To Lead People, You Have to Connect with Them. Here’s How.

After college, I worked third shift in a cheese factory. We would come into the factory at 10:00 p.m. and help run the machines that sliced, diced, and boxed several hundred thousand pounds of cheese each day. At the end of the night, we would stop the machines, tear them down, and clean them up. In the morning, we would put it all back together and get it all running again.

One good thing about working third shift is less bosses. The higher ups in the factory didn’t want to come in during the night. They would come in the following morning. Most of them said very little to us. I always felt like there was a pretty big separation between the managers and supervisors and those who worked on the floor.

Rob Sheloni, however, was different. He would take an interest in us. He would sit down in the break room and chat with us about our lives and the work. But the thing I remember most about him is that he would do something that pretty much nobody else would do. When we had a late night and had to turn things around quickly, he would pick up the high pressure hoses we used to clean the equipment, get wet, and help us get the job done on time.

Rob Sheloni could have asked me to do almost anything. I felt a connection with him, and I felt that he cared.

And if we want people to follow us, they have to feel like we have a connection with them. Continue reading “To Lead People, You Have to Connect with Them. Here’s How.”

Should We Trust the Experts?

In our polarized society, it’s easy to line up experts on either side of an issue. Who are we to believe? Should we even listen to the experts?

I think there’s no question that we should listen to experts. What that means is that we should listen to people who know a lot about a subject. For example, if I am going to build something, I am going to ask my friend Mark Smothers who has worked in home construction for decades. If I’m going to apply for the PPP loan, I’m going to ask my friend Bob Chesser, an accountant, who has spent countless hours studying this issue for his clients. This seems clear and obvious.

So, why is it that people balk at listening to experts when expert economists or scientists speak on a subject? One reason is that these people are presented as infallible sources whom we should believe if we are in favor of “science.” Reinhold Niebuhr noted that the rise of science in Western culture “gave modern culture a special animus against ‘dogma.’ But unfortunately it was not prepared to deal with the hidden dogmas in prescriptions of science itself” (The Self and the Dramas of History, 114). Continue reading “Should We Trust the Experts?”

How Risky Is It, Really?

Bears are much scarier than cars. You will pass hundreds of cars, if you drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You may see a bear, but you very well may not. I could only find one instance of a bear killing a person in the GSMNP (on May 21, 2000). However, in 2019, Nine people were killed in car wrecks in the GSMNP.

Some things are scary that will not harm us. Some things will harm us that are not scary. Actual rather than perceived risks to life and health are what we should be most concerned about. So, how do we get past what is scary but what is not risky? How do we learn to take precautions when things are risky but not scary? In other words, how can we be sure that we are doing the right things to keep us safe and healthy? That’s what David Ropeik’s book, How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts is all about (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010).

What Ropeik does is try to help us see what makes things feel risky or scary to us. Then, he provides advice on how to get better at evaluating actual risk.

Ropeik suggests that there are eleven things that make people, situations, or things more scary.

  1. Trust. When trust is low, fear is higher. For example, if we don’t trust our government, what they tell us to do feels scarier, even if it is not. The converse is also true as well.
  2. Loss. This is complicated, but if the potential loss is great, then it feels scarier, even if it is not a great risk. Losing a house to a tornado feels scarier than having credit cards, even though the latter is more likely to bring you to financial ruin.
  3. Control. If we feel in control, we feel safe. Airplanes are much safer than automobiles. However, in an automobile, we feel more in control. Continue reading “How Risky Is It, Really?”

On New Year’s Resolutions (With a Few of Mine)

Me at the cemetery of my Keith ancestors, a partial fulfillment of one of my resolutions (see below)
I’ve talked to a few people recently who’ve said that they don’t like New Year’s resolutions because they never do them.

I can understand that, but I would really encourage people to make New Year’s resolutions.

Resolutions are about thinking about life and being proactive rather than simply reactive and going with the flow. If we simply react and go with the flow, we will probably miss out on a lot of things and take the path of least resistance.

Making resolutions is about walking with our eyes in our heads (Ecclesiastes 2:14). King Solomon advises his son Solomon: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways” (Prov. 4:26). Making resolutions is about giving careful thought to how we live.

A couple suggestions on making New Year’s resolutions.

First, I try to think of my goals along the lines of Jesus’ growth as recorded by Luke: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (2:52). From this, I take four categories: spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual. To this, I might add things that I want to do just for fun (though I could probably fit those into the four categories above).

Second, when I make goals, it seems best to me to make them as specific as possible. For example, “Stay in touch with my Grandma” is probably not a very good goal. “Text Grandma everyday” is a good goal (this was a resolution one of my daughters made, completely without my prompting, I might add).

Third, don’t give up because you fail. This is also one advantage of being specific. If you mess up, just keep going. If you forget to text Grandma one day, just text her the next day. If you don’t read the Bible one day, read it the next. Life is going to interrupt our goals. If you recognize that going in, you’ll be OK?

Finally, just make some goals. Think about your life. Don’t let life happen to you. Take charge of it and make things happen that you want to happen. Why should we not do that? Why be a slave to circumstances? Why not begin to change what you can change?

Here are a few of my resolutions:

  1. Don’t use computers or movies to relax in the evening except when doing so with other people. Instead, use fiction books.
  2. Go outside each day and work a little bit on my yard.
  3. Check the news and Facebook once a day only.
  4. Visit and tour the places where each of my grandparents grew up this year and see the places where they grew up and where my ancestors are buried (Note: partially accomplished already).
  5. Attend more worship services and church events in other churches.
  6. Connect individually with each of my children daily.

Reading over my resolutions, I realized that I need to follow my own advice on some of them and make them more specific. Thinking about our lives and what we want them to be is a continuous process.

At any rate, I hope in the next year to try and walk “with my eyes in my head.” Have fun making your New Year’s resolutions! “May the Lord make all your plans succeed” in 2018 (Psalm 20:4).

Questions & Answers on Leadership Issues

This month, I’ve preached on the topic of leadership. I’ve preached it on because I believe that in the Bible, after the Bible, in leadership positions and without leadership positions, God uses leaders. If we see a problem in the world, we should pray for our leaders, pray that God will raise up leaders, and consider leading.

Anyone can be a leader. We just need a vision of what needs to be done and the wisdom to explain it to people, do the hard things that are necessary to get there, meet people where they are, and remember that it’s a process.

In all of this, we can be assured of God’s great promise to those whom He calls to lead, “I will be with you.”

Several people in my congregation asked me questions about leadership. You can listen to some of the questions and my replies here. You can read the questions and replies below.

What do you when people won’t follow you?
First, always ask first, what’s wrong with my leadership? before you ask, what’s wrong with my followers? Second, there are sometimes that we can’t lead people forward, and we have to recognize our own human limitations and give up. Third, there are some people we have to lead that are difficult to lead. Don’t give up. Keep praying, loving, and looking for ways to move the ball down the field. You never know when God may give a breakthrough!

What is leadership success?
You can look at leadership success in a couple of different ways. You can see success in terms of an objective, e.g., did I get people to the church to clean it before Sunday? In terms of the objective, sometimes you fail. It’s important to see that our value is not based on what we accomplish but on God’s value of us and desires to use us. That doesn’t change, even if we fail. Continue reading “Questions & Answers on Leadership Issues”