Faith in the Right Timing

As a person of faith, and a leader in a faith-based organization, I am a big believer in God’s perfect timing. There have been so many examples in my career when I may have been thinking about a particular decision for a long time . . . so what prompted me to act at what turned out to be an opportune moment? I have no answer except to say that something inside me indicated it was the right time to move. Some would probably call that intutition. I like William Wordsworth’s perspective that “Faith is a passionate intuition.”

Please don’t hear me say that I think faith somehow absolves a leader from having to plan and strategize and stress, and at times agonize over decisions. Sorry gang, that’s part of the bargain. (I think God will provide, but I also think He expects us to do our part!) At the same time, I believe there is some degree of comfort in recognizing, as leaders, it’s not about us. Our job is to serve as caretakers of the organization entrusted to us, to leave it better than we found it . . . which means you can’t always go with the safe bet or the most popular option.

Recognizing the right timing requires a degree of wisdom that starts with knowledge, but also requires listening, observation, reflection, questioning, and ultimately, a willingness to go with your gut/intuition/inner-nudging and take the leap. Because here’s the deal, God’s perfect timing usually doesn’t come labeled as such. It take faith.

In our measuring, quantifying, metrics-based world, something as nebulous as “faith that you’ll know when the time is right” may seem like a hard sell. Except for the fact that, it is not an either/or proposition. Faith that you’ll know when the time is right to act does not mean you don’t do your homework, it does not mean that the data is irrevelant, and it doesn’t mean that you’re running off on some lark. You do your homework so you will be prepared when the time comes. Or maybe you are nudged to look at different data, or look at the data differently, than others might. You approach the situation with a different lens or perspective.

And then you are patient. Yes, I know patience a fruit of the Spirit . . . it’s a virtue . . . and frankly — at least for me — it is the toughest part of the whole equation. But I have learned the hard way that even the “perfect” solution, when implemented at the wrong time (which usually means my impatient timing) will fall flat. The solution? Take a deep breath and have faith. If you listen to your gut, you’ll know when the time is right.

We’re Never Too Old to Need Recess!

businessman slide cropIn our annual employee engagement survey, one of the “red flag” results was the large percentage of staff indicating they go home emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. While this response is consistent with previous surveys — there is no doubt we work in an emotionally exhausting field — we wanted to drill deeper into this response to gain additional insight into how we can support staff as they work to support our struggling youth. We are using three methods to drill deeper: discussions in team meetings, surveys, and a series of focus groups. I lead the focus groups, which are an hour-long discussion with up to eight staff members who voluntarily participate. We have frequently used focus groups as a way for staff to provide input into a decision, or to gain additional information on a specific topic, as was the purpose in this case.

Focus groups provide a wealth of unfiltered feedback — even more so now that staff have experienced that positive things can happen, and negative things don’t happen, as a result of sharing their thoughts. In terms of emotional exhaustion, there were two big take-aways from the focus groups: 1) It’s the little things that make a big difference, and 2) in the words of one of our participants, “We need a recess!”

I love that! We’re never too old to need recess. Maybe it’s not 20 minutes on the playground (although I’m a big proponent of getting up and moving around), but we all benefit from occasionally stepping away from the computer or meeting or problem du jour. Maybe it’s taking a few minutes to chat with some – about something other than work. Maybe it’s taking five minutes for a walk outside or allowing enough time to actually taste your lunch, rather than simply re-fueling.

“Recess” may mean different things to different people, but in my experience as leaders take on more and more responsibility; anything remotely resembling recess seems to get pushed out of their day. And yet, I’m guessing you’ve had the experience of being in the midst of a situation/project/meeting that was sucking the life out of you, and then you receive an unexpected call from a friend or family member that might only take a few minutes but when you returned to the project your entire frame of mind had changed. That’s the power of recess.

What would happen if you announced that at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, everyone in your organization would stop whatever they were doing and do 10 jumping jacks. I timed it . . . it takes less than 15 seconds. Okay, admittedly not much of a recess, but I’m guessing it might be just enough of a distraction bring a smile to staff members faces, and at least for a few minutes provide an antidote for the emotional exhaustion lurking somewhere in those piles on your desk.

It’s time for recess!

Divine Guidance by Way of the Gut

Sun rays

As the leader of a faith-based organization who feels called to do this work (which I do), I believe I have a responsibility, in the midst of the fast pace and increasing noise that has become our version of  “normal,” to pause long enough to listen for Divine guidance.

Actually, that sounds a bit loftier than it feels. You see, I believe God talks to me through my gut . . . and those pauses I take, they tend to be at 2:00 a.m. when I really should be sleeping, or in the shower at 5:30 a.m. when I am trying to wake up from not sleeping.  I realize that my gut may have been trying to talk to me during regular business hours, but that still small voice is not going to try to outshout the crisis du jour . . . it simply waits until I am quiet enough to listen.

And I can tell you from years of experience, trying to bargain with “your gut” is a wasted effort. It is embarrassing to admit how many times over the years my gut was telling me one thing, but logic and the popular opinion of people I respected pointed in a different (usually easier) direction. Every time I tried to rationalize away what my gut was telling me, I have regretted it. Every. Time.

On the flip side, there are those times when I implore God to give me guidance RIGHT NOW. That doesn’t usually work so well either. This will come as no surprise to those who know me, but patience really isn’t my strong suit. I like to plan the work and work the plan. I’m not sure who originally said, “We plan and God laughs”, but I’m fairly certain I have kept Him amused for some time now.

And yet, I find when we as an organization make decisions from the foundation of our faith-based values, striving to truly live out the Golden Rule in our daily work, we reach and often far exceed our goals. The path to get there may be filled with side roads and detours (which, by the way, have the best scenery!), and it may be in His time, not our time, but when you have the faith to stay the course amazing things happen.

I know this is true. You’d think that would make it easy. In my experience . . . not so much. But then maybe it’s not supposed to be easy. Maybe the struggle is part of the journey designed to test our resolve and remind us that we don’t have all the answers . . . but that they will be there if we simply ask, seek, knock . . . and then listen to our gut.