Employee Care, Leadership Development, work culture

Blaming Won’t Get You Results

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I read a great story the other day about Tony Dungy, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He stepped into an organizational that was fraught with losing seasons. He was discouraged from the taking the job because there were too many bad things happening in the organization. He recalls being told that there was even a story of a witch doctor putting a curse on the team! The story goes that:

As Dungy reviewed this list of obstacles, he realized something important: the entire list was outside of his or his players’ control. He did not have the budget to recruit a bunch of superstars, and he didn’t have the ability to build a snazzy new stadium. They couldn’t control the weather across the country, and there was no way to get rid of the voodoo woman, whoever she was. Dungy was, in the language of the last chapter, facing things that he was “helpless to do anything about.” Nevertheless, Dungy didn’t succumb to the hopelessness that inevitably accompanies helplessness, and he didn’t tolerate an attitude of helplessness in others either. He immediately did something that all great leaders do, and there is no way to minimize the power of this one move. Essentially he asked one penetrating question: What factors do we control that will contribute to success?

He immediately went to work analyzing the statistics of the winning teams. He discovered that they shared three characteristics. They had lower turnovers (fumbles and interceptions), fewer penalties, and high-performing special teams (kickoffs, punts, punt returns). The first two characteristics have to do with what Dungy calls “self-inflicted wounds.” Giving the ball to the other team, or having mental lapses or emotional eruptions that get penalized—these are mistakes you cause yourself. The final category, special teams, is one that is often neglected, but when functioning well, they create the big plays that contribute to wins. Dungy’s strategy for winning boiled down to focusing on these three factors, all three of them totally within his and his players’ control. He led them to a turnaround, and then he carried that thinking on to the Indianapolis Colts, whom he led to the championship in Super Bowl XLI.

Cloud, Henry. Boundaries for Leaders (pp. 125-126). HarperBusiness. Kindle Edition.

It’s worth sharing the whole story, right!?

I hear too many people blame things out of their control. I don’t know why they do this. But there is always an excuse. And so they walk around depressed, frustrated, angry, and anxious! And honestly, it’s draining.

By training, I do short term pastoral counseling which is goal oriented. I ask a set of questions to help the person focus on what they can do, what their options are, and how they’ll choose to address it. But sometimes, people don’t want solutions. Their reaction is to blame, to make someone else responsible for their pain and frustration. The essence of blaming is to literally make someone else responsible for their problems.

Why does someone choose to blame instead of taking personal inventory of what they can do to improve their situation? Here are some ideas:

  • it’s easier to make others responsible for our issues
  • we avoid looking at ourselves because it’s hard
  • it’s a defense mechanism and go on attack mode
  • self-reflection and awareness is hard work
  • we lie to ourselves and others
  • we avoid personal growth

Blaming is not holding ourselves responsible and believing that we are helpless, thus hopeless.

How do we address our cycle of blaming others? Do like Dungy: look to see what things you can control for results. Some of that may include being willing to learn from others, accept responsibility, practice self-awareness, build stronger relationships.

Employee Care, Leadership Development

The Business of Becoming

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Most companies don’t have a corporate chaplaincy program. I wish they did. I could employ some great leaders to help care for employees. Much of our work is to ask people, “How are you?” Our aim is (our real aim…those secret longings and goals we have) is that people reflect on who they are becoming.

Our service is not reduced to spiritual or crisis care because of our title. The work is about a partnership with employees to help them think critically about who they long to be and become. Isn’t that what we’re consciously or subconsciously thinking about?

Take my friend Art for example. The other day, he told:

Art: I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. I can’t sleep at night thinking about it.

Me: What do you think the thoughts are trying to tell you?

Art: I want more for my life. It’s not about the money. It’s what I can do with it to help my family. I don’t want to see them struggling.

Art is thinking about the kind of person he wants to be and become. I’m simply creating space to listen so that he can shape and form, understand and discern. We’re making intentional space to examine our lives.

How often are you given space to examine your own life? How often is someone deliberately asking you to discern and reflect on the life you’re making?

As chaplains in the marketplace, our work is to help set the table for discernment and examination. We are curating questions and letting people go to work on their inner selves. What is done outwardly is first worked inwardly.

How can we serve your employees? We’d love the chance to create safe space for your team members.

character development, Leadership Development

The Four C’s

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There are four words starting with the letter C that remind me of what’s important in the workplace:

  • character
  • competency
  • chemistry
  • culture

Most employees focus on competency. This important because we need mechanics to know how to fix different issues on a car and go through rigorous training to keep learning. I want a highly competent technician working on my car. A CFO or controller need to make sure they understand accounting principles to guide and measure their budget, expenses, and revenue.

I think most employees are aware that it requires certain skills to do their job well. But competency isn’t the only trait to keep developing. Character development matters immensely, if not more. It’s character that causes an employee to deepen their competencies, resulting in good work.

Character traits needed in the workplace can be:

  • self-responsibility (no blaming)
  • self-leadership (lead myself first)
  • vulnerability based trust (taking ownership of my strengths and areas of growth)
  • communication with clarity (don’t assume anything…communicate with others)
  • resiliency
  • adaptability
  • integrity (doing the right thing)
  • forgiveness
  • joy

These are some traits I see in successful employees. To be intentional about character development starts with a desire to be this type of person. It’s a commitment to become who we long to be.

Competency may get you hired. But character will keep you hired.

work culture

Gracias. Perdón.

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If I can only practice gratitude and forgiveness for the rest of my life, it may be just be a life well lived.

Entitlement and control keep me from recognizing gifts of grace that I don’t make happen, but receive.

Protecting myself out of fear keeps me from forgiving others, myself, or even God.

Gracias. Thank you for the gift you offered.

Perdón. Please pardon me for the way I have mistreated you.

There is a need in the workplace to practice gratitude and forgiveness. Forgive your workplace for not being perfect. Forgive your coworkers for not turning things in on time.

Forgive yourself for not meeting deadlines and for thinking that work was going to fulfill all of your sense of meaning and purpose.

Express your thankfulness to a team member today. Say thank you to those who work alongside you. Be thankful for what you have instead of resenting what you don’t have.


Employee Care, Leadership Development

Dignifying People and their Stories

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When I first met Mary, she was wearing her work uniform and had a small broom with dust pan in hand. As I approached her to introduce myself, Mary’s face lit up. She could light up a dark stadium!

After the cordial introductions, I asked Mary what she did at the dealership and proceeded to tell me about washing and drying cars, sweeping the lot, cleaning the rims of very expensive cars. While she was articulate, I noticed some mannerisms that made me wonder. She’d look away when talking, was a bit fidgety, and tended to slur her words a bit, with speech pattern changing from time to time.

I was formally introduced to Mary but found out that she has down syndrome and works through an agency that helps to place and employ intellectually disabled people who mainly have down syndrome.

I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t pick up on social cues, mainly because I was struck by Mary’s joyful presence and warm smile.

But Mary has taught me how to be a better corporate chaplain. Every day that I see her, she shares a story of her family. A Mexican-American, Mary’s stories are filled with family outings and celebrations she’s planning to attend. She tells me about her trips to Disneyland and how she got a new phone. Mary values her family deeply, consistently asking for prayers to be lifted for members who are sick, a dying relative, or someone who got into an accident.

Mary and her coworkers have taught me to slow down and not take myself so seriously. Their playful and hardworking attitude have set me straight more than once in the 13 years I’ve known them. To be honest, sometimes I’m in a rush and I see Mary dashing towards me, ready to tell me about how she’s going on a road trip up north to see family and will be very detailed about the whole anticipation. The only way we end is when she asks for prayers for safe travels. And even after that social cue that the conversation is over, Mary will add one more fun outing she’s gonna take and then leaves with a smile on her face. But she reminds me to slow down and be grateful for life and family.

Her vulnerability has caused me to slow down and be mindful of my own. She’s helped me be more human through our interactions. I wish I could hide sometimes and only show my strengths and productive, high performance skills. I wish I didn’t struggle with ego, being impulsive, or not feeling good enough for the task at hand. And yet, owning my own vulnerabilities is somehow helping me dignify and love others. Mary and her crew keep teaching me to smile and not take myself too seriously.

The workplace can suck the life out of us. “Dead”-lines. Being viewed as a producer and performer, not a human. I hope that I can be a dignifying presence that sees people for who they really are: loved.

Disclaimer: Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Employee Care

Anxiety in the Workplace

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Addressing anxiety in the workplace (or in any setting) is about learning to have some emotional distance from what we perceive as being the issue(s). One way to create emotional distance is to process the thoughts and feelings with a safe and trusting person. This helps create the emotional distance needed to get clarity on how to respond in the best manner.

Family Systems Theory suggests that we develop a healthy self-differentiation. This means that we grow in our ability to…

“…be close to an emotionally important other while neither being dependent on gaining the other’s acceptance and approval nor fearing the other’s disapproval, rejection, or criticism of how we are. It is also being comfortable with the differences in the other person, particularly in times of higher anxiety, and not letting those differences cause emotional distance on our part. It means not needing to change the other to meet our expectations, or change ourselves to meet the other’s, in order to be close.”

Ronald W. Richardson

We all long to be accepted, valued, and dignified. As we grow in our own differentiation, we find that we can stay non-reactive (becoming anxious and acting out) as we seek perspective and the best possible recourse.

Find someone who is skilled in listening to help you process your anxious thoughts/feelings and get some perspective for how best to respond. An onsite corporate chaplain can assist employees with developing self-differentiation.

Leadership Development

Execs Balancing Work and Life

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An executive recently reached out and shared how big their workload is, which affects their work and life balance. Between managing projects and managing the staff, I imagine she feels overwhelmed. While time management skills are important, producing “disciples” is where an executive can transform their workload and culture.

Aaron, a business owner, changed his focus towards producing his own “disciples” in his startup. He knew that if they were going to make it as long-standing company, he needed others. And he needed them to have his values and vision, habits and practices. Aaron came alongside the marketing director, controller, IT director, and others alike. He made it a priority to spend time with each director, trying to understand their viewpoint and picking his moments to share what he wanted to happen.

Conflict was part of the process. It’s inevitable. But instead of avoiding or demanding, Aaron modeled what it meant to be non-reactive in order to understand and be understood.

He continuously talked about his values: build safe, trusting relationships with another, respect each other and it will trickle down the departments, increase your level of competencies through ongoing learning, and be humble. Many of the directors, over time, embodied these virtues.

While it may seem “soft” do this or unproductive, work and life will speed up and we won’t be able to keep up. Executives can learn to keep up by reproducing themselves throughout the company through mentorship.