Wednesday, July 31, 2013

(Modified Re-Post) Things

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:28-31 (NIV)

No "things"

In my Expository Writing class in college, the professor, Dr. Elsie Elmendorf (now with the Lord), would admonish us regularly to avoid the use of the word "things" in our writing. Her reason was that it was too general, and when writing persuasively, we should be specific.

Generally I would agree with that assessment, but specifically in this passage, I think even Professor Elmendorf would agree that Paul's use of "things" is entirely appropriate. Why? Because it's so inclusive, especially attached to "all." 

All things

"All things" means exactly that. Everything that comes into our lives as Christians, no matter why or how, can be turned from bad to good through the grace of God.

This isn't always easy to accept when the "thing" touching us is hurtful, disappointing, and damaging. In the midst of a bad thing, disillusion, despair, anger, and more cloud our sense of hope and worth. Especially if the bad thing, the hard circumstance, is a consequence of our own sinfulness, the intentional act of another in whom we trusted, or the seeming senselessness of a random accident. 

Bad things

But whatever the source of the bad thing, the truth of Paul's statement stands. Paul knew pain, disappointment, and frustration. He experienced a lot of very bad things. How did he deal with these?

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 he wrote:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
We don't know what Paul's thorn was, but it's clear that it was an uncomfortable thing. Many commentators believe that what it wasn't was some sort of struggle with sin.

I believe Paul was vague on purpose, leaving open the possibilities to allow us to identify with his experience of grace. It does not diminish Paul's stature or impact to think that he could have been challenged by sin. In fact, in Romans 7:16-20, he offers a wrenching revelation of just such a struggle. 

Good things

Whatever "things" come into our lives, both good and bad, we can "be more than conquerors" through the strength of Christ, the grace of God, and hope fed by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

When faced with death, disease, disappointment, failure, betrayals, divorce, loss, joblessness, debt, injury, false accusations, and "all things," we can be confident even in the midst of grief or shame, "that he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

And that, I think you'll agree, is a very good thing!

How have you overcome various things in your life? Have you seen bad things become good things in the end?

Friday, July 26, 2013

(Modified Re-Post) PBTAS: Sweet tips for licking sticky interviews

When coaching people who are about to be interviewed by the press, common advice is to tell them not answer questions too quickly, to take their time, to think.
One of my favorite tips comes from an episode of The West Wing where Leo, who’s an expert at this stuff, has to be reminded not to accept the premise of the question. That’s a great tip, too!
Being grilled, even by a friendly griller, can cause you to feel like you’re being cooked while basting in your own sweat!
In any situation where you have to field questions, it’s good to have a tool that can help keep you cool, calm, and collected.
I’ve got just the thing to beat the heat of any Q/A situation: PBTAS. This is an acronym for the mnemonic, Peanut Butter Taffy Apple – Stick.

I shared this little treat with people at a university enduring a site visit from accreditors. Many had to sit through both one-on-one and group interviews, and they were a tad nervous. 
They later  reported the acronym and mnemonic helped them to stay on point and keep their answers succinct which was exactly the goal.

So, what does Peanut Butter Taffy Apple – Stick stand for? 
  • Pause
  • Breathe
  • Think
  • Answer (or act)
  • Stop.
Peanut = Pause
For some reason, when asked a question we feel like we need to have the answer on the tip of our tongues. Sometimes we feel almost compelled to start answering before they’re finished asking the question. When you are asked a question, you are not required to respond immediately. In fact, it’s usually best if you don’t. Listen carefully to the question. Don’t start focusing on formulating a response until you’ve heard and understood the complete question. Take a moment to pause and reflect.

Butter = Breathe
While you are pausing, breathe! Take a few slow, deep breaths; they’ll help relax you and clear your head. Breathing keeps the oxygen feeding into your blood which in turn feeds your brain.

Taffy = Think
When asked a question, you have the right to remain silent and actually think about how to answer. In fact, feel free to ask to have the question repeated, and then, just before you answer, restate the question. This gains you more time to formulate your best response. Never answer a question off the cuff without forethought!

Apple = Answer
Now it’s time to answer the question. You can’t hold out forever! But don’t sweat it. Tell the truth. Stick to the facts. Don’t spin. Use verbiage from the question in your answer. And if you don’t know something, say so. Don’t ever try to fake an answer when you really don’t know; it’ll come back to bite you sooner or later, especially if you’re dealing with the media.

(Act.) You can also use this little formula when working through a decision. In this case, the “A” would represent “Act” instead of “Answer.” Just as you can’t keep mum forever when in an interview, you don’t want to get locked up in a decision-making loop – you’ve got to step out and take action at some point.
Stick = Stop
Have you ever noticed that when you’re chatting with someone and both of you go quiet at the same time it feels a little awkward? Why? Silence between friends is not a bad thing! And it’s also not a bad thing after you’ve given a complete answer to a question. Just stop.
Click  on the image,.
print it out and
keep these additional
tips with you

If you’re dealing with a reporter, or any interviewer, odds are they’re going to be quiet for a few moments even after it’s obvious you have finished answering their question. Why? Because the natural tendency is to fill the silence with more talking, and if you keep rambling on, odds are you’ll say something you wish you hadn’t.

A reporter isn’t as interested in your factually correct, nicely worded answer as much as he or she is hoping you’ll provide a provocative sound bite. You don’t want to go there. It’s much easier to bear the momentary awkward silence than it is to endure the never-ending embarrassing sound bite playing over and over on the news.

Stopping and remaining silent is kind of like “sticking it to" theinterviewer  who is hoping against hope you’re going to ramble and fumble. Just stop it! Shush! Say no more! Maintain control.
That's a wrap!

So, there you have it: Peanut Butter Taffy Apple – Stick.
Sure, feel free to use Pause, Breathe, Think, Answer – Stop if you want, but that’s just not as much fun to say or as easy to remember; the mnemonic has more stickiness!

This tool is handy in a job interview, when fielding questions from a group, when meeting with your boss, or any situation where you are required to answer questions.
It will all be sweet when you remember Peanut Butter Taffy Apple – Stick.
 Do you have any similar tips and tricks for handling interviews? Share them in the comments!

Monday, July 1, 2013

(Re-post) Mis-Pegged: Don’t call it incompetence

Voids demand to be filled. It’s common, especially in small organizations, for people to step up and fill a void, even if they aren’t necessarily the right or best person for the job.
They see a need that’s not being addressed; they take the risk and the initiative to do the best they can with what they have to offer.

At the time this happens, others in the organization see and understand what’s happening. The expectations are adjusted to meet the skill level of the person taking on the task. What they are doing is appreciated and valued.

Time passes. They struggle valiantly, faithfully, thanklessly. Managers come and go. Executives come and go. The “corporate memory” fades.
New leaders come into the organization and look at this one-time-hero, shake their heads, and mutter, “Incompetent! Dead wood! Gotta go!”

Jack Welch believes that it’s important for companies to hire the best people. In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins agrees, emphasizing how important it is to get the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off.

But Welch also states, “Each one of us is good at something, and I just believe we are happiest and the most fulfilled when we’re doing that.”

And Jim Collins asserts, “Instead of firing honest and able people who are not performing well, it is important to try to move them once or even two or three times to other positions where they might blossom.” 
He clarifies that you need the right people in the right positions to become a great company. This doesn't mean pushing them out the door or throwing them under the bus.
NOTE! A round peg in a square hole doesn’t make the peg incompetent. The incompetence lies with the hand holding the mallet trying to “motivate” the peg to fit and perform.
You can have the best-of-the-best, universe class, six sigma-tized, roundest-of-round pegs, but if you try to slam them into a square hole -- or any other non-round shaped hole -- the fault is not the peg's.

The next time you catch yourself passing judgment on someone you view as incompetent, take the time to get the full story. Gather the facts, uncover the history, seek to learn what they love and are really good at, and especially how they got to where they are.

So much great and valuable talent has been shamefully tossed aside only because the peg was one perfect shape and the hole was the wrong fit. That’s the result of arrogant and lazy leadership which is true incompetence.

(first posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009)
 Have you ever found yourself "mis-pegged" or witnessed others who have? Share your insights in the comments!

Being forced into a position that doesn't fit who you are is not your fault!