A year ago today, Lisa and I made the decision to hang up our spurs and change our course in life. In many ways, it was a scary and difficult decision, yet we always felt comfort – an assurance that we were making the right decision. On that day, we looked forward into a world with dew still on it – a world full of possibility.

A year later, I still feel like a stumbling, newborn colt, trying desperately to get his legs settled beneath him, yet gazing out upon a world with no fences. I look backward in time and see rich blessings, precious memories of treasured friendships. I look forward with eager anticipation for the relationships I’ve yet to forge.

It would be easy to become entangled in the negativity of our time, to note every briar that nicks our skin, but that would only hold us back. These are exciting times, our opportunity to write the story that will be recorded in the annals of time, our story.

May we each look to the future with great optimism, full of hope, committed to encouraging one another along the path of life.

Demonstrating Trust

The lineman tells the quarterback to trust him, “I’ll block that linebacker. Take your time and complete the pass.”

The soldier assures his buddy, “I will suppress the enemy. You run across that open area and gain a foothold on the building. I’ll keep their heads down. Trust me.”

The business leader assures his middle managers that the change in organizational culture will result in a more positive work climate and increase performance. “It will spark innovation,” he says. “Trust me.”

We urge our teams to trust us all the time, and we genuinely mean it. “Trust me,” we say hoping to assure them, somewhat pleading with them.

Yet, the reality is that our actions produce faster results than our words. Demonstrating that we should be trusted gains support faster than any motivational speech.

Several years ago, my eight-year-old son asked to join me on a deer hunt. He desperately wanted to sit in a treestand beside me while I hunted. Thrilled to have him along, I took my portable deer stand to a location where I already had a permanent stand affixed to a tree. The tree forked right where my stand was locked onto the tree.

I climbed the tree and fastened the portable stand to the other major fork in the tree. My son would be inches from me. That afternoon we dressed for hunting and headed to the farm. I buckled a safety harness to my son and we quietly walked to the tree.

I told my son to wait at the base of the tree while I climbed up to my stand. I climbed with the end of his safety line in my hand. Once I was in the stand, and tied to the tree, I tightened the slack in his safety line and told him to climb up.

He began climbing immediately, but once he was about six feet off the ground he froze on the side of the tree. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I tugged gently on the safety line to get his attention. He did not look up at me. His eyes stared straight at the tree. “What’s wrong?” I whispered.

Then I saw his chest begin to heave. “I’m scared,” he said, sobbing.

“I’ve got you,” I assured him, hoping he’d put his trust in me.

He did not move. He was locked up, frozen, on the side of the tree. “Son, climb on up. You won’t fall. I have the safety line.”

He continued to quietly sob. I then pulled the safety line enough to gently lift him off the steps. I lifted his entire body up, and he saw that I could handle his weight in my hands. Suddenly, he looked up at me, and without hesitation climbed up to the stand.

No amount of reassuring worked. My words were hollow, yet when I demonstrated that even if he slipped I would keep him from falling, he gave me his complete trust. It was a powerful lesson.

As leaders, we often urge others to trust us, but we would be wise to demonstrate capability. The old adage, actions speak louder than words, rings true when trust is desired.

Avoiding work…

You simply can’t make this stuff up. I recently spoke at a large conference. I was to go on stage at 10:15 a.m. The driver delivered me to the event center at 9:45, at which time I was greeted by a group of very nice ladies who organized the event. They took me to a side room to put my bag down and prepare for the presentation.

The room was fairly large, but it was empty except for one circular table in the middle of the room and one rectangular table against the back wall. There were several chairs around the circular table and a table cloth on the rectangular table that draped to the ground.

The ladies and I went over the slides to make sure we had the right version. We discussed the mechanics of getting onto the stage etc. We had been in the room for at least ten minutes when two other ladies entered the room and said they needed the rectangular table. They bought books for all of their attendees, so they wanted me to sign them after my presentation. They would use the rectangular table as a signing table.

A lady went to each end of the table and lifted it slightly. As they began to move it slowly away from the wall, hair and then eyes were revealed. Being startled, one of the ladies squealed. Sitting on the floor, under the table, HIDING!, was one of the convention center workers. She had been sound asleep until they moved the table. The ladies moved the table completely out away from the wall and there she sat.

No one knew quite what to say, so I looked over at the lady and said, “Needed you a little snappy nap I see.”

She sheepishly smiled and rose to her feet. “Off you go. Back in the game refreshed.”

One of the ladies from the company said, “Can you believe that?”

I told her it happens in most companies every day. Some people go the bathroom to sleep, others do it in their cubicle. But, is it the audacity to sleep on the job that shocks us most, or the fact that she was avoiding work during a busy event?

On the flight home, I flew United for the first time in a long while. My flight attendant was on her mobile phone most of the trip, and I was sitting in first class! I took her picture with the intent of reporting on her performance. I’ll never fly with them again. She sat in the jump seat with her head against the wall staring at her phone for over 30 minutes of the 95 minute flight. Is that any different than sleeping? The end result was the same – the customer was neglected, and in their case, they lost future business.

Cell phones kill productivity in the workplace, yet when you remove them morale plummets. In the Army, if you ban them from field training exercises you’ll receive IG complaints. The sad truth is that the senior officers will allow the investigations to go forward. Sleeping on the job or being constantly distracted, either way, productivity is negatively effected.

I once wrote an article for my warrant officers in which I told them – always be to work on time, always shine your boots, and when you are finished with your work see if your buddy needs a helping hand. “Do these things,” I told them, and you will be successful. Seventy-five percent of your peers will take themselves out of the equation by not doing them.

Today, I would offer, set the phone aside. Return to the age old practice of giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage and you will be successful. You will be the minority.