Two Apologies

Early in my business and leadership training one of rules of engagement was to “never lead off with an apology!” It was based on the perspective that you would appear weak in your position at the table. Showing vulnerability was forbidden, even fatal. Grip the hand firm, chest out, push hard, back off only when you had dominated and still could maintain control.

I have seen that work best in security and law enforcement. It has several flaws as a strategy for leadership in the workforce, home and community. One of my mentors; a man’s man, a pastor with a brilliant mind, a strong delivery of the truth, a facts/logic approach and a desire to build disciples taught me so much by what he shared about his mistakes. He was able to “find a kernel of truth in every criticism” and he would sometimes lead off a meeting with powerful men by sharing  some vulnerable weakness he had, or a recent mistake he had made. “Didn’t that weaken you in their eyes?”, I asked.  No, he smiled and said.  ‘Actually I gained the upper hand because I had so thrown them off by my approach that they went from standing on the balls of their feet ready to pounce to rocked back on their heels.  In that split second, I then asked them a question about them.  It opened them up to share with me and enter into a whole new level of discussion and honestly.’

That is amazing.  It is counter-intuitive.  Not what the leaders tried to instill in me years ago. My friend showed that you could lead with a weakness that becomes the platform for truth and realness in the conversation, negotiation, teaching, etc.

I know a debate could flame up over what I have just shared, but I can also tell you I have used this approach with success. One of the best areas of example is with the marriage ministry work my wife and I have done over the last 18 years. Giving the couples in the group a few ways that I/we have done things that were not helpful in our marriage right at the first of our time together brought the level of anxiousness down in each person. They heard what they instinctively already knew that there are no perfect marriages and that they were not alone in their relationship struggles.

There is much to talk about around that, and if there is interest I can blog about it in the future.

This message is to share two apologies I gave to strangers; well, actually they were really new friends I had come to know, trust and even care about over a short, intensive two-day retreat. The last night of the retreat I felt a burden to ask for forgiveness to both women and men.

In the apology to women, I had not personally done a wrong to the people in the room, but as a man I chose to take the position to represent men.  The open acknowledgement of wrong and hurtful behavior to the women by others could be seen as a weak position to take, yet it was a powerful offering to bring forth healing and forgiveness. I am not recommending that you try to assume responsibility for your gender as a whole, but in this time and place it brought about a greater closeness between people.

In the apology to men, I share my regret of not hearing the counsel of those who tried to give it and the failure to try to offer the same to others.  As well as calling out the passive men who can make a difference if they would choose to.

Maybe it will have an effect on you, or someone you know that needs to here it.  It so, please share.

I apologize…

Ladies,

No men got together and voted for me to represent them to you, so I am saying this on my own. But, I don’t think I am alone is the words of feeling in this message to you.

For all the times that men have used you, abused you, abandoned you, lied to you, failed to stand, support, nurture, serve, and lead you;

For cowardness, weakness, denial, selfishness, withdrawal, anger, blame, lack of spiritual grounding and guidance;

For the times we pressured you for sex, caused you physical, emotional and spiritual pain, for not having self-control to honor, respect and cherish you, your virginity, your purity, your worth;

For when you have been alone, with danger and fears and we ran away instead of running forward to protect you;

For all the joy, dancing, and worship that you deserved to be join in with, but your partner refused;

For all these things and more, we were wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive us.

 

Men,

I apologize to you who are my senior in years that tried to model the way of true, godly manhood and I didn’t listen, look, and seek your ways and truth. I was wrong.  I am sorry, please forgive me.

To you who failed to lead me and my generation in the ways of God, your silence, apathy, indifference, fear, neglect, passivity, irresponsibility, and lack of courage has caused great harm.  I forgive you.

To my peers that I ran with but didn’t encourage and hold accountable to live as righteous men, to you who are younger that I have failed like my elders did me, I was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.

Who Do People Say I Am?- Part 1

Angry WordsWhat I have learned overtime is most people don’t think about us or what we have done or how we are feeling as much as we may think they do! We may want; even need, more attention, acceptance, and approval from others, but having a hyper-focused worry, dread, suspension on how we are being perceived is a thinking path that leads to negative feelings, thinking and ultimately behavior.

It is also interesting to consider the person, or persons, that are talking about you.  According to 1 new research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor, how positively you see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable you are.

Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality,” says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study, about his findings. By asking study participants to each rate positive and negative characteristics of just three people, the researchers were able to find out important information about the rater’s well-being, mental health, social attitudes and how they were judged by others.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Peter Harms at the University of Nebraska and Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis co-authored the study.

The researchers found a person’s tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person’s own personality traits. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person describes oneself and is described by others.

“Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits,” Wood says.

The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively,” Wood says. “The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” Given that negative perceptions of others may underlie several personality disorders, finding techniques to get people to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with several different personality disorders simultaneously, Wood says.

This research suggests that when you ask someone to rate the personality of a particular coworker or acquaintance, you may learn as much about the rater providing the personality description as the person they are describing. The level of negativity the rater uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic — or has other negative personality traits.

Raters in the study consisted of friends rating one another, college freshmen rating others they knew in their dormitories, and fraternity and sorority members rating others in their organization. In all samples, participants rated real people and the positivity of their ratings were found to be associated with the participant’s own characteristics.

By evaluating the raters and how they evaluated their peers again one year later, Wood found compelling evidence that how positively we tend to perceive others in our social environment is a highly stable trait that does not change substantially over time.

A take-a-way from this Part 1: What others say about you says more about them that you.

  1. Are you helped by considering that hurting people hurt people?  
  2. Does it help you not take offensive when someone is unjustly critical of you when you consider how it reflects on their own character?  Maybe pity for them can fill your heart rather than bitterness, resentment or anger?
  3. Would you be able to confront their hurtful words by doing kind things for them in return?

 

1 Wake Forest University (2010, August 3). What you say about others says a lot about you, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2010/08/100802165441.htm


	

? ? ? Three Important Questions

Three questionsBeginning Monday, August 26th, I will dedicate at least one blog to each of three questions.  They are important questions that you can answer.  They bring you face to face with yourself.  They allow you to drill down to the core of yourself.  That can be hard to do.  Many people have fear to look deep within themselves and explore what it is that makes them who they are and determines what they do.  It can be fascinating to learn!

My challenge to you (and myself) is to think about these three questions over the weekend.  Allow yourself the time reflect on them. Try to be honest with yourself.  You may not have a complete answer to some of them yet.  You may have no answer yet, that is ok.  You have begun the journey by first knowing the questions to ask.  Each answer will be as different as we are as individuals.

These are Coaching type questions.  I love to ask them of others to draw them out, and up to new levels. Join me in this series by seriously considering these for yourself.  Post your answers below if you have some already.  I would love to share them here to encourage others.  Thanks!

Ready?

1. Who do others say you are?
2. Who do you say you are?
3. Who does God say you are?

You can do this.  Think about them.  Share thoughts or questions here.

 

My Clutch Awareness

Stick ShiftI sold my car with an automatic transmission and purchased a truck with a manual five speed transmission.  It has been several years since I drove a manual shift truck.  It brought back good memories.

I remember “back in the day” when I was learning to drive a car, the transition from “standard” to “automatic” was a big change.  Most of us learned to use the clutch and shift as part of driving.  The challenge of starting the vehicle rolling forward while stopped on a hill involved a developed skill of using two feet to operate three critical components, the clutch, the brake and the accelerator.  Sometimes I would hear of someone who cheated and put on the emergency brake to hold them while they disengaged the clutch and pushed in on the accelerator instead of the artful placing on your left foot on both the clutch and brake while your right foot “gave it gas”, as we would say.

(Come to think of it, we also had to parallel park for the driving license test too!)

These descriptions may bring back memories and stories from your past as you drove,  tried to drive , or rode with someone in a manual shift vehicle.  Times have changed with the easier automatic transmission cars.  Put it in Drive and go.

There are many advantages to not having to clutch and shift.  Stop-and-go traffic and a sore left leg are just a couple that come to mind.  But let me mention an advantage that I noticed as I returned to the shifty world of a manual five speed pickup truck.

When you are listening to the RPMs of the engine or watching the tachometer, you are focusing more on what is happening to the vehicle.  As you engage the gears you are engaged with the rhythm of the engine, you are aware of the road, the straight-a-ways, the curves, the hills and dales.

Being attentive to your driving is important.  When someone isn’t we usually hear the grim details on the news.  Texting, eating, putting on make-up, drinking a beverage, changing the station on the radio, talking on the phone (with or without ear pieces), etc. all take our minds away from the reality and danger of the hurling massive bubble we are traveling in.

My clutch awareness has helped me to concentrate more on what I am doing; driving.  I am safer on the road to myself, my passengers and others. It is a lesson that can be applied to life in general too.

Are you doing things in life that have become automatic and never cross your mind much?  It is easy to take those things for granted.  It is dangerous to not be mindful and aware of what we are doing.  In our busy, faster and faster world, may I suggest you put a clutch into your life.  Find a way to disengage the hard-driving and shift gears sometimes yourself.  You could find more control and appreciation come with it.

Which Way Do You Respond to Conflict?

5 Conflict responsesThere is good news about conflict What?  Yes!  It can bring understanding about yourself, the situation, and the root cause. Conflict can even bring people closer together with a stronger confidence in building trust, respect and support with each other.

It is common to say, “Conflict is inevitable!”… Duh.  I say that a lot myself. That truth alone does not help with managing it, but it is a start.  It is normal and healthy to have conflict. What we do with the conflict is very important for health within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

Most people I meet have not been taught what I am about to share with you.  I hope it becomes clear in the next few paragraphs, (with the help of the handy diagram I created) that you have five distinct ways to respond to conflict. The model is based on the good work of Thomas-Kilman and their Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). They identified five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. Their presupposition is that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style.

Before we go further I want to make an important point that each of the five conflict responses are useful in different situations. Not one of them is bad, or wrong in itself. When and how often you use it is important.

The following definitions from the TKI will help you see the style.  I have renamed them in my diagram as a fresh look at the well-worn terms used to talk about it.  No matter what the label is, see if you can find the one that you most use. Once you know your tendencies, you can begin to explore what others use in your interactions with them. This information is vital to developing a conflict management strategy in your relationships.  I will be glad to walk you through how to apply this to your situation.  Give me a call.

Avoiding (No Way): People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.

Competitive (My Way): People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations.

Accommodating (Your Way): This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.

Compromising (Our Way): People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something and the compromiser (him or her) also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.

Collaborative (New Way): People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off.

Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you’re in. You can also think about your own instinctive approach, and learn how you need to change this if necessary.

Ideally you can adopt an approach that is appropriate for the situation, addresses the problem, respects people’s legitimate interests, and leads to mending damaged relationships.

 

At least 17 Things Parents Need To Know:

Funny GirlsI sat beside my three children at a local coffee shop savoring the moments together. They are becoming very rare that the five of us have some “hang” time. My children are fun and inspiring. I still think I have some things to offer them in their maturing process but now I am more a student of them. Watching them grow is amazing.  My wife, and co-laborer in this parenting process, remains my best friend and partner in our role as parents.Bransons at Frothy Monkey

Most of my Facebook friends are parents, so I posted a request on my wall for sage advice from them on what parents need to know. I learned from them, hopefully you will find a nugget of insight for yourself too! Here is a selection of their comments.

  1. His Grace is new every morning.
  2. How to share their faith with their children.
  3. No child is perfect, but God’s saving grace is! (BF)
  4. Pick your battles! Not everything is worth the energy or time to ‘fight’ over!!
  5. Listen: It gives children, power and trust.
  6. Read to them, read with them, let them read to you.
  7. Kids thrive on acceptance, encouragement, AND correction.
  8. Give them permission to succeed AND permission to fail.
  9. Bike helmets work.
  10. Daddies, love your daughters. If she doesn’t find love and acceptance and affection from you, she will one day soon find it from another man.
  11. It can be cleaned up, it can be replaced, it will heal.
  12. Words can not be taken back and they will be remembered well. Choose them well.
  13. There is no greater kindness than when God lets you watch your children become the adults He intended them to be.
  14. Time together. There is no substitute.
  15. Disciple them to love and follow Jesus. In the end, that’s all that really matters.
  16. How to communicate love in a language your child understands. Time, Touch, Gifts, Words of affirmation, Service.
  17. Having a child is a lifetime commitment. You are in this until death do you part, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Yes, it sounds like wedding vows, and it should.

 

 

Toxic

onion in mouthA friend of mine posted on Facebook,

“I ate an onion as a midnight snack and I woke up with my mouth tasting like a foot.”

You may have smiled reading that, you may have thought, “Ugh”, or you may have related to it in some way from your own morning breath experiences.

After reading that post, I did three things in this order. 1. Laughed. 2. Brushed my teeth. 3. Wrote these thoughts out about toxic.

A quick internet search for the word “Toxic” reveals this:

Definition of TOXIC 1: containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation <toxic waste><a toxic radioactive gas> <an insecticide highly toxic to birds> 2: exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis <the patient became toxic two days later> 3: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful <toxic sarcasm> 4: relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market

Consider that what we put into ourselves affects what comes out of us.  Usually people are aware to avoid ingestion of food and other things that can harm them. If it is known to be toxic, the rationale person will not consume it. What about toxic words or thoughts? We are bombarded by sound-bytes every day that seek to influence what we think and do. Are there words that have been feed to you, that you took in and they became toxic? As they resided in you, did they later come out as foul, toxicifying words to others?

In the “my mouth tastes like a foot” example the onion a few hours earlier had time to work within the body to do what onions do, both good and bad.  Take away a lesson from my friend’s funny, self revealing post. Recognize what is coming out of us and determine is it pleasant or helpful to us and others. If it is sour, distasteful, even toxic then take action to stop it and reflect back on how it may have come to be in you.

Workplace Conflict

Workplace Conflict

Workplace tensionIn their professional lives, an alarming 88% of Americans cite hostility, desk-rage, and workplace incivility as top concerns. This disabling, sometimes crippling, emotions rob the company of profit and productivity. Executives, supervisors, managers and the people who work for them can learn to reduce workplace stress and avoid the conflict and cynicism that drains profits, resources, and relationships. Protection from the hidden costs of workplace tension and hostility can be put in place.

I can help you:

  • Create a blame-resistant, emotionally resilient workforce that handles the daily onslaught of frustration without losing momentum, mood or confidence.
  • Replace bitterness about the past with shared responsibility for the future.
  • Quickly calm agitated colleagues and customers.

Your conflict behavior in the workplace is a result of both personal predispositions and the requirements of the situation in which people find themselves.

My customized approach for your assessment and training is designed to measure this mix of conflict-handling modes with you and help you find the solution to move forward.

Remember conflict is inevitable. It can be helpful.  It can be only temporary.  It should/must be managed!

 

3 Things That Steal Joy From Relationships

Joy StealersThese are not the only joy-stealers, but the three things mentioned below will rob you in the workplace, friendships and family!

Let’s look at what the wisdom book tells us about it…

Joy Stealers:

1. Gossip. Idle talk or rumors about others.

The bible calls one who gossips a talebearer, a busybody and a whisperer. Leviticus 20:16 “You shall not go out as a talebearer among your people.” Proverbs 17:9 “He who repeats a matter separates (best) friends. Proverbs 16: 28 “A whisper separates (chief) friends. Proverbs 20:19 “He who goes out as a talebearer reveals secrets; *therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.

* Take special note of the word therefore. Why is it in the sentence? Because there are gossips in the world today and the work place, we are to stay away from them.
Why avoid gossipers?

Because if they are coming to you revealing secrets about someone else to you don’t you think they will leave you and go tell others your secrets?Of course they will. It’s in their nature to do so. It’s what they live for.

How do you stop a gossip?

It’s very simple. Don’t listen. That is all there is to it. It’s just that simple. Don’t give them an ear to gossip in. Tell them this, “I can’t believe so and so said that, let’s you and I go ask them if that is really what they said.

One more thing about gossip…

Proverbs 26:20, “Where there is no wood the fire goes out, and where there is no talebearer, the strife will cease.”  And where there is no strife, there is peace.  And where there is peace, there is Joy!

2. Selfishness. Loving ones self first or self-seeking.

Proverbs 11:26 talks about withholding something good from someone who needs it. “He that withhold corn, the people will curse him, but blessings will be on the head of him that sells it.” If we sell something to someone who has a need for it is good. What happens if we choose to give it to them? Luke 6:38 “Give and it shall be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Mark 10:37 gives us a look at James and John being selfish, seeking the best place. “They replied, Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at your left in Your glory.”  Jesus proceeds to tell them that to be great you must serve, and to be the greatest you must be a servant of all.

How can you change?

Servant leadership is one of the antidotes to self-seeking behavior.

3. Jealousy. Resentfully suspicious of a rival or a rival’s influence.

Genesis 37:4 – Joseph’s brothers. “And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”

I Samuel 18:8 – King Saul. “Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him, ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘ but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ and from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

In summary:

Instead of Gossiping – Edify one another

Instead of Selfishness – Give to one another

Instead of Jealousy – Love one another.

Keith Talks

Keith speakingTo arrange for Keith to speak, coach, or train call 615-596-4474 or email keith@keithbranson.com. The topics, listed alphabetically, below can be adjusted to your needs.  Other topics can be presented as well.

Speaking Topics:

1.Abortion and Men – A highly charged topic with surprising outcomes! Learn what Abortion does to men and what they can do about it.  Discussion can be tailored for all ages.

2. Age to Age – Life’s transitions are easier when we know three things; who we are, what we need, and how we can finish well. Understanding the truth about yourself and how to be satisfied through every season of life, is possible!

3. Conflict – We all have it in our lives at some level. Learn how to manage tensions, prevent abuse and create satisfying solutions. There are four key stages that I guarantee will lead to long-lasting, satisfying relationships.

4. Death and Dying – Preparing for departure from our earthly bodies is not as hard as people imagine. Know the basic things that legally must be done at death and options you have before and after death. Alternative funeral ideas are included in this presentation.

5. Leading from back stage – Leadership models, principles and “how-tos” abound. Most have you in charge, leading from the front and center. Strength, guidance, vision and direction can be instilled in a team, a family and other groups without having your face or name on the headline and your place in the front of everyone.

6. Marriage and Family – What else could possibly be taught on this topic with so many resources already available? Divorces are still occurring, blended families are now the majority of households, same-sex relationships in marriage and parenting are legal. A fresh, relevant talk on today’s tough issues.

7. Men – The world needs godly men; men who will step up and courageously lead and serve at home, at church, at work and in their communities. Learn what holds men back, how to bring them forward and empower them to fulfill their role and mission.