Perspective Challenging Books

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I love to read, and usually alternate between business books and what I call “Nancy” books. Nancy books are fun—authors like Baldacci and Grisham—but rarely enlightening.   About 3 months into 2015, I realized a theme was emerging in the books I chose. The vast majority of the books gave me a glimpse into a world I knew almost nothing about. They challenged my perspective and increased my understanding of others. So, here are my favorite reads of 2015. I hope you find they challenge your perspective and deepen your respect for others.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny, by Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi is the daughter of the man chosen to be Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. Her story of growing up under Saddam’s tyranny and her attempt to escape that tyranny in America—only to find another form here—is heart wrenching and eye opening. Her courage in speaking out through this book is deeply moving and inspiring.

Slave Hunter: Freeing Victims of Human Trafficking, by Aaron Cohen and Christine Buckley

Aaron Cohen goes to some of the darkest places on our planet to expose traffickers and to free men and women who have been sold into sex slavery. How he went from rock star to slave hunter is an enthralling and painful story of perseverance and commitment.

Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to Do When You and Your Partner Grew Up in Different Worlds, by Ruby K. Payne

This is one of the most practical books that I read. Payne’s insights into the mindsets of economic class differences in the United States (poverty, middle class, wealthy) were fascinating—and ones I was able to apply. While written for someone who is contemplating marrying into another class, the principles and perspectives are applicable for teachers, coaches, business people, and others whose daily interactions cross economic classes.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, by Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin

Edith Beer’s peaceful early years were smashed to pieces when she was shipped to a slave labor camp as the Nazi’s rolled into her beloved Austria. From a hated Jewess, this story of her engagement and marriage to a Nazi officer in Munich is one of paralyzing fear, submission, and determination. You will be both repelled by the evil she was subjected to and drawn to this strong woman of courage.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, by Nabeel Quereshi

This beautifully written book is a powerful glimpse into a devout, loving Muslim home and the foundations of the Muslim faith. Quereshi grew up challenging the faith of Christians and finding no one who could answer his challenges. When he joined the debate team at Georgetown University, he met a fellow debate team student who could answer his challenges and engage in lively, deep theological discussions. This book will challenge your perspectives of both Islam and Christianity.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven, by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, with Bob DeMoss

This is an amazing story of hatred, terror, love, and forgiveness. Rebecca Nichols’ father accepted a position as pastor of a small church in North Carolina, only to encounter a man who wanted complete control of the church. When the man couldn’t get the power and control he desired, he terrorized the Nichols family in unimaginable ways. Despite the violence and hatred they endured, as well as the fear and dread they were constantly under, her parents chose to stay and love the community. And, although Rebecca’s life was shattered by the devil in Pew No. 7, her story of healing, forgiveness, and courage will bring tears to your eyes.

Accomplish More by Doing Less – Part 2

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When I wrote about my struggle to accomplish more by doing less last month, I struck a cord for a lot of you. One reader shared this: “I travel almost weekly. To catch flights I’m up many mornings around 4 am. Last night I arrived home at 10:30 pm. The easiest thing to give up is my “quiet time” for prayer, reading or meditation or exercise…all of which I need to stay healthy and productive.”

It is a hard struggle to shut down the years of a performance driven life and to willfully choose to live your life in a way that has greater benefits – for both yourself and for those you lead. So, if you’d like to accomplish more by doing less – here are the 4 choices I made that enabled me to live with margin in my life.

1) Determine your true north, figuring out what is most important to you. It forms your “rules of engagement” with the world. Check out my 2011 blog on that topic.  Finding Your ‘True North’

2) Once you define true north, do a cost benefit analysis of your current activities. It involves four questions to ask yourself before you say “YES”.  4 Prioritization Questions

3) Answer this question around focus. What good things will you not do so you can do great things? One of the best business books ever written is the Aesop fable “The Tortoise and The Hare”. The tortoise wins a race he should never have won by simply keeping his eye on the finish line.

4) Master your fears. As you start to focus and make intentional choices, fear (false expectations assumed real) will raise its ugly head. “What if” questions will start rattling around your brain.
• What if…clients see me as withdrawing (or even lazy)?
• What if…I focus on the wrong thing?
• What if… I fail?
• What if… what if…what if?
The truth is, fear is the great dream thief. If we let our fears govern our choices, we will never know what we could have done. I remember the day in 2006 when I decided to leave a 20-year career and go into business for myself. I was petrified and sure I’d fail. “What if” questions often swamped my mind. Now, almost 9 years later, I look back and see those fears for what they were – false expectations assumed real.

If we face fear, embrace fear, and master fear, we can do anything we want.

We can accomplish more by doing less.

We can live with integrity.

Nine Minute Moments

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In my last blog, I shared the painful struggle of being fired over 20 years ago. As a result, I began a 20+ year journey of learning to choose well, lead well, and finish well.

Being fired all those years ago was an incredibly painful experience. I lost confidence in my abilities, felt like a total failure, and simply wanted to crawl into a dark cave and lick my wounds. I seriously thought about giving up my YMCA career and starting all over in a new field. I had to make a choice. While on the surface the choice was between two career options, in reality it was a choice to either pull out of the self-criticizing death spiral I was in or let failure win. When you’re in the never ending cycle of defeating thoughts, it’s pure choice to replace those negative thoughts with ones that start to speak truth to your soul about who you are and Whose you are. Choose truth.

Last month, a former colleague and friend asked me to attend his retirement celebration. I put it on my calendar, but when the day arrived I started to hear excuses building in my head:

  • It would take 40 minutes to get downtown.
  • Parking would be atrocious.
  • I had so much to do, that not going would make my day much easier.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I had wrestled with a very similar issue a couple of years ago and wrote about it. Yet here I was faced with the same choice. I had choose to remember the lesson I’d learned then – relationships trump to do lists. Choose relationship.

Dan Webster is the founder of Authentic Leadership (www.authenticleadershipinc.com) and a mentor. He has a phrase he uses – nine-minute moments. If you add up all the seconds that first-string NFL players are actually blocking, tackling, throwing, etc,  the total live action in a game is 9-12 minutes. Yet they prepare physically, mentally, and strategically over 80 hours for that one contest in order to raise their potential to make a difference in the football game.

I relate that to our choices. Each and every day we make little choices that don’t seem to have much impact. We choose what meeting to attend, when to speak up, what we listen to, when to confront and when to avoid. The right small choices prepare us for our nine-minute moments. Those times are when relationships hang in the balance, when truth is challenged, when your gut is clenching and your heart pounding because you know making the difficult but right choice has huge consequences – personally and professionally.

What nine-minute moments are you facing? Choose well.

The Price of Making a Hard Call

I am so proud of our granddaughter for making a hard call.  She was working for a day care agency, caring for infants.  The agency was cutting corners to a point where she believed there were safety issues.  An infestation of ants went untreated and she kept finding them in the diaper cabinet.  Rugs in the facility had shredded backing, putting the infants at risk of choking.  Her repeated requests to deal with these issues went unanswered.  Finally one day, an infant playing on a rug, put a piece of the rug backing in her mouth and choked.  Our granddaughter responded immediately and the baby was OK.  But the daycare agency asked her to sign a report that lied about the incident.  She refused and said she would stay late if she had to and let the parent know the truth about what happened.  That took courage.   For the following week, she was harassed by her supervisor – making her work environment difficult – and so she quit.

Today she joins thousands of other young people on the job market – but she takes with her the knowledge that she stood up for what was right and kept her integrity.   She joins the ranks of integrity fanatics.

Integrity Forks in the Road*

 

There will always be decisions you have to make based on situations you face.  Having integrity of heart – wholeness in following God’s call on our lives – helps you make the right decisions and take actions that align with Jesus teaching.

Take a moment and read the account of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz in the Bible (Book of Ruth). Talk about a fork in the road! You and your family move to another country, then your husband dies. Not long after that, your two sons also die and you are left with two widowed daughters-in-law. So you pack up and move back to your homeland, and you encourage your daughters-in-law to return to their country since they would have no hope of marrying again if they stayed with you. One returns and the other—Ruth—chooses to stay with you. Ruth, in essence, says, “Even it if it costs me my future, I will do the right thing—I will not leave you”.  How hard it must have been for Ruth to leave her homeland, go to a strange country, and follow a God she did not know. But because of the testimony of Naomi’s integrity of heart, Ruth did so.

            Boaz also had a choice. He had heard all that Ruth had done for Naomi, and he praised her for it. Boaz was a redeemer—a close member of the family who, in that culture, could marry and redeem (or save) Ruth. But there was a closer relative who could have redeemed Ruth, so Boaz went to him and offered both Ruth and the land Naomi was selling. When that relative would not risk his own inheritance by redeeming Ruth and the land, Boaz became the redeemer.

            Boaz called Ruth a woman of character and eventually married her. Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz led with integrity of heart. They knew God and did what was right in His eyes. Ruth was rewarded for her faith and integrity, as God placed her in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

What integrity fork in the road are you facing today?  How will you lead with integrity of heart?

*excerpt from The Dichotomy of Power, by Nancy Reece

 * originally written for www.LeadLikeJesus.com/blogs

Finding Your ‘True North’

Is the life I’m living worth what I’m giving up to have it?
 
    Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have – lots of times! It’s not easy, but I nearly always end up going back to my ‘True North’ and that enables me to reorient myself and get back on track.
    If you are looking at a correctly calibrated compass, it will always point north. No matter what direction you turn, the compass will remain true to north – True North. For me, ‘True North’ is the deeply-held values that form the foundation for how I live my life and the choices I make. They define my “rules of engagement” when I interact with the world. When I find myself asking the question above, I go back to my core values and align myself to what’s most important in my life – my True North.   
    Several years ago, I spent a lot of time writing my values vision statement. I prioritized the values that were most important in my life and defined those values with specific examples, thus, making my Core Values. From there, I was able to etch out what those values looked like in my daily life, again, with specific examples – this became my Values Vision Statement.
    I keep both of these in a frame on my desk as a reminder of what’s most important in my life. I’m sharing my Core Values and my Values Vision Statement with you as encouragement and in hopes that you’ll do the same.
Core Values
Faith – standing firm in Christ, seeking the things of God first
Integrity – matching my actions to my words and promises, holding myself accountable and making amends as quickly as possible when I fall short
Gratitude – taking time daily to be thankful and appreciate my blessings
Family – having quality time with Bill, kids, grandkids and extended family
Love One Another – seeing all people through Jesus’ heart and eyes, respecting all
Courage – mastering my fears through trust in God
Generosity – sharing my resources, time and talent with those in need
Creativity – innovation, play, balance, finding joy, weaving
Values Vision Statement
I will put God first in my heart and life. This is evident when I spend time in rest, quiet, in prayer and when I love others, treating them with respect and compassion. I will walk with integrity, matching my actions with my values. I will spend quality time with Bill and create opportunities to be with family. Whatever happens, I am thankful for all I have been given. I will share my time, talent and treasure to help people grow, deepen and reach their full God-given potential. I will trust God for holy courage as I live out His calling on my life with joy and creativity.

“We Don’t Trust Mubarak”

Protestors in the middle of Tahrir Square were interviewed and asked, “Why not settle for Mubarak leaving in six months?”  Their response:  “We don’t trust Mubarak to leave when he says he will.”   Leadership is all about trust and integrity.  If you do what you say you will do(DWYSYWD), if you make the hard calls, then people will follow you up the mountain, down the valley, and through the desert.  Mubarak has a record of breaking promises.  In 1975 when he took power, Mubarak said he had no intention of being president for life.  So much for DWYSYWD!

Yesterday, Mubarak refused to relinquish power.  I don’t pretend to understand the politics and confluences that are roiling in Egypt at this time.  What I do know is that a lifetime of saying one thing and doing another leaves no foundation of trust when emotions churn and boil.    That is why the little decisions of integrity  you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.

Why Gail isn’t a Post Turtle.

I recently had the great fortune to meet with and interview Gail Southwell, the first woman negotiator for Ford Motor Company.  I asked her about a “post turtle” moment – when she initially felt trapped and unable to move, but then figured out how to ’get off the post’. 

Gail was in her first week in a new facility with 500 people in a call center.  She quickly learned that due to a computer software issue, the employees hadn’t been paid in over two weeks – which was not only wrong, but wasn’t legal.  Employees were upset and the controller (the GM was out of town) told her he simply couldn’t print checks.  She went to management in Detroit – and got the same answer.  At this point she was starting to feel like that turtle on a post – unable to move forward or backward – yet she knew people had to get paid. 

In a move that took hard call courage, Gail had her staff use their corporate credit cards to withdraw enough cash to meet the payroll.  They set up booths and made sure employees got paid.  The controller was furious – turns out he could have cut the checks, just chose not to do so.  He told her she’d be fired when the GM returned.  The GM was delighted, however because  the problem was resolved creativelym helping employees understood they were valued.  Gail Southwell made a hard call to do the right thing.  That took guts.  Proof that great leaders are never “post turtles”. 

When have you had the courage to do the right thing?