Saturday, June 13, 2015

Is Your Boss a K-Mart Jacket?


It was a brown fuzzy fleece jacket with thin polyester lined pockets and a full length zipper. My mom bought it at K-Mart as my winter jacket when I was 14, going on 15.  The fleece jacket was stylish and looked great on me. However, during the first few weeks I had it, I discovered something concerning about my new outerwear. When it got colder than a normal Alabama day, which isn’t that cold, the jacket sucked and I froze!  

Over the years I learned to love the jacket and it even helped me with the ladies! Being the gentleman that I am, and knowing that the jacket was essentially useless anyways, I often offered it to my female friends if I ever saw any of them shivering.  The reality was my generous heart was the only thing that warmed the freezing girls rapidly declining body temperatures. In its final days, worn thin and with a broken zipper, I actually remember being colder when I wore it! My favorite expression about the loyal jacket was that, “it will keep you warm as long as it isn’t cold outside.” If that Northwest Territory brand jacket would have been a Patagonia or NorthFace I would have lost it or it would have been stolen the first year. Nobody wanted it but me I suppose. It served me in mediocrity throughout college and I reluctantly put the tattered remains in a Coat Drive Box shortly after graduation. Maybe someone else would get to enjoy the most average, classically stylish jacket in the history of the world.

A boss is a like a jacket.  They aren’t needed that often, but when they are, you need them to perform.  Unlike my K-Mart jacket, a great boss will “keep you warm” on those unseasonably cold days.  That old jacket of mine gave the illusion of greatness until it was needed.  It had all the right things on the surface. It looked good, had pockets, a zipper, it even fit my body perfectly. I guess the only thing it didn’t do was the most important—it’s JOB! 

Some bosses talk the talk, make a lot of noise, and demand attention, but fail to connect with employees by not meeting their most pressing needs. Most of the time all we need a boss to be is a cheap K-Mart jacket; business as usual, nothing too exciting.  Those bosses who have a hard time adapting during those “unseasonable warm days” are the ones that never gain rapport and fail to meet hardline business objectives.  Sadly, when those bosses actually do try to help they often make things even worse. Unfortunately, it’s those bosses that can’t quite rise to the challenge that seem to never get lost or stolen.  Because being forced to manage and make tough decisions is such a rare occurrence, most employees accept their poor performing bosses during tough times.  Poor performance becomes the expectation. No one wanted to steal my Northwest Territory jacket because they probably saw me racking myself with seizures from the frigid air piercing my soul.  And because it was only needed so few times each year, there was no reason to upgrade.  There are so many average bosses that the impression is that they are all average. This is not the case.  We put so much value and worth on our boss’s credentials and so little on their attributes that are committed to our individual success.  A great boss will work hard for you when you need it the most.

Great bosses don’t always come with shiny bells and whistles. They don’t always have the most experience. Let’s be honest, they may not even know the answer to your problem.  But, what makes them great is their ability to understand when you need them the most--- and relentlessly work for you until they get you what you need. 


Don’t be a cheap K-Mart Jacket,


Clint Hamner

Friday, June 5, 2015

Not Bad, Just Different: Managing Relationships

 
All relationships are not created equal, but that doesn’t mean one is any better than the other.
Once upon a time, fourteen happily married couples traveled north on a beautiful fall weekend.  The mountainside chalet had eight bedrooms, each with pair of bunk beds. My wife and I decided to share a room with some of our best friends. After eating dinner at a local restaurant and spending time together around the fireplace, we turned in late.  Exhausted, I climbed up to the top bunk and full of masculinity leaned over and half-heartedly told my wife goodnight.  The other couple went through their nighttime ritual of self-grooming and praying before calling it a day. I always fall asleep fast, and it takes a freight train or marching band to wake me up.  About twenty minutes later, a freight train with a middle school marching band took a detour through our room via my buddy’s lungs.  It was the most impressive, yet painstaking sound that I had ever heard.  A small part of me thought that no one else was bothered by the snoring racket.  Wrong! My wife finally interjected, through what at this time sounded like an asthmatic runner playing a tuba solo, and yelled, “Clint, make it stop!” Irritation turned to fatigue generated laughter and eventually we left the room in search of the only spare bunk left in the cabin.  As luck would have it, it was the room next door.  The cabin walls couldn’t stop the poorly tuned orchestra, our only hope was that they might contain it! We were tired enough that the dull roar was tolerable.  I climbed up onto the top bunk and peered across the room to see if the other guy was asleep.  The bunk was empty! Where was he? Had he been abducted by aliens? Had he left angry? Was he a sleep walker? NO! HE WAS A SNUGGLER!  On the bottom bunk lay two grown-ups sound asleep on a 30” wide mattress. Damn newlyweds!
So what did I learn from our couples retreat misadventure; none of us loved our wives any more or less, our relationships were just different. Loud and Quiet. Matter of Fact and Emotional. Touch Me and Touch Me Not. Tolerant and Outspoken. Nothing about our unique relationships was bad, they were just different. 
Work relationships are no different. No matter which direction on the org chart the relationships go, each personal connection will be different. They are unique—uniquely flawed and uniquely beautiful!
Not bad, just different.
The most dangerous part about being a manager is coveting the relationships that people have with one another.  Sometimes we wish that we could speak freely more often or act independently through risk-taking. The subordinates with lots of social power even intimidate us because we know that how they feel can affect the entire organization. Spending too much time in desirous thinking is taking us away from what really matters; building our own unique relationships with individuals. Marriages fail because of unfair comparisons and misinterpreted happiness.  Work relationships will stall because of the same circumstances.  Positive relationships maintain themselves by the how genuine and authentic they are to both people.
Don’t waste your time comparing your relationships to those that others have, spend your time cultivating special relationships with everyone.  Keep relationships in perspective. Make them meaningful.  The rest is fun!
Not Bad, Just Different,
 
Clint Hamner

Saturday, May 16, 2015

MOTIVATION: ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION


 
Sitting at my kitchen table a year or so ago I found myself in one of those theoretical discussions about the laissez faire nature of man’s journey through life and the difficulties it presented to managers and decision makers.  But the conversation changed when my friend questioned, “If a man is indeed a man, what can I say to make them more motivated?”  Silence filled the room as we waited for him to answer his own seemingly rhetorical question with his typical exuberance and passion.  My normally outspoken and longwinded friend quickly answered, “Nothing.” As the conversation continued, I couldn’t stop thinking about his response.  Was all the leadership and management theory that I had studied, taught, and practiced for the last fifteen years a waste?  Was I wrong about what the science of motivation really meant?  Whatever else may have been said in my kitchen that night is long forgotten.  However, the last year has haunted me because of that one question and its one word answer--- “What can I say to make them more motivated”---“Nothing”!

My friend is right. There is nothing that I can say that will solely influence another adult. They may do what I say, but I am not why they are doing it.  Managers and decision makers around the world have spent way too much time, money, and resources trying to answer the question my friend already established a beautifully simple answer to.

So if we can do nothing to solely influence an employee, is motivation possible?  Yes!  We just have to change our question.  We have to stop asking “How can I motivate them” and start asking “What motivates them”. Behaviors, I believe, are the key determinants to what motivates a person.  No amount of “because I said so” and “pretty pretty please” will tip the balance against the human behaviors and personal convictions of the people that you want to motivate. Reactions by others to our motivational techniques are false indicators of what truly pushes them to be perceived as successful or unsuccessful. 

At any given time, we all have two forces that influence our behaviors and create reasons to be motivated. These forces effecting our motivation are behaviors that have an “Impact on Self” and an “Impact on Others”. These forces are in a continual game of “tug-of-war” and are highly sensitive to situational factors.  Regardless of what forces are effecting our motivation, observable behaviors will be determinant of the importance of relationships and the individual’s emphasis on goal-orientation.

Impact on Self- SURVIVAL & OBLIGATION

No matter how intrinsic you are with your thinking, your effectiveness in any situation starts with satisfying your basic needs.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need reminds us that motivational behaviors typically begin with satisfying lower level needs first.  It is nearly impossible to think about lasting relationships or personal growth when you are hungry and homeless. The two components of “Impact on Self” behaviors are survival and obligation. 

Survival is one extreme end of the effectiveness and goal-orientation continuum. Meeting basic needs requires behaviors that lead to acceptable performance. When survival behaviors demand too much time and energy, skill development and adaptability suffer.  This leads to behaviors that place inordinate focus on survival. To a supervisor and co-workers it appears that this employee is lazy, uncommitted, dumb, and UNMOTIVATED.  The reality of this fundamental attribution error is that we as managers spent our time asking “How can we motivate this individual” instead of “What is motivating this individual”.  Hopefully, none of our employees are actually hungry and homeless, but the society and culture that we live and work in may change the definition of what survival means to an individual.  It is important for us to resist the temptation to write these employees off as “lost causes”.  Stress the importance of skill building and its effect on performance.  Paint a positive picture of short-term sacrifice in order to enjoy long-term rewards. We all have to work to survive.  Observed behaviors will show you to what extent.

Obligation is a relational aspect in which motivational behaviors can be observed.  Just like the old Dean Martin song says, “everybody loves somebody sometimes, everybody falls in love somehow”. We all have loved ones that depend on our ability to be success.  Obligation is a form of “means to an end” thinking that is selfishly motivated. People depend on us. Sometimes it’s burdensome, and when it is solely our responsibility to provide food, shelter, or affection for them our motivation is self-centered to ensure those relationships are maintained.  The intensity of those relationships will dictate how much energy we invest in our behaviors that seek to satisfy them. 

Most often employees that struggle with their jobs have obligation concerns and relationships that are confounded due to being motivated by survival.  Managers and co-workers must be able to identify these behaviors and assist in restoring relationships and balanced goals.

Impact on Others- PURPOSE & TEAM

Just because some of your behaviors are motivated by your “Impact on Self”, it doesn’t mean you can’t behave in a way that puts others first as well.  Striking the balance between “self” and “others” is a science. Identifying those behaviors and the impact that they are having on an individual’s motivation is an art. In contrast to survival and obligation, purpose and team are more abstract to most individuals.  The behaviors that people decide to use with respect to purpose and team are much more deliberate and learned.  Even still, they represent the opposite end of the same relationship and goal-orientation continuums.

Am I crazy to think that if you watched a group of employees long enough and then asked yourself, “what is motivating them”, that you could possibly answer it by saying, “the organization’s mission and their individual effect on the products we produce”!  It sounds crazy, but organizations have a unique effect on people’s motives when trust is high and values align.  People want to serve the purpose of the organization with their individual contributions.  But beware, just because you have a great corporate culture and incredible ethics, it doesn’t automatically mean you will have focused goal-oriented employees.  Remember, pay attention to what is motivating them and determine if you can provide any ways to improve their effectiveness. Employees that display behaviors of intense focus on the organization’s products, display strong adaptability, and work to continuously learn new skills see themselves as an impactful member of the organization and its goals.  These behaviors also tend to indicate that survival is less of a worry.  Stability helps cultivate a sense of purpose.  Ultimately, the more effective an employee is, the more purpose driven they can be. 

Teams thrive on collaboration, solution centered thinking, a respect for relationships, commitment, and shared values.  Behaviors that reinforce these things are priceless and are often hiding in plain sight.  As relationships in an organization bloom, seeing the connection between the aforementioned behaviors and motivation is hardly ever reinforced because it is assumed.  Extinction is a term used to describe when a behavior goes away due to it being negatively reinforced.  Sometimes we take for granted the team players in our organizations and their contributions.  What is motivating them to impact others through teamwork anyway?  Relationships and the sense of feeling their impact in a gratifying way.  Committed relationships in organizations are hard to come by.  If you observe team centered thinking in an individual, reinforce it and see the impact change other’s view of what it means to get motivated.

The purpose and team focuses are never unchallenged.  Self-centeredness always has a solid footing in each person.  But, with enough success, anyone can realize that selflessly placing other people first should be primary to every cause.

M=E x FI

In every employee, observed behaviors is the answer to the question of “what motivates them”.  Using all the definitions of motivation that I have ever learned, and adjusting them to focus on individual behaviors, I have come up with a quick multiplier to determine the magnitude of someone’s behavior for any given situation.

Individual Motivating Behavior= Individual Perceived Effectiveness X Individual Felt Impact

If a person is confidence in their ability and knows they are a contributor they will display behaviors that anyone will see as motivating. When we stop and observe a person’s need to be motivated we must think situationally.  Multiple forces are at work against each other.  Relationships matter. And achievement will hinge on goal emphasis.  Motivation is not a question of how; it’s a question of what.  Behaviors change profit margins more than any tactic or motivational speech.  Capitalize through understanding what motivates people.

 

Critics Welcome,

 

Clint Hamner

 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Why is Junior Crying: How to Deal with Employee Emotions


The sun was setting in the rear view mirror of the church bus as we headed to the orphanage for the last time.  Hogar de Los Niño’s was home to forty orphaned Mexican boys and girls.  By the time we pulled into the gravel drive of the compound the sun was gone.  The bus headlights broadcast just enough light across the freshly mowed soccer field to see the faces of the precious children we had grown to love over the last week. The children suspected that this was our farewell stop. Tears fell down like raindrops off everyone’s face. These children had only ever experienced relationships where people leave them behind; we would be no different. Hopeful to the last moment that we might stay or take them to America, their dreams were crushed watching us load back onto the bus.  One child in particular, a five year old boy named “Junior”, was especially crushed.  Sobbing inconsolably, Junior drew the attention of a small group of people who had not yet loaded the bus.  Several of the people hugged him and told him that it would be okay.  A few continued onward towards the bus. One young man even grabbed Junior by his underarms and lifted his small body up a sat him on his hip and told him not to be sad.  The young man told him that more people would come to the orphanage and care for him.  Holding Junior tight and crying with him, the young man thought he was experiencing a feeling that few people get to feel—True Empathy, hurting with someone because of such a strong emotional connection. 

Junior was still not convinced. Actually he was starting to get pissed! 

Finally, a wise grey haired women took Junior off of the young man’s hip and put him on the ground and said, “Son, what’s the matter?”  

After the translator asked Junior the question he mumbled through his drool and snot.  An inaudible response prompted the translated to repeat the question.  This time Junior spoke loud and clear, “YO QUIERO AGUA!” he exclaimed. 

“Does that mean he really wants to go with us to America”, the wanting emotionally connected young man asked.

“No”, the translator answered. “He is thirsty. He said that he wants water”.

Tears quickly turned to laughter and relief!

The young man high-fived Junior for the last time and got on the bus.  As we pulled out onto the lonely two-lane Mexican highway I caught one last glimpse of Hogar de Los Niño’s.  Waving with one hand and grasping tightly to his plastic water bottle with the other, Junior bid us farewell with a quenched smile wider than the Rio Grande.

When dealing with situations involving employee emotions, I have found that people take four approaches.  Referencing the small group that stayed back to console Junior you have the following approaches to take.

1)      “Hugs and Reassurance”

For those of you who know Dr. Sheldon Cooper from CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, you will understand this approach.  When faced with an emotional situation of any magnitude Sheldon looks at the oppressed and says in a monotone cadence, “There, there. Would you like a hot beverage”?  At no point in time does he ever ask about the problem or offer to give advice.  This is an approach that is fueled by obligation and social etiquette. Funny enough, it is a transactional approach that has merits in an organization.  Simple recognition from a co-worker that they understand something is wrong is a strong signal of bonding that enhances relationships and leads to the possibility of future conversations concerning similar issues.  Think of the “Hugs and Reassurance” approach as a stepping stone to building a stronger relationship.

2)      “Mind my Own Business”

 

Some people need space and time to process their feelings.  Trying to jump in and “be there for them” is the worst thing you could do for one of these people while they are “processing”.  The best thing you can do is just get back on the bus! Concern for the person and the situation can’t be completely avoided, however.  When the time is right you have to double back.  Remember your intentions when using this approach, it is temporary avoidance in order to make more of an impact on the person at a later time.

3)      “I Can Fix It”

Ten years of marriage and I can laugh about a lot of things that weren’t so funny at the time they happened. One night during our first year of marriage, my wife told me to stop trying to fix her problems and just listen.  I think this was the same week she locked me out of the house and told me to “just stay out there and play with your tools!”  See, I was like the young man from the story. I would read her emotions enough to know that something was wrong and immediately begin searching for solutions instead of possible causes.  There were even times when she would tell me what the problem was and I would begin formulating a cache of alternatives that could change her current state of distress. Most people know what they need to do to in order to get out of their emotional situation.  But, if you sense that they don’t have the answer, ask them if you can help first and then work on helping them “fix” their situation.  A willingness and ability to offer solid advice to sometimes complicated problems is a trait that builds social capital in both directions of the org chart!

4)      “What’s Really the Matter”

 

A former employee was having a tough time at work.  Additionally, he had been missing quite a number of days of work.  One day he was lingering around my door, begging for some attention.  I chose to mind my own business.  I chose wrong. After a few minutes of casual work related chit-chat, another co-worker came by and began the meaningful conversation that he had been hoping for.  “What’s wrong?” my co-worker asked earnestly.  The troubled employee launched his face into my co-workers shoulder and began to cry as he held on like he would fall to the ground if he let go.  The standing man hug was making me a bit uncomfortable. Two grown men in my office were wrapped up like the couples on those soldier reunion videos. You know the ones where the soldier surprises the spouse by coming come early.  They must have hugged for two solid minutes, even though it seemed like two hours, but during it all I was learning that no matter how weird that embrace was making me feel, the opportunity to see someone release that kind of stress and emotion because of one question changed my life.  Just like the wise women who asked “Son, what’s the matter?” sometimes we just need to ask. 

 

Learning how to navigate people’s emotions is tough.  To get good at reading emotions, it takes many failed assessments of our own and carefully watching how others that are more gifted in dealing with people respond. Each situation means something different for each person each time. There is no silver bullet or factory solution to reading people’s emotions.  Let them know you care, show compassion, ask them what’s the matter, or nod and keep walking.  The important part is that you use each approach and don’t deal with every emotionally charged issue in the same way. 

Cheers Junior,

 

Clint Hamner

Thursday, April 23, 2015

MADE TO WORK: MAN'S PURPOSE, PAIN, & PURSUIT


 



Unprecedented Honor or Eternal Suffering




Mrs. Hewitt called the kids together for Sunday School at Bethel Presbyterian the same way she had done for the last 40 years.  When she died a few years back my dad told me that she had been an old lady his whole life. The lessons she taught the children were the prerequisite to a glass of bottled Coke and a snack so we listened the best we could.  This particular Sunday morning as my rambunctious cohort made a circle on hard tile floor, Mrs. Hewitt taught us the first verse of the Holy Bible.  She recited Genesis 1:1 and told us that “even in the beginning of time God was a workin”. The creation story goes on to teach us that God indeed, “was a workin”.  For six days God labored to create the Universe and everything in it. This is how we are introduced to God, someone producing good things and finding great happiness in it.  God’s crowning achievement was Man--a being made from the dirt in the image of God whose workmate, women, was made from man’s rib.

For those of you who embrace man’s purpose of being made to work, the next few sentences won’t be terribly bad news. For the others who hate the idea of work, but want to go to Heaven, sorry we are gonna have to work!  In Isaiah 65 the prophet is describing judgment and the new Heaven and earth.  The prophet clearly paints a picture of a life without pain and sorrow, but also subtly mentions a few jobs that will take place.  Homes will be built and vineyards planted. That means our earthly terminal work done as mortal man will be reflected in our eternal work as immortal man.  How refreshing! Building houses and planting fruit sounds a heck of a lot better than sitting on a cloud all day playing a harp!  Our hard work pleases God and should be pleasing to ourselves. It is a fact that existed before, during, and after the creation.

A Tripalium is an ancient torture device.  Three stakes form an elevated “X” shape.  The accused is then tied to the structure with their body forming the shape of the “X” by spreading their arms and legs along each board. A fire is set under the accused and death is the only outcome.  The origins of the word for “work” find themselves in the name of this ancient torture device.  In the Latin derived romance languages of the Old World, the Tripalium gave inspiration to the word.  Through the verb “to suffer” we see the impact of placing a negative connotation to work thousands of years ago.  Why must work be about suffering? It shouldn’t be! If work is about suffering, that means God suffered during the creation of Man and the Universe.  I refuse to believe that.  Well, you may argue, at the fall of man God cursed the ground, so it was only after sin that work became insufferable.  However, it was the just the ground was that was cursed and Man was independently disciplined for his insubordination. It never implied that work ceased to please God.  God never intended work to be about suffering. God gave Man a lesson of grace in the first pages of the Bible. God made work something that we “get to do”, and not something we “have to do”.  It is an honor to be able to work for God’s glory.

Some of the most beautiful things in the world can be attributed to the hands and backs of slave labor. The word slave is a derivation of the Hebrew verb “to work”.  Slavery is an abhorrent institution and has been used to dehumanize societies for thousands of years.  Whether it was the construction of such wonders like the Great Wall of China, The Great Pyramids of Egypt, or even The White House, slaves all around the world have been forced to work.  The irony of this ugly truth of our human history is that the slaves had no voice, no vote, and no chance but they were the creators of so much beauty.  During the abolishment of slavery in America, Fredrick Douglass encouraged his fellow African Americans by saying, “you may not get all you work for, but you must work for all you get”. This rallying cry resulted in centuries of suppressed work ethics and emotions to well up inside the enslaved people. The fruits of their labor was not in vain.  The toils of their labor was not forsaken.  Hard working slaves with no voice or choice fulfilled the expected work of their masters, therefore, I can only reconcile this harsh reality with the grace of God.  The grace they received by God while being “made to work” was the only thing that led to outputs that were extraordinarily pleasing to God because man, just like our Heavenly Father, was “made to work”.
 

The Price of Progress




Careful not to sound like even more of crazy person, I want to preface this next section by saying that sometimes in order to see the opportunities of the future you have to understand the impact the past is having on the present! 

The Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century changed the way mankind worked. However, two of the worst inventions of the Revolution were Unemployment and Teenagers!

According to Merriam-Webster.com, the first recorded use of the word “Unemployment” was in 1888. Rapidly increasing technologies which drew people out of the rural areas and created the need for less human capital forever changed economics and the way people would have to work. There is no such thing as unemployment in a rural agrarian society, they are simply referred to as “hungry”!  When the Industrial Revolution created a better way of delivering the essential commodities needed by mankind, “free time” allowed us to begin our transition into soft handed intellectuals who spent more time looking for ways to escape work instead of embracing it.  The slower pace of life led to 100 years of unprecedented technological accomplishments, but the carnage left behind was a generation of people who sought for governmental assistance when times got tough.  This government intervention on behalf of the unemployed slowly created a perception of absolution of responsibility in communities throughout the US.  When we fail to serve our neighbor, we fail to serve God. Politics and machines created America, but have, and are continuing to, destroy man’s desire to work.

Of course kids turned thirteen prior to the 20th Century, but they were not a teenage demographic, they were considered Men and Women. Juvenile Detention Facilities, Malt Shops, and Punk Rock didn’t exist because they didn’t have a population to serve.  The first generations of “teenagers” redefined society by being released from real responsibility. Now 1/8 of the population cruises the street in the afternoon and misses the opportunities to learn the importance work.  Stop it will the child labor thoughts. This is not the point. I’m horribly offended by the corporations who exploit unwilling children to work. My stance is that, primarily the teenagers of the western world, grow up without the expectation of contributing to their households. 

Saturday was the day my dad gave me an opportunity to contribute to the household.  I hated Saturdays!  During the summer after we cut the grass, my brother and I were given the distinct honor of sweeping the carport and vacuuming and washing the cars.  We would complain badly.  My dad would always say, “Be grateful that you have a yard to tend, a house to clean, and cars to keep nice”.  Some days I would pray that we wouldn’t have to wake up early and “gratefully contribute”.  Some days we didn’t. On these Saturdays he would usually take us to work with him.  I never heard my dad complain about any of his jobs—and he had a few that sucked! He knew the importance and honor of work and refused to let us see any other side of it besides the best.  Work could be fun and meaningful. I learned that early in life.  When I turned sixteen though, I really learned the importance of a hard day’s work.  My loving father employed me as a sewer pipeline laborer.  Nothing in the world of sewer pipeline installation is light.  The dirt is heavy and wet. The pipe is long and cumbersome. The sledge hammers may as well be dual marketed as male birth control.  I was so tired when I got home each night (emphasis on night) that I fell asleep before I hit the pillow. My dad made me do this for the next three summers until I convinced him that I found a better job.  I learned that hard work is usually rewarded with more hard work. I learned the importance of my education. I valued the work of my fellow man and began an understanding of how the world was connected.  All of this happened to me as a teenager.  Allowing society to remove expectations from this great group of young men and women is an indictment against us as people who want a better tomorrow. 




The Weak Human Spirit




Light is always present in some form.  Even in the deepest corners of the Universe darkness is still unable to totally conquer light.  All around the world, people see light as good and darkness as bad.  God designed man in his own image, so no matter how much evil exists in the world, Man always has a glimmer of light somewhere in his soul. There will always be a part of us that is good. So when protecting ourselves against the Weak Human Spirit that preoccupies our thoughts and leads to counterproductive behaviors, the best offense is to have a good defense.  Because of the fall of man and the evil in the world, our sin nature lends itself to everyone being inhabited by this Weak Human Spirit.  The hope lies in our ability to identify the worldly persuasions that lead us to bad work habits and behaviors.  In the United States, concerning our work ethic, the Weak Human Spirit is fueled by three things, Entitlement, Distrust, and Complacency.

 

Entitlement

Children’s birthday parties are a frequent social event I attend.  The format is usually the same.  Playtime, some sort of entertainment, and then cake and ice cream. Finally, the birthday boy or girl smiles at their table of presents as frantic mothers hand out “Goodie Bags”.  It has become the highlight of the 21st century birthday party.  It’s the Oscar’s equivalent of “Swag Bags”.  To the children these gift bags are expected.  A while back I observed a child get unwound over the fact that this party failed to provide a swag bag.  I even watched her go over the birthday girl and ask for a present to take home since her mom didn’t make a goodie bag. This was not just an example of “kids being kids”.  This was the personification of Entitlement in our country. Expectancy without merits is thievery.  When our every thought revolves around “where’s my goodie bag”, we lose the value of earning our share. The mindset of being owed something by someone is detrimental to our success as a country.  Entitlement is a part of the Weak Human Spirit that doesn’t have to lurk in the shadows—it screams from the front row. Entitlement has diminished the value of hard work and created dependence in several subcultures to the point of crisis.  Dependency is a major contributor to a person’s inability to move from their current state and seek a better life.  Entitlement is not just a welfare problem or a poor American problem, it affects everyone and is a behavior that we are becoming increasingly desensitized to.  Work hard for everything you earn and rejoice in your harvest no matter the size.

 

Distrust

At the center of most American distrust is greed.  Greed has always been a problem in society.  Recently, corporate corruption has been an increasingly common theme in America. Corporations have failed the people they serve by lying and stealing from them.  The greed has given life to this part of the Weak Human Spirit.  The inability to trust those we work for is troubling.  Current consumer and employee thinking is shifting all our behaviors to be wary of all transactions.  The broad assumption we have created is that we are somehow “being cheated”.  At the simplest of levels greed is a means to end for us to “die with the most toys”.  When your focus on work becomes about you and not the impact that it has on others your lose credibility, and subsequently, trust.  There is clinical evidence that our greed culture is having a negative effect on our country’s mental health.  The general lack of compassion and concern for people in the US today is the result of greed and distrust.  Working in an environment committed to trusting relationships will never lose out to greed.  Trust is the easiest thing to keep with someone, but the hardest thing to get back when it is compromised.  That is why the Weak Human Spirit exploits trust through greed.  By taking our motivation to produce work and change the focus from how it affects others to how we can maximize our gain, the Weak Human Spirit sneaks in and manipulates our God ordained need to produce and uses it to hurt others. 

 

Complacency

There are not enough real problems in America. No one prays in earnest for their “Daily Bread”. Fighting for your existence is something we think of as Science Fiction. If necessity is the mother of invention, what did we invent when we didn’t need anything—Boredom!

 

I told my granddad I was bored onetime and asked him what he did when he got bored as kid.  He said, “I don’t get bored. We never got chance to think about anything except work. If Mama saw us sittin idle she made us sweep the yard or hoe the garden and in the winter time we chopped wood.” His family depended on him to contribute to their overall health and wellness. Living comfortably meant aching bones and sore muscles would be there for a lifetime to remind him of the work that made him a man.  Complacency is a part of the Weak Human Spirit that creates idleness. “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop”, and the workshop is located in the Weak Human Spirit.  When we fail to recognize that there is more that we can contribute to any task, we become complacent.  It is a dangerous behavior because it leads to covetousness. We want, yet we sit by unchallenged and bored making excuses for our perceived misfortune. God is to thank for our easy lives, but being a culture that is disinterested in work is disrespectful to the gift of work.

Work must have meaning to each individual. We are hedonistic with regards to most things, including work.  For it to be meaningful we want it to be personally fulfilling and interesting. Just because we aren’t producing our own food or maintaining our shelter, we can still find meaning in the things we do.  For starters, your life has meaning and God wants for you to thank him for your cognitive and physical ability to perform good work. If in everything we produce we do for the Glory of God, the Weak Human Spirit loses its influence in our lives. Meaning is established and work is done. Be an example to people by building them up and teaching them how to serve higher level social, organizational, and spiritual needs.  Identify what needs you are lacking to “be your best self”. Relationships are vitally important as a support structure to ward off the advances of the Weak Human Spirit; so once you reach a point of efficacy, build esteem and foster an environment of positive relationships and meaning with everyone.




Bringing Out the Best




Changing what work is to people is a multigenerational issue, however, action must be taken on the individual level. The effects of a personal decision to embrace the honor of working like God intended for us can be Universal.  Using the following practical steps will take us from doing unglorified torture to feeling the pleasure of doing good work.  Paul writes to Timothy to do your best and present yourself as someone who is unashamed of the work you produce according to God’s word. The six steps below form a pipeline.  You have to start at the beginning reconciling and maintaining each step along the way.

 

Recognize God’s Love

Recognizing God’s Love is the first step in the reconciliation of the relationship that everyone must have to find meaning and understanding in their work.  Without recognizing God’s Love you are broken.  It’s hard to tend the ground or build a home with broken tools.  In all areas of our life we must foundationally embark on them with Love of God as our Cornerstone.  A broken relationship with God creates unnecessary pain and difficulty. 

Reduce Dependence

The economic puppet masters think that society benefits from a restricted workforce supplemented by programs and handouts.  Regardless of what the economic models may say, total dependence on systems other than the gifts God gave you is not what was intended.  If a man has the physical ability and mental capacity he should not be the responsibility of anyone except himself.  Dependence on these programs has diminished the need and desire to honor God with our talents. Remove yourself from systems of support that offer you the things that you can reasonably, with the help of God, provide yourself.

Respect One Another

In America, ambition is a key ingredient to work success—Selfish ambition is a blurred line we carry a certain amount of ambivalence towards.  Personalized attempts to glorify our own work is a major contributor of making fellow workers feel disrespected. It even leads to people to interpret that being successful is a bad thing because of the way it is assumed to be obtained.  So many people have been victimized by other’s inward advances to “be the best” at work.  To the step the pipeline has addressed God and ourselves, now we must learn to submit to other’s needs above our own.  “Larger than self” motivations will create a culture of mutual respect with all your co-workers.  Acting on those well intentioned motives and compassionately investing into others will cultivate that culture.

Reinforce Good Behaviors

That cultivation will be a process that involves moving people through improvement by challenging them with purpose in their work.  We have been asking the question “Why?” since we could talk.  When challenging the status quo in order to perpetuate purpose, be expected to answer the question, “Why?”.  Especially during times of transition, never miss an opportunity to reinforce good behaviors.  By reinforcing good behaviors you can teach the importance of doing the right thing at work. The problems in most societies are a result of a poor work ethic in all parts of every demographic.  Believing in the good that God has put in all of us should offer enough encouragement to trust that if we can exemplify good behaviors at work that we could exemplify them at home.  Changing the way we challenge people at work can literally change the world!

Raise Up the next Generation

Mothers and Fathers leave the workplace every day humiliated, deflated, and angry.  The repercussions at home are often physically abusive.  The same demoralizing tone used by the boss to criticize a task is the same tone used to tell a young girl to finish her homework.  Imagine if everyone went home satisfied with the way their day ended at work.  Imagine what a better world we would live in. Imagine how invigorated the next generation of employees would be entering the workforce.  It can be a reality!  God’s plan always included work for us to do; it is a responsibility He has given us.  The next generation of workers can be challenged by their parents to love work and find purpose in it or hear a false gospel about suffering and torment for forty hours a week.  Rumi, a 13th century Islamic philosopher, issued a challenge to everyone concerning work.  He said to “fuel the desire in your heart”.  Essentially he was giving the world a cheat sheet on how to be delighted by work.  Parents and influencers of young children must be the keystone in helping them fuel the desires of their hearts. 

 

Rest!

And on the seventh day even God took a day off because what he did was “good”.  Hard work deserves rest.  The biblical stance of rest is the Sabbath.  Traditionally, in America we celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays.  It is unreasonable to think that everyone should refuse work on Sundays.  I’m pretty sure ancient Judea didn’t have any three shift manufacturing plants when those Levitical laws were established.  The importance of rest is the real concern.  Without recharging our hearts and minds at some point during each week we will become tired and cynical.  Rest begins with a good daily sleep pattern. Research shows that 7-9 hours of sleep is needed for optimum cognitive efficiency. Daily and weekly workloads also affect rest. Getting home to enjoy something besides your job is very restful.  Family and hobbies stimulate pleasure centers that create calmness.  And every now and then, you need to leave you comfort zone and travel to a relaxing place to clear you mind and enjoy God’s creation.  Resting is counterintuitive to everything that I’ve said so far, but it is essential to being able to keep the pipeline flowing.




Yes, Those Fruits of the Spirit!




More than 100 times a person’s occupation accompanied their name in the bible. Work is an identifier, but not how we are defined. The fruits of our hard work will hopefully sound much like Paul’s list in Galatians 5.  To work for a lifetime and only be remembered as a good worker is setting the bar much too low.  Be a person whose name and profession is accompanied by the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control. At the end of your life, if all that can be said about your work is, “he was a good worker”, you labored without true purpose and produced no fruit. Work with a Galatians 5 mindset.

 

As a world leader and a Christian state it is our responsibility to be a country that places spiritual worth in our physical work.  If you want people to accept your gospel, you have to prove to them that you work hard for your “daily bread” too! It’s a relational aspect of work that we fail to recognize as a stumbling block. If our jobs aren’t used for a place to build relationships and encourage one another we are missing a huge opportunity to glorify God.

Find Happiness in producing the desire in your heart—because we were all made to work.

 

Let’s Get to Work,

 

Clint Hamner

 

 

Post Script- It was not my intention to make this a spiritually guided essay.  I knew that the impetus for the material was biblical, but I never realized that it would flow so easily and be reinforced by the Word of God at each turn.  The power that the devil has over this world is enormous.  Work is a fact of life and Satan is firmly established in our places of work.  God is really the only answer that I could come up with to help myself as I struggle with keeping meaning and purpose in my job.  By the grace of God I hope I can help chase the Devil from our offices, farms, jobsites, and factories.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Forgiveness and Why it Matters

Hurt me once? Shame on you. Hurt me twice? Shame on me!


Maybe this old adage works for those people we want to pretend don’t exist, or that we don’t share any level of interdependence with, but what about everybody else?

Are we so emotionally guarded that disappointment is the only solution we have to offset the feeling of someone failing to live up to our expectations?

It’s certainly a reasonable way to live life and avoid the pain of being shamed. Just avoid those people who appear to have no shame in their transgressions, thusly, limiting your exposure to the risk of pain and suffering altogether.

There’s just one problem--- this doesn’t lend any logic to the fact that people are naturally good. Humans ascended to the top of the food chain because we needed each other and had to see the best in everyone.  Despite our desire for isolation and the creature comforts of today, we are still just like those early humans struggling against the elements and predators—We need each other and each other’s forgiveness to survive.

The impact of human forgiveness and peer to peer atonement matters; without it, I would have never been born.

Mack is my granddad, my mom’s dad. MeMe is his wife of 60 years. Though disappointed at times I’m sure, MeMe never blinked an eyelash when it came time to forgive Mack when the demons he fought won a few rounds. But she believed in him. She always saw the one good thing that he did after 99 wretched ones. Her enduring love for him is why hurt and pain doesn’t always mean shame for everyone involved. Sometimes love, or something like it, is what we need to get the best out of people.  Eventually it clicks, and love proves to be the answer again and again.  Mack has spent the last twenty years living in a state of semi-retirement, surviving cancer and a form of hydrocephalus, and loving MeMe as his soulmate and the only person that saw the good through all the bad. Forgiveness is why I’m here.

Expectations drive all reactions of human emotion.  When we don’t see the intended result, we call it failure.  We immediately make a determination of whether it should piss us off or make us cry.  This is a perfect example of of A-C thinking and our complete ignorance of B.

 

         A                                                                                                                             C

Something bad happens ------------------------------------------------------>Emotional Reaction

 

But if we just add one step of logic, we can give ourselves an opportunity to see the best in people. The progression through this often left out step makes us vulnerable, maybe appearing weak.  I would argue that it is a characteristic of servitude and understanding. Absolutely, some people exist to expose compassion as weakness.  It’s like giving a dollar to the homeless man at the gas station, you can only give him the means for something good, it’s up to them to use it for its intended purpose.  We shouldn’t choose who we share our grace with, but relate to them with a spirit of meekness.  This bridled power is a key component to serving others.  So, what if our logic looked like this.

 

A                                                             B                                                                             C

Something bad happens ->My reaction could help in meeting my expectations->Less Emotional Reaction

 

I know this is pie in the sky, little KUBUKI Medicine Man conjecture, but wouldn’t a greater sense of forgiveness and understanding make the world a better place? I think so, and should try to serve all those in my life by filling the gap of greater expectation with understanding.  I fail at it every day; sometimes by choice of my A-C thinking.  Sometimes by refusing to be vulnerable. This approach has burnt me, but not scarred me. And a few times the results have reinforced the fact that all people are good when humility successfully fills the gap of expectation.  There is no greater feeling than seeing someone appreciate compassion when they realize it changed their life. 

Expectations can be realized through Forgiveness if you allow it.

Easy as A--->B--->C,

 

Clint Hamner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ono Island's Most Wanted


Ono Island is the Hamptons of the Alabama Gulf Coast. Home to country and pop artists, comedians, actors, and sports stars, Ono Island is secluded, gated, and very private.  To the south of the island is The Old River.  This waterway serves as a moat against the wage earning vagrants and paupers who vacation along the Perdido Beach Road. A few years back, I was one of those paupers.  However, I wasn’t going to let a little brackish river keep me from potentially making friends with Britney Spears or Woody Harrelson!

What started out as a joke soon became a test of manhood.  June 6th, 2012 was the day that I would swim across The Old River. I remember the date because it was the same day that The University of Alabama defeated Oklahoma in the Women’s College World Series in the rain and the same day that we got a call from our social worker informing us of potential issues with the adoption of our daughter.

There were three of us guys sitting by the pool and a cast of other beach going rednecks under the cabana whose pot bellies, body hair, and cut off jeans made me feel a lot better about my fading physical appearance.  After listening to every Lynard Skynard song on the ipod, and the bottle of Fireball met its fortuitous demise, the stage was set for something big to happen.

“I bet I can swim all the way over there”, my friend Hut said pointing to Ono Island.

As the dozen or so people snickered and jeered at his presumption, I soberly advised to the contrary.

“Hell yeah, I can. And when I get there I’m gonna make out with Britney Spears on her boat dock”, he exclaimed to the now cheers from the cast of rednecks.  By this time they just wanted to see him give it a try and, if they were lucky, see someone drown-- Kind of like watching Nascar for the crashes!

“I’ll make you a deal. If you jump in first, I’ll swim it with you”, I said in a bluff.  My error in this bluff was thinking that rationality and the assessment of fear could be processed by my inebriated friend.

“Let’s GO”, Hut said as he flung his body off the wooden dock and splashed belly first!

A deal is a deal, so I jumped in directly after him. 

This is the point in the story that I should mention, in addition to an elevated blood alcohol content, Hut is seriously out of shape and more than a few pounds heavier than in his prime.

The next 500 feet could mean life and death for one, or both of us.  After about 50 yards I saw the fear in Hut’s eyes and his sobriety was instantly renewed.  He honestly thought he was going to drown.

Luckily, there was a sand bar shallow enough for us to stand up in about 50 more yards away.  All I could think about was the death crawl scene from the movie Facing the Giants.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sUKoKQlEC4)

“A few more strokes , Hut. Kick. Kick. Kick.  You can do it! We are almost there.  Just a little farther now.  Hut, don’t stop moving! I think I can see the sandbar.  Kick. Kick. Kick!  I wonder what Britney is wearing?  Keep swimming Hut.”

After about 40 yards of fighting for every inch, Hut was defeated and stopped moving his arms.

“I’m done. Please don’t let me die”, he said in sincerity.

At this point I’m exhausted as well, but I know that we are 20 seconds away from being able to rest.

“Move your arms, one more stroke, now another. Kick. Kick. KIIIICCCKKKK!”, I shouted as loud as I could as I felt the sand between my toes.

“Now stand up”, I directed as he realized that he was safe.

Hut looked back at the pool side cabana and proclaimed, “I AM THE BADDEST MAN ALIVE”!!!

The crowded cabana erupted in cheers and began chanting his name in unison.

We rested for a few minutes before finishing the last 30 yards with fresh lungs and made ourselves temporary residents of Ono Island.  Britney Spears must not have been home that day, but it didn’t matter, because Hut was Ono Island’s champion distance swimmer for the moment and found a part of himself that he never knew existed.

Soon the alcohol replaced the adrenaline and he screamed at a pontoon boat passing by and hitched a ride home.

Being motivated during tough situations gives us a glimpse of what we have the potential to be.  Having a person that believes in you during adversity is something that every successful person has.  Nobody can do it on their own.  Maybe you are that person to someone. Maybe you’re the only person that supports them in their most difficult ventures. 

Help others to refuse to accept difficulty as failure.

Push them the last few yards of their journey and celebrate the victory. 

Allowing them to stop or pushing them to keep going could change their life.  When we motivate people they learn the importance of accountability in the process of mastering something new.  Hut may never swim The Old River again, but he knows he has the ability to do it.  Your employees will never understand their potential to change your organization until they see failure as an option in the face of difficulty and choose perseverance instead. The results are always life changing.

We write off motivation as an effective way to overcome tough situations with most of our employees because we assume they don’t have the ability to reach new levels of achievement.  SHAME ON US! It’s not for us to make this decision. Our job is to be a constant and consistent support system and motivate them to gain new knowledge and skills in their pursuit of development. Investing in our people means supporting them unconditionally through motivation and encouragement….. no matter what.

 

Where were you Britney,

 

Clint Hamner