? 

You get to choose to stay the same or do something different. My hope is that you will choose to be the best listener possible so that you experience life abundantly.

Stick to Your Guns!

Stick to your guns. Stay the course. Tow the line. These are all phrases we’ve said or that others have said encouraging us to persevere in doing what we know is right or best to do.  It’s a simple concept, but not easy to do.

When we’ve done our research, gathered input, and know that we have the right solution as a leader, whether at work or at home, we set direction. Many times, almost immediately after setting direction, we may start second-guessing ourselves, or we may meet with resistance. If we aren’t totally sure of ourselves or if we have a tendency to be a people pleaser, we might back off or even retreat. On the other hand, if we don’t care what others think, we might run over the people we love or those we need to accomplish the task or goal.

As leaders, we need to act with conviction and persist in face of opposition when we know in our heart and mind that the decision we are making is good for everyone involved, even if they can’t see it at the time. As leaders, it is our duty to cast the vision and help people to move towards that vision in everything they do. If we don’t, confusion arises and business or relationships suffer.

To keep things in perspective and to give yourself confidence in sticking to your guns, ask yourselves these questions:

  • Does the decision/direction have a sound basis? (Have you done your research?)
  • Have you weighed the pro and cons, leading to your decision to proceed?
  • Have you opened yourself up to perspectives different from your own?
  • Have you sought advice from others who don’t have a vested interest in the outcome of the decision?
  • Have you fully vetted the options with those who will be impacted by the decision?
  • Does your gut or intuition align with your assessment?

While it may not be possible to answer all of these questions with a yes, the more that you can, the higher confidence and stronger conviction you will have, allowing you to persevere even in the face of opposition. It still won’t be easy, but it is likely to be easier. 

Adapt or Die!

Charles Darwin is quoted as saying: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Many have interpreted this to mean that we either adapt to our environment or we will die. For us, adapting is a simple concept, but it is often not easy to do!

On a recent backpacking trip, I noticed many odd-shaped trees that had clearly adapted to their environment in order to survive. The trunk of one of tree leaned to the left before creating a complete loop then going straight up. I wonder what caused it to grow that way. I’ll never know, but it got me to thinking about how we adapt in our relationships. 

In leadership and marriage, we too must adapt to our circumstances or we may die. We may not suffer a physical death, but if we don’t adapt, our relationships may die or be severely damaged.  In marriage, not adapting to our spouse may result in separation, divorce, conflict, contempt, or at best, coexisting without any real closeness, conversation, or relationship. “Two ships passing in the night.” 

A leader who does not adapt may come across as rigid, uncaring, confrontational, and demanding, which may lead to tension, conflict, and stress with and between team members. Team members may feel devalued. If the failure to adapt continues, the leader may be terminated, high performers may leave for a better work environment, or teams may produce less than they are capable of producing.

Change is not easy, but it is necessary if we want to avoid or reduce the pain associated with not changing.

Here are some considerations for adapting:

  • Accept the truth that your way may not always be the best way.
  • Be open to change and prepared mentally to respond when confronted with a situation that may require changing.
  • Choose to create a mindset that change is good and healthy for relationships.
  • Embrace the possibility that change may be good for you, even better than you can imagine.
  • Make a list of all of the benefits from adapting to the change you are facing. (Of course, be responsible and weigh that list against the risks of adapting and the risk of not changing.)
  • Seek input from team members, trusted advisors, or others when confronted with a situation that may require change.

As you reflect back on your life and career, you will most likely be able to identify times when you adapted and times when you chose not to adapt. In some cases, your choice served you well, while at other times, choosing to adapt rather than resisting change might have yielded a better outcome. 

Make the simple choice to adapt, then have the courage to persevered and follow through so you can experience something better than you can imagine.

Set Clear Expectations

One of the more common sources of conflict in relationships is around expectations, mainly those that are unclear or unspoken. It should be simple for us to state our expectations, but because it’s not always easy, many of us fail to do it. Why is that the case? 

When we set expectations, we are telling someone what we want, desire, or need (or sometimes what we don’t), but we don’t want to come across as pushy, overbearing, demanding, or needy. There’s risk involved. By setting expectations, we are putting a stake in the ground, drawing a line in the sand, setting a boundary, or in some way putting ourselves on the line. When we do, we need to figure out how to respond when our expectations aren’t met and how to address it with the other person in a way that’s healthy. All of these (and more) may be thoughts going through our mind, but the question we need to ask ourselves is, what am I gaining and what am I losing by not stating my expectations?

I guess one way we gain by not sharing our expectations is that we never need to worry about them not being met by someone else. Well, if that were true, then unspoken expectations would not be a source of tension. In reality, they are a source of tension because whether we share our expectations or not, they are still our expectations, and we, by definition, expect them to be met one way or another. So, when they are not met, we become frustrated, angry, or upset. Our relationship suffers as a result. 

When we set and clearly share our expectations with our spouse or those who work with us, we actually provide them with a goal or target. We provide them direction, not specific instructions about how to accomplish the task (although they could be included in setting expectations), but more about what you want them to accomplish. Then they know what’s expected and don’t have to guess! The key is to keep expectations simple, or at least clear, and not to have so many that it becomes near impossible for someone to meet them and keep track of them. Oh, and if or when your expectations change, be sure to let them know right away. Otherwise, they become unspoken expectations that they have no chance of meeting. 

Once you’ve share your expectation, it is just as important to confirm that the other person understands them. This can take the shape of a simple question like: “Are you clear about what I am asking?” or “What questions do you have about what I’m expecting?” Of course, this needs to be asked in a posture and tone of openness so that the other person doesn’t feel that he or she will be belittled or berated for asking a question for clarification.

If things aren’t getting done in the way you expect, take an honest self-assessment by asking yourself if you are providing your expectations, or whether you are being clear when you do. If not, spend some time to consider and write down what you expect. Then, take the simple step of sharing your expectations, clearly and concisely. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes at work and in your marriage and family!

Do Not Fix It!

Resist the urge to fix a problem that your spouse or team member brings to you. Let things play out and see what happens. Oh so simple to say, but not at all easy to do! Like many men and leaders, I am a problem-solver. When someone comes to me with a problem, I naturally and quickly go into fix it mode. While this may yield results (ie, a solution), it is not always in the best interest of the relationship. Plus, it may reduce your influence as a leader. 

In marriage, it is common for a man to want to fix a problem or situation that his wife shares with him. This frequently causes frustration or conflict because she often doesn’t want her husband to come up with a solution.  Most (or at least many) women want to share their feelings and be able to process out loud. They want their husband to simply listen. That’s hard for many of us men to do!

In leadership, being in fix-it mode with your team can work against you as well. If you are always the one who solves the problems, your team will start looking to you for the answers and will stop thinking for themselves. Or, they will only take their thinking so far because they know you’ll have your own spin on it once they share with you. This adds to your workload and stress level! Part of your role as a leader is to help your team members to be their best, so if they are giving you anything less than that, you have an obligation to help them push past where they are.  Additionally, the same scenario that happens in marriage may be playing out at work. Women (and sometimes men) may be coming to you to listen while they process out loud, rather than to have you solve their problem. They simply need to be heard, and once they are, they can move on and continue to find better solutions.

So, here are some tips to help avoid fixing something for someone else:

  • If they only come with a problem, ask them what solutions they’ve considered thus far. If they don’t have any, ask them to come back to you when they have at least one, but ideally more than one.
  • Ask them if they are giving you their best thinking. Asking this question forces them to assess whether they’ve thought it through enough on their own. If you ask it consistently, they will eventually start coming with solutions, or at least options, rather than just the problem.
  • Before they start describing what’s going on or as soon as you can interrupt, ask something like: “Do you want me to fix it (help you find a solution) or just listen?” This one question has been tremendously helpful in my marriage, but it can also be just as helpful at work.
  • When the urge to fix it rises up, take a deep breath and pause. Ask yourself whether it sounds like something the other person (or team) can fix on their own. Have they taken it as far as you think they are capable of doing? If not, then encourage them to continue. 
  • Be open to solutions that are different than what you would do. Allow for the possibility that their solution may be better, even if it doesn’t appear that way on the surface. (Of course, good judgment needs to be used in this situation, particularly where stakes are high.)

When all else fails, just stop it! This video clip from the Bob Newhart Show illustrates the point in a humorous way. To avoid fixing problems that our spouse or team member doesn’t really want fixed, sometimes we just need to “stop it.” Simple, but not easy.

Just Don't Think About It!

How many times has someone said to you, “just don’t think about it”? It’s simple to say, but not always easy to do! Thoughts are powerful, so it is important for us to know how to control them. Julaine and I visited Niagara Falls recently and we were in awe of the power of water falling 175 feet, sometimes moving rocks, but always pulverizing or eroding soil, vegetation, and rocks. Thoughts have every bit as much power, and if they are not controlled, they can cause serious damage to ourselves and others.

Thoughts, whether negative or positive, are what generate feelings, attitudes, reactions, body language, tone of voice, and behaviors. Nearly everything we (and others) see or feel starts with a thought. How aware are you of your thoughts? If you became fully aware (as much as humanly possible) of your thoughts, how could that impact your view of yourself, others, your work, your marriage, or life in general? 

In her book, “Switch on Your Brain,” Dr. Caroline Leaf shares results from her research, as well as that of others, which shows biological changes occurring from thoughts. She states that “The design of the brain allows us to capture and discipline chaotic thoughts. Research dating back to the 1970s shows that being introspectively aware of our thoughts in a disciplined way, rather than letting them chaotically run rampant can bring about impressive changes in how we feel and think. Purposefully catching your thoughts can control the brain’s sensory processing, the brain’s rewiring, the neurotransmitters, the genetic expression, and cellular activity in a positive or negative direction. You choose.” So, how we choose to think has a powerful impact on physiology and our own well-being!

Dr. Leaf also shares that “God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them. The importance of capturing those thoughts cannot be underestimated because research shows that the vast majority of mental and physical illness comes from our thought life rather than the environment and genes.”

Dr. George Pransky states a similar thought in a different way in “The Relationship Handbook.”  “A change of heart is always preceded by a moment of truth. Just before change occurs, our thinking quiets down to allow a moment of inner silence. In this moment, we see life anew; our old thinking drops away and we can take a fresh look at our circumstances.” He goes on to say that, “Change of heart is the mechanism for saving and improving relationships. It enables a marriage with a painful history to achieve a permanent new footing overnight. A change of heart by one party, however slight, is usually enough to create a positive spiral in the evolution of your relationship.”

You can’t help but to “think about it” because that’s the way you are made, but you can catch your thought and change it so that you may have better relationships! Now that you have a glimpse of the impact that thoughts can have, you can choose to continue to think about whatever “it” is, or you can choose to change your thought. Both choices have consequences, positive or negative. 

The next time you notice (“catch”) yourself getting worked up, worried, fearful, angry, or having some other undesirable emotion, reaction, or behavior, identify the core thought. Then, consider letting go of that thought and finding a different thought that will take you a better place. Better yet, notice those situations that occur over and over in your work or personal life and identify the underlying thought that is eliciting an undesirable reaction. Then, think about another thought that would give you a different and positive perspective. Make it a point to shift to that thought the next time you are confronted with the same situation again. This is a proactive way to change the outcome by planning a new thought in advance. It will take effort and intentionality on your part, but it will be worth it in the long-run. 

People Over Process

Focus on people, not process. Simple, right? It may be simple to say, but it’s not easy to do. It makes sense. People get things done. But, I am a task- and process-oriented guy. I like formulas. I like to develop and follow a plan. I like action. I get things done. But, as a leader, I have to rely on other people to do those things because that’s what they are there to do. Besides, if what we’re doing is bigger than me, there’s no way I can do it all myself.  Sometimes I lose sight of the people, and focus on the process or the desired output. Can you relate? When I haven’t caught myself, this has resulted in frustration (mine and the team’s) and a discouraging environment.  If left unchecked, putting process over people can be devastating to a team and an organization. 

As leaders, we need other people to use their talents and abilities to do their part in contributing to the completion of the overall project or deliverable. Without them, we wouldn’t be a leader and wouldn’t be able to accomplish more than we could do on our own. I know this is basic and probably goes without saying, but sometimes we can get so caught up in getting things done that we forget to pay attention to our people. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure it is not. 

So, how do we stay focused on the people? 

First, take time to be with them and get to know each team member. Take an interest in them. Understand what gets them excited and what frustrates them. Know their family situation and interests outside of work. And, help them to get to know more about you personally. Yes, this will take time! But, it will be worth it in the long run.

Second, pay attention to their body language so that you can pick up clues when something else might be going on in their life, between them and other team members, or even between you and them. Pull them aside, and gently and courageously check with them to see what’s there. If you’ve built trust, they will share. If you haven’t, they will most likely downplay it. But, if you let it go unnoticed or don’t address it, productivity is likely to suffer as a result of whatever might be distracting them.

Third, when you speak harshly or do something to offend them, deal with it immediately. State the offense. Admit you were wrong. Tell them you are sorry. Ask them to forgive you. Allow them to hold you accountable. Check to see if there is anything else you’ve done to offend them and ask for forgiveness for the things they mention. (“6-Step Apology” from Transformational Leadership)

Lastly, engage them in setting personal and professional objectives. Schedule brief (10 to 15 minutes) weekly one-on-one meetings to check in, see what they want to accomplish for the week, and ask how you can help. Make the meeting a priority every week, but stay focused and keep it short. It shows that you value them, care about them, and it reinforces that you are there to help them succeed.

These are just a few of the things you can do to show your team that you care about them as people and that you value them more than you do the process. When they are engaged, they are more likely to follow the process to get the results you desire. You may still have to guide them, but it will be much more rewarding for you and for them. Take some time now to reflect on how much you know about your team members and to what extent you focus on them or on process. If you are focusing more on the process than the people, consider what steps you can take to reverse your focus, starting with what’s described above. You’ll be glad you did and so will your team!

Are You A Present-Challenged Leader?

I am a planner by nature, so that means that I’m nearly always thinking about the next step, next thing, or something other than what’s in front of me. I often have trouble being “in the moment.” (And no, for me this is not ADHD!) A while back, my wife came up with a term for it – being “present-challenged.” While this shows up frequently in my marriage, which is not a good thing, I have become aware that it shows up in all areas of my life. 

Are you a present-challenged as a leader? To play off of the approach Jeff Foxworthy takes in a skit about knowing if someone is a redneck, here are some clues that you might be present-challenged: 

If you are always thinking about your position, response, or what you want to say when the people reporting to (following) you are talking…you may be present-challenged.

If you are thinking about what needs to be done next, not what’s being discussed, when you are in a meeting…you may be present-challenged.

If you are thinking about something totally unrelated to the discussion taking place between you and one or more people (some may call this day dreaming)…you may be present-challenged.

If, after a discussion with someone, you can’t remember many details about the conversation…you may be present-challenged.

If you are in a group gathering of some sort and you are thinking about all of the things you could be doing if you weren’t there…you may be present-challenged.

There are a number of books, or sections of books, that discuss the value of being in the moment – feeling peace and reducing stress, anxiety, and worry to name a few. In leadership, the importance of being fully present (physically, emotionally, and mentally) with those who follow you is critical. It shows that you value them and what they have to say. It gives you an opportunity to learn what’s going on, to keep a pulse on things. It allows you to hear tones and see body language that may be communicating something other than what’s being presented or shared so that you can get to the real heart of the matter.  Oh, and other people can often see when you’ve checked out, even if you think you’re doing a good job of hiding it. So, if they are seeing that you aren’t fully present, you lose credibility and some relational capital with them.

It’s simple to say “just stay in the moment,” but it’s not always easy to do, especially if you are present-challenged like I am. I’ve learned that I have to intentionally focus on the person or group that I am with in order to stay present to them.  I sometimes remind myself that if I am not going to be fully present, then I am wasting my time, as well as theirs. So, I need to be fully engaged to make the most of the time together. While these things don’t always work, they work more times than not. So, if you are present-challenged, commit to yourself to intentionally focus on being present in each instance. The more you do (over time), the less difficulty you will have staying in the moment.