Need a Boost?

boost-jumper-cables-and-handHere we are: a few weeks in to the New Year. By now, your New Year’s resolutions may be a distant memory. Or maybe your ambitious goals are starting to feel less exciting and more overwhelming–maybe even impossible.

Need a little boost? Look no further!

Try one of my 12 Favorite Boosts to Keep You Going This Year:

Podcast: Author Michael Hyatt shared his Top 10 Productivity Hacks on his “This Is Your Life” podcast (episode 75). The Boost: Picking up a new tip for streamlining your workflow from this productivity guru is a sure thing in this podcast.

Book: Jon Acuff’s book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters is just the read you need to get going on any endeavor. The Boost: With this read, you’ll get started today. Not tomorrow, next month, or next year, but today.

4 Apps I Love:

  1. Feedly: Are you wanting to get a better handle on the blogs you frequent? This is my one stop for online reading. I pulled in all of the blogs and news sources I follow to have one place to go for updates. The Boost: This resource not only helps me organize the sites I frequent, but it also helps me group content I want to reference and share easily.
  2. MyFitnessPal: If you’re like me and have fitness goals for 2014, this app is for you. With a built-in database of common exercises and foods (even a barcode scanner), it’s easy to track what’s fueling your body. The Boost: Community. You can invite you friends to sync up with you to encourage you along.
  3. Evernote: Are you wanting to be more organized this year? When I try to keep up with 15 Post-Its or, even worse, just try hard to remember that quote, I feel scattered and unorganized. Now, every note from every meeting I attend, book I read, speaker I hear or fleeting idea, it all goes in here. The Boost: Every note is with me, in one place, easy to find, all of the time. I use this app on my phone, my iPad and on my PC by going through the website. (Be sure to check out Michael Hyatt’s collection of helpful posts on getting the most out of Evernote.)
  4. Coffitivity: Wanting to be more productive when you work from home? I love the idea of working from a coffee shop and yet hate the loud talker and too-loud lyrics that distract me from my task at hand. Enter Coffitivity: ambient coffee shop sounds, without all of the distractions. Most days, I keep it going in my home office as background noise from my desktop (like right now). The Boost: Research shows Coffitivity is a creativity enhancer with “enough noise to work.”

6 Tunes to Try: When I start to drag and take a quick break to get my juices flowing again, this music is my go-to power playlist. (And, of course, I’ve got a recent Amy Grant tune included.) The Boost: These songs help me push through the cobwebs or obstacles and remind me to dare greatly.

  • Addison Road – “This Could Be Our Day”
  • Amy Grant – “Our Time Is Now”
  • Katy Perry – “Roar”
  • Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger” (What Doesn’t Kill You…)
  • Mandisa – “Overcomer”
  • Natalie Grant – “Hurricane”

What are your favorite boosts to keep you going? I would love to hear them in the comments!

*Note: I get zero dollars from any of the individuals or companies mentioned in the lists above.

Unhealthy Pace? Embrace Sabbath

Do you feel like you meet yourself coming and going? Is your month packed with weeknight obligations and overstuffed weekends that leave you exhausted instead of fulfilled? Ever feel so busy pouring into others that you don’t have time to recover, much less replenish or develop yourself?

My sinful pride has always been fed on my aspirations to do a little more, a little better, than others around me. You’ve got a challenge? I’ll take it on. A new initiative needs leadership? Bring it. My performance-driven desire for approval always told me if I worked harder, faster, and smarter, then I would be successful. (These are obviously part of the “dark side” of my leadership. Not pretty.)

Almost four years ago, after living this way for a long time, I hit a wall. A wall that felt as thick and strong as the brick walls of my home. And instead of bouncing back, or looking for a way to climb it or go around it, I crumbled. I had experienced the two most demanding years of my professional life. I had pushed through, pressed on, given it more of me until there literally wasn’t anything left. The relentless pace and lack of margin had left me dry: relationally, spiritually, and emotionally.

My leadership was less at a time when I felt I was giving it more.

The remedy for this kind of exhaustion and depletion is not escaping to a beach somewhere for a week. (Although it doesn’t hurt!) I often look to a quick fix like taking a day off or squeezing in a massage to give me a little boost so I can jump back in and keep running. But this is short-term thinking.

Unhealthy pace can only be resolved through on-going, life-giving rhythms of work and rest. And one of the simplest and yet most difficult rhythms to implement is Sabbath.

Here are three things you can do NOW to embrace Sabbath:

1. Reserve: Set aside a weekly, 24 hour period, where you are not laboring and adding to creation, but delighting in your Creator. (It doesn’t have to be Sunday by the way.) While you are at your calendar, consider blocking out a day or weekend every few months for an additional season of Sabbath.
2. Reflect: In what environments and through what spiritual practices have you most often experienced God’s closeness? What activities bring you great joy? Reintroduce one of those environments or activities into your Sabbath this week.
3. Read: Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner and Sabbath by Dan Allender deeply affected by outlook on what Sabbath could look like. Read another’s experience with this rhythm and see what it sparks in you.

I don’t just want us to slow down or avoid burnout. My true desire for leaders like you and me is that we would abandon the unhealthy pace and lean into God’s life-giving way of life and leadership.

What will you do this week to embrace Sabbath?

Silence as a Leadership Discipline

Several years ago, a woman we’ll call Rita came to me carrying a big bag of offenses for her friend Sherry. Sherry was extremely angry with me, deeply disappointed by my leadership, and quite confident I was a liar. As I sat across from Rita, she demanded I explain myself. She recounted, incorrectly, the conversations I had with Sherry and wanted to know why I said those things and how I could hurt someone like that. Ouch.

I listened. I tried to pray for compassion. I sorted through the fact and fiction of what she was saying. When it finally came time for me to respond, I realized I didn’t have a whole lot to say.

I shared with her how I was truly sorry Sherry was hurting. I went on to say I would not be sharing details of my previous conversations with Sherry as they were private–and it would not be honoring of Sherry, or appropriate for me to share them, even if I felt like it would correct or complete the one-sided story she had heard. And then I told Rita I was doing my absolute best, with God’s help, to lead and love others in the middle of some very difficult circumstances. And that was all I said.

This was not the first or last time I have had this kind of conversation and had to choose with all of my will to be silent; to choose not to go toe-to-toe with someone, or her friend, who is misrepresenting me or the situation.

Silence is both a refining spiritual discipline and a defining leadership discipline.

As a spiritual discipline, silence allows us to clear out the clutter our never-ending supply of words brings to our daily lives. As a leadership discipline, silence sets us apart from the chaos of conflicting reports of “he-said, she-said” when emotions run high.

When preparing to respond to someone, THINK through the following questions before speaking:

  • T: Is it true?
  • H: Is it honoring to the other person?
  •  I: Is it inspiring?
  • N: Is it necessary?
  • K: Is it kind?

If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, silence might be your best response.

Now, I am not saying that you should never defend yourself. I believe healthy confrontation and a biblical approach to conflict resolution are an essential part of great leadership. However, sometimes in the name of “setting the record straight” we are actually just trying to win people to our side of the conflict- to get our friends or followers to forge an alliance and take up our offenses instead.

Sometimes the most appropriate and loving response in a difficult situation is the most disciplined as well: silence.

 

Spiritual Leadership and Spiritual Direction

direction signsAs spiritual leaders, we are constantly seeking God for direction:

  • Is it time to make a change?
  • Which person do I hire?
  • What’s the vision for this ministry?
  • Which way should I go from here?

And sometimes in our leadership, it can be really hard to hear from Him. We are deaf from all the distracting noise. Or we just aren’t sure if we are hearing Him correctly at all.

An excellent resource for a spiritual leader is a Spiritual Director. Spiritual Directors are trained professionals who help you listen for how God is moving in your life and leadership. Over time, the ministry of spiritual direction can help you become more aware of God’s presence, discern His direction and will, and receive His guidance. While a good Spiritual Director will not tell you what to do, they will help you seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Direction has been an essential part of leadership for me. Through confidential conversations with my Spiritual Director, I have found a tool for caring for my soul, a second set of ears to help me listen for God’s direction, and a dear companion for my spiritual leadership journey.

If you are interested in finding out more about the ministry of Spiritual Direction, talk to your church’s pastor or see the Evangelical Center for Spiritual Wisdom. Their site includes an overview of spiritual direction and a list of their trained and certified directors. I also have several friends who are certified Spiritual Directors that I would be happy to recommend – just email me with your interest at Julie@empoweredbypierce.com.

What resources help support your spiritual leadership?

Leading with God Part 3: Discernment

woman readingMy previous posts in this series, Leading with God, talked about abiding instead of striving and a rhythm of work and rest. This post will focus on how we avoid the third way we leave God out of our leadership: making decisions in a vacuum.

When I start to feel squeezed from the ticking stopwatch or job stress or family demands, I start going solo in my leadership. I start making decisions all on my own that affect a lot of people, because I am trying to move as fast as I can. And, let’s be honest, getting input from others, much less God, takes time. And energy.

When I consider only my perspective on a decision, then I make decisions that benefit me and my needs alone. A leadership decision vacuum is a recipe for disaster and a great way to leave God right out of your leadership.

I have three recommendations for moving from a decision-making vacuum to discernment:

  1. Invite wise counsel. Ask a coach to help you see the situation from a different perspective. Ask trusted advisers with more experience to weigh in on the options. Ask a spiritual director to help you listen for God’s leading. Ask the question, “Is there someone missing from this conversation?”
  2. Review your days. Take notice of how you feel about your day, your decisions, and your interactions with others. Look for unusual God moments: Where did you see Him at work? What Scripture or biblical narrative comes to mind when you consider your situation? Is there anything you regret about your decisions? Any lingering questions that you have?
  3. Enter into spiritual discernment together. Pause and seek God’s will with others. Ask a few trusted teammates to join you in prayer. Slow the decision-making process down to relieve the pressure. (Join me in reading Ruth Haley Barton’s most recent book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, to learn more about this process and how it looks with a team.)
What other ways have you found to lead with God?

 

 

 

Leading With God Part 2: Rest

metronomeMy previous post in this series, Leading with God, talked about abiding instead of striving. This post will focus on how we avoid the second way we leave God out of our leadership: working 24/7.

My StrengthsFinder profile lists Achiever at the top. I love to set goals and go after solutions to problems. This can make it feel impossible to turn off my work–especially when the pressure is on, and the stress is high.

I remember a particularly intense season of ministry when it seemed I worked every day, all day. I would work a full day at my office, come home and work around my house (while still attached to my other work via phone calls, texts, and emails), and then get back to ministry work after my boys were in bed. My weekends and vacations were more of the same.

And because of this pace, my leadership was less at a time I thought I was giving it more.

Unfortunately, nobody confronted me about this. No leader showed me what it looked like to work and rest in a way that was sustainable and healthy. I only saw extreme examples of too much work or too much play. It took a personal rock-bottom experience for me to realize I had to make a change.

What I needed was a rhythm of work and rest. Here are three ways I have since established this rhythm in my leadership:

  1. Setting my daily work/office hours: I must make the choice every day to turn off my email, let the call go to voicemail, and put down the project when my office hours are complete. This allows me to be present with my family and to get the daily physical and mental rest I need in order to be ready to go the next day.
  2. Establishing a weekly Sabbath: This day is set aside for worship, rest, and things that bring great joy–like baking pies or going on a walk in the woods. We plan our week around it so little errands and homework don’t sneak in.
  3. Scheduling extended rest and play: I add in days of silence and solitude from time to time, as well as vacation days full of activities, like naps and adventures with my boys, that recharge my batteries.

My rhythm of work and rest still gets a little off now and again. But now I recognize it and reset as quickly as possible. It’s important not just for me but also for my family and those I lead.

A few books that have been influential for me on this subject are:

I will be talking more about how to establish a rhythm of work and rest at this month’s Leaders Lunch on February 21. If you lead in the Dallas area, I would love for you to join us by registering here.

What can you do to establish your rhythm of work and rest today?

Leading with God Part One: Abide

sunflowersMy last post shared 3 Ways to Leave God Out of Your Leadership. I was putting words to what we as Christian leaders often do but aren’t willing to admit. About three years ago, I read Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership and realized I had been leading out of my own strength instead of the overflow of God’s work in my life. What an embarrassing and humbling realization it was.

One way I found myself leading without God was by striving: working in a way that left me in charge–of the opportunities and the results. In fact, I recognized this habit rearing its ugly head again just a few weeks ago. My frenzied pace had me connected to my technology like an addict waiting for the next hit. Each response to an email, invite, or tweet brought a surge of adrenaline that led me to push harder and faster without regard for whom I was pushing past. The end of the day brought total exhaustion with no rest in sight.

Gently, God has shown me the opposing approach to my striving is abiding. In John 15, Jesus invites us to abide in him–or remain in him–and goes on to say that apart from him we can do nothing. No success with lasting impact. No impact for the Kingdom. Absolutely nothing.

I want my leadership to make a difference–my direction to be directed. A wise spiritual director helped shape the following three questions to ask God (to avoid striving and choose abiding):

  1. What is the work you have for me today?
  2. What is the work that only I can do?
  3. Where are you at work, and how can I join you?

My next post will focus on the second way we lead without God–by working 24/7–and how we can choose to lead with God by establishing a rhythm of work and rest.

How do you abide with God as you lead?

 

Leaving God Out of Your Leadership

woman climbing ladderI have a Christian leadership confession: there have been times (more than I would like to admit) when I’ve found myself leaving God out of my leadership. Completely out. I rocked along proudly thinking I was wildly successful only to discover my leadership was seriously lacking. (Empty and fruitless, really.) I would go it alone without the One who made me a leader in the first place.

You would never lead this way. But just in case you’re interested, let me share three ways you, too, might be leaving God out of your leadership:

1) Strive. Rely on your own strengths, skills, and brilliance. Work yourself into a frenzy to “make it happen.” Force situations and relationships and opportunities when they just aren’t happening.

2) Be accessible 24/7: Keep your smart phone at your side all the time. Throw office hours and work boundaries out the window. Consider sleep, play, refreshment, and Sundays as fuel for slackers.

3) Decide in a vacuum: Make decisions as fast as you can. Consider only your thoughts and perspective. Look for answers that benefit you and your needs alone.

So how did I let God back in? How do I daily try to shift from me leading for God to leading with God? My next three posts will focus on the big mistakes and small changes God has used to change my leadership approach radically.

In what ways have you left God out of your leadership in the past?