Tag Archives: compliance

Taking a Stand


I’m an expat living in Thailand, and I believe that this requires me to change certain behaviors that are normal and comfortable to me in order to be culturally sensitive.  When the Thai national anthem or the king’s song plays, everyone is supposed to stand (including foreigners) out of respect.  If I hear either song, I stand.  It’s a sign of respect to the country that is allowing my family to live on its soil.

In the mornings when I’m in town, I walk the kids to school, and my habit has become that I sit for half an hour or so doing my quiet time in the school’s courtyard.  At 8:00a, the large Thai school across the street from our school plays the national anthem.  I always stand, but many times, I’m the only one.  The other foreigners typically continue their conversations, and even the Thais working at our school only stop what they are doing occasionally.

Standing is a simple gesture, but when you are the only one doing it, it’s easy to feel foolish.  I look around at everyone doing their own thing, and I wonder, “Am I over-doing this respect thing?”  “If no one else is doing it, maybe it’s not really expected.”  “I wonder if they are laughing at me.”  “Maybe they are thinking that I’m being pretentious.” “Does it really even matter if I stand or not?”

After all, there are plenty of excuses for not standing.  The music is a little hard to hear.  It’s not  playing at our school.  We aren’t Thai.  The Thais don’t even stand sometimes.  No one seems to care.  I’m having a conversation.  I’m tired.  My leg hurts…

I had an experience like this today, and I spent some time thinking afterward.  Being a Christian is a little like standing for the Thai national anthem.  When you take a stand for God, you will often look foolish to the world around you.  You are standing for music they may not even be able to hear and for reasons that they don’t particularly understand.  Even some of the Christians around you aren’t taking a stand for God.

It’s easy to second-guess yourself. “Am I being too strict about the movies my kids watch and the music they listen to?”  “Am I naive to think my kids could possibly make it to marriage without having sex?”  “Am I throwing my money away when I tithe to the church?”  “Am I being pretentious by claiming that there is only one Way into heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ?”

These doubts and questions are part of the cost of taking a stand for God.  If it were easy, everyone would do it, right?  Of course, God could strike down anyone who didn’t take a stand, but He doesn’t.  He doesn’t, because then EVERYONE would stand.  They wouldn’t be standing because they loved the Lord; they would be standing out of fear and compliance.  Those aren’t the types of followers God is looking for.  He loves us too much to force us to “love” Him back.

When you take a stand for something, you have to be willing to pay the price.  Without cost, there is no sacrifice.  As King David said when Araunah offered him his threshing floor, oxen, wood and wheat for free in order to make an offering, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)  The value of the sacrifice is tied to how much it costs you.

The foolishness you sometimes feel when taking a stand for God is part of your sacrifice.  But you can take comfort in this Scripture:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:25)

One day, every stand you took for the Lord will be seen for what it was –  wisdom, love, honor, respect, readiness, strength, adoration, devotion, courage, faith…  Insist on paying the full price.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

 

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Filed under Authenticity, christianity, comfort zone, commitment, Compromise, culture, faith, obedience, parenting, priorities, sacrifice

The Power of a Shared Vision


A few weeks ago, I participated in my favorite annual activity: attending summer camp.  The camp is for abused children and is part of a national effort organized through Royal Family Kids’ Camps, Inc. (www.rfkc.org).  I have two main passions in life.  One is teaching, and the other is helping children.  The camp scratches that itch for me every year.  But the reason I’m writing about it has less to do with the children than with the adult volunteers who organize and conduct the camp.

Camp is a tough commitment for many of the volunteers.  It requires a six-day trip, which usually requires the volunteer to use vacation time.  Our camp is located in the middle of Texas during a week of July, when temperatures are scorching.  Each camp guide takes responsibility for two campers between the ages of 7-11 and spends 22.5 hours a day with them.

Every day of the week starts at 7:30a (earlier if the adult wants to get a shower in) and runs until 9:30p, when the camp guide is allowed to take a 90-minute break before stumbling into his/her comfy camp bunk.  Camp guides follow a tightly-packed schedule and do their best to make camp the ultimate experience for each of their campers.

I’m not doing it justice, because many volunteers spend hours and hours in preparation for camp – submitting to an invasive interview process, participating in two days of on-site training, attending meetings, shopping for cabin decorations, loading trucks, inventorying supplies, attending fund raisers, etc…  Suffice it to say, this camp requires a unique and demanding type of commitment.

Each year, it takes over 60-70 adults to host the one-week camp for approximately 60-70 abused children.  That’s a one-to-one ratio of adults to children – almost unheard of at a summer camp but absolutely essential for preserving the safety and creating the experience for the kids.  Sixty adults is a tough number to muster for a volunteer opportunity, but this camp has done it successfully for the past twelve years.  This year, most of our 70+ adults were returning volunteers.  Twenty-two have been with us for five years or more, and seven of those have been with the camp for all twelve years.

I have never seen a team operate as smoothly and effectively as the one that comes together each year to put on RFKC #47.  Personal differences are set aside.  Egos are checked at the camp gates.  Individual agendas are abandoned…all in an attempt to serve the kids.  All this while volunteers are being tested to their physical, mental and emotional limits.

How do the camp directors generate such loyalty, commitment and sacrifice from the volunteers?  Simple.  The power of a shared vision.  The camp directors don’t have to cajole these contributions from their volunteers, because the volunteers give them freely.  They don’t have to offer incentives, because the volunteers believe that the work is reward enough in itself.  They can elicit extraordinary effort from their volunteers just by asking, because the volunteers are passionate about the goals of the camp.

Can this power be put to work on your team?  YES!  To do it, you will need to create a vision that all your team members can get excited about.  Even if the work your team does isn’t viewed as intrinsically rewarding in and of itself, you can create incredible synergy by identifying your team’s uniqueness.  What is it that your team wants to be known for?  What makes it different from all the other teams?  Why would anyone outside the team want to come be part of it?

Everyone wants to be part of something excellent and extraordinary.  They will work for less money, put up with inconvenience and hassle, step out of the spotlight…all to be part of something unique and worthwhile.  So, no more excuses!  Every team is capable of being excellent in some way.  Find out what your team values the most and then go to work creating that reputation for yourself!

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Filed under buy-in, commitment, motivation, ownership, sacrifice, Service

Legislation for the Few


Have you ever stopped to consider where most of our laws, rules, restrictions and requirements come from?  Most of them were created to protect the many from the few.  In other words, most legislation (be it from a government or the Compliance department) is put into place to protect the many law-abiders from the few law-breakers.

I get it; it makes sense to me.  And I think many rules and laws are necessary.  But haven’t we taken it a little too far?  Sometimes we create so many rules and regs that we end up punishing the many just to restrict the few from their rule-breaking tendencies.  Once a rule is created, it ties the hands of everyone, not just the unruly rule-breakers.

Take this example from Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow:
“At Brock’s Restaurant in Stamford, Connecticut, here’s what it says on the menu (in large type):

SORRY—NO SHARING SALAD BAR
IN ORDER TO KEEP OUR OVERALL PRICING REASONABLE, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT AN HONOR SYSTEM OF NO SHARING OF THE SALAD BAR BE RESPECTED. SHOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND AND WISH TO ENJOY THE SALAD BAR, IT IS ONLY 2.95 WITH A SANDWICH, BURGER OR ENTRÉE. FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND COOPERATION WE THANK YOU.”

Consider what prompted this sign to be posted.  Restaurant management noticed some people piling on salad selections and then sharing them with their friends and family members.  How often do you suppose this happened?  How much do you suppose it actually cost the restaurant in salad losses?  I would wager that a month’s worth of salad stealing didn’t cost that restaurant more than one to two hundred dollars in actual losses (and I think I’m being generous).

Now, consider how many honest and conscientious salad patrons read that message.  How many of them do you think were irked by it?  How many of them left with a lower opinion of the restaurant than they had when they arrived?  How much bad publicity has that sign generated since being published by a nationally best-selling author?

Finally, think about the relatively small percentage of dishonest customers who dine at this restaurant.  Do you think the sign was a sufficient deterrent to prevent them from salad-stealing?  How many customers who had never thought of stealing salad now considered it after being introduced to the idea by the sign?

To quote an old proverb, the restaurant is “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.”  They are punishing the many to catch the few, and they probably aren’t catching the few anyway.

Seth Godin continues…
“Compare this to the wine policy at a restaurant called Frontière. The owner puts an open bottle of wine on every table, and at the end of the meal you tell the waiter how many glasses you consumed. The honor system.

Which is more worthy of positive comment? Marketing benefits aside, which leads to more incremental profit? (Hint: Two glasses of wine pay for a whole bottle at wholesale!)”

Both restaurants talk about an “honor system.”  The second restaurant demonstrates theirs.  Relying on the best of human nature, they put their money where their mouth is.  Sure, they will experience losses from dishonest people, but the losses won’t be anything compared to the positive press the restaurant gets for its sign of good faith.

Am I saying that we should get rid of rules and regs?  Not at all.  I’m saying, before you create a rule to govern the activities of your team or your customers or your kids (or anyone, for that matter), think hard.  What percentage of people is this rule intended to protect us from?  What percentage of honest, well-meaning people will be punished by it?  Could you better manage the behavior of the rule-breaking few by dealing with them directly?  Is the risk associated with the rule-breaking manageable?  In other words, can you live with the consequences of having a small percentage that are not in compliance?

Sometimes the cure is more expensive than the disease.  Maybe the problem isn’t worth solving.  Count the cost before you legislate.

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Filed under Abundance, grace, Interpersonal, Marketing

Rolling the Boulder


In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, the king of Corinth, saw Zeus steal away with a woman named Aegina and confessed what he saw to her father.  When Zeus realized what Sisyphus had done, he condemned him to Tartarus, where Sisyphus would spend eternity rolling a boulder to the top of a steep hill, only to have it roll back down again.  Zeus knew that the worst punishment he could render was a time without end of meaningless work.

When those you lead are given assignments without any explanation of why the task needs to be done, they sometimes feel like the miserable Sisyphus.    Each repetitive task that seems to accomplish nothing appears to be an eternal punishment.  Each goal that comes without a reason for its completion seems like one of Sisyphus’ boulders.  They may struggle to get it up the hill, but they do it without enthusiasm.  Their efforts lack commitment and creativity.  Meaningless work breaks the spirit.  (Remember how the guards finally got to Cool Hand Luke in the movie by the same name?)  It destroys your team member’s confidence in their leaders’ competence.

People are motivated by making a difference.  They need to know how what they do impacts the final result.  They want to know not only what buy why.  As you assign tasks, be sure to tell them why they roll the boulder.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, commitment, leadership, management, motivation, purpose, Service, Serving Others, Suffering