Friday, October 20, 2017

Lina and The Big Scary Noise

How long has it been? I think close to five years. We had recently moved into our home and one of the first couples we asked for over dinner were Michael and Carol - it was really really great to see them.

Carol, Vickie, and I were in the family room; as Michael was walking down the hall to join us he inadvertently brushed up against a child gate Vickie and I had leaning up against an open passage to the downstairs and it fell onto the hardwood floor with a bang. The bang startled Lina, who was in the family room with us lying close to the hall, and she jumped up and ran to the far side of the room by the bookcases. After assuring Lina that the “mean gate wouldn’t hurt her” I stood the gate back up - thinking no more about it. The gate was there so that Lina and Lily wouldn’t venture downstairs, but rather than tighten the gate against the door jambs we learned it on the jambs to make it easier for us to go up and down the stairs.

I didn’t think anymore about the gate falling until it was time for Michael and Carol to go and we left the family room to see them out of our home and say goodnight. Lina remained behind in the family room. A short while later when it was time to take the dogs outside for their constitutional before going to bed Lina was still in the family room and didn’t come when we called her. When I went to see what was going on she was at the threshold of the family room and the hallway looking at the gate which had made the big scary noise - it was with difficulty that I coaxed her out of the family room, down the hall, to the front door.

Ever since then, for the past five years, Lina has been careful and tentative when passing by the gate that makes the big scary noise. Sometimes she will take a detour through another room to avoid the gate. Sadly, if she is lying in the hallway and we move the gate when we are going downstairs or coming from downstairs she will quickly jump up and leave the hallway lest the gate thunder threatening noises. No matter how often I say, “Lina stay, the gate is not going to hurt you,” she does not believe me. She has heard the big scary noise once and she is convinced it can only mean that the gate intends harm to her, perhaps it devours dogs who are unaware.

I write “sadly” because about a year ago Lina injured one of her hind legs, which will never be quite the same, and jumping up quickly does nothing to help it; furthermore, an injured leg is all the more reason we cannot allow her to go up and down steep stairs (we had a ramp built off our deck for Lina).

Lina is afraid of a noise from her past that affects her well-being; the gate has never been a real threat, but she thinks it is.

What about us? Are there great-big-scary noises from our past that remain with us today? Maybe the noises were associated with a true threat, maybe only with a perceived threat, but they remain with us today and they influence our lives.

Do we find ourselves taking detours in life to avoid the possibility of big scary noises? Do we replay the tapes of scary noises from long ago? Are threatening thunders part of the soundtrack of our lives? Do we live tentatively awaiting the return of crashing gates?

Jesus Christ came to deliver us from fear. The announcements surrounding the birth of Jesus were accompanied by the words “fear not” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10). Paul writes to Timothy that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7); he tells the Romans that we haven’t received the spirit of bondage  again to fear but the Spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15). John writes that there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). Those who know Jesus don’t even need to fear death (Hebrews 2:15) for Jesus has freed them from that fear.

Lina will probably live the rest of her life in fear of the gate that made the big scary noise.

What about us?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reflections on a Career – 7

Tomorrow morning will be my last meeting with my managers as a group – I write this on a Sunday. I didn’t want to schedule this meeting and I put it off, but finally with Lucy’s help it was scheduled and tomorrow it is here. I didn’t want to schedule the meeting because I don’t want to say “Goodbye” to them. I know it has to be done, and I know I’ll see them individually between now and October 31, and I may even see them as part of a larger group, but tomorrow will be the last time that it will be just them and me.

Each one of them has contributed in some measure to my life, some more than others – some have worked for me longer than others. I have seen wonderful personal and professional growth in them. There are those whom I have worked with who have moved on to other jobs; they won’t be there tomorrow but I will think of them, I would have them there if I could but life moves on, seasons change. As I write this I think of a few whom I have had to let go for various reasons; accountability is critical and there are times people just aren’t good fits for a position.

One of my former managers is gone because she stole. Another is gone because she didn’t take responsibility for her property but blamed problems on her staff and treated them harshly. Another only lasted a week or two, she wasn’t a good fit, didn’t know what she was doing (even though she had years of experience elsewhere) – at the level of property manager when you represent yourself as being able to operate a multi-million dollar property and you can’t do it there is no alternative but to move on; you can either play the piano at the concert level or you can’t. I guess her previous company wasn’t playing at the concert level either. I lost two managers when their properties were sold and they remained with the properties, working for the new owners – I still keep in touch with them. Then there was one other manager who I lost; it didn’t have to be that way but it happened, she made the decision; I might write about her at some point because it is an example of what happens when people aren’t held accountable and when they aren’t trained, challenged to grow, and mentored – in Christianity we call it “discipleship.” When we don’t train and challenge and mentor people we do them a disservice, we keep them in diapers – and when challenges come they aren’t prepared.

I’m going to talk to my group this morning and thank them for all they’ve done and do my best to encourage them, I’ve sketched out some points I want to make and I’ll likely follow them up in writing with a sentence of two.

 Put others first

Keep learning

Understand your property, your market, your business

Know who you are

Know your people

Train your people and hold them accountable

Build a ship for the storms, not the calm seas

Say what you mean (or write it!) and mean what you say

Tell the truth

If you have a problem seek a solution – think it out, give recommendations

Friendships and mentors

Know where you are going, where your people are going, and where your property is going. You are the captain of your ship.

You are the example; to be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, to be late is unacceptable.

Put others first – they may not always like you but hopefully they will trust you. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reflections on a Career – 8

“Do you know why you are here?” I asked my two managers.

“No,” was the reply.

“Because your actions put yourselves before your people.”

They were silent and the words sank in.

“Throughout your careers, in whatever industry you work, you will work for one of two types of leaders; those who put themselves first and those who put their people first. Which kind do you want to work for?

“Which kind do you want to be?

“I brought you here so that you’d remember this moment. I care about you and I want to help you, that’s why you are here.”

One of the managers replied, “I will remember this because I don’t ever want to feel like this again.”

I looked at one of them, “Have you ever seen a football team get in the red zone again and again and never score?”


“In leadership there are times when we have to endure pain and do what we naturally don’t want to do in order to get over the goal line; yes we’d like to go home, yes we’d like to call it a day, yes we’d like to deal with something another day – but when it comes to taking care of our people we’ve got to do what it takes to get the ball over the goal line.”

I didn’t keep these two managers in my office very long for the point was obvious to them, they had let their people down and their team would have some short-term pain as a result.

There are two types of leaders – those who put themselves first and those who put their people first…even to the detriment of themselves. While I am concerned about the productivity of my managers, for we are to be good stewards of our clients’ assets, I am more concerned about their character. Leaders of character who put others first are, I believe, more likely to produce sustainable long-term results than leaders focused on themselves; they are more likely to think long-term rather than seek instant gratification; they are more likely to work through challenges rather than seek the easy way out.

Servant-leadership is painful, no doubt about it – but my managers who learn the way of pain and putting others first will be able to take their people where others can’t go and will discover things within themselves and others that will serve them well throughout life.