Common Ground

When the US Hockey team defeated Russia in the semifinal game in the 1980, they were a team built from two college teams who had fought so hard during a game during the season that they had to delay the game for 30 minutes. Herb Brooks, the coach of the US team knew that he needed players from both teams, and knew that they needed a common enemy. Had he only taken players from one team or the other, the US wouldn’t have won. The team became a community and succeeded because they found common ground.

All too often these days we decide that common ground isn’t achievable. We’d rather be a Boston College or a Minnesota player because then we can stand the idea of working together. Republican, Democrat, religious, atheist, gay, straight, left, right… Our values have gotten so far apart that we can’t see any common ground, but the only way community moves forward is if we work together.

Community has got to start with finding common ground and being respectful toward one another. We have to see the value of life, the value of the people around us, the value of ourselves as a community.  We are only as strong as our connection to each other. Solomon wrote that a cord of three strands is not easily broken.rope.jpg

May we be bound together.  May we love one another and seek common ground.


Community requires Accountability

My mother-in-law recently told me about how one of the stars of HGTV’s Flip or Flop was told about a lump on his thyroid by a viewer that ultimately probably saved his life. As the story goes, a nurse from Texas was watching a marathon and noticed the lump on his throat and risked being ignored or even humiliated.6334_high_res

What does this have to do with accountability?  One of the great thinkers of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that we hurt others and hurt community when we don’t address the cancers in other people’s lives.  Bonhoeffer famously died in a Nazi Concentration camp after failing to rid Germany of their cancer (Hitler).

We’ve become a non-confrontational society on the micro level.  We don’t mind sitting during an anthem or holding a press conference to vaguely define societal ills, but we do mind looking someone in the face and respectfully telling them that we’ve noticed something in their lives that is dangerous for them.

Woah woah woah… what happened to dealing with your own stuff first? Well, true community means being open to hearing your flaws and having the courage to help others through theirs.

Gentleness and Respect.

So may we be willing to keep each other accountable, and may we grow our community stronger every day.


Catch every drip!

In my area we have several really good local ice cream shops.  My favorite has to be the lemon cookie crunch from a place called Fox Meadow Creamery. There’s nothing better than eating a cone of that wonderful goodness on a hot summer day. I’ve noticed with a toddler how quickly ice cream melts. If we get our son a cone, we need to get him a dish as well because it melts too quickly for him to keep up with.


Leaders deal with conflict on a daily basis.  If it isn’t a conflict with someone else, it is a conflict that must be refereed. Like a cone on a hot day, a leader must be prepared to jump from one conflict to another before it leaks all over.

One way that leaders manage conflict is by keeping short accounts.  When conflict arises – and it will – leaders deal with it head on. Let’s be absolutely clear on what that means. It is too easy to think about dealing with conflict as putting someone in their place or shutting down a divisive situation.  Leaders operate in a place of humility. They are willing to admit when they make the wrong decision or when they’ve wronged someone. Our society has adopted an ideal where someone else is to blame in every situation, but leaders have the confidence to accept blame when it really is their fault.

So what does this look like? It starts with being honest with yourself.  Am I to blame?  Did my actions or my words cause this conflict? It is too easy to blame someone else when it comes to words. “Well, that’s not the way I meant it?” Wrong. When it comes to conflict that starts with words, the person communicating has all the responsibility. Sure, there’s a responsibility for the message – what is said – but there’s also a responsibility for how it is said and how it is perceived.  But Mark, I can’t possibly know how my words are going to be perceived!  You’re right – you can’t, but that’s why keeping short accounts is so important. If we find out someone perceived what we said in a way other than what we meant, we should connect with that person and seek their forgiveness and seek to be clearer in our communication. That’s having the confidence to confront the person that is wrong in a situation – the person in the mirror.


There’s no, “I was wrong, but.” This conversation should start with, “I’m sorry that my words hurt you. That was not my intention.”

May we keep short accounts. May we have the courage to be honest about our failings and seek forgiveness and the end to conflict. May we be at peace with all people.


Task – Conflict Management

People don’t stand around a water cooler at my office.  I don’t know if they do around yours, but they sure do huddle in cubicles and behind office doors to complain about other people, their jobs, or their tasks. Let’s be honest, this isn’t isolated to my company.  Every company experiences conflict and the numbers are evidence of that.  In today’s Analytics post, we’ll take a look at some statistics about conflict in the workplace.

It is time to fill out your time card.  If you’re using Oracle Time and Labor, you’ve searched for your task and you’re entering your hours.  You’ve entered the main part of your job, and now it is time to start adding some of the extras. Don’t forget to add your conflict management time. A study from 2008 (yes, there needs to be an update!) shows that US employees spend 2.8 hours per week managing conflict. Are we spending that much time sowing discord or being paid to be referees?



Are we really spending that much time on Conflicts?  Yes, and it gets worse.  The study shows that 25% of people will go as far as to call in sick from work to avoid conflict! As we discussed yesterday, unresolved conflict is a danger to community and it is clearly costly to your workplace.  Below are the additional statistics that were compiled:


It is important to note this final aspect of the info graphic.  When managers and employees are trained, 95% of them felt more confident and helped them seek win/win solutions. 85% said they’re approaching conflict differently and taking things less personally.  We can prevent conflict by keeping short accounts, yes, but we can also address conflict by training our people how to properly deal with conflict when, not if, it arises. This will help reduce the weekly hours needed to address conflict, save your company money and hopefully make you a happier person.

Don’t forget though, it can be easy to be part of the problem. It can be easy to gossip or complain. I’m guilty. I’m also guilty of being a willing participant by listening and encouraging conflict. My goal, and I hope yours too, is to steer people back to the person with whom they have a conflict and to keep short accounts myself. Tomorrow, we’ll look at why it is so important that a leader keeps short accounts.


Unresolved Conflict, an Enemy of Community

Really abbreviated blog post tonight!  I apologize for the week off, but I was literally taking a week off both work and blogging while celebrating my wife’s birthday.

On to the meat of the post.  It is time for us to continue our discussion on community by talking about how people in community take responsibility for their actions – a theme we will continue later this week.

robot broken heart


In Andy Stanley’s book Enemies of the Heart, he tells the story of how he decided to scare a family that was giving his dad, their pastor, a hard time. He did some manner of prank which he then felt guilty about after becoming an adult. So as he struggled with the guilt, he sought guidance from others. His pastor told him that he was forgiven and he didn’t need to seek further forgiveness, but it kept eating at him. At some point after the prank he had even put money in their mailbox to pay for the damages that he had caused. But it still ate at him. Ultimately he concludes the story by saying that he drove to the man’s home eventually stopping (after passing it several times) and went to the door and sought the man’s forgiveness. It was the most nervous he had been as an adult, because he had no clue how the man would react to his confession. The man knew that he had done the prank, but he forgave him – long before this meeting. (Enemies of the Heart, page 107).

Unresolved conflict is an enemy of community. As we’ll see on Wednesday, leaders keep short accounts, because they know this truth that conflict divides and forgiveness heals. In a community, the smallest schism can become a greater problem and can divide or destroy community. Consider a wall of sandbags in a flood. As they hold back the water, the building or town is dry, but if a leak occurs, the water quickly fills the town and the area outside is the same as the area inside the wall. Water is one of the most damaging elements on earth, and so are words and conflict in community.



So as we build community, let us be mindful of the small things that we allow to break community and may we seek to plug those breaks by resolving conflict quickly and completely.  And may we be quick to forgive, because there is no faster way to resolve conflict than to be willing to seek and to give forgiveness.


Elevate Your Ingredients

I love the show Chopped on the Food Network!  Each week (well I tend to watch later or On Demand), contestants are given a basket of the most random things and told to make three courses (a basket for each) in an allotted time.  Sometimes the items are absolutely crazy and gross like goeduck (pronounced goey duck – don’t look it up, its a clam thing), and some things are basic and rather plain like some type of bread.  Either way, the judges don’t want them to just saute the item and throw it on the plate or crumble it and put it on the top as a garnish.  They want the item to be transformed, elevated, made-better.

plate of food

I like cooking shows because they bring the best of the best on and ask them to elevate whatever they touch. Shouldn’t the same be said about our leaders?

As you may be aware, I completed my Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University in December 2012, but what you’re probably not aware of is that part of this program is a Certificate in Servant Leadership from the Robert K. Greenleaf Institute.  What does that matter?  Robert Greenleaf is one of the most profound writers on servant leadership ever.  Today we’re going to look at two of his quotations:

  1.  “Good leaders must first become good servants.” Greenleaf
  2. “The best leaders are clear.  They continually light the way, and in the process, let each person know that what they do makes a difference.  The best test as a leader is:  Do those served grow as persons; do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become leaders?”

Now I must admit, I don’t have Greenleaf’s book anymore, so I stole both these quotations off of  I’m sure both would be easy to find in his books.

When it comes to leadership these days, it seems like has become easy to slip into a transactional system where you assign and see results. As a leader you can choose to praise, but you don’t really need to, because after all, the transaction was completed.

Cut, saute, plate and give it to the Judge. 

Ideal leadership, the kind that I’m sure we all wish we could experience more has transformation at its core.  So what does that mean? Transformation means taking something and elevating it. It definitely means that you must be willing to serve those who you are leading.  I love Greenleaf’s assertion that the best test is whether people have grown.   Leading a group ends up being a lot like the Chopped kitchen.  Sometimes your team contains a goeduck and sometimes it contains Wagyu Beef (perhaps the highest quality beef in the world).  Our jobs as leaders is to make that basket of ingredients work together and create a cohesive recipe.  It means elevating the ingredients and making each as special as Wagyu.  When we learn to do that, our teams will grow, our projects will improve and our engagement scores will show up much kinder.



Can the church solve poverty?

I’m sorry that it has taken me until nearly 10pm on the East Coast to bring you a post about statistics.  The reality is that statistics can be difficulty, even if they are fun and paint interesting pictures of culture.  So let’s talk money…



I’ve thrown around a couple ideas for today’s post and I’ve somewhat settled on one based on an article that a friend posted on Facebook this last week. The premise of the article is that the tax exempt status of the American Church is costing the government $71 Billion annually (with a B) from income tax subsidies, property tax credits, etc,  Considering that number, we should look at some stats on the church: there are approximately 35o thousand churches in America, and “Christians” comprise of 70.6% of the US population (PEW) – or approximately 225 million people.  Pew also found that only 37% of the people the interviewed attended church on a regular basis or about 83 million Americans.  Of those 83 million Americans, approximately 29 million make less than $30,o00 per year.  So if you take the amount of money that the American church is costing the government, it equals about $1300/year per regular attendee making over $30,000 per year and that moves only $1577.78 to each person below the poverty line.

The problem with statistics is that you can make them into whatever you really want them to say.  I could say that of the 45 million people below the poverty line, somewhere between a third and a half are regular attendees to a church – sorry prosperity gospel folks… they’re doing something wrong.  I could also say that the answer to the 45 million people below the poverty line would be to close down some dying churches and have the government make up some of that exemption.  The tough reality though is that many people are being helped by churches around the US.

The same argument could be made, albeit poorly for the removal of the tax exempt status of the NFL and NHL. football.jpg The NFL has decided to get rid of its status, which should provide a large part of the $109 million that the Congressional Joint Committee on taxation placed the number at in 2015.  But still, that only accounts for $2 per poor person.

So what’s the answer and how should all these numbers affect how I live?  Well I think it becomes more important that we are clear on what numbers mean and that we don’t jump to conclusions.  Could the American church help the poor more?  Absolutely yes.  Are they doing it now, undoubtedly yes.  As a deacon at my church, we discuss situations each week via email or in person about ways that we can support people in crisis both inside and outside of our church. You can also get involved in your community.  Ours has an amazing community food pantry.  Our church gives money and food to it each month.  Get involved.  Love your neighbor and certainly the least of these.