Friday, February 8, 2013

Living with questions

What questions do we live with?  One question that I've been walking around with is, "What's my constraint?"  It's a very good question, especially if you put any stock at all in Constraint Theory, but it begs a larger question.  I'll share what I mean in a moment, but first a brief primer on TOC or Theory of Constraints.  This theory says that in any endeavor or organization or purpose, there is always one particular item, process or issue that constrains the output, throughput or capacity of the entire organization.  There is always a funnel somewhere.  So, to increase your capacity or maximize your productivity, or enhance your efficiency, it's essential to discover where your constraint is and do everything you can to unblock this funnel.  It's the only work that will make a difference, as long as this is truly the constraint.  So, back to "What's my constraint?"

Can you now see what's missing from this question?  In order for there to be a constraint, there must be a purpose or a goal.  This reminds me of the scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice asks the Cheshire cat, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here.  That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat.  "I don't much care where," said Alice.  "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.  So my walk around question really needs to be modified somewhat.  I have to add in at least some goal or purpose.  For instance, I could say "What's my constraint in being a better listener?"  Then, I could start to analyze the various factors that block my active listening and paying close attention.  I could try to discover if the main funnel is the time spent, a wandering mind, a lack of interest, or something else.  Once I find the blockage, it behooves me to do everything possible to break it up and open the funnel wider.  Only then will I be able to be a better listener.  As an interesting side note - once the constraint is eliminated, another one will develop.  It's just the nature of the theory.  Like Roseanne Roseannadanna on Saturday Night Live would say,  "It just goes to show you. It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."

So, my real deep burning question and life purpose is this, "What's my constraint in loving God and loving other people?"  The more I study God's word and boil it down for my simple brain, the more I realize that this is the golden nugget.  Even Jesus reminded folks that all the law and the prophets hung on just two commandments - Love God and Love People.  That's all we're called to do.  If we get this right, everything else will be just fine.  So..... "What is my constraint in loving God and loving other people?"

Am I hard wired or soft wired to serve mainly me?  In other words, is it reversible or not - my predisposition to serve myself?  Certainly I am at least soft wired somehow to grab what I can, but can faith, worship, prayer, and God's word and God's Holy Spirit, revive me?

Maybe, my constraint is my laziness in NOT asking myself at each juncture in the day, "How can I love God and love others in what I am doing or in what I'm about to do?"  By using whatever means possible to ask this question numerous times a day, it may open up the funnel for greater love of both God and others.  I think I'll give it a try and see how it works.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Adventures in 2012?

It's Monday, January 2nd. The new year has begun. I'm happily shepherding the flock at West Grove Presbyterian Church. We anticipate a grand year in 2012 with small groups starting, Stephen Ministry beginning in earnest and a great deal of enthusiasm in the congregation. I believe that it is also a year to simplify our life. To prayerfully discern our projects and direction and then to pour ourselves into it and go for it. In this simplification, we can hold life a bit looser! I mean, I feel like I have a "too tight" grip on life. I know I don't appear this way, but deep down, tend toward the neurotic, control freak, anxious person. Always thinking that I'm not prepared for life. Always thinking I have to "do" something. In many ways, it's a similar problem for others. We have been conditioned to be "human doings" rather than "human beings." A couple of weeks ago, I visited a friend who is 101 years old. She is quite lucid and a great conversationalist. She lamented that she was visited by some people who she did not know very well and they kept telling her that they loved her. She confided that she didn't feel that lovable and wondered what this was all about. She also said that she felt like she should be more productive, more deserving of love. Isn't this the human condition? We need to feel worthy or lovable or productive. I believe that God made us in His image and in that image, we are totally lovable and worthy of life. We are even worthy of eternal life, for God sent His Son Jesus to live and die for us. Even when we were sinning, unworthy, and going in the wrong direction, God takes the proactive stance and does this for us. What an awesome God we serve! It is truly going to be an awesome 2012!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Moving forward inspite of it all

Saturday, January 29th 2011. Cold, gray, wintery. Piles of snow everywhere and more on the way. Spending days snow blowing, shoveling, wrapped up, braving the elements. Also working on a Medicaid application - very tedious and time consuming. Buried in stacks of folders and documents. Finally, today, doing battle with a Blackberry that does not connect to the local server and can not get or send emails. Life is a struggle sometimes.

Here's the good news. No the great news! God knows us intimately and completely. Knows how we struggle to live and move and be. Knows our earthly troubles and tribulations. God faced these and overcame these and did it for us. So, if Jesus Christ completed this for me. Came, modeled life for us, faced trials, temptations and troubles and beat it all. I can live freer, more confidently, more boldly in the arms of Almighty God - who loves us with an undying, irresistible love. Not that I can live rightly by following Jesus, but I can live faithfully by following Jesus and this is what God desires. So, Spring is coming, the earth is blanketed (at least here in Lancaster) with frozen moisture that will nourish God's earth and bring forth life!

I tarry forward feeling God's love and smile. Have an awesome week!

Monday, January 17, 2011

What are YOUR Daily Questions?

Last week I heard a podcast on Marshall Goldsmith's routine of asking and getting asked a list of Daily Questions. Then I went to his phenomenal website -! What a gold mine of resources! Anyway, here's the powerful technique that could be used by anyone to go further faster! Make an agreement with a friend to have a short once a day phone call to have this person ask you a list of your own questions. These questions will be written by you and sent to your friend. They will be questions that YOU want to pay attention to in your life. They can be anything at all. They are personal and just for you. And, when your friend asks you the questions, your response should be YES, NO or a number. For instance, What is your weight? Did you do your devotions today? On a scale of 1 - 10, how happy are you today? Did you give someone a compliment today? etc. When they ask you these questions, they are only permitted to listen and not to comment at all. There is tremendous power in having someone ask you "your own" questions. You may find that you make changes and grow in your ability to get things done, become kinder, weigh less or become happier. The power is simply in that you pay attention to certain aspects of your life. Give it a try. Let me know how you make out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The power of focus

So on Monday afternoon, I attended a teleclass on promoting my coaching business. It was the first hour of a four part series, held via webinar format with a powerpoint slide deck and a conference call. It helped me see the importance of really nailing my "ability to solve a specific customer problem." What I mean is, this 60 minute workshop showed me once again how critical it is to be top notch at providing a solid solution to a client's particular problem. Then, and here's where the promotion comes in, tell the whole world about your specific expertise and niche. When you hone your ability to provide an outstanding solution, puff yourself up and boldly announce your focused expertise.

Let me give you an example: Rather than claim that you are able to encourage and support people to achieve abundant lives; say "I am able to provide organizational expertise that will save you 2 hours per week." Or, maybe, "I am able to support your creation of a world-class leadership development program for your staff."

The point that was well made is that we all are looking for tailored, nuanced solutions to our conundrums. We want answers to our questions, solutions to our problems and healing for our diseases. So, if that's true, then appropriate promotion of a product or service will be a precise explanation of what solution you are able to provide. That's a keeper. That's brilliant marketing wisdom. That just makes sense.

So, it begs the question: "What is your focused expertise? What precise solutions are you able to provide?" Let us all know! We will be clamoring for your product or service!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Empowering thoughts in the New Year

Have been very engaged in life for the past few weeks. I guess that's another way of saying - been busy. Trying to be productive and not just busy. Here's what I'm learning. I have an incredible fondness of learning and discovering new ideas in the leadership, organizational design, and management area. A number of events are pushing me in that way (and I'm quite grateful). First is a look at some Positive Psychology websites and blogs. They will point toward happiness issues and focusing on your natural skills and abilities. Secondly, today, I attended a teleconference class that indicated the use of "subject matter expertise" in solution oriented coaching. This is helping me understand the fact that everyone is looking for "real results," and "solutions" to life's conundrums. So, as we work toward focusing on our wisdom, experience, skills and abilities, we are far more likely to be "just the right fit" for partnerships or coaching engagements.

Today I googled, "cutting edge management theory" and got connected with a host of wonderful tools by Naomi Stanford ( If you are doing change management or organizational design, I recommend her site.

Finally, when I think back on some of my happy, in the zone moments, I think of lessons I've learned in management books and in podcasting these nuggets in my iTunes podcast series -
(note - this podcast is now available at and is incorporated into the Empowering Encouragement podcast)

Anyway, I'd encourage you to think about your own "in the zone" moments and what brings you great pleasure in your work. You might discover that just as Frederick Buechner said - (paraphrasing - The place God calls you is where the worlds greatest needs and your greatest joy intersect) God's Extravagant Blessings!

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Morning Routine

It's Monday, December 27th and the high Christmas celebration is behind us. We celebrated in a grand style with food, family, laughter and fun! The question that I answered a few times recently is, "What's your routine that keeps you in good shape?" Here is the answer.

I either get up at 6am or 6:30am these days. I drink a glass of water, stretch, wake up and then hit the treadmill for 40 minutes. While tromping away, I listen to a number of different podcasts on my iPod. I love - pray-as-you-go, Harvard Business Review, Inspiring Words of Encouragement (Zig Ziglar), The Look and Sound of Leadership, The Daily Boost, Coach Radio, my own - Empowering Encouragement or Charlie's Creativity Podcast Series, Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, Lean Six Sigma, A New Way to Handle Everything, and of course many from the iTunes University side of iTunes. (If you haven't tried this - you definitely want to prioritize this).

After 40 minutes on the treadmill, I lay down a rubber mat and do my 100 crunches (situps, but with raising your knees as well as your head), then 50 pushups and finally, some "super man" exercises for my lower back (taught by my son, Jeff - lay on stomach and raise right arm straight out and left leg straight out and then do the left arm and right leg - strengthens lower back).

I follow this with breakfast of cereal with cinnamon, blueberries, granola, flax seeds and yogurt. I have a double espresso and read a daily piece of the Bible, so that I complete the Bible in a year. Then, I write one page in my prayer journal - praying for wisdom, strength, insights, creativity, my family, my friends, and whatever else God gives me in that time.

There you have it! This routine works extremely well for me. It keeps the body toned up, the mind engaged in God's Word, and the prayer life active. I hope this helps you craft your own useful, healthful routine. Have an awesome 2011!