The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to tell yourself, “Go take a nap!”

This is a continuing series. Today’s post is “Go take a nap.” In this series, we are examining leadership burnout and the steps you need to implement as a leader to avoid (and recover from) burnout.

Contain within the Hebrew Scriptures is one of my favorite stories of all time. Written like a great movie blockbuster, this story has it all.

Murder.

Betrayal.

The beginning of a revolution.

Drama.

Rebellion.

Intrigue.

The Backstory

Elijah, a prophet to the nation of Israel is confronting the King. The wicked ruler Ahab has ravaged the lady with wife, the cruel and anti-God Jezebel. Elijah, the one urging the people to remain faithful to God, can only do so by confronting the King. The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

In 1 Kings 18, he does just that. After years of prophecy, it is time for action. Elijah emerges from a foreign town called Zarephath (which means ‘melting pot’, probably a sign that it had economic ties to military arms production).1 Elijah, a prophet of Israel, emerges from his hiding place, located inside of Israel’s enemy, from a town producing tools to destroy Israel, to tell the king it’s time to face the music. The nerve of Elijah. 

Yet as we shall see, this will also set the stage for his coming burnout.

Elijah confronts the king, his evil wife Jezebel, and her wayward prophets of Baal in a showdown to determine the true ruler of Israel. A comedic set of circumstances follow.

Elijah seemingly gives the prophets of Baal every advantage. They get to build their altar first, perhaps ending the confrontation early if Baal shows up. They get to pick the best bull for the sacrifice, and they can have as long as they want to win the showdown.

After hours of worship and devotion to Baal, the prophets begin to tire. Elijah starts taunting them. Here, many translations limit the effectiveness of this passage by saying that perhaps Baal is busy traveling, deep in thought.

A better and more literal translation has Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal that perhaps they caught him while he was going to the bathroom. Baal would surely come to their rescue just as soon as he could finish relieving himself. How embarrassing!

Elijah’s Response

After taunting the prophets, Elijah changes his tone. Now, he gathers the watching Israelites and begins to instruct them in the proper way to live. The drought the nation is experiencing is because of their inability and lack of desire to follow God. The drought will end when they realize this.

He rebuilds their broken altar, has the bull sacrificed, orders water poured on it, and prays to God to accept the sacrifice. Immediately, fire from heaven consumes the offering, the altar, and the water. The people are astonished.

Elijah orders the false prophets killed and murders over 400 people. Because of their faithfulness, the people will be rewarded with rain.

Elijah warns the king to prepare. After three years of no rain, it is about to become a torrential downpour!

The Burnout

At the conclusion of this story, Elijah is exhausted.

The teaching.

The sacrifice.

The murder.

Additionally, the text tells us that Elijah then flees the scene and runs to another town that was twenty miles away.

It is here that Elijah falls victim to burnout. He has started to believe his own hype and self-importance. One author comments

“Elijah, in fact, is a vivid biblical example of Freudenberger’s observation that burnout “is the letdown that comes between crises or directly after ‘mission accomplished.’”… He expended a great deal of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in his conflict with the prophets of Baal…His success caused the Israelites and their king to come back to the worship of the only true God. Shortly after that incident, he expended more energy by climbing to the top of Mount Carmel, spending an intense period of time in prayer… and, when that prayer was answered…outran King Ahab’s chariot.”2

The story then tells us that Elijah is overwhelmed and wishes he were dead. He complains to God. To him, death is better than continuing down this path.

(On a side note, we see this in burnout all the time. It’s one leading reason why the highest spike in suicide happens on Sunday night as people start preparing to go back to a job they hate).

God’s Response

In words that I have come to use often on myself and others when they are feeling overwhelmed, I love God’s response.

After listening to Elijah he gives his two commands: eat something and take a nap.

Elijah, you just did something important. You accomplished a big goal. Then you ran twenty miles. You’re tired. Exhausted. Spent. Have some meat. Eat some bread. Drink some water. Then go take a nap. We’ll talk after that.

Elijah follows these commands, and wouldn’t you know it, he wakes up refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

We too need to hear these words. After significant challenges, we can fall victim to overwhelm.

Don’t listen to those voices!

In future posts, we’re going to look at specific ways to prevent and fight against burnout. For now, it is enough to know this: if you’re exhausted, eat something and then go take a nap. We can talk after that.


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

1.) Brueggemann, Walter. 1 Kings. Knox Preaching Guides. John H. Hayes. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

2.) Minirth, Frank B. “Unfulfilled Expectations: The Burnout Burden.” In Beating Burnout: Balanced Living for Busy People, 41-42. New York: Inspirational Press, 1997.

Blog Post Cover Photo. An anthill with ants and overlay text that says everything has consequences

Recently, I took my oldest son on a two-day camping trip. It was the start of his milestone ceremonies as he transitions to manhood. Our theme this time was, “Everything has consequences.”

Milestone Ceremonies

I am designing these milestone ceremonies to happen at significant moments in his biological development. At each age and stage of life, he will discover more responsibility and insights into his plan and ultimate objective into life. It’s like an extended “coming of age” ceremony.

  • 8 – Pre-Puberty.
  • 12 – Puberty
  • 16 – Driving and Freedoms Blog Post Cover Photo. An anthill with ants and overlay text that says everything has consequences
  • 18 – Adulthood and Goals
  • 21 – Final Milestone Ceremony

Each of these trips is designed to teach him something about the way the world works, his capacity as a man, and what it means to live a life of service and dedication to others.

This first trip, happening at a primitive campground in the high desert of California, was raising him to the awareness of his body, the changes that will happen, and to start him thinking about planning his future choices.

He was (partly) responsible for packing appropriate things, and helped me set up and tear down camp. We also learned a bit about how to make a fire, hunt animal tracks. pay attention to our surroundings, and emergency medical and hazard situations.

In the heat of the Friday afternoon sun, we were blessed with what became our theme, somewhat unexpectedly.

The idea stuck: everything has consequences.

The Results of Our Choices

Underneath the hot afternoon sun, we spent time watching an ant colony work. Suddenly, two dozen beetles came and landed near the colony. Instantly, the ants swarmed and started attacking the beetles. The beetles, encumbered by the swarm of ants, tried to escape. Some were successful. Others were quickly dispatched and stuffed down the hole of the ant colony.

In the middle of our observation, Jackson turned to me and said, “Dad, are you for team beetle or team ant?”

“I dunno. I’m just interested in watching and seeing what happens. I want both to win.”

As we sat there in silence a few more minutes, I started our conversation.

In life, everything has consequences. That’s not a bad thing. Consequences don’t have to be bad. They are just the result of what we choose to do. What happens if we help all the ants kill the beetles?

All the beetles lose their lives. Justin and Jackson camping

Right. And what happens if we help the beetles escape?

The ants have nothing to eat.

Correct. You will make choices that affect other people. In fact, every choice you make has an effect on something. Be sure you make choices you can live with, morally, ethically, and practically.

As he sat there in silence for a few more minutes, he finally muttered. “Huh. Everything has consequences.”

Building a Life of Choices

The life you’re living today is a result of the choices you’ve made along the way.

Good, bad, or indifferent, you are exactly where you should be because of the choices you’ve made so far.

The great thing is, if you don’t like where you’re at, you can make different choices.

Chart a new path.

Create a new outcome.

Change direction.

Channel different energy.

Just because this is where you are, doesn’t mean this is where you have to end up.

Your story is not over.

If you’re ready to make new choices, I’d love to be a part of your story and help you make a new destiny.

Just remember: everything has consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog Post Cover: Business Operations Professional People Skills

We’re continuing our look at Marcus Whitney’s Book Create and Orchestrate by examining what it means to have a strong sense of business operations.

If you missed any of the previous posts, don’t worry, links are at the bottom.

At its core, the purpose of operations is the indefatigable elimination of risk in the business.*

The Structure Of Business

The United States has a dizzying array of tax codes, legal standards, and licensing requirements for businesses. I’m not a tax professional, and I understand very little about the different structures and benefits to each different type of business entity.

What I do understand, however, is risk mitigation and people management.

Yes, creating the right entity matters.

Of course, you need to have insurance, file the proper paperwork, and utilize the right tax incentives.

But above all, it’s the measure of people’s development, conflict resolution, and personal investment that really shapes the future of your business.

Effective Business Operations Includes Substantial People Development

Years ago, I was coaching an individual that often touted his own leadership capabilities. He was convinced that both his ideas and his methods were right. It came as an absolute shock then when he was passed over for a promotion.

To hear that he didn’t play well with others, handled criticism poorly, and was developing a negative reputation in the organization truly came as a surprise to him.

Early on he expressed his anger and frustration. Everyone else’s inability to see his greatness was offensive. It was then that I asked him a fundamental question about his leadership. Blog Post Cover: Business Operations Professional People Skills

“Great leaders produce more leaders. Who are other people you’ve developed that would identify you as their main source of influence?”

He sat in silence for several minutes, ultimately unable to come up with a single name.

He was slowly beginning to realize the difference between ordering others with tasks and leading people effectively.

To his credit, he took the insight seriously and began to change. His method and approach to interacting with others improved greatly. He led his team more effectively and radically improved his leadership capabilities. As a result, his overall business operations improved. His happier (and more well-developed people) made for a better culture, which made for a better customer experience. Everyone won.

Your Key Three Takeaways

To effectively grow your business operations and, as a result, your overall business, you must, as they say, play well with others. Ultimately it will all come down to how well you invest in the people and culture of your organization. Here are three things for you to practice this week:

1.) Think Through the HR Logistics

One of the reasons businesses call me is because they sense that a change is needed in their HR policies. People are leaving. Customers are unhappy. Turnover is high. What’s going on? Most times, the business owner hires an employee but then stops the conversation. Outside of the occasional business meeting, there is little to no talk of promotion, a pay raise, or leadership development. If this is you, your business operations are in need of a serious overhaul. Start with people. End with people. Develop people at every step along the way. Think through those logistical questions and treat your employees with respect, trust, and goodwill. It goes farther than you think.

If you’d like some help with this, feel free to email me and we’ll set up a time to talk.

2.) Praise Publicly – Criticize Privately.

I almost wrote, “Don’t criticize.” It’s not that people don’t need to hear good, constructive feedback, it’s that it’s so often done poorly. Coach your people through problems. This gives them the opportunity to listen and learn from their mistakes by applying critical thinking to their own actions. The most effective way to change behavior is through good, insightful coaching.

On the positive side, be generous with public praise. I once worked with an employer that openly refused to praise their employees.

“I give them a paycheck, why should I praise them for doing their job?”

The short version of that story is that employee turnover was extraordinarily high and morale was constantly low.

Praise frequently and extravagantly.

Let someone know when they do a good job.

Better yet, make sure others know it as well.

3.) Win Relationships, Not Arguments

Several years ago, mired in a personal conflict with someone else, I learned a very harsh reality: If I win the argument but lose the relationship, I’ve lost everything.

I’m sad to say that I lost everything. My moments of weakness, poor leadership, and even worse conflict resolution ability cost me a friendship and ultimately a job. As a person in charge of business operations, this decision haunts me.

From that moment on, I was determined to never let it happen again. Since then, I’ve never been disappointed. Even when it means swallowing my pride or allowing the other person to be right (even if factually I am) it’s always been worth the extra effort and energy to win the relationship.

As a business owner or other leader, be sure to win relationships. With your employees, your customers, your superiors, and your community. Sacrifice the idol of always needing to be right and instead work towards always needing to be loving. Demonstrate grace, compassion, and empathy as a leader.Create and Orchestrate Book Cover

Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

*  Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 69). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Blog Post Cover: A Strong Financial Plan

We’re continuing our series on Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate, and his eight core concepts to successfully run your business. In today’s post, we’re examining how to have a strong financial plan.

Financial Planning: An Introduction

It seems self-explanatory that a business needs to have a handle on its finances. Yet most new entrepreneurs don’t understand the importance of finance in their business. In my experience, finance is the aspect of business that most new entrepreneurs are weakest in. Understanding finance is critical to ensuring the sustainability of your business.*

Whitney’s assessment has been true not only of my own entrepreneurial journey but of many of the businesses I have coached and partnered with along the way.

I’ll never forget the first month I “made money” as a coach. Someone had actually written me a check, I was profitable … right?

Not so fast. There were the marketing bills I had to pay, the time spend on social media engagement, the debt collected by getting more education, the operations costs, and other bills to pay. All I had really done was gone slightly less in debt that month.

The next month, more people wrote checks. In the following months, there were a few more. Eventually, I was making more from my part-time hustle than I was from my full-time gig. That was when the profit started to happen.

Whitney highlights six key financial components every entrepreneur needs to be aware of in order to have a strong financial plan. These include:

  1. Revenue
  2. Expense
  3. Profit
  4. Assets
  5. Liability
  6. Capital

If you want to see what Whitney says about each of these, pick up a copy of his book here.

For us, it’s enough to note them and talk about the implications from a coaching perspective.

The Benefits of a Strong Financial Plan

When I first began coaching, I spent my time focusing on leadership health and burnout. Immersing myself in the material and understanding the causes and symptoms, led me to coach my clients through what I call the “health and integrity pyramid.” We examine seven core aspects of everyone’s life and how they need to address pain points and growth opportunities in each of these areas.

The capstone project of the pyramid is financial freedom. This is important because it not only addresses personal and business financial components but to the ultimate goal of purpose-driven entrepreneurs: generosity. Blog Post Cover: A Strong Financial Plan

Leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs are almost always on a mission. The work they do is to give their life meaning, but to extend that meaning and purpose to others. Leaders who are clear on their calling (the what and why of the work they do) almost always come out with a need to give back.

To be generous.

They want to bless others.

The journey they started on is ultimately not about them, it is about the people they get to help.

And along the way, if you’re focused on your debt, your limited finances, or your inability to get out of the red, you will be limited in the effect you can have on others.

First, we get their personal finances in order.

Then we get their business finances in order.

Finally, we get them to live a life of total generosity.

Total Generosity

Clients can always tell when it’s about the money. I learned this a long time ago. If I subconsciously bring to a relationship the need for a sale to pay my electric bill this month, my clients can pick up on that. Time and time again, I’ve seen this play out, not only in my own life but in those of my clients. When you have more “month than money” you can only do so much good in the world. However, when my finances are in order, I can multiply the effectiveness of my money and the blessing that I am to others.

If I’m focused on my own needs, I cannot serve those around me. It is only by being financially free that I can ultimately leave a legacy of influence and impact.

That’s why we focus on total generosity. This encompasses a strong financial plan that is free of debt, structured for profit, and able to give back freely.

2020 has been difficult for many of us. We’ve seen just how thin our true security is, and how financially stapped we are. If you’re interested in breaking free of your debt and living a life of total generosity, I’d love to help. For a free resource and to discover more about the health and integrity pyramid, you can read this series I posted on LinkedIn.

If you’re ready for coaching, contact me here.

—–

Eight Core Concepts

This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.

  1. Leadership
  2. Finance
  3. Operations
  4. Growth
  5. Product
  6. Service
  7. Sales
  8. Marketing

*  Whitney, Marcus. Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur (p. 61). Creative Power. Kindle Edition.

Blog Cover Photo: Rise To The Occasion

This is part of a blog series from a business development talk I gave. To get caught up, see: Committed to Mastery and then Transformative Teamwork.


Today, we’re covering part three of the speech: Rise To The Occasion.

The contrast of several Northern leaders needs our attention. The North, at the outset of the Civil War, was lacking in high ranking military men. Most of them had gone south at the start of the war. The few that remained, like George McClellan rose quickly. Others, like Generals Custer and Grant, would rise to the occasion.

Setting The Stage

McClellan was a brilliant tactician. His study of worldwide fighting styles, military strategies, and historical aspects of war made him highly desirable. He graduated second in his class from West Point. Dubbed the Young Napoleon, McClellan’s future was bright. Everyone expected great things from McClellan. He cared deeply for his soldiers and they loved him for it. From their perspective, they were well fed, well trained, and rarely fought. It was a pretty good arrangement.

However, between McClellan and President Lincoln, things were rarely ever smooth. McClellan became famous for requesting more supplies and exaggerating enemy numbers. One account tells of a breakdown in Confederate lines and supplies after a battlefield loss. Research seems to indicate that had McClellan pursued them and chased them down, the war would have been over in less than two years. Richmond would have been captured. Top generals would have been defeated. The North would’ve won without further bloodshed. George McClellan

Instead, McClellan estimated enemy numbers exaggerated by 20% and blamed the possibility of bad weather as reasons for a delayed attack. As a result, he called off the chase. Within two days, the South regrouped, shuffled their troops, and counterattacked. They drove the north back. For more than two additional years the Civil War would be fought because of this one failure in his leadership.

Rise to the Occasion

Contrast the brilliance, genius, and ultimate ineptitude of someone like George McClellan with someone like Grant. Grant rose to the occasion given to him. Grant’s war policy was to attack consistently and ferociously. He was adept and editing commands on the fly. He was both well prepared and adaptable. Because he knew the ultimate goal, he could change his methods as the battlefield dictated.

George Armstrong Custer, from outward appearances, had nothing going for him. He barely graduated from West Point coming in dead last in his class. Custer gained an unfavorable reputation because so few trusted him. He was often pulling pranks, spending time in detention, getting into trouble, and had an overly brash demeanor.

However, throughout the Civil War, he distinguished himself as a man of courageous action. By the end of the Civil War, he had been promoted to Major General and was in command of the entire cavalry. In an age where leaders worked from the rear and made orders for other men, he gained admiration by fighting from the front. It’s been noted that he was often the first to go flying into combat with his men trailing behind him. At the conclusion of the war, his unit was responsible for capturing more POWs and infantry flags than any other unit. He was even respected enough that he received the table that unconditional surrender terms were drafted.

Where We Find Ourselves

Three men at the same point in history take dramatically different paths in life. One, seemingly given every advantage, squanders it all. He leaves frustrated, disgraced, disillusioned, and desperate. The other two inspire, engage, and rise to the occasion. McClellan, from the top of his class, witnesses everything crumble before him. Grant and Custer rise from the bottom. Custer, quite literally from the bottom of his class to one of the highest positions available and becomes the stuff of lore and legend.

There is something inside of our DNA that loves these transformational stories. Zeroes to heroes inspire us. We long for stories of David defeating Goliath. Worst to first and victory in the midst of defeat give us hope. Blog Cover Photo: Rise To The Occasion

Undoubtedly, there are many parallels in our businesses. Perhaps you even know of a time or two in your own life or that of your company (or even an employee) where you can see now how things could have and should have worked out differently.

Individuals or companies with all the advantages that still somehow managed to fail. Mega tech companies caught with bad numbers and crumble an empire. Someone identified as a high performer busted for ethical violations or a failure to perform. An industry darling in one year is an outcast in another.

But there’s also the flip side.

A surprise hire going on to transform a business or industry.

A perpetual under-achiever finds a fire in their soul and rises to extraordinary levels of leadership.

And while nothing in life is a guarantee, what I have found throughout my years in coaching, is that there are certain tendencies and ways to “hedge our bets.”

The Power of Coaching

Coaching advances the high performers at an astounding rate, helping them to avoid burnout. It also has the capacity to equip the last place hire to deeper levels of transformation. Coaching gives a place for both the first-place all-star and the last place “skin of your teeth, you just barely made it” performer.

My start in coaching looked much the same. I began working with clients who self-identified as someone who knew they were capable of great things but couldn’t get out of their own way (much like we might have said early on about Custer).

The ICF first defined coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

When we equip our ourselves and our staff to reach their full potential we inspire them to rise to the occasion.