Monday, January 16, 2017

Three meaningful gifts every leader can give away to their staff


Leaders come bearing gifts to their staff. They set the culture of the organization in positive and sometimes negative ways. The best leaders create a culture of clarity, development and optimism that we can accomplish our mission. All three of these are positive gifts to the staff they lead.


The gift of clarity is helping everyone be crystal clear as to what we are about and what our focus needs to be. The more sharply we can articulate our direction and focus, the more our staff can in turn focus their work! Focused clarity within organizations is not as common as one might think because it requires an enormous effort  by leadership to clarify their mission and an equally enormous effort to keep the organization focused on that mission. However, that clarity is a great gift to staff as they know what the goal is and where their energies need to be focused.



The gift of staff development is an indication of whether leaders are generous in seeking to help staff grow and develop or selfish in simply using staff for their own purposes. Think about the various work roles you have had over the years and ask the question, "did I leave that role with greater skill and success because someone intentionally developed me or was I simply left to my own devices?" Leaders have a stewardship responsibility to help staff grow, flourish and to give them opportunity to use their gifts fully. This is a truly significant gift and staff never forget the gift.

The gift of optimism is an attitude that together we can get our job done and accomplish our mission. A leader's optimism with their staff is critical in today's uncertain and competitive marketplaces. Optimism creates momentum while pessimism creates discouragement. Optimism married to a culture of teamwork and cooperation allows organizations to see results that no one could accomplish on their own. Regardless of whether a leader feels optimistic on any certain day, they give a gift to their staff when they choose to convey a positive attitude.

Every leader can give these three gifts to their staff - if they value their staff enough to do it.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness in both the for profit and non profit sectors. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

In serving our customers it is often the little things that count the most


Serving our customers is a goal that every organization would say they have. And many organizations do it very well. But we often don't realize how the small things we do or don't do directly impact customer service. In fact, some of those small things don't even seem to relate to customer service - but they do!

Let me give an example. In working with an organization that does excellent work there is a common complaint. Email's between colleagues often do not get returned in a timely manner. Some not ever. But that is an internal matter, right? Not really! What seems to be a strictly internal matter which we often think does not matter has a direct bearing on the customer because how we operate and communicate internally either allows us to serve our customer well or not.

In the case referred to above there is a customer service department that deals directly with those served to solve problems and ensure an outstanding customer experience. This often means communicating with others within the organization. When there is no response or delayed responses they end up operating in the dark as to whether issues have been addressed or not. In addition, in the absence of information it is not possible for those responsible for the customer experience to ensure that breakdowns in that experience get addressed. So what is seen by some as unimportant (answering an email in a timely fashion) is actually very important in fulfilling the mission of the organization.

In most cases, it is the small things rather than the big things that allow us to serve our customers well. What seems insignificant to us may in the end be most significant in delivering on our promises to the customer.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness in both the for profit and non profit sectors. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The absurd story of Christmas

No story is better known. No story better captures the heart of a child - small or grown - than the one we celebrate today. No matter how many times we hear the story it never grows old, it never disappoints, never ceases to evoke deep emotions of wonder, awe and comfort. An angel’s proclamation to illiterate shepherds, a teenage unwed mother, a loyal carpenter fiancee, the evil king Herod, a cold, clear, Bethlehem night without a place to stay. A messy birth in an animal’s stall, alongside a dirty alley in the dark of night. Confused cows watching unknowing as the Son of the universe stares back unknowing at the very animals He had created eons before. A mother, a child, a carpenter, a few agitated animals and the pungent smell of manure.

This is a story so absurd that it could only have been scripted by a Divine hand. No other writer would have attempted such a script. If they had they would not have claimed it to be true: fiction maybe, but not reality. This is not how the One whose voice had echoed off of a billion galaxies would make His entrance. Without CNN and Fox News, into a hovel known affectionately today as Bethlehem but then nothing more than a tiny village on the path to Jerusalem. 

His entrance was marked not by a proclamation to kings but to astonished herdsmen sleeping with sheep. The heavens opened with ten thousand voices – not over Jerusalem the ancient capital – but over a tiny grazing field for a handful of insignificant shepherds. They would be the only witnesses of the grand entrance of a King. No other writer would have written such a script. 

No other author would have taken such a chance. For behind this story there are echoes of another story - equally incredulous. Centuries before in the vastness of eternity past – when infinity kissed infinity, The Master of Infinity spoke into being the universe in which we live - 3,000 of whose stars are visible to the careful eye, 30 billion visible from a large telescope, - the other 90% of the universe still hidden from our eyes. Its splendor an eternal testimony to the Author of the story.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render: O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.
(Walter Chalmers Smith)

The Author’s heart had love that could not be contained. A heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longed to give away infinite love. Again the Author spoke: A planet was expertly crafted. One among billions. A people wonderfully created – in the image of the Author. Free to love, free to experience the infinite goodness of the Author. Free to revel in His infinite Love. But above all free. Love cannot be forced and remain love.

We are not the sole owners of broken hearts. No heart suffered such sorrow as Infinite Love rejected. Image bearers rejected the Image Maker. The story’s characters fired the Author to write their own script. Unmatched, searing pain pierced the Author’s heart as the loved jilted the Lover. 

Chaos infiltrated beauty. A planet was hijacked and spun out of control. Poverty of spirit supplanted endless joy. Unfulfilled hearts realized the pain of lost love. Without the Author, individual story lines faltered – and failed. Sadness reigned. Darkness descended in seeming endless gloom.

Truth can be stranger than fiction. For in the pained heavens the grieving Author plotted love’s revenge. An awesome revenge that only Divinity could contrive – that only Divinity would contrive. Having lost His loved, the Lover would send His most loved to reclaim His heart’s desire. The rejected Creator would kiss the unfaithful created. Tender mercy in place of deserved destruction. An astonished heaven broke into unbelieving applause. Image bearers would be reclaimed by the Image Maker. Light would once again prevail over darkness. Brokenness would be made whole. Peace would triumph over chaos.

All was silent in the heavens on the chosen night. Angels held their corporate breath. For nine months the Son had been absent, resident in a young girls womb, coming to us not as a king but incognito, just one of thousands of children that would be born on a lonely planet that night – into the darkness that our word had become. Placenta covered the Son of the universe arriving to claim back His beloved: this time, one by one, heart by heart. Tender mercy arriving in disguise: one of us, one like us. On that night, the Author personally entered our story. 

Such humility our world has never known. A stunning reversal for a world gone astray. A Heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longing to give away infinite love, arriving under cover of night in order to “shine on those living in darkness…to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:27).

When an author writes, each character is unique; each has his or her own story-line. We, each have a story – unique, unrepeated, singular. Each story has its own joy, its own pain, its own pathos and unmatched quality. But each shares one singular, astonishing feature. We are made in the Author’s image, and He will not rest until we have invited Him to join in our story. 

More astonishing than the script He has authored, the story we celebrate today is that He also wants to enter into your story. This is the most ancient of stories but it is also the most contemporary of stories. The Christmas story is but one chapter in the Author’s divine script. The Author is still writing. And every person who invites Him into their story becomes a separate and unique chapter in His unfinished book. And into each story He brings His light and peace. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17.)

Have you invited Him into your story?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Silence, Chaos, Rejoicing, Holy Awe


Silence
The heavens held their collective breath for the Son was gone. The unimaginable was unfolding. The One who had superintended creation was now ready to be born a creature. What could this mean? Majesty of heaven rejected for the poverty of a squalid earth and a people who had rejected truth too many times to count. They had traded the garden for a lie and now the creator traded majesty for obscurity. It was a silence of unbelief, awe, apprehension and wonder!


Chaos
Nativity scenes are peaceful and neat but this night in Bethlehem was anything but. The tiny town was full of travelers, the inns and taverns were full and noisy and crowed and smelly. Desperately, a man tried to find a place for his wife, swollen with child, water about to break, a place where a child could be born in dignity but it was not to be. Instead, it was the to be with the animals, hay and manure, the sounds and smells of the adjacent Inn intruding on this holy moment.

Rejoicing
The silence of heaven gave way to song and praise and rejoicing penetrating the chasm between heaven and earth so that even poor shepherds heard the choir and angelic announcement. This first musical Christmas card came not to the mighty and powerful but to the poor and powerless: A symbol of the Kingdom that was coming - good news for those who needed the same. Good news of a great joy which shall be for all people. Even us, even today! A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Now there was silence on earth as the shepherds tried to understand the import of the news. 

Holy Awe
There was one who knew that the universe had changed and that what was was not what would be: Mary. Too young to be jaded, faith filled and and in awe of the child that lay at her breast. For she knew that He was not of this earth though she did not know the price He would pay. She remembered the angel who had visited her upon her pregnancy. Now she heard the report of the shepherds who came to visit. All the people wondered at their report but Mary, treasured up these things pondering them in her heart. She knew, not fully, but she knew! 

We know fully for we know the rest of the story. Does it move us as it moved the heavens, the angels, the shepherds, the people of Bethlehem and Mary? This is a day to consider, to rejoice and to be awed at the love that drove a rejected Savior to save the broken, the needy, each of us who have received Him in faith.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

High Impact Church Boards is currently out of print but you can receive a PDF if you are looking for it

If you need a copy of High Impact Boards for your church leadership, contact me at tjaddington@gmail.com and I will provide a PDF for you to use until the book is back in print.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Trump, Clinton, truth, Jesus and grace

One cannot read any social media these days without being inundated by information on the upcoming election, the demonization of one candidate or the other, charges, counter charges and some pretty hot feelings about what a Christian should do in the upcoming election.

There are Christ followers who believe they cannot vote for either candidate. There are others who insist that you cannot be an evangelical and vote for Trump. And there are those who say you cannot be a true evangelical and vote for Clinton. Enter theologians with PhD's who have proven to us their case (on both sides). They in turn have been vilified for taking the wrong side in this interesting election, which ever side they have taken.

A few observations.
Neither side respects women. Trump may lack tact and may well be guilty of what he has been painted as (per his own words). On the other hand if the unborn are truly human (and I believe they are) Clinton is certainly not respecting the right of those "girls" or "boys" to live. Both sides have lied significantly and both deny the obvious. Politics today is dirty - and any reading of American history even back to our founding father's shows that this is nothing new. Further, much of our politics is driven by our own fears - whatever they are: immigration; supreme court choices; character of our elected leaders (they have rarely if ever been saints); the economy; and whatever else our fears are. All of this has polarized the nation and Christ followers as well - sadly. My final observation is that Jesus does not carry a card of the independent party, the Republicans or the Democrats. He is above our party squabbles and He has His own concerns that are not directly mirrored by any political party.

Paul made a significant statement when he wrote that we see through a glass darkly. I certainly do on many issues. I think each of you do as well. Our truth on issues not clearly delineated in Scriptures is always partial truth. It is why on even theology, God fearing individuals can have differing interpretations. Convictions are great and I respect them. But in the political arena there is a lot of grey given the observations above. I can share my convictions and the reasons for them with others but I cannot expect all to agree with me if we see through a glass darkly.

Members of my own extended family most of whom love and follow Jesus will vote on different sides of this election for valid reasons. It would be wrong for me to judge their choice if they are doing so out of their own conscience. It is equally wrong for us to allow politics to divide us in the church. There are valid reasons to vote for both candidates even from the perspective of a Christ follower. And there are reasons for those who choose not to vote for any candidate in this election. Civic duty notwithstanding.

This is not the first election - and will not be the last where people believe that the fate of the nation is at stake. We hear that every four years. And the gospel is not dependent on who gets in the supreme court. Besides, if you notice, those who do get in often don't vote the way the president who chose them thought they would. And last I heard, Jesus stands above nations and rulers and accomplishes His will since He is sovereign and is bringing history to His intended conclusion. Daniel in the Old Testament fully understood that as he represented one of the most pagan kings of the ancient world.

So my commitment is to pray for the nation, for the candidates (and God is quite capable of using either one for his purposes) and to give others grace in their convictions knowing that I see things through a glass darkly and will until the vision is fully cleared in the presence of the God of complete truth and righteousness. Jesus expects grace from His people toward one another and toward those who don't follow Him. When we lack grace we are not representing Him no matter which candidate we intend to vote for (or none at all). Grace matters!


Friday, September 16, 2016

Five ways for leaders to overcome their fear of organizational change


Let's face it: organizational change is uncomfortable and it is one of the reasons that it does not happen often enough even when there is clear evidence that without it our organization will not go to the next level of effectiveness. In the many years that I served as an organizational leader I had to personally deal with this uncomfortableness. In my years of consulting I have watched leaders struggle with the implications of necessary change because of its impact on them and the comfort of the status quo.

Organizations that remain static today quickly find their effectiveness erode. Changes in the marketplace, the size of the organization, the need to break through growth barriers or the necessity of trying new strategies all require change and the first barrier that must be overcome is the reluctance of leaders to embrace it.

Why would organizational leaders not embrace change that can help their organization become better and more effective? Change is uncomfortable! It means that we must move from comfort to discomfort. It means potential changes to our "turf" and how we are used to doing things. It can impact reporting relationships and therefor the "politics" of the organization (and all organizations have politics). It requires us to think about our work differently and often more strategically. All of these factors make change uncomfortable and unless leaders are able to overcome their discomfort they can be the barrier to organizational growth and effectiveness.

How then do we overcome our discomfort to change? It really goes to how we think about our work and about change. 

First, it is OK to admit that change is simply hard. Often we resist change as leaders by arguing that it is not needed rather than just admitting that it makes us uncomfortable. Any major change needs to be prefaced by the fact that it will make us uncomfortable.

Second, we need to remember that our work is not about us but about the mission of the organization. If change is required to better fulfill our mission (and it will be) we embrace it because our commitment is not to our personal comfort but to the fulfilling of the mission of the organization. To resist change because of our own discomfort is to see our work as about us rather than about the mission we are committed to.

Third, we need to be willing to embrace uncertainty as to how the change will impact us. Here is another fact: There is uncertainty in change and until we get through the whitewater to the calm water on the other side we will need to live with uncertainty. But also recognize that our fears are rarely founded in reality: they are simply fears of the unknown that change brings. True leadership is about the ability to negotiate needed change for the good of the organization, not to guard our own comfort. Even when we try to understand the consequences of necessary change (which we should do) there will be implications that we do not foresee.

Fourth, as leaders we need to understand that change is good for us. It requires us to sharpen our thinking, our strategies, our assumptions and our ability to adapt to a changing world. Usually our resistance to change is about us while our willingness to embrace it is about the effectiveness of our work and the mission of the organization. Dealing with organizational change makes us better and sharper leaders.

Fifth, we need to think of change as innovation. That is what it is: innovation to increase our effectiveness. No company survives for long without innovation. If I view organizational change as a nuisance I will resist it. If I see it as innovation that will help the organization do what it does better I will more willingly embrace it. Innovation is always an ongoing process in any organization.

Notice that all of these five principles are about how we think about our work and our role as leaders. If we can change the way we think about change, that change will become easier.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness in both the for profit and non profit sectors. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com