The Playbook

A playbook is a powerful tool. It captures best practices. It provides a guide for those new to the team and its plays. It expedites learning. It increases the likelihood of success. But much like a defense that encounters an offense that it has never seen before, the playbook can become a document worthy only of being used as kindling.

What are the potential problems of slavishly following the “playbook”? First, it can be wrong. The foundation for great leadership is humility. Humility allows one to consider that a proven playbook may yet not be appropriate for “this” situation. Second, it can create unnecessary havoc. Successfully marching toward a cause that ultimately fails is an avoidable disaster. Third, the playbook creates “drones.” Drones follow the playbook even when it is obvious that it is failing. That is why defenses facing a new offense ultimately get blown out. They keep trying the same strategies that worked in the past. Finally, the playbook destroys morale. It destroys the morale of those that attempt but fail in following it. It also destroys the morale of those that it inflicts it damage upon.

Be careful when using a playbook. Hold on to it loosely. As Bob Lewis says: “There are no such things as best practices. There are only practices that fit best.”

Generational Management — Part 2

Having identified the various generations in the workplace, their characteristics, and the potential conflicts, how do you manage different generations?

  • Send your managers to class. They need to learn to recognize generational differences and adapt.
  • Facilitate mentoring. Match different aged employees to encourage more cross-generational interaction.
  • Offer different working options. Allow telecommuting and working offsite.
  • Focus on the results. Make sure the focus is on what the employees produce rather than on how they get it done.
  • Accommodate different learning styles. Utilize a variety of training methods and venues.
  • Keep all employees engaged. Provide them with regular educational and training opportunities as well as career advice.
  • Open up the office. Do not allow the office to be a cloistered environment.
  • Toss the routines. Recognize that younger employees feel constrained with a rigid schedule.
  • Customize motivation and incentives. Be sensitive to what programs motivate each generation.
  • Give all employees a voice. Older employees have a point of view. Younger employees want to be heard.
  • Don’t confuse character issues like immaturity, laziness or intractability with generational traits. Recognize that younger generations work don’t necessarily work fewer hours, they just choose to work those hours on something other than a 9-to-5 schedule.
  • Age differences should be built into diversity training taken by all employees. It is common to emphasize race, gender, and sexual preference. Age has to be a part of the training also.
  • Think skills, not age. Experience cannot be solely defined in terms of years. Likewise, age does not prevent an employee from possessing the latest and greatest skills.
  • Emphasize commonality. It’s easy for employees to become adversarial when they focus on their differences. Continually remind your team of its common goals.
  • Respect competence and initiative. Treat everyone, from the newest recruit to the most seasoned employee, as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best.
  • Draw on the strength of each generation. Reject the tendency to impose your generational approach on that of your team.
  • Adapt your management style for each generation. The point is that you can’t manage according to your value system. Rather, you need to manage according to the employee’s value system.
  • Accept what you cannot change. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change the generations.
  • Adjust how you communicate with your team. Recognize the need for diverse and ever-changing communication methods.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Anointing of David (1 Samuel – 16:1-13)

What caused the city elders to be terrified (vs. 4) at the unexpected visit of Samuel? Did they think that this was a disciplinary visit? Had Samuel gotten wind of some injustice or wickedness in their community? Did they think this put the city in a dangerous position? Everyone knew of the big, falling-out between Samuel and Saul. If they received Samuel, would Saul take revenge on the city? Did they just react to Samuel’s seriousness? No one knows for sure what they were thinking. They were just plain terrified!

Fortunately, Samuel calms their fears by telling them that he came in peace. He came to sacrifice to the Lord. He instructs them to consecrate themselves and come to the feast with him (vs. 5).

There is still something hidden here. No one in the city dreamed that Samuel had come to anoint one who would rule God’s kingdom in this world. But even Samuel lacked the whole story. God had only told him that he would find the one from among Jesse’s sons. Just like the city elders, Samuel was a spectator in God’s choice of a new king. That is the theme of Chapter 16 – God’s choice. [1]

The Hope in God’s Choice (vs. 1)

Saul’s failure (“for Saul”) weighed heavily on Samuel. Wherever he went, it followed him like a dark cloud. It could have been sorrow over Saul’s rebellion and rejection. It could have been mourning that this sin could result in Israel’s disintegration. In either case, the grief prompted God to ask: “How long will you go on mourning for Saul?” (vs. 1)

Fortunately, God’s orders answer Samuel’s grief and fears. “Fill your horn with oil and go; I want to send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have seen among his sons a king for me.” Or as The New-England Primer states for the letter “S” – “Samuel anoints whom God appoints.” [2]

There it is – God’s answer. I have found for me a king [3]. God has a plan for a new beginning. The true King never loses control. God’s answer, God’s choice spells H-O-P-E.

Practical Application – Isn’t there something proper in Samuel’s grief. He was not upset over a loss of his favorite pro football team. He was not upset that he had been overlooked for a promotion. He was not upset over the fact that he still is driving a 5 year-old car. “Rather, he was distressed over the spiritual disaster of a promising instrument of God, over the welfare of God’s people, over their condition and security. Do we ever mourn over such matters? Do we mourn or gossip over the sins of others? Do we ever grieve over the biblical and ethical ignorance among professing believers?…..There is something commendable, instructive, in Samuel’s distress.” [1]

The Wisdom in God’s Choice (vv. 6-7)

Jesse’s sons come along with the rest of their neighbors to the sacrifice. Samuel has an immediate, intuitive hunch about whom God has in mind. As the text says:

“When they came, he saw Eliab, and he thought, ‘Surely his anointed one stands before Yahweh!’” (vs. 6)

“One can understand Samuel’s thinking. Eliab was doubtless an impressive hunk of manhood. Around 6’ 2” perhaps, about 225 pounds, met people well, all man but with social grace, excellent taste in after-shave lotion, and so on. Perhaps he’d starred as wide receiver for Bethlehem High School football. Probably made the All-Judean All-Star team. Samuel was not alone in his estimate of Eliab.” [1]

If we are mesmerized, God is not. He can see clearly. “It’s not what man sees – for man looks at the outward appearance but Yahweh look on the heart.”

What might have happened had Samuel used his (and our) basis for making a selection of the next King of Israel? Would it have sounded like:

“…Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders and upward he was taller than any of the people.” (10:23-24)

And if it had sounded like that, if God had not chosen the king, Israel would have suffered Saul – Act II. [1]

Practical Application – Verse 7 is a warning. We need to be careful to not allow the outward appearance, the impressiveness of speech, and the wittiness of pastoral candidates to dazzle us. We need to ask: How does he pray? How does he treat his wife? How does he treat those who serve him?

The Surprise in God’s Choice (vv. 8-12)

Seven times, Samuel meets a son of Jesse. Each time, Samuel hears the same answer: “Yahweh has not chosen this one.” Samuel asks: “Are there any others.” Sheepishly, Jesse says there is yet one more but he is keeping the sheep (vs. 11). Samuel’s order is short and sweet – “Send a man and get him.”

David, one who was ruddy with beautiful eyes and good looking, is there but a few seconds when God says – “Arise and anoint him, for this is he!”

Again we see God’s way of trampling on human thinking. Again we see how God chooses the most unlikely people to do His will. Again we are surprised with God’s choice.

Practical Application“Perhaps at no time did the living God disclose a more flabbergasting choice than in the case of David’s greater Descendent. The folks at home said, ‘He’s just one of us’ (Mark 6:3). Others complained, ‘He has too much fun’ (Matt. 11:18-19), and still others objected, ‘He’s not from the right place’ (John 7:41-42). But the clincher for many was: ‘Messiah’s don’t suffer’ (Matt. 27:42-43). And what did this opinion pack? None. ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner’ (Ps. 118:22). What should we deduce from that? We should realize God made His choice (Ps. 118:23a) and we should relish it (Ps. 118:23b).” [1]

The Costliness of God’s Choice (vs. 13)

God both chooses David for kingship and equips him for that work. But the gift of God’s Spirit is not merely gracious; it is severe. No sooner does the Spirit touch David than he is catapulted into endless trouble. He is hunted, he is betrayed, he faces envy and anger. He hides in caves, lives in exile, and is driven to the edge. The Spirit comes, the trouble begins…..

So it was for David’s Son and David’s Lord. As soon as the Spirit comes down in the form of a dove (Mark 1:10-11), the Spirit drives Christ into the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13). There he faces the enemy, wild beasts, and temptation.

Practical Application – The servants of David’s Lord find the same pattern (Acts 14:22). If we remember David and his Descendant we begin to understand that this conflict is not a sign of our sin but a mark of our sonship. [1]


End Notes

 [1] Dale Ralph Davis, “1 Samuel – Looking on the Heart”

[2] Tremper Longman III & Daivd E. Garland, “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel – 2 Kings”

[3] David Toshio Tsumura, “The First Book of Samuel”

[4] Robert Deffinbaugh: “David and Goliath” (1 Samuel 17:1-58)

Generational Management — Part 1

To all those who were not children in the 60’s and 70’s — We survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, and tuna from a can. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets — not to mention — the risks we took hitchhiking. As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, butter, and drank Kool-Ade made with real sugar. Nevertheless, we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day. As long as we were back when the streetlights came on, we were not in trouble. No one was able to reach us all day – and we survived! We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD’s, no surround-sound or CD’s, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms……. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and — although we were told it would happen — we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?!

How many generations currently inhabit the workplace? There are actually four generations inhabiting the workplace. For purposes of this post we will focus on just three — Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation “X” (1965-1978), and Generation “Y” (1979-1999).

Baby Boomers are noted as being loyal, competitive, willing to conform, appreciative of hierarchical structures, not interested in work/life balance, believe in “paying your dues”, slow to adapt to change, interested in the process, and like formal and infrequent reviews.

Generation “X” is noted as being skeptical and independent. They crave work/life balance. They are more impatient than Baby Boomers when it comes to the pace of advancement. They are more able to deal with change. They are more interested in the results determining how they are evaluated. They prefer more frequent and informal recognitions and reviews.

Generation “Y” are noted as being collaborative and team-oriented. They multi-task continually and have a disdain for older definitions of a good work ethic. They demand work/life balance though it is different than that of Generation “X” (who prefer a distinct break between work and personal life). Generation “Y” see little distinction between work and personal life as work is an expression of themselves. Generation “Y” is a “child-centric” cohort and are very impatient because they have been told since birth that they can do “whatever they want.” They prefer continual feedback and see any structure as being anti-thetical to “all of us being equal.”

In future posts, I will look at common areas of intergenerational conflict in the workplace and how we can manage these three generations in the workplace.