Playing Favorites

It’s human nature to have favorites.  Most people, if asked, could easily name a favorite book, movie, or place to eat.

But how about playing favorites in your organization?  Whether they are a group of “yes men” who acquiesce to your every need/want/hope/wish, or a “star pupil” who works fifty times harder than the others in the group, it’s easy to play favorites when people do what we want or act in the way we think they should.

It’s one thing to be observant as a leader…to recognize those who work hard, those who want to grow and be better, those who want to be there.  It’s good to take notice of those people, to encourage and build them up so that they can one day be better than you at your job.  Being a confident, secure leader means that you are a servant leader first and always looking to better those around you.

Playing favorites, however, means that you specifically reward those who you deem worthy because of how they have served you, and it is so very wrong.  Why?  When your organization, ministry, or life in general becomes all about YOU, then you have lost.

Christ calls us to love and serve people differently.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
-Matthew 5:46-48 (NIV)

Beneath the Surface

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”  -John Steinbeck

Winter, with its limited palette of quiet and gently fierce hues, is a frosty queen in its own right.  The landscape is decorated in frosty crystals of silver and blue, their fleeting serenity and beauty only a mask for the barrenness of the earth below.  With the ground peppered in Autumn’s droppings of leaves and sticks and the invigoration of spring still months away, the chilly temperatures whisper of sleep.  Everything seems frozen and suspended in time.

But, Time is a master in its own right….

Life continues through each season.  It doesn’t stop.  You see, the Earth does not die in the winter.  It sleeps.  And just like important things happen in the human body when we sleep, winter is a vital time of the year for the Earth to repair and strengthen itself.

It’s like that in our lives, businesses, and ministries, too.  We need to go through each season, and we need to go through multiple cycles of seasons in order to grow into who we were created to be.

Spring:  A time when things are at their greenest and newest, showing off their wonder and splendor.  Spring represents new life and hope.
Summer:  A time of growth, of warmth, of beauty.  Summer means taking a breath and enjoying the ride.
Autumn:  A time to celebrate the changing of landscapes, the harvest, the bountiful blessings that we are given.  Autumn helps us to remember the things of the past.
Winter:  A time where everything is frozen.  Winter is all about enjoying the quiet and stillness.

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens….He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yetno one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 (NIV)

I’m just coming out of a winter season, as well.

Spring for me and for the studio fell between the years 2007-2009.  It was a beautiful time of planting and newness, of wonder and splendor, of stepping out in faith.  Summer came between 2009-2011, and it was a beautiful time of explosive growth and learning.  I didn’t stop working my derriere off for one moment, but I was truly able to relax and enjoy the ride.  Autumn came in 2011 and 2012.  It was a time where the Lord harvested great rewards from the studio.  Before I knew it, it was time to celebrate the changing of landscapes, and it was beautiful.

The Lord had told me not to fear winter (2012-2013), because it had its place and it was necessary to prepare for spring again.  So I didn’t.  The studio has grown for sure, but due to some things that were not in my control, everything seemed frozen and suspended.  And it has been beautiful.  I’ve been able to draw deeply from the well of strength beneath the surface, and prepare for the changing of the seasons.  I woke up this morning to the warm breeze wafting across my face and the Lord whispering, “Spring time is here for you.”

You see, people often make the mistake of believing that tangible results are what represent success.

Don’t make the same mistake because Winter can be a beautiful thing if you allow it to be.  Ah, if you allow Him to be.

Finishing Out When You Feel Like Finishing Up

Hooray!  God just gave you a new direction in your calling!  What are you going to do now?

a) Go to Disney World!
b) Quit what you are currently doing and immediately start the new thing!
c) Don’t physically quit immediately, but mentally quit immediately.

How about d) None of the above?  (Although I am a fan of Disney World and celebrating transitions!)

It’s easy to pretend that you’re super spiritual and just “doing an Abraham.”  After all, God told you to go and you’re going…right?  You’re doing what He asked you to do.  You’re being obedient.  No one can fault you for that.

But, before you take that leap of faith, I would encourage you to consider those around you.   What if you left your job on a whim without taking the proper measures to prepare your family?  What if you burned bridges with your former coworkers and trounced all over other people’s feelings?  What if you left people in a lurch?

I knew that I didn’t want to work two full-time jobs for the rest of my life, but I knew that I was called to do so for a season (and that it was a blessing from the Lord for that season!).  Even though I had days where I felt the tug between my two jobs, I tried my best to work very hard and very cheerfully during that time.   My office day job was something that I had done for 7.5 years before leaving, and it wasn’t easy to leave the people there who had given me opportunities and friendships for so long.  At the end of the day, I was grateful and wanted to behave as such.

Instead of burning bridges with your former coworkers and complaining about how busy and frustrated you are, try to find ways for both jobs to complement each other.  Learn from both, build relationships, and never let a single moment go to waste.  Don’t rush prematurely into a dream, but allow God to utilize every single small step it takes to get there.

Mentally checking out when you are ready to move on is very easy to do.  It’s easy to make it seem like you’re doing your job and go through the motions while imagining yourself in your new job and new life.  Yet, I believe that we are called to do more and to live a life of integrity.

But no one else knows what I’m thinking anyway….

Wrong.  God knows, and you’re not as secretive as you might think.  People know when your heart isn’t in something.  Some people (kids especially) have built-in crap detectors.  Most people know when you’re faking it–even if they don’t say anything about it.  Instead of faking it until you make it, try:

1. Being thankful.
2. Being joyful.
3. Waiting in anticipation.

Allow yourself to be used by God in every season and situation of life, and your life will not be wasted.  You see, our goal should not be to become the best or most well-known dance studio owner or _______________.  Our goal should be to be conformed to Christ, and His was a career path marked with animosity, anonymity, and humility.

Finishing out what you are doing even when you feel like finishing up immediately is the mark of a mature and responsible person.  And, even better–it’s the mark of a person who has integrity.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
-1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

Should CEO’s Ban the Work-from-Home Option?

Last week the blogosphere heated up with the news that the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company and recently returned from a two-week maternity leave Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had banned all telecommuting among Yahoo employees.  Mayer was called “snobbish, out-of-touch, one-dimensional, and a hypocrite” by many in the online community prompting the question:

Should CEO’s ban the work-from-home option?

Can I first just say that many of the people (not all, of course) who are upset at Marissa Mayer for her new policies are the same ones who demand equality for women in the workforce?  Then they get mad because she only took a two week maternity leave and set an “unrealistic” trend for other women in the company?  Hello pot, this is kettle?

A recent Stanford University study came out proving that working from home increases productivity among employees, saves the employers $2000/year/employee, and leads to more emotionally satisfied work environments (http://www.stanford.edu/~nbloom/WFH.pdf).  Other studies have shown over the years that working from home decreases productivity and reduces the rate of in-company promotion.  The bottom line is that some jobs are more easily done on from home than others, and it’s up to each employer to decide what works best for the company.

As someone who runs a company primarily from her home (the actual physical teaching dance classes at the studio, meetings, speaking engagements, etc. take up about 1/3 of my weekly work hours), I can tell you that there is no slacking off.  I can’t…or nothing would get done.  Many people who work from home are incredibly dedicated and have an extraordinary amount of self-discipline.  I love the flexibility of planning my own schedule.  I longed for that when I was in the regular workforce because if there was a massive snowstorm, the work-from-home option would have been nice.  One of the reasons that I transitioned to just doing the studio full-time was so that when Seth and I had kids, I would have some flexibility at being home with them. But, sometimes I miss the companionship and camaraderie involved with working in a place with other people.  There is a certain unity that comes from that, and in today’s day and age of e-everything, it’s often hard to find.  I have to work very hard to keep the studio staff unified and to make sure that I have a relationship with each of my employees.

To be a good employer, CEO, and leader of people in general, you have to know your people and serve your people.  At Reverence Studios I believe that God should be first, your family second, and work third.  I am not perfect, but I try to lead by example and have those same priorities in my own life.  I have to recognize that my staff all have full-time jobs or are full-time parents in addition to their work at the studio, so it’s not realistic for me to expect them to come to once a week staff meetings.  Instead, I communicate with them regularly by email, phone, or text, we have three staff meetings that they have to come to each school year, and I get together with them individually for reviews or just fun activities.  As an employer, you have to find the balance between boundaries and responsibility, between trust and accountability.

But still…is it “putting your employees in a box” to have high expectations?  How do we know that Marissa Mayer did not take all of these things into account before making this rule?

I, for one, feel that whenever people criticize before uncovering the facts, they are taking additional steps backward in the fight for equality and high standards.  What are your thoughts?

Five Young Women Leaders to Watch

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In an age where little girls look up to reality stars who are famous for nothing, it’s refreshing to have some positive young role models to admire.  These women who are all under the age of 40 are changing the world, and they are definitely people to watch (this list is in no particular order).

Katie Davis (www.amazima.org):  When she was 18 years old, Katie took a missions trip to Uganda and her life was never the same.  Now the mother of 13 daughters, Katie also established Amazima Ministries International to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Uganda who need it most.  Her life and story have inspired thousands!

Bianca Olthoff (blog.inthenameoflove.org):  Bianca is a popular speaker to the post-modern age group, as well as a writer and staff member of the A21 Campaign to abolish human trafficking in the 21st century.

Jen Hatmaker (www.jenhatmaker.com): Jen was living a normal life as a pastor’s wife until she and her husband answered God’s call to start a church plant in inner-city Austin.  Since then, she’s inspired thousands to leave the comfort of modern-American and live a life that’s sold out for Jesus and justice. 

Priscilla Shirer (www.goingbeyond.com): Priscilla has quite a ministry and quite a legacy!

Lindsey Nobles (www.lindseynobles.com): Lindsey has worked for Project 7, Food for the Hungry, and a host of other organizations to mobilize others to go the hard places and bring hope to help children.  When I grow up, I want to be her.

Who else should be added to this list?