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They are all keeping busy!

April 1, 2020 Leave a comment

Continuing my series on leading during COVID, I want to share an observation about leaders and their teams. When I ask about organizations and employees, I often hear leaders saying, “They are all keeping busy.”
Then I pursue this, “What they are doing?” Their answers are often, “I don’t know,” or “They are doing what they have always done.” Allow me to speak to both.

Photo: Gowling WLG

What are your team working on?

If you, as the leader, do not know what your team is doing, then I would want to talk about what is going on – with you. Several things may emerge.
• Consider your state. Things are not as they were, and you are in an altered state as a leader. Considering your concerns, how are you doing personally?
• It may reveal that you have not been overseeing your team well before this time of crisis.

The people you manage are a direct reflection on you.
Every member of your team is inwardly looking at their role in the organization and wondering if they might survive any layoffs necessary. So, of course, they want to be needed. You have probably noticed most of your team with their heads down and busy. The question that needs asking is if they are working on the right things. Without intentional supervision at this time, many just keep doing what has always been or gravitate to those things they really like doing and are good at. The problem is that things are not as they once were, and what we did before makes no sense in the immediate situation.

So what can we do?

This pandemic is going to change how you and your organization function both now and into the future. It is the time to double down on team meetings. Communication is so important to keep your people involved. There are few businesses or organizations that will escape not losing team members.

So, here are somethings we as leaders can do:
• Don’t hide from your people. Show them you are still the leader and that you are working hard to figure out the next steps.
• Help your team understand what leadership is working through now and keep them updated.
• Treat your people with respect. No one has done anything wrong here. The reality is our economy is experiencing devastation caused by the pandemic.
• Remember that it is not just about making the right decision, but it is how you communicate it.
• Show empathy. Your decisions affect the lives of individuals and families. As a Christian, I pray for team members privately. Sometimes, with permission, I even pray with them.

Take care…

These are such challenging days for leaders. Suddenly we are not leading. In fact we are being led by circumstances and they seem to change every three hours. We get exhausted because even simple things seem so difficult. Please take care of yourself. Reach out for help if you need it. These are not times to be all tough and proud. Put some boundaries around your days and find a few life-giving things you can still participate in and enjoy. We need you as the leader for such a time as this.

Keep your heart up,
Carson

Categories: Observations

Being the Leader in These Times … something no-one wants to be.

March 30, 2020 4 comments

It doesn’t matter what training or experience you have. Nothing has prepared you for these leadership days of COVID-19. I have had mentoring calls with Christian leaders in the marketplace, ministry and not for profit organizations globally. There are some common themes in these calls.

Over the next while I am going to share observations from these conversations with leaders and pass on some mentoring insights to help you with your leadership.

What is your role?

Leaders are getting so caught up in the adrenaline powered hour by hour changes that they have abandoned their key role – leading the organization. Leaders are there to make hard choices for the sake of the organization and to honour your team. Your job is not to protect your people, it is to lead them through this as you care for the overall ministry or organization.

Perhaps more than at any other time your team need to see you lead with confidence, faith and skill. Allow your people to grow through this in their faith, and skill. Treat them with honour, dignity for who they are – even if they are laid off. No one was prepared for this.

Seeking Wisdom

Christian leaders are usually very compassionate people. I love that. It is just that sometimes it can get in the way of you having the space needed to make tough decisions. I coach leaders to find the space you need where you can ask God what to do. He has the wisdom that you need right now. The Bible reminds us in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” And remember, this is coming from a God that cares about you and everything that concerns you.

But how do I know if the answer is of the Lord?

A question that often follows when I encourage praying for wisdom is, “But how do I know if the answer is of the Lord?” Two responses. One is that if it isn’t clear, then ask God to make it clear to you. The other is that we should look for His peace (shalom) to be upon us. Colossians 3:15 in the Amplified Bible states, “The peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].”

Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity, Ambiguity

These are wild (VUCA) times: Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity, Ambiguity. Remember that you are not alone in this. Think of someone else in your line of work and give them a call. Encourage them in their leadership, share best practices, help each other with problems. get over yourself and reach out for help.

A windy Northern Irish Day

There is a great need right now for what is called spot coaching. It is a ten to fifteen minute call to help hold up the arms of leaders facing these challenges. I am going to offer FREE coaching to as many as I possibly can in the month of April and maybe beyond. My next post will have the details of how to book a time to talk, pray, cry, decide or be encouraged – whatever you need. Until then, as my mentor Barry Hawes used to say at the end of every call, “Keep your heart up.”

Categories: Leadership Tags: , ,

From the End of the Earth

January 31, 2020 Comments off

Antarctica. This vast continent of ice and rock has been drawing me towards her shores for the past seven years and now she has forever changed my life.

To give an idea of scale, the leading edge of this glacier is 120 feet tall.

When Bob Kuhn and I were completing a three month trip around the world in the global south we shared our last supper in Aukland New Zealand. Bob was going to meet Renae in Palm Desert and I was leaving for Kauai to be with Brenda so we could unpack that experience with our wives.

Bob and I left the restaurant talking pensively about our trip and how it was sad to be splitting up the next day. In the midst of this we both said, “We should have gone to Antarctica.” It was the only continent that we have not travelled to together.

From that moment on, we would frequently look at each other and say “Antarctica” giving it a special power to invoke hope and vision. This year, we did it. We are here, and the impact of this adventure will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

My journal is filled with notes and observations that will provide fodder for future blogs and keynote addresses. I’m presently quite speechless about what we have experienced here. Others have described visiting Antarctica as like going to the moon. We are looking at the immensity of a part of the world largely untouched by human beings. What we are seeing is a dramatic series of contrasts between ice and stone, appearing just as it has been from long long ago.

“The thing that is most beautiful about Antarctica for me is the light. It’s like no other light on Earth, because the air is so free of impurities. You get drugged by it, like when you listen to one of your favorite songs. The light there is a mood-enhancing substance.”

― Jon Krakauer

It is going to take some time of reflection before I can share more, but I will.

Sure glad we came in their summer.
Categories: Observations

Four Years – Not Like Three

December 29, 2019 12 comments
Martin Sanders
Dr. Martin Sanders

I was in Northern Ireland with my close friend and ministry colleague Martin Sanders on the fourth anniversary of Brenda’s death.

Martin’s wife Dianna died five years ago also in the month of August and we have been walking with each other through the grief the journey of grief and it has been so good to share life together.

The fourth anniversary of Brenda’s passing did not feel like the third. Being in Ireland this year was the first time away from my family on the anniversary. The family are doing well. This summer we had been together talking at Barnabas about how we were doing so I am comfortable with that – I just miss them when I’m away.

On the morning of the twelfth, Martin and I were invited for “a cuppa” by Dr. Arthur Peebles. (That is Northern Irish for coming by for a “wee cup of tea.” ) There we were, three doctors together in a quiet well lit Irish sitting room sharing together about the loss of our soul mates. Arthur lost his Ann four years ago and he and I have spoken of this on previous visits. Martin’s Dianna died five years ago August 22nd, and of course I also experienced the second loss of my fiancé Ruth.

We are all reasonably intelligent men and understand that the experiencing of grief is normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. As we shared we discovered it hasn’t been easy for any of us. Often the most common shared experience was the longing for the companionship we once shared with our wives.

Science has demonstrated another dimension of why we crave companionship so strongly. When your loved one is alive, the comfort of their very presence sets off neural reward activity in your brain. After they pass away, adapting to the loss is compounded by the disappearance of this stimulus/reward activity. Over time, we learn to cope with the death and don’t expect this same reward. But if you struggle with complicated grief, your brain continues to crave it.

Dictionary.com defines craving as something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for.

We have come to take the perspective that God made us to crave so we’d always desire more of Him.

Categories: Observations Tags: , , ,

It’s Been a Deep Dive

June 25, 2019 7 comments

The day hung on me like a millstone. I could feel it pulling me deeper and deeper into memories and feelings.

It was the one year anniversary of when I was to remarry to Ruth Blake. Most observers called it a “GOD” connection and in just eight months our love for each other threw our lives into visions of hope, inspired our faith, and provoked so much laughter. We felt like teenagers and were so happy. Emphasis on the word ‘was’.

Inconceivable

If you are new to my story, Ruth died just 26 days before our wedding day also from cancer. This slid me onto a downward trajectory emotionally, physically, spiritually.  It was inexplicable. How could I possibly face this twice in my life? It rocked me to the depths of my soul, leaving me feeling unbalanced, and plunging me into a deep dark place in search of how I could possibly live my life again.

 

As I shared in my previous post, I have experienced a remarkable healing and a new perspective on all of this. I didn’t drown in my sorrows – although I was certainly sorrowful. Losing a wife to cancer after 40 years of relationship then losing a fiancé of eight months – inconceivable! (I know, you cannot read that word without ‘hearing’ the voice of Vizzini from Princess Bride).

I have talked to other widowers in the past year who cannot believe I am still standing. Yet here I am, able to only in Christ alone. But being able to stand does not mean that the anniversary of our wedding day did not linger on me . It was after all, the death of a dream.

Memory Muscle Cramps

The night before our ‘anniversary’ I had friends over for supper. I enjoyed the cooking and great conversations around the table. But as I was cleaning the kitchen and putting away dishes, my mind-traffic was all about how nice it would be to be entertaining and cleaning up with Ruth. We had dreams of how we would entertain regularly, inviting others into our home. I thought of how she would have loved the young adults gathered here – young adults were her passion and her ministry. Those memories are like experiencing a muscle cramp, a reminder of the death of a dream.

Loss involves pain, and that is unavoidable. Our pain is proportionate to our love, so if you love someone deeply it is going to be more painful should they die. While I have experienced a lot of pain this past year I’ve also learned a great deal. Here are some of my reflections:

Learnings on Grief and Loss

  1. Death is a reality of life. The most precious commodity we have now is our time, and we can give that to others as a gift. When we do, be fully present, and let them know they have been heard.
  2. I realize that true love transcends all things physical and is what sustains us through our lives, with or without our loved ones.
  3. Many people journey through their own sometimes brutal and perplexing life issues. Each day forward provides an opportunity to do at least one good thing for those around me. I can choose to live each day, loving and encouraging others.
  4. Multiple losses creates an opportunity to re-evaluate: Faith, grace, friendships, family, how we spend time, what we invest in. Don’t waste that. Set some time in your planning for reflection and being intentional.
  5. Men suffer more from being bereaved. In a 2001 study by psychologists Wolfgang and Margaret Stroebe they found that men actually suffer more from death of a loved one. So men stop trying to be stoic, admit you are suffering and enter into the healing that follows.
  6. Find some time to laugh. I have seen how laughter is healing. When I’m together with my sons and we get telling stories about their Mom we often end up in joyous laughter at the memories. Even though we still miss Brenda, her influence and life lives on through the joy of her life.
  7. Lean into the pain. We oscillate a great deal on this journey. Some hours avoiding the grief because it hurts, other times wanting to talk about it and draw near. Stay with it until you sense God’s presence with you.
  8. Death of a loved one gives you the opportunity to unzip your soul and let the pain do its work. Do this with a few trusted friends or family. Keep them up to date on how you are journeying and when it hurts. Trust them and allow them in – they will benefit as much or maybe even more than you will. The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
  9. I am a pastor, a mentor of Christian leaders but through this season of loss in my life I have a new understanding of what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Over the past year, I have come to know that I can: experience grief but without despair; sorrow but without defeat; sadness but without hopelessness. As Christ followers, we grieve genuinely but hopefully because our grief is temporary. Our grief will come to an end and we (Brenda and Ruth and myself) will be reunited before the Lord together – forever.

The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.

Pearls

My mother loved pearls. Brenda loved pearls and was seldom seen without them. So I got looking into them one time and found that ‘pearl divers’ are a real thing. It’s a job! They have this amazing ability to swim for a long time underwater with no equipment. They scour rocks and sea bottom for bi-valve mollusks like oysters that just may have a pearl inside. The most valuable pearls in the world are found in the wild, and are often at the deepest depth for these divers.

To help the divers stay deeper they put on weights like a belt enabling them to sink down faster and deeper. There they are then able to stay on the bottom longer extending their search – and that is where they find pearls of great price.

This is like a metaphor for me as I feel like God strapped some weights to me last year causing me to sink to the bottom, but while there I have discovered some pearls.

So the next time you sink to the bottom in life, take a look around. God is there with you and he will reveal to you more of his splendour, grace and love.

Have you had an experience when you hit rock bottom, but then discovered there was some treasure of great price to be found?

What are some of your reflections on loss in your life?

Learning to live with the love Ruth left behind.

May 28, 2019 23 comments

Today is an anniversary. Not a happy one. It was one year ago that my fiancé Ruth Blake died just twenty six days prior to our wedding. Her death to me was sudden, unexpected and threw me into a downward spiral.

“I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone-you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.” – Alyson Noel”

Following just three years after the death of Brenda this was more than anyone should face. Ruth and I had enjoyed a joyous eight month relationship that made us feel, and often act, like teenagers.

After Ruth’s passing there were times when I felt betrayed by God. My heart ached for months. I went through cycles of sadness followed by anger as I nursed my resentment. As much as I had loved God, I now began to want nothing to do with him. Bitterness was beginning to set in. With the recent experience of my grief journey with Brenda I knew it would not be possible to be reconciled. It was up to me to deal with my grief and move on.

After Ruth’s memorial service I left for Northern Ireland at the invitation of my friends Suzi and Tim in Port Stewart. I chose to get away. Actually, I was running away from the pain but it was through that visit I experienced a healing. Only the Lord could have changed my resentful, angry spirit. Tears flowed like cleansing rain and my negative emotions were washed away like refuse from a storm.

“Lord, thy will be done for both Brenda and Ruth.” This simple prayer set the course for experiencing the verses of Psalm 147, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” As I prayed and honestly acknowledged my feelings, the Holy Spirit shed light on a perspective I had not considered before. This was not all about me. God chose me for Ruth, to love her unto death. Under God’s grace, when I think about Ruth’s cancer and her death a new emotion has replaced my anger: compassion.

This it is now a new season. Walking together with Ruth’s family and finding great strength in the community at Barnabas Landing. Our coming together and building up of one another to love and grace reminds me that there are times when a person needs community more than ever. I appreciate watching my children, who have also lost a mom, pray for and love Ruth’s kids as they share that grief is not about learning to live without Mom, but to live with the love she has left behind. Brenda and Ruth both left a lot of love behind.

”The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Today I am in Budapest speaking to leaders – exactly what Ruth would want me to be doing. When I return, I am going back to Keats Island, to Barnabas rejoining the staff there. I am beginning a new mentorship initiative at Barnabas for young adults in September (www.barnabaslanding.org) something that I know has both Brenda and Ruth smiling.

Why am I crying

March 15, 2019 3 comments

It’s a game, a sport. There are winners and losers all the time in atheltics. Why do I have tears?

pic credit Team Logo Style

My team, Trinity Western University Spartans Women’s Volleyball, lost our first game in the Canadian national championship to our cross town rivals UBC. If you follow me on social media you know this is my team. I am known as “One Sport Carson” at the univeristy.

You can say, “But Carson, one team had to lose.” Yes, and that’s the reality of sports. But today, deep down, I believe it should not have been my team that lost.

I have cried a great deal in the past four years experiencing great loss in my own life. Through this have come to recognize that there are different kinds of tears. Sad tears. Shrieking grief tears. Uncontrolable sobbing tears. Angry frustrated dry tears. Tears you cannot stop that seem to last forever. I’ve got a cold, tears. Hormonal tears. Lovingly surprised tears like when you receive an unexpected visit from a loved friend. Symbiotic tears of compassion. Scientists have actually studied the microscopic structure of tears and found that our tears are indeed different.

No microscope was needed to tell me that my tears today were tears not of grief for the loss, but of heart felt compassion for the team.

This is the end of the season. For the team, their volleyball season is wrapping up. For me, it is also the end of a season. I am completing my contract with the university shortly and moving on to a new adventure. I wanted my team to win the nationals as this was my last year. That might have been part of my tears, but I know from whence these tears came.

Celebration after winning the Canadian Western Championship 2019

#SpartansWVB is not just some athletic team. It is a group of women for which I have utmost respect. For their athleticism, scholarly accomplishments, humour, and service. But most importantly, I love their character. The team has become a community. They laugh together. Today, they cried together. They enjoy hanging out with one another and support each other through lows and celebrate accomplishments together. These women are going to change the world on and off the court as they live out their callings.

A large smile comes across my face as I walk across campus and have our tallest women calling my name and waving hello. It’s not hard to spot them in a crowd. This routine started after I travelled to China with the team four years ago.

After the death of my wife Brenda, and then suffering another loss with the death of my fiancé Ruth last year, many from this team have reached out in caring for me. They ask how I am doing, send me notes of encouragement and pray for me. When my granddaughter comes to watch games, they indulge a proud grandpa by allowing Ellie to get a picture with them.

Ellie being recruited. #futurespartan

I shed tears today not because this is just “some team” that lost. To me, they are Meaghan, Kristin, Alexis, Dora, Michaella, Hilary, Olivia, Ansah, Ashtyn, Micaylee, Sedona, Jessica, Alison, Avery, Savannah, Brie, Emma, and Mikaelyn. They wanted to win today, especially for their team mates who are in their last year of elgibility. But that didnt happen, and there were tears. So feeling like I am an extension of the team, I teared up too.

Next year, I’ll be back (he says with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent). I love this team unconditionaly – win or lose. I’ll support my TWU volleyball team. We are all Spartans.

Volleyball

invented by men, perfected by women

Categories: Observations