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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Head back and eyes fixed

Just before our family moved to Calgary from Orlando, I joined a group of Wycliffe USA colleagues in a 5K race to benefit a local children’s home. I was not a runner and wasn’t in running shape, but I I jogged a few times to prepare, and that Saturday morning I felt like I was in decent shape for a race of this length. The race began, and I tried to tie myself to some of the better runners on our team for motivation. It didn’t take long before I fell behind. One of those ahead of me was Forrest Flaniken. In addition to his day job as senior vice president, the job he worked two doors down from me in the Offices of the President, I knew he was a grey-haired triathlete. And for some reason, I decided that day that a guy 13 years older than me wasn’t going to beat me.

The problem is that he had set a pretty good pace. Pretty soon he was getting smaller as he gained ground on me. For four kilometers, I stayed in his rear view mirror, and in the final kilometer, I summoned the energy to begin closing the gap. As we rounded the final corner and had a clear view of the finish line, I caught up. I slapped him on the back and yelled, “Come on, Forrest!” We both began to sprint as fast as we could, our heads back and eyes fixed on the finish line.

That’s my memory of Forrest. He had his eyes fixed on the finish line and committed his life to getting the Bible into every language. He didn’t do it as a Bible translator, but as an administrator, controller and finance director. In 1991, Forrest stepped out of a good job with a good company. He was director of finance and administration at an oil company, but something was missing. Last week he spoke at Wycliffe USA’s chapel service about how that decision to pursue a new career started with his discontent. “As much as I enjoyed my job, there was a piece of me that wasn’t satisfied.” He realized, “I have a different goal than a lot of people in this company.” He subsequently spent the last 21 years applying his skills in multiple roles with Wycliffe, one of the biggest of which was spearheading Wycliffe USA’s move from California to Florida.

One thing I appreciate about Forrest is that he approached his life as a coach. He asked good questions, and he invested in young men and young leaders. Beyond his role at Wycliffe, he raised three boys to follow Christ, coached Little League and taught at a local university. That shows some of his heart: to invest in those he would leave behind, including his three boys.

He left us on October 14. I can’t find the photo, but that moment is forever captured in my mind. He finished with head back and eyes fixed.

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He set his face

[Republished from thebackrowleader.com]

A few weeks ago, a little phrase from Luke 9:51 (ESV) jumped out at me, and I’ve been reflecting on it this Easter week:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Jesus set his face, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem. Of course, this was no vacation trip he was planning. He spoke often to his disciples in those days about how the Son of Man was going to be lifted up, the shepherd was going to be struck down and the Son of Man betrayed into the hands of sinners. He fully knew the pain and sacrifice that was going to be required of him; he’d known it since he came to earth. But as the moment grew closer, both his anxiety and his courage grew. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the moment close at hand, Matthew described Jesus as anguished and distressed, his soul crushed with grief to the point of death.

In that moment, I see the distinct humanness of Jesus. As Hebrews says, he was tempted in all ways as we are. Can’t you relate to a moment like that? Perhaps not to the same degree, but a time when you absolutely dreaded what you were going to have to do? As the moment grows close, your steps get heavy, your breathing laboured as if you’re carrying a huge weight. At some point, you face a moment of decision. Will you shrink from your responsibility or set your face and move forward?

I remember the first time I needed to speak in public. I was a grade 4 student in Atlanta, and we were in the middle of a mock election. As campaign chair for a candidate, I had to give a speech to a group of students. I dreaded that thought. If I absolutely had to, I resolved to only do it in front of people I knew. Instead, I was selected to speak to a group of students in another class. I remember waiting in a little room between the classrooms, balling because I didn’t want to do it and looking desperately for someone else to appeal to. Embarrassed by my tears. Wanting to quit. Finally I screwed up my courage and summoned enough resolve to do it. It seems funny now, given the role I’m in today, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had run away from that decision point.

I’ve never faced a situation bad enough to create a physiological reaction like sweating blood, but in some small way, I can relate to Jesus’ Gethsemane moment. It’s worth looking at how he approached it.

First, he begged God for a way out, three times. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask if there can be some other way. The point is that Jesus didn’t go in the direction of defiance and refusal. When I face a difficult decision or task, I find incredible strength in sharing it with God, even if my prayers are repetitive or lack words.

Second, he sought companionship. Though he knew they would soon abandon him, he brought his closest friends along to pray with him. Like the disciples, our friends may not be able to relate to our crisis, but even having them near is some level of comfort. I often think of Job’s friends in moments like that. To their huge credit, they got together and sat with him during his misery. Seven days they sat in silence. The only mistake they made was in opening their mouths.

Then Jesus surrendered to a greater authority. He knew he’d been heard, and he gave himself up to the greater plan. Having made his decision, he didn’t shrink or pull back from it; he turned to face it. I love the way he collected himself, pulled his disciples to their feet and faced his betrayer. “The time has come,” he said. No longer did he have any doubt about what he needed to do. He found tremendous courage once he got up from his knees.

Isaiah described this “Good Friday” hundreds of years before that moment (Isaiah 50:5-7 NLT):

The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
and I have listened.
I have not rebelled or turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me
and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face
from mockery and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
determined to do his will.
And I know that I will not be put to shame.

That’s my Saviour, Redeemer, Rescuer and Passover Lamb! And that’s my model for leadership.

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We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

You’ve probably heard that quote before. It came to mind today as I listened to many of my colleagues from all over Central and South America. The fact is that everything we deal with today has historical roots. That’s both a good thing and a challenge. For instance, colonialism has impacted my Latin brothers and sisters in immeasurable ways. Many of the attendees at this meeting are dealing with pain, anger, fear and frustration resulting from colonial attitudes, and many of the examples they shared are more recent than I would like to think. But it also occurred to me that these meetings wouldn’t have been possible if not for languages of wider communication, like Spanish and English. I’m not saying that “trade languages” justify the many sins of our fathers, but God has a history of bringing about great good from a broken world and broken people.

Here are some thoughts I heard in the last few days:

  • Indigenous people in one country were told in the past that they didn’t have the education or skills to do Bible translation. They have taken up that challenge and accomplished a lot of good in a short amount of time.
  • A Latina told us her country had a similar experience. Her response: “Latin Americans were told we’re only there to receive. We don’t want to receive; we want to give.” However, she acknowledged that many in her country still have feelings that they’re not capable of certain tasks.
  • A leader of an indigenous Bible translation organization gave encouragement to his Western colleagues with these words, “One of the great privileges for anyone is to lose your job because you’ve equipped someone to replace you.”

Wycliffe certainly can’t point any fingers; we don’t have clean hands ourselves. I’m not pointing fingers either, as I find paternalistic attitudes so easy to slip into. But it was refreshing this week to hear such incredible candor. The fact that these lideres could speak openly and honestly without fear of repercussions is a great starting point. There were a lot of bright spots as well. We are giving significant support to the rising Bible translation movement, represented by 108 partner organizations in the Americas who are working to transform people through Bible translation and language-related ministries.

We laughed, we cried, we prayed and we planned together. I’m leaving these meetings with a few ideas for fresh partnerships.

Our half day of prayer closed with prayer in 10 different languages

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[Reposted from thebackrowleader.com]

When I’m asked by young people about whether they should move into management roles, the first question I ask them is whether they have the ability to live vicariously: to find joy and satisfaction in the success of others. It’s a critical competency for leadership, but I’ve found it useful throughout life. Underneath this issue are fundamental questions of identity, pride and acceptance.

For starters, I work in a Bible translation organization, but I am not a Bible translator. If I didn’t have the ability to take joy in the achievements of others, I’d struggle with my role. As it’s my goal to work in my gifting so that others can work in their gifting, I can therefore celebrate as part of the team whenever a translation is completed. I have a personal goal this year to get to a dedication ceremony for a New Testament completed by a Canadian translator.

As a graphic designer, I had to be okay working with images from great locations I was likely to never see. As I look back at Word Alive magazines I designed, I feel a connection to language surveyors in central Asia, leaders in Singapore and translators in Cameroon even though my personal experience was limited to the images on my Mac.

In leadership development, I had to confront the question of whether  I was okay with advancing someone else’s career beyond my own. Once I had resolved my own issues of pride and competitiveness, I was then able to celebrate the appointment of a 32-year-old female vice president and a 41-year-old board member who benefited from my work.

Now I have the opportunity to take joy in the work of 590 staff working in or sent out from Canada. I will rejoice with the success and mourn with the struggles of IT staff, linguists, literacy workers and finance personnel. As my job description says, the performance of the organization is synonymous with the performance of the president. We’re all connected. We’re a body. And we’re all part of the Bible translation team.

That’s also our hope for you: that through your financial support, your prayers and your encouragement, you feel like you’re part of the work, from your home or your office. You are part of the Bible translation team. May you take a lot of joy in the vicarious role God has given you.

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[Reposted from thebackrowleader.com]

How many times have you been forced into a situation where you have to replace the status quo, but no alternative seems an improvement? You’re not going to get your followers to move from “here” if they don’t see the potential for “there.” My suggestion is to reframe the question and come up with a different solution entirely.

I learned this trick as a graphic designer, and I think it applies just as well to leadership. Turn the question around and ask it in a different way. Reframing the question means asking whether your problem could become an opportunity if you looked at it a different way. Let me give you two examples.

I think Apple reframed the issue of smart phones. My previous cell phone was too big. I wanted something smaller, and I tried a number of brands, seeking the smallest phone with the largest screen. Then I got an iPhone, which is the biggest cell phone I’ve ever carried. My biggest complaint? It’s too small. I wish it was just a touch bigger. So what happened? The iPhone reframed the discussion of what a smart phone could be and do. The iPad is Apple’s solution, and I admit I have iPad envy.

My second example comes from my house, where we spent the long weekend adding to our stack of boxes ready for our move to Calgary. Our biggest challenge was convincing our kids to part with some of their toys, even for a few months. We tried “spinning it” as an opportunity to send a gift to themselves in Canada, labeling the box to themselves to open and get fresh toys to play with. Didn’t work. Meanwhile, their play room has been getting smaller and smaller as boxes line the walls. What did we do? We reframed the question. Yesterday, the solution presented itself: build a fort/maze with boxes. All of a sudden, the whines have turned into persistent cries to pack more boxes so we can add more walls to the maze.

Fort built from boxesSo, whatever issue you’re facing right now, is there a way you could present it in a different light, set it in a new context or turn it around so the negatives become positives? Perhaps it will require a bit of creativity, but the solution is likely lurking around the edges.

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[This post duplicated from my leadership blog, thebackrowleader.com]

Since the board of Wycliffe Canada selected me as the next president of Wycliffe Canada, the most common comment I’ve heard is “Wow!” followed by “Congratulations!” And then “Thank you for stepping up.” It’s that sentiment that hits most closely to my heart as I contemplate this jump in responsibilities.

For several years I’ve waxed, pontificated, prodded and urged through this blog and in leadership development events. In the latter, I’ve often closed by challenging those God has gifted to “Step up.” Now it’s time to put my leadership philosophies into practice, and I recognize that I will no doubt have to eat some of my words in this blog.

On Thursday, as I headed to a Wycliffe Canada conference where I would be publicly introduced, a member of the board read me the following personal note from Oswald Chambers:

If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to equip us to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account.

I believe God has asked me to take this position at this moment in time. I’m not willing to say that He is not enough, that He can’t equip me for it. Chambers goes on:

Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.

Wow. It’s going to be quite a ride.

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Here’s our latest newsletter. Click the images to get a pdf file.

EyreMail Mar 2011 page 1 EyreMail Mar 2011 page 2

Roy and Becky

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