Friday Five February 26 2016

One of the main sources of frustration for any manager in any organization is knowing how to hold people accountable for their work performance. This article from HBR gives five elements you should engage in order to ensure your accountability efforts are effective. I would add a sixth: Clearly Realistic. How they plan to achieve their goals must be realistic – or if it is a stretch goal – it must fall within the realm of realistic possibilities. I like this article. I like how it emphasizes that you, as a manager, must first assess your team’s ability to achieve their goals, whether or not they are resourced properly and if the measurements in place are clear and understood by everyone in the room.

Staying with HBR, this article gives you some practical nuggets to use when you need to diffuse growing tension in a relationship.

So, you want a cheap, but accredited MBA? Try Western Governors University. Only $13K. Fully accredited. Assessment based, not classroom based, so your experience will help you get through the assessments faster. The only one that is cheaper that I’ve been able to find is the University of South Africa – looks to be around $8K, depending on the exchange rate.

As of February 24, 2016, our national debt stands at $19,054,164,528,762.98. Since January 1st of this year, we have amassed $131B of new debt. That’s an average increase per day of $2.4 billion dollars, or an average increase per hour of $99,989,999, or an average increase per second of $27,774. At the time of this writing, our population stands at 323,067,560 people. This means that if the debt were to be spread out evenly across every man, woman and child in the US, each person would owe $58,978.

For comparisons, go back 10 years to July 1, 2006. Our national debt on that day was $ 8,420,041,947,892.19. Our population was 299,398,484. Hence, the debt per person was $28,132. So, in 10 years, our population has grown by 7.3% while our debt has grown by a staggering 55.8%. The next President is going to have a debt crisis on their hands. Keynesian economics won’t help this time around. There won’t be any more money to spend.

Last, but not least, real gross domestic product — the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes — increased at a pathetic annual rate of 1.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.0 percent.

The jobless and growthless recovery continues. Signs are on the horizon that we’re due for another recession – right when the people are electing the next President.

Here’s the value add for the day – a sixth topic in my Friday Five. It has been noted by a Presidential candidate that as the government grows larger, so must our core companies in order to maintain some level of power balance between the Federal Government and the Fortune 100 companies. The Apple iPhone debacle with the FBI asking for them to hack their own phone is a prime example. Could you imagine if Appel was 25% the size that it is today? The FBI would walk all over them.

There is a phrase that people like to use: “too big to fail”. The follow-on phrase is “too big to jail”. I have a third phrase: “too big to sail”. I think companies that have 100K or more employees – or agencies of the Federal government that have several hundred thousand working for them – these institutions are too big to succeed – IOW, too bit to sail. The President has over 2,000,000 people reporting to him. There’s no way he can succeed in any agreeable way because 2 million people are too many to manage. Our Federal government is too big to sail.

Evangelical Support of Donald Trump is an Empty Hope

At the time of this writing, Donald Trump is enjoying nearly half of the support from the Evangelical community in South Carolina. He is expected to win a plurality of Evangelicals in their primary on Saturday. Evangelicals appear to be bypassing at least three candidates on the Republican ticket (Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marko Rubio) who are openly Evangelical and one on the Democratic ticket (Hillary Clinton) who is claims to be a Christian.

I’m not alone in my bewilderment of Evangelical support for Mr. Trump. Other voices are expressing similar perplexities. While I find the People for the American Way‘s conclusion that Satan is at work within the Evangelical community to be a bit far-fetched, more reasonable voices are scratching their heads on this one too. Ed Rogers has articulated well in his recent article for the Washington Post what many of us are thinking:

“Many evangelical leaders, who can be so quick to point out the moral failings of others, are strangely silent concerning Trump’s shortcomings. How can they reconcile fidelity to their faith with a vote for Trump? How do they overlook Trump’s personal qualities and behavior? What about the morality of entrusting the presidency to someone with the temperament and questionable judgment we have all witnessed from Trump? I would like some answers. I find it hard to believe evangelicals are supporting Trump because of his policy positions, since he doesn’t have many. They can’t be supporting Trump because of his faith or godliness, and they certainly shouldn’t hide behind Trump’s goofy comments, such as how he “love[s] the Bible” or reads “Two Corinthians.” Come on.”

Some claim Evangelicals are “just mad at the way things have gone for the last seven years” and so their support of Trump is not an abandonment of their faith (to their way of thinking) as much as it is an expression of raw anger against both parties in Washington. But why not express that anger via candidates who have not supported the administration’s efforts in the last seven years and yet clearly have a strong Christian faith?

While some are wary of Trump, others argue that Trump’s personal shortcomings don’t matter to Evangelicals. For the man who claims to be a Christian but never asks God for forgiveness of his sins and instead has such hubris that his believes he can change himself to be whoever he wants to be, it is stunning to see those who claim the name of Christ like Jerry Fawell Jr or Sarah Palin endorse a man who has little moral compass (here and here too), claims he can make American great again but doesn’t define what “greatness” is, and claims to be an outsider when, as a major donor to both parties, he has been the poster child for establishment politics.

Why do Evangelicals support Mr. Trump? I think the most compelling explanation is found in an article published in 1996 by Samuel Francis and explained well by the ever-bloviating, Rush Limbaugh. The web site reports Rush talking about this move from conservatism to nationalism recently on his radio show:

“Nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal,” Limbaugh said Wednesday. In a largely sympathetic analysis, Limbaugh argued many voters are simply “fed up” with the Democratic Party but are also angry with Republicans in Congress who, he believes, do not act as a real opposition in Washington. At the same time, Limbaugh said, there’s “a group of people out there that you would think looking at ’em, listening to ’em, the way they vote, ‘They’re conservative.'” “But it’s not conservatism that is uniting them or motivating them,” he said. ‘This is what everybody is missing in Washington.” Referring to Republicans in the capital, Limbaugh said: “They still don’t get that the primary motivating characteristic of Republican voters this time around is an absolutely direct opposition to the left, to the Democratic Party, to Obama and everything that’s been going on the last seven years. They want it stopped and reversed. And they will go anywhere if they are convinced whoever’s telling them they’re gonna stop it is telling them the truth.”

While I largely agree with this analysis, I believe my brothers and sisters are not thinking clearly if they think Mr. Trump is the leader we need to turn things around.

When I look at Mr. Trump, I see a man steeped in hubris who believes that America’s greatness can be achieved through better deal-making. It appears for Trump, American’s greatness is not found in inalienable rights given to us by God, or an appeal to one or more transcendent principles or even our character as a nation. Nope, her greatness can be restored by making better deals. The premise for this campaign is simple:

  • We have stupid (his words) people in office
  • These stupid people made stupid deals
  • America lost her greatness as a result of these stupid deals
  • I, Donald Trump, am smart, not stupid
  • I’ve made great deals in business (Exhibit A: I’m rich because I make great deals)
  • I’ll make great deals for America
  • America will be great again
  • So elect me as President

He’s running on the notion that because he has made great deals in business, he can make great deals for our country and, as a result, American’s greatness and exceptionalism will be restored.

A vote for Trump is similar to that of voting for Obama. With Obama, you got a strong ideology couple with an immense arrogance which has moved this country to the left and polarized our political processes like never before. Never forget that arrogant people are always polarizing people. With Trump, you’ll get the same hubris without an ideological center. Because Trump doesn’t know what principles he believes, he’s likely to vacillate and contradict himself as President. The real danger is that when a person doesn’t believe in something, they’re likely to believe in anything. I sense Trump will evaluate the success of his deals based on their outcomes and whether or not he thinks they are fair and equitable. I think he’ll be a moving target as a President in terms of what he is willing to commit to.

Evangelicals should wake up and smell the coffee. A vote for Trump is a vote for arrogance (which we’ve already had seven years of), deal making, a lack of authenticity and four years of perpetual bloviating. His Presidency will be Jesse Ventura on steroids: entertaining but damaging to our country. While it might be fun to watch the late night comics parody Trump giving a State of the Union address, our laughter will be short-lived. Like Ventura’s 4-year stint as Governor of Minnesota, I suspect that Trump will manage to offend nearly every group in our society within his first term. And like Ventura, he will be a one-term President with, at best, mediocre results.

Evangelicals should weigh carefully their anger with our current President and our other elected officials relative to the Trump candidacy. Other reputable candidates exist right now who know what they believe and have an authentic faith in God. Trump is an empty suit selling an empty promise. Many Evangelicals were fooled by Obama. Don’t be fooled again.

Bill English

Quick Response Plan Necessary for Small Business Owners and Ministry Leaders

Having a quick response plan that lays out a clear process to follow when your company or ministry is suddenly at the wrong end of a media blitz is a necessary risk management tactic in today’s environment. This is especially true when you, as a Christian Business Owner, have taken a public stand that is contrary to our society’s norms and values. We’ve seen it happen to Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil-a along with smaller businesses such as Memories Pizza or Sweet Cakes, who have been called by God to defend our faith and publically suffer for it. I have talked about public relations with a hostile media in the past, so this is a follow-on to that article.

Before we get to the plan particulars, let’s talk about how to manage yourself during the media attention. There are some key aspects to managing yourself and your company when a hostile media shows up at your door. Here are some things to remember – and to bake into your response plan:

  1. Do not blame the liberal media if you don’t handle yourself well during the interview. They are not there to make you look good.
  2. Be authentic and natural – on camera and off camera.
  3. Try to connect with the audience behind the camera.
  4. Don’t look or sound angry
  5. Communicate principles – communicate what’s at stake
  6. Use their questions to deliver your mission and values
  7. Sometimes, it is smart to answer the question the interviewer should have asked, not the question they did ask.

Remember, your goal is to get your message clearly stated as a likable person with a good attitude. The goal of the interviewer is often to get a sensational quote, meet a deadline and keep the audience glued to their program. The interviewer’s goals are often not your goals, so understand that as long as you have met your goals in responding to the media, you have been successful, even if their report is full of inaccuracies or oppositional opinions. Simply present your principles and views, but don’t argue with the interviewer and don’t let them “get under your skin”. Keep your emotions in check.

Your response plan should include the following:

  1. Who: know who will invoke the rapid response process and under what criteria it will be invoked
  2. Who: know who will make the public statements and instruct everyone else in your company to offer a “no comment” with a follow-up that “so-and-so will be making a statement at such-and-such time”.
  3. What: have some prepared phrases for different types of situations ready to be used in a larger, overall comment or statement. Think through what you will say and not say. This is crucial: as a Christian business owner or ministry leader, you must understand what you believe and know what hills you will and won’t die on. You can’t decide this after the cameras are rolling and the microphone is in your face. You need to know what you’re really all about – both in business and in life – before the storm hits.
  4. Where: your process should include where you’ll make your statement(s) – do not agree to “ambush” interviews – offer to meet the interviewer at a time/place in the near future that is acceptable to both of you
  5. When: Reply on your timeline with sensitivity to the situational influencers.
  6. Why: Give a robust explanation of your thinking, but don’t plan on changing the minds or hearts of those who are opposing you.

The conflicts you’ll face might not be about issues that we’re facing today. But cultural trends can shift swiftly in our ever-connected society where the masses are swayed by sound-bite social media posts. Leading a business or ministry may result in God calling you to speak before the masses and give a reason for the hope that is in you and to defend the Christian faith. Having a response plan and knowing what you’ll say will help you represent the Lord and our Christian faith better.

Bill English

Lessons from the Life of Joseph Part III

The Life of Joseph can be highly instructive for Christian business owners, if we are willing to look at ourselves through the examples we find in Scripture. Joseph became a man of integrity and forgiveness, which was a result of God’s work in his life over a 13-year period to prepare his character and skills for a work that would save millions of lives.

You might recall this series of events in Joseph’s life that is outlined in Genesis 39 and 40:

  • Joseph is sold to the Ishmaelites who take him to Egypt
  • The Ishmaelites sell him to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s government, a “Captain of the Guard”
  • “The Lord was with Joseph” – Potiphar notices this
  • Joseph is put in charge of his house

During his trials, three times we’re told that God is ministering His presence to Joseph:

  • “The Lord was with Joseph”
  • “The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian”
  • “The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had”

The presence of God stayed with Joseph. In Genesis 39.3, we read that Potiphar saw that the “Lord was with him” and that it was the Lord who gave Joseph success. Now, the only way Potiphar would have known about the Lord was if Joseph told him. Perhaps God gave Potiphar special insight into his servant, but since it is doubtful that Potiphar even knew that God existed, it seems more plausible to assume that when Joseph was successful, he openly gave credit to God, not himself.

The Bible speaks to the positive effects of righteous people being in the place of leading and ruling others:

  • There is tranquility: 2 Samuel 23.3-4
  • There is rejoicing: Prov 29.2
  • There is justice: Isa 32.1
  • There is peace: Gen 39.3-6
  • There is satisfaction: Gen 39.3-6

One gets the impression from the first part of Genesis 39 that Joseph’s presence in Potiphar’s house was a peaceful, happy time for Potiphar and his house. I wonder if our presence in our businesses as owners brings about tranquility, justice and peace. Does our presence in our industry have the same effect? Or, do people look at us and run because of our Christianity? Do other business owners smirk behind our backs because of our faith? Some of this cannot be prevented, but to the extent it is within our control, the culture of our business and the effect of our presence in our industries should result in such things as peace, justice and tranquility.

Now, we’ll recall that Joseph had abused his strongest gift – interpreting dreams. So God suspended the use of his gift so that his other management gifts – particularly leadership – could be developed. In Potiphar’s house, Joseph learned the political and military protocols of Egypt, the structure of the Egyptian government and some lessons on the “polish” and graces of Egyptian upper classes. God puts the future Governor of Egypt in a place where he can learn how to behave when he is Governor.

But there were more difficult lessons Joseph needed to learn before he was ready to become governor of Egypt. This lesson would dramatically change his life and put him in prison for several years.

Later, in Chapter 39 Potiphar’s wife “took notice” of Joseph. The Bible describes him as “well built and handsome”. This has echoes of Saul and David who both were described as handsome. She “takes notice” of Joseph: “Come to bed with me” she demands. Day after day she pursues Joseph – one wonders why she would do this.

Her marriage to Potiphar was probably one of status. In today’s common English, she was likely a “trophy wife”. She got money, status, leisure, servants yet she likely felt unloved, trapped, used, bored and so forth. I order to survive, she’s learned manipulation and intimidation as tactics in relationships. So, she initiates an affair perhaps as much out of boredom as anything else. She keeps inviting Joseph – day after day after day – she stays after him until she’s frustrated and fed-up with her inability to manipulate Joseph into her control.

The Bible says that Joseph refused to “go to bed with her” and that he refused to “even be with her”. You know, it’s one thing to resist the temptation, it’s another to alter your daily schedule so that you avoid the source of the temptation. For many of us, we’re tempted day after day and it can get tiring. Satan comes at us: “spend this money” or “eat too much food” or “get involved with that cute little gal at the office” and so forth. He temps us day after day, often preying on our most vulnerable parts. But how many of us alter our schedules to avoid the source of the temptation in the first place? Our strength to resist temptation is not found in our ability to say “no” when the temptation comes, but in our ability to avoid the tempter all together.

Joseph’s response demonstrates that he understands his stewardship position relative to Potiphar. He calls Potiphar “My master” and further acknowledges that his sin would ultimately be against God: “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (39.9). In the end, resisting sexual temptation is about your love for God. It’s really that simple. Joseph had no support to resist other than the Presence of God, so it is apparent that alone in a strange world, Joseph had come to deeply depend on and enjoy the Presence of God.

Have you ever experienced the continued presence of God to the point where old temptations became a tradeoff of giving up the greater Presence of God so you could have the lesser temptation? I would submit that Joseph would have never known the deep, abiding presence of God had he not been cut off from all he knew and all he loved. R.T. Kendall wrote in his book God Meant it for Good, “The fear of offending God must become the worst thing that we can imagine”. Most Christian business owners find their business failing to be the worst thing they could imagine. That thought should be nothing compared to our sin offending the Most High God.

When Potiphar hears of his wife’s accusations against Joseph, he burns with anger and has Joseph thrown into the prison where the “kings prisoners reside”. It was a moderate punishment since many surmise that Potiphar didn’t believe his wife, otherwise, he would have had Joseph put to death. One of the most significant tests that God brings into our lives is this: being punished for doing the right thing and having no choice but to keep quiet about it. This is what Peter talks about in 1 Peter 2.20 – 23 when he says that Christ “entrusted himself to him who judges justly” and that “if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

As Christian business owners, there will be times when our decisions will not be understood by the masses. We’ll have to make decisions that many will not like. We’ll be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion and yet, there will be no defense that we can offer. This is part of leadership and it is also part of living righteously before God. Leadership is sometimes developed in the trials that demand faithfulness to your principles and to God, even when everyone around you is pressuring you to do otherwise. Just because you live a Godly live doesn’t mean others will recognize it – some will even accuse you falsely of sin and will be believed.

What can we learn?

  • Let’s not only resist temptation, let’s avoid the source of the temptation
  • The fear of offending God must become the worst thing that we can imagine
  • If we really desire to be like Christ, a time will come when we are punished for doing what is right and we’ll have no defense. We’ll have to stay quiet about it.
  • Just because you live a Godly life doesn’t mean you’ll be rewarded for doing right – sometimes God will chasten you when you’ve done right

Bill English