Are You a Spider or an Ant?

Which Insect Do You Resemble More?

Are you a spider or an ant? Which insect do you resemble more? And which one do you aspire to be?

spider

I’m not talking about whether you live in a web or an anthill. But we can learn a lot by observing these small creatures—especially about ourselves.

Here are three ways to evaluate how you operate in a professional setting based on observations of the spider and the ant.

Take Ownership of Your Role at Work

How to Become Invaluable to Your Boss

Several years ago, I oversaw some annual events for the organization I worked for. Sometimes several dozen people would attend, sometimes a smaller number. But regardless of the number of attendees, there were innumerable details that had to be coordinated. And to handle all those details, I turned to Beth. I knew as soon as I handed the event off to Beth, it was as good as done, because she came back to me only if she had questions. She handled every single detail with perfect ease. She could run an intimate event, a small conference, or even a large convention. That’s because she took ownership of whatever she was asked to do.

Ownership

I remember the many phone conversations with Beth. I would ask her, “What do we need to do about this?” And she would inevitably say, “Already taken care of.” While still on the call, I would think of something else and ask, “Have you been able to deal with that?” And again, she would say, “I’ve already got it covered.”

Beth led by taking ownership of her role. She understood what was expected of her, and she expanded her role by thinking through everything that was involved with her responsibilities. As a result, her job was done well, and the organization benefited as well.

By being willing to pitch in and do what is necessary, you will become invaluable to everyone around you. You do not have to wait for someone else’s permission to take ownership of your situation. Your boss wants you to take charge of your job. Here are three specific actions you can focus on in your workplace to take ownership of your role.

You Can Improve Morale Even If You Are Not the Boss

You Have More Influence Than You May Realize

Many years ago, I worked at an organization that had horrible morale. To make matters worse, my boss was oblivious and even indifferent to the workplace culture. Despite his lack of interest in the culture, he was open to my starting a weekly prayer meeting at the office.

morale

I invited anyone and everyone on the staff to participate. I didn’t expect many people to join me, but Joe and Tom did. Sometimes only two of us showed up for prayer, but more often than not the three of us were there.

Long after we started praying together, Tom surprised me one day. He said, “I know the only reason that I have been able to make it through is because of our prayers.” He directly attributed that small prayer gathering to giving him the peace to survive the toxic work environment. Things at work didn’t seem to change that much. But Tom, Joe, and I were changed. And that helped to change the morale of the workplace—at least from our perspective.

Even if you are not the one in charge, you can make a difference—because you can choose to do something. If you are willing to put the needs of the team ahead of yourself, people will ultimately look to you as a leader—because you are already leading.

Here are three ways that you can improve morale even if you are not the boss.

How Well Do You Represent Your Employer?

Be Aware of Your Attitude in the Office and Out of the Office

Many years ago I worked for a guy I’ll call Greg. Working with Greg was awkward. He badmouthed his boss in the office, but in public he spoke favorably about him. To outsiders, he seemed like a good team player, but those of us who worked for him knew otherwise. Then Greg got a promotion that gave him even greater autonomy. His role involved more travel and he had more opportunities to represent his boss and the organization. While he was competent at what he did, he still did not have a positive opinion of his boss.

Represent Your Employer

One day, Greg’s opinions caught up to him. He was dismissed for disloyalty to his boss and to the organization. Despite getting caught, he did not express remorse over how he handled the situation. Instead he blamed his boss.

When Greg said disparaging things about his boss, it was less a statement about his boss and more a statement about himself. While he represented his boss he also represented himself, and what he said about his boss within the office reflected poorly on himself.

When you represent your boss, you also represent yourself. How you conduct yourself representing your employer says a lot about you. Perhaps you complain about your employer to others so that they will join you in complaining about their employers. At best, it drags you down to a lower level. At worst, it poisons your relationship with other people and damages your prospects at getting employed elsewhere.

It is up to you whether you change your attitude and choose to represent yourself and your employer in a way that honors both you and your company. No one can improve your attitude for you. You have to be the one who will decide to change your attitude.

Whether you deal directly with customers or not, you represent your employer to people in your sphere of influence. Here are three areas in which you should monitor your attitude to represent yourself and your organization well.

Are You Open to a New Perspective?

Seeing the Big Picture Will Help You—Whatever Your Role

At one place I worked, I facilitated the onboarding process for new hires from around the country. I guided them through their orientation as well as their introduction to their initial corporate training. During this time, these new hires were exposed to the depth of the organization. They discovered for the first time all the services their employer provided to clients. Even though it might have felt overwhelming, they got a full picture of the capabilities of their new employer. By learning of all the ways they could be a part of serving their clients, they gained a new perspective.

New Perspective

In the sixth chapter of 2 Kings, the Scripture shows how important a new perspective is. After the prophet Elisha had repeatedly warned the king of Israel of the Syrian king’s battle plans, one night the infuriated king of Syria travelled to the city where Elisha was in order to capture him. The next morning, Elisha’s servant woke up to see this vast army surrounding the city. Consequently, the servant was terrified.

And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15b-17)

Elisha had a perspective that his servant did not have. Only when his servant looked at the situation the same way Elisha did was he able to see what Elisha could see. It is easy to assume that your perspective is the only one. But your perspective may not be accurate. There may be some information that you are not aware of, like Elisha’s servant discovered. What you don’t know can affect how you see the situation. Therefore, it is important for you to be willing to look beyond your own perspective.

Take time to reflect before you pass judgment on your boss or your workplace. Realize that there may be more to the situation than meets your eye.

Stepping back to see the big picture helps you understand how everything at your workplace fits together. This new perspective can help you realize there may be more going on that you were initially aware of, as the new hires discovered at their orientation.

Here are three ways you can look at your role at your workplace to gain a new perspective.

What Does Integrity Mean to You?

Is Your Sunday Separate from Your Monday?

Before I started Transformational Impact LLC, I worked with my friend Ben Case. Ben is reputedly one of the best major gift fundraisers in the world, having helped nonprofits raise more than $4.8 billion in his 41 years in fundraising and nonprofit management. Ben has also been a hallmark of honesty and integrity as long as I have known him. He tells a powerful story to explain the importance of integrity.

Integrity

I was in a meeting with my wife, Angela, and Robert McFarland, at the time a consultant with our company. … I was deeply resisting something Angela insisted I do. Angela thought that, as a business owner, I was required by law to do this. Our lawyer acknowledged there were “gray areas” as to the applicability of the law to our work. Give me “gray areas” and I will run with it forever. I did not want to do what Angela was telling me to do! Then Robert, who had been observing the discussion and my strong resistance, simply asked, “Ben, when are you going to have integrity—some of the time or all of the time?”

Live with integrity. In the walk of life, you will always be glad you did. Integrity means all the time. …

I did follow my wife’s advice, and am glad I did.

As Ben said, integrity means all the time. It is possible to be honest in one situation but not in another, but you can’t choose to have integrity one day and not the next. It’s all or nothing. Either you have integrity or you don’t.

In his book The Deeper Life, Daniel Henderson gives a good definition of integrity: “Integrity is a life where all the pieces fit together.” If you have integrity, then your life is integrated. You are not one way with some people and another way with other people. You are the same person all the time.

Henderson also explains what integrity is not: “compartmentalization is the opposite of integrity.” If you have to keep one part of your life separate from the rest of your life, you lead a compartmentalized life. If your Sunday is separate from your Monday through Saturday, you do not have an integrated life.

Integrity is about being honest with yourself: you know the real truth about the person you see in the mirror. You may be able to fool other people, but you can’t fool yourself. And you have to be with yourself all the time, so you know if you are trustworthy.

You need to be trustworthy all the time if you want to be trusted all the time. Here are three things to keep in mind to help you exhibit integrity.

How I Learned Appreciation and How You Can Too

This Will Make You Enjoy Your Work More

I learned appreciation one summer when I was in college. I was working at a beautifully restored colonial home that had been converted into a four-star hotel and restaurant. Even though my main job was to carry guests’ bags to their rooms, my position was essentially a glorified gopher: I was supposed to do whatever anyone needed me to do. I reported to the innkeeper, Mr. Clarke, but I also had to do things for the front desk staff, the kitchen staff, and the bartender.

appreciation

Dave the bartender was a burly, gruff, middle-aged man with intense eyes and pursed lips; he was harsh with his words and quick to find fault—and I never seemed to do anything quite good enough for his taste. But I still had to work with Dave.

Other than the interactions with Dave, I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed it there so much that I decided to apply to work there again the following summer. While filling out my application the next year, I discovered that Mr. Clarke was no longer there—but Dave was. When I gave my application to the new innkeeper, he sought out Dave’s advice about whether or not to hire me. To my surprise, Dave gave him an enthusiastic recommendation. Apparently I had met Dave’s high standards, even though I thought I hadn’t.

Even though Dave had a difficult demeanor, he did his job well and he expected the same of others. After learning of his surprise endorsement, I began to cultivate an appreciation for Dave’s no-nonsense perspective. Even though he was hard, he was fair. He could provide an insightful assessment and not equivocate in his comments.

You may have a boss who is as difficult to get along with as Dave, or more so. But it is important for you to look past that. Being able to cultivate appreciation for your boss—no matter how difficult your situation may be—will help you improve your situation at work.

Here are three things you can do to develop an appreciation for your boss.

Say Words of Life

How to Be Intentional about the Impact of Your Words

The Scripture makes it clear that careless words can have a powerful effect on people. Do you say words that you would rather not have come out of our mouth? I know everybody puts their foot in their mouth every now and then. I’ve gotten rather accustomed to the taste of mine. But what about the words that you say regularly? Or perhaps you’re not aware of the impact your words have on others.

say words

When I was a kid, I heard the school phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Sadly, that phrase is just not true.

I am convinced that words can do much damage—especially emotional and spiritual damage. Proverbs 18:14 says that your spirit will sustain your infirmity, but it’s not so easy to do that when you have a wounded spirit. A broken bone can heal, but many people never heal from the wounds made by words.

At the same time, words can build up and do great good. Proverbs 16:24 says that pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. You can impact people powerfully by the words you say. Think through the opportunity you have to exert your Self-Leadership in what you say.

To help you capitalize on that opportunity, here are three ways you can look at the words you say and how you can choose the words you say.

Welcome Change in You and in Others

Change Is a Healthy and a Necessary Process

Change happens to everyone. Most people don’t like it. It puts them out of sorts. They feel uncomfortable with change. But change is a natural process. You should expect it. And you should learn how to welcome change.

welcome change

When some of our kids were younger, any time my wife and I moved any furniture around the house, it would bother them terribly. They would want us to put it back the way it was. And it would take a while for them to accept the change.

What about you? What do you think about change? Does it bother you? Or are you able to welcome change in your life?

It is important for you to welcome change into your life. Change is good. You were made to change. You are expected to be transformed. As you grow in your faith, your life should reflect more and more of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Don’t believe the lie that you are incapable of change. And don’t let fear of change prevent you from becoming the person who God created you to be. You are capable of change. You can become the person you want to be. And you can change to have stronger and deeper relationships in your life. You can change.

If change bothers you—or if you don’t think you can change—then do these three things.

How You Should Be Self-Educated

How You Need to Supplement Your Formal Education in the 21st Century

When I matriculated at the University of Virginia for my undergraduate degree, I started as a first-year student, not as a freshman. As I progressed through school, I became a second-year, third-year, and fourth-year student. The grades were intentionally named that way. The idea was that after four years, students would be ready to graduate (hopefully) from the university, but they would continue their learning even after they graduated. The purpose of naming the grades in progression was to encourage all their students to have an attitude of being self-educated.

self-educated

As a professional, you will need to cultivate a lifelong learning perspective. You will progress in your career better if you keep that attitude throughout your working life. You will also feel more fulfilled personally as a result of always growing in your knowledge.

Here’s a process for keeping yourself self-educated.