March 2, 2017

Leaving Things Unsaid

Sometimes I feel like I need to include EVERYTHING in a lesson or a sermon or a talk with my kids. But Jesus said,

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. (Mark 4:33)
Choice words, fitly spoken, beat the kitchen sink every time.

March 1, 2017

On Asking for Feedback

"When administrators [other leaders] take the time to ask for feedback and input, teachers [and other front-line workers] feel as though their contributions make a difference. However, the best administrators never ask for information they plan to ignore, and never ask for input on a decision they have already made." -If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students p.23

This book contained a few gems like this, but was mostly long lists of ideas for supporting faculty and staff. The plethora of silly acronyms turned me off a bit.

February 23, 2017

How to Question Legitimate Authority

We are taught to respect authority, and rightfully so. God has placed parents, bosses, governments, and religious leaders over us as legitimate authority figures that we are to respect unless they forfeit that respect. 

But questioning authority (respectfully) is not the same as defying authority, and legitimate authority should welcome questions. Here's a situation where authority should have been questioned in a book I recently read called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. (amazon affiliate link)

A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there. But instead of writing out completely the location “right ear” on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it so that the instructions read “place in R ear.” Upon receiving the prescription, the duty nurse promptly put the required number of ear drops into the patient’s anus. Obviously, rectal treatment of an earache made no sense. Yet neither the patient nor the nurse questioned it. 
In Japan, where I live, and in other parts of Asia, it is particularly hard to question authority, but there are a few ways to make it more pleasant for both the one under authority and the one in authority. 

We recently talked about this issue at my church's men's group. Here are some helpful guidelines for people under authority who face a situation where questioning authority might be in order.

  • Determine whether you are the right person at the right time to bring this up.
  • Demonstrate commitment.
  • Try to find the answers yourself first.
  • Demonstrate humility.
  • Propose solutions.
  • Assume the best.
  • Assume that you might be missing something. Ask tentatively.
  • Think about the long-term relationship.

And some things to keep in mind for those in authority who want to be approachable.

  • You don't know it all.
  • People from different perspectives have much to offer.
  • Be big enough not to invalidate questions just because the questioner didn't go through the above guidelines.

February 22, 2017

Why I Unfollow

500-Year-Old Wisdom for the Facebook generation.
There are many things too which it is your duty to pass by with a deaf ear, and be rather mindful of those which belong to peace. It is more profitable to turn away one's eyes from things that displease, and to leave each person his own opinion, than to wait upon contentious discourses. - Thomas a Kempis. The Imitation of Christ (free ebook from Project Gutenberg).

February 12, 2017

Groundbreaking New Medicine Treats ADHD

From the "Duh" department, recent studies show that kids who get physical exercise have better executive function, which translates to improved math and reading scores, and this holds especially for kids who show signs of ADHD.

An article in The Atlantic entitled "Exercise Is ADHD Medicine" quotes Alan Smith, chair of the department of kinesiology at Michigan State, who "went out on no limb at all in a press statement at the time, saying, 'Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD.'"

Maybe some kids could be treated with some fresh air and sunshine instead of stimulants.

February 11, 2017

You Need a Good Box

"It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing." 

- A Former Enron manager, as quoted on p. 374 of Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw.

February 10, 2017

Whose Approval Matters?

“In between other people’s opinions of us and our pleasure in them is our assessment of the validity of their approval. We are not the passive victims of others’ opinions. Their opinions are powerless unless we validate them. No one’s approval will affect us unless we grant it credibility and status. The same holds true for disapproval.” - John Ortberg, p. 63. The Life You’ve Always Wanted (amazon affiliate link)

February 9, 2017

When Two or More Are Responsible for Something

"When two or more are responsible for something, usually nobody is. . . . Everybody sort of feels responsible for it, but no one really owns it. So it doesn’t happen." - David Allen

March 23, 2016

Warm Up with Quick, Easy Tasks

Another good one from HBR, this time about "completion bias." Completing tasks, however small, gives us pleasure, so we tend to do simple and sometimes meaningless tasks rather than complicated and perhaps far more meaningful tasks.

So is the answer to avoid those simple tasks? Actually, no, because "finishing immediate, mundane tasks actually improves your ability to tackle tougher, important things." So the article suggests planning out your most important work for the day, but then cranking out a few (not too many!) small tasks to get into the groove before tackling your more demanding work.

To that suggestion, I'd add that it's even better if your quick tasks at the beginning of the day are high leverage. Here's a small example. Two days ago, I received an email asking me to approve the design for a sign that we had ordered. Before tackling the important work of the day (it happened to be a long bike ride with my son, but that's beside the point), I sent a quick reply approving the design. Our designer was able to get the sign printed, built and installed today, three days ahead of schedule!

March 19, 2016

The Deadline

HBR has a helpful article about deadlines. Here's an excerpt:
Deadlines can also make it easier to honestly assess your workload. If you have something due on Friday and you’re aware that it will take all your available time between now and then, it’s easier to decline extra projects or meetings.

It's true that deadlines bring focus and help us prioritize, but as we juggle time-sensitive projects at work, we can lose sight of the ultimate deadlineWe don't know the exact date, but we know it's coming.

If having something due on Friday helps us decline extra projects and meetings, how much more so should the fact that our days are numbered help us to prune counterproductive pursuits from our lives.

"Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12