Surviving the Chaos

imgresThere are times in all of our lives where our well-planned ideas and goals all fall apart, and we find ourselves trying to survive in the midst of chaos.

I hate to tell you this, but sometimes we have to live in the chaos.

Chaos comes to all of us from time to time.

•Sometimes chaos comes because we don’t plan well or we haven’t learned how to say no to people and our lives are filled up with other people’s expectations.

•Sometimes chaos comes to us because we choose to live on the edge, taking frequent risks and choosing to welcome chaos because it’s where incredible things happen.

If you’re like me, you constantly live between these two areas.

This week, I’m living in some chaos. I have a list of things that need to get done, I made some tough decisions months ago about travel and appointments that are finally catching up with me, and I don’t like the chaos that is around me, but it’s here because of conscious decisions I made. I can’t blame anyone else for this, and I am doing my best to move through it without missing any of the purpose and opportunities that come with it.

Next week, I’ll get back to my intentional schedule and some much-needed margin in my life.

Chaos comes to all of us, so when it comes, are you going to be paralyzed by it, or are you going to find great success in the midst of it?

Gary Keller writes in his book, The One Thing (©2012 Rellek Publishing);

“The reason we shouldn’t always pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; Magic happens at the Extremes.”

He’s talking about our constant pursuit for balance, yet sometimes we strive for things to be mediocre, where what we need is a little chaos in our life.

When the chaos comes, there’s opportunity for some incredible things:

  • Teams come together
  • Leaders step up
  • Conflict becomes less important as we rally around a common cause
  • People depend on each other and learn to listen to each other
  • We realize that we can’t do it all alone
  • We create space for God to show up and we acknowledge His presence

Again, I’m not advocating that you create chaos or you live in chaos all the time, but we need to learn how to handle chaos when it comes, because it will come.

Here are 3 simple things to do NOW in anticipate for the coming storm:

#1) Build Your Team

Work today on building a healthy team, identifying the strengths and gifts of those around you and learning how to work together. When the storm comes, you will rely on these people. Learn to work together today.

#2) Know Your Calling

Just because there’s a storm, this doesn’t mean it’s YOUR storm. Sometimes we get sucked into other people’s chaos and we don’t need to be. Know what you’re called and created to do. Know the purpose of your organization and the plan. Stay on task. Stay focused. This doesn’t mean you ignore the needs around you, but keep your priorities your priorities.

#3) Move Through It

Be intentional in how you walk through it. Rally the troops. Create a plan. Know when you’ve completed what you need to complete. Work hard. Pull together. Lead with passion and clarity. Do your best work. Don’t attack it half-heartedly, but use all of your gifts and strengths to succeed.

Chaos will come.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. Elijah had just come through an incredible time of chaos and victory as he stood up to the prophets of Baal. He had run for his life, yet he was being hunted. There’s a moment in that story in 1 Kings 19 where God come to Elijah in a whisper… a whisper in the midst of chaos, and Elijah is renewed and he remembers what he’s doing and where he’s going and who he’s following.

When chaos comes, don’t lose that voice. It’s the voice reminding you that it will be OK. It’s the voice reminding you to keep going. It’s the voice reminding you that you’re not alone. It’s the voice of encouragement, of peace, of hope and His voice will help you not only survive the chaos, but thrive in the chaos.

Chaos will come. Chaos has come.


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It’s About Time

imagesAs you read this I hope you realize that you have less time ahead of you than at any point in your life.

So, let’s talk about time.

All my life I have heard these things about time:

*Time is like money, once you spend it, it is gone.

*We do get to decide how we want to spend it.

*We can even save time.

*Unlike money, we can never get lost time back.

*Wasting time gets very expensive.

*Hesitation, or uncertainty steals time.

*Time never waits.

*Time can be the greatest gift of all.

*“I don’t have time” means “I don’t want to”


So, what do I do with the time I have?

#1) I start my days by spending a little time thinking: I create a list of what has to happen, things that have to get done. I think it through before I act. I map out what I need to do or want to do and figure out where to start. If I think it out before I start I will waste less time. Remember, there is a difference between what I have to do and what I want to do!

#2) Now, I make my list, I write it down: I plan my day so that I do what I have to do first. When I have done those things, now I do what I want to do (that would be most of the social media activity).

#3) I build into each hour a five-minute break: I call it “my time’. Work for 55 minutes and then take a five-minute break. Do it, even if you don’t think you have time. Get up, walk, think, talk, whatever, but, get up and move. It will keep you going. Some of that “I want’ activity can take place during the break. But, get away from your desk. This could be for a snack or a bathroom break. It could be when you take a walk or chat with a friend. Be consistent to do this, it will help you make better use of the other 55 minutes.

#4) Learn to celebrate success: I hate having to make phone calls to companies to arrange things. The automation, the time it takes, the response of someone you can’t see is sometimes frustrating and exhausting. Phone calls usually end up on the bottom of my ‘to do’ list. So, I have started rewarding myself when I finish working my way through a menu and completing a transaction. That’s when I get up and go get a popsicle. Then I sit and eat it while I cross that item off my list. I celebrate!

Time. We can never get it back, so let’s spend what we have wisely!

For more on “Time Management”, CLICK HERE

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Your Time – Your Greatest Resource

imgresDr. Michael Le Boeuf said, “Waste your money and you are only out of money, but waste your time and you have lost a part of your life.”

Time is a valuable asset that we all have, and we are constantly trying to find ways to maximize our time.

We’re going to spend some time over the next number of weeks to dive into issues around “time management”. As I’ve spent time with leaders from all over the world, they are all asking the same question: “How can I get more done?” (Read here some tip sheets on GETTING THINGS DONE).

I have always come back with my standard response: “You have to learn to MANAGE YOUR TIME”.

I’ve learned over time that people don’t know what this means because for every one of us, it looks different. What works for me will probably not work for you. We deal with discipline and habits differently. We have different distractions and pressures in our lives. We have outside circumstances that are unique to us.

So, there is no simply presentation on “Managing Your Time“. But, there’s a series of thoughts, ideas, tips, suggestions and reminders that we’ll walk through over the coming weeks, and the goal is that you’re able to use SOMETHING that will help you create some margin or some space to focus on the things that are most important.

I remember when I was young in my leadership, I spent a lot of money every year on a daily planner. I had the perfect notebook, and I filled out all the forms and carried that thing with me everywhere. When computers took off, I learned to use my computer and then my smart phone to bring some order into my life.

I can honestly look at all the different “systems” and “applications” I used over the years and my success in managing my time has nothing to do with the “method” or “program” I used.

I simply learned early on a system that would work for me, and I work hard every day to be successful at it. I fail miserable many days, but I also have figured out how to squeeze some extra productivity and effectiveness out of my normal routine and work patterns.

Don’t freak out! All of us can do better in “managing” our time.

I hope that this series of blogs and tip sheets will encourage you.

I also invite you to share things that work for you, and I’ll pass them on to others! Send your thoughts, suggestions, ideas to:


For some great books on Time Management, CLICK HERE

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Be A Creative Leader

images-1Let’s face it… sometimes it’s just MORE WORK to do something with more creativity.

As leaders, we are often looking for the easiest way and the quickest way to get something done. We’ve got too much on our “to-do list”, we don’t have a lot of energy, so we look for easy and quick.

I want to tell you: easy and quick is not the best way to do something. I would argue that when you choose “easy and quick”, you are doing a disservice to your staff, to the mission of your organization, and to yourself.

I was recently reading a blog on creativity, and the author wrote this: “Creativity isn’t something you DO – it’s a way you approach life and everything in it.” (Annie’s Post)

Often we approach creativity by adding it to our list, instead of making it a habit and the way we approach everything that comes across our plate: our staff, our organization, our board, our family, our community, our church.

Creativity adds LIFE to everything we do!

I had a music teacher in Junior High School that approached life with creativity. He dressed creatively (some called it crazy, but when you’re in Junior High, it’s really cool!), he wore his hair crazy, he taught his classes with life and energy, and he was different than any other teach I had ever had to that point. He also instilled in my life a love for classic rock music and I find myself often humming the songs he taught us to sing.

I had an English teach in High School that realized that you can teach a lot of English by getting out of the classroom. I remember when our class went to her home to learn to make bread and then we wrote about it. That day and the lessons still stand out to me. She was unconventional, but she was still committed to teaching.

When you’re creative, you’re not compromising your purpose, your HIGHLIGHTING it.

So, as we finish or focus on creativity in leadership, let me encourage you with a couple of things:

#1) Being Creative Is MORE Work, but it’s ALWAYS worth it!

#2) To become more creative in your LEADERSHIP you need to add creativity to your LIFE!

#3) People ALWAYS remember creativity or even the EFFORT towards being more creative.

#4) It’s EASY to do things like you’ve always done them, but this doesn’t make that RIGHT!

#5) In your SEARCH for greater creativity, you’ll have FUN and you’ll experience some JOY if you’re looking for it.

As I write this post to you, I’m writing it to myself. Next week I have a 1-hour presentation, and after looking at my notes and my slides, I realize that it’s boring, it’s predictable and it’s non-engaging. I need to re-work this presentation because I want it to be memorable, impactful and life-changing!  Back to the drawing board…

Tip Sheets on CREATIVITY

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Leadership Community, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , ,

Getting Outside That Box

imagesHave you ever been told you need to think outside the box? You then wonder what that really means.

When it comes to thinking outside the box, we need to realize that the walls of the box (the thing that limits or controls our thinking) is usually made up of one of four walls. In order to think outside that box, we need to knock down or break through at least one of those walls.

So, let’s look at the four walls of our box, and ask four questions, one for each wall. If we can remove one of those walls, we may discover a whole new area and way of thinking.

Wall #1 Am I limited by Tradition? “But, we have always done it like that!” can be a good statement, it can also be a limiting statement. If we can only consider doing something because traditionally we have done it that way, we will be limiting our creativity.

Many organizations have unchallenged traditions, things they have ‘always’ done and people who have ‘always’ done them. The leader needs to ask, “Wonder if…”. Maybe doing it in a different way or maybe not doing something you have ‘always’ done.

Wall #2 Am I limited by Pride? “What will people think?”   The leader who is more concerned with impressing people or worried about what ‘they’ think will always be limited in his creativity. Yes, your new idea may fail! But, you will not know until you try. Do your best to do it right and then ride it out. If it proves itself to be a bad idea, admit it was your decision and correct it. Never, never blame someone else.

Wall #3 Am I limited by Fear? “What happens if it doesn’t work?” This is a partner to pride. We all have some concern about trying something new. Do your best to study, plan, announce and implement, then keep a close eye on it and see what happens. Correct it as you go or stop it if it isn’t right. Let people know you don’t always have all the answers and could be making a mistake, but, do it because it is the right thing to do.

Wall #4 Am I limited by Resources? “How could we ever pull that off?” Sometimes money or personnel limits us in new directions. Concerning money, good thing is there to accept people’s loan application whenever they are out of money. If you want to know how to apply at their loan offers,see more at Find people to help you. See if someone already on the team could do what needs to be done. Maybe divert some funds to try something new. If it is worth doing, it may be worth the effort to give it a try.

You are the leader, in fact, you are sometimes called ‘the agent of change’. Make sure you are not limited by things that you can change. Don’t let yourself be ‘boxed’ in.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Creative Staff Meetings

team-meeting-clipart-1Your time connecting with your staff on a regular basis should be one of the most important meetings you have, so put some energy into it to make it ENGAGING, ENLIGHTENING and EMPOWERING.

This morning I was asked for some ideas on ways to make staff meetings more creative.

Here are some ideas, and these come from years of learning what works and from learning what doesn’t work!


The meeting needs to become a regular part of your organizations culture. With that in mind, find a time to meet that works best for a majority of your staff, and then make it a priority. Create an expectation that people are going to attend, and they’re going to participate.

Do the work of setting some time aside to prepare for this regular meeting. Set up the room, create an agenda, celebrate some people and activities, and come prepared.

Staff meeting should never become something that you do because you always do it. It should be the most important meeting of the week, and people should want to come because this is where they get a pulse on what’s going on in the organization and in their teams life.


Don’t use staff meeting to communicate things that you can communicate in an email or a memo. Use whatever means possible to communicate information.

Use staff meeting to get people input, to ask questions and clarification, to share new vision and opportunities, and to connect personally with team members.

Your team should walk away from your staff meeting with tangible information and deeper relationships. If this isn’t happening, then you’re missing something!


Model for your staff how meetings should be run. You do this be being prepared, by making it a priority and by being fully engaged with the team. Here are 10 simple things that will help:

  1. Have an agenda and a purpose. If you don’t, then the meeting is a waste of time.
  2. Start on time. As the leader, NEVER be late, and NEVER be unprepared.
  3. Celebrate together. Make the meeting fun and engaging. Get creative! Think outside the box. Surprise them with ice cream, have a special guest show up, honor someone for something they did. Keep your team anticipating what is coming next!
  4. Eliminate distractions during the meeting by collecting cell phones, turning off the phone, putting a notice on the front door. This let’s people know that the most important thing going on is happening in the meeting!
  5. Expect people to be present. If they don’t show up, call them and find out why they didn’t attend. Make this an “expectation” of your staff.
  6. Talk about themes and topics that affect the entire staff. If you do conversations that don’t affect everyone, you’ll lose people. Do those in specific meetings. Keep the topics general for everyone.
  7. Let people talk, share, participate. As the leader, don’t do all the talking.
  8. End the meeting on time. Let them know what the time expectancy is and honor that.
  9. Be flexible to change your plans when you need to. Example: Someone shows up that has just had a personal tragedy. Stop what you’re doing and care for the team member, together. Don’t be so bound by your agenda that you miss the important things.
  10. Be the leader. Use this time to cast vision, to remind people of why we’re all here, and to thank people for their work and their commitment. Staff meeting is your platform to connect and lead the team. Take it seriously and don’t underestimate the value!

Don’t try to do all of these things in every meeting, but take some steps towards adding value and purpose to the times you gather together with your staff.


Here are some additional tools for Team Meetings:

For more on Running Good Team Meetings

For Do’s and Don’ts for Team Meetings

For Why Meetings Don’t Work

For How Do You Create An Agenda

Posted in Leadership Coaching, Organizational Development, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

The Creativity Two-Step

imagesOver the years I have tried to help or at least encourage leaders to do their job and respect the position.

One of the things that bugs me, is when a leader will explain their lack of doing or solving something by saying, “…But, I am just not creative”.

It sounds to me when I hear that like it is from:

  • A burned out leader who has lost their passion for the future/direction of their organization,
  • A cowardly leader who is not willing to take a risk because of fear or pride, or,
  • A selfish leader who is not willing to sacrifice for the greater good, or,
  • A lazy leader who is not willing to do the work necessary to do their job right.

Sorry! But, I really believe that vision and creativity are learned by leaders who are not willing to let status quo or failure rule their organization. I think these qualities are developed through hard work by leaders who want their organizations to move ahead and have the passion for their calling, and are willing to take the risk and willing to sacrifice in order to solve the problem. They never give up!

Let me tell you how to be creative in just two steps!


When you say that, you take your foot off the throttle and go into a coasting mode, waiting for something else to happen. You have lost control of the solution process. You will start looking for ways to work around the problem, or making excuses for not dealing with the problem, and the problem will remain. Unfortunately, people and boards have allowed leaders to say that. A leader leads and you are the leader. So, do the job. Solve the issue. Now, move on to step two!


Identify the thing you want to change or solve and attack it. Give it your attention.

(1) That may mean asking someone else for advice. That person could be in your organization or they could be in another organization. Don’t hide the problem, announce the need for a solution and see what comes. People have ideas and some of them are good.

(2) Check the web. Today there are so many ideas on the web. If you are willing to do the work and read them, you may come up with an idea that will work in your situation.

(3) Visit another organization and see how they handle the situation. Perhaps they have had to solve the same issue and would be willing to help you.

(4) Get people you trust in the same room. Spell out what questions you need answered and let them share ideas. One of those ideas may be perfect for you.

The solutions don’t have to be your solutions. But, you as the leader, need to find them.


Posted in Leadership Coaching, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , , , ,

It’s Time for a Kick!

imgres (1)Being creative takes work.

Sometimes I just want to do things the easy way, the simple way, the way that requires the least amount of effort. Sometimes I don’t even care if what I’m doing has meaning, I just want to get through it.

Do you find yourself here? Do you feel at times that you just want to “get through it”? Do you want to put it the “least amount of effort possible”?

Take a minute and think about some the most memorable speakers or communicators you’ve heard in your lifetime. Do you remember them because of “what” they said, or because of “how” they said it?

For me, it’s the “how”. People that approached a topic differently then others, people who put effort and creativity into a presentation,people who surprised me:  They’re the ones I remember.

One stands out: I was at an international conference in Illinois years ago, and one of the speakers, a global statesman, in the middle of his presentation, pulled his pants down and showed us his boxers that were covered with a map of the world. He then went on to talk about the world and how important it is that we have a global perspective.   I remember that talk. I remember the illustration, and I remember how it caught be off guard. He took a huge risk, and created a historical moment that not only I can remember years later, but thousands continue to talk about.

I have a book on my shelf from 1986 by Roger von Oech. It’s called “A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants” and it’s a book about creativity. Von Oech’s approach to creativity is that sometimes we need a swift kick to get us out of the rut we’re in, to get us out of the routine and the boring. He writes about different styles of creativity. He writes:

“It’s difficult to get your creative juices flowing if you’re always being practical, following rules, afraid to make mistakes, not looking into outside areas, or under the influence of any of the other mental locks.” (Roger von Oech)

He goes on to say: “By the time the average person finishes college, he or she will have taken over 2,600 tests, quizzes, and exams. The right answer approach becomes deeply ingrained in our thinking. This may be fine for some mathematical problems where there is in fact only one right answer. The difficulty is that most of life isn’t this way. Life is ambiguous; there are many right answers – all depending on what you’re looking for. But if you think there is only one right answer, then you’ll stop looking as soon as you find one.” (Roger von Oech)

The challenge today to learn to think outside the box.

  • To not settle for easy, quick or effortless.
  • To keep looking for the “best” answer and approach, not what’s most attainable
  • To allow creativity to push you to think and to answer to question, “what if…..”
  • To wake up to an incredible word around you, full of opportunity, lessons and practical applications.

This is a KICK for each of you.  I’ve been KICKED, and it’s time to wake up and not settle.

Today, approach something in a way you’ve never approached it before. Be creative. Put some effort into looking at it a different way. You’ll be amazed how fun, how rewarding and how fulfilling this approach is. It might even stick with you!

For more on CREATIVITY

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BRAINSTORMING: Focused Imagination

imagesBRAINSTORMING is one of my favorite things to do. I call it ‘focused imagination’.

Most of us day-dream about ‘what if?’ or different levels of problem solving like ‘how to apologize to someone’ to ‘how to build a better whatever’.

BRAINSTORMING is imagining, or day dreaming out loud. It tends to happen in a group, so you are sharing your dreams, your ideas in front of people.

Many people totally discount their ideas or their dreams. They are embarrassed to share them because they have not solved all the problems or issues related with them. They are just ideas. They are afraid people will point out the inconsistencies or impossibilities so they hesitate to share them.

BRAINSTORMING is taking ideas, dreams and accepting the fact that they are unfinished, maybe even impossible, yet considering them and allowing them to carry our imaginations to other ideas and dreams, maybe even solutions.

There are rules that have to be recognized and accepted for brainstorming to work:

  1. Brainstorming starts by presenting a fixed issue to be discussed or a problem to be solved.
  2. There should be a guide person, or chairperson for the discussion so you keep moving from idea to idea. Solutions will come later.
  3. Anything goes in brainstorming. No idea can be told that it is bad. People can take turns speaking or just speak as an idea comes that they want to contribute.
  4. Remember this is an imagination gathering session. No long stories. No rejection of ideas.
  5. Each participant should finish their thought before another person speaks unless they speak in support of the idea, and actually help develop the idea.
  6. It is customary to move rather rapidly from idea to idea, so be sure each person knows that just because you didn’t dwell on their idea, that doesn’t mean it was bad.
  7. If an idea seems to solve the issue, then move to ideas for developing that idea.
  8. Do not try to develop a total response in that first session. Leave the development and structure of the idea to others better suited to that task.
  9. Thank everyone involved. If the idea is used to solve a problem, publicly thank the group.
  10. Inform everyone involved in the original brainstorming session of the way you will use their ideas, especially if a solution was found.

BRAINSTORMING has a good side: It brings people together to be creative and to share ideas and to feel like they are a part of the solution.

BRAINSTORMING also has a bad side: It lets a bad manager pretend to involve people when he has already decided his course of action. It also can waste a lot of time.

BRAINSTORMING is a tool that can be used to discover (1) what your fellow workers think, (2) solutions for problems, and (3) allow for a group interaction.

BRAINSTORMING is only useful if something comes from it.



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The Back Side of Influence

imagesI think when you talk about ‘getting things done’ you have to include a conversation about ‘influence’.  But, you need to talk about the ‘back side’ of influence.  So, I am not going to talk about the influence of the words you say.  That’s obvious! Your words have a powerful influence and people’s lives can be changed by just your words of correction or recognition or encouragement or instruction.

I won’t talk about the influence of your actions either.  They are equally vital, because of what people think when they see you do what you do.  People who perhaps think that by copying you, it will make a difference in their life.

No, I want to talk about the ‘back side’ of influence.  That would be what people think when you are no longer there. After you leave the room, when the meeting is over, when you have left the platform…what do people say about you?

Was there something you did that will stick in their mind?  Maybe how you said it, or how you responded, or how you acted, or how you treated them that will be the thing that influences them the most.  If you don’t like ‘back side’, we could call it your ‘after glow’…there is a powerful influence there, and, I believe that is where your credibility and legacy is built.

That’s when people say, I want to be like that guy…thinking of your style or attitude.

Today, people seem to take pride in ‘doing their own thing’, in ‘breaking the mold’, in ‘pioneering their own trail’.  They really don’t seem to care what people think, but they should because people have unspoken expectations of a leader that seems to give birth to things like respect and appreciation.

That respect and appreciation has nothing to do with words and actions, but what they think about when they think of that leader, his integrity, his character, his passion and his respect for the position.

I have discovered, in recent days that my model was the president of the college where I worked for 10 years.  I find that I think about how he would do this or that when I am in different situations.  I have even found that I have some of his hand gestures when I speak and his style of listening when someone is talking to me.  It is amazing.  How did I ‘catch’ that?  How did that happen?

He did a lot of things and said a lot of things, but the part of him I wanted to be like, the part that influenced me the most was his person, who he was, his values and passions…his ‘after glow’.  That’s what I seem to have copied into my own leadership style.

Think about the people that have impressed you, the leaders that have helped shape your life.  What was it about them that you appreciated?  What was it that you wanted for yourself?

So, what are you leaving behind as you go along?

Posted in Leadership Community, Personal Leadership Tagged with: , , ,


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