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Monday, February 23, 2015

Awards and Recognition

Last night the Oscars were presented in the 87th annual Academy Awards presentations. This used to be one of the biggies. Used to be.

Nowadays, it’s become ridiculous how Hollywood manages to praise itself. You can find the lists of awards presented in numerous locations on the web, including Wikipedia. One list for the movie world includes these popular gems:

▪ The Academy Awards (AKA “The Oscars”)
▪ The Golden Globe Awards
▪ The S.A.G. Awards (Screen Actors Guild)
▪ The People’s Choice Awards
▪ Hollywood Film Awards
▪ MTV Movie Awards
▪ Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards
▪ Critics' Choice Movie Awards (AKA the “Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards”)
▪ Teen Choice Awards
▪ Kid’s Choice Awards

…and on and on, ad infinitum it seems, with more than THIRTY additional
movie industry awards in the US alone beyond the ones list above.

And in case you missed last night’s party, you can find the big winners here:

There must be money in “them thar trophies” along with television ratings, or most of these would fade to black. But not yet. So the star fraternity keeps on recognizing themselves. And, apparently, folks watch. The irony of the Best Picture award for this year is that is was a movie about…a Hollywood actor!

Speaking of awards, a form of really silly recognition has found its way into millions of mailboxes. I just received a personalized “Certificate of Appreciation” with a gold seal and raised ink border for something I haven’t done yet: give money to this organization. This is one of many I’ve received. Imagine if I actually framed these and put them on display. Just call me goofy.

Many people will go to work this week and receive little to no recognition. They may be among the most consistent performers in their field and certainly worthy of praise. They are “stars” lost in the black hole of the “ordinary” work force.

Sometimes companies try to recognize employees with framable certificates. And it can come off corny. Any real award should have a look of quality and be suitable for framing. A really nice team award with everyone’s name works. Truly excellent achievements should get public recognition and perhaps lunch with the boss. Or a gift card.

There’s even a simpler way to show recognition. Handwritten notes. Trust me…some people would treasure these and hold on to them for years. But please, no electronic signatures.

On the high end, what about a red carpet event for your team? Let people dress up and make it Hollywood-esque with a photographer, an emcee, and envelopes with the winners. Making achievements memorable is impactful.

Quite often, managers who deliver results get the praise while the team did the real work. Attention often goes to the powerful. This is the way of the world. A humble leader could learn much from Jesus of Nazareth.

In Philippians 2:5-8, we find these words, particularly worth reading during this Lenten season:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (The Message)

The hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” gives us this challenge: “So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it some day for a crown.”

Imagine your name being called one day to receive the award of eternal life. And to think it was never based on your performance. Wow.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Business of Politics

Today (Monday) being Presidents Day, I decided to look up the latest poll information on how Americans ranked our “best presidents.” At the website they give such a list ranked strictly by people casting votes on the web.

May I have the envelope please? The top ten, starting with the most popular goes like this:
Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, James Madison, and Harry Truman.

Other notables in the middle of the pack include:

#12 Bill Clinton
#15 George H.W. Bush
#18 Barack Obama
#22 George W. Bush
#28 Richard Nixon
#29 Jimmy Carter

Bottom feeder presidents were Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, and Woodrow Wilson.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last summer, a plurality of voters think Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II. Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, came in at second-worst with 28 percent, and Richard Nixon was in third place with 13 percent of the vote.

Thirty-five percent of voters said Ronald Reagan was the best president since World War II, receiving nearly twice as many votes as any other former president. (

As we all know, presidents and their popularity can shift wildly. One of the most recent examples was the G.W. Bush polls around 9/11 versus the numbers at the end of his second term. Clearly a matter of, “what have you done for me lately?”

There are countless intersections between business and politics. Much has been written on the “marketing” of a candidate. Similar to developing a product or service to a point where it is desirable for the consumer, so it is with creating a political agenda that generates sufficient votes.

In the business world, talent supposedly rises to the top. But untried and undeveloped talent can lead to huge problems for a company. A lack of true leadership skills can be fatal to a firm.

Untried and undeveloped political candidates can wreak havoc as well. Looking good and gaining popularity cannot replace leadership. Simply put, it can only take you so far.

The main point of this blog is to examine a business related topic and apply a spiritual connection. Guiding America’s future is big business. Our current president had an unusually untested path to the top. Community organizer, turned State Senator, turned U.S. Senator, turned U.S. President.

Few have had such a road that did not require demonstrated leadership experience. As a nation, we assumed great risk in placing such a heavy and demanding mantle on one without a background of proven toughness for the role. Perhaps some of the public concern in polls stems from that.

Interestingly, the Bible has plenty of examples from Israel’s history of inexperienced, and sometimes very young, men becoming king. Many of them failed the test of loyalty to God and His principles. During those times for Israel, things did not end well.

The world is much more complex today. We don’t elect 12-year-olds to to the office of President. We don’t make them kings. We’ve got more players on the world stage. The ability to make wise decisions with tested leaders is critical in our nation today. We need more than “great communicators.” We need leaders who soak themselves in biblical truth for guidance.

Proverbs 16:7 states, “When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (ESV) Psalm 72 is sometimes titled, “The Reign of a Righteous King.” The passage closes in this way: “May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice.” (NASB)

God help the one who leads from the Oval Office. And may God help us discern the person best who kneels before the True King for wisdom.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bankruptcy Protection

You don’t have to be engaged in the real business world to go bankrupt. Ask anyone who has played a few rounds of the board game Monopoly. Simply stated, a player is eliminated from the game if they cannot pay what they owe…whether that is to the bank or to another player. At that point, we say the player is bankrupt!

In a game, it’s easy to start over. In real life, it’s not so easy. Just ask Radio Shack. This past weekend, a final round of sales began at some 1700 of their stores. It is the first wave of liquidation of stores in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the consumer electronics retailer.

I feel their pain. Well, a little. In the 1970s, I was employed for several months in a Radio Shack store in Sacramento, California. It was in the heyday of CB radios and hot-selling stereo equipment. Christmas at Radio Shack was a bonanza of customers. And, of course, there was that free battery-per-month promotion.

My first video game was played with a fellow employee at Radio Shack. On slow nights, we spent time becoming experts in Pong! The company soon had its TRS-80 computer and handheld models to boast about.

But times change. CB radio sales died. Smartphones arrived. Personal computer competition became intense. Home stereos transitioned into more sophisticated options. And no one cared much about a free battery. A sad reality took shape as Radio Shack lost its edge…and then its customers. Bottom line: bankruptcy.

I feel their pain for a second reason. In the 1980s, I had my own dream shattered when I started a video/marketing enterprise in California. I raised capital, generated a lot of enthusiasm for an idea, and was building a small business on high hopes. Undercapitalization was primarily responsible for dealing me out of the world of big dreams. I ran out of cash. Bottom line: bankruptcy of a small business.

It’s painful to see this happen. At least, it should be. Competitors often celebrate the demise of a lesser foe. Because winning — in business — is everything.

I saw a different side of a kind of bankruptcy last week. For a few days, I was in the throes of Guatemalan families who live on virtually nothing. Their “assets” are sometimes their children, sold to be laborers or for more demonic purposes. Men who have no jobs. Women and children living in corrugated metal shacks with no food and scarce water. I was on a mission with the ministry Food for the Poor.

Just a few miles away from these destitute families in Guatemala City, streets were bustling, and people with good paying jobs filled high-rise buildings. As with many places in our world, the “haves” connect little with the “have-nots.” In a sense, there is a bankruptcy of human compassion.

Jesus of Nazareth saw it happening. He was well aware of earthly kingdom builders who were willing to risk it all on the big stage for a losing payoff. Jesus said it this way: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NLT)

Jesus also offered bankruptcy protection. In verses 24-25 of that same passage he said: “…if any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

When it comes to bankruptcy, forget Chapter 11. Or Chapter 7. For true eternal protection, go back and read Matthew, Chapter 16.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weakness & Meekness

Today is Ground Hog Day. Supposedly, if it’s cloudy in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the groundhog Phil is telling us spring will come early. But if the sun is shining on Phil, and he sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of winter. In this case, the sun causes him to retreat back into his burrow.

In a job interview, questions that tend to make us feel awkward or embarrassed cause us to retreat as well. One commonly used question of this ilk is, “What is your greatest weakness?” AWKWARD! Let me go hide.

Forbes contributor Liz Ryan has no regard for this personal interrogation. As she wrote in Forbes a few weeks ago, “It’s an unspeakably rude question for one person to ask another. We don’t hear the impoliteness in this question on a job interview, because we’ve been trained to think it’s normal for recruiters and hiring managers to ask job-seekers very personal things.”

People often respond with comments from career coaches explaining that their weakness might be they work too hard or are perfectionistic. Hardly real weaknesses. Just a mild self deprecating spin to make the weakness a strength.

Liz attempts to wisely help those who will still face this job interview question. If asked about perceived weaknesses, she suggests a reply that explains that you don’t focus on your weaknesses, but on your strengths. I like that. It’s really a good philosophy for life.

Sharing our weaknesses can make us feel more timid, mild, broken, and even spiritless. All of those words are interestingly synonyms of the work meekness. But meekness is actually a much more healthy word. It should bring to mind a godly sense of humility, recognizing our true place in the universe.

With this is mind, we should feel freed up to admit, in a more honest and lighthearted fashion, our weaknesses. For example, I am clearly out of my league on virtually anything mechanical. No natural skill. No interest. I am also not a meeting kind of guy. Long classes, sermons, etc., must be truly compelling or I want out. I could go on.

But I also bring strengths to the workplace. A healthy self perspective requires I not boast, but neither should I retreat from sharing what I believe I’m best at. In fact, the more that my best abilities can be identified and put into practice in the workplace, the more valuable I can become to my employer or those I serve.

Here is the way the apostle Paul advised followers of Jesus to live life. “I therefore, …appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service, living as becomes you] with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.” (Ephesians 4:1-2, Amplified Bible)

My counsel? Be grateful to God today for your strengths. Recognize they are gifts from Him. Admit you have weaknesses, but focus on your strengths. Don’t overestimate or underestimate who you are. Live…meekly. Not weakly.

I will now return to my burrow. Let me know when winter is over.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.