Kingdom Companies

You lead like a girl! The truth about women leaders that no one wants to tell you

As a woman of a  ‘certain age’ (okay, 45) I grew up being told that I could (and should) do it all. I could have a lucrative, fulfilling career, marriage, and kids. I think everyone was just so happy that women COULD work outside the home if they wanted that we instantly transitioned into SHOULD. I’m not complaining because otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered that I have a gift for leadership and coaching. Being a working woman, business leader, and Mommy (in that order, actually), provided me a lot of insight into what I’m great at, what I love, and what stresses me out.

For quite a while, I bought into the fact that in order to be successful in business, a woman simply had to do the job as well, or better, than a man the same way a man does. I didn’t know any different because there were no female role models for me. The only working women I knew were either administrative assistants, or in a completely different profession (doctor, pharmacist, teacher, nurse). The only woman boss I’d ever had was a highly emotional, frazzled woman who insisted we all keep track of her menstrual cycle so we’d know if she was approachable or not. Needless to say, she was not an inspiring leader, and she wasn’t particularly interested in mentoring any other women, either. Rumor was she saw other women as a threat but I don’t know if that’s true.

My leadership journey began within a Christian company, before I was a Christian. I had a pretty dim view of believers at that point and was so convinced they’d relegate me to coffee and note-taking that for five years I insisted I didn’t know how to operate the coffee machine. The one time I was asked to take notes, I refused and asked if they were asking me that because I was a girl. Despite my initial prejudices, my experience at this company was transformational. I’ve written about it elsewhere. In addition, I was provided management opportunity and mentored, giving me a solid foundation for servant leadership. From a male’s perspective.

For the most part, it’s served me well, but there were things I wasn’t taught because it would never be on a male mentor’s radar. Most of the difficult situations center around boundaries, assumptions, and expectations. For example:

  • Having performance improvement conversations with men without apologizing OR getting overly dramatic to get my point across.
  • Being around a man who is crying without wanting to evaporate off the face of the earth.
  • Telling a woman that her performance needed improving even though it would mean that she’d hate me or talk crap about me with everyone else
  • Having to talk about a woman about her office attire, and hearing later that she told everyone it was because I was just jealous of her.
  • Having employees assume my standards were lower, or that I welcomed interruptions just to chat for hours at a time.
  • Forcing myself to stuff down all my feelings because if I got frustrated enough to cry everyone thought I was weak and either patronized me or discredited me.
  • Being told I was intimidating, and having no idea if I really was, or if I just wasn’t conforming to their expectations of a ‘girl boss’.
  • The fact that no matter how much responsibility and status I shouldered at work, and no matter how much my husband helped at home, I’m still ‘the brain’ who needs to keep track of school stuff, and schedules, and likely gets thrown up on when the kids are sick and who needs to figure it ALL out.

Do my male counterparts face some of these challenges? Some yes, others no. And I know full well that they have challenges that I don’t have. And that brings us to the positives. After I stopped trying to act like the (male) leaders around me acted, or process things the way I thought they were processing, or feel the way I thought they felt, amazing things started to happen, and I felt free to:

  • Use my desire to connect with others and to connect others to form incredibly strong teams.
  • Acknowledge my and others’ emotions and using that to overcome problems and defuse situations.
  • Use the way I process information to come up with unique and innovative solutions
  • Encourage others to take risks

Once I embraced my gifts and accepted myself the way I was, my leadership was exponentially better and the people who reported to me would tell you the same thing, but it was a long and painful road. The only thing I would change if I could would be having more Christian female mentors or colleagues to bounce ideas off of. There were other things I learned along the way about how to conduct myself as both a Christian and as a woman in the messy world of business, but those are stories for another day!

I’m writing about this today because more women than ever have been reaching out to me and sharing their stories, and it’s made me realize that this continues to be an area where women can support each other. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had, but one thing life has taught me is that you can’t keep what you don’t give away.

How can you get involved? I was hoping you’d ask! I’m partnering with some powerful thought leaders, executives, and coaches to design some elite caliber leadership content to support this mission of women helping women. If you’re interested in the subject of women mentoring women for professional growth and development, please sign up here for our Women Business Leaders Newsletter so you can be on the front lines as this develops. As a thank you, I’ll send you my free e-guide 10 tips for managing multiple priorities.  Thanks, and as always  – if you enjoyed this article, please share the love!

 

Kingdom Companies

When faith, science, and self-help align

Don’t you just love it when psychology, biology, and quantum physics make some modern advances to confirm something that the Bible’s been telling us for thousands of years? Such is the case with rest and peak performance.

I’ve been doing some research on a book I’m writing about how to achieve lasting positive change, drawing on the latest positive psychology, sports science, and neuroscience. The people I am hoping to help with this book are people who feel stuck currently, in some area of life, and want to make some positive change, but experience frustration at ‘relapses’, or failing to stay on track. It’s a significant problem for our fitness clients, but also for many of the leaders and business owners I coach. We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? Starting a new program, or implementing a new tool that should make life easier, more productive, or in some way better, only to lose momentum, and fail to achieve the results.

There’s a lot that has to happen to make change stick, and most of it starts and ends with your mind. You’ve got to have a growth mindset, with the ability to see failure as part of the learning process. Mental toughness allows you to walk through incredible challenges undefeated. Hope and optimism are the fuel – without them you don’t go anywhere. And of course belief! Our beliefs form the framework of our reality.

So right there, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking, right? We believers have a huge advantage when it comes to making positive change. Simply the fact that we know WE are not the be all and end all, are not expected to be perfect or do things perfectly, and that there’s value and a plan for us even when we fail provides the setting for accomplishing change. Add to that the power that comes when we are in sync with God through prayer and meditation and understand His promises, and how the change we are seeking will honor His will, and we’re so teed up for success it’s not even funny. I could stop here, and still be super excited about all the ways simply walking with Jesus puts us on track to overcome the world.

But…that’s not all (and no, I don’t have any steak knives). What really tickled me, was some research I read about Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but the part I’m talking about was the value researchers found in rest. That’s right, rest. Whether you’re training athletically or working on a creative project, or anything where performance matters, a critical component is rest. As in doing nothing. This allows your body to perform at it’s best, as well as your mind. Study after study shows that “vigor and performance increase following a rest day, and the more someone actually rests on the weekend, the more effort they expend during the week.”

Hmmm…remind you of anything? (hint…rhymes with Mabbath).

Don’t you just love that we have a God who loves us so much he told us exactly how to think, believe, and behave in order to achieve extraordinary things? I mean, it’s too bad we don’t listen until science ‘proves’ it, but all the same, it’s  wonderful reminder to listen to God when developing plans and strategies.

Tell me some of the interesting faith and science intersections that you’ve noticed!

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Kingdom Companies

Sunday’s Coming

Sunday’s Coming

Yesterday I met with an amazing group of believers who are working on a project to train entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. The Edmonds Entrepreneurial Leadership Training is offered through Marketplace Connections and the work being done here has been done in India and Africa, and has produced incredible fruit! Starting this meeting in prayer, and being focused on God’s agenda in all of this reminded me of why it’s so important for Christian Business Leaders to fellowship.

Because Sunday’s coming.

We don’t live in happy times. In fact, my six-year-old daughter came to me a few days ago, worried that the world is going to keep getting worse and worse and that less and less people are going to care about Jesus. She wanted me to tell her it was all going to be all right. I remember when I was that age, maybe a bit older, being so scared that the Russians were going to drop a nuclear bomb on us (I’m dating myself, but interesting how time cycles). The reassurance I got was that no one was crazy enough to do that because of retaliation. Small reassurance, but that’s all you get when you don’t know Sunday’s coming.

I don’t lie to my kids, so I couldn’t tell her bad things weren’t going to continue to happen. And she’s six, so it’s not quite appropriate to break out Revelation and inform her just how bad it is going to get. But I could tell her the good news.

Sunday’s coming.

God always, always, takes care of the people who love him and try to obey Him. And no matter how bad it gets, or what you hear, or how many people hate you in His name, He will take care of you. So you have to hold on to that promise, and believe it even when everything in the world tells you otherwise.

Sunday’s coming.

How different are we from those disciples 2,000 years ago, who were questioning whether maybe they’d just gotten carried away?  Did we just believe what we wanted to be true? Were we stupid? Was everyone else right? Maybe I should just get back to my job and worry about how to make enough money to feed my family. He’s not coming back. Things wouldn’t be this bad, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened, if God was good, and He loved me.

Sunday’s coming.

We’re living in Saturday, in a world that tells us we’re crazy, evil, and stupid for believing as we do. The overwhelming majority of our culture holds us in contempt. Highly learned, respected, famous, and wealthy people use their influence to paint us in the worst possible light and attempt to make us question or recant our beliefs. We’re not unique in this place and time and the sad reality is that as hard as it feels, we have it ridiculously easy compared to people in the past or other parts of our world today. And even though God takes care of us and provides us peace and comfort, we don’t escape physical persecution in the world, and that’s scary. But Sunday’s coming.

He has overcome death, and through him we will too. And in the meantime, we need each other. We need to encourage each other to spread light and show Him to the world through our example. We need to share His peace and comfort. And we need to keep going, to prosper, and to live in His abundance.

Because Sunday’s right around the corner!

If you enjoyed this, please share the love, and please join the group on Facebook, where we connect to encourage each other and fellowship.

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Dodging fear bombs in your professional life

The nice thing about having God in my life is that I never, ever, worry about anything, and my lifelong anxiety just evaporated.

Hahahaha

I wish that was true. I know it’s certainly the goal, and if there’s one thing Jesus was pretty clear about, it’s that we shouldn’t worry about things; that it’s a waste of time. We all know that, and we all know that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

And yet how many of us are groomed from birth to see worry and fear as a sign that we’re being conscientious, or just wise?

I know in my pre-believing days, there were certain born-again believers that irritated me SO MUCH because they were just so calm and peaceful. It was like they thought they were immune from life. Even when the world was crashing down around them, they just had these smug little smiles like they knew something I didn’t. After I became more ‘successful’, I was particularly perplexed by the people who had the nerve to be so relaxed when they were earning less money, or had less ‘stable’ jobs than me. It almost felt like they were taunting me. At least, that’s what it seemed like from my place of complete brokenness.

My journey out of fear and anxiety has definitely been a three steps forward, two steps back, kind of thing. I KNOW that God has it all under control, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and that I’ve got the spirit of the living God inside of me. So why was it SO scary when I got laid off of the job I didn’t even like but that paid so well? And why do I always get nervous when a consulting gig is winding up and I don’t have three more lined up? It seems like the more is at stake financially and/or professionally, the bigger the potential fear bombs, as we constantly slip into worry that we might lose it all (…and then what? We’d die? So many lies from the enemy tied up in the whole money thing, isn’t there?)

If I’ve been keeping spiritually fit and these fear bombs pop up to try to derail me, then talking to another believer is so comforting. If I’ve been runnin’ and gunnin’ on my own, too busy for prayer, meditation, time in the Word, or fellowship with other believers, then that same wise counsel I might get from other believers can feel judgmental. I feel much like I did back in the day; defensive and angry, and all too ready to explain why that won’t work for ME because my circumstances are so much different, so unique, so much more difficult than anything anyone else is going through. Blah blah blah.

I suspect that’s one reason why we’re supposed to stick together. I know when I roam too far off the ranch, it’s more painful than it needs to be. If we’re constantly getting bolstered and encouraged by one another, that fear and worry doesn’t even get a chance to take root, and we can enjoy each others’ company all the more.

Today I pray that if you need fellowship, God will guide the right people to you, and that you’ll receive their comfort.

How will you stay out of fear this weekend?

If you enjoyed this, please share the love, and please join the group on Facebook, where we connect to encourage each other and fellowship.

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Does God really care about your business?

We all want to make a difference, leave a legacy, and know that our contributions matter. It’s the way we’re wired as human beings. As Christians, we’re exposed to an overwhelming level of lies and deception about our responsibilities and our abilities to effect change. The best many of us settle for is a compartmentalized life where we may enjoy a rich spiritual life and fellowship outside of work, but on the job we follow ‘the rules’. Alternatively, we seek out other believers within our work for fellowship, often feeling like refugees in a hostile world bolstering one another’s courage. Some of us join a faith-based organization hoping to impact the world that way, only to become frustrated when it becomes apparent that flawed and imperfect human beings are running amok here too. So what’s the point? A conclusion I’ve heard many strong believers reach is that this is just a fallen world, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We grit our teeth, do our best, and wait for eternity.

Is this really what God wants for us and our business?

I think most believers, it’s certainly true for me, tend to walk in and out of idealism when it comes to living as though we really believed what we say we believe. There are times where we’re sold out for Jesus and being of service, and helping others, and joyfully sacrificing more than we have only to realize we’re receiving abundantly, ridiculously, and irrationally more than we’ve given. And then it’s like a rubber band effect…as soon as we realize it, we start to hoard our manna, or believe that WE’RE the ones responsible for our success. “It’s my awesome leadership”, or “I’m a really clever strategist”…you get the idea.  Have you ever really focused on eating or breathing and tried to figure out how you did it and then do it better? I don’t recommend it if you don’t want to feel like you’re choking for the next week or so. Some things are meant to be experienced, not managed, and I think experiencing God’s blessings is one of those things.

As believers who are also business owners, leaders, parents, and teachers, we have a fundamentally different challenge than non-believers. First, we have to choose whether we will live by the world system or by Kingdom principles, and we all know that choosing ‘b’ will immediately put us in the category of ‘naïve’, ‘wingnut’, and worse…because everyone ‘knows’ how the world is and how business operates. This is the system where resources are limited, only the strong survive, cash is king, and it’s every man for himself. This is a system where the strong oppress the weak, and where individuality, freedom, and unique contributions are suspect, if not outright forbidden. It’s a system where everyone needs to fit neatly into a box, any box, where mob rule prevails because reality is relative and truth is a matter of perception. This is a system where people increasingly need medication, drugs, alcohol, identity changes, or any other anesthesia to ‘survive’, and where ending one’s life is a viable solution to a dropping stock market or lost job. This is the system we’re told to embrace, the wheel we’re told to get on, and the game we’re told we can win…except what is winning, and what does it cost?

I ask you again; Is this what God really wants for our business? For us? For our employees?

If what we believe is really true, there really is a God. He really is good, and He really cares about every last hair on our heads. He has our best interest at heart, and he gave each of us a unique set of gifts and talents, interests and callings, that He intends us to use for His glory. He has plans to prosper us, not hurt us, but we are not the center…we are part of a much bigger plan. He has access to resources unimaginable to us, with the desire to share them abundantly. He wants us to take care of each other, and to help people who don’t know Him understand His love. He doesn’t withhold or punish us, but He will often prevent us from attaining what we want if he knows it’s going to hurt us. He dearly wants to fellowship with us and will gladly help us with our business plan if asked. He wants to share life with us and use us to make the world better.

Are we operating our business with this in mind, or are we furtively running an enterprise while checking over our shoulder to make sure ‘the boss’ isn’t watching, in case he wants to take it all away? Which servant are we?

I’d suggest your level of peace and joy when it comes to your business is the extent to which you’re letting God in versus you keeping him at arm’s length – assuming he doesn’t approve, or just doesn’t care about this aspect of your life.

Are you interested in experiencing more joy and fulfillment? Consider these questions to see if you’re operating under any limiting beliefs when it comes to your business and God:

  • Do I think God approves of my business?
  • Am I willing to present all of my business plans, strategies, and finances to God?
  • Is there part of me that believes God doesn’t really care or will concern himself with this aspect of my life?
  • Do I feel it’s ‘unspiritual’ to want to succeed in business?
  • Do I believe I have to compromise my integrity, or act in ungodly ways, to succeed?
  • Do I feel it’s possible to ‘put first the Kingdom of God’ and build a successful business?

If you’re like most of us, one or more of these questions strikes a nerve. Sometimes even considering that God wants more for us arouses unpleasant emotions – fear that we’re hoping for something that can never happen, fear that we’re going too far and becoming one of those wing nuts. I know for me, running on the hamster wheel the world offers became so awful I became wiling to do anything, even wear the ‘wingnut’ label to avoid it.

I feel strongly that if these questions stir something in you, then you should listen. As people we often feel compelled to create change, any change, in response to conflict. I feel like today someone needs to hear that it’s okay just to feel the stirring. If this is you, maybe all you need to do today is become willing to become willing to hear what God has to say. He’s not asking you to change everything today, maybe just to let your guard down and start to talk to Him about your business and His ideas for you.

How do you act on those ideas? You’ll have to wait for the next article!!

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A call to Christian Leaders

I’m writing today with a specific agenda in mind, which is to reach out to and connect with business owners and managers who are seeking to breathe life into their organizations and see tangible ‘fruits of the spirit’ emerge in their companies and in the lives of everyone who works for them. I know this won’t appeal to everyone, and I’m aware that some will read this and feel defensive and possibly excluded. I hope if that’s you, that you’ll read this anyway, because I’ll be discussing what just may be the MOST inclusive leadership and management paradigm I’ve ever encountered.

To give you some context, I recently had the honor of working with a dedicated senior management team to create leadership training and guidelines. We wanted to provide some structure around the expectations of leaders, and some behavioral examples. Here are some of the aspects we discussed and formalized:

  • We will work to include everyone into the ‘inner circle’ so that no one feels excluded.
  • We believe everyone has unique value they bring to the table, and it’s more important to learn what that is and place the person in a role where they’re contributing that value than it is to have a tidy organizational chart.
  • We will give, and receive, honest feedback so that we can all continuously improve.
  • We will withhold judgment and remain open to other points of view.
  • We will be rigorously honest, even when it doesn’t appear to be in our own best interests, because that’s the right thing to do.
  • When we’re upset or offended by something, or when someone makes a mistake (even a big one), we will extend them the benefit of the doubt, assume their intentions are good, and use this as an opportunity to learn and improve.
  • We will give people the opportunity to take on more responsibilities by training and trusting them, and holding our own egos in check as they grow into new roles.
  • We will look for opportunities to truly listen, and seek to understand, when communicating with others.

It may (or may not) surprise you to know that the owner of the company is committed to practicing his Christian faith, which includes all of the above points, in his business, and that he also incorporates prayer into his own personal decision-making regarding his business.

If you’re like twenty-years-ago me, this may sound good but make you very nervous. You may be waiting for the other shoe of bigotry, hatred, and judgment to come into play, where people who don’t ascribe to the owner’s faith are blackballed, or proselytized to, and where intolerance is lurking beneath the surface. Twenty-years-ago me, raised in a very progressive country with progressive views towards religion (meaning I would condone your right to practice your beliefs as long as you weren’t too obnoxious about it or didn’t try to tell me what was right or wrong), a company that even acknowledged spirituality was a disaster waiting to happen.

My personal experience was much different. I accepted an assignment to work for a company with the above values as an atheist – one with a chip on my shoulder, I might add, about hypocritical so-called Christians. What I found instead was a group of people who treated me far more respectfully than I’ve been treated in other companies. I was provided opportunity, and when I blew it, I was given another chance. I witnessed a team that agreed to work through dissension and maintain relationship with one another. I saw senior leadership go out of their way to seek diversity and inclusion. The only word that comes to mind when I describe my experience with this company is transformational. I was not coerced into bible studies, or kept back from promotional opportunities due to my atheism, and I was never made to feel less than or unwelcomed. I was shown grace, love, and forgiveness in a tangible way that ultimately showed me God’s love the only way I would ever have been able to understand and receive.

My response was to become fascinated with what made these people tick, and learn more about their faith. Because I’m a scientific type, I researched more than just Christianity, and certainly kept my skepticism intact as long as I could, but ultimately heeded the call. Many of my colleagues who came from a similar background as me were also transformed by the experience and went on to become powerful and effective leaders using the principles of servant leadership. Not all found the faith I did, but they did find a way of managing and leading from the heart that is not only more effective, but also more satisfying and fulfilling. Nobody was left behind, and even though our brokenness made us difficult to work with at times, and at times made us significant liabilities.

As I said, I wrote this article with an agenda, and that’s to ignite excitement amongst business leaders to intentionally bring these principles into practice to transform lives and our businesses. Many of you are already doing this – I’d love to hear your stories. Many of you have been aware that something is somehow missing…this might be it…I would like to connect and establish a community to support and encourage each other to create light in an increasingly dark and cynical world.

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