Month: May 2014

What Makes a Great Generation?

Today was an odd day. It still seems unreal, yet it is too much so. Another of that called “Greatest Generation “, my dad, was laid to rest.

In many respects from what they accomplished they were a great generation. The great depression greeted their birth. World War I I greeted their adulthood, and finally an unrelenting passage of time greeted their bodies. No one escapes the last one.

Each generation has its own chance to be “great” to be determined perhaps by others. Is it possible to gain in stature immediately upon drawing one’s last breath? That seems to happen much of the time. The important talk happens to the family as they gather to say goodbye.

But, we do gather, and exchange the acknowledgements of good things done so we will continue to know how to do the good things. Then maybe, others will tell our children more things done well. All the while, we’re building trust.

Family Trust

Families probably build trust more slowly than other social units. That said, they also probably build stronger trust due to what is invested. Family exposure is exposure indeed! Who else sees our foibles and fractures? Who else witnesses our falling apart? 

Lifelong trust established is truly lifesaving! Thank those who comfort! Thank those who will bear the pall! Thank the understanding as we cry. Thank those who know beyond words.  It is you who are trustworthy. You are now somehow family too! 

Waiting

It almost doesn’t matter what we wait for, we don’t like it. Yet, waiting is the way we learn patience. Waiting also reminds us we are not in control.

Control is the problem anyway. We even get ready for death, yet it doesn’t come on our schedule. So, again we wait. We think we’re prepared, we talk about preparing, we even make some arrangements, but we still wait.

Guess what waiting does: it builds trust. Even if the trust is in some force outside our control. That force is steadier and more reliable than we could ever be.

How to Lose

It is said one of the greatest tests of a person’s character is how they handle it when they don’t get what they want. I believe that is true, and is most clearly observed when someone tries their hardest to win, and loses instead.

I have seen bad winners and good losers. Though I don’t want to be a bad winner, I also hate to lose. Yet, one of the most effective character-builders I know of is losing. Perhaps that is why it is so effective at testing us: we are forced to face the fact that we didn’t come out on top.

This is especially true in the field of politics. Regardless of the quality of the candidates, it’s hard to lose an election at any level. Candidates put themselves out for public scrutiny, and campaign for all they’re worth, only to wait on election night for the results. This has to be one of the hardest things to do, wait to see if people believed you were the best candidate, whether they were motivated to even go to the polls, and whether there were enough who felt that way to vote for you.

I have been impressed recently by two people I know well, and see them lose elections they worked hard to win. They had to acknowledge the results at the polls, and then face their families, friends and co-workers, and move on. They gather up their yard signs, and wonder “what if?”. These two are doing just that, doing with class, and gaining trust in the process. Maybe they’re not finished serving, and maybe they’ll be back. I hope so on both counts.

Who Gets Credit?

When those who work around you do really good things, how do you feel? Does it depend on who gets credit? Are you glad for those who do good things and glad for those who benefited as well?

What if you did a lot of the work, and got little or none of the credit? How does that sit? It’s likely all of us like the “pat on the back” or some recognition of our contribution. Yet, there will still be those times when we get overlooked, either accidentally or purposefully. Then we have to decide on our reaction to the lack.

Whether or not we get credit, those around us will know what part we played. They will also know if you had a part in making it possible for them to receive recognition. If that can be enough for you, then you will enjoy the success, even if it seems not to be yours.

Thursday Night Dinner

Once a week, I get away from the clinical setting of a hospital, and though my role there is non-clinical, I need the break. This break is not even church on Sunday, which I also welcome because I get to delve into scripture and pull out for a few people what I found.

Thursday night dinner has been a tradition in our rural “neighborhood” for a little over 10 years now; we came along not long after that when we moved to the house built by our host’s grandfather. We share that common geographical heritage. I love asking about some aspect of the house that the two sisters might know, or what their dad may have told them. They are in their 70’s themselves, so taking care of the cattle and the garden, and putting up hay is more a chore each year, but they plug along. Someone suggested we only have dinner once a month, but the older sister refused. She will host it each week, with “sissy” coming from her house 100 yards away, and we from a quarter-mile (as the crow flies). The talk around the table is about the latest adventure to get more chickens, or to figure out how to trap the raccoon in the chicken house, or about the new calf born last week. Each story is told with relish, and drama, and sound effects, and is better than any sitcom or stand-up routine. It’s live, and it’s life! 

The neighbors are honest, we care about each other, and we miss whoever is not there any given week. We keep up with relatives, and complain about the new mailman, or we console each other, and attend funerals of those we love. We pray before the meal, and we eat like we love it, because we do. It’s our own little family and we regard it that way. It keeps my feet on the ground, and it’s on my schedule every week as if a mandatory meeting. You see, it is mandatory for my sanity, for my humanity, for my stability, and for my little community. What a great idea someone had to just bring what you were going to have for dinner, and have it together.

Thursday night dinner is known in these parts, and I get to be a part of it. It’s better than any “in crowd” I’ve ever been a part of. You can create one, too, and I would love to hear about it.

Words Matter

It seems our society has abandoned the responsibility for the words we say. Even some in public office say things that they must know are not true, yet they still say them, and then defend them afterward. Perhaps they have realized few of their supporters will ever hold them responsible for their words, so they use them with a new level of recklessness.

Is it the case that our words no longer matter? Is no one listening anymore? It’s likely in some circles that is the case. In politics, often everything is so staged and predictable that most of it on a national level is simply dramatics and grandstanding, with the content mattering little. Few of us can act that way on a local level. People still do pay attention to our words. Social media is where our character comes out, and sometimes way more than we intended.

A posting I saw listed several groups of people the writer advocated to have equal rights, only to term as “idiots” anyone who disagreed. In this case, the “argument” wasn’t with those who might not be tolerant to her list of people, but with herself since her own claim was negated by her own intolerance. This speaks more of the one posting than of anyone else mentioned. Our words do matter, and it’s important that we choose them carefully, and use them wisely. We will be remembered by them, and we get to decide how.

When Things Go Wrong

How do we respond when someone brings us information that something has gone wrong? There are several ways to respond, some are more naturally human, others not so much. We can attack the character and credibility of the one bringing the information to us, usually called “shooting the messenger”. We could also place blame on someone else (anyone!) who may have something to do with the issue. We could even act as if we know nothing about the problem, and just “move on”.

None of those responses are effective, and certainly not productive. The best response is to acknowledge what we have been told, find out if it is accurate, and then (if accurate) take responsibility. If it is not accurate, we need to say that as well. If the problem is correctable, then we correct it. If it is not, we admit that, and do what we can to make the situation better.

These responses will do several things. Most importantly, will build trust, and let others know we will not avoid problems, but will take what action we can to mitigate or resolve them.

What Are You Willing to Risk?

One of the things co-workers will want to know, but will likely not ask, is what you are willing to risk on their behalf. This is not to intentionally put you at risk, but to find out where your priorities lie.

This is a legitimate question, realizing they may have experienced leaders who are out to pad their own resumes to the point they will sacrifice relationships and trust to accomplish what they want. This is always done at the expense of others. So when the going gets tough, and you are needed to put your own job and character on the line, what will you do?

It is hard to know, unless you are committed to the organization and your co-workers to the extent that you will do what is right, and that is the end of the matter. If you operate daily with that in mind, your co-workers will know without your having to prove it.

Do They Know You Know?

Today I was a part of a local day-long event called Leadercast. It had several good speakers, among whom was Dr. Henry Cloud. He was actually my favorite of the day, probably because he deals in what he calls the “gap” between the business side and the human side of organizations, which is where I spend much of my time as well. He talked about how employees of an organization are affected by the leader attempting to convince them he understands their world, but doesn’t connect. Cloud could see it in the faces of employees in one place as the CEO talked with them. The CEO thought the encounter went well; Cloud told him otherwise.

The presentation made me write down the question to ask myself and any other leaders, “How does it feel to get a request from you?” I thought about how I have felt in the past when my boss gave me an assignment, or asked me to do something. Was I afraid? Did I feel pressured? Did I know he or she would back me up if I had trouble? It was a good exercise to think about that.

Cloud asked those in the audience, “Do they know you know how they feel?” This goes beyond just lip service. Do those you lead know you truly understand how their day goes? He also mentioned my favorite topic: trust. It is a key part of this scenario, and is key to any leader’s success.