Archives For Family

This is for all those thoughts related to the family that doesn’t live with us.

Mr. Mom

My amazing wife has given birth to three boys. With each one I’m amazed at what a woman’s body can do and even more daunted by the kinds of torture a woman can handle. Forget male strength. Women who carry babies, deliver them and then choose to do it again – that’s powerful. (Or as my wife says, temporary insanity.)

We’ve always been so appreciative of the fact that she’s gone through all three experiences without any “damage.” No stitches or surgery. Yeah for healthy mommy and babies! Then a few weeks ago she began to notice that she had a slight bulge and some achiness. She put it off for a while thinking it was no big deal and I pressed her to go into the OB and have it checked. Better safe than sorry with the woman you love!

Finally, she relented. That’s when we learned she had a hernia. The kind that are mainly gotten by two types of people – men lifting heavy weight and 80 year olds. Seriously?! My wife works hard at home and in her workouts, but I haven’t seen her doing any power cleans lately. (Though I’m sure there are more than a few times she’s wanted to do a shot put with one of our kids.) Apparently Mason, our latest addition, finally pushed her body over the limit. I immediately put it on the calendar to spank him as soon as he’s old enough for me to also understand a tongue lashing.

Payback for Birthing Experience

It’s the day after his birthday.  Felt like that was only fair.

Of course we looked around to find out what kinds of alternatives there were to hernia surgery, but only found quackery (eat herbs!) and delay (it’s not that serious – you can just wait). So last Friday she went in for outpatient surgery.

Side note: she texted me while waiting in pre-op, “Literally sitting amongst 5 elderly with walkers. Feeling good :-/” (I let her know she was definitely the hottest chick there!)

All of that backstory is just to say that for the past week I’ve been playing double duty as Mr. Mom and the Working Guy. It has been really tough at times and overwhelming almost the whole time. But as we round the corner of the 1 week mark for my double life I’m sitting in my local Starbucks at 5:30 AM (to get some quiet since my 3 year old wakes up at 6 AM!). Two things are running through my head this morning.

  1. Gratitude and amazement at the powerful woman I live with. This is what she does day in and day out?! I’ve been at it for a week. A…week. I need some alone time, a date night and some kind of spa package. (Not to mention a vasectomy.)
  2. Reflection on what lessons I’ve learned in all this.

 

As I’m letting the past week settle in on me, gratitude sets in again. Putting down a quick list on paper:

Being Mr Mom

In case you can’t read that, the list is:

  1. I have awesome kids!
  2. Stay at home moms are super-heroes. Seriously.
  3. I need to bring my wife flowers more.
  4. Spontaneity is important, but more often experience follows preparation.
  5. Routines are great – until they suck.
  6. Routines are important – and you should break them.
  7. My kids are the most important investment in my portfolio
  8. Leading kids demands humility and greatness

There’s so much here for us! The lessons of gratitude, planning, intuition, connection, servant leadership, humility, internal greatness and the power of little gifts have so much to offer us as dads and leaders. Maybe I’ll do a series on each of them one day, but for now I’ll have to ask you to make the connections.

Let me know if you have some ideas on the connections here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Have you ever been a Mr. Mom for more than a day or two? What did you learn? If you haven’t been yet, I suggest trying out an experiment where you do it for a week. (Though you shouldn’t have your wife get a hernia for this experiment.)

The Care and Feeding of Teams

September 5, 2012 — 2 Comments

I was reading a post the other day on the blog of Tony Dungy.  The article talked about the powerful impact of a father on children and specifically infants.  Infants with engaged fathers tend to show more curiosity and smile more.  A study by Children’s Hospital Boston even showed that infants even show different signs of anticipation when they are approached by their mom or dad.  Apparently even infants know that dads love to play.

The impact of a dad on a family is huge.  (This in no way diminishes the vastly important role of mom!)  A dad can set the tone of how young children view authority.  How they communicate.  How engaged they are with the world.  A father, when fully engaged and intentional in his efforts, has the power to create a culture in his home that can carry generations of family into joy, success and fulfillment.  When we do this thing right we can provide an environment where everyone can reach the maximum of their potential and love getting there together.

Man!  What an amazing and daunting thought!

Thinking about this naturally led to application in life outside the walls of home.  Does this principle have any application in the workplace?  When you’re building a company or working in a division of a company trying to reach goals you end up working closely with the teams around you pretty closely.  Sometimes long hours occur.  Things get intense as emotions run deep.  Best friends are formed.
 

The question is: As an engaged and intentional leader or team member can we have an impact similar to the impact of a dad on our families?

Band of Brothers - Example of Love at Work?When I think of the extended family that your team mates can become, I tend to think in terms of the Band of Brothers kind of image.  Whatever image comes to mind for you, isn’t there a part of you that wants to feel like the group of people you spend roughly 50% of your waking hours with 5 days a week are sort of family to you?  Sure, there are challenges here.  People leave the team.  You don’t like everyone.  
 
So what can we pull from this idea of engaged dads making a huge difference to their infants and use for our “extended family?”  

Here are 5 ways we can take action:

 
  1. Own the awesome and the weight.  As a dad, it seems to happen naturally.  Holding that baby you feel the weight and at the same time the immense joy of the responsibility. If you are the leader of the team, think about how awesome it is that people choose to work for you.  Yes, times may be tough in the job economy for many but people always have choices.  And whether you are the leader or the lowest end of the totem pole, it is your responsibility to enrich the team members and the results of that team.  Otherwise, why are you on the team in the first place?
     
  2. Choose a culture.  In the family, culture may seem out of place.  Family rhythm, personality or whatever you call it – if you don’t know what kind of team you want what you’ll get is a mess.  The same goes for the workplace.  There is no hard right or wrong here.  Formal, informal, fun, strict, bring your dog or wear a suit and tie.  Each can have pros and cons.  The question is, do you know where you want to land with your team?  Studies show that people want clarity on the expectations you have of them.  We tend to think of this as what they are supposed to accomplish, but I think knowing how they are supposed to interact is equally important.  (Just much more difficult to define!)
     
  3. Have a plan.  It’s a comforting thing for the family when they know dad has a plan.  It may not always go exactly as intended, but knowing that someone is being intentional about any given situation lets the family be a bit more relaxed.  In the office, if you lead the team, you should have two plans.  A plan of attack (to accomplish the goals) and a plan to build (help the people on the team be better because they were on your team).  
     
  4. Talk about non-work things.  Dad, you don’t just talk about the business of family with kids do you?  “What do we need to all do this week to make sure our family is running a tight ship?”  No!  Well, at work if you don’t care about what’s going on in the lives of the people on your team, you don’t understand leadership.  Enough said.
     
  5. Never die or good-bye?  As a leader in your home, dad, don’t you try to help your kids know when the situation calls for them to work harder and when they should just let it go?  Part of the art of being a leader is knowing when a team member or project you’re working on needs some loving attention and when they need to be cut free.  This should always be done in love and with the good of the person and overall team in mind.  To me, the question is what is going to provide the best overall benefit to both the team and the person – grow or free them?  
What would happen if we all took this attitude and approach with the people we spend so much time with?  What if the culture and approach we have at home and at work were synchronized?  Leaders, team members, engineers, sales people, finance folks and administrators all living and working together in a way where we never actually leave our family.  We just transition from the core to the extension of it.  Where we view each other with the same lens of responsibility, care, endurance and joy that great families view each other through.  I almost hate to say it considering my recent rant, but dare I say that we could change the world?  
 
Enough with what I think – what do you think?  Have you experienced this done well?
2012-01-07 12.33.32-1

Fresh air, good friends and cool bikes.  Some loves just last throughout generations.

Like nothing else, kids can make us feel emotionally schizophrenic. But if you stop long enough to think, their is a lot of wisdom you catch while raising the next generation. This happened to me the other day. My wife called me with a story that made me laugh and at the same time provoked some really deep thinking.

She and the kids had been outside playing in mud puddles created by a rain storm that just blew through.

Learning from our kids

Naturally, the boys had worked up a man sized appetite. Like any good mom Cherie loaded them up in the car for a fun trip to ChicFilA. After some food, the playground and WAY too many screaming kids, she was ready to head home for some much deserved down time. Caleb, our 3 year old, left the playground while Cherie rounded up the other two. She assumed he was just waiting near the door of the restaurant as he normally did. But this time she went out and he wasn’t there. Looking outside she sees his blonde head standing next to the truck (where he’d had to cross the parking lot to get to – a big no-no). Reminding herself to be calm, she went out. And the following conversation took place:

Cherie: (Kneeling down to get on his level.) “Caleb, buddy. You can NOT just walk out of a store and cross the street without me. You could have been hurt. I was so scared!”

Caleb: “Don’t worry, mommy. I looked both ways and didn’t see ANY cars! So I just came to the truck and waited patiently for you.” (Flashing a proud smile)

Cherie: (With a mixture of tears from being scared and a laugh from such a grown up attitude from a 3 year old) “I get that buddy and you did do a great job. But you still need to wait on me to be with you. You’re not old enough to do that by yourself. You could just miss something and get hurt.”

Caleb: (Putting his hand on mommy’s shoulder and cocking his head to the side) “Don’t be frustrated mommy…I’m capable!”

At this point the conversation ended because Cherie was having to work so hard to stifle the laughter.

When we got off the phone from her telling me this story, I sat back in my chair and just smiled. I love my kids! But then as I thought about it more I realized there was a wealth of application for my work as a leader. Here’s some of the ones I wrote down:

  • Communicate the Goal…And the dangers that could keep us from them. Caleb made the choice he made because he only understood one part of the goal – get to the truck. What he didn’t understand was that there were other dangers that could keep that from happening safely. If all we do is cast the vision without discussing the obstacles we face in getting there we may be setting our teams up for a fall.
  • We Replicate What We Repeat. We constantly tell Caleb he is a very capable boy, to be patient and to look both ways before crossing the street! Whatever you want your culture to be, you’ll have to find ways to say it all the time in various ways.
  • People are more capable than we realize. I would have NEVER guessed Caleb could carry on that complex of an interaction with Cherie. Reading her, intuiting how she felt and why she was concerned and dialogging in such precise words and phrases. We need to pause from time to time to reassess those around us. Chances are they’ve grown since the last time you did that. (If they haven’t, we have a different leadership challenge.)
  • Genuine Care Changes the Interaction. Caleb could take his mom’s admonishment without feeling attacked because he knows without question her love. If we really care about the people we work with the moments of confrontation that inevitably happen can be received with appreciation because they know the source of the confrontation is a heart that is for them.
  • Rules become outdated. At different phases of an organization’s growth different rules are needed. But at some point, the rules need changing not stall out the momentum because the people’s and the organization’s capacities have changed. It may take wisdom and/or outside input to know when that time has come. (We’ve not reached the threshold of letting our 3 year old cross the road alone!)
  • Celebrate Direction, Not just Results. I was so proud of Caleb for the way he handled himself and for his attitude and independence. Even when people are dead wrong, if their intentions are pure and their attitudes are good we should try to rejoice with them where we can and then constructively offer advice on how to improve the next time. Fast moving people will get off course from time to time. But it’s easier to steer someone back on course than it is to get them moving in the first place. Don’t kill momentum!

I really believe if we treat our work like we treat our families (or whatever relationships you cherish), work would be a lot better and home would be a lot more engaging. We’d learn lessons from both that we’d apply to the other. We’d feel a lot more like we’re living integrated lives and have a sense of unity few ever experience. And hey, in building the story of our lives, having a unified life makes for a much richer story.

So from one man to a little bit smaller man, thanks Caleb. You’re a great teacher.

handoff

Legacy. A word that can inspire people to greatness, crush them in despair or ignite generational wars. What is it? What does it mean? Why does it have such power…even for those of us that don’t think about it at all?

I intend on exploring this issue for the rest of my life. That’s because for the rest of my life I’ll be creating my legacy, reacting to other people’s legacy and trying to tear down some legacies. Heck, it’s like air. You have to breath and so you have to interact with it. It isn’t a question of importance. It’s a question of quality. If you live in a world with low quality air your life suffers. But if the air is clean and rich in good qualities, then you have more energy, health, better sleep, etc.

Think about it. The best things in your life are related in some way to it. Your wife? She is partially the result of the legacy of the family she comes from. Your kids? They are partially the result of the legacy of your family and the legacy you are creating as they grow up. Your job? It is the legacy of someone that started that company and the legacy created by those that have run it until now. We are all part of the legacy we were born into with the human race.

But go a level deeper. We are all part of a much, much bigger story that’s unfolding. Since I love trying to model things visually to help me get a better mental construct I just began playing with it and came up with the concentric circles approach.  (Sorry for the image quality.  Still learning the ropes with some of my programs.)

Legacy Circles

When I first began putting this together I naturally started with “You” in the middle and went out from there. But that just didn’t sit well with me. I think this is a much better way of looking at things. But my point is that when you think about legacy, it isn’t just yours that needs to be dealt with. You have to deal with the legacy you’re creating and how it interacts with all the broader legacy of the other circles. Where do you have barriers to overcome? How will your legacy fit into the bigger picture? What things can you benefit from in the legacy of others? For example, if you want to leave a strong legacy for your kids and ignore the impact on your community or from your community, your impact will be diminished or possibly have the reverse effect. Likewise, if you ignore the story that has been unfolding in your family line you will miss opportunities to improve the legacy you leave in your part of the family line.

Side note: Some of you will note that I’m missing a circle…the God one. That was intentional for a few reasons. First, I wasn’t sure where to put it. The instinctive place is the middle. After all, he would be the central point of the story. But isn’t he also involved in the lives of individuals directly? So his impact isn’t just something that ripples to us from a larger picture but, in fact, starts ripples within our lives. But putting him at any point other than the center would feel wrong too. Secondly, I didn’t put it in there because I think there are many people interested in the issue of legacy that aren’t thinking in terms of God. And a good discussion brings in many perspectives.

So here we are. A beginning point to a discussion about how to live not just a successful life, but a significant life. What makes up a significant life? How do you plan to get there? Is there even a difference between successful and significant? When is your life deemed significant? Let me know what you think and let’s do some exploring together.

Yesterday I decided to take my son out to the local trails to ride his new bike.  I could tell that both of us needed some time together just hanging and doing something active.  He was so excited to get to skip his nap and go out with me to ride his bike.  Helmet firmly attached to his head and bike in hand, we pedaled to the entrance of the trails.  Happy to be outside, even in 95 degree weather, I looked forward to the next 60 minutes or so of just having fun with my oldest son.  Then it happened.  We came to the top of the entrance to the trails and it was a decline.  Nothing huge, mind you, but from the vantage point of a 3 year-old it may as well have been a ski ramp.

Ski Ramp

Caleb looked at me and flatly refused to ride down such an unreasonable slope. “I could fall, daddy.” We’d been having this struggle for a few weeks so I really wanted him to at least try it. But looking at him I could tell this hill was definitely not the one to die on. “You can just walk the bike down the hill and we’ll ride at the bottom where it’s flat.” Hesitantly he began the decent. Sparing all the details, the next 100 yards (60 of them being flat) took about 30 minutes and massive amounts of encouragement, then pushing and finally flat out threatening to keep him moving. Finally, exhausted and pouring sweat while getting no enjoyment from the outdoors anymore I decided we should just take a break. We sat down to some bottled water and trail mix. At this point I just want to go home, throw him into bed and go take a nap myself. Instead, we sit in silence for a few moments and just listen to the silence around us. A few bikes whiz by with mom, dad and kids chatting happily as if to taunt the two sidelined riders sitting there. Finally, I gathered my thoughts and said, “Buddy, look at me.” Slowly he turns his head and I can see that he’s frustrated with me, himself and the whole situation.

“You know I’m not trying to frustrate you, right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I’m just trying to get you to ride your bike and enjoy it. You love riding your bike in circles in the driveway. Riding out here is even more fun and it’s something we can do together. I’d never tell you to do something I thought was too dangerous for you. You’ve just gotta trust me sometimes.”

“…” Caleb sits staring off in the distance.

“I’m really sorry if I frustrated you, though. It really wasn’t my intent.”

“Daddy, you really need to listen to people more.”

What?! Where did that come from? But as his statement settled in it drove deep into my heart. I do have a problem with listening to people sometimes. So caught up in what I’m trying to get done I miss the other person in the process. Is that what just happened? And wait, this kid is 3 years old! What the heck is going on here?

“Buddy, did you feel like I wasn’t listening to you?”

“Yeah. If you don’t listen to me I’m not going to want to play with you anymore.”

In a matter of about 10 seconds I’ve gone from daddy teaching his son a lesson to a guy having his heart ripped out like the witch doctor in the Temple of Doom. But I regain my composure and respond.

Indiana Jones - Heart

“Wow, kiddo. I didn’t mean to not listen to you. I’m so sorry you felt that way. Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll do my best to listen to you more and not frustrate you if you’ll promise to try and trust me when I ask you to do things that you aren’t sure about. Deal?”

“Sure.” (Pause)

Daddy?”

“Yeah, pal?”

“Will you play with me on the playground for a while?”

“Of course, buddy. Let’s go. You want me to carry your bike back for you?”

“Yeah!”

I knew the day would come when I’d get called out by my kids about something. I’m not perfect and I knew they’d catch me at some point. I just never dreamed it would be that profound of an insight nor at 3 years old. My kids just blow me away.

Previously, we’d tried the balance bike approach with Caleb to no real avail. You know, the bike with no pedals? The idea behind it is you just give the kid something to walk with, then they begin learning to pick up their feet as they go down hills to coast and learn to balance. We saw some awesome videos like this one and imagined our son ripping up the dirt trails with us recording the next viral kid video for YouTube. (OK, maybe that’s a little over-the-top. But we did think it was a pretty amazing idea.)

But the idea breaks down if your kid refuses to go down hills. Hm.  Now we have a pedal bike and he’s the driveway champion.  Strike one for daddy YouTube moments of glory.

I’m Nick Fury

July 22, 2012 — Leave a comment
Nick Fury and the Avengers

One of the best movies of all time.

The Avengers. Easily one of the greatest movies of all time. If you disagree, I’m sorry but all relationship bank account we had before now has been drained. You are dead to me. (Of course I’m kidding, Mom. Love you!)

After seeing a movie that epic you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be one of the Avengers. Personally, I think I’d want to be Thor. Maybe it’s because my wife has a bit of a thing for him. (Though she heartily denies this.) Yeah, Iron Man’s cool but I just have a hard time with his outright arrogance and selfishness. Captain America runs a really close #2 to Thor and only loses out because Thor can fly and travel inter-dimensionally. Hey, don’t act like you wouldn’t want that. The others are cool, but clearly these guys take the cake.

But then sitting there one day it struck me…I’m actually not any of the Avengers. I’m the guy with an eye patch. Nick Fury. What?! I don’t wanna be Nick Fury! (except the awesome name) He’s a spy that no one trusts and has no special abilities. He’s not particularly amazing in comparison to the team running the show. But there it is – I’m more like Nick Fury than any of the super-heroes.

nick-fury

Think about it. Fury is not the most powerful person in the room. He isn’t able to control the powers he’s dealing with. But he successfully brings out the best of amazingly powerful beings by helping them come together as a team and have a cause. He creates the right environment and finds the right “push” to help them become more than the sum of their parts for a greater purpose than they have previously known. He is a planner. A thinker. A man that is hopelessly outmatched by those he leads and yet still must find the courage and the will to lead none-the-less.

Maybe you think that is a bit dramatic. But maybe it isn’t so out of line with reality depending on how you view being a dad. My kids will very likely grow up to be more powerful than I ever was (if I’ve done my job). I absolutely can’t control my kids lives. (In the sense of guaranteeing how they turn out, the choices they make, the destiny of their lives.) My job is to take this incredibly powerful and yet intensely fragile group of individuals and turn it into a team. A team of love, valor and purpose. A team that comes together when times are bad and challenges each other to stay the course when times are good. I have to observe each member of this team and know what buttons need pushing at times to help them find out just how powerful they are and I have to give them opportunities to overcome their demons.

Yeah, I think I kinda like this. From now on you can call me Fury. I think something epic is about to unfold.