RLL 36--Lessons from Dad

RLL 36--Lessons From Dad

Today is Father's Day, and as such I wanted to share with all of you the introduction to my e-book (Extra)Ordinary Leadership, which is written about my dad, as well as the list of 10 Things Dad Taught Me Without Saying Anything.

These are lessons that Dad lived and that I observed and have tried to also live out (though, admittedly, I have failed more often than I have succeeded). They form guidelines for how I try to treat others and how I try to lead. I hope that you are encouraged by them and inspired by them. I also hope that they cause you to remember with fondness lessons that your father or father-figure taught you. Happy Father's Day!

My father, John Wesley Hawbaker, was an incredible leader: educated at Illinois Wesleyan University (B.A.) and the University of Georgia (M.A.), he also went through the US Army Officer Candidate School, US Army Airborne School (where he won the Outstanding Leadership Award for his class), and the US Army Ranger School. He was a member of the famous 82nd Airborne Division, and he won three Bronze Star Medals for his service in Vietnam. 
He also was a businessman, an ROTC instructor, a college professor, and a civic club volunteer. Most importantly, he was a husband and a father. He truly followed the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers: “Lead the Way.” This is about what Dad taught me just through the way he lived. 

“Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi

The cover of '(Extra)Ordinary Leadership': Dad in his military dress uniform.

The cover of '(Extra)Ordinary Leadership': Dad in his military dress uniform.

The above quote is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, though I have not been able to find any record of him actually having said or written it. Regardless, I feel that the sentiment is true, and that St. Francis may have said it is entirely plausible based on his own life of service and love to others. St. Francis was the founder of the Franciscan order of monks, and even hundreds of years later he stands as an amazing example of a man who lived his life in such a way that he consistently put the needs of others above his own.

What does it mean to preach the gospel without using words? Actions must show the love of God to others, to the degree that the recipient cannot but wonder at your motivation. Our love must be such that it cannot be explained away by reason or ulterior motive, even by the most jaded cynic. Understood this way, love is a choice, an action, an expression of the will. This idea is addressed by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters when, writing as Screwtape, he describes the demons as wondering what God is really up to when Screwtape says that “He really loves the little vermin.” To people who don’t understand the love of God, the motives of Christian love will forever remain a mystery.

The world will question Christians’ motives, and we must overcome even the strongest objections through our actions. When we do this, and when the opportunity arises for words, the words will then carry the full weight of convictions already proven, not just the often-empty promises of something postponed or alluded to. I do not know if I ever heard Dad actually share the Gospel. In fact, when he was not far from death, I asked my father about his salvation because I simply was not sure, and I was not willing to lose him without being as sure as I could be about his salvation. I knew he had been a good man of high morals, but since he was not vocal about his faith, I was not sure he was saved, and I needed to be. As it turns out, this was one of the more ridiculous worries I have ever had.

Upon reflection, it should have been obvious that Dad’s motivation was not anything other than a desire to serve God well by loving other people. When I look back at the many ways Dad served and loved others throughout his lifetime, I began to try to understand the principles behind his actions. The more I examined them, the more I have realized that all of them are rooted in love. Despite being from a generation that often frowned on males showing affection, my father never hesitated to give me a hug or tell me that he loved me.

In the same way, many people who knew Dad spoke of how they knew he cared about them because of his actions, his treatment of them. It was this ability to show love to others, to serve them and show them that he cared, that was at the center of who my father was. He was not always perfect, and he often failed, especially with my older brother, with whom he often disagreed. However, as Dad and my brother both got older, this love became more evident, it became more vocal, and it made my heart glad to see how much better my dad and brother got along before Dad died.

In talking with many people about Dad, including my mom, I have learned that Dad first learned integrity and love from his own parents, John Myron Hawbaker, a good man by all accounts, and Olive Alice Merriman, a loving and caring mother. And it is the foundation of love that is at the heart of all of the principles found in this book. For those of you who want to know where these principles came from, a brief explanation may suffice.

One of my all-time favorite pictures: Dad, my older daughter, and me, on our way to a soccer game.

One of my all-time favorite pictures: Dad, my older daughter, and me, on our way to a soccer game.

A number of years ago I was asked to give a devotional message for my fellow high school teachers at a Christian school in Alabama. In the process of thinking about that, I started thinking about my father, who had recently passed away. I was struck by a number of life principles that he embodied and yet never spoke aloud. I was also amazed that he had never actually said these things and yet they were so apparent to anyone who knew him. These principles form the core of each chapter in the book. Each principle is written out clearly and then explained using illustrations from Dad’s life. I hope that anyone who reads this is encouraged and inspired to also try to live like Dad did. I can think of no better way to honor him than to try to live out the principles he embodied.

In some ways, Dad lived an ordinary, if eventful, life: son, brother, husband, father, soldier, civilian. However, the way he lived and the principles he lived by were extraordinary, and I hope you are encouraged by him.

'10 Things Dad Taught Me Without Saying Anything'

  1. Always show respect to others, even when they don’t extend you the same courtesy.

  2. Control your temper--it’s yours, and only you can lose it.

  3. Choose to be in a good mood every morning--you can control your emotions, or you can be controlled by them.

  4. If there is work to do, do it--no excuses or reasons to avoid it--get it done.

  5. You are responsible for you. Own up to your actions and accept responsibility for your choices.

  6. Others come first--always.

  7. There is no person or task that is below your dignity.

  8. It’s OK if people don’t know how great you are--you don’t have to tell them.

  9. Take care of your family even if it’s hard.

  10. Always do what is right.

RLL 26: The Power of Partnerships--Two C's to Working Better Together

RLL 26

The Power of Partnerships: Two C’s of Working Better Together

I’m very excited to be working on the final editing and revisions for my book that’s due out this summer! Since I’m planning to self-publish, I’ve been learning as much about that process as I can, and this week I stumbled across a hidden jewel that applies not just in book writing but in all of leadership. Here it is (paraphrased from Chandler Bolt, best-selling author of six books, including Publish and Book Launch): ‘When writing a book, the purpose of working with an editor is to produce something that is better than you would have been able to create on your own.’

As my wife and I were walking our dogs yesterday, I told her about how I came across that piece of wisdom and how much it struck a chord with me. She agreed, and we discussed it at further length as we continued to walk, and the more we discussed it, the more examples I came across in my world. I want to share with you two key insights today that I gathered from Chandler’s wisdom: collaboration and compromise are necessary to the creation of great things, and that requires the humility to engage in both.

Key #1: The Necessity of COLLABORATION

All of us gathered together to celebrate our daughter's baptism at her grandfather's church.

All of us gathered together to celebrate our daughter's baptism at her grandfather's church.

The first key to understanding why partnerships are so powerful is in that sentence above, because (within reason) working with other people toward a common goal is going to produce better results than you would have achieved alone. We see this in education, where many classrooms today use the word collaboration to describe ways in which students work together on projects, in study groups, or to complete complex assignments. In these situations, students use their particular skill sets in combination with other students, and the results are of a higher quality than any individual student would have produced alone. Collaboration has become a bit of an education buzzword actually, both for students and for teachers, and the goal is always the same: raise the quality of work being done by combining the strengths (and thus also shoring up the weaknesses) of multiple people.

The same is true in family life, when both parents are working together for the good of the family. Now, please, don’t misunderstand me: I’m NOT bashing single parents. I know there are many, many single parents who do more and work harder and longer hours than they should have to, just for the sake of their children. I also know (and am thankful for) the many loving friends and family members who help single parents with logistical things, like picking kids up from school or running errands from time to time. And I believe all of these things further drive home my point: when there are two parents, a mother and father working together, that is when the family functions best. That’s why God designed it that way.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me give a little background into my own world: my parents divorced when I was in middle school, and we lived with my mom afterward. However, because of my parents’ love for us and their willingness to compromise, we also saw my father almost every day and we even still celebrated many holidays together. That is, my mom and dad continued to work together for the sake of their three children even though it was sometimes difficult and unusual. As an adult, I also am divorced and was a single parent for a time, as was my ex-wife. I am now remarried, as is my ex-wife, and the four adults involved all work together for the sake of our children. This is the type of collaboration that is necessary in our current divorce-heavy culture. And this leads to the second key here: having enough humility to compromise.

KEY #2: COMPROMISE requires humility

Butterscotch (on the left) and Bruiser (on the right) don't look too happy about being kept out of the garden!

Butterscotch (on the left) and Bruiser (on the right) don't look too happy about being kept out of the garden!

Any time you work in close contact with another adult, there will have to be compromise. In working on the final revisions of my book, I’ve asked my wife and a few other people to go through and make editing suggestions. One of the people who did, a lady I call my second mom, emailed me with a list of over fifty different edits that needed to be made. And in her email, she made a joke about how I’ll probably never ask for her help again because of the number of mistakes. I was sure to email her back and let her know that I was actually very grateful to her for the suggestions that she made and that I took no offense at how many mistakes she found.

We saw this idea in my house again this weekend when my wife and I were rebuilding a garden in our backyard. We built a garden last weekend, but the quality was not very high, and it became obvious that we needed to rethink our plan. So she went and talked with her parents, and they came up with a much better design. As we built the garden beds, moved the dirt, and built a better fence, multiple small changes were necessary in order to accommodate the reality of our situation: our backyard was not as flat as we’d thought, and we have two large dogs who needed to be kept out of the beds. In the end, thanks to suggestions and hard work from my wife, her mom, and her dad, the final product is somewhat different and also much better than what we had originally done last week and what was intended to be done yesterday. This wouldn’t have been possible if we had stubbornly stuck to the plan drawn up on paper, instead of being willing to make a few changes.

Conclusion: working together (within reason) always produces better results than we would be able to achieve on our own! So, let us have the humility to compromise and collaborate with others so that, together, we can produce things of better quality and lasting value.

Action Step: ask someone for help with a project you’re working on, and be willing to implement at least one of their suggestions even if they’re radically different than what you had originally intended.

Don’t forget to be looking out for my upcoming book on leadership! In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed the first chapter that I emailed out to everyone last week. If you’d like to partner with me in sharing buzz about the book ahead of time, please let me know. Thanks, and God bless!

RLL 23: Delegation and Humility

RLL 23: Delegation and Humility

As a teacher, my single least favorite task is grading essays, and as a soccer coach my least favorite aspect of the job is keeping up with jerseys and shorts. I love teaching history: the subject matter fascinates me, the students are bundles of potential, and I have my own coffee pot in my classroom. What could be better? I also love coaching soccer: the smell of grass, the beauty of the game, the hard work and life lessons; all of those things are wonderful. But sometimes I feel overwhelmed, and that has been especially true this year.

Most people, whether teenagers in high school, students in college, members of the workforce (to say nothing of a parent or head of a company), know the feeling I’m talking about: too much to do, too little time; no matter what you get done, it feels like the list keeps getting longer; a creeping sense that there’s no possible way to get everything done as well as it needs to be done. So, what’s the solution?

This was from a few years back: our program's first-ever playoff victory!

This was from a few years back: our program's first-ever playoff victory!

In the past couple of years, I have been consciously working on improving my own ability to perform one of the most crucial aspects of leadership: delegation. Delegation is the solution. In learning how to do this better, I have discovered a few things about it that I wanted to share with you. Whether at home, in my classroom, in my soccer program, or in a business, delegation is a key component of leadership, and here are a few ways it will benefit not just you but your entire group.

First, delegation is a perfect example of what Confident Humility is all about. Remember, Confident Humility is about using your gifts and talents in the service of others, and leadership is the art of positively influencing those around you to help them become better versions of themselves. Delegation is perhaps the simplest way of putting those ideas into action in a practical way. In order to delegate, a leader must be confident enough not to feel threatened by another person performing a crucial role or task, and he or she must also be humble enough to admit that another person might be better suited to that task, whatever it may be.

Second, delegation is crucial if you as the leader are to be the best you can be: that is, by assigning or giving tasks to others on your team, you free yourself up to focus more on whatever you are best at. I once heard delegation described this way: sure, the president or CEO could help clean his office or make the coffee, and sometimes that’s appropriate; but if the CEO spends all of his or her time doing that, who is making the crucial business decisions? By delegating, you free yourself up to focus on the most importants tasks of your role, rather than spending time and energy on something that another person could have done just as well.

Third, delegation allows the various members of your team or group to also showcase their strengths. If you as a leader have done your job and hired people who are complementary to you in terms of their various skill sets, then there are members of your team who are better than you are different things. Recognize that, and use that to the benefit of the whole team or group.

Let me give you an example.Within my soccer program, both of my assistants (in addition to being good at coaching) are extraordinary player-managers, forming great relationships with the kids. One of them loves the administrative work: forming rosters, keeping track of various stats, and taking are of uniform issues. My other assistant loves focusing on the defensive aspects of the game. When it comes time to work on defending, or if I’m having a difficult time with a player or group of players, or when it’s time to do the various administrative work, then instead of me trying to fix all these issues at once, I can allow each of my assistants to focus on these tasks, especially since they are likely to perform them better than I would anyway! This has a variety of benefits: the players receive more direct attention, the assistant coaches get the satisfaction of doing crucial work with the team, and they grow in confidence due to being trusted with those roles.

This is us last year: our second straight trip to the state championship game! We couldn't have done it without everyone involved: supporters, parents, players, and coaches!

This is us last year: our second straight trip to the state championship game! We couldn't have done it without everyone involved: supporters, parents, players, and coaches!

Allowing the other members of your team to get involved has one additional benefit as well, and this is something that all leaders should be thinking about regularly: it is helping train them to be the next set of leaders. In my case, by delegating various tasks to my assistants, it helps them prepare to become head coaches. When I give certain tasks in my classroom to the students, trusting them to take care of certain things, it helps them develop confidence and skill sets they’ll use in the future. By delegating certain chores at home, I’m helping my children learn what it will be like when they are adults and live on their own.

Lastly, I’ve learned that delegation is not something to be done simply after I’m feeling overwhelmed. Rather, it’s much better to begin delegating much earlier, before things get too crazy. I encourage you to look around and see what tasks your leadership team can help you perform and how much that would benefit the whole group. Then, be sure to trust your team to perform them; guide them, but don’t micromanage. Remember, part of the exercise is to learn to better trust others, and this will also help them grow in confidence.

Action Step: this week, ask your leadership team what tasks or type of tasks they truly enjoy, and then see how you can delegate certain jobs that will play to their various strengths. Be sure to email me and let me know how it goes!