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Monday, August 26, 2013


The Way WE Work is a Monday morning audio blog from yours truly that offers an encouraging look at the world of work.

A Forbes Magazine article a while back revealed the most annoying, pretentious, and useless business jargon of our modern times. Jennifer Chatman is a management professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She claims, “Jargon masks real meaning. People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction they want to give others.”

Here are some of those annoying words and phrases: Core Competency. Buy-In. SWOT Team. Empower. Bleeding edge. (You know, when you are BEYOND cutting edge.) Add to these … Lots of moving parts.  Best practice. Think outside the box. Over the wall. Take it to the next level.  And the mathematicians' all time favorite … giving 110%. Like that’s possible.

And be not mistaken! It isn’t just the higher ups using the gobbledygook. (I love that word.) It’s the rank and file. You know, average Joes like you and me. If you need to 'fess up on business gobbledygook, do it now. It will be good for your soul.

But wait! There’s more! More gobbledygook from … Christians. It’s called Christianese. We have our own special language that can scare people off. Or at least cause them serious concern about what planet we’re from. 

Urban Dictionary actually gives multiple definitions for Christianese:  Christianese is the language spoken by Christians. It makes no sense to anyone unfamiliar with biblical texts, but earns you major points in the eyes of other Christians, because it means your words are holy. Words or phrases like old man/new man, unblemished lamb, sanctified, washed in the blood

You get the picture.

In business, and in the Christian life, we can build and reinforce subculture by creating buzz language. It weakens our message. We actually lose in communicating with others. And, I can’t resist, too many are drinking the Koolaid.

Proverbs, the great book of sentence sermons, doesn’t use buzz talk.  But it will sure get your attention. Try some of those thoughts on others. In contemporary language. Proverbs 10 has some good ones. One paraphrase gave us this gem: “Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow.” (Proverbs 10:20, 21 Living Bible) Good advice for many a meeting.

If we can avoid the trap of any kinds of language-ese, who knows what kind of silos we can take down. Oh man. Wow. I did it.

What Christianese are you using? What Christianese do others use that really bugs you? I'd like to read your comments.

That’s the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The A-B-C’s of Selling

The Way WE Work is a Monday morning audio blog from yours truly that offers an encouraging look at the world of work.

There’s something about selling that I’ve always liked. Probably it’s the combination of creating good customer relationships and finding unique approaches to get your point across. I’ve been in sales, or sales management roles, several times in my earlier years.

Retail selling is okay, but professional selling where “more is on the line” is the real challenge. I was a part of Zig Ziglar’s Sunday School class in Dallas, Texas, in the late '80s. Zig often used his seminar material as a means to attract an audience to church, but you would never leave without Zig sharing the Good News on how to get to the real top. By all accounts, Zig was a super salesman.

Joining Zig at the top was Bob Woods. Bob held management positions in sales organizations with several respected companies. We worked together in California on some marketing related projects. Bob was a skilled networker and people were easily drawn to him.

During our time together, Bob taught me a very effective method of thinking about a sales presentation. He’d say, "It’s as simple as A-B-C!" And then he would spell it out …

*Arouse and intensify interest. Next,
*Build value. Then, if you've been effective so far, make direct effort to ...
*Close the sale.

A-B-C.  If you’re in sales, I’d recommend you consider the simplicity of that process. It really helped me. 

A young woman came to my door in Plainfield a few weeks ago and did the first two steps magnificently. Unfortunately, I didn’t need more magazine subscriptions. But she was good.

In sharing the Christian faith, we would be wise to apply some of the same methods effective sales people use to draw us in. Sales … and witnessing ... should never be about manipulation. But giving creative approaches and a compelling offer that includes unbelievable value for eternity makes a pretty powerful Gospel presentation. Look at the way Jesus engaged his audience. Or the apostle Paul on Mars Hill. 

That exchange Jesus had with Nicodemus at night, in secret, had all the elements. Jesus aroused the interest and curiosity of Nicodemus. He built value around securing eternal life. And we are confident Nicodemus placed his faith in Jesus along his life journey. The transaction was complete. Read about it in John, chapter 3. 

Great sales people devote time and energy to refining their skills. A wise Christ follower will find a way to make a compelling presentation as well. 

That should make us want to learn our A-B-Cs.

That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Family Guys

Most of us need lessons to play golf well. Or at all.

Pro golfers of this era appear to be giving us a different kind of lesson. And an unexpected one at that.

The New York Times recently documented that which many followers of the game have already detected. The article is well titled, “On the Men’s Tour, It’s Always Fathers Day!” 

Yes, for male pro golfers, fatherhood and families … are in. But tandem to this message is one often forgotten in the work world: get your priorities straight. 

The article points to several glowing examples. Two of the most recent involved Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan. After Phil won the British Open, he immediately went to the embrace of not only his wife, but children as well. Then, when asked to take his photograph with the winner's trophy, Phil made it a family picture. But it goes deeper. Phil’s wife, Amy, has battled cancer. Phil has often devoted time away from the game to be with her.

Hunter Mahan took this family thing to the umpteenth level. With over a million dollars on the line, he withdrew from the Canadian Open while leading the tournament! Reason? His wife was about to deliver a baby. Like … really ready. So he dropped everything to be there for the arrival of his new little one. He can’t stop looking at the pictures.

Bubba Watson shows no lack of emotion in discussing family matters. And he surprised many when, after winning his first major championship, it was the SECOND best event of the year. First was the adoption of his son, Caleb.

Everyone who works full time knows the challenge of putting work in its place. Years ago, I was challenged by my greatest spiritual mentor to do two things: list my priorities … and define in writing how I would live them out. It was a powerful self-correcting exercise.

In the Christian life, men and women really have no excuse for prioritizing work to the detriment of family. Yet it’s so easy to do. And we often defend our position by saying we’re doing this neglect for the benefit of the family

The Bible is clear on this. Paul shares this life lesson to his protégé Timothy:
"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 

If you want to be an above par provider, best to prioritize doing what’s needed to keep the family together. Something we can all learn from the pros.

And that’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.

Check for audio of my comments today.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Walk. Talk. Stand.

Want to make a major move on improving your perception among peers and those around you in the workplace? It may not require an expensive seminar, executive coach, or college level course. It may be as simple as a few lessons from George Washington.
Author and columnist A.J. Jacobs committed himself to an interesting life challenge. First, he read up on Washington’s collection of the 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. Then, Jacobs put himself on the track to try to live by those rules.
It’s a strange list in some ways, but there are some very helpful reminders for our day. Especially for those who want to make a better impression on, well, everyone! This list of rules G.W. hand copied from an etiquette book as a young man. It seems they served him well.
First, there was the way George would stand. Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy encourages standing in ways she calls power poses. Leaders should learn the open pose … chest out, shoulders back, and hands on the hips, open to the world. Learning good posture has a big payoff …mentally and physically.  George stood tall.
Also, the Father of our Country had a certain kind of walk. It’s now been shown that people who walk with long strides feel happier than whose who shuffle and look at their feet. George had the right stride.
Thirdly, while not on Washington’s list,  A.J. Jacobs learned to speak … faster.  Again, research now shows that if you talk rapidly, you are more convincing. And you’re more persuasive!
Besides these interesting rules of George Washington, I also like the way he led the nation in a petition to  prayer. While we find disagreement over just how spiritual a man George Washington truly was, his proclamations sure appeared to put his faith on the line. 
Writer A.J. Jacobs summarized his experiment to live by Washington’s rules in simple fashion: Walk. Talk. Stand. In the Christian life, those line up quite well.
Faith walking means we “walk the walk.” Sharing our faith means we appropriately “talk the talk.”  And to stand? Who in this age would not argue that we need to know our beliefs implicitly, and be able to hold our ground in a world where the terra is not so firma?
And here’s some advice from the Bible on selecting people to lead: “… keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders ...” That would certainly apply to women as well.  (Exodus 18:21 / The Message)
If you are seeking to make a bigger impact in the workplace, and wherever you have influence, those three simple words have power …even in this age. Walk. Talk. Stand.
One more rule … practice makes perfect.
That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.