Leadership Lesson: Your family is the priority no matter what you do.

ImageI have the tendency to be a workaholic. The truth be known, I like to work. I like to accomplish things. I like to get things done. I’m willing to devote the time needed to get something done right and produce excellent results.  I’ve been this way my whole life. So, when I was in the Army as a young man, I would arrive to work early and leave for home late. That meant there were many days when my young children might not see me because I was out of the house before they were up and I returned after they went to bed. Needless to say, that was not very good for our home life. It’s difficult to invest in and influence your children, when you’re not there.

I had a boss once, Fred Stubbs, who was a very wise man.  He was a great family man. He had a wonderful wife, Ilene, and two beautiful teenage daughters, Bethany and Penny. One evening while I was working late, he surprised me and stopped by my office.  He asked me about work. I told him what was happening and what I was working on. Then as he was getting ready to leave he said to me, “John, the Army will be here in 20 years and you’re likely not to be in the Army, but what you do now will determine if your wife and children are with you or not.” Kaboom!! I got the message.  I began a process of change where I put my family first and my work second.

The results of me purposely putting family considerations before my work have been pretty significant. I am retired from the Army and my wife is still with me. We celebrated our thirty-first wedding anniversary two weeks ago.  My children grew up knowing that I loved them.  I got to enjoy putting them to bed most nights; reading to them and saying their prayers with them. Although our children are grown and out of the house, our family remains close. I’ve been truly blessed. As an aside, Fred and Ilene Stubbs recently celebrated their fifty-second wedding anniversary.

How about you? Remember in 20 years, you probably won’t be with the company you’re with now. You may make a lot of money working late, but will your family still be with you? It’s your decision.

Leadership Lessons: Mission First, People Always


528th USAAG

When I was in the U.S. Army, I deployed to Turkey in 1982. I was assigned to the 528th United States Army Artillery Group.  The commander of the unit had a saying that I’ve found helpful in my life since that deployment about 30 years ago.  He regularly said that one of the organizations chief values was, “Mission first, people always.” You’ve got to accomplish the mission or you’ve got to reach certain goals and standards. But, if you don’t care for the people, you’re not going to be able to accomplish the mission because it is through the people that the mission is accomplished. So, you’ve got to care about your people.

I’ve worked for people that did not have that philosophy of leadership. They were the type of people who would just chew people up and out. They lead by intimidation. It was all about accomplishing their goals. Subordinates had to be forced to do what they wanted done, no matter the cost. Those kinds of people weren’t enjoyable to work for. I remember one in particular that I was actually afraid of. I did everything to avoid that person because I knew he didn’t care about me as a person. He would readily sacrifice me to do what he wanted to get done.

After I left that assignment in Turkey, I thought I had applied the lesson of Mission First, People Always. But, I learned later I hadn’t done so. I was a whole lot more career driven than I was willing to admit. My unspoken mission was to be a success in my career. I share this to my shame and I believe I’ve now changed. But, we lived in Guatemala for a time. My wife and I started talking about maybe adopting a child there.  After I thought about it, I said that I believed it might hurt my career having a child that was so different from us. So, we didn’t adopt.  I grieve my attitude back then. But, clearly it was more about the mission (my career), than about people (a little child whom we could have helped greatly). My wife later graciously and lovingly confronted me on that attitude, which helped me in the process of change.

Career is important. You’ve got to make money in order to live. But, it is not and should not be more important that people. That’s what I love about Jesus. He loved people. He put them above his wants and desires. It was about people…always. I think that’s what John, the Beloved Apostle, who experienced the love of Jesus first hand meant when he said, John 3:16 (AMP) For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world (that’s people; you and I) that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

God always loves people; he puts them first by giving up his son for them. That’s a great example of how we should be.

Are you good in a crisis?

Johnny Jackson ChurchillLife is full of crises. Most of them you probably are reacting to and are not the cause of; someone hits your car, a baby in the family gets really sick, a bomb blows up at the finish line of a marathon.  Most of those things you cannot prevent. You just have to deal with them.

How do you handle it when you’re confronted with a crisis? Now, you can freak out, scream, and run when you are faced with an emergency or you can react in a way that helps those around you through the situation too.  We certainly saw both reactions at the Boston Marathon bombing.

My dad was exceptionally good in a crisis. He didn’t lose his cool. He thought clearly and gave good direction or advice. He didn’t let the emotion of the moment get him. He focused on the task at hand…getting through the crisis as best as possible. He was a U.S. Army officer and had successfully dealt with crises.

The best way to do that is to process the steps you should take during a crisis when you are not in one. Emergency personnel have a checklist memorized as what to do first, second and third when confronted with an emergency. You can do the same thing too.

Take time alone to think it out. When you have some type of physical crisis, like a car accident, what are the first 10 things you should do? Make a list before it happens, so that when it does you’re ready. If you have an emotional crisis, like a close family member, you love very much, is going through some very difficult situation. What is the 5 things you want to do so you’ll be able to think clearly and support them.  What do you do in a spiritual crisis, like something has happened that you doubt God or your faith? Make a list.  What do you do? …Pray, seek God’s word to you in His Word, seek out trusted counselors etc.

I think Jesus was good in a crisis. During the torture before the cross and on the cross he was thinking about other people. He told John to physically care of Mary Jesus’ mother. He stopped to minister to emotional women who were crying because of the brutality. He cared spiritually for his torturers, which was evident when He asked God, the Father, to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. Now obviously the cross was physically, emotionally and spiritually brutal, but Jesus had prepared as best as he could. I think the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was part of that preparation. So, during the crisis he was able to stay composed and focus on others.

How do you take time to prepare for life’s crises? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Notre Dame Coach learning from failure

I am an avid Alabama Crimson Tide fan.  I graduated from the University of Alabama many years ago.  Since the BCS National Championship was played in Miami this year, I was excited to be able to go to the game.  I was equally excited when the Crimson Tide won the national championship and beat Notre Dame.  I had a very bad experience going to Notre Dame for a game when I was a student at the University of Alabama.  So, it was doubly gratifying to win the game this year.

There was aBCSn interesting article recently on the website, “Fansided,” that was titled, Nick Saban Inspires Brian Kelly to have Notre Dame focus on Special Teams.  The bottom line of the article was that Brian Kelly realized that Alabama had its best players playing each aspect of the game to include special teams.  Many teams put the second stringers on their special teams. Alabama had its starters playing on special teams and Notre Dame did not.  So from the get-go Notre Dame was behind.  Brian Kelly was quoted in the article saying, “I want starters to be part of our special teams units…we’re going to be about it in the spring to really put our best players on special teams.”

Brian Kelly is obviously a life-long learner.  Just because he’s become the head coach of the storied Notre Dame program, he has not stopped learning.  I admire that in anyone.

The writer of Proverbs says, Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man, and he will learn more. Proverbs 9:9  I’ve met a lot of men who thought they knew everything about a subject and weren’t willing to learn something new.  I’ve met them in the military, in the ministry, and in organizations I’ve been a part of.  If a man is not willing to admit he doesn’t know everything in a certain area and become a learner, even when he’s arrived at one of the positions at the pinnacle of his profession, he’s destined to fail again and again.

I don’t think Brian Kelly will make the same mistake twice. My hope is that I’ll never be arrogant enough to think I can’t learn from someone else.  And my hope is that if Alabama meets Notre Dame in another athletic contest that Alabama will win again!