Character Creates Opportunity® – Performance Measures: March 26, 2015

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is a pretty common phrase in the basics of running an organization and leading a team to achieve.  Setting effective performance measures that individuals and teams can understand and clearly see how those measures align with achieving an organization’s goals is a critical element in building an organization for growth.

There are a large number of management books, consultant fees, and leadership team discussions around developing the most effective “scorecard” for organizations, teams, and individuals to ensure they are all best positioned to achieve their goals.

When organizations report on progress towards achieving goals, there is a very familiar review of the status of their performance against these important measures.

As we continue on our own personal journey to build and strengthen our character, one important question we need to ask ourselves is, “What am I measuring on the “scorecard” of my life?”

As we see ourselves in the big roles in life such as a student, parent, sibling, son or daughter, friend, helper, and coworker, a fundamental question we need to answer is how are we measuring ourselves along the journey in those important roles?

Now that we are beginning to enter into another presidential election season, someone will ask that familiar question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

As we intentionally put effort towards building and strengthening our character, we don’t need a politician to remind us every four years of the importance of assessing our progress in the big areas of our life.

Many times, the “four year” question from politicians refers to some financial measure.  Somewhere on the “scorecard” of life, money, as it is the currency for provision of food, clothing, and shelter, has its place.  However, I have never been to a funeral where someone said, “Bob was a nice guy and he died with a back pocket full of money.”

It would be beneficial for all of us if the vast majority of our scorecard showed how we brought health to important relationships and how we had a positive impact on those around us.  In the end, we would all be grateful to hear, “Bob was a nice guy and he simply took care of people.”Driving on an empty road towards the setting sun

One fact is clear, when a politician asks that familiar question, the cold, hard truth is that we now have four years less on the journey to deliver on the life we are trying to achieve.

As we become more intentional on delivering top performance on the “scorecard” of our lives, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to have a meaningful impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Near Term Adversary: March 19, 2015

The concept of having a “sunset moment” every so often to pick our heads up and reconnect with the long term view of the life we are trying to build seemed to resonate with many based on the feedback and comments received from last week’s topic.

As a reminder from last week, there is a fairly sizeable body of evidence in both academic circles and practical experience to indicate that we build strength to persevere towards our goals when we can see clearly what we are trying to achieve.

As we continue on our own personal journey to build and strengthen our character, there is a common near term adversary that we all face in trying to reach our goals and make meaningful progress toward that “sunset moment.”

introvertThe common, near term adversary that comes against each one of us at various points in our journey has numerous descriptions, but it can be summarized as fear, anxiety, and worry.   This near term adversary has the potential to drain that precious energy we need to keep moving forward towards our goals and many times, this adversary can be forceful enough to get us off track and switch our long term view entirely.


We all have various coping mechanisms to deal with fear, anxiety, and worry.  Some of us are nail-bitters, some toss and turn through a sleepless night, some repeat simple, routine tasks, some take pills, some overeat, some don’t eat, and some drink alcohol a little more often during the rough times in the journey.  Regardless of our coping mechanism, the reality is that we still have that near term adversary attempting to sabotage our efforts to reach our goals.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, below are a few ideas to deal effectively with our common, near term adversary:

(1)    Acknowledge the Reality.  We all face fear, anxiety, and worry.  We should possess the courage to call them out directly and not deny their existence.  No matter what phase of life we are in and no matter what level of worldly accomplishment or “validation” event we have passed through, we will still face fear, anxiety, and worry as we transition into the next turn in life.

(2)    Take Action.  The best known antidote to fear, anxiety, and worry is action.  When we take action toward goals, the adversary loses its grip.  Just like the ‘butterflies’ before a big game, after the first play, they are gone and we are focused on the task at hand.  The biggest risk we face in dealing with fear, anxiety, and worry is that we don’t get out of bed and get in the game.

(3)    Keep the Faith.  The very fact that we are still standing is testament to the fact that we have already passed through some difficult challenges in the past.  Whether they were in school, in the home, in the workplace or in some other endeavor, we faced this adversary before and we overcame.  Whether we describe our faith in terms of a relationship with God who knows the whole story or we have faith in the truth found in principles like perseverance and courage, we should rally our faith to keep moving forward against the near term adversary.

We will continue to face struggles as we journey towards achieving our goals.  When we possess the courage to stand up and face the near term adversary of fear, worry, and anxiety, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to make meaningful progress towards achieving our goals and motivating those around us to overcome their own challenges.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Sunset Moment: March 12, 2015

As we approach spring each year so much of our nation emerges from a long, cold winter.  With the time change that accompanies the move into spring, the longer evenings afford all of us the opportunity to observe a later sunset and quietly reflect on the challenges of the day.

In the busyness of life, we often fail to take a moment to reflect on where we have been and briefly remind ourselves on where we desire to go in order to build our energy to continue the journey. The longer evenings brought on at this time of year support the chance for some meaningful reflection during those sunset moments.Sunset moment

As we continue on our personal journey to build and strengthen our character, there is an opportunity with longer evenings and those upcoming sunset moments to reflect on day to day happenings and also on the big questions about what we desire to see in the years to come.

The Book of Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.”

Real world experience and academic research would reinforce the importance of determining clear goals and specific plans to achieve those goals in order to make meaningful progress on any endeavor.  In addition, psychologists would describe something called “purposeful imagination.” Basically, if we can clearly see ourselves achieving those goals, emotionally feel what we would feel like in achieving those goals, we build strength to endure the inevitable challenges we will face in achieving our goals.

We hear a great deal about “vision” and “purpose” statements for individuals, families, and organizations.  These are very powerful tools to focus effort and rally a group to a cause.  Many times, with the effort to hang a vision statement on a wall, we fail to reconnect consistently to that statement and over time, our direction drifts off course.

There is a significant opportunity to use the long, slow quiet of a sunset to reflect on where we have been and where we desire to go, both tomorrow, and in the long journey of life.

When we take the time to look forward 5, 10, or 20 years, what do we see?

What is the state of our closest relationships?  Do we see relationships that have endured the inevitable ups and downs and continue to strengthen a mutual commitment to each other?  Do we see children that are productive members of the family, the community, and the workforce?  What is the legacy we leave behind to those that matter most?

What is the impact we are having over the years?

We all should work to develop the habit of making time in the quite of a sunset moment to reflect on the big questions.  Take a walk in the park, sit outside, or just briefly look off in the distance during a slow period of a child’s practice to see what we truly desire to see in the years to come.

As we take the time to reflect on where we have been and where we desire to go, we will build energy to persevere on our journey and we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to not only see the future we desire, but make meaningful progress towards achieving it.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Servant’s Paradox™: March 5, 2015

There has been a steady amount of academic support, business experience, and personal testimony to the concept that when we view our role as serving others, we form a strong foundation to create value.  Whether we are serving our customers, the teams we work on, members of our family, or people in our community, the idea of serving others helps solidify our efforts to accomplish great things.

After the basics of survival are met, psychologists would tell us that our next greatest need is to know we matter to someone or some cause greater than our own.  The two primary ways we find opportunity in meeting this critical need is in our personal relationships and through our chosen career.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, there is an important paradox in the role of serving others that we need to understand as we genuinely work to meeting this important personal need of knowing that we matter.

Father-Instructing-SonLong-term, personal relationships:

We have all heard the saying, “opposites attract.”  It is definitely true in the scientific world and it also seems very common in the human condition with finding a mate.

We see the real-life examples of this all around us when we see the “organizer” who is paired with the bumbling slob.  The “stable and secure” with the chaotic and risky.  The “provider” being able to help the one in need.  The “afflicted and struggling” being supported and encouraged to change by the martyr.

We all bring certain strengths to a relationship and we use those strengths in an honest, genuine attempt to serve and help our mate.  Most healthy relationships are grounded in serving one another.  This heart-felt commitment to serve and support our mate provides the foundation for meeting this need to know we matter to someone.

We feel secure in using our strengths to fill the gaps of our mate because it is a known skill for us and we are confident in our ability to deliver the service and meet the need.

We genuinely feel that by serving our mate in meeting these needs, we will satisfy our own need of being wanted, needed, and appreciated.  Our mate will recognize our service and respond with acknowledgement that will confirm we matter.

Because of differences in how we show love and appreciation and in our personalities and communication styles, the paradox comes into play in two ways:  Many times our mate will (1) Not “see” our intent to serve and will view our efforts as belittling or demeaning and (2) If they do “see” our intent to serve, they will respond in a manner that does not resonate positively with us.  The eventual outcome is that we don’t feel appreciated and we fall short of meeting the need to know we mattered to someone else despite all of our genuine efforts to serve.

Overtime, with this disconnect, frustration sets in.  We start to resent those qualities in our mate that we originally intended to use our strengths to serve and help.  We quit serving, contempt sets in soon after, and we start talking about “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for a break-up.

The cycle continues as we find another mate with the same gaps as our first and we faithful try again to serve and lovingly fill those gaps with a known strength of our own.

Roles in the workplace:

We can find ample opportunity to meet the need to know we matter to a cause above ourselves in our chosen career field.  The relatively consistent feedback loop of setting goals, measuring goals, and receiving recognition for achieving those goals seems to be a well-proven process of finding a place to serve and be recognized and appreciated for that service.  In terms of meeting that strong emotional need to matter, we seem to find a good fit in our chosen career.

The challenge for leaders with a workforce and a marketplace that continues to grow more complex, the desired needs of people in our organizations vary a great deal and the traditional means of simple financial tools to recognize great effort seem to be losing their effectiveness.  With a growing workforce that is being accustomed to “point and click” to get exactly what they want, when they want it, leaders have to be prepared to respond to these trends.

Despite the changes in workforce demographics, employees still possess a strong need to know they are making an impact and they matter to a cause bigger than themselves.   When leaders fail to recognize the efforts of employees in a manner that resonates with them, their engagement weakens and high rates of turnover soon follow.  Leaders have an increasingly important role to develop feedback mechanisms and reward systems that are flexible and dynamic to meet the needs of today’s diverse workforce.

The Balance:

As we all try to balance the effort between work and family, the Servant’s Paradox™ has a tendency to shift the balance over to work instead of relationships in the home when the need to know we matter is felt greater in the workplace than on the home front.

Ideas to Keep Us Moving Forward:

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, below are a few action steps to take as we face the reality of the Servant’s Paradox™:

(1)   Recognize the truth that we all have a need to know we matter to someone or a cause bigger than ourselves.

(2)   Acknowledge that the vast majority of us genuinely focus on serving with our strengths to meet the needs of others in relationships and in organizations.

(3)   Work to understand the different ways we feel appreciated in the home front and in the workplace.  From the standpoint of a mate, understand the manner in which our mate feels loved and how they see that love communicated.  From a leader-employee relationship, understand the most desired method of recognizing effort and accomplishment.

(4)   Leverage the understanding of these differences and act on that knowledge to deliver in a manner that resonates in our personal relationships and in our roles in the workplace.

(5)   Keep serving.  It is the timeless, universal principle that will not disappoint in the long run.  The long run is all that matters.

As we put effort into understanding differences and acting on that knowledge, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to sustain our efforts to serve others, for us to meet an important need to know we matter, and we will take a healthy step towards addressing the balance of needs being met in the workplace and on the home front.