Friday, July 22, 2016

Better is Better

I love to make things better.  I love people who share my belief that Better is Better.

The legendary band, Spinal Tap shares my belief:

Hilarious! However, I love people who are always looking for a way to take their art and their work to the next level.  

You see, status quo does not inspire anyone.  Status quo is not noticed.  That’s because status quo is expected.  Don’t expect to get praised for “doing your job.” All you are really doing is meeting the minimum expectation.  Most employees expect some kind of pay raise for the next year just for doing their required job description.  However, only the employees who expand their network, grow their sales, and improve their effectiveness have any right to ask for a pay raise.  Better work - better pay.

Yet, when you attempt to make things better, don’t expect everyone to cheer you on.  If you are looking for people at work to roll out the red carpet for you, don’t hold your breath.  Many people truly prefer the status quo.  They like their system and their work rhythm just the way it is.  It is familiar, it is predictable, and it has become comfortable.  

Years ago, I was a Musical Director at a church.  The Pastor passed me in the hallway and mentioned “Matt, I ran in to a family in our church whose teenager attends a nearby school.  I wish we had a way of getting some of these students at this school engaged in our church.  Some of them are decent singers.  Maybe you could think of a way to reach out to them and use them in music somehow.”  I understood that he was not giving me a directive, but sharing a passing wish or suggestion.  

I already had a full plate at work - plenty of moving pieces and coming events I was already working toward.  But I saw this as an opportunity to meet a need for our church, to fulfill a desire that my Pastor had for this family.  My passion to make things better moved me to take action.  I immediately put a plan together blocking out time in my schedule to make this dream become a reality.  

I reached out to this family, I scouted out several students that were the singers of the nearby school.  I scheduled rehearsals, selected music and began arranging music.  I made rehearsal CDs for the students and then rehearsed with them.  On a Wednesday night church service, they performed.  Standing ovation! The Pastor LOVED IT! The kids were so happy for the opportunity to sing at the church.  “Matt, can you get these students to sing on a weekend church service?” asked the Pastor.  “Absolutely!” I answered.

So, I began arranging, rehearsing, planning.  I remember being in a planning meeting with the music and media staff talking through my plans for the students.  This time, I was going to add a Gospel Choir to sing back up with the Student Singers.  I had brass players and a full band.  I was going to make it even better!  I remember as I was casting the vision for this upcoming performance, some of the team members were sinking in their chairs.  When I told them “I have 7 students singing and have a Gospel Choir singing”, some said, “Matt, we don’t have that many microphones.  We already have so much work to do.  And besides, we really don’t do that kind of music here at the church.”  

“How many microphones do you have?” I asked.  “We only have 5”.  “Well, can you find 2 more?” “I’ll help you.” I replied.  

“We don’t know where we could possibly put the Choir if you also have 7 student singers” was their next block.  I responded, “Guys, it’s a very large platform.  Surely I can help you find a space for them.  We can think out of the box.  I promise you all that this will be awesome for our church - it will be worth it!"

I could tell I was going to have to pull the team along with me.  And while I understood that extra work costs them time and energy, I had strong belief that this performance was going to be worth the extra work - for all of us.  Well, it was worth it.  The students, the choir, the musicians, and our team all did a fantastic job.  People stood to their feet in appreciation.  The families of the students were thrilled.  Our church experienced a performance they had never experienced before.  We had built a stronger relationship now with the nearby school, with many of those students starting to attend our church.  

When you have a dream, protect it.  When you see an opportunity, seize it.  Don’t rely on others to see it.  Dont wait for people to encourage you.

You drive it forward - 

You keep pushing through the obstacles -   

A great quote is from the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was given the nickname by her opposition political party:
“the Iron Lady.”  She said:

Consensus is the absence of Leadership

What she is really saying is that when you step out to lead people to something new and better, not everyone is going to agree with you.  She is telling us not to wait for everyone to understand or to buy in to your dream before you begin to move forward and take action.

Pastor Tom Mullins, Founding Pastor of Christ Fellowship in South Florida says:

Excellence honors God and inspires others 

Excellence is noticed when you go the second mile, when you do more than what is expected or required.  Excellence is giving your best even if it costs you more work and more energy.

Make Things Better - You will stand above the rest 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Working with Difficult People

We prefer to work with people that we like.  It is so much easier working together with people who are like us. They get us.  We think alike, we share the same values, we have similar personalities, maybe similar backgrounds.  Many times, we relate to people who are our same age, our same stage in life.  

However…  (a big sigh…)   
how do we work with difficult people?

We would much rather NOT work with difficult people.  We would prefer to stay as far away from them as we can.  We work around them.  Or, we battle with them.  Flight or Fight, Right??

Working with difficult people is kind of like playing ping pong with someone who isn’t very good.  I love ping pong and I play a lot, so I can hit the ball pretty hard over the net.  But when I play with someone who is still learning, it 
honestly… isn’t much fun.  I would prefer to play with someone who is a good player, because when I hit the ball hard to them, they return it with equal speed and power.  In the same way, it is much easier working with people who match our energy and our way of approaching life and work. 

Though we try to avoid working with difficult people at all costs, we all are faced with the reality that to achieve our goals at work, we must work with ALL people, including those that we see are difficult.

How to Work with Difficult People

Different, not Difficult
First, stop categorizing them as “difficult”, and understand that they are different.  Different from YOU.  The more different a person is from you, the more gap of understanding, of familiarity there is between you and them.  There is a greater gap between men and women, between younger and older, between black and white.  There is a huge gap between Republican Party and Democratic Party, (HUUUGGGGEEEE!!)  between outgoing personality and introverted personality.  We can perceive this gap as difficult because you do not have natural ways to connect.   You disagree in some areas, so you tend to disagree in ALL areas.  But re-classifying them from “Difficult” to simply “Different” will really reset your mind frame every time you see them.  Learn to value who they are, what they have been through in their journey.   Learn to appreciate their differences, to appreciate that they have a different approach to  their life and their work. 

Find Common Ground
With people that are like us, we naturally find common ground.  We like the same movies, the same political leader, we like to approach life the same way.  For me, personally, I am drawn to people who have a similar personality that I have - outgoing, ambitious, fast-paced, fun.  I naturally connect with people who are going in the same direction as I am.  People who are more introverted, more thoughtful and studied, even-paced and serious take more energy and intentionality for me to connect with.  However, I have learned that I NEED these type of people in my life.  I have learned to value them.  They help me measure the cost of my ambition.  They help me put systems in my life to be more productive.  They help me evaluate work and see a different perspective that helps me.

The key to working with people who you have no common ground with, is… to find some common ground.  When we see someone who is “opposite” of us, we think to ourselves “we have NOTHING IN COMMON.” But I would argue that we ALL have something in common.

Here’s how to find common ground:  ask people questions about their life until you find something that you have in common.

“where are you from""
“what is your favorite sports team?"
“What is your favorite restaurant?"
“where have you traveled?"
“what is your favorite tv show?"
“what touches your heart?"

Keep asking questions as you interact with them until you find something you have in common.  People love talking about themselves.  They feel valued when you ask them about their life.  When you finally discover the common ground - connect! 

“you are from Chicago??  My wife and I were married in Chicago!!"

See? now you have a connection! You can build on that connection…very quickly.  Once you find common ground with someone, you immediately create familiarity with them.  You immediately create a foundation of trust with them.  You will find they will begin to work with you.  They will begin to try to help you accomplish what you need.  It’s amazing!

The truth is you rarely get to choose who you work with.  You need people in order to be successful in your job.  Rather than avoid difficult people, see them as just different.  Value who they are and what they can bring to the table.  Be intentional to build common ground with them, and they will begin helping you accomplish your objectives at work.  

See people as an ASSETT
 not an ENEMY

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I want my business to grow bigger.  I want my finances to grow bigger.  I want my influence to grow bigger.

Bigger opportunities.  Bigger audience.  Bigger numbers.  

Nothing wrong with that.  Bigger means better.  Bigger shows healthy growth, shows that you are successful. I believe in success, in healthy growth.  

Here’s the miss in our focus however…    we focus on making the business bigger, we focus on searching out the bigger opportunities. 

I am learning in my own journey that I rather focus first on making myself, well, bigger.  

The best thing I can do in order to grow my business, my finances, my influence is to improve myself.  Before I can handle more, I must build myself.  

Think about it…  what really can you do TODAY to bring in more clients, to promote your product? what can you do to gain more influence TODAY?  

While there are plenty of ideas and tasks you need to work on, one of the BEST investments of your time is to block out schedule to work on YOURSELF. 

Get healthy - eat healthier, get exercise, and SLEEP!  Being healthy IS your job.
Get coached - get feedback and coaching from people you respect.
Get filled up - emotionally, spiritually, socially - spend time feeding yourself through solitude, prayer, with good friends and your family.
Get wiser - read books, watch videos in your field to learn.
Get sharper - practice what you do working to improve.

The healthier you are, the more energy you have and the better you look.
The happier you are, the easier you are to be around.
The wiser you are, the better decisions you will make.
The sharper you are, the more effective you will be.

Make it your job to become bigger, better.  Schedule time to work on YOU.  

When you become bigger, you will soon be able to handle bigger.  When you expand your foundation, you can handle the growth that comes.