Category Archives for "learning"

The Number One Way To Do What God Says

What God Says

We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.
John R.W. Stott

I want to do the right thing.  Don’t you?

I spend my “free time” in the car or on the treadmill listening to podcasts, so I can learn more.  On my nightstand, I have a few leadership books.  I listen to 150 podcasts every week, and I read through (or skim through) over 330 blogs whenever there is a new post.

I stand by the saying “Leaders are readers.”

But I think I sometimes take it too far.

When I say I want to do the right thing, I mean this:

  • I want to be a great husband.
  • I want to be a great father.
  • I want to be a great employee.
  • I want to be a great boss.
  • I want to be a great leader.
  • I want to be a great friend.
  • I want to be a great teammate.
  • I want to be a great giver.
  • I want to be a great person.

I don’t want to mess up when it comes to these areas of my life (and other areas).  I’m a perfectionist.  Unfortunately, I get it wrong if these are my pursuits.

I want to be a great Christ-follower.  If I can get this right, the other things should take care of themselves.  If I’m serious about this proclamation – if I’m serious about wanting to be a great Christ-follower, I should do what God says.

What is the number one way to do what God says?

If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says.

Tweet: If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says. #Stretched via @jonstolpe

“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:25

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:9-11

If I want to follow Christ, I have to start by digesting God’s Word.  Spending time in God’s Word does not happen with a closed, dust-covered Bible on the coffee table.  It happens when I open it up, when I study it, and when I take time to chew on it.  Only then can I truly do what God says.

If you want to do the right thing, start with God’s Word.

When was the last time you spent time studying God’s Word?  How do you make the most of time reading The Bible?  What has God recently been teaching you through His Word?


10 Ways To Get the Most out of the Performance Management Process

perf mgmt proc

Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.

Ralph Marston

It’s that time of year again!

This week, I’m in the middle of the performance management process for my team members.  This is an annual opportunity to provide feedback to my team members on their performance over the past year.  I could be easy to rush through this process which is required by my company.  I could simply write a couple of sentences about each team member and move on to the next year.

Taking this approach doesn’t do my team members any favors, and it doesn’t help my team or the company get better.  A well thought out and carefully executed performance review can be the bedrock of success for your team and your company.

In today’s post, I offer ten ways to get the most out of the performance management process.  This is written from a managers perspective; however, this is a great reference for those who don’t manage direct reports.  After reading today’s post, you may want to suggest that your supervisor start this type of performance management process for you.  You may simply want to tweak what is already happening at your job.

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 Ways To Get the Most out of 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.  This year 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.  (For more details on why employees should set performance targets, click here.)
  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.  (To read a different angle on the discipline of getting feedback, click here.)
  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.

How has the performance management process helped you succeed?  What would you add to the list above?  What do you need to do differently in order to improve your own performance management process?

Here’s an interesting article to go along with this post:

Always Be Prepared – Lessons From A Smoke Alarm (Part 2)

Yesterday, I explained how a smoke detector alarm in my home reminded me of some valuable truths related to my preparation for sharing the reason for my hope (I Peter 3:15,16).  Today’s post is a follow up to my story as well as an addition to my preparation list.

After getting up at 3:45AM to the sound of the first alarm, going to the grocery store at 4AM to purchase 9 volt batteries, and replacing the batteries in all the smoke detectors in our house, the smoke alarm was still going off periodically.  Needless to say, I was beside myself.  What else could I do to resolve this annoying and disruptive noise that was filling our house at random times.

I did some research, and I discovered that it’s recommended that the smoke detectors are cleaned with compressed air or a vacuum.  Apparently, dust can get into the detector over time and cause false alarms.  Leanne and Isaac attempted to vacuum out the detector in question once everyone was awake, but the alarm still continued.  Ugh!

Finally, reading further in the instructions, it says that the detector may need to be replaced.  So at lunch yesterday, I ran over to the local hardware store and picked up a copy of smoke detectors that were compatible with our system.  When I arrived home after work, Isaac and I replaced the detector.  And I’m happy to report that we haven’t had an alarm since!

And so I’ve learned a couple more things about being prepared to give an answer for my hope:

  • Research.  Besides reading the Bible (which should be the starting point and foundation for sharing your faith), there are other resources out there that might be helpful.  A couple that come to mind are Out of the Saltshaker and into the Earth (Evangelism as a Way of Life) by Rebecca Pippert, The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman, and Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels.  Research also includes understanding the interests, beliefs, and perspectives of others.  There are plenty of books, blogs, and websites that can help with this task.
  • Replace defective parts.  As you grow and learn, replace the things in your life that don’t work in representing Christ well.  When we become Christians, we become new creations.  The old is gone.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

What other tips to you have for being prepared to share our hope?  What have you had to research lately?  What resources do you recommend to help others prepare to share their faith?  What is something you’ve had to replace in your life recently?

Always Be Prepared – Lessons From A Smoke Alarm

I’ve been awake since 3:45 this morning.  I get up early each morning, but not this early normally.  I was in a pretty deep sleep when the smoke detectors in our house went into alarm.  They are all hooked together, so if one goes off, they all go into alarm.  I instantly hopped out of bed.  Was there a fire in my house?  I knew I needed to check things out.  I walked through the house, but I couldn’t find any smoke or fire (which is obviously good).  The alarm stopped, and I returned to bed.

Within a few minutes, I was back out of bed as the alarm went off again.  As I guessed, the battery in one of the detectors must have been losing its power.  Typically when this happens, the detector sends out a beep every minute or two.  However, in some cases, it will simply send the whole house into alarm.

With this in mind, I began to search the house for a fresh 9-Volt battery.  I looked in our battery bin.  Nothing.  I thought for a minute about where else I might have another newer battery.  The only place I could come up with was Isaac’s model rocket launcher.  I found the controller and pulled the battery.  When I took it to the detector I thought was the culprit, I discovered that the battery from Isaac’s rocket launcher was also low on power.

So what else could I do?  You guessed it.  I grabbed my wallet and car keys, threw on my shoes, and drove to our local grocery store to pick up 9-Volt batteries – at four in the morning!  When I returned home at 4:20AM, I began replacing all the smoke detector batteries in the house.  I purchased enough batteries for the whole house along with having a few spares.  Next time, I’ll be sure to replace the smoke detector batteries on a regular basis (like they recommend), and I’ll be sure to be prepared with a few extra 9-Volt batteries in the house.

As I was driving to and from the grocery store at 4ish in the morning, I couldn’t help but think how this early morning wake-up call was a good reminder the follow the teaching found in I Peter 3.  In this chapter, Peter proclaims that we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we profess.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  

I Peter 3:15,16

Being prepared to give an answer to everyone regarding the hope I have seems pretty challenging, but I think there’s a few simple things we can do to help us prepare for this opportunity.  Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Remember God’s Word.  We don’t all have to be Bible scholars, but it helps to know what the Bible says.  In God’s Word, there is truth and hope that we can share with others.
  • Recharge and refresh your spiritual battery.  On a daily basis, spend time with God.  On a weekly basis, spend time with other believers at your local church.  Once or twice a year, get away for a spiritual retreat.  This could be yourself, on a missions trip, or at a conference.  Each of these activities when regularly exercised will help to keep you charged up and ready to share the hope you have with others.
  • Relax.  Yes, giving an answer for the hope we possess is an important responsibility, and it’s easy to become intimidated when an opportunity to share our faith arises.  But I think that God will help us when we take the time to prepare and recharge.  Sharing your faith isn’t just about words, it’s just as much about living it out through your actions on a daily basis.

And yet again, I learn from the lessons of my life.  In some strange way, I’m thankful for a smoke detector alarm that woke me up in the early hours of the morning.  And next time, I’ll be better prepared!

When was the last time you woke up in the middle of the night to something alarming?  What other suggestions do you have for being better prepared to give a reason for your hope?

Foundations Class Week 2: Growth

Yesterday morning, I led week two of a Foundations Class at my church. If you remember from my post last week, we talked about grace during the first class.  This week, we continued along with the five Gs outlined in Fully Devoted, a study guide by John Ortberg, with the topic of growth.

Growth is an interesting topic.  When I think of growth these days, I think about growth in my running, in my writing, and in my engineering management career path.  In each of these areas, growth doesn’t just happens.  It takes work.  If I want to run a marathon, I have to go into strict training.  If I want to become a better writer and maybe someday write a book, I have to keep practicing and learning.  If I want to keep up with the ever-changing engineering and leadership fields, I have to stay in training so I can learn about new technologies and about new leadership techniques.

Spiritual growth is somewhat similar.  It doesn’t just happen.  It takes time, experience, and some effort on our parts if we’re serious about growing spiritually.  Sure, God could just zap us with spiritual maturity, but we would then miss out on all the experience and training.

So, what does this kind of training look like?

That’s a good question.

I think it includes an attitude of learning – we need to learn God’s Word.  We need to develop a heart for prayer.  And we need to listen for God.  Listening to God can happen in a corporate setting of worship and small groups, but it also happens in solitude where the distractions of this world are put aside for a brief period of time. Honestly, this is the area where I struggle with now.  I feel so often that I’m running from one thing to the next.  I even wrote about this last week.  How can I hear God’s calling when I’m typically too busy even to hear myself think?

As we walked through our discussion, we talked about a few verses that encourage us to be intentional in our spiritual training.  I would encourage you to read these verses and see how they relate to the topic of growth and spiritual transformation.

I Corinthians 9:24-27, I Timothy 4:7-8, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:22-24

It’s funny how God hits you on the head with a message when you’re in the spotlight leading.  This is a message that I need to hear over and over again.  It should be a fun week.  Leanne and I are leading a discussion on discipline at the week’s MOPS meeting at our church. Sounds like another blog post and some more challenging lessons.

What does your spiritual training look like right now? What steps do you need to take to grow spiritually?

Continue To Learn

Yesterday, I journeyed up to DeSales University for the PSPE Lehigh Valley Engineering Symposium in an effort to complete my continuing education requirements for my professional engineering license.  I took a couple of engineering ethics courses and two classes about construction project management and construction law.  The classes were okay considering the subject matter.  I’m looking forward to Wednesday when I’ll be taking courses that relate more directly to my work at Siemens.  These classes will include the following topics:  LEED and Green Building Standards, OSHA Compliance Regulations, Basic Thermal Design, Electricity for Non-Electrical Engineers, and Building Systems Commissioning.

This may sound fairly boring to many of my regular readers, but it’s an important part of staying fresh as an engineer.  Pennsylvania just enacted this continuing education requirement for engineers.  So I need these courses to keep my license, but I also need these courses to stay up to date as an engineer.

Just like continuing education is important to engineers, it’s also important for everyone.  We should make it our goal to keep on learning every day.  Whether you are an engineer, an accountant, a pastor, an IT expert, a mom, a dad, a husband, or a wife, it’s essential that you continue to learn.

Learning STRETCHES us.

Learning keeps us fresh.

Learning gives us new ideas for being the best we can be.

Learning helps us make the most of our God-given gifts and talents.

So keep learning, keep growing, keep STRETCHING!

What are you learning about these days?  How do you pursue continuing education?  What learning opportunities have STRETCHED you?