We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

I John 4:19-20

I’m just returning from a week of vacation at the Jersey Shore.  This was actually the first time I ever stayed at the Shore for more than a night or two.  We had a great week!

As I was catching up on work emails and other news last night, I was surprised to see my news feed full of updates about what is going on in Charlottesville, VA.  I don’t claim to be at all up to speed on what is going on there.  In fact, I feel rather behind when it comes to knowing the details.

One thing I know for sure is that when I see signs promoting “white supremacy”, I know something is wrong.

What happened to the song we used to sing in Sunday School?

“Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world – red and yellow, black and white – they are precious in his site…”

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

Hate is alive and well in the world, and I hate this fact.

I have more questions than answers.

  • How can we change the hearts of those who hold such hatred deep inside?
  • What can I do to be part of the solution?
  • When will this kind of hatred end?
  • Where can I have the biggest impact on helping to encourage positive change and a move towards love?
  • Why do people think this kind of behavior is appropriate?

God, again I ask You for a heart that breaks for the things that break Your heart.  Give me wisdom in knowing how to share Your love.  Help me to be a voice against evil.  Thank You for loving me despite my shortcomings.  Thank You for sending Your Son and for showing us how to love.  I ask for peace and understanding in Charlottesville, and I ask for Your wisdom and love to fill the hearts of our leaders as they respond to the current situation.  Amen

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

I John 4:10

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Harriet Tubman

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.  Seriously, the thought of blasting into space and exploring the “final frontier” was an amazing dream I had for a few years.  Now, I’m quite content to have my feet firmly on the surface of the earth.

Over the years, I’ve had many other dreams.  I’ve dreamed about the possibility of writing a book (a dream that came true with my first book – On Track).  I’ve dreamed about the possibility of going to the Summer Olympics in Barcelona (a dream that did not come true).

I think there is something positive about having dreams and desires for our lives.  These dreams give us reasons to live intentionally.  They give us an avenue to escape from some of the realities we face in our everyday existence.  Dreams can give us hope for what is yet to come.

Sometimes our dreams and desires get twisted and tangled.  Maybe we let the dreams of our parents become our dreams.  Or maybe we look at the “perfect” world of those on television or in the movies thinking our lives would be better if we were just like them.  And sometimes we simply chase after the wrong things.

One of the things I love about going on a short-term missions trip is that they always seem to have a way of recalibrating my dreams and desires.  Besides expanding your community and changing your perspective, they have a tendency to adjust the way you think about the future.

For example, my dream of building 100 houses in Guatemala for widows and their families didn’t just appear suddenly while I was working at my job in Blue Bell, PA.  This dream and desire came about as a result of spending time in Guatemala serving widows and orphans.  My short-term missions trip experience in Guatemala allowed me to see the impact a house could have on a family, and I wanted to replicate that for other families.

Last year while our family was coming home from Guatemala, Leanne and I made a decision to sell our house, so we could live more, save more, and give more.  After an unsuccessful attempt at selling our house this spring, we remain committed to seeing how this plays out in the coming year.  We believe the dream and desire to downsize was not placed on our hearts by accident, and our trips to Guatemala for short-term missions were instrumental in recalibrating our dreams and desires in this way.

When you go on a short-term missions trip, you open yourself up to the possibility of new dreams and desires that go way beyond your wildest expectations.  And they go way beyond your self-centered, normal way of thinking.

If you like to dream but need to dream bigger, you should consider going on a short-term missions trip.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
Colin Powell

How has the practice of serving others impacted your dreams and desires?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

“I just want people to take a step back, take a deep breath and actually look at something with a different perspective. But most people will never do that.”

Brian McKnight

When you always look at something from the same angle, you almost always see the same thing.  When you look at something from a different vantage point, you see something different.

Going on a short-term mission trip gives you the opportunity to see things from a totally different angle.  The different angle will cause a change in your perspective.

For many people, this idea can be quite terrifying.  “I’m too scared to see life from a different angle.”  “I might not like what I see.”  “I might even be convicted to change things in the comfortable life I live everyday.”

For many other people, this idea can be downright unnecessary.  “Why do I even need a different perspective.  After all, my perspective is the correct perspective.”

Regardless of where you are in life – your age, your economic status, your employment condition, your health, whatever, you need the perspective provided by putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

One of the reasons I value my short-term mission trips is that I always come home with an adjusted perspective.  For one, I have learned to appreciate the material blessings in my life, and I’ve learned to hang on to them much more loosely.  This comes from seeing how many people live on so little.  Secondly, I’ve learned that contentment in life can truly come without the hurried pace of life that seems to exist in many parts of the United States.  The mission trips I have experienced have also taught me that I actually have more to give.  Life is not just about me.  It’s about giving; it’s about sharing; it’s about spreading God’s love through words and actions.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve found it easy to slip back into the rat race of life.  One of the reasons I write so frequently about short-term missions and about my experiences in Guatemala is to make sure the perspective changes stick.  I do not want the positive perspective changes that have come as a result of going on a short-term missions trip to be a short-term thing in my life.

A short-term missions trip can change your long-term perspective if you let it.

“Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude. Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines. Not just in the moments when life seems easy.”
Henri Nouwen

How has your perspective changed as a result of serving someone?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about short-term missions.  They ask me why I think mission trips are important.  And sometimes they even tell me I’m crazy for thinking short-term mission trips are worthwhile at all.  This week, I’ll share with you some of the reasons I believe short-term mission trips are worthwhile and important.

Before I start, I think it’s important for you to know my history with short-term mission trips.  I’ve been on more than a few trips.  When I was in high school, I went on five mission trips with my high school youth group.  We went to Bellefonte (Pennsylvania), Cherryfield (Maine), Coatesville (Pennsylvania), Rochester (New York), and Syracuse (New York).  Each of these trips gave me the opportunity to serve with my fellow students building houses and doing other handyman projects.  As I look back on these trips, I remember how much we accomplished, and I also remember the fun we had together working hard and playing.

When I was a college at Grove City College, I had the privilege of going on two Inner City Outreach (ICO) trips to Chicago where we worked with Habitat for Humanity providing housing to people in need in the Irving Park area of Chicago.  I’ll always remember playing softball across the street from the Irving Park Methodist Church with Hunter Boyd, Erik Anderson, and Mike Black.  These trips gave me an unbelievable opportunity to bond with students from Grove City College while we served during our Easter break.

More recently, I’ve been to Guatemala five times in the past six years where I’ve had opportunities to serve in the villages of Santo Domingo Xenacoj and San Raymundo.  These trips have included house construction, feeding programs, and ministry to orphans and widows.

I’ve helped to plan several of these trips, and I’ve attended as a participant.  The experiences have all been very valuable.  I share this to let you know that I’ve gone on multiple mission trips (and I hope to go on many more).  While I still have a lot to learn about short-term missions, I believe I have some experience that has served me well and will hopefully cause you to think about going on a short-term missions trip of your own.

Short term missions provide an incredible opportunity to expand your community.

On a short-term missions trip, your community expands by putting you in a foreign place.  Whether you serve overseas or domestically, you are likely to find yourself outside your normal community.  Thanks to my short-term mission trips, I’ve connected with people from across the country and around the world that I normally would not have met – people like German Espana in Santo Domingo, Guatemala.  He’s a man who had tried to provide for his family by working in the United States.  His heart for widows and orphans expanded when he moved back to his own village and deepened his relationship with Jesus.  I also count as blessings the families we have served – people like Lydia, Betty, Angela, Maria, Dolores, and Carmen.  These women and their stories have touched my heart and expanded my understanding of community.

On a short-term missions trip, your community expands by drawing you closer to your team members.  This summer when I traveled to Guatemala with a group of 33 people from my church, my community expanded tremendously as I connected with each of the team members and learned many of their stories.  The trip gave us an intense and intentional time together where we were able to share together, pray together, eat together, serve together, and even play together.  I laughed, cried, and huddled with people I may never have really known outside the missions trip.

On a short-term missions trip, your community expands by opening your eyes to what others are doing to serve.  I have connected with so many great people from organizations like Casas por Cristo, Habitat for Humanity, Adventures in Missions (AIM), and GO Ministries as a result of these trips.  My community expanded to include people like Tyler Miller (Casas por Cristo), Pete Dockery (Casas por Cristo), Joshua Crabbs (Casas por Cristo), Dave Sgro (GO Ministries), and Seth Barnes (AIM).  I’m thankful for these ministries and missionaries who have showed me what it looks like to expand your community with the intention of sharing God’s love.

You and I were meant for community.

That community should be happening right where you live, but it doesn’t have to stop there.  Now is a great time to consider expanding your community outside your neighborhood through a short-term missions trip.

How has your community expanded as a result of a short-term missions experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

It’s been nearly a week since I returned home from Guatemala, and I’m still in recovery.

The other day, I mentioned that I might have a case of post mission trip depression.  A good friend said that was a real thing.  I’m not sure if I’m all together depressed, but I’m definitely dealing with some feelings I don’t normally have.  My stomach has been a little unsettled that past few days which could be a result of a couple of meals I tried toward the end of my visit – namely the street side tacos from San Raymundo or the meal I enjoyed at the house dedication.  Beyond that, I’ve missed the team we spent the week with in Guatemala.  I’ve also been pondering the next moves in building more homes for widows.  And I’m feeling the realities of being thrust back into a high pressure, fast paced world after being in a low pressure, slower paced Guatemala.  I’m confident things will improve in the coming days, but these feelings got me thinking that I’m probably not alone.

Today, I want to give you some advice on how to overcome a case of post mission trip depression.  (And by the way, I’m writing this for myself too.)

8 Ways to Overcome Post Mission Trip Depression

  1. Find a way to serve in your local community.  Serving around the world in places like Guatemala is important, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be serving right in our own communities.  When we serve others, it uplifts the people we are serving and us.
  2. Share your story with others.  Don’t let your mission trip story fade into the past.  By sharing your story, you may inspire others to serve others, and you get the benefit of reliving your experience.
  3. Get some sleep.  Typically, a missions trip throws your internal clock for a loop.  It’s important to get appropriate sleep to help you return to the “normalcy” of your typical routine.
  4. Schedule time to get together with your team.  If you served with a group of people, you should consider setting time aside to get together with the team.  Maybe it starts with dinner out with some of the friends you just met.  It would also be a good idea to schedule a “reunion gathering” for your team to share pictures, stories, and general feedback on the return to home.
  5. Don’t forget to eat.  Food is often the key ingredient to keeping us emotionally stable.  Make sure you take time to eat.
  6. Get some exercise.  Even a walk in the park can do wonders for our emotional health.  Make sure you get out and exercise when you come home from a mission trip.
  7. Read a good book about missions trips or about serving other people.  This fall, I’ll be releasing my next book, Rooftop Reflections – Missional Thoughts of an Ordinary Guy from an Extraordinary Place.  I’ll share more about this in the coming weeks.  This kind of book can keep your brain on the right wavelength as you try to remember your experience and as you try to find ways to apply it in your everyday world.
  8. Start planning your next mission trip.  Why wait until next year to sign up for a trip?  Start fundraising now.  Start collecting donations to give to the widows, the orphans, and the poor you might be serving in the future.  Take an active role in getting ready for another trip to serve others.

I’m already feeling a little bit better just thinking about taking these actions.

How have you handled your thoughts and feelings upon returning home from a missions trip or life-changing experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

The year, we build with Casas por Cristo.  Casas is a fantastic organization, and I learned a lot through our experience this year that will be helpful as I pursue building 100+ houses in Guatemala.

Today, I’ll give you a glimpse into the building process.  Our large team split into two smaller teams, and we both completed our houses in 2 1/2 days.  The actual construction may have gone fast, but there were other steps before our build that paved the way for our visit.

Applying to Get a Home

In order to get a house, the pastor of a family in need must complete an application.  Through this process, the pastor and associated church commit to coming around the family in an effort to disciple them and help them with their ongoing needs.  The families selected make an average of $60 per week, and they typically live in huts made of cardboard, cornstalks, or bamboo.

Preparing the Site

The job site is prepared in advance of our arrival.  In our case, the church community dug dirt out of the hill in an effort to level the site for the house, and they carried all the wood, stone, concrete, sand, and other building supplies down a huge hill to the job site.

Building the Forms and Leveling the Ground

When we arrived at the site, we gathered to meet the family and pray before the fun began.  It didn’t take long to set up the cutting station and build the forms for the concrete foundation.  Making sure the ground was as level as possible was critical to the next step.

Pouring the Concrete

Next we mixed the concrete with two mixers.  Each batch of concrete included just the right mixture of sand, stone, concrete, and water.  Before lunch on the first day, we had completed the concrete slab.  This was a critical step, and we were reminded of the importance of having a firm foundation in our own lives to withstand the storms of life.

Building the Walls

Wall construction started on Monday afternoon and rolled into Tuesday.  We build the walls on the ground before lifting them up onto the slab.  Once the walls were square and attached appropriately to the concrete floor, we began the process of installing the exterior tongue and groove panels.

Installing the Roof

While the exterior walls were being covered, a few members of our team climbed to the top of the house and began installing the roof.  The roof consisted of wooden beams which supported the metal roofing material.  By the end of the second day, the roof was installed and the exterior walls were mostly complete.

The Finishing Touches

Wednesday morning, we arrived on site, and we quickly worked on finishing the house.  The exterior panels were completed.  The front door and windows were installed.  The interior walls were covered.  The electrical was installed and tested, and the trim work was completed.

Dedicating the House

This was my favorite part!  After completing the house in the morning.  Lydia and other ladies from her community cooked us all lunch (chicken, rice, corn tortillas, and a delicious red sauce).  Our team sat down at a long makeshift table in front of the house, and we enjoyed the meal before a quick rainstorm interrupted things.  When the rain died down, we all gathered in front of the house.  Lydia received a Bible and a set of keys for her house.  And we nailed a “Casas por Cristo” plate above her front door.  After a time of sharing, we laid hands on Lydia’s house and prayed for Lydia, her new home, and her family.  Listening to her pastor pray was one of the most moving experiences of the trip.  He wept as he prayed aloud.

Missionaries from Casas por Cristo will head back over to Lydia’s house in a few months to see how she and the house are doing.  And the pastor will continue to keep an eye on her as well.

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou

In Guatemala last week, we had the opportunity to impact a woman and her family by blessing her with a new home.  I’ll get into more details on the building process tomorrow, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into this remarkable young woman and into the importance of this house in her life.
Lydia’s husband left her 3 or 4 years ago.  From what I can gather, he probably migrated north to the United States with the hope of finding better work and the promise of sending money back to Lydia.  Lydia hasn’t seen her husband since his departure, and she certainly hasn’t reaped any financial benefit from his departure.
Lydia is essentially a widow.  She is a single woman left to raise her four children in a place where work is hard to find and doesn’t pay enough to meet the needs of her family.

This is Lydia

Lydia and her family have been living with her father (or father-in-law – I’m unclear on this detail).  He tries to help, but his health is failing.  His desire is to make sure Lydia and his grandchildren are safe and secure with a roof over their heads.

This is Lydia’s father

Lydia has four children.  She has three boys and one daughter.  Her oldest son, Eddie, is eleven years old.  They are a beautiful family.

This is Lydia’s family (or most of it)

A house represents security, shelter, and stability.  As a result of this new home, Lydia and her kids will have protection from the rain, protection from potential abductors, and a place to rest.  A house provides hope and a springboard to sustainability for her family.

This is Lydia’s new house

We all need a fresh start from time to time.  For Lydia, this house provides the fresh start she needs.  It’s an opportunity for her to practically experience God’s provision in her life, and it’s a great way to connect her with her community and with us – the team who helped this become a reality in her life.  It was such an honor and privilege for our team to be part of this new beginning for Lydia.

This is Lydia’s new beginning

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25-34-40

We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.

Dorothy Day

We arrived home from Guatemala very early Saturday morning.  I still feel like I am in a haze.  Part of me is still in Guatemala.  In fact, I kind of wondering if I might be suffering from a little case of post-Guatemala depression.  It’s hard to get back into the routine of life at home in the United States after such an amazing and life-changing experience in Guatemala.

One of the things that made this year so different from my previous trips to Guatemala is that we went with a multi-generational team from my church (Christ’s Church of the Valley).  When we climbed on the bus last Sunday afternoon to head to the Newark airport, I only knew a few people on the bus.  As the bus began it’s journey to Northern New Jersey, Leanne and I began the process of getting to know some of the people on our team for the week ahead.

By the time, we arrived back at the church early Saturday morning, it felt like we were getting off the bus with 31 family members.

There is amazing power in spending time with others for a week of service.  Together we built two homes and hopefully changed the lives of two families.  While we may have had an impact on these two families who received these homes, the trip had an amazing on each one of us on the team.  We went from knowing very little about each other to knowing quite a bit about each other.  I would go so far to say that we made life-long friends on our trip to Guatemala this year.

We went from a team of unknowns to a family.

I’m so thankful for the chance to serve with others from our church this year in Guatemala.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  Acts 2:42-47

Today, our family (minus one) embarks on another journey to Guatemala.

We’re excited to be doing something a little different this year.  We are going with a group from our church (Christ’s Church of the Valley) to build two homes in San Raymundo with an organization called Casas Por Cristo.

Here are a few of the things I am most looking forward to this year:

  • Working with Casas Por Cristo – Casas is an organization building homes in Mexico, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic for families in need.  The first house we build in Guatemala in 2012 was a Casas house.  After building hundreds of houses, Casas Por Cristo has their act together, and I’m looking forward to learning from them, so we can build more homes in Santo Domingo Xenacoj and elsewhere in Guatemala.  I will be taking a lot of notes and taking a lot of pictures with the intent of learning to bring better construction methods to Xenacoj.  If I’m going to build 100+ houses in Guatemala, it will be important to develop “quality” and cost effective processes and building methods.
  • Serving alongside others from my church – The past three trips to Guatemala have been a family effort.  I think that has served our family well, but I’m also looking forward to the fellowship and connections that will happen with others who attend our church in Royersford, PA.  I believe we were made for community, and my past experience has shown that incredible things happen when we serve with a community of people.
  • Seeing German and Suzy Espana – If all goes well, German and Suzy will be traveling from Xenacoj to San Raymundo to join us for part of the building process.  This will be a great chance for us to see friends who mean so much to us, and I hope it will be an encouraging visit for both of us.  More than likely, German will be a big part of building 100+ houses, and this will give us an opportunity to talk and make plans for the future.

Last night, Leanne and I watched Living on One Dollar.  The documentary tells the story of four young men who travel to a village in Guatemala where they live on one dollar a day in an effort to learn more about the challenges of people living in extreme poverty.  If you get a chance, I’d encourage you to check out the movie.  The movie was a reminder of the people we serve and the uphill battle they face every single day.

I’m glad we watched the movie last night as it helps to prepare my heart and mind for the week ahead.  This will be my fifth trip to Guatemala, and I don’t want it to be routine.  I don’t want it to feel too comfortable.  As I’ve prayed on my previous trips, I pray my heart will break for the things that break the heart of God.  I pray my eyes, heart, and mind will be open to the lessons I can learn as a result of the experiences we will have this year.

As we head out later today, you can pray for the following:

  • Safety and health for our entire team as we travel and work
  • Open hearts and minds for all our team members as we head to Guatemala
  • God’s provision for the two families who will be getting new homes this week 
  • A sweet reunion with German and Suzy Espana

Here’s my talk for today’s presentation at the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) Annual Conference:

NSPE 2017 Conference

Engineers Managing Engineers

Jon M. Stolpe

Friday, July 21, 2017

When an optimist looks at a half-filled glass, he sees the glass half full.  When a pessimist looks at the same glass, he sees the glass half empty.  When an engineer looks at the same glass, he sees the glass as being twice as big as it needs to be.

As engineers, we look at the world through a different set of lenses than the rest of the world.  Engineers want to get to the bottom of how things work.  They tend to be technical in nature.  While the rest of the world may see us as robots, we are more than mechanical devices going through the motions.

Engineers are people too!

For the next 50 minutes, I want to help you better manage the engineers who work for you.

Here’s our agenda for our time together.

First, we’ll look in the mirror to get a better understanding of who we are.

Next, we’ll spend some time talking about how you can get to know your team members better.

I’ll give you some tips for managing performance for your direct reports, and I’ll give you a powerful tool for managing your team members.

We’ll spend some time helping our team members develop a plan for their future.

And we’ll finish our time together brainstorming ways to encourage your team of engineers to be innovative.

Before we get started, I wanted to share a few things about me.  I graduated from Grove City College in 1994 with a degree in mechanical engineering.  After graduating, I worked for a small building automation company in north Jersey and Manhattan as a project engineer.  During my year and a half with the company, I installed building automation systems on the top ten floors of Rockefeller Center and the Liz Claiborne World Headquarters.  I moved to Landis and Gyr Powers which eventually became Siemens Building Technologies where I have been for over 21 years.  I started as a project engineer and became a project manager which gave me opportunities to work on projects all over the Greater Philadelphia area.  In 2000, I went back to school to work on my MBA at Penn State University.  For the past 10 years, I’ve been an operations manager.  I lead a team of engineers, project managers, technicians, and installers.  And I love my job!

I’m married with two teenagers.  And I have a passion for personal growth, leadership development, writing, and speaking.  I’m excited to be here today to share some of the things I have learned along the way which have helped me (an engineer) lead my team of engineers.

Getting to Know Yourself

If you want to be successful managing your team, it’s important that you get to know yourself first.

When we think of becoming better leaders, we think of tools and techniques. We think of books and seminars. We think of skills we must add or improve to connect with those we are leading and to help others navigate their paths to becoming stronger contributors to the overall good of the team. Much of our leadership development is externally focused.

How can we get our team member to do this? Or how can we get our team member to stop doing that?

In our quest to become better leaders, we often forget to look in the mirror.

Becoming a better leader starts by learning to lead ourselves first.

I don’t know about you, but my podcast feed is full of podcasts about leadership. My nightstand is full of books about leadership. And my blog reader is jammed with blog posts and articles about leadership. It’s great to feed our minds with great material, but we must learn to step back from time to time and develop habits to lead ourselves.

As a leader trying to figure it out, I believe self leadership starts when we take time to STRETCH ourselves. To help you see what I mean, here’s an easy way to remember seven keys to leading yourself:

  1. Still yourself.

Too many leaders believe busyness is a badge of achievement. In the rush to hustle more than the next guy, leaders forget how to stop and be still. Learning to still yourself takes practice. Start with a minute every hour. Or start with 10-15 minutes in the morning before the days responsibilities take over.

  1. Take note.

Become an observer of life. Keep track of what is happening. Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day capturing the details of the day. If we don’t write it down somewhere, we’ll forget it.

  1. Reflect.

It’s not just enough to still yourself and take note. You have to take time to reflect. For me, this means getting away for a couple of days once or twice a year. Reflection provides the opportunity to gain wisdom from what we have just experienced, and it gives the chance to ponder the future.

  1. Engage in key relationships.

One of the best ways to lead yourself is to open yourself up to feedback from others. When I think of key relationships, I think of my family, my close friends, and my boss. Who are the people who will help you see the things you need to see when you look in the mirror? These are the people who can help you take your leadership to the next level.

  1. Try something new.

It’s easy to fall into a rut when we are leading. In order to break out of our patterns, we must be willing to take a risk. Leading yourself requires you to willingly move past unproductive routines. Trying new things on a regular basis helps leaders learn things they may have otherwise overlooked.

  1. Community. Community. Community.

Whether you or an introvert or an extrovert, you need community and community needs you. By involving yourself in community, you gain opportunities to lead others outside your team. Community is also the place where you can be led by others outside your normal circle of influence. When you lead in the community, you gain valuable insights to lead better in your organization. If you want to lead yourself to become a better leader, get involved in your community today!

  1. Help others.

Leadership too often is a race to see who climbs the corporate ladder more quickly. If you want to be an effective leader, you must analyze your motives. Why are you leading? When your season of leadership is over, what legacy will you have left? The best way to lead with impact is when you lead with a servant’s heart. Find ways to help others, and your leadership will advance to a whole new level.

If you paid attention, you may have realized that these seven keys encourage leaders to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. As you lead in your organization, don’t forget to STRETCH by leading yourself first.

Getting to Know Your Team

Piece of Paper Exercise

Learning to Look for Differences Exercise

Tools To Help You Learn More About Your Team Members (and About You)

Myers-Briggs Temperament Index – My MBTI (I am an ESTJ.  I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert.  I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition.  I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler.  And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.)

Wikipedia:  The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

The MBTI was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the typological theory proposed by Carl Jung who had speculated that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. “The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.”

16 different types

StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Get book) – My Strengths (Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer)

DISC Profile

Wikipedia:  DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centers on four different behavioral traits, which today are called: dominance, influence, support, and conscientiousness. This theory was then developed into a behavioral assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.

There are many different versions of the questionnaire and assessment. Some date back to the 1940s while others are more recent, more accurate, and more advanced.

Communication Style Assessment

 

Whether you are a manager of direct reports or not, I hope you’ll find this list helpful in understanding ways to get better.  Success doesn’t happen by accident.  Success happens by being intentional, and this list offers suggestions – no, essentials – for being intentional with the performance management process.

10 Essentials for Enhancing the Performance Management Process:

  1. Start with regular one-on-one meetings. It’s important to meet with your employees on a regular basis.  These meetings provide an opportunity to touch base on performance issues and other business and non-business related items.  You can read about the power of one-on-one meetings in a guest post I wrote for Matt McWilliams.  Several years ago, I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team, and it’s been helpful for my team members and for me.
  2. Set performance targets. It’s critical that employees have SMART targets.  Targets should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  At the beginning of each year, I sit down with my team members to set targets.  These targets align with our overall business objectives, and they also provide opportunities for individuals to grow personally.
  3. Quarterly review progress towards targets. It shouldn’t be a surprise at the end of the year when doing a performance evaluation.  I sit down with my employees once a quarter to review their progress in achieving their targets.  Doing this once a quarter provides an opportunity for my team members to make performance corrections that will help them meet or exceed their targets.
  4. Get feedback from others. I encourage my team members to ask for feedback from their peers.  And I get feedback from other managers and supervisors regarding the performance of my team members.  Before completing the annual performance management process, I meet in a roundtable meeting which helps to calibrate my overall assessment.  This meeting also provides extra insight into developmental action items I might want to suggest to my team members.
  5. Take time to write an honest and detailed assessment.  When I write evaluations for my team members, I want them to be fair, well-thought, and encouraging.  Writing this kind of assessment takes time.  I schedule time to carefully review the past year of activity.  I look at notes from my past one-on-one meetings.  I review previous results from the quarterly updates.  And I take into account comments shared by my fellow management team members.  A written record provides employees a tangible document to review as they seek to grow and improve.
  6. Meet with employee to review results. At the end of the year, it’s important to let your employees know how they have done.  Feedback provides information necessary to help them improve.  Feedback also keeps them doing the right things.
  7. Remember the good things. Make sure you praise your team members for the good things they have done throughout the year.  A pat on the back goes a long way towards encouraging the right behavior.
  8. Create a development plan correcting issues. As managers, it is our responsibility to help our team members succeed.  We have to give our team members help in getting better.  The performance review process is the perfect time to help employees get better.
  9. Discuss career progression essentials. Most employees want to know what it will take for them to get tho the next level in their career path.  It’s important to talk regularly to employees about their plans for the future.  What are their goals for the next 5 years or 10 years?  What do they need to do in order to be ready for the next steps?  These are questions that will help you help them.  Are their expectations realistic?  How can you help them?  The performance review process provides an opportunity to discuss essentials for career advancement.
  10. Do it again. It may seem repetitive, but you have to do it over and over and over again.  Doing this for only one year does not demonstrate a long-term interest in the performance of an employee.  Repeated year after year is essential to a successful performance management process.

Thinking About the Future

Mentoring

Cross-Training

Delegation

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates

Being a leader isn’t always easy.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Right?

If leadership stress, exhaustion, and inadequacy are common, there has to be a solution.

I’m sure we could point to many things that make leadership easier – getting more sleep, exercising regularly, reading, learning, and finding a mentor.  These are all valuable actions a leader can take to improve their leadership capabilities.  There another solution that too easily gets overlooked and sometimes misused.

Delegation is what I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about pawning off all the unpleasant tasks on someone else and acting as a dictator.  I’m talking about spreading out the work, so a leader and team can be more effective which will lead to less stress, less exhaustion, and a deeper feeling of adequacy and fulfillment.  Delegation is “the assignment of responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific activities (Wikipedia).”

It seems rather simple.  Spread the work out.  Ease the load of the leader.  Use the leadership talents of others in the community.  And make the community happier.

Why is delegation so important?

Here are six reasons leaders should delegate:

6 Reasons Leaders Should Delegate

  1. Delegation relieves stress and overload on the leader. Leadership can be lonely, and it can be a heavy weight to bear alone.  Delegation disperses the weight, so the strain isn’t so great on any one person.
  2. Delegation allows leaders and teams to get more accomplished in less time. If a leader tries to do it all my himself, it will obviously take him longer.  “Many hands make light work.”  By getting more people involved, more can be accomplished.
  3. Delegation frees up leaders for other tasks. When a leader is overwhelmed, he will often miss out on other tasks he could and should be performing.  By delegating, a leader opens up time and energy for other priorities.
  4. Delegation buildings a better team. When a leader tries to do it all by himself, he demonstrates a lack of confidence in his team.  This will demoralize a team.  Delegation done right provides an opportunity to motivate your team.  It also provides an opportunity to develop the skills and abilities of team members which will ultimately lead to a better team.
  5. Delegation generates more success. When a leader gets others involved, he taps into the ideas and skills of other people who might otherwise be overlooked and underutilized.  When a team is used to its fullest, success is a natural byproduct.
  6. Delegation prepares for the future. A leader will not be around forever.  Eventually, he will retire or move on to another opportunity.  It is good stewardship for a leader to prepare the next in-line leaders.  Grooming successors is an essential part of delegating, and it’s the best way for a leader to leave a legacy.

If you want to overcome stress, exhaustion, and feelings of inadequacy in your leadership, it’s time for you to start delegating.

Educational opportunities

Keeping Our Teams Engaged Through Innovation

My Shark Tank Experience

What other companies are doing

  • ATT Foundry
  • Adobe Kickstart
  • Linkedin [in]cubator
  • Whirlpool
  • Ericsson Ideaboxes

A chance to brainstorm

Confirming Your Learning

  1. Why are regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports important?
  2. What is one thing you can do to encourage innovations among your direct reports?
  3. Name three (or more) things you can do to improve the performance management process for your direct reports.

Remember, you are not leading a team of robots.  You are leading a team of people.  Be intentional as you lead and manage your team!

Questions, Answers, and Contact Information