The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.C.S. Lewis
On Friday, I celebrated a work milestone. January 8, 1996 was my start date at what is now Siemens. That means I have been working for the same organization for the past 25 years.
I still have working years ahead of me, and I trust there will be other milestones along my career pathway. Nonetheless, it’s healthy to pause for a few moments to celebrate this milestone.
In my year of renew, I have actually discovered renewal by thinking about my experiences so far. Reflecting on these experiences remind me that we can find joy and satisfaction in our work. Sometimes we lose sight of this when we dwell on the day-to-day challenges we face.
With this in mind, I wanted to list here some of the things I’ve experienced as a result of my time at Siemens:
I’m sure I could list many other specific experiences from my time at Siemens so far. This list will do for now. It has reminded me of the blessing of my job. I’ve had a place to grow, to learn, and to leave my mark. While I don’t know what the next 5, 10, 15, or even 25 years may bring as I continue down my career path, I’m excited to step back into the office tomorrow as I continue on at Siemens.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”Oprah Winfrey
Work has been pretty intense lately. I’m in the process of helping my department finish out the fiscal year. In addition, this is also the time for annual performance reviews. On top of that, we are concentrating on building our staff to address the growing workload.
I’m pretty serious about my business, and sometimes the stress and seriousness of my job is worn on my face. In other words, my eyes can show the fatigue I’m experiencing in my leadership role, and my mouth shows a frown more frequently than a smile.
Last week, I had the opportunity to do something different. I traveled to Grove City College to participate in their annual career fair. At the career fair, I met so many bright students who are preparing to leave their mark on this world. I was able to share with passion and enthusiasm about the benefits of working for my company.
I also had the opportunity to connect with engineering teaching staff. We discussed ways to help students be better prepared to enter the working world. These conversations included the possibility of sponsoring a senior design project and the possibility of teaching as an adjunct professor.
I came back home exhausted from the travel, but I also came back exhilarated by the experience and the conversations with students, business leaders and recruiters, and college teaching staff.
On Friday afternoon, I was sharing my experiences at Grove City College with a co-worker when she stopped me. She said, “You are smiling! You are so happy! When you started sharing about your experiences and future opportunities your face lit up!”
Her words left a mark on me.
Too often, we go about life failing to find and follow the things that really light us up. We operate under a sense of duty or even under a sense of desperation. We miss out on living life to the fullest, and we miss out doing the things that make us smile and make us happy.
Work is a four lettered word, but it doesn’t have to be a four letter word in a bad sense. Our work is an opportunity to live out our passion, to bring glory to God, and to impact the world.
I have heard it said (and I’ve even said it myself) that work isn’t called fun for a reason – it’s called work. I think we may be missing the mark when we fall into the trap of repeating this and believing this perspective.
Our work should bring us joy. It should be something that brings us a sense of satisfaction and a sense of purpose.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.Colossians 3:23-24
When we re-position our perspective on work, we will rediscover our passion and purpose for our jobs. When we work for the Lord, we find passion and pu-rpose that matters.
What happens when our job is challenging? What happens when we are discouraged with our job? Mel Lawrenz provides some excellent insight:
“Do you have a difficult and discouraging job? Many do. Genesis 3:17-19 tells us that our work sometimes is not like tending a nice garden, but working the difficult, stubborn fields full of thorns. If you feel sometimes as though you slog through your job just to put bread on the table, know this: there is dignity in accomplishing just that.”Mel Lawrenz, Work in the Bible—Thoughts for Labor Day Weekend
Sometimes a difficult and discouraging job can also be an indication that we need a change. It may be time to find a new job all together, or it may be time to find something else to add to your work. In either case, I think it’s healthy to take time to learn more about what lights you up.
This is where I would recommend experimenting with different types of work. I’d also recommend talking to those around you – they will tell you things about yourself you never realized. They will be able to see your face light up when you land on the right thing.
As you head into this new week, I want to encourage you to consider your current job. Does it light you up? If so, great! Keep at it!
If your job doesn’t light you up. Begin to ask why. Begin the process of figuring out what does light you up. Once you’ve figured that out then take the next step to make it happen. In my case, I’m beginning the process of writing a syllabus or two for courses I may teach as an adjunct professor.
Imagine a world where more people were working in their areas of passion. Imagine a world where people did work that brought light to their faces. We would have more people finding happiness. We would see an impact on the world – a world illuminated.
Today is a significant day in my career. I officially start a new position as the head of a department responsible for providing building automation solutions throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Northern Delaware. I’m excited about this step and opportunity to serve and lead at a greater level. As I head into this new adventure, I’m working through a number of things I want to mark my leadership in this position. Today, I’ve give you a glimpse into my head.
Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.
Today is kicks of Labor Day weekend here in the United States. Most Americans see this as an end of the summer. Labor Day is actually an opportunity to celebrate the impact of labor on our country. While I am not part of a unionized labor group, I am proud to work in our country and to contribute to the betterment of our world. Today’s Ice Breaker question is inspired by this special holiday.
My Answer: Honestly, I’m a little scared to answer this question. I am so thankful for my job. And I’m thankful for how it provides for my family and my future. I’m an operations manager for a major construction firm in the Philadelphia area. I have the privilege of helping team members succeed in their projects and their career paths. Our projects focus on providing comfort, security, and safety to the building our customers occupy. I like what I do (most days).
Is this what I would do if money weren’t part of the equation?
Tough question. I’m not sure.
Here are some of the things I might pursue further if money didn’t matter:
Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!
To get a FREE copy of 101 Ice Breaker Ideas (an eBook by me), sign up below:
I work in the construction world. Especially here on the east coast, it can be a cut-throat, brutal experience. People are clamoring to get ahead of the next person or to squash the competitors. Language choice is colorful to say the least, and sometimes the content of conversation makes the Howard Stern Show seem like a visit to Sunday School. Living and working in this environment can be a challenge especially for someone who is trying to follow Christ and to represent Him with integrity and character.
I’ve worked in the industry for nearly twenty years, and it hasn’t always been easy. I don’t always have the right words to say, and I sometimes regret the actions I’ve taken. I question myself wondering if I said what I should have said or if I did what I should have done. I want others to see my faith come alive in my words and in my actions. After twenty years, I sometimes wonder if I’m making a difference.
Sometimes it’s the simplest conversations or interactions which remind me I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
A few weeks ago, one of my team members came into my office to tell me about the struggle she was having outside the office. Her mom had been taken to the hospital. The doctors at the hospital informed my teammate and her family that their mother was in her final days. I listened for several minutes as my teammate explained the situation. As she was leaving my office, I asked her, “I know this isn’t the typical question you get in the office, but I’ll ask anyway. Is there something specific for which I can pray for you?” She responded very affirmatively.
Then late last week, another one of my team members stopped by to inform me his young son was being taken to the hospital in response to some type of virus or infection. I had the opportunity to listen to him and to offer my encouragement. He texted me a couple of times throughout the weekend to give me progress reports on his son’s improving condition. We didn’t have a major conversation, but I still had an opportunity to let him know I cared about him and his family.
It’s interactions like these which remind me I am making a difference.
I’ve been more aware of conversations and interactions with other employees throughout the office over the past couple of weeks. People want to know you care. They may carry around a rough exterior, but they are people who are going through all kinds of challenges and frustrations. They are crying out for someone to listen to them, and they are grasping to find the truth. As Christian leaders in the workplace, we have a huge opportunity to show our team members a glimpse of Christ. Will we always get it right? Probably not. But I’m convinced God can used messed up people like us to make a difference in the lives of others by shining His light. We shine God’s light by being alert to others, by making wise choices, by acting with integrity, and by speaking with truth and love.
I hope and pray I never lose sight of the opportunity to serve and represent Christ right where I am.
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… I Peter 3:15
How are you making a difference right where you are?
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. With 12 direct reports, it 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 them 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 improve 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.
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?
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in the Philadelphia International Airport for several hours waiting to catch a plane to Chicago. My plane was delayed for more than 3 hours, and the flight itself was close to 2 hours. This gave me plenty of time to catch up on podcast episodes and reading.
I read Andy Stanley’s book, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family. It’s ironic that I would read this book while I was heading away from my family on a business trip. The book is all about keeping your priorities straight especially when it comes to family.
Whether you struggle with this issue just a little bit or a lot, this is a great book for men and women alike. It provides examples and analogies of lives in balance and out of balance, and it provides solid Biblical teaching that helps someone bring proper order to their lives.
I especially like the author’s quote:
You do your job. You love your family. It’s when we reverse the order that the tension escalates and the tug of war begins.
In other words, we get it all messed up when we love our job and do the family thing. It’s easy to do. We get stuck in unhealthy patterns of seeking approval and pursuing success through our careers, and we permit our family life to suffer. I’m guilty of it at times, and I would guess that many of you struggle with this tension as well from time to time.
When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family is a quick and easy read, and I would recommend it to moms, dads, husbands, and wives everywhere.
How’s your family life? How’s your work life? What is one thing you can do this week to make sure your family knows that they are the priority?
This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Today is a day of new beginnings for our family. Hannah starts her last year of middle school. She is smart and confident and ready to go. As I mentioned a few days ago, Isaac starts his first year of middle school. I’m still blown away by how quickly this came up. And today, Leanne starts a new job! She will be helping preschool age children with special needs as she works as a behavioral therapist for Potential Discoveries. (She’ll be great!)
God’s timing in each of these new beginnings has been amazing. These opportunities have come at just the right time. I rejoice today as I recognize God’s faithfulness to us despite our impatience and anxiety.
I’m excited about a couple of new beginnings for me as well. I’ll keep you in suspense as I’m looking forward to sharing in future blog posts about what is new with me.
What’s new with you?
Conflict and confrontation are not my strong suit. I much prefer when things go well and people get along even when mistakes and obstacles must be overcome. Unfortunately, this is not the way it works. People have different opinions. People make mistakes. People have different personalities. And they don’t always get along. Conflict seems to be inevitable.
As a leader and manager, I am faced with conflict on a regular basis. I don’t have a choice to ignore it in hopes that the problems will just go away. I often have to confront conflict to help bring about resolution and to hopefully be an agent for positive change.
The Bible gives some pointers for handling conflict between believers in Matthew 18:15-20 which may give some insight for handling conflict in the secular workplace. Here are the pointers from Jesus:
1. Try to resolve the conflict just between the two parties in conflict (v. 15). Don’t bring anyone else into the conflict if it can be resolved first.
2. Bring the conflict to one or two other believers (v. 16). If the conflict cannot be resolved face-to-face in step 1, the Bible mandates trying to bring the conflict to a resolution through the help of a couple of believers.
3. Take the conflict before the church (v. 17). If all else fails, the Bible tells us to bring the conflict before the church. If the conflict cannot be resolved then the person may be removed from the church.
In the secular business world, I’m not always dealing with fellow believers. In reality, the construction industry can be full of some rather colorful and rough personalities. Having said this, I believe these standards from scripture can be helpful for handling conflict in the workplace. As leaders in the business world, here are some ideas for handling conflict:
1. Encourage face-to-face conversations between the conflicting parties. Often times, people are misunderstood. A meeting of this type should provide an opportunity for both parties to get their frustrations on the table. With reasonable individuals and situations, conflict can often be resolved here.
2. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a mediator involved. Here’s where I would suggest getting involved along with another manager. If the two parties in conflict are let by different individuals, it would make sense to get the other manager involved. The managers should facilitate a discussion in an effort to bring resolution. This may take a couple of meetings, but it shouldn’t drag out.
3. If all else fails HR (Human Resources) and higher level leadership may need to get involved to drive a resolution. The may mean a change in assignment(s) for one or both parties. Or it may represent a more drastic transition towards other employment opportunities inside or outside the company.
4. In all cases, rumors should be avoided. As leaders, managers should squash any rumors. Rumors only lead to further conflict.
Handling conflict can be a real challenge, but leaders must deal with it head on. I wish I could say I always get it right. I’m certainly challenged and stretched by this topic.
What tips would you add for leaders to follow in handling workplace conflict?
I like my job. I get the opportunity to help other people succeed. I get the chance to support other people. And I have the privilege of setting a tone and example for others to follow. I confess that I don’t always get it right. But I do pride myself on living with integrity and making decisions that represent Godly values and character.
Being in a management role, I have the honor of walking alongside team members as they celebrate the joys of life, but I sometimes have to provide support through their tough times as well. Yesterday, I received some tough news from one of my team members. He and his family are facing a very challenging time. My heart was heavy yesterday when I got the news. My thoughts and prayers have been with this family yesterday and today.
I don’t know what role I will have in the whole process. But I do know that I will have a chance to provide workplace support to this individual as he focuses on what really matters at home right now. Perhaps, I was put in my position a few years ago for just this time. I pray that for them, and I also pray that I can lead in a way that draws others close to God.
As I’ve been processing this news over the past twenty-four hours, I was reminded of the story of Esther. Esther was given a chance to be queen at a time when her people (the Jews) were facing persecution. As a Jew herself, Esther had the opportunity to speak to the king and to sway him to protect the Jewish people. The story is much more detailed than my explanation, but the gist of the story is that Esther was made queen at just the right time. This verse from Esther 4:14 echoes this thought:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Obviously, my position in management at my company is not quite the same as Esther’s position of queen, but I’m reminded that God can use us where we are at home, at work, in school, in the community. Are we open to being used by God for His glory?
Where does God have you right now? How do you sense that God may be using your current position in life to bring Him glory?