Saturday, August 05, 2017

Character, Reputation, and the Difference

Character, Reputation, and the Difference

Another leader is in the news recently for a moral failure. All of the details of his situation are not yet known and perhaps never will be, at least not fully. Apart from being well known to fans of college football, there is also the matter of his Christian faith. For a large number of people, he was looked up to as one of the models of publically living out the Christian faith.

Character

Character is the mental and moral qualities of an individual. It is the property that defines the apparent nature of something or someone. In other words, character is the inherent complex of attributes that determine a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions to a given situation. Character is who a person really is when no one else is around.

Reputation

Reputation is simply the beliefs or opinions others have about an individual. This general opinion or judgment about a person can be positive or negative and is influenced by what is known about the character of a given individual. When someone regularly volunteers at a ministry that serves food to the needy, that becomes part of a person’s reputation. When someone gives generously of their financial resources, that becomes part of a person’s reputation. It has been my experience that reputation takes a rather long time to build and can be impaired or even destroyed by a single action.

Here is what I see happening repeatedly among those in the public eye: the success they enjoy insulates them from the accountability everyone needs in their lives. This results in individuals who become more concerned about their reputation than they are about the character that underpins it. Reputation becomes the important factor in perpetuating success. For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, this dangerous combination inevitably results in the loss of position, the loss of influence, and often the loss of important relationships.


Somewhere along the way, some leaders allow reputation to become more important than character. I think character is always more important than reputation. In fact, it is my belief that if leaders will focus on their character, really concern themselves with being the godly men they are called to be, their reputations will take care of themselves.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lessons From United Airlines

Lessons From United Airlines
The recent debacle experienced by United Airlines remains in media headlines as additional details become public and the inevitable legal maneuvering begins. I watched the cellphone video footage first on social media then later on the national news as the story developed. A lot has been written from a number of different angles by airline industry experts, business experts, and armchair pundits all expressing varying perspectives of the public relations failure of United Airlines. For my part, there are three distinct leadership lessons that immediately came to my mind.

Process Matters But People Matter More

Every business, every ministry, every organization large and small have processes in place to deal with the more routine aspects of what they do on a regular basis. It is these very processes that make training new employees possible. They help to add a level of predictability to routine operations. Some processes are well designed and are scalable, meaning they can expand with the needs of the organization, while others are only suited to handle a given volume of activity and break down when activity exceeds what the process was designed to address.

Over time, some processes become so entrenched that maintaining the process takes priority over the activities the process was originally supposed to help manage. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, says, “it is always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us?” It is an important question for leaders to consider. Processes are an important part of all organizations but the people those processes serve are more important. Outcomes matter more than processes because people matter more than processes. Good leaders are always willing to question the way things are being done.

Blaming Others For Your Mistake Is Always Bad

People don’t rise to the level of chief executive of a multibillion dollar international concern by accident. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is a veteran of both Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. He also serves as the chief financial officer and vice president of consumer services at AT&T. Before becoming the CEO of United Airlines, he was president and chief operating officer of CSX Corporation. Munoz is a seasoned executive which is why the missteps after the news of the incident aboard Flight 3411 are so baffling.

It is quite common for passengers to be bumped from a flight. Anyone who has travelled with much regularity has likely encountered such a situation. However, it is virtually unheard of for passengers to be bumped from a boarded flight. In his second statement about the incident, Munoz blamed Dr. Dao, the passenger that was brutally removed from the flight, for the incident. The fact that Dao would be hospitalized with a broken nose, concussion, and two lost teeth was not yet known. Once the extent of his injuries were known, coupled with the continuing public outcry, Munoz seemed to have a change of heart and find the right words to apologize for his company’s behavior and pledge to make it right.

United dropped the ball in this instance and tried to blame the customer for their mistakes. Had Munoz immediately owned the situation and vowed to get to the bottom of it, the media and public would have a completely different perception of the company. The blame game started in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:12) and has persisted ever since yet man still fails to understand it never works! Leaders that blame others for the mistakes of their organization undermine themselves and their organization.

Internal vs. External Communication

Jargon is simply special words or expressions used by a particular profession or organization and are often difficult for others to understand. Every organization has its own jargon used by insiders and the airline industry is no exception. The use of jargon streamlines communication between colleagues or other professionals within a particular industry and is largely a good thing.

While helpful for those inside an organization or given profession, when jargon finds its way into external communications, the intended message is, at best, unclear. When this happens as a leader is dealing with a major event, the event can quickly escalate into a crisis. The importance of understanding the reputational threat posed by a crisis is important. Mr. Munoz failed to understand the extent of the injuries suffered by Dr. Dao before releasing an initial statement. That statement was viewed negatively due to the use of airline industry jargon. Social media was awash with memes featuring images of a bloodied Dr. Dao with captions that included the reference to having to re-accommodate passengers. While that may sound normal to insiders, it served to help make a challenging situation morph into a full-blown crisis.

Putting people before process, owning mistakes, and clear communication are the three things that came to my mind as the unfortunate situation with United Airlines and Dr. Dao unfolded. Had any of these three things been handled properly, the situation may not have escalated as it did. Had all three been a priority, I do not think there would have been an incident to start with.


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

New Members Class

New Members’ Class
I recently had the opportunity to put together a new members’ class at our church. My pastor and I discussed how it ought to look, what should be included, and about how long it should be. After that, he let me run with it. I am grateful to serve under a pastor who has confidence in his staff and lets us get things done. If we need a course correction, he is kind in helping us make adjustments. When the work is finished, he is generous with his public praise. Truly, serving the church God called our family to is a blessing!
Let me tell you a little bit about our church. This year we will celebrate 65 years of ministry! That is an accomplishment in and of itself but it gets better. You see, in an age when many Southern Baptist churches are plateaued or declining, we are growing. That was not the case a few short years ago but today our church is healthy and thriving. Our church has had various new member classes over the years so news of plans to launch such a class was welcomed.

Duration

How long should a class like this take? That is a really good question and one that deserves more than passing consideration. I know of churches that do these kinds of classes in a single meeting and others that take six weeks or more. I think a class like this in a single sitting is a lot to ask of new and/or potential members. Also, it does not allow the people in the class to interact in any meaningful way and get to know one another.
We decided that holding the class over three consecutive weeks held during the Sunday School hour is how we would plan this. This would allow a group of people with something in common, being new to the church, a chance to get to know one another a bit while also getting them into a three-week habit of coming to church during the Sunday School hour.  

Content

Our church has a rich history and we have many members that have been with us for decades whose lives are rooted in that history. We want new members to add their gifts and talents to the pages of our story but in order to do that, we need to tell them about the DNA of our church. So we start in 1952 with the founding of the church and work our way forward through the first building on the property to the most recent project we completed to the new building campaign our congregation recently voted to move forward with.
Next, we unpack our vision statement “Live with purpose, leave a legacy through mentoring, ministry, and missions.” We think that is a succinct statement and it sounds good but it is also important to ensure those attending the class understand what each part of it means. After explaining that, attention pivots to our beliefs. All of this takes place in the first meeting of the class.
In the second meeting of the class, we explain what church membership is and what we believe a committed church member looks like. This like being part of a Sunday School class, regularly attending worship, tithing, and witnessing are among the things we cover. We conclude the classroom part of this session by explaining how to join the church.
The second half of the second class is spent taking a tour of the campus. Some of our deacons lead this tour allowing new members a chance to meet a few of those men. We are not a megachurch by any means but we are larger than the majority of churches in our denomination. Frankly, a tour is needed and gives us an opportunity to be sure families know where their children will be, where Adult Sunday School classes meet, where to find the old kitchen, you get the idea!
The third of the three class meetings is dedicated to meeting the staff. Each minister and ministry director personally introduce themselves, share a little something about their families, explain what ministries at our church he/she leads, and tells the class how God is moving through their respective ministry. With seven people, this takes roughly 20-25 minutes of the class. This is followed by a Q&A with the senior pastor. At both the first and second classes, we are certain to let the members of the class know they will hear from the ministerial staff and have an opportunity ask questions of the senior pastor.
Before dismissing the class for the final time, I asked them if there was a specific question anyone needed to have answered before making a decision about joining the church. It is important to be sure that questions are answered. I also made sure to mention questions could be emailed to me later or they were free to call is someone thought of something later.

Results

We had 25 people attend our first class. Several people had to travel and missed one of the other sessions that followed but everyone received all of the content we intended them to receive. Of those who attended the class, all 25 joined the church! Now, I certainly cannot state that they did so because of the class but I do believe it helped. It provided these folks, many of whom had been visiting for a couple of months, an entry point into the church.

Conclusion

Providing people with an opportunity to learn about the church, our beliefs, how we view membership, and ask questions coupled with clear entry point into the church helped add 25 new members to our congregation. Putting this together takes a lot of work. The people in the class also provided invaluable feedback that will be incorporated into the class material before the next time we offer the class which we plan to do once per quarter.

I’m not sure if this is the best way to do this sort of class but it the way we are doing it right now and we are happy with the results. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think and how we might improve.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Destination Resort Act

It seems whenever sin comes calling, it usually finds a willing accomplice. Never mind that it is easy to find if you go looking for it. Sin has a way of finding those who are not looking and actually depending others to look out for them. What is this sin of which I speak and who are the accomplices who are all too eager to accommodate using the power of state government to assist? The sin I am talking about the bane of casino gambling trying once again to gain a foothold in our state. The accomplices are Georgia State Senator Brandon Beach (R-District 21) and Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah).
On January 26, 2017, Sen. Beach introduced Senate Bill 79 – Destination Resort Act (Rep. Stephens introduced an identical bill, HB-158, in the state House of Representatives the same day).  This is an interesting little piece of legislation would establish a state gambling commission (the bill refers to this as a gaming commission), outlines the regulatory guidelines under which said commission will operate, how employees are hired, licenses granted, etc. The twenty-eight page bill is chocked full of all of the legal language you’d expect our legislators to pack into a bill. Put simply: it is a fairly well written document that spells out what needs to be spelled out while leaving plenty of room for the commission to operate with very wide latitude.
Of particular interest is the final page of the document. Section 2 of the bill, lines 970 – 973, state that this piece of legislation shall be repealed on January 1, 2019 IF the constitution of the great State of Georgia is not amended by the General Assembly and ratified by the voters at the November 2018 general election. You see, casino gambling is currently illegal and the framework that is being pushed is useless UNLESS two things happen.
First, under Article X, the General Assembly will have to craft an amendment to the constitution that is passed by two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the assembly. It is interesting to note that the governor is unable to veto constitutional amendments. In fact, the legislature can put an entirely new constitution on a statewide ballot and the governor can do nothing to prevent it. Additionally, the legislature can unilaterally call for a constitutional convention without even placing it on statewide ballot for voter approval.
Second, the required constitutional amendment will have to be placed on the next statewide ballot (November 2018) for voter approval. It should be noted that current Governor Nathan Deal (R) is term limited and unable to run for reelection. As such, there will also be a campaign for governor taking place next year though I strongly suspect Gov. Deal will support SB-79 and the constitutional amendment should one be passed by the legislature. My suspicions aside, I expect the constitutional amendment to be a hotly contested election year issue, should it actually come to pass and make it on to the November 2018 ballot. An additional note, Sen. Beach will be seeking reelection during the 2018 cycle.
This afternoon, I sent an email to my state senator, Ellis Black introducing myself. My family and I moved into Sen. Black’s district about a year ago and I have not had any contact with him. Prior to moving into District 8, my family and I lived in District 21, Sen. Brandon Beach’s district. We had the pleasure of meeting Sen. Beach’s predecessor Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chip Rogers prior to his leaving office. I thought it was appropriate to introduce myself as both a constituent of Sen. Black’s as well as a member of one of the many churches in District 8. I wouldn’t say hearing from me is something Sen. Black can likely expect with great frequency though he may hear from me again in the future.
I went on to express both my disappointment in his sponsorship of opposition to the Destination Resort Act. I began by stating that the commercial gambling industry has done an excellent job reinventing itself and convincing both the public and government officials that gambling is simply a form of adult entertainment. I also pointed out that out-of-control gambling becomes a huge problem, the business is exploitive, and attracts a variety of criminal elements to the communities in which they operate, and clearly undermines the biblical principles for living the Christian life.
The most egregious aspect of the proposal to bring casino gambling to Georgia is the reasoning behind it: funding education. In other words, Sens. Beach, Tate, Black, Mullis, and Harbison want to legalize and bring casino gambling to Georgia for the sake of the children. It would be an amusing bit of comedy were it not true. The issues with using this funding source for the purpose of education are many but my primary objection is this funding method places state government in the business of promoting vice in order to fully fund education in the state.
Co-Sponsors of the Senate version of the bill include Horacena Tate (D-District 38), Ellis Black (R-District 8), Jeff Mullis (R-District 53), and Ed Harbison (D-District 15). Co-Sponsors of the House version of the bill include Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas), Stacey Evens (D-Smyrna), Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs), and Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain). 
I encourage my fellow Georgians to contact your own representatives in the Senate and House as well as these co-sponsors and let them know we don’t want casino gambling and the problems it brings in Georgia. I will post a follow up if I hear back from Sen. Black.

The text full text of my email to Sen. Ellis Black is as follows:

Senator Black,
I am one of your newer constituents here in South Georgia having moved to Hahira in February 2016. I have lived in the metropolitan Atlanta area most of my life and consider myself blessed to be living in South Georgia. It is a wonderful place to raise a family and serve God in a local church. Of course, you already know how wonderful living in this part of our great state is!
I was rather disappointed to learn that you are one of the sponsors of Georgia Senate Bill 79 - Destination Resort Act. I wanted to take a moment to express my opposition to this bill. The commercial gambling industry has done an amazing job reinventing itself and convincing the public and government that it is merely a form of entertainment. Only four decades ago the media referred to the rise of gambling in the United States as an “epidemic.” Promises of harmless fun for the gambling public and increased tax revenues for the state have lured many states into approving legalized gambling of one form or another to the detriment of the citizens of their states. The human cost of gambling is rarely spoken of when the entertainment value and potential revenues are being discussed. The industry’s trade association does make mention of the resources they dedicate to such problems but this is after the fact, after lives are ruined and families destroyed.
For many people, gambling becomes a serious problem threatening nearly aspect of daily life. Unlike in years gone by when the existence of problem gambling was disputed, today there is little disagreement. There is a wealth of evidence of the destruction caused by out-of-control gambling. There have been numerous case studies, members of Gamblers Anonymous participating in sociological surveys, and interviews with other individuals that chronicle the debts, outright theft, deceit, violence, failed relationships, depression, and even suicidal thoughts of those trapped in their gambling addiction. This says nothing of the crime, drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking, etc. that accompanies casino gambling wreaking havoc in the communities where the casinos operate. 
Gambling is an exploitive business. There is a very good reason behind the commercial gambling industry’s desire to have their businesses referred to as the “gaming” industry rather than gambling industry. The fact is that gambling is not merely entertainment. It is an activity that drains financial resources from the economy, leads people into addiction, oppresses the poor, and ultimately undermines biblical principles for living the Christian life. 
Using casino gambling to fund education places the state in a difficult position. If gambling revenues decline, the state must either cut spending on education, find another funding source, or assist casinos in returning revenues to their previous levels. If additional revenues for education are desired, taxes on casinos will need to be increased, business at existing casinos increased thereby increasing tax revenues, or additional gambling licenses sold. In the case of the latter, this would likely happen in other parts of the state inflicting all of the above mentioned societal ills upon other communities. 
Declining participation rates in the gambling industry are driving casino owners to seek new markets and paint a much rosier picture than experience many other parts of the country have experienced when their new so-called “destination resorts” opened for business. Senate Bill 79 is bad for Georgia. Sen. Black, I urge you to reconsider your support of this proposed legislation. There are much better ways to create jobs and to raise funding for education than by legalizing immorality. 
May God grant you wisdom on this and the many other issues you and your colleagues will address during this session of the General Assembly.
Blessings,

Christopher Sanchez

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Reflections from the Inauguration

Reflections from the Inauguration
A great deal has been written already on blogs, in the media, certainly on social media, etc. about the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America yesterday. As Mr. Trump was sworn into office and delivered his first speech as POTUS, the peaceful transfer of power from one presidential administration to the next was something to behold. The pomp and circumstance of our politics, with all of the ceremony and symbolism, has always been of interest to me.  

The Media        

         The coverage of this election campaign, and subsequent inauguration, has been disappointing. Mainstream media may have been their own worst enemy in terms of the obvious bias in their reporting. The fact that demonizing the media specifically and journalism more generally says a great deal more about the state of America media than it does about anyone they reported on during this election cycle. In the limited media coverage I have observed over the last 36 hours or so, it would appear that the media are blissfully unaware of how much they contributed to the rise of Mr. Trump and how responsible they are for making his inauguration possible.
         Views about the media are hardening too. How so, you ask? It is becoming easier and easier for the American people, good, hardworking people, to completely ignore mainstream media and instead obtain their news from the plethora of online sources available. That’s not to say that all of those sources are credible and all traditional or mainstream media outlets are dubious. It is simply an acknowledgement of the state of American opinion of the media. I say this is hardening because when one hears children under the age of ten say that everyone knows you can’t trust the news, there really isn’t much more to say.
         Anyway, I do not think this is the fault of the American people. The media elites in this country decided it was more important to be a part of the news rather than simply reporting the facts and letting the people sort them out for themselves. Offering opinion is fine but when that’s all that being served AND it smacks of bias in one direction or the other, I don’t blame many/most people if they ignore it.

Mr. Obama

         The nation twice elected Mr. Obama to the highest office in the land. At the end of his eight years in office, our country is more divided than it has been perhaps in my lifetime. As he leaves office, Mr. Obama might ask the people he served, “are you better off now than you were eight years ago?” The answer largely depends on who is answering the question. Voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin answered “NO” and made the difference during the 2017 Election. Yes, other states contributed but the truth is that Mr. Trump has no chance without the voters of these states buying into his campaign message.
Not only did a great many American feel they were not better off after eight years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, they resoundingly said “no thank you” to four more year of the same that they were being promised. From my point of view, I agree. Under Mr. Obama, Christians were condemned for being, well, Christian. Supporting marriage as defined by God was referred to as being “homophobic” or using “hate speech.” Disagreeing with Mr. Obama was often met with accusations of racism and when that didn’t silence his critics they were branded as “extremists.” Our national politics have been reduced to soundbites and constant attacks covered by journalists who are looking for the next “gotcha” moment that can be used as click bait for some sensational news headline.
Many have already mentioned the Obama’s family life and expressed sentiments I would like to echo, not because I’m looking for something nice to say but because I think it is important. Through these eight years, Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle have modelled for America and the world family. Both clearly adore one another and they obviously don’t mind one bit that everyone knows it. They have managed to remain engaged parents to two beautiful daughters and (more or less) shielded them from the harsh realities of their years growing up in the White House. They modeled putting family first and reminded me of the importance of work-life balance…something I am not always very good at.

Mr. Trump

         I’m not exactly sure if Mr. Trump entered the 2016 Presidential campaign with the belief that he would win though I am rather confident that he did so thinking he could win. From the beginning, he knew he had formidable character challenges to overcome and he provided what historians may eventually conclude was the most important aspect of his election strategy: he was himself. By that I simply mean Mr. Trump did not attempt to be something or someone he was not. He didn’t try to convince the American people he was a paragon of virtue or morals. Quite the opposite, Mr. Trump acknowledged his past and expressed his regrets for the things he genuinely regretted.
         I think from the beginning Mr. Trump’s campaign was one focused on stoking populist fears that others missed when assessing how they would go about seeking the presidency. Mr. Trump clearly saw what professional politicians missed and also intuitively knew how to exploit that opportunity. There were a number of key to Mr. Trump’s victory and people far more qualified than I will offer what are sure to be thorough treatments. I look forward to those being written.
         I do feel qualified to offer an opinion as to why so many evangelical Christians opted to vote for Mr. Trump rather than support a third-party candidate (I have no doubt that there are some who identify themselves as evangelical Christians who voted for Mrs. Clinton though I am equally confident their numbers are rather small).  For some, it was the argument that we were not electing a pastor-in-chief that was enough. For others, it was the lack of a credible alternative. For still others, it was the prospect of liberal appointments to the federal judiciary, particularly the Supreme C0urt, that made the difference. For most, me included, it was a combination of factors that convinced me to cast my ballot for Mr. Trump.

The Future

         The next four years offer a sense of hope for some and a sense of dread for others. I do not believe Mr. Trump is a racists or misogynist or any of the other derogatory labels that some have tried to give him nor do I believe he is the second coming of Ronald Reagan. He is a man who has tremendous confidence in his own abilities and his business acumen to make America a better version of itself. Some have condemned his cabinet selections while others have heaped praise on them. Their effectiveness in office will prove which view of them is deserved. For my part, I suspect it will be much closer to the middle than either side sees today.

-->
         Mr. Trump’s rise to the presidency did not occur in a bubble. His ascension was made possible by the policies pursued over the last eight years. It would seem enough people were frustrated with the direction of the nation to put someone like Donald J. Trump, with all of the baggage he brings to the presidency, into office. He is not some sort of messiah nor is he some sort of demon. He is simply a man who needs the prayers of a divided nation.