Archive for August, 2012

Back to School

With Labor Day weekend coming up, it’s the unofficial end of summer and that means a return to school.  Some kids are excited, some kids are scared.  But those feelings are even more intense for the students that are going to school for the first time or the (older) students who are returning after time away from school.

On the first day of school at any level, the student is likely to be nervous not knowing what to expect.  When you’re returning to college, it’s a mixture of emotions.  Excitement about pursuing a dream followed by fear of “What did I get myself into?”  The first few days will focus on orientation and understanding expectations and then the real work kicks in.

Here’s some friendly advice:

  1. PLAN ahead!  See what deadlines exist in the class and make sure that you’re not waiting until the last minute.  Perhaps you were able to handle that in the past; but it’s a new ballgame and you might have a few other things on your plate.
  2. Remember to plan not only for school but the rest of your life.  If you have a job, family, friends or any other type of life outside of school, you don’t want to completely abandon it for the entire time you’re in school or it will end badly.
  3. At the same time, those in your life have to understand that you cannot do everything you did previously and others might need to step up.
  4. Take time to enjoy school.  Many people look back fondly at their time in school.  Make sure you are creating those fond memories for the future.
  5. Take time for yourself.  School can be intense.  Make sure you don’t hit burnout and once in awhile take some “Me Time” although don’t go to the other extreme and say that the entire time you are a student is going to be “Me Time” or you will end up making those in your support system mad at you and (as I said in point #2) it will end badly.

This post is dedicated to all students: new, returning after a summer away and returning after an extended period away from school.   However, I want to specifically congratulate 3 returning students: my son Chris, my son-in-law Landon and my friend Kathy.  All 3 started at Maple Woods last week and I just want to take the time to say I’m proud of you!


A Tale of Three Restaurants / Welcome to the SEC

On Friday, I made a road trip to Columbia, Missouri, and what follows is a Tale (or should I say Tail in honor of the Tigers?) of three restaurants as the school joins the Southeastern Conference. 

Pretty much everyone I know that’s ever lived or visited Columbia/Mizzou raves about Shakespeare’s Pizza so I figured that it was an important part of my trip.  However, when we arrived at 11:02 p.m., we were told that they were no longer serving food.  Seriously?  It’s a Friday night in a college town and you’re not serving food?

Given that Mizzou is now in the SEC, it’s time to step up your game.  You’re no longer in the Big 12 or a Basketball Conference. You’ve now made it to a true Football Conference and what you could call the Top Tier in Sports.  Fans are crazy and they’re going to expect to have a good time in your town.  Based on what I saw on Friday, you’re not there yet. 

Side Story #1: Keep in mind, my college experience was at (Southwest) Missouri State University for college (and the basketball games had higher attendance than the football games when I was there) and The Ohio State University for my MBA (which was the biggest school in the nation @ the time with 60,000 students) in the B1G 10 conference known for both football AND basketball.  Unfortunately, my school cannot seem to figure out how to beat the SEC … after being embarrassed by LSU in the Football Championship and Florida in both the Football AND Basketball championships, our only victory over the SEC came in a Bowl Game which we later were forced to forfeit.  So, we switched gears and stole an SEC Football Coach … only time will tell if this strategy works.  So, it’s been 20 years since I first experienced the glory of Ohio State football and the joy of being a fan in Columbus.  So, it’s possible that my memory has distorted what happened; still, it seems like the town had a lot more going on than what I saw in Columbia.  I also look back to a summer in Georgia.  The school year hadn’t even started and they were already going crazy for their Bulldogs.

Side Story #2: Don’t get me wrong; Columbia is a fun town and on my last visit, my friend Jessica was an amazing tour guide – in fact,  I told her she should get a job giving tours to people visiting the town; however, she’s now moving back to KC and Columbia’s loss is our gain.  At work, I hear ongoing battles between Jayhawks and Tigers about which team is better and I really don’t have a side in that battle.  If Mizzou was going to leave the Big 12, I would’ve preferred they join the B1G 10 but that was for pure selfish reasons in that I wanted a chance to see Ohio State play in my home state again.  When they came to Mizzou in the late ’90’s, I made the trip and had a good time.  I had good intentions to go see them play the Jayhawks in Basketball last season but didn’t make it; perhaps if I’d been in the stands, I would’ve helped them to victory. Of course, the 2nd time that would’ve meant playing an SEC team in the national championship and (as mentioned previously) that doesn’t seem to end too well for us.

Now, back to my original story …

Shakespear’s is supposed to be the best pizza around, classes just started, and they stop serving at 11 p.m. That seems like a lost opportunity for business.  However, I was more annoyed by the attitude of the personnel.  No apologies and no suggestions for where else we could go; instead, they just said they were closed.  I was a little annoyed but instead of complaining, I saw it as an opportunity to experience another one of Columbia’s well-regarded food establishments.  Therefore, we went down the street to Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream.  As we walked up, we saw they were bringing in the chairs.  Oh no, here we go again.  Sure enough, they also closed at 11 p.m.

With under an hour to go in the day, it was looking like I was going to have to add a day to my “21 days without complaining” (if you complain, you have to add another day) but instead, I saw it as an opportunity to blog about lost opportunities and was about to find out that it was also about customer service. 

The lady at Sparky’s, took the time to mention a couple of local places where we could get something to eat (and that were still open) before I returned to KC and she even gave us directions.  A few minutes later, we had arrived at Flatbranch Brewery.  There, the server let us know how much longer they were serving food, she took our order, and provided excellent customer service.  For her time, she got a 50% tip for the great food and service.

So, I anticipate that I will eventually eat both Shakespeare’s Pizza and Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream because my tastebuds will overrule my annoyance at their hours.  However, my opinion of Sparky’s is much higher at the moment.

Columbia better get ready because the Georgia Bulldogs (and all of their fans) come to town in 2 weeks and they’re used to superior Southern Hospitality.   So here’s a message to Mizzou fans that probably won’t be in The Kansas City Star’s Football Preview tomorrow: If you are going to make it in the Southeastern Conference, it’s time to bring your A-Game and I’m not just talking about the football players.

Lesson Learned: if/when I make a return trip to Columbia, go a little earlier.  And if you’re looking for somewhere to eat after 11 (but before 11:45) then skip Shakespeare’s and Sparky’s and go to Flatbranch.

Create Solutions + Think Positive instead of Complaining / Being Negative

Earlier today, I read a friend’s blog titled “Ohhhh! Stop Your Complaining…Enough Already!” @ and my friend Arionne asked readers to join her in accepting the challenge to go without complaining for 21 days and, if you complain, you have to add another day.   She got the idea from Shaun Robinson but I have to admit that I don’t know who she is.  However, if Arionne can be inspired by a celebrity, I can be inspired by Ari Speaks!

Well, I decided to accept this challenge with a twist.  For me, it’s “Instead of Complaining about Problems, Create Solutions” as my thinking is that simply ignoring the thing that is bugging you doesn’t do much good but simply complaining about it is not a good idea either.  During the first few hours of the challenge, I struggled.

  1. Right as I was about to leave for the day, a co-worker stopped by with a question.  On another day, it would have irritated me that he had interrupted my plans to leave at a certain time; instead, it turned out that we were able to discuss it briefly and then we both left for the day.
  2. I went to donate blood and the person sticking me had trouble with the needle stick.  Instead of complaining, I merely pointed out that my vein sometimes rolls and someone else came over and got it right; I’m just relieved that I’m in good health and able to give blood and that others will benefit from its healing properties.
  3. Then, on the way home, I was cold.  Rather than complain when others in my house were comfortable, I put on a robe when I got a home and tried to be thankful for a break from the excessive heat we’ve had this summer.
  4. A couple more incidents came up at home but each time I tried to look for the positive and/or the solution to the problem rather than solely focusing on the negative.

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately as well as listening to what others say so I’m not sure what comes from where.  Anyway, one of the pieces of advice I’ve come across is to each day, share the HIGH and the LOW or to seek out something POSITIVE from each day.  At the Youth Mission Trip, we shared “Where did you see God today?” while the book I’m reading said to take steps each day towards your goal.  All of these have in common the effort to focus on the positive side of life.

As we enter the part of the Political Campaign season that tends to get ugly, I only wish that our candidates could stay positive.  However, instead of complaining when they don’t, I will attempt to focus my energy on the positive side of the issues.

Your attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So, instead of turning into a downward spiral, imagine the possibilities and MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Thank You: Support and Appreciation

I’ve been thinking about the concept of Nurture, Support and Appreciation. 

Recently, at work, I was involved with a week-long sales training.  During one of the breaks, I had a conversation with Brad from McClatchy Interactive and honestly told him that “90% of the time when a sales rep thanks me, I think ‘OK, what do you want?’ but when you say ‘Thank You’ it sounds genuine.”  Our discussion led us to realize that it was because he brings up specific examples of what’s being appreciated.  This attention to details rather than just offering a generic expression of thanks shows that some thought went into the expression of appreciation rather than just a statement made out of obligation.

Our youth were the recipients of support during our Youth Mission Trip to Joplin as each day we had a care package or letter of encouragement or getting treated to Andy’s Frozen Custard.  It’s really special to know that someone is thinking of you.   By spreading these out throughout the week, the youth received daily reminders that people back home cared and that they were not alone.  This might have been partially inspired by when two of our youth showed up to send off the adults to Joplin last spring and two others came to hear those same adults tell about their experience.

Once I returned from Joplin and went back to work, I had a note of expression from the McClatchy Interactive team for my ongoing support of impressLOCAL, our new online marketing product offering.  Along with that note was a gift card to Stroud’s.  I smiled, not only because I love their food, but because it showed someone was listening when … a few weeks earlier, I had spoken to another member of the McClatchy Interactive team and had told her about my family history with the restaurant: my dad’s retirement party and where I introduced Liz (my now wife) to my parents plus I’d recently gone there with my son and daughter-in-law.  And the restaurant was recently visited by one of the Cable TV shows that visit the best restaurants from a community.  So, now my wife can look forward to a nice night out.

On Thursday, our Advertising Division launched a new Sales Contest.  And yes, it was nice that they acknowledged that I’d put together their PowerPoint presentation but that’s not my point here.  Instead, for the first time in memory, the sales contest was not just for the Sales Reps and Managers but their Administrative Assistants.  I’m not sure of the details since I’m not part of that group but I was pleased to see the management team recognized that these Assistants are essential to their success.  By including them in the sales contest, it acknowledges this and actually gives them a chance to see a tangible sign of appreciation.

This afternoon at church council, we talked about creating a Nurture Committee at church.  This would take on some of the areas previously managed by the Education Committee.   I’m glad to see the church recognizing the importance of Nurture.

Whether you are a business, a church, a charity, or some other type of organization, think about how best to share your appreciation for those essential to your success.   Also, do you only thank those that win the Gold or do you thank all that did their best and strived for success?

How else to end this blog?  Let me simply say … “Thank you” for reading this blog and hopefully taking something away from it that you can use in your everyday life.

Learning from Joplin, part 2

As mentioned previously, I recently went to Joplin on a Youth Mission Trip.  I previously blogged about the leadership lessons that I gained from the experience.  This time, I’d like to share some of the insights that I gained from the city and the people of Joplin:

A comment I heard a few times while in Joplin was that “Last summer was a Sprint; we’re now part of a Marathon.”  Lesson: while you need to take care of immediate issues, take a long-term view for your organization/life.

Lots of devastation took place in Joplin but the city is bouncing back and people are seeking opportunities to grow in new ways.  A woman we met was excited because Habitat for Humanity had helped her to have a new home, the first of her young daughter’s life.  St. John’s Hospital is wreckage and Joplin High School is essentially an empty field but they will rebuild and during the interim, they’ve carried on in other ways.  Medical patients went to another Joplin hospital, the Upper Classmen held classes in the Mall (that’s an experience to tell about in the future) and multiple congregations took turns in churches that are still standing.  Lesson: when bad things happen, you CAN find a silver lining.

While many stories exist of people surviving or overcoming the odds, that does not always happen. We also heard about many tragedies.  For some, it’s still difficult to talk about what happened to them a year ago.  We also had a youth sponsor share her personal story of loss; while it wasn’t in Joplin, she gave us insight into how people feel when their prayers are NOT answered and they do NOT get the result they’re seeking.  Years ago, a neighbor lost their teenage daughter to a car accident; when I asked my Pastor what to say, he advised to NOT say “I know how you feel” because (unless you’ve had that specific experience) you don’t know how they feel.  Instead, let them know you’re thinking about them (don’t avoid contact as they then feel isolated) and ask what you can do to help.  Later, when we lost Paul to a motorcycle accident (a friend who was more like a son) I realized how true that was.  Nothing anyone said would make the pain go away.  Yet, it was nice when friends from church dropped off food because it was one thing we didn’t have to worry about.  Basically, nothing makes the pain go away but it’s nice to know someone cares.   Lesson:  You don’t always have to fix every problem; sometimes, it’s best to just be there and to listen.

Due to the Joplin tornado, 161 lives were lost.  In their memory, the city planted 161 trees.  As you might have heard, we’ve had a bit of a drought this summer.  Therefore, one of the projects we were assigned was to water trees (not all of them – just those in the park assigned to us) so we had to take 5-gallon buckets and pour five (5) on each tree.  To make it a bit more complicated, there was only one (1) water spigot in our park.  So, we formed a fire brigade/assembly line.  We also started with the trees the furthest away so that as we got more tired, the job got easier.  Lesson #1:  when a big project is completed, is still needs follow-up to keep it going; Lesson #2: projects go more quickly when you work as a team; Lesson #3: tackle the most difficult part of a project first and it makes the rest go more smoothly

Another project that we did involved painting names on streets; the street signs and landmarks were blown away by the tornado so there was no way to know where you were unless the street names were painted on the pavement.  It wasn’t the most exciting project but it helped give direction to those traveling around Joplin.  Then, another day involved helping a charity that had nothing to do with the tornado but that had lost many of its volunteers because people chose to work in storm recovery; yet, they still needed help and we provided it.  Lesson: Not every project is as exciting but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Our final project was painting a house.  Another group had been painting there earlier in the week but we took their place during the final stage since their group wasn’t comfortable on ladders and that’s all that was left.  While our group wasn’t experienced, they jumped at the opportunity to paint and they embraced the chance to go up on the ladders and in the boom.  Lesson: sometimes a project needs to shift personnel; don’t pre-judge the abilities of your team – they might surprise you.

The experience from our week in Joplin led me to several insights and I hope that they be valuable to you as well.

Categories: Church, Leadership

Leadership Lessons from Youth Mission Trip to Joplin

During late July/early August, I spent a week in Joplin with my church youth group.  We were there as part of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church’s series of summer Youth Mission Trips.  I have a few lessons learned from this Youth Mission Trip (and hope to share them through a series of blogs) but the first topic which I wish to blog about is leadership.

These youth mission trips are organized/led by youth in CCYM (Conference Council on Youth Ministries) – – this same group of youth also leads a variety of other youth events in the state of Missouri including WOW, an annual event in Springfield, Missouri.   While summer is primarily described as a Mission Trip and January is primarily described as a big concert, both also involve opportunities for fellowship and worship.  And while some youth are specifically organizing events, others step up through leading music, sharing their testimony by speaking or doing the tech stuff that’s often behind the scenese.   Lesson: leadership comes in a variety of environments and through a variety of talents.

I applaud these youth for their leadership and to Bev who has been the Conference Youth Director for longer than any of them have been alive.  They are gaining valuable skills that can be used now (while they are in high school) but also wherever their future leads them.  It also gives hope to the present and future of our church.  In the past, my church has had a few youth go through CCYM.  One of them (Brandon) is now answering the call to ministry.  Another (Andrew) was a delegate at Jurisdictional Conference (I can’t explain this adequately but this is a big deal as it’s somewhat like being a delegate to one of the political conventions that will be happening soon) and I’ve got to think that what they learned in CCYM helped them to develop their leadership skills.  Lesson: Share leadership opportunities and you will see the benefit both now and in the future.

It’s also interesting to see the leadership of our various church youth groups.  Church youth groups are sometimes led by a full-time Youth Pastor, sometimes by a part-time Youth Director (like me) and other times by volunteers.  Quick Side Note – I’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as someone being a part-time youth leader; although you sometimes get part-time pay or no pay at all, youth leaders are working pretty much 24-7.  No matter which role the primary youth leader takes, there are always several other adult volunteers involved as well.  They bring different skills to the youth group.  Sometimes you have people who are best at organizing/making phone calls/recruitment.  Others are the ones that step up to prepare meals or drive youth to where they need to be.  Others are in a support role from a distance with lifting prayers and letting our youth are being supported from home.  Along these lines, our church’s Education Committee Chair (Nancy) organized several care packages for our youth and it was great seeing them react as they found out they got another one … although I’d say the trip to Andy’s Frozen Custard was the most popular.  Lesson:  Realize that it takes a variety of leadership styles and types of skills to be successful.  If you recruit a team that’s identical to you, you won’t be successful.

On Mission Trips, you often have additional volunteers that might not be active during other parts of the year but have skills unique to Mission Trips.  They are encouraged to spend their time TEACHING youth how to do stuff rather than just doing the work themselves.  On Thursday of our Mission Trip, we spent the day painting a house and interacted with a volunteer (from Lee’s Summit) who comes to Joplin 4 days per week and his role is to coordinate house-painting projects.  He went around and made sure everyone (youth and adults) knew the right way to paint, how to keep the paint from drying out and how to keep everyone safe.  Lesson: Teach skills to others including how to conserve resources.

Each night, the youth had Share Time where one person from each church/worksite would stand up front and tell the overall group “Where they saw God today” – I was impressed by our youth (Sophie, Madison and Remy) standing up to speak, especially since I’ve heard many times that public speaking is America’s #1 fear, even before death.  I was also impressed by other youth being willing to stand up to support the speaker.  Plus, the youth had a talent show.  During Share Time, the youth would often have seen God at work / have insights I’d missed.  And to hear these voices, all I can say is “WOW!”  I was especially pleased to see one of our youth (Madison) share her vocal talents along with 2 others she had just met.  I know next to nothing about music (despite 7 years of Orchestra) but I know that’s not easy to do.  Lesson: Be willing to step out / take a risk and also support others willing to do so.

I saw leadership in many forms during my week in Joplin and am pleased that I was able to learn from others.  How can YOU lead / learn?

Categories: Church, Leadership