Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spiders, Idols, Desserts & Typos: A two-part devotional

PART I: The Itsy Bitsy Spider Syndrome

"He made streams pour from the rock, making the waters flow down like a river! Yet they kept on with their sin...." Psalm 78:16-17a (NLT)

Remember the little nursery school song about the itsy bitsy spider?

The spider starts crawling up the water spout, down comes the rain, washes the spider out, out comes the sun, dries up the rain, the spider starts climbing up again.

How stupid was that spider, anyway?

I mean, getting almost to the top and having that cold rushing water knock you all the way down had to hurt! And yet, as the song goes, he does it over and over and over again.

Reminds me of the Children of Israel.

Over and over while they wandered in the dessert, God provided for their needs with amazing miracles.

How much more amazing can you get than to have water come out of a rock in the middle of dry dessert -- enough for the thousands of people and their animals to drink their fill (Numbers 20:8)?

Despite these types of miracles and the daily and nightly presence of God in the form of fire and smoke, they sinned over and over, more than once in willful rebellion to God's direction.

How stupid, right?

Yes, and not unlike our own behavior. Come on, be honest.

Everyone does it; sin that is. It's in our genes; sin is in our skin. It's the curse we're stuck with until heaven is our home.

It's the never-ending struggle of every Christian; albeit a noble struggle.

That we are afflicted with having to deal with sin is annoying and some of the ways we deal with it are stupid and costly.

Maybe we should just stop climbing up those water spouts!

But when we do, just like with the spider, the sun does come out over and over. If we acknowledge, confess, and ask forgiveness for our sins, the Son shines our souls and hearts clean again (1 John 1:9).

Lamentations 3:22-23 promises, "Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

Why would His mercies (compassions) need to be renewed every morning unless He knew we'd need them fresh every day?

Writer Ed Welch states, "When the sentry of our hearts is not vigilant, idolatry is like an instinct. It happens naturally....the Hebrews needed hourly reminders of the character of God. Apparently, we can never have enough reminders of God's extraordinary character. We can never meditate on it too much."

So, we need to avoid water spouts, guard our hearts, meditate on His Word, and when sin trips us up quickly lean on His mercies.

And, above all, don't be like that stupid spider!

Or, spiders.....




PART II: Dessert in the Desert? Typo sins
.

"In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wasteland they put God to the test." Psalm 106:14 (NIV)

So, have you stopped laughing yet? Did you catch the “typo” above? You know, "while they wandered in the dessert."

A sweet image for sure, as opposed to "desert" where it's hot and sandy.

Even though I'm at least a would-be wordsmith, there are a few words where the spelling always trips me up. American English has its quirks.

After typing "dessert" it felt wrong and maybe I looked it up to be sure. But then, maybe I decided to leave it in as an object lesson. Maybe.

Going through life as a Christian can sometimes feel like a trudge in the desert.

Pressures and challenges pour down on us like a hot, relentless sun. The sandy terrain shifts under our feet just as we think we've got our footing. A little dessert break would really be nice, and then the shimmer of an oasis -- or is it a mirage -- appears in the distance.

Sin can be like an ignored typo in our lives. We weren't looking for it but there it is!

Something comes along that doesn't seem quite right yet looks really sweet. We sense in our spirits that it's probably wrong. Maybe there's something in the Bible to guide us?

But, caught up in the preoccupation of the moment, we don't take the time to "look it up" and figure we've endured enough sand and deserve a treat anyway.

We don't stop to think. We act. We indulge. We binge. And then we pay.
This is why we need each other.

One of the toughest things for any writer to do is proofread their own material.

Why? We don't see our own errors; we"see" what we thought we actually wrote and typed. Typos are virtually invisible to the typoist.

One solution is to slow down and read the writing out loud. Another is to have someone else proofread it. In publishing, a whole string of people are involved: proofreaders, copy editors, content editors, and more.

To protect ourselves from "typo" sin slip-ups, we are called to bear with one another, encourage one another, be merciful to one another, love one another, forgive one another; in a sense, be Christ to one another.

That's what church, small groups, godly best friends, and accountability partners are all about.

What's the real dessert in the desert?

As Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the [dessert] from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true [dessert] from heaven. For the [dessert] of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” John 6:32-33 (NIV).

Sweet!

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Are you surrounding yourself with godly friends who can help you spot the "typos" in your life? Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section!

Of course, we do do idol worship, do we?


Thank God that He forgives our "typos" unlike potential employers. And the viewers of the this TV show...

Friday, March 22, 2013

The rabid elephant in the room that needs to die. Now!

My wife and I, both Jack Bauer fans, recently started revisiting the TV series 24. As with most shows or movies that you give a second look, I’m seeing things I didn’t notice before.

One big revelation this time around is that Jack’s most threatening enemy to his success was something that every office in America – yea, verily, around the world! – is infiltrated by.

While Jack was laying his life on the line out in the field engaging in fierce gun battles with terrorists and other bad guys, the people who were supposed to have his back were back in the office busily engaging in a kind of terrorism of their own: Office politics.

Seriously, think about it.

Had there been no office politicking going on, odds are that Jack would not have needed 24 hours to wrap up each season’s save-the-world plot line. He could have had a few bathroom breaks, a relaxing meal, and a nice night’s sleep.

But no!

He had to take the time to deal with people who were intent on hindering his efforts, trying to finagle their way into his job, demanding raises, nibbying into his personal life, jockeying to one-up one another, and on and on it went.

It’s pathetic!

And it’s the sad, sad reality of our corporate, higher ed, non-profit, retail, religious, factory, and organizational work world.

It is the rabid elephant lurking in every meeting room, office, and cubicle that desperately needs to be put down and shown no mercy.

Harmful to children and other life forms

I hate politics.

Not the stuff that goes on in D.C., although it’s often sickening.

Rather, I’m referring to politics that take place where politics don’t belong: in offices, in churches, in all kinds of organizations where people are supposed to be cooperating, collaborating, serving, and innovating.

It’s usually labeled office politics or workplace politics. In this post, I’ll refer to it as OP.

Regardless of how you label it, it’s all about misdirection and the abuse of power.

Practitioners of OP (office politics) step on everyone, lie about co-workers, inflate their own value, take advantage of others, deceive, snipe, lay traps, withhold essential information, and generally create chaos.

Similar to the “fog of war” they seek to create a “fog at work” that disguises their own incompetence while painting others with a blackwash of fake inadequacy.

OP siphons the energies of a workforce away from the mission of the organization.

It’s costly and crippling. There is no positive value in office politics.

Those who actively practice OP are little more than Machiavellian misanthropes, office assassins, and productivity terrorists.

What OP isn’t

Oddly, there are some who laud OP as something useful, necessary, and constructive. These people are either woefully misguided naïfs or just plain ignorant of what OP is and isn’t.

Let’s clarify some things that are not OP tactics, but more the norm for proper etiquette in any workplace:

  • Networking is not OP. Networking is simply learning about others, what they do, their skills, and building a list of contacts. For example, let’s say you have a project in need of a graphic designer; you check your Rolodex and either have a name at hand or know someone who can refer you. Your network is like your own personal “Angie’s List.”
     
  • Getting to know those you work with is not OP. Camaraderie in the workplace is natural and healthy. You want to understand and be respectful of the personality styles, skills, wisdom, experience, and talents of those you work with. And you want to be known and respected equally. Getting to know workmates is about friendship, trust, respect, and civility. It has nothing to do with discovering how to use people for your own malicious purposes or building secret alliances.
     
  • Managing the work environment is not OP. Understanding boundaries, using standard operating procedures, recognizing protocols, and engaging in consistent practices is a boon to productivity. Sometimes these need to be challenged, but the goal is to benefit everyone, both inside and outside the organization.
     
  • Being ethical on the job is not OP. Choosing to always do the right thing, the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons is never the wrong thing to do. Turning a blind eye toward unethical behavior in order to gain points with or power over someone creates a cancer of dishonesty that can hurt everyone.
     
  • Doing your job competently is not OP. You were hired to provide a service in return for an income. When you go to work you should be going to work. And everything you do should be done to the best of your ability. This is a no-brainer.
     
  • Behaving cordially and being courteous on the job is not OP. Civility is an expectation in the workplace. Being civil includes not engaging in rude, arrogant, insulting, belittling, racist, sexist, ageist, or any other inappropriate behavior.
It’s important to discern the differences between abusive OP behaviors and positive workplace behaviors that are constructive. If it supports the mission of the business and benefits all, it’s usually a good thing. If it’s all about one person or a small group, that’s a red flag.

Common OP tactics

Why does OP exist? It’s a tangled, suffocating snare that foments from the compost of incompetence, narcissism, jealousy, laziness, vanity, fear, anger, arrogance, and the like.

It’s nasty stuff taking a variety of forms:
  • OP is used to cover incompetence.
A local columnist characterized one situation like this: “Safety director Flask has proved no more effective in his role. Constant scandal in the fire department, sloth and incompetence in the police department and a sorely stressed EMS department that remains without an identity have marked his tenure. How he has survived is beyond me, but it speaks to a certain political adroitness.”

Note that last sentence and the final two words. We all know someone who should not be in the position they hold yet cling to it, not because of any real job competence, but solely because of “political adroitness.”

OP involves creating a smokescreen to cloud incompetence so a person can maneuver around those who are actually good at real work. These incompetents will also steal the ideas of others and claim them as their own.

When I went to work for a company in Indianapolis, I was warned by coworkers about an HR director who was described as a snake. Because of my position, I’d need to work with him on a regular basis.

Naively I took the warnings with a grain of salt and was determined to hold him “innocent until proven guilty.”

We were handed an important project for the CEO. As it turned out, I ended up doing most of the development. I slowly figured out it was because the HR director was clueless as to how to proceed. However, when we were in a meeting with senior executives to discuss our process and progress, he quickly took credit for everything!

I was stunned and speechless. When I later tried to confront him, which is no easy task for an introvert, he slithered right through my objections with slippery, snake-ish charm. I avoided being connected with him as much as possible after that.
  • OP is used to control instead of manage.
Many who rise to management positions do so by being tactful bullies. They push people out of their way in a most charming manner. It’s very confusing to the pushed. But it’s merely a matter of manipulation.

“Betty” (not her real name) was a senior manager who seemed to enjoy putting employees through the wringer just for the fun of it.

About every six months or so, Betty zeroed in on an employee and always managed to find something she viewed as amiss with their work, even if she had to make it up. Often, it wasn’t clear to the employee what the issue was and so correcting the “wrong” behavior was almost impossible, especially when it wasn’t real. But the fact that their job was on the line was always very real.

Betty never confronted these employees directly, but worked through the managers reporting to her. This meant both the manager involved and the employee were squeezed.

Sadly, Betty wielded a fair amount of power and no one stood up to her, even though everyone (except those above her) knew what she was doing and that it was simply cruel. They knew opposing her would make them a target.

Why was Betty cruel? From all appearances it seemed she enjoyed being able to throw her weight around and was insecure as a manager. This left her with a warped sense of how to manage; all she knew was manipulation and control.

As a result, over the years, several very competent, productive employees left the company. Clearly, this impacted the company’s bottom-line as well.
These are only two examples. I’m sure you can think of several on your own (Maybe share them in the comments section below?).

The bottom line is that OP does horrible damage to people and organizations.

http://www.dilbert.com/

Kill it before it spreads

I’ve watched OP played by senior executives, investors, and others at the top of the heap with their actions actually costing them and their organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some even blatantly acknowledged OP was a game and thought it was fun to create chaos with total disregard to the pain they created in their own organizations.

These same individuals then forced the slashing of budgets and downsized people out of the organization to cover the losses they caused. Yet, they never acknowledged they were the real sources of the problems, and complained vociferously about everyone else’s perceived failings.

Talk about a morale killer!

Intentionally infecting organizations with OP or simply ignoring what’s festering is grossly irresponsible.

OP brings down morale, encourages unethical behavior, reduces productivity, destabilizes the work environment, saps the energies of employees, opens the organization to risk, and significantly cuts into the bottom line.

Worse, OP deflects your organization away from its purpose and away from serving your customers or constituency.

OP undercuts your mission and siphons off passion.

How can you stifle OP? Here are a few suggestions:
  • View people as people. Using euphemisms like “human resources” to refer to the people who make up your organization can be dehumanizing. It becomes easy to think of people in terms of dollars, objects, things to be used. This is dangerous and leads to all manner of abuse. Never lose sight of the humanity of your workforce. They are flesh and blood, living and breathing people with their own thoughts and emotions. Respect them and value them above all else.
  • Nip contention in the bud. Any time you encounter sniping, gossip, excessive conflict, and other negative behavior, get to the bottom of the issue and bring people together as quickly as possible. If necessary, bring in trainers to teach your organization how to handle conflict in a healthy, positive manner.
  • Direct competition outward. Be careful of creating competition between individuals or departments. Internal competition can lead to divisiveness and an “us” versus “them” culture. Use competition to unify the organization to compete against the marketplace or to overcome a problem that needs solving.
  • Practice truly transparent communication. Don’t spin things! Speak the truth without embellishment. Employees are not children that need protecting; they are adult professionals who deserve respecting. Always be honest with others and insist on honesty from them. Whether bad news or good, always tell it straight.
  • Be fair top to bottom. I’ve never really bought into the idea that senior people deserve ridiculously more extravagant perks than lower-ranking people. Sure, anyone taking on more responsibility should earn more money and maybe get a few extra perks. But, beyond that, be careful to avoid establishing a corporate caste system that only engenders resentment and jealousy.
  • Don’t play games with people’s lives. Keep your promises. Treat people with respect. Lead by example. Do all you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Live by the Golden Rule.

You've got to work to avoid being seduced by the lie that office politics is harmless or even a reasonable element of any organization. It isn’t.

As Jack Bauer would say, kill it before it spreads. Now!



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Additional Resources:

Read more in this post:  Eschewing Office Politics to be OK at work

Here are two articles from the same publication that present opposing views on OP (office politics). Frankly, I believe Samuel Bacharach’s pro article isn’t actually addressing true “office politics.” Eric V. Holtzclaw, however, offers additional good tips on the con side. You can judge for yourself:
Here’s an example of one executive working to reduce office politics:
Here’s another take on getting OP out of the office. Note the struggle to define “good” and “bad” OP. I think we need to develop a different term for office politics; something like “workplace backstabbing” perhaps?

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Do you have links to good articles you’d like to share? What kinds of experiences have you endured with office politics? Any additional advice for combating it? If you’re an introvert, do you believe dealing with office politics more stressful?

This video is a funny metaphor that graphically portrays the real violence of office politics. Don’t be fooled by the humor.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Holy sh@#! Do you see what I see?

When I was a kid, my sister and I used to do what were called “specials” in church. That is we’d sing a Gospel song together; her singing and playing the piano, and me, standing behind her as much out of sight as possible, the introvert with a good voice, singing and keeping rhythm with my nervously knocking knees.

A favorite was a song written by Rev. Charles B. Wycuff and recorded by Hank Snow, with Floyd Cramer on the piano, on his 1966 album, Gospel Train. The song was “I See Jesus.”

The song tells the story of another Stephen found in the Bible in Acts chapters 6 and 7.  He was schooling the legalistic and hypocritical religious authorities of the day. As he stood before them, he exclaimed, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man [Jesus] standing at the right hand of God.”

After seeing Jesus he was taken out and stoned.

Down-to-earth earthy sightings

Many people have seen what they believe are images of Jesus in all manner of earthly objects and earthy settings.

Recently a man claimed to see Jesus in bird poop on his car’s windshield. He’s reportedly selling the windshield to a collector of these pop-culture relics.

Just a few days ago, another man, Brian Krantz, discovered Jesus on the drop cloth he was using, exclaiming, “My heart went a million miles an hour. I was hyperventilating.”

Whether on toast, a potato chip, in tree bark, or a streak on a window, I have a hard time believing that Jesus would make such an appearance.

Sometimes I wonder if a different kind of “stoned” isn’t going on.

While I do believe that hyperventilating is an appropriate reaction when confronted by the presence of God – after all, Moses, Isaiah, the shepherds abiding in the field, and others all more or less fell to the ground overwhelmed by their encounters with The Holy – I’m thinking paint stains on a drop cloth or a poop splat on a windshield aren’t exactly of the same caliber.

But I could be wrong.

Looks like…

I mean, how do they know it’s Jesus they’re seeing and not, say, an image of Max von Sydow, Robert Le Vigan, Jim Caviezel, or any number of other actors who have portrayed Jesus in the movies?

Or, perhaps, they’re imagining the vestigial visage of John Lennon, Tommy Chong, the Big Lebowski, or anyone else who ever had long hair and a beard.

The truth is that we really don’t know what Jesus actually looked like.

Most sightings are probably being ID’d against one of the more popularized Christ images of the 20th century, Warner Sallman’s “The Head of Christ.”

But in reality, every image of Christ we’ve ever seen is only a representation of how various individuals have imagined he looked.

So, when someone spots the Savior in an oil slick, they’re not seeing Jesus, but just an idea of Jesus.

Hooey or holy?

It’s easy to dismiss these spottings as a bunch of hooey rather than something holy.

Click on the image to see two
views of the vinyl in our bathroom.
How many images can you spot?

After all, the faux-marble vinyl flooring in our bathroom, when stared at while, you know, you’re sitting in there, can yield what could be images of Christ. In fact, I’ve managed to spot several when I really looked intently trying to find them.

So I wonder, what are these Jesus-in-stuff spotters actually looking for?

Are they looking for an encounter with the real Jesus or something else? Why are they so ready to see Jesus in a candy bar, a chunk of wood, or a frying pan?

It’s easy to blow these people off as less than bright, but I doubt Christ would. I’m guessing that for some reason Jesus is on their minds.

Seeing the reason for the seeing of Jesus

This raises a couple of questions:
  • Why are they looking for Jesus?
  • What Jesus are they looking for?
Are they looking for a talisman, an idol, or a good luck charm?

Or are they looking for the Jesus who can and will change their hearts if they let him. Do they really want to be changed or do they just want to improve their luck?

Perhaps all they really want is to make a little extra cash from someone who collects these quasi relics. Perhaps they’re looking for a Santa Claus effect: give me a better life but leave my life alone at the same time.

It’s pretty common for people to suddenly “need” God (and Jesus is God’s Son) when they’re in trouble or have an intense want.

So maybe these people are doing some soul-searching, looking for an answer to a problem, when “Voila!”, they see what they believe is the face of Jesus in a stain and feel saved.

The thing is, they really aren’t. Saved, that is.

Seeing but not seeing, hearing but not hearing

A lot of people encountered Jesus when he was alive. They saw him and experienced him in person. They heard him speak. They saw him heal. They witnessed his miracles. They filled their bellies from the multiplied loaves and fishes.

And then they crucified him on a cross and walked away.

Today, you can spot decorative crosses hanging from the necks of just about everyone as a sort of good luck charm.

The thing is, Jesus will show up where and when you need him if you call on him. He’s not too proud to get low to be where you are. After all, he made his first appearance on earth in a smelly, muddy stable.

And he did come for your benefit. He said, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

He further explained, that his Father “God so loved the world that he gave [me, Jesus] his one and only Son, that whoever believes in [me, Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send [me] his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through [me, Jesus]” (John 3:16-17).

So looking for Jesus is not a bad thing, but it helps to know what to expect and how to react when he shows up.

You called?

When Jesus gets close, maybe from time to time he does leave a mark on everyday objects. If you spot him in your soup or the foam of your coffee, perhaps you should perk up and pay attention.

Think about what’s going on in your life that is opening you up to a visit. Why are you seeing Jesus and what are you looking to get from him?

What he really wants is to leave a mark on you and change your heart.

To move beyond merely seeing an image of Jesus and being transformed by Jesus is simple. Paul outlines the steps in Romans 10:9-13:
“…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Wearing a cross doesn’t win you blessings. Jesus is not and won’t be your talisman, good luck charm, or relic.

However, seeing Jesus on your windshield could be a clue that he’s near you, cares about your situation, and is just a belief away from becoming your Savior joining in relationship with you.

It’s your choice.

Letting others see Jesus in you

An amazing thing that happens when you take Jesus on as more than just a piece of jewelry is that your life begins to reflect Him.

Stephen from the song was viewed as “a man full of God's grace and power, [who] did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). He had committed his life to Jesus, was in relationship with the risen Christ, and it showed in his courage and care for others.


And when Stephen saw Jesus, he wasn’t looking for some holy handout; he was laying his life down for the Cause and looking forward to being welcomed into heaven.

The Hank Snow song ends,
He prayed, "Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Through the gates of glory down the streets of gold
Marched the hero of the Lord into heaven's fold.
When he met the Savior at the great white throne
I believe He smiled and said, "Stephen welcome home."

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Can you see him? Do you hear his voice? Can you feel his touch? Do you want to experience a relationship with him? Or is he just there like the cross on the chain around your neck?

Monday, March 18, 2013

October Cicada (#PoetryMonday*)

A freak warmth rattles the turned leaves
and makes the coyote pant.

A solitary buzz gnaws the silence,
drawn up late by the unseasonable heat.

He has risen out of the sanctuary ground,
the sepulcher of his birth, one lonely cicada

calling out longingly for a mate
who was eaten by a cedar wax wing weeks ago.

He shouldn't be here now.
He should have stayed under another year or so.

There is none to answer his call and respond with like desire.
How sad a sentence of so many years that ends

by being solitary still, even above ground,
met only by the rattle of dried leaves

and the brief acknowledgement of a passing coyote.
The coyote stops and turns and stares,

cocks it's head toward the futile buzzing,
then trots into the woods and is gone.

The cicada buzzes ever louder until
it falls to the ground, exhausted and ignored.

Not even bird food, it rots back
into the ground from which it arose.

Back home, at rest.




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 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down.


This poem is included in this collection:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Please release me! Held hostage by bait and switch

Several months ago I received an email invite to participate in a webinar being offered for “free” by a company.

The topic of the webinar was something along the lines of how to have great meetings. The description (at least the part I paid attention to) implied tips and tricks and other useful information would be covered.

I signed up and later signed on to the event.

Wow. What a disappointment.

Duped!

It turned out the whole content of the webinar was devoted to this company’s specific event planning product. Period. There was nothing useful offered about how to conduct great meetings.

It was a bait and switch ploy. But, it was free, so I listened for the hour hoping for some useful tidbit (as they promised) and signed off a tad steamed.

Then the phone calls started.

Once or twice a day a representative called to ask if I was interested in the service. I said no and asked them to please stop calling.

It took more than once, but the phone stopped ringing.

Then the emails started.

Trapped!

I replied to at least one and explained that I wasn’t interested at this time, but, if I changed my mind in the future, I knew how to contact them.

The emails kept coming.

I scrolled to the bottom of the message and clicked the unsubscribe button.

But the emails kept coming. I unsubscribed again and that’s when I noticed something unusual. I was not being allowed to unsubscribe to all email from that company, but only from one specific sender.

The emails kept and keep coming. Each one from a different person.

Annoyed!

I find this very deceptive and very annoying.

This company is essentially holding me hostage and forcing me to receive their emails.

Technically, they are following the letter of the law since I don’t receive emails from the people I’ve unsubscribed from.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m going to have to unsubscribe from receiving email from each of their hundreds of employees – one at a time!

This is a tactic that is not endearing me to them. It’s annoying me.

First, they lured me in with a deceptive invitation, and now they won’t let me go.

Tacky.

If you are going to offer a free webinar – or any other “free” service – to potential customers, first and foremost, make it useful to them.

They know about your services and if they are interested they will let you know. But until they do, leave them feeling positive about who you are as a company.

If they’re not approaching you and they unsubscribe from your emails, leave them alone! Continuing to push your way into their inbox is not going to convert them to becoming a customer.

Deception is never a good business practice.

(BTW: After several more unsubscribes and a couple of complaints, eventually the emails ended.)

Shoulda, coulda, woulda

So what should have happened with the webinar? What could have been done to make it a better experience? What would have made for a positive result?
  • Keep your promise and deliver value: If you are going to offer something "free" to potential customers, such as a webinar, workshop, and so on, deliver the useful information you promised. Focus first on giving your participants a positive, valuable experience. Make sure they will walk away with something they can use immediately. Any mention of your product or service must be subtle, brief, and truly contextual. Don't force fit the your "advertorial" into the information or go into an extensive demonstration. If you are presenting tips for running a successful meeting, then, as it makes sense, as you deliver each tip, suggest how your product and service can help on these points.
     
  • Include time and opportunity for questions. If you've provided truly useful information and whetted their curiosity about how your product or service can help them, your participants will want to know more. Let them ask about the features during a Q & A. Everyone will be more receptive to learning more about your product or service after you've won their trust.
     
  • Get explicit permission to call. As tempting as it is to start calling participants simply because you've now captured their phone numbers, don't. Let them know that you'd like to call them and then ask them if that's okay. When you do call, if they ask to not be called again, take them off your call list and don't call again.
     
  • Avoid playing tricks with emails. Making it difficult to unsubscribe from your emails is as annoying as telephone spammers spoofing various numbers trying to get through to you. If the emails you send are thoughtful, creative, engaging, and clever while providing additional useful information rather than just another sales pitch, they are more likely to get read.
Acting with integrity will win you far more business than playing bait and switch games with current and potential customers. Focus on delivering value and quality rather than engaging in cheap tricks.

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Have you experienced a bait and switch tactic? How did you deal with it? Did you ever do business with the company? Please share your story in the comments section...

And now, a musical interlude....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I’m smarter than you are. Well, maybe not: Throwing down online

As I’ve waded into social media, I’ve noticed that everyone likes to show off what they know.

Me too!

Sometimes it feels like people are strutting their head-stuff, putting out information that kind of says, “Hey, I know something you don’t know!” Or, “What I know is better than what you know.”

While this is a little easier to spot online, it goes on all around us every day.

We all get caught up in trying to show off to and one-up others with what we know, from the books we read to the type of music we like, the brands of clothing we wear, or the “sophistication” of what we eat, drink, and drive.

All of this can be a subtle way of saying, “I’m better or smarter than you.”

Different isn't necessarily better

The reality is that, in most cases, no one is radically smarter than another, but merely differently knowledged.

Just because I happen to know about an obscure musical artist or like poetry, and you don’t, does not make me better or smarter than you. Or vice versa. Because you probably know about a different obscure musical artist and like steak tartare, and I don’t.

We’re just differently knowledged and differently experienced.

Differences are to be valued

Those who are truly smart appreciate and value these differences, recognizing them as opportunities to share and learn.

This is what I see as the true value of social media.

When those using it possess the proper attitude, social media can unite, educate, and strengthen.

When it’s misused, it exposes who the punks are.

Sobering up

When I’m tempted to get punkish online or put on airs, the Holy Spirit pushes this passage into my awareness:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. 
If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:1-8, NIV, emphasis mine).
Sober’s a good word to keep in mind to help keep ourselves in line.

When we are sober-minded, whether online or in the real world, the grace we’ve been blessed with will come through as we teach, serve, encourage, give, lead, govern, and generously show mercy.

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What do you think? How do you handle yourself online? In person? Please share your comments below!



 This post brought to you by the letter "H" and the word "Haughty." Watch the video to see God's ultimate question...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Christmas 2011 (#PoetryMonday*)

Heavens' life burns holy fueled,
a cleansing force fetching renewal;
Christ is birthed in world so cruel
to make us each His own dear jewel.





















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This poem is included in this collection: