Month: September 2014


Whether it’s a physical setback, a professional one, or a spiritual crisis, it will bring out certain things about you. While we usually have little or no control over those things initially, we do have something to say about our response to them.

I spoke to a Parkinson’s Support Group last week about grief. They had brought the topic up the previous month, and the group organizers felt someone else needed to take it up this time. They had a lot of losses they are facing, and needed to express some of those. With no personal experience with Parkinson’s, I learned a lot from them.

One of the frustrating things a caregiver wife stated about friends and family of Parkinson’s patients is the gradual loss of the patient’s voice. This leads well-meaning but uninformed people to believe that he can no longer hear nor understand their conversation. She kept saying to them, “He’s right here, ask him!” What I did see that day were people who face a series of long, difficult, progressive setbacks that are defining them, and for the most part, they still are the good people they were. This only makes them more determined to be those good people. No disease can steal that!


Staying True

I am a huge fan of the old Andy Griffith show, for several reasons. It’s small-town atmosphere reminds me of my own roots. The various characters remind me of people with whom I grew up, and still think about today. Mostly, the attraction is the good values the show instilled in a comfortable, humorous way.

A particular episode had Andy and Barney invited to the state capitol to visit the Esquire Club, an exclusive group that obviously would have boosted the professional and social status of anyone who belonged. As we would expect, Barney is worried Andy might be too “small-town” for the club, and tries to help by coaching Andy to talk about the stock market, about which neither of them knew anything. Also as we would expect, Barney makes a mess of the evening by trying too hard.

Andy is accepted by the club membership, but Barney is not. While honored, Andy declined the membership because of his friendship with Barney, and even allowed Barney to believe it was Andy who was turned down. This is trust at its best. Looking past personal advancement to a long-term friendship and professional relationship is the basic material of which trust is built. When we can, it’s important to recognize those who make such sacrifices, and they are around us, if we pay attention.

Different is Good

Why are some people very outgoing, the life of the party, and others are shy, withdrawn, and quiet? There is no right and wrong to either one, but simply the built-in differences in people. Professionally, we call that temperament.

Think about it. If the extrovert is put in a back room working alone all day, they will be very stressed at the end of that day, feeling the strong need to be with people. On the other hand, if they are put at a desk to greet people all day, they will be happier. The opposite is true for the introvert. They will be stressed with the public all day, but much more comfortable in a secluded office with minimal contact with people.

We can operate outside our temperament when needed, but we need to realize what it will take to balance out our lives. Being stressed at the end of the day may mean we need some time to unwind before the evenings activities. For some, that will be time with people to socialize. For others, it will be quiet time alone. There are some other combinations we may look at in the future. In the meantime, are you in the right atmosphere to fit your temperament? How about those who report to you? Are they in the right place to make use of their strengths?

The Human Factor

I remember many years ago when studying security methods and approaches, I encountered a statement that I believe is still valid. It went like this: “No amount of technology is better than a set of eyes and ears connected to a brain.”

Now, I will acknowledge that many newer types of surveillance methods can be much more alert than a person. Machines don’t get sleepy or bored. However, those machines still alert people to what needs attention, or a decision that needs to be made. This requires “the eyes and ears connected to a brain” type of action.

That’s where failure and success still reside. It will always be human decision-making that provides the outcome, good or bad. Artificial intelligence is just that: artificial and not real. Not everything can be quantified and programmed. Some things still need thought, prayer and experience.

The Most Influence

Often leaders and managers use the authority of their position and believe they have influenced others to do certain things. In truth, they have merely used a level of fear or intimidation to get things done, not real influence.

In sales, there are techniques that are quite brutal, and others that are subtle. Still, they use some type of psychological or emotional pull to influence people to buy goods or services.

I still believe the best influence one can have comes differently. It comes from having a genuine interest in another person. That will come across without fear, pressure, or making the person feel they have been used. If you are not interested in people, then leave them alone! Don’t use them for your own ends just because you have found yourself in a position to need them to do something for your livelihood or promotion. They are not obligated to you, nor to your ego.

Don’t Interrupt

One of my favorite quotes is that of Henry J. Kaiser, “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” This makes more sense than nearly anything I have heard regarding how to handle praise.

I have the great opportunity to see people do exceptional work in the healthcare field, and at times get appropriately recognized for it. All of them are genuinely surprised, and speechless, when the award comes. Especially when the citation is read of above and beyond professional, caring service, they seem surprised that what they did is regarded that way. They truly believed (though perhaps an intense time) their service was simply another day in the life of a nurse. This is the classic portrayal of the quote above: they do not interrupt. Their work does speak, and they just keep doing it at the high level.

This happens not just here and not just with nurses, but in every field, and likely in many locations in this country and the world. With all the “less-than-good-service” happening, there is also some great service happening. Too bad we don’t hear of it enough!

Finding Their Way

My experience with people has been that if you give them room to explore their own problems, their faith, and their wishes, they often have the answers within. As with any truth, there are exceptions, but this has been consistent in my years of experience listening to troubled souls.

How is that possible? I believe they have something built-in, something that seeks the best answers, some compass that seeks north. This can be described in spiritual terms, or emotional, or even metaphysical, but it’s there nonetheless. I hear it too often and almost predictably it leads in the same general direction.

A person said today, “I believe if Christianity were just a bunch of stories, if I had been kind to others, tried to do the right thing, and lived that kind of life, I would still be a happier person.” This is the essence of my premise: there is built-in (you can dispute who built it in) a desire to find virtue and joy in life. It’s more than just more stuff, because most people in various troubled circumstances already know stuff doesn’t equal happiness. They know it is much deeper than that. They also know it takes a source of wisdom beyond themselves to get them there.

I would love to hear of your experiences along these lines.

Carrying On

One of the marks of a consistent, steady person is how they carry on when things don’t go as planned. I’m thinking of my colleague in the hospital.

When I’m out, he continues and covers his part of the hospital, as well as mine. It’s best when few people even realize I’m not there. My goal when he first joined me was for people to stop asking him, “Where’s Phil?” to me hearing, “Where’s Steve?” That we have accomplished.

The best part of this is we each are able to be out if we need to, and the other can cover the needs for the most part. Obviously, there are days when that can’t happen because of unusual circumstances, but what makes them unusual is the fact they don’t happen too often.

So, this week I’m thinking of those who can step in and carry on and make it look like everyone is present, even if we’re not.

Still Here

What is the characteristic about trust that you find most important? Is it the fact that trust leads you to the truth about things? Or, is it that you like the consistency that trust makes available?

I would think a certain amount of predictability would be included, as well as honesty and a concern with regularity. At least, that’s my idea of some things that go into trust.

That’s why I’m making a special effort to post on a day when I feel less like it that usual. After over 22 years of seizure control on medication, I encountered a lights-out, hit the bathroom floor hard one yesterday morning that still has me sore and with many cuts, bumps and bruises. This is no picnic. However, a trip to the emergency department (all tests normal) home to recuperate from the soreness leaves me still able to ramble and wait for a call from my neurologist.

Such is life, and such is the nature of trust. It will always be something, even when it feels all is well. We simply don’t know. We can learn to trust even then.

Caring About Trust

I read years ago that small churches basically have one question for their minister. It’s not about how well he can preach, not how many degrees he has, nor how well-versed in ancient languages he is. It’s the simple question, “Do you care?” The implication is whether or not he cares about them.

I have seen that to be the case, but I’d like to take it beyond the sacred, into the secular. I believe any group of people (club members, voters, constituents, etc.) really have the same basic question of those who would represent them. I also believe most workers would ask that of their supervisor, manager, director, or CEO. I’m not talking about wanting to be neighbors or best friends, but about caring whether their fellow human beings are happy, prosperous, and valued. This is the stuff of trust, and trust-building.

Do not think you can fool them into thinking you care when you don’t. Your words may fool them for awhile, but your actions will eventually speak loudest, and they will base their conclusions on what they see.

So, keep in mind the basics, and the rest will follow. Truitt Cathy (RIP), is the best example of that concept.