RLL 76: Scheduling Flexibility Is A Must

Real Life Leading 76

Scheduling Flexibility Is A Must

It’s summertime here in the USA, and one of my family’s favorite activities is to go to our local swimming pool and cool off. This summer, my wife is managing the pool, and our older daughter is in her first year as a lifeguard there. One of the extra services that the pool provides is swim lessons to local families, and it is from this that I was reminded of a valuable lesson: when you’re part of a blended family or co-parenting situation, scheduling flexibility is a must.

My wife and her best friend had a great time at the face-painting station.

My wife and her best friend had a great time at the face-painting station.

There’s a young boy who has been taking swim lessons from my wife for a few weeks now. The boy’s parents recently divorced, and they are sharing custody with each parent having the child one week at a time. The parents’ work schedules are very different, and so the boy is only able to have the swim lessons on the weeks he is with his dad. He’s enjoyed his lessons and has made great progress so far, and because of the schedule, the dad wants him to take lessons each day (Monday-Friday) that he can.

Earlier this week, due to the pending 4th of July holiday (Happy Independence Day, by the way!!!), my wife and I were excited to see that she had a whole day this week without any swim lessons. This surprised us because often she has two to three lessons per day, multiple days per week. However, the morning of her full day with no lessons, she received a text from this man, asking if his son could squeeze in a lesson that day since they had some unexpected free time.

At first, my wife was hesitant simply because we were excited to have a chance to get more errands done and tasks accomplished without any swim lessons. But then, as we were driving through town, she said, “You know, if his dad can bring him, I really should make time to teach this lesson.” And so she did. I was impressed but not surprised at her decision to make time in her schedule, because she knows the reality of blended family life from our experiences. She ended up teaching multiple lessons this week, including one on the morning of the 4th.

The annual Big Splash Contest was a huge hit!

The annual Big Splash Contest was a huge hit!

In our world, with four parents and two houses, flexibility is a must. Regardless of your specific blended family or co-parenting situation, I encourage you to be flexible with your scheduling. Yes, it’s great to have a plan and stick to it if possible. However, as we all know, life happens; plans change; things come up; appointments run long; cars break down; and many other things happen outside of our control. What’s important is how we respond. Do we demand that we stick to a plan, even though circumstances have changed, or are we willing to amicably reschedule things as necessary when that works out better for many (if not all) of the people involved?

Again, I encourage you to be flexible as much as possible. It’s a loving action, it helps create better long-term relationships, and it also builds up credibility in terms of showing all involved in your situation that you are committed to doing what’s best overall even if it’s not the most convenient for yourself. Be flexible, and be friendly about it, and you’ll be amazed at how much it can help!

Action Step: This week, look for opportunities to be flexible with your scheduling, and be sure to show appreciation if you’re the one asking for flexibility from others.

RLL 58: 10 Commandments of Blended Families

Real Life Leading 58:

10 Commandments of Blended Families

Good morning, and I hope everyone is having an amazing Christmas season. This week, I want to briefly share with you a few thoughts that are near and dear to my heart, thoughts on blended families and holidays. As many of you know, I’m divorced and remarried, and my ex-wife is also remarried. We have two daughters from that marriage, and my ex-wife and her husband have a son who is now a toddler. We all have family from in town and out of town, and so holidays can be complicated. However, I’m also very thankful to say that we’ve been able to put together a pretty good system of working together so that the holidays, though still busy, are much less stressful than they might be.

Speaking at the NHSA Conference in Orlando, FL, presenting my work on ‘Four Parents, Two Houses: Parenting Together Despite Difficulties’

Speaking at the NHSA Conference in Orlando, FL, presenting my work on ‘Four Parents, Two Houses: Parenting Together Despite Difficulties’

This past week, my wife and I were in Orlando so that I could deliver a presentation on blended family life, and I shared many of our experiences, some of my my mistakes, and many examples of how blended family life can be made better. The response was extremely encouraging, and I’m hoping it’ll be helpful to you as well. So, this week, here are the Ten Commandments of Blended Families. If you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch and let me know. Also, for more great info on blended families, be sure to check out the work of Ron Deal The website and his books are amazing and contain much wisdom.

Ok, without any further delay, here are the 10 Commandments of Blended Family Life:

  1. Over communicate with all adults involved: choose a format/technology that works, and use it. When in doubt, communicate.

  2. Be respectful, calm, and patient with everyone involved, even if you feel like you’re the only one doing it. (“A soft answer turns away wrath”).

  3. Use discernment to learn to choose your battles very carefully: differentiate between personal dislikes and ‘red flag’ issues.

  4. Be willing to graciously give way on minor issues. Yes, this comes with risk, but it’s still the right thing to do sometimes.

  5. Choose to believe the best about the other household, and be sure to celebrate and acknowledge it when you see it.

  6. Express genuine gratitude as often as possible whenever a joint agreement is reached.

  7. Remember every day that you are the adult, and your task is to model maturity and wisdom for your children. Your task is NOT to ‘win’, get revenge, or even get your own way.

  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for 3rd-party help from a counselor, pastor, neutral friend, or someone else that all parties are comfortable with.

  9. Work through your personal issues on your time, NOT in front of or by involving the children.

  10. Be as consistent as possible at both (or all) houses in all areas of life. Also remember that total consistency is impossible, even in traditional families.

Celebrating with my wife at the end of conference Christmas party. We had a great time at the event, and we’re so thankful to have connected with some amazing people there!

Celebrating with my wife at the end of conference Christmas party. We had a great time at the event, and we’re so thankful to have connected with some amazing people there!

These are the foundations for the way our large, complex, four-parent/two-house family has worked for the past five+ years, and we’re very grateful that God has brought us to a pretty great place. It’s still not perfect, but it is much, much better than it might be. It has taken time and effort and tears and hard work on all sides, but it is worth it. The key to all of it is to focus on have the proper mindset, and the actions will follow. Exercise humility (self-forgetfulness), be willing to admit fault and compromise, keep a long-term perspective, and always put the children first.

Merry Christmas, and may you all be blessed!

* Be the adult you want your children to become. (adapted from Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.”)

Action Step: This week, ask yourself how you can contribute to making your family life (traditional, blended, or anything else) a more positive situation by working with and respecting others.

RLL 33--Inverted Leadership (part 2 of 4)

RLL 33--Inverted Leadership (part 2 of 4)

From chapter 3 (Impact or Success?) and chapter 4 (Results or Relationships?)

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another Real Life Leading blog post! This week I'll be sharing excerpts from the next to chapters of my upcoming book Inverted Leadership: Lead Others Better By Forgetting About Yourself!

Chapter 3 is called The Virgin Queen and the Little Corsican: Impact or Success? 

In leadership, one of the key components that must be discussed is this: what is the purpose of your organization or group? Is it to achieve success, however that may be defined? Or is it to make an impact on those around you? As Christians, we must recognize this distinction between success and impact as of crucial importance to our leadership. Our role in the world is to further the ends of Christ’s kingdom, and we begin by recognizing that this may not involve ‘success’ as defined by the world, but it will certainly involve making an impact on those around us for the Gospel.

Queen Elizabeth I of England, also known as Elizabeth Tudor and as 'The Virgin Queen' (image from, accessed on 5/27/18 at 6:51am)

Queen Elizabeth I of England, also known as Elizabeth Tudor and as 'The Virgin Queen' (image from, accessed on 5/27/18 at 6:51am)

Queen Elizabeth I of England is known as the Virgin Queen because in a historical age dominated by men, especially male monarchs, she ruled England for over half a century, unwed. In fact, our state of Virginia is named for her, since the first attempt at English colonization there occurred during her reign--the Lost Colony of Roanoke, founded in 1587. Her reign in England is known as a time of political stability and a time when religious tolerance and peace was finally achieved after decades of bloodshed caused by the Protestant Reformation and the tumultuous reigns of King Henry VIII, his son Edward, and Elizabeth’s older half-sister, the infamous Bloody Mary. Queen Elizabeth is known for surviving around two dozen assassination attempts, mainly believed to have been instigated by the Catholic rulers of Spain and the Vatican, and she is also known for establishing England as the dominant Protestant power in Europe.

Thus, Queen Elizabeth I is an amazing example of a successful leader by any measurement, leading England for over fifty years while providing political stability, religious freedom, territorial expansion, and economic growth. And if all of that was not enough, a quick study of her life will also show you that in addition to being an amazingly successful leader, Elizabeth I was also rather eloquent. So, why is it that most people have not heard of or ever bothered to study her life? Is it perhaps that because, though she was successful, the direct impact of her rule is either less than we would expect or simply underappreciated?

Portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis-David - 'The Emperor Napoleon In His Study At the Tuileries' (wikipedia--accessed 5/27/18 at 6:47am)

Portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis-David - 'The Emperor Napoleon In His Study At the Tuileries' (wikipedia--accessed 5/27/18 at 6:47am)

Let’s take another example: Napoleon Bonaparte, the Little Corsican who rose to power in France due to the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte is the second most written about historical figure in world history, ranking only behind Jesus. Napoleon was originally from a family of minor nobility living on the island of Corsica--this, combined with his diminutive stature earned him the less-than-flattering nickname of “The Little Corsican”. He was able to go to a French military academy on scholarship, and due to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, he was able to quickly rise through the ranks of the French army, becoming a general in his early 20s. In 1799 he helped overthrow a provisional French government, and after becoming ‘first consul’ and then ‘consul for life,’ in 1804 he declared himself Emperor of the French.

Very few, if any, people in Europe were untouched by Napoleon’s reign, though his reign was significantly shorter (and much less ‘successful’) than Elizabeth’s. The point is this: Elizabeth is an amazing example of a successful monarch who ruled for over half a century. Napoleon was a much more impactful monarch, though his reign was significantly shorter and ended in multiple defeats. Napoleon’s impact, especially via nationalism and its effects on the development of various European countries, continued long after his death. Nationalism, after all, was one of the main causes of World War I, which began a hundred years after Napoleon’s first exile. So for us, the question is this: what type of leader do we want to be? Do we want to be successful, or do we want to be impactful?

Just as a final look at success vs. impact, consider briefly the life of Christ. His earthly ministry lasted only around three years. He spent most of his time with twelve specific men, though often crowds did gather to hear him speak. He had neither money nor political power, and he was eventually arrested, tortured, and killed by the reigning powers of his day. And at the very end of his earthly life, even his closest followers deserted him. Yet, following the Resurrection, his apostles remained faithful, his message spread to the ends of the earth, and He set in motion a movement that has had tremendous effects in every nation on earth despite the hostility of people and governments. This should tell us that our focus should be on impacting the world for the Gospel through our leadership, rather than seeking earthly success in whatever our chosen areas of influence are.

Chapter 4 is called Is Winning Arguments Even A Thing? Results or Relationships?

In leadership, it is often easy to forget that our job is not simply to get or achieve a desired result. We get caught up in trying to accomplish a stated goal or task, and we lose focus on the relationships that make any achievement possible. We forget that people are eternal, while anything we do here on earth, unless done for the Lord, will simply pass away one day. This chapter discusses how to remember and retain a focus on relationships rather than on results.

I got married for the first time after my sophomore year at Covenant College. After graduating from Covenant with a degree in History, my young family--which now included a baby girl, born less than a month after I got my diploma--and I moved five hundred miles north so that I could take up a job as a teacher and soccer coach at Fayetteville Christian School in North Carolina. While in Fayetteville, we lived in a house owned by my in-laws, and for a while, my brother-in-law came to live with us. One day he witnessed what I now see as one of the most embarrassing leadership failures of my first marriage. My wife had loaded the dishwasher and was getting ready to run it, but before she did I decided to move some of the dishes around.

How many of us have been here before?  (From, accessed on 5/27/18 at 7:03a.m.)

How many of us have been here before?

(From, accessed on 5/27/18 at 7:03a.m.)

Perhaps some of you can identify with feeling like you are the only person in the house who knows how to properly load the dishwasher. Well, both my wife and I felt that way about ourselves. So after I moved the dishes around, she went back and replaced every one into the positions she had put them in originally. Then I went and sorted them again and stood back watching as she again rearranged this dishes. This went on for probably ten minutes, while tempers and words continued to get hotter and louder, all while my brother-in-law watched (probably trying not to laugh at our ridiculousness). It’s been over a decade since that event, and I honestly do not know how it ended or in what way the dishes were arranged when the dishwasher finally got turned on. What I do know is that no matter who “won” that argument, the real loser in that moment was our relationship.

Have any of you won an argument with your spouse or significant other and still been happy about it ten minutes later? How about with a child, friend, or colleague? Perhaps sometimes, but I know what most often happens when I win an argument is that a relationship is also damaged. There are hurt feelings, there is resentment, and there is a strain in that relationship that did not need to be there. The reason this matters is because in leadership, everything starts with relationships, and so we need to take care of them. If you take care of relationships, the results will take care of themselves. And the most important relationship to take care of is your relationship with Jesus; all other relationships flow from there.

Thus, in our leadership, we need to remember the phrase “Be the first…”. As Christ first loved us and gave Himself up for us, so we must be willing to give ourselves for others even before they do so for us. This phrase also implies give and take, as we saw earlier: give respect and take responsibility. Give respect to each person you meet and take responsibility for the way in which you present yourself to them. Now, don’t worry: this is not an entire chapter about image or presentation or personal branding or any of those things. But it is about how you present yourself to other people: be the first to give respect and to take responsibility.

As leaders we must also be the first to admit fault when we are wrong and be the first to share credit with other people when things go well. Very few leaders ever accomplish anything of value all on their own. There is almost always a team or group involved, so let’s be sure to acknowledge that; it will go a long way in terms of relationship building and in the impact you will have on your audience. It is also evidence of humility to be able to encourage and applaud others’ contributions instead of having to publicize one’s own accomplishments.

Last, and most importantly, be the first to serve. As Christ washed the disciples’ feet, as He gave Himself up for us, so we must be willing to serve others if we are to properly fulfill our roles as leaders. Always be willing to do the little bit extra, show up early, stay a bit late, go out of your way for others. All of these things essentially hit on the same idea. A key component of leadership is putting the needs of others before our own, in order to help them become better versions of themselves.