A New Season

fall leaves

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about seasons lately.

How if the chill of winter never ended then the new life found in spring could never begin. How just when the Texas heat can’t possibly be more brutal, a leaf falls and autumn is around the corner. How each season is distinct and purposeful and never meant to last forever but designed to fuel and prepare for the next season to come.

And once again I find myself mulling over the seasons in my life and leadership: how I can’t rush through, wish away, or stay forever in one season or another. And how just like the calendar, one season of our leadership has to end before the next begins.

Necessary endings” as Henry Cloud calls them.

Leader friends, it’s with an overflowing heart I share with you I’m entering a new season in my leadershipNext week,  I will join the staff team of Valley Creek Church as the Director of Leadership Development. I am beyond grateful for an opportunity to partner with my home church in a way that continues to fulfill my purpose of empowering leaders to change the world. I’m giddy and nervous and over the moon excited about serving alongside leaders I respect and call friends.

Saying this best yes requires saying no to several commitments and opportunities in order to make space to focus on the new. I will be closing up my “leadership shop” and closing down the blog.

What a joy it has been to invest in your leadership these past few years. I look forward to what God has in store for us in the future!

Lead true and lead on,

Julie

 

 

 

What Makes You Brave?

a guest post from author and leader friend Nicole Unice

brave enoughMy leader friend Nicole Unice is a pastor, author, podcast host, wife and mom. I have recommended her most recent book, Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free, so many times I asked if she might be willing to share a bit more with you on what it looks like to be a brave enough woman and leader. 

I signed her book but then she lingered for a moment. The sun was settling down for the night, but her eyes were bright as she put her hand back down on the table in front of us. “Does it work?” she said. I hesitated, not sure what she meant. She repeated her question. “I mean, did it work for you? Are you brave?”

I was signing her Brave Enough book so I should have had a great answer, but I actually did a double take when I thought about her question. Her question was incredible important because this woman was really asking: “is this true?” She wanted to know if she could actually, really, truly “get over her fears, flaws and failures to live bold and free” as the subtitle so audaciously claims.

If we really lived like this kind of courage was possible and accessible to us, our lives would be different. If we really believed God not only loved us, but also was deeply interested in the people He was making us to be, we would be changed.

When the truth of God’s love combines with the courage to be our real selves, it can explode into a glorious freedom—the kind that changes a person permanently.  But God’s chemistry set is a little different than ours—in all kinds of beautiful ways. For weakness he gives strength. For failures he gives freedom. For brokenness he brings healing. He loves unexpected combinations that bring beautiful results.

And so I looked into those bright eyes framed by a darkening sky and I answered, “yes, it works. But it won’t be the way you think it will be.”  Here’s some of the characteristics of a brave-enough woman:

  1. Brave Enough Women love grace. They love grace because they know they desperately need it. They have seen their ugly side and they want to deal with it, but they also know they don’t have the ability to do so. Brave enough women don’t just like the idea of Jesus, they actually realize how deeply they need someone to fix what’s broken inside of them.
  1. Brave Enough Women give grace. They make a daily choice to lean toward the truth of themselves as declared by God. Fully flawed but deeply loved, extremely limited but completely free. Armed with that truth, brave enough women are letting God change their hearts about the people around them—even the ones they are really angry with, disappointed in, frustrated by, and sick of. Especially those ones.
  1. Brave Enough Women get in the race. They aren’t interested in being spectators in life. While they sometimes want to pull the covers up over their heads and hide until Jesus returns, they pray for God to give them strength and put both feet on the floor the next morning. Brave Enough women know that getting in the race is hard work, but ultimately rewarding.
  1. Brave Enough Women take a break. They recognize that limits are given by God, and they recognize their own pride that’s often at work when they live beyond them. Brave Enough women realize that resting when the house is still messy, playing hide and seek with their kids instead of finishing that last email, and finding joy and wonder in every day despite the difficulties of this life is a tangible sign of trust in their Heavenly Father.

Courage isn’t about living a pain-free life. It’s about the grit to live the hard stuff with joy. Courage doesn’t mean we aren’t scared of anything—but it doesn’t mean we aren’t paralyzed by it.  So to answer my friend’s question: yes, I believe it works. Yes, I believe Jesus gives us courage that changes us from the inside out. And yes, I believe with all my heart that it’s possible for me, and for you, and for every woman out there who says “I want to be brave enough.”

Nicole Unice is the author of Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free. The book also has a companion 8-week DVD study. Follow Nicole on Twitter (@nicoleunice) and find out more about Nicole’s ministry and speaking schedule at nicoleunice.com

40 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned in 40 Years

13202_6695Birthdays are a big deal at the Pierce house. Decade birthdays especially. I recently celebrated my 40th birthday by sampling several pies and speaking at a leadership conference. I shared with the attendees a few of the insights I had gained in my 40 years on the planet. One thing I know for sure, the older I get, the more I have to learn!

I love to share with leader friends like you the insights I’ve gained. The following are 40 leadership lessons I’ve learned in 40 years:

  1. The only successful, long-term leadership option is to lead from the strength of your soul. Leading out of your own strength is short-sighted and will only take you to the end of your resources. God’s supply is limitless.
  2. It’s ok to not always know the answers. There is no shame in saying, “I don’t know.” or “Let me look into it and get back to you this afternoon.”
  3. Cookie cutter leadership doesn’t cut it anymore. We lead best when we lead true: when we embrace our one-of-a-kind approach to leadership.
  4. Responsibility without authority is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers, clients or congregation.
  6. Margin in your calendar leads to margin in your mind for innovative thought.
  7. There is always time to pee. No matter how jam-packed your schedule is or how late you might be, there is always, always, always time to pee. Women leaders are the worst at taking care of their bladders.
  8. Decisions should be made with the end in mind. Will this help your team take a step toward or away from your goals? Dangling decisions clutter our minds and frustrate our teams. Make the call and move on it.
  9. In addition to multiple mentors, every leader needs a professional counselor on retainer. (I also highly recommend a leadership coach on standby, but I’m a little biased.)
  10. Approaching conflict in a healthy way takes discipline and practice, especially in the workplace. If you can’t get over what someone did to you, address it with them privately and then with a trusted advisor.
  11. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You may be the “Big Boss Lady” but you’re also the girl who had Hobbit feet while pregnant and dressed as Gilligan for a skit in front of 500 women. (No? Just me? Well, you get the idea.)
  12. Leaders can’t lead well on caffeine alone. Fuel your body each day with healthy foods, eight hours of sleep, fresh air, and exercise. A healthy body leads to healthy thinking which leads to healthy leading.
  13. Everything is negotiable. (Yes, I mean everything.)
  14. For leader moms with children living at home: summer never works exactly as you have it planned. Do your best and set your expectations accordingly to avoid the summer cycle of frustration.
  15. If you have children and you work full-time outside of your home, have full-time childcare. Patchwork, pieced together care for your kiddos is a logistics nightmare and an emotional drain. One loose string gets pulled and the whole thing falls apart.
  16. There is a 157% chance one of my boys will wake up with a fever on a day I have a packed schedule or speaking engagement. On big days, have a back-up childcare plan. And get OK with sometimes the only option that makes sense is rescheduling everything and staying home with your sick kiddo for snuggles and clean-up.
  17. Wherever you are, be fully present.
  18. Winning leaders take a coach approach to leadership. Instead of dishing out endless answers and solutions, ask questions to help your team discover another perspective.
  19. “Monday Chocolate” is a survival kit essential.
  20. Wins are worth celebrating. Big or small, momentous or mundane, throw a party and share your enthusiasm for your team.
  21. Leaders are readers.
  22. Avoiding what you’re afraid of is not a leadership strategy.
  23. There are pioneers in every industry and every organization, who paved the way for you to do what you do. Take every opportunity to thank them.
  24. Accept responsibility for your mistakes and sincerely apologize. Then, do what it takes to make it right with your client, team, or boss.
  25. Share the credit but not the blame.
  26. Clarity is one of the greatest gifts you can give your team. Clarity around vision and expectations empowers and inspires.
  27. Any message worth communicating is worth communicating well. Consider your audience: what are the best methods, timing, and wording for them?
  28. An extraordinary administrative assistant can make your work life work and your dreams come true. Her insight, partnership, and “How in the world did you do that?” skills can save your sanity and make you swear she is your fairy godmother. Or a guardian angel. Or a fairy angel.
  29. Timing may not be everything, but it’s a whole lot.
  30. Leadership requires recognizing what season you’re in and doing the work of that season. Stop harvesting when the season calls for preparing or planting when the season calls for harvesting. Even more important? Realizing when it’s time to switch crops.
  31. You are in charge of the culture you create. Whatever you encourage, allow, or overlook will become embedded into the DNA of your organization. Be intentional.
  32. Every leader needs a circle of peers: safe people outside your organization to process the hard inside your organization.
  33. Don’t hire people you aren’t excited about. Settling for a seat-filler backfires every time. Hire people you would get a kick out of working with.
  34. Firing someone is hard – no matter how necessary. Take careful notes, consult your HR rep and mentors, and conduct the difficult conversation with class and care. No matter what happens next – name calling, email campaigns, loss of friendship – be respectful and tight lipped.
  35. Your team and your leaders need you to speak up. Speak up about injustices, ideas, and inquisitive questions. Speak up with courage, confidence, and conviction.
  36. You can’t control what others say, think, or do about you. But you can control the ammunition you give them to fire at you.
  37. Negative people are toxic to your organization. Call people out on their passive aggressive behaviors, gossip swaps, and pessimistic remarks. Challenge them to change their approach or change their job.
  38. Early is on time. Being late indicates one of three things: 1) a blatant disrespect for others, 2) a time management issue, or 3) a passive-aggressive way of controlling the situation.
  39. Give generously of your time, resources, and ideas. Scarcity thinking sees every co-worker and industry leader as a competitive threat. Abundance thinking sees opportunity for collaboration at every turn.
  40. Leadership requires you to try something and fall on your face and get back up with humility and grace to try again. Fierce leaders realize what they’re doing is of immense importance, and that it just may not work. Yet.

Sweet Customer Service

He had me at “Ritz.”

My husband recently invited me to join him on a business trip staying at the Ritz Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee in Georgia.

Um, yeah. I can work from there.

Upon arrival, the only thing that moved me more than the serene setting was the service. Oh how I love the Ritz Carlton service experience.

My first night there, I found myself chatting with the staff and asking my favorite question, “What’s your favorite place for pie around here?” They were eager to answer with the not-to-be-named-here diner featured in a national magazine for it’s “Best in the South” buttermilk pie.

I frowned.

I shared with them that I had done my pie research before arriving and had in fact visited the recommended place earlier that day only to leave deeply disappointed. Their pie was in fact NOT the best buttermilk pie in the South. Far from it.

One of the staff, named Tyler, mentioned that he thought the Ritz had a pretty good buttermilk pie. I told him I might try it before I left town. (But to be honest, I no longer trusted their pie judgment and had no intention of trying out their pie. I mean really, what could the Ritz Carlton possibly know about buttermilk pie?)

About 10 minutes later, back in my room, I heard a knock at the door. I was surprised to find a smiling room service server holding a plate with a slice of the most beautiful buttermilk pie I had ever seen. She proceeded to say, “Tyler shared with us your disappointing pie experience at the ____ today. And well, we thought maybe you would like to try ours. We hope you enjoy it!”

What??!!??

This sweet surprise* gesture was totally unnecessary. Which is why it worked in winning my undying devotion to Ritz Carlton.

Which one of your clients or partners could use some sweet customer service today? How could you empower your team to make these sweet surprise gestures part of their everyday?

Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

*After I recovered from the sweet service shock, I tasted the pie. Heaven on a plate. In fact, it’s one of the best buttermilk pies I’ve ever eaten. And believe me, I’ve eaten a lot of buttermilk pie.

**If this is the first time you’ve heard me go on about pie and you’re wondering why I’m so pie crazy, check out my Humble Pie post or my thoughts on How Pie Made Me a Better Leader. 

 

Humble Pie, Anyone?

humble pie cutoutI’m a little obsessed with pie.

Beyond just sampling slices, I love to read about pie, talk about pie, and research pie recipes. When friends ask, “What’s up with all the pie posts on Facebook lately?” My answer is, “Pie R&D.”

Just like you, I’ve got my favorites: coconut cream, triple berry, deep dish apple, smooth french silk. And just to be fair, there are a few pies I could live without: cherry, mincemeat, grasshopper. (Really, grasshopper?)

But by far, my absolute least favorite pie of all is humble pie.

I’ve eaten a LOT of humble pie over the years. Served up by strangers, family, team members and bosses, I scarf it down with a scoop of shame. (Pie is always better a la mode, right?) After choking down the final bite, I get plenty of heartburn over the human error, the mistake, or the flat out sin that got me there in the first place. I play the scenario over and over in my mind trying to find someone else to blame. I ridicule myself for letting others down; for letting myself down.

I basically beat myself up for not being the perfect leader, mom, or friend. Or I find I had let pride and ego cloud my judgment or loosen my lips. And aren’t those just two of the ugliest qualities a leader can have? The insistence on perfection and the self-deception of pride? Not exactly the reputation I want to cultivate.

But what if humility became our hallmark?

What if leaders ate humble pie for breakfast?

The following are a few qualities of a leader fueled by humility:

  • A humble leader looks out for others and serves.
  • A humble leader expects occasional mistakes from herself and her team.
  • A humble leader has an accurate view of herself and her contribution.
  • A humble leader regularly shares credit and praise.
  • A humble leader is quick to accept responsibility, apologize, and make things right.

Those are the qualities I want to describe me and my leadership. I have to admit: I’m acquiring a taste for humble pie. (Now I have a great excuse for eating pie for breakfast!)

How about you? How would you describe a humble leader?

 

Your Top Priority Today: Show Up & Shine

sparkler by Morgan SessionsLeader friend, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate today.

Meetings. Errands. Lists. Deadlines. Emails. (And more emails.)

I also know you’ve got at least one thing, if not several things, you’re dreading.

The presentation with the horribly awful client. The review with your never-pleased boss. The phone call with your “seriously concerned about you” sister. The hallway interaction with the intimidating new guy.

You’ve got a team that needs you. Friends and family depending on you. All the demands and expectations and pressures are enough to tempt you to fake it, sharpen your claws, or shrink with fear.

For the love of all things leadership, please don’t.

Please don’t give in to the temptation to pretend to be someone you’re not or tie on your Superwoman cape.

Please don’t let fools win by engaging in petty gossip, futile word wars, or senseless shows of ego.

And please don’t let fear keep you hiding behind a desk or behind a mask.

Please.

What your team, your organization, me and the rest of the world need more than anything else we may be asking for is you. That’s why your top priority today is not meeting that deadline or pleasing that client or checking off that list.

Your top priority today is to show up and shine.

What’s needed most is for you to show up. Show up with your ideas, your perspective, your style, your experience. We need you to show up and shine in a way that only you can. Here are a few ways you can show up and shine today:

  • Show up with the Savior. Sit with him, listen to him. Let him remind you that you are first and foremost his daughter and that he delights in the way he made you. Lean into him and let him stir your heart. Let him reveal where he is already at work and ask how you can join in.
  • Show up with your words. Speak up and say the hard truth about the blind spot. Ask the powerful question. Share the compliment you always think but never say aloud. Voice the encouragement, the concern, the reality, and the hope.
  • Show up with your presence. Physically put yourself in close proximity to the production problem so you can see the solutions more clearly. Visit the leader friend who needs to see your supportive face in person. Say no to the non-essentials so you can say your best yes with your attention and energy.

Leader friend, if I sound like I’m pleading with you it’s because I am. As a new friend once told me, “your leadership is your art.” We need you to show up and shine through the art of your leadership today.

 

Leading with Joy, Even When It’s Awful

I looked through tear-filled eyes at the mighty women around the table and knew I would never be the same.

Our broken hearts grieved the unspeakable horrors that had just been spoken. Stories of lives ravaged and broken by violence, sickness, and poverty. These women had not only witnessed the devestating effects, but had lived them, too.

After hearing their stories, I expected my new leader friends to feel defeated. The numbers were too big, the problems too complex. I expected them to be filled with bitterness and hopelessness at the injustice of it all.

What shocked me more than their stories was their joy.

morethanwhimsyTheir eyes lit up and their voices filled with delight as they spoke of a young leader stepping up or God’s provision for a new microfinance project. They oohed and aahed as they passed pictures of their children and grandchildren. They grinned sly smiles when they shared how they worked around broken systems. And oh how they laughed great big belly laughs as they watched me try to learn their dance. (It was quite comical.)

Joy was more than a feeling: joy fueled their resolve and their fight.

And over the course of a week in a small guest house in Nairobi, these strong women led the charge to fight back with joy as we prayed, and strategized, and banded together to make a difference in the lives of women in Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Sudan.

These leaders taught me the power of God’s joy in life and leadership.

fight back with joy coverMy leader friend Margaret Feinberg shares the power of joy in her latest book, Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears. Through vulnerable storytelling, a difficult diagnosis, and a good dose of humor, Margaret reveals how joy is more than whimsy. It’s the weapon you can use to fight life’s battles.

I’ve recommended and shared and gifted Margaret’s books countless times over the years. If you’ve ever struggled to find joy in the middle of the awful, ugly, hard, pick up a couple of copies of Fight Back With Joy. (You’ll have a friend you need to share it with, too. Trust me.) You can find out more by visiting Margaret’s website, checking out the bible study trailer, or ordering the book here. Check out #fightbackwithjoy on Twitter, too.

Leader Friend, I’m praying you are encouraged to choose joy for the battles you are facing today. Whether personal or professional, your difficult struggles have never met a weapon quite like joy.

Let’s Be Fierce Leaders in 2015

tiger photo-1417722009592-65fa261f5632In 2015, I want us to be fierce leaders.

I don’t mean Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce. And I don’t mean fierce in the dictionary sense: savage, vicious, ferocious. More like Seth Godin fierce.

Wait, let me back up…

You see, for the past several years I’ve chosen a one-word focus for the year. This word gets written at the top of the white board in my office and serves as a reminder of what I believe God is calling me to in the year to come. This prayerfully chosen word inspires focus and determination in my personal and professional life.

For 2013, my word was Courage. For 2014, I had two words in Dare Greatly. And as the clock was ticking down towards 2015, I was still wondering what my word would be.

And then I started reading Seth Godin’s phenomenal new book, What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn)*. And there it was, on page 78, a word I would never in a million years pick was jumping off the page as I thought about my life and leadership in the coming year.

Fierce.

On page 78, Seth explains how furious is not the same as fierce. How being furious and getting yourself all worked up, fighting and striving, letting your ego lead, never works. But listen to what he says about the person who displays fierceness:

He cares so much about the work and the community and the opportunity to make a difference that he’s able to be rational when everyone else winds themselves into a knot being furious.

Fierceness takes honesty and commitment. Fierceness means telling yourself the truth about what’s at stake and what’s possible, without expending a drop of energy on trying to make everything okay…

Fierce means living with the simultaneous certainty that this is vitally important and this might not work.

You see?

Oh Leader Friend. Your leadership is vitally important to your team, your organization. Your words, your efforts, your planning and prayers all matter. And if you’re exploring and learning and growing and innovating you will constantly be aware that this version of the product, this attempt at meeting a need, it just might not work.

But it might.

And isn’t that just what God is asking of us in our leadership? To have faith and to put our whole selves out there for the work He has called us to without 100% guarantee that everything will be okay in the end.**

Which means we have to lean on Him. Rely on Him. Run to Him for strength, direction, provision, and peace.

And is there really any other way to lead?

Leader Friend, let’s be fierce leaders: this year and every year.

*I can’t begin to tell you how highly I recommend this book. Like go right now and buy several copies to share with your friends and read it all together and make a difference.

**Our pastor, John Stickl shared a great message along these lines last Sunday. He shared how he wants to really “go for it” this year and not hold back with worry of what others will think or what the outcomes might be – just all out obedience. Yes and yes.

5 Tactics for Drowning Out Distractions

distractionsToday I’m staring down a writing deadline.

And wouldn’t you know it? Today is the day when:

  • my junk drawer needs organizing,
  • my Christmas list needs shopping,
  • my meetings need scheduling,
  • my eyebrows need shaping,
  • my teeth need whitening,
  • and my kids’ flu shots need shotting (?).

All because I have a good amount of writing to get done.

Today.

The day I set aside.

To get the writing done.

Ever been there leader friend? You’re staring down a deadline and yet you’re so distracted with piddly to-dos screaming your name, begging you to waste your time on them instead of what you really need to do?

Here are 5 tactics to drown out distractions and stay focused:

  1. Focus on the one thing. As author Gary Keller describes in his excellent book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, nothing helps us be successful like the power of focusing on just one thing. To get to this, I ask myself two questions: “What’s the one most important thing for me to accomplish today?” and “What’s the most powerful use of this moment to make sure that one thing happens?” When I write down the answers to these questions on stick them to my computer, then I have to see them. Staring at me. Daring me to do anything else but this.
  2. Determine a deadline. I like using one big deadline and several small deadlines. For me today this looks like: By 2:45pm – a really good draft that just needs some fine-tuning. By lunch – all my thoughts and references into the document. By 10am – the main idea and supporting points. Little deadlines help me stay on track when my mind starts to wander or a phase starts taking too long.
  3. Create a “don’t forget” list. I keep a large, blank sheet of paper next to me while I’m staying focused so I can capture all those important things that fly through my brain and attempt to pull me away from the task at hand. (Right now, my sheet has things like, “Order Hudson’s choir uniform.” and “Send Pepaw’s birthday card.”) Capturing these fly-by thoughts on a blank sheet of paper keeps me from getting distracted on my phone if I were to add them to the appropriate lists there. I’ll do that later. (After I’ve finished the one thing.)
  4. Clear away physical distractions. Close down any apps/programs/windows you don’t need. Put away your car keys and the stacks of papers for other projects. Turn off alerts. Hide your fun magazines or your latest novel. Put your phone on airplane mode. For me, this looks like closing down my email, Twitter, and Amazon windows.
  5. Refuse interruptions. Don’t answer your door for the delivery man. (Unless he’s bringing flowers. Or lunch.) Let calls go to voicemail and emails fill up the inbox. Put a sign on your door saying you can’t be interrupted. Choose a time later in the day when you can respond to all inquiries with the appropriate focus.

What tactics would you add to the list? What helps you drown out distractions and stay focused?

 

 

In case you feel like throwing in the towel today

verseMaybe this week has already been hard.

Really hard.

You’re wondering if anybody notices. If all of this struggle and conflict and effort even matter.

You’re thinking of throwing in the towel. You want to give up.

Need a pep talk from a coach who has been there and cares?

Hang in there.

You can do this.

Your team needs you.

Eye of the tiger. (Wait. That’s a song–but totally appropriate for this moment.)

If you’re needing something a bit more inspirational and meaningful, below are a few of my favorite Scriptures that help me press on:

  • So I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3
  • Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
  • I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
  • Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24

*If you’re still needing a boost, check out the playlist, tips, and resources in this post. 

What quotes, verses or words of inspiration help keep you going when leadership gets hard?