February 5, 2013
A Family Plan by Craig Schloneger
Several weeks ago we said goodbye to our two oldest children as they headed back for their spring semester of college. It seems strange for me to be at this stage of life where our children come home for a ‘visit’ before going back to their nine-month residences away from home in Virginia and Florida.
In the past, family just happened with very little planning as we filled the calendar with our kids’ sporting events, church activities, work related schedules and other social events. We were off and running with a wide variety of activities that determined our family schedule. Although our schedules were hectic and pulled us in many different directions, we were doing things together as a family and shared many great experiences. We knew our children’s schedules, friends, and whereabouts.
As we said goodbye this last time, it struck me that family doesn’t just happen anymore. We have little idea what our children’s daily schedules entail. Although we hear of their activities, we don’t have as many shared experiences to connect us.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that our kids are growing up, becoming independent and making good choices. In fact, I am extremely proud of them and love watching their lives develop. But I want to make sure that we don’t lose the important connection of family, letting life take us our separate ways.
It is out of this context that I realized that we don’t just let work happen – as leaders we work hard to engage staff members, set goals and put together business plans. We do this so that everyone is on the same page and we have clarity of purpose as we work together. This year, I want to do this very same thing with our family.
Last week I sent out an email to each family member asking the following questions:
- What is one thing that you want us to accomplish together as a family in 2013?
- What are several activities (close to home) that you would like our family to do together this summer?
- What can we do as a family to positively impact another person(s)?
I’m not sure what kind of response I’ll receive but I’m really excited about the possibilities. For the first time, we will put together a family plan that will help prevent life’s busyness from interfering with our shared priorities and experiences.
Planning certainly makes sense from a business perspective, why not for the family? I would enjoy hearing your ideas and experiences of creating a family plan.
October 5, 2012
Gratitude by Craig Schloneger
Over the past two years, my wife Ann and I had been planning a trip to take our three children to visit Swaziland, Africa. Swaziland holds a special place for us as we had lived there for three years while doing voluntary service with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Our oldest son was born in Swaziland and we wanted to show him his birthplace. This was a big trip for us, involving much planning, finding former friends and a large investment of money. It had been 20 years since we lived there and we wanted everything to go well. This past June we left on our two week adventure.
Everything went as planned – our accommodations were in order, no one got sick, and we were able to reconnect with many Swazi friends from years ago. It was fascinating to visit a place that we hadn’t seen for so long. We were surprised at the changes – cell phones everywhere, a major highway and a large shopping mall. We were also disappointed that some of the difficulties in life persisted – women carry water on their heads, mud and stick houses, and many signs of poverty. I wondered what our children would take from this experience.
It was on our visit to the most rural part of Swaziland that we reconnected with our good friend Gladys. Despite experiencing so much hardship in her daily life, Gladys overflows with upbeat, positive energy and is extremely grateful for all things. During our trip we visited many attractions and enjoyed incredible experiences, but it was Gladys’ personality and disposition that left a lasting impression on our children – one which they still talk about today.
W.K. Chesterton, a remarkable author, believes that the most critical factor in life is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. This is true in poverty and in wealth. Thankfulness for the many good things and people around us is contagious and generates an atmosphere of appreciation. As leaders we have the opportunity and responsibility to positively impact others through gratitude – in our organizations, at home, at social events and in public places. On a recent visit to a client, a staff member remarked how much she values her work because the owner shows so much appreciation. It is a great reminder: when considering strategies of how to motivate and engage employees, a simple ‘thank you’ can achieve so much.
Our family enjoyed a great trip, one filled with many memories, but none greater than Gladys’ spirit of gratitude.
June 4, 2012
The Power of Trust by Craig Schloneger
When you experience a transition in life, you realize the importance of past relationships and how they have influenced and shaped your professional and personal life.
As many of you are aware, I have recently made a transition from CEO of Ten Thousand Villages to Partner and Senior Consultant at North Group. Both organizations have impressed me with their values of integrity, accountability, and an amazing amount of trust.
At Ten Thousand Villages this trust is readily apparent in business dealings with artisan groups. This trust makes possible, and increases success for, an incredibly difficult and cumbersome system of importing hand-crafted products from economically impoverished people. Artisan groups receive full payment for products at the time they are ready to ship. The monetary transaction is finalized before possession, inspection or quality control has been completed.
The system works with few problems because the relational transaction (or trust) continues long after payment has been made. Ten Thousand Villages and artisan groups value the long-term relationship with each other and therefore continue trusting that both sides will hold up their end of the relationship.
This is the essence of what Stephen M. R. Covey writes about in his book, The Speed of Trust. Covey states:
There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.
You guessed it – this one thing is trust!
I am fortunate to have left one great organization and join another where trust is at the core of relationships and embedded in the culture. As leaders we have the opportunity to achieve better results, more efficient decision-making and greater organizational success by simply demonstrating and extending trust to others. I encourage you to take the risk to trust those around you.