Posts Tagged ‘Plan’

As a parent, I have at times told my children “no” when they made a request. Sometimes, they would continue to ask for the same thing, as if thinking I might change my answer. As their father, I have always tried to answer “yes” but occasionally “no” is the answer that is for their best benefit.

Occasionally, I would feel the need to say: “‘No’ is a perfectly acceptable answer.” They understood that my “no” was not changing and it was time to stop asking.

Our Heavenly Father, in much the same way, may tell us “no” when we pray our requests to Him. Unfortunately, I don’t always readily accept that “‘NO’ is a perfectly acceptable answer” when I pray. I’m guessing I am probably not alone in this regard.

We do not always like it when God tells us NO.  It can help to realize a couple things.

We are in good company:

Job: Job was a Godly, faithful man. He refused to curse God. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health. He was covered with boils and sores. All he asked God for was some relief from his suffering. Job’s comments on God’s answer, (Job 30:20) “I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me.”

King David: David was a man after God’s own heart. David is an ancestor to Jesus Christ. He was the King of Israel and a writer of Psalms. When his son was sick, David fasted and prayed for seven days. He was so intense in his prayer, his servants feared for the King’s life. But, God said NO and his baby died. (2 Samuel 12:16-23)

The Apostle Paul: Paul wrote most of the New Testament. He experienced miracles from God and was able to perform miracles. On many occasions God saved Paul from death. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul writes about his “thorn in the flesh.” We know the thorn was painful, evil, chronic and frequent. Paul was desperate for relief. But, God said NO. When God tells him why, Paul was able to handle it.

When God tells us NO, we have His promise of Grace.  It is reassuring to realize we are in good company, with people like Job, David and Paul.

God knows what is best for us:

God has promised that he has a plan for us. His plan is for our good, not our harm. God’s answer to our prayers will always be in agreement with His plan for us.

Jeremiah 29:11“For I know the plans I have for you,” says he Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God knows the results of both His “yes” and “no” to our requests. God only desires the best for us. His answer to our prayers will always lead to His best for us.

This morning, I’m thanking God for some of the “NO” answers. Because, I can now see in hindsight what He knew in foresight. His “no” really is for my good.


Earlier this year, my team experienced the sudden tragic death of one of our teammates.

I am fortunate to lead a great team.  Our team members had been in place and unchanged for over five years.  We knew how to support each other and perform as a highly functioning team.  As we left the office together on Thursday evening, for an extended shutdown weekend, we wished each other a good weekend.  Sunday morning, a couple of us began to notice some comments on social media about “prayers for Jane’s (name changed) family.”  By the time we were returning to work Monday morning, our fears were confirmed.  Jane had died suddenly Saturday evening as the result of a traffic accident.

As I said, our team had been intact and unchanged for over five years. We were a high performing successful team.  We are also a very lean team.  One person on an extended absence creates increased workload for the remaining team members. But this wasn’t an extended absence. Jane, a highly respected manager and seventeen year employee, was gone and she was not coming back.

As a team and as a leader, we were on an odyssey we would have never chosen.  Yet, our team must continue.  We have customers to service. We have a mission to accomplish. We must succeed.  We had to navigate through the morass of emotions and increased job requirements before we could begin to recover and return to the highly performing team which we are capable.

Like many leaders navigating new experience, I turned to wisdom base of the internet. I searched for anything related to “leading after the death of a team member.” My search results provided little to no guidance.  I guess it is such a painful and emotional event, many leaders would rather not relive their experience by writing it out.  That is probably why it has taken me nearly eight months to sit down to complete this blog post.

Throughout our recovery, I have tried to capture notes of leadership lessons learned in my journal.  I have consolidated these to nine key leadership lessons for leading through the death of a teammate.  I hope you never experience these, the way we have this year.  But if you do, I hope you find some comfort in our shared experiences.

Understand Mourning Process – When we returned to work Monday morning, we were slapped in the face with the reality that Jane would not be returning.  A couple of us had pieced together information from various social media posts.  Others were just learning of Jane’s death that morning.  We did not need to take time for mourning.  The mourning was confiscating time for itself.

We spend as much time, often more time, with the people we work with than we do our own families.  On this particular Monday morning our work family was deeply hurting.

Jane’s workspace was the first space you saw as you enter our team area.  As a team, we felt it was important to have a memorial, a small vase with some of her favorite flowers, at Jane’s desk. It was a stark reminder of our loss that encouraged memories of happier times.  It was important that we mourn our loss as a team.  It was just as important that we mourn individually.

As a leader, it is important to realize that each individual mourns differently.  It was important for each person to have the freedom to step away whenever needed. We still had jobs to do.  Our customers had no idea what our team was going through.  As much as possible, we had to maintain business as usual, so stepping away was the safety net each needed for overwhelming emotional moments.

In May 2014, Dave Stachowiak, on his Coaching for Leaders podcast, discussed the emotional side of leading after a workplace loss. His podcast offered some excellent advice for dealing with team members’ emotional wellbeing.  For me, the podcast was a great reassurance that we had handled the emotional aspects of our loss fairly well.  Dave and I have shared a couple emails since.  With his permission, I have included a link to the podcast episode at the end of this post.

Together, We Are A Team – “As a leader, you set the tone for your entire team.” (Colin Powell) 

As we stood consoling each other and discussing what we needed to do first, all I could think to say was: “Together, we are a team.”  We will get through this, together.

That word carried a lot more weight than I ever imagined.  It was more than just a reminder that each of us is there for the others.  It was a reminder that we are watching out for each other.  We would remind each other to “breathe” when the weight of the moment became too much.  We found greater comfort in mourning our shared loss together. We attended the visitation for the family and funeral, together, as one team.

We discussed how we would need to adjust our workflow, for the immediate future.  But all of that seemed miles away during the early moments.  As the days rolled forward, it was our commitment to together that helped us focus and succeed as a team, even though business was no longer usual.

Leadership Can Be Lonely – John Maxwell says: “Anyone who says, ‘It’s lonely at the top’ is not a leader. A leader wouldn’t be at the top by alone.”

While a completely agree with Dr. Maxwell’s statement, in this situation there were certainly some lonely leadership moments.  Securing access and rerouting Jane’s email, even though business related, felt like an invasion of privacy.

Going through her desk to separate out any personal belongings definitely had a more personal feeling.  You truly recognize what is most important to a person, when you look at their personal effects around the workspace.

The lonely task that hit me the hardest was changing the voicemail message on her phone.  Listening to the old message, hearing Jane’s voice drove home the realization that my team would never be the same.  How we navigated the next few weeks and rebuilt our team would determine our recovery and continued success.

The worst days were behind us.  It was time to focus on the rest of our journey.

The “Hit by a Bus” Plan Is Inadequate – In every leadership position, I have encouraged key people to maintain what I call a “hit by a bus” plan.  The hit by a bus plan is a set of instructions of where key information, status of current projects, and current commitments can be found, if the individual has an unexpected absence for a period of time.

We even tested our “hit by a bus” plans when each individual would take vacation or be out for multiple days.  We would make adjustment for anything that had to wait until the individual’s return.  The worse situation was when we would need to call someone on vacation to find answers to problems we could not solve.

Now Jane was no longer a phone call away.  She could not answer any questions.  Any short falls in the plan were ours to work through.  We soon realized our “hit by a bus” plans seldom assume we will never return.

Respect Time in Replacement – Immediately after Jane’s death, our remaining team covered the additional duties, similar to the way we would cover during vacations or temporary absences.  The team’s mission was our biggest driver.  In reality, it was a very healing process for each of us.  As I spoke with each team member, each relayed that honoring Jane’s memory was a large motivator.

Filling all our activities with a smaller team is a short term solution to a long term problem.  The leadership challenge, for me, was finding the balance between respecting the time needed for emotional healing, the toll of the temporary workload increase, and refitting the team for our long term success.

In the end, it was nearly two months before we began seeking the right person to complete our team.  It was a wait that really stretched my comfort level, as a leader.  Ultimately, I am glad I did not allow my desire for expediency to overrun the team’s need to grieve, reprocess and begin to look forward.  The best leadership decision for me was to keep pace with my team so we all arrived at our destination together.

“Leadership is not something you do to people. It’s something you do with people.” – Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, and Drea Zigarmi (Leadership and The One Minute Manager)

The delay provided time to think through our team needs.  We had a blank page.  We had the opportunity to design our ultimate team, define our talent needs and find our new mix.

Compatibility, not Conformity – There is not another Jane.  Searching for her would be frustrating, at best.  Finding her would prove impossible.  Selecting the new team member is important.

Hiring to fill our needs and build the team is most important.  We had to avoid the hiring to “replace Jane” trap.  This is not “Jane’s Job” any longer.  Conformity to the old mindset was not optimal.  In the building of the new team, compatibility is paramount.

Respecting the time in replacement and defining our team needs encouraged a metamorphosis in my own thinking as the team leader.  We are not rebuilding the team; we are building the NEW team.

Team Building Phases Still Apply – We had been fortunate to have our team intact for as long as we did.  We had enjoyed a significant period of sustained high performance.  It would be easy for those of us who experienced that period of time to force the same expectations on the new team.  That is the mistake I most wanted us to avoid.

In the 1960’s, Dr. Bruce Tuckman defined the phases of team work as:  Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing – Transforming

I have found these to be true in my own experiences, as well.  There is a process to building a team.  No matter how good we are, we are not exempt from the process.  We must respect the process.  Knowing this is part of what drives us to continually improve.  We are not yet where we need to be, but we are a long way from where we started.  Our team’s best days are in front of us and getting closer all the time.

Honor History, Focus Forward – Not many days go by without us thinking about Jane.  We still see her influence in our processes and activities.  We find her notes and contributions in project files.  We have memories of times past and the benefits of lessons learned.  There are now more pleasant thoughts than sad.

Building our new team didn’t ignore history.  Instead, we found the best measure of honoring history was by focusing forward.  The best way we can honor history is by making this team the best ever.

It has been a difficult journey.  I have learned many more lessons, than I could ever mention here.  Those lessons will not be easily forgotten.  It is that knowledge that brings me to the greatest lesson of all.

Together, We Are The Team – We are moving forward together. We are succeeding together.  Together, we are the team.  That is what leadership and teamwork are all about.


As I promised, here is the link to Dave Stachowiak, Coaching for Leaders – Podcast 142:

My daughter is the Valedictorian of her graduating class for 2014.  During her Graduation Address, she gave some great advice for her classmates. I asked her permission to include the transcript of her speech as a guest blog.

Family, Friends, Faculty, Staff, board members, and Mr. John David Phillips, thank you on behalf of the class of 2014 for coming and celebrating with us on all of our accomplishments.  Thank you, Mr. Phillips, for your inspirational message.  If it were not for all of your love, encouragement, and support through the years, we probably would not be at this point in our lives.  To the Class of 2014, it is my honor and privilege to be among the first to address you as GRADUATES of Faith Christian School.

Now, classmates, over the years we have experienced many changes through teachers, staff, and classmates that have come and gone.  We have also seen the school grow and the campus change.  When we were in elementary school, we played on a playground which is now a parking lot and were picked up by our moms where the office is now.  We have seen our long hope of finally eating lunch in a lunchroom be fulfilled.  We have adapted through all of the changes and have become closer together.  Especially in the last few weeks, we have begun to notice that “Sometimes we are all too quick to count down the days that we forget to make the days count.”  But now this is the night we have dreamed about and thought would never come.  It is here we complete our mission at Faith Christian and must head on to become doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, military leaders, or whatever career we choose.

Like a jigsaw puzzle contains many pieces and is not complete unless all pieces are put together.  We are a class and when one is absent; it is like a piece is missing from our class.  In a puzzle all of the pieces must be arranged correctly to reveal the picture which is its sole purpose.  Looking at you I see athletes, artists, some who are laid-back, some who are highly motivated, friends, and most important of all; I see family.  All of us are unique individuals –or puzzle pieces– that have come together to form our small, unique class of twenty three.   Our entire life and career at Faith has had one goal which was to prepare us to go on to adulthood.

I know that everyone is trying to give us advice and it is probably confusing us more than helping, if most of us have even listened to it at all.  We have been like a chain where each link represents every one of us, classmates, our teachers, family, and administration.   A chain can be used for many purposes, but all the links must work together to be successful. Our ‘chain’s’ purpose has been to prepare us for tonight, High School Graduation.

But I have one thing to tell you before we complete our journey at Faith.   Just like we have been like a chain for all these years, we are still a link even as we go our separate ways.   Even though the chances of all of us being together again are slim, we are still a link in that chain.  The chain is our high school career and each of us is still a link in it.  Tonight seniors, I have a gift for you to help you remember what I am telling you.  This is the surprise I have promised you.  I have a set of carabineer clips for you and your parents, like the chain has many purposes.   It can be used for hiking, holding your keys, hooking ropes together, and many other purposes as well. These clips can be linked together to form a chain.


You are probably wondering how this clip relates to me.   Well, like a carabineer clip has many purposes, we each have a purpose that is unique to each of us.  In Proverbs 16: 9, the Bible says, “In their hearts humans plan their course but the Lord establishes their steps.”  God has created us with a special plan and purpose for each of us.  But it is up to us to discover our purpose and to follow it.  Most of us have an idea of where we would like to be whether it is owning a business, working in a hospital, or working for a great company far away. That may be our plan, but God may also have another idea which will be greater than any of our selfish wants or desires for our lives.  We must remember what we have been taught for the many years here at Faith, and follow God’s plan for us. Like Mr. McDaniel said Tuesday at Baccalaureate, Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “   Each of our plans is unique.    I have given each of you seniors a carabineer clip so that you can remember not only our special class, but also to fulfill your purpose.  You can use this clip however you choose, even though I do not suggest using this one to climb with it.  I challenge each of you that every time you see this that it will remind you of our class and to follow your purpose.  Always remember you are a link in the chain.


Now, classmates, we have spent most of our lives in one place.  If nothing else, we have learned this year that time flies by quickly.  This past week as we were hanging out at the lake and working around school we all realized that we could not spend enough time together.  Do not take time for granted.  Do not miss an opportunity to fulfill your purpose.  I am not saying it will be easy all the time, but as E. E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  We cannot fulfill our purpose on our own.  We must rely on God for help, but that also requires work from us.  We must always strive to do our best at everything.  As one of the fastest runners to ever live, Steve Prefontaine, said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”  Do not sacrifice the opportunity to fulfill your purpose, you may not have another chance.

Now, classmates, we have spent the many hours of studying and preparing ourselves for the next stage of life. We have turned in our final tests, quizzes, papers, and assignments to Faith.  We have spent the countless hours together in class, sports practices, athletic games, club meetings, choir concerts, and the many other afterschool events.  I urge you to not forget the great times together and all of the sweet memories this school has brought to us, like singing and jamming out with all of the teachers.  We are off to continue our lives and fulfill our perfect purpose planned by God.  Remember to rely on Him and He will reveal the way to go.  Classmates, Dr. Seuss says it best

“You’re off to great places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Classmates, let’s get on our way to finding our purpose and living the rest of our lives. Do not forget that our chain does not break tonight because we are all going our own ways, but instead each link is fulfilling its purpose. Remember you are a link in this chain and now, we must get on our way.

Now it is your turn. What words of wisdom and great advice do you have for the Class of 2014?

I talk to myself. Yeah, that’s right.  I’ll admit it. I talk to myself.

I find talking to myself helps me organize my activities.  It helps me plan my day.  It helps me prioritize my tasks.  It helps me evaluate my options.  It helps me analyze my productivity.  It helps me define my purpose.  It helps me insure my integrity.

Talking to myself is a key part of my life, leadership and productivity.  There are times I find the most intelligent and profitable conversation of the day is the one I have with myself.

Most often, the conversation I have with myself is the most challenging.  Sometimes, it’s the most encouraging.  It is always the most defining conversation I have during any given day.

I find the most important aspect of the conversation I have with myself is how I feed it.

Before you tune me out for being crazy.  Before you start believing “Tim needs a therapist” or some other form of mental evaluation, let me say one more thing.  YOU talk to yourself, too.  (Uh ho, this blog just went from confessing to meddling.)  YES, YOU DO!  You may as well admit it.  You talk to yourself too.

You probably call your self conversations my some more sophisticated name.  Something like… “THINKING.”

What is thinking besides an internal conversation we have with ourself?

Like I said, the most important part of any conversation I have with myself is how I feed it.

Paul gives us some great advice on training and feeding our thinking.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV) – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

In this one short verse, Paul gives us a great formula for improving our thinking.  Improving our thinking improves the quality of our self conversation.  Improving the quality of our self conversation… You get the picture.

First, Paul tells us HOW to think:

  1. Think Intentionally – “think…” Paul gives us an imperative command to think. Thinking intentionally means thinking proactively.  One of the best ways I have found to think intentionally is a morning quiet time.  A quiet time, for me, is a specific time for specific thinking.  Specific thinking brings optimal focus toward maximizing results.
  2. Think Specifically – “think about such things.”  It is not enough to think intentionally.  Paul also tells us to think specifically.  Thinking specifically brings strategy to intention.  Thinking is of little benefit, if it always an accumulation of random thoughts.  Thinking specifically means devoting specific time and energy into thinking about specific topics that bring us the most benefit.  Thinking specifically means evaluating our thoughts and weeding out those that are not beneficial or healthy.

Second, Paul tells us WHAT to think:

  1. Think True – Paul tells us to think about things that are true.  Let’s face it.  When it comes to talking to ourselves, we want to hear the best about ourselves.  We all can have the tendency to dramatize, romanticize, fantasize and even rationalize our thinking to tell ourselves what we want to hear.  Thinking truthfully means being honest in how we communicate with ourself.  It means thinking intentionally, specifically and being honest with ourself and where we need the most focus and the things we need to do.
  2. Think Noble – Noble means exalted in moral, mental character or excellence.  Paul encourages us to purposefully think on things that encourage high moral character.  Thinking toward high moral character encourages mental excellence.  When we think on noble things actions soon follow.
  3. Think Right – Wrong thinking requires very little energy.  Right thinking requires attention to method as well as subject.  Right thinking occurs when we ensure conditions to encourage our thinking are in order for the best results.  For some it is a place for specific thinking.  For others it is a time of specific thinking.  Whatever encourages your best thinking of intentional, specific, truthful and noble thoughts foster those conditions for best results.
  4. Think Pure – Noble thoughts speak to character.  Right thoughts speak to intent.  Pure thoughts speak to purpose.  Thinking pure thoughts means thinking with purpose on purpose.
  5. Think Lovely – Lovely means having beauty that appeals to the heart and mind, not just the eye.  Thinking on lovely things means thinking on things not just noble, right, pure but also appealing.  Thinking lovely means controlling lust and greed.  It requires evaluating our thoughts and thought process to achieve greater results.
  6. Think Admirable – Think thoughts that are admirable.  The best way I have found to assess how admirable any subject is to think about is asking: “Would I be willing to share this thought with the person I admire most?” Think on things you would be proud for others to know about.  Think on things that bring honor to you and those you love most.

Finally, Paul tells us WHY to think:

  1. Think Excellent – Finally, Paul wraps it all together with two more qualifiers.  While thinking intentionally, while thinking specifically, while thinking truthfully, while thinking noblely, while thinking rightly, while thinking purely, while thinking lovely and with thinking admirably, in every thought and manner think on things that are excellent.  Paul encourages us to think with excellence about excellent things for excellent purposes and excellent results.  This is another admonition to evaluate our thoughts to keep and follow the best.
  2. Think Praiseworthy – Paul encouraging us to think in a manner that bring glory to Christ and honors our testimony.  This is the final and most important of all the evaluators Paul give us.  Paul encourages us to evaluate every thought in light of what God’s word teaches us.  Paul is not telling us to think religious thoughts.  Paul is tell us to evaluate our thoughts through the filter of what God’s word tells us to do about work, life, relationships, stewardship, whatever area your thoughts carry you.

In a few brief words, Paul gives us a great formula for thinking intentionally and strategically.

I wish I could honestly tell you I have it all figured out.  I’m still learning, practicing and endeavoring to improve.  What I have found is when I follow Paul’s model, my internal conversations are:

  • More Productive
  • More Motivating
  • More Challenging
  • More Settling
  • More Exciting
  • More Confident
  • More Pleasing
  • More Organizing
  • More Creative
  • More Comprehensive
  • More Rewarding

Basically, I find more of everything I need to be the leader, partner, coworker and friend God has designed me to be.  The real benefit of having great conversations with myself is I am better prepared for beneficial conversations with other leaders, mentors and encouragers.  And, I am more open to growth opportunities around me.

What ways do you find beneficial in improving your self conversations?

What do you find is the best way to improve the quality of your thinking?

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

  • “I know…” – This is My absolute truth.
  • “…the plans…” – There is a specific blueprint.
  • “…I have…” – I created the plan.  I own the plan.
  • “…for you,…” – It is specifically and personally designed for you.
  • Declares the Lord – This is MY solemn promise.
  • “…plans to prosper you…” – I want to enrich your life.
  • “…and…” – Wait!!! There’s more.
  • “…not to harm you…” – My plans protect you.
  • “…plans…” – My personalized design.
  • “…to give you…” – My personalize gift for you.
  • “…hope…” – My promise to you is for now.
  • “…and a future.” – My promise to you is forever.

God’s promises are true.  God’s promises are specific.  God’s promises are personal.  God’s promises are permanent.

As I was typing this, I found myself scribbling on my notepad.  The result was another way to look at this promise from God.


“I know you. Because I know you, I designed MY plans especially for you,” declares the LORD.

How does knowing God has specifically designed His plan especially for you, change your perspective?

What are some ways you can learn and understand God’s specific plan for your life?

What suggestions would you have for the rest of us, seeking to learn and follow God’s specific plan?