Leadership Development

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.

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.

Leadership Development

Unfinished Business Leadership

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When a leader overreacts to a conflict, it may be a sign of unfinished business shaped by past experiences.  Strong emotional reactions such as outbursts, avoidance, judgmentalism, anger, or frustration can be the signs on the dashboard that are a sign of a problem underneath the hood.  David Freeman says that, “Unfinished business does not allow for a thoughtful, creative response to a here and now situation.” The conflict may trigger an emotional reaction that creates more conflict and threatens the culture of a company.  The goal is to continue attending to the self and its unfinished business. It’s what true leaders do.


Leadership Development

Self-Leadership: Self-Awareness

When I think of leadership, I think of someone who gets their feet dirty by learning peoples names and stories, their struggles, and then does something about it.

I also think of the “Big 4”:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Integrity
  3. Authenticity
  4. Character


My brother will slug me for sharing this story with him…we called him “Ugly” because of the movie, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.  It’s an old western movie but we loved it.  Our cousins would come over and we’d all sit around the TV and say, “I’m the good guy….I’m the bad guy….” And my brother was “Ugly”.

Self-awareness is kind of like the title of this movie.  All of us have good, bad, and ugly tendencies.  Our work as humans is to claim our goodness (the gifts and unique contribution we make in this world), to be aware of our be aware of our bad and ugly parts (the things we struggle with or aren’t really good at), and to serve others.

For example, I love listening to others and helping them name what is happening inside.  I love to care for people and I can see the big picture.  I’m very good at that.  But I don’t always see the details in a big picture.  So I get others around me to help me see the details I’m missing.

Get comfortable in your skin:  be self-aware of your gifts as well as your growing edges.  You have a unique gift to offer this world (company).