Why character is more important than skills

I am writing this post on the heels of an amazing achievement from my team. After years of building a business plan and developing a new solution we have finally released our first iteration out to customers. This technically heavy endeavor has been another amazing blessing in my career journey. Especially because of its highly complex architecture.

However, for someone like me who recognizes my own technical knowledge gaps, I see character as the key that unlocked our success. In fact, if it wasn’t for the character of my team we wouldn’t be where we are today.  More than their technical skills it was their personal traits that really shined through.

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Overcoming unexpected challenges with steadfastness

My work experience tells me that any project has its fair share of unknowns. It’s in these moments that character becomes more valuable than skill. When a miscalculated assumption leads to a dead end; when an external partner falls short of their commitment; when a tried and true approach just doesn’t work; in these moments it is the team’s steadfastness that is tested. This resolute and unwavering quality, to keep trying and trying and trying… until you overcome the challenge ahead.

Overcoming unforeseen delays with patience and humility

Throughout my career I’ve come to realize that true leadership lifts others up. I follow this approach in how I lead my team but also in my interactions with others. This is especially true with groups that we are dependent on. While it’s easy and understandable to sometimes grow frustrated, the way we react to a change of plans and timelines reveals much about a team. It’s important to be vulnerable and create space to vent, but it is also crucial to use that energy to problem solve. And the best way to solve problems is to be patient and humble with others. When dependent on other teams this can sometimes mean we “roll-up our sleeves” and offer our time and knowledge to help them close the gap.

Overcoming achievements with continuous drive

As I’ve grown in my leadership I’ve come to experience that amazing feeling that only happens when you achieve your goals. But sometimes reaching your objectives can also create room for complacency. This is where the character of a team shines brighter. The hallmark of a great team is not reflected simply in the success of an achievement but in the continuous drive for new goals. And while challenges and delays will still happen, a team that grows through those moments is a team that is best prepared to reach success and continue to push for new heights.

How do you see character shape your team? What kind of qualities are you most thankful for in a team? Share your experience.


Courage in the workplace – 3 ways it can help you in 2023

Every year I pick a word that will become a theme for my growth. My word for 2023 is courage and the meaning of this character trait runs deep into how I believe God has been molding me (you can read more here). This transformation is especially true in my leadership skills and the way I apply them at work. As I look back at my career I can see the character of courage being developed through unique situations that have now become synonymous with my way of leading. It’s the type of courage that generates confidence and makes others trust me.

As the new year unfolds and work intensifies courage can help you recognize how to best handle expectations and responsibilities. These are some of the ways I see courage making a difference in my work. I believe they will do the same for you.

Courage to say yes and try something new

I think the best way to see courage developed at work is by creating a culture that invites new ways to think about problems and seek new solutions. This approach requires a shift in paradigm; a change in the way we do things.

We are all creatures of habit and the process of change can be uncomfortable. It’s easy to start every work day the same way we’ve always done; to approach every challenge with the same familiar checklist; or to see progress under the same metrics. Don’t get me wrong, having a process and being organized is not a bad thing. But sometimes looking for a new way can be the trigger that you’ve needed to achieve what you’ve been working so hard for.

The courage to say yes has been most noticeable in my career when I became a Product Owner with a product development team. I could see my skills matched the requirements to be successful in that role but it was still a stretch, especially when I consider my shift to a new project management methodology. However, this shift has provided some of the most satisfying work experiences in my career and I am glad I said yes to the opportunity.

Courage to read situations and say no

While saying yes can reflect courage, saying no can also be synonymous with boldness. I know this can be an unpopular opinion. The ability to read situations and see something so important that requires your full attention is a skill often overlooked; recognizing it and actually taking action to close the door to other opportunities is a sign of maturity. But even in maturity you need courage.

In a world where success is often viewed only through the lens of more work responsibilities and additional project opportunities, the essence of focusing on the most important priority has been lost. Unfortunately this reality has fogged our view and has challenged our ability to see what we need to say no to.

In my work the courage to say no has been best described in my ability to decline new product development or even new job opportunities. The process of saying no is not an easy one. I still had to review all my options before I made a decision. And to some of my peers this approach was somewhat strange and not celebrated. But looking back I am glad I said no to certain paths and have remained focused on what is most important.

Courage to recognize what you don’t know

Finally, be courageous enough to be authentic. To recognize we are not perfect and all knowing is to be true to ourselves and to others. In the workplace this can be a game changer, yet so many people avoid it.

The struggle most people experience in vulnerability is the reality of all these fragile, self-doubting questions about our ability actually being true. This is called the “imposter syndrome” and the only way to fight it is to be true to yourself and recognize the value you have regardless of what you know and don’t know. The courage to admit what you don’t know in many ways unlocks the potential for you as a contributor and as a leader to your team.

In my career I’ve painfully navigated this reality that indeed I am not always the smartest person in the room. In fact, admitting that from the beginning has allowed me to ask the right questions for the right motives. It has made me a more effective leader and allowed me to grow as a person.

In what ways do you see courage help you in 2023? Share in the comments.

The reason why courage is my word of the year

For the past several years I have chosen a word of the year as my theme for growth. If you are not familiar with this process I would encourage you to read a post I wrote on the benefits it can bring to your life. The amazing part of this process is how a word of the year becomes transversal to all the areas of our life and helps you remain focused in the new year.

For 2023 my word of the year is courage. This is a word that I believe I’ve been walking towards; a character trait that is important in every area of my life and one that I need to continue to hone on.

What is courage?

The dictionary describes courage as “the ability to do something that frightens you; the strength you find in yourself when faced with pain or grief.” In many ways courage is that humble confidence that allows us to stand strong for what we believe. Not boastful or arrogant. Often quiet and meek. Controlled and determined.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point

C. S. Lewis

We need more courage in the world and I need more courage in my life.

Why is courage such an important word for me?

In my life I’ve often found myself seeing the good in the people around me, and I’ve always enjoyed encouraging others. I remember as a kid trying to lift others up even if sometimes those same people would push me down. This led me to experience much pain through my youthful naivety which ultimately kept this desire silent. But this urge, this gift, would show itself. Over the years, whether at home or at work, in the neighborhood or at church, the desire to stand strong with someone and see them succeed just made me smile.

This leaning to encourage others can be seen as an altruistic approach to life. But that is not true. In many ways I encourage others because I too want to experience it in my life. But that is what courage offers: the opportunity to stand strong when faced with disappointment. Even if I don’t experience it myself that is no reason to not be true to myself and who I am as an encourager.

As it’s defined, encouragement is “the action of giving someone support, confidence and hope.” In many ways courage unleashes the freedom to be encouraging. I want that in my life. To use this gift fully.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

Maya Angelou

What do you need to be courageous about this new year?

Defined by a name: Christian

A few weeks ago I heard someone talking about the nicknames they were called growing up. They shared how these names carried meaning through their youth and into adulthood. They became like badges of identity and however good or bad they were they either lifted you up or tore you down. I experienced the same. I was called many nicknames through my youth. Whether it was positive or negative my reaction to a name became part of who I was and how people saw me. It wasn’t until high school that one name really shaped my understanding of who I was and defined my identity: Christian.

I know as some people read this there are some preconceived ideas that will come to your mind; some true and some not true. To be called a Christian can be simply described as a Christ-follower; to have faith in Jesus and recognize Him as my savior. To be a Christian is to follow a moral compass rooted in Jesus’ teachings and live life actively seeking His will. It also means I fall short and every day I am in need of redemption which Jesus provides with mercy and grace. Recognizing my own limitations in life allows me to love others around me more purely; looking for the best in everyone and encouraging them for the best life forward.

Being defined by one single name can be overwhelming but the truth is that being a Christian has a meaning. This name identifies my motives and my desires. It defines the way I approach every part of my life. As a husband, a father, a son, and a brother. As a friend and co-worker. It defines my demeanor at home and at work. It doesn’t mean I am perfect but it means I try to be the best version of myself using Jesus as my standard. That is why I blog with the purpose of encouraging people in their life journey by sharing about my marriage, my parenting, and my career. And I will continue to post with the desire to reach even if just one person and share my own experiences of growth.

How to prepare for time off – my 3 habits

In my last post I wrote about the opportunity I had to take time off and enjoy the benefits it provides. In it I shared that while it can be hard to unplug it is necessary to rest and recharge in preparation for what is ahead. This need for a moment to pause can be easily accepted but more often than not it is the preparation that can be challenging. In truth, sometimes it is the preparation that stands in the way of us taking time off. Specifically with work, many friends and co-workers I know long for time off but find themselves hostage to work and these are some of the questions that paralyze them:

“How can I really be off when my team needs me?”

“Who will handle the current projects and all the work that is involved?”

“What if something happens with our product and it escalates to our leadership?”

A few years ago I would have been intimidated by these questions but over the years I’ve learned to lead well by preparing ahead. In this post I will share some very practical ways one can prepare for time off and set a work life balance that actually allows you to enjoy your time away.

Identifying the most important priorities

We all probably claim to be working on the most important items but that isn’t necessarily true. In the hopes to be efficient we often share attention over multiple areas of work and call it multitasking but when preparing for time off it is important to keep an inventory of all tasks and how they stack up in priority. If a decision needs to be made before you are away from the office that should be handled first.

However, sometimes certain decisions require further investigation which requires time. That is another way how prioritizing your work can be helpful as it helps you anticipate these scenarios. And in some situations you may even require the help of your team while you are away. Letting them know how important a particular task, work, or decision is before being away prepares your team for success.

Trust your team and delegate work

If the saying is true that great leaders raise others up then it is in times like these that we prove it right. When a leader takes time off is when we recognize how much of an impact he or she has had on their team and their ability and confidence to get work done.

Remember that your credibility as a leader is based not just on how much your team trusts you but also on how much you trust your team. And there is no better reflection of trust than when we delegate work; when we give room and space for others to make decisions with confidence knowing there is alignment and support.

Outline and communicate your support matrix

Once you have identified your priorities and delegated work, the final step is to simply communicate the support system put in place while you are away. This is my most practical habit before I take time off and it has served me well for most of my career. It doesn’t require much and an email will do. On the day before I sign out for time off I email my own leaders a list of the priority tasks with enough context on what is happening while also providing the name of the person responsible for supporting that work through while I am away.

This email is really like establishing a “who’s on first” matrix that provides your stakeholders a sense of confidence. This is different from an “out-of-office message” as that won’t include as many details but you can use that function to direct people to who you’ve delegated the work to.

What kinds of actions do you take when preparing for time off. Share in the comments below.

The 3 benefits of time off

I am publishing this post after almost a month of time off. Not continuously of course but with enough off and on, and off again time to make me describe this as one of the best summers ever. My family would agree as we got to travel to my home country of Portugal and then to Florida for some time to really unplug. And even though we expect Summer breaks to happen we somehow still have a hard time taking the time off. That is common when we become passionate about our work.

As a leader I understand the need to be present and support your team. To make sure they have what they need; to provide direction and clear the path for work to be done on time. Sure, a good leader knows how to delegate and trusts their team but this is less about needing to be involved and more about the desire to be one in the “trenches” helping when needed. Great leaders do that. But great leaders also know when they need a break; when they recognize they can be more effective if they step aside. This post is about the 3 benefits we can all enjoy when taking some time off. It ultimately helps us, our families, and our co-workers.

Hit the reset button and replenish yourself

The first benefit can be seen as selfish but similar to an airplane flight where we are to place the oxygen mask on ourselves before aiding others this is really about positioning us to be better when the time comes to help others. That is because you can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself. Hitting the reset button doesn’t mean you forget everything you’ve done up until now but it means you assess your wins and losses and you… sit on it. You do nothing but take the time to breathe. Instead of taking action you take… no action. You go for a walk on the beach, enjoy a sunset and catch up on your sleep. I did all of it while away and it was great. You reset the personal habits that make you physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.

That is what I did in Portugal! With every opportunity I would go to the cafe and enjoy one of those amazing pastries I grew up eating. The ability to walk old streets and new streets without a sense of time healed me from a constant state of busy. That is when I finally rested.

Make new memories with family and friends

In addition to focusing on yourself taking time off allows you to spend time with the ones you care about the most. Whether that is family and friends, or both, spending time with those who have been by your side through the ups and downs can be re-energizing. Being away from work helped me see, acknowledge, and fully appreciate the people most close to me.

While in Portugal and Florida I would wake up earlier than most in my family and after enjoying some time for myself I would greet everyone with a smile and breakfast (or an invitation for more pastries). We built new memories with both sides of the family by filling our time with walks by the beach, boat trips, or moped rides. Those memories will hold for a lifetime and they are only made possible because I took the time off.

Review your purpose and adjust for your goals

One of the big reasons I love Summer time, besides the weather and the multiple trips to the beach, is the opportunity to reassess my personal and professional goals in the context of a full year. It is a perfect time as it allows for a midpoint review for the first 6 months and adjust if needed for the second 6 months. For over a decade I have done this exercise and it always provides a sense of peace when moving into the future with confidence.

During my time in Portugal and Florida many of my morning walks allowed me the time to see my purpose beyond the professional goals and assess my personal objectives as well. I used many of those moments to pray and check on my motives and what is really important to me and my family. Those moments have allowed me to have a clear sense of direction for the remainder of the year and beyond.

So what do you enjoy the most about taking time off? In what ways do you see time off benefiting you and your family? Be sure to share below.

Let me tell you why

In the busyness of life there is always one question that catches my attention and centers me back. It’s a simple question I learned to recognize meaning years ago and it has shaped much of my life. Now, more than ever, I feel like I need to come back to it.

Why am I doing all of this?

Much of the meaning in this question has found a root in my faith. But that internal motive quickly found its meaning with my work. I was first introduced to this question as I read Simon Sinek’s wonderful book “Start with Why”, which focuses on the force of significance behind some of the most successful endeavours in human history. This book and this question were a big catalyst in my corporate work and shaped my leadership as it helped me connect organizations with results. But life is much more than just work and so this question infiltrated my heart and challenged me to think through the meaning of my actions as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and even as a friend.

I’ve always welcomed challenging questions as a way to engage with others and grow, but this one really changed me. I think we often live our lives with points of interest that, while different, flow in the same direction. But when we question the why we question the source of that thought and the direction it may lead us to. That is when real change happens. My why has given me freedom and direction to make some difficult decisions. These might seem trivial but they have changed the course of my life. Decisions such as saying no to job offers, or yes to relocating with work; no to certain foods, or yes to early morning workouts; no to certain purchases, or yes to a trip across the ocean.

I can honestly say this question has brought greater focus into my life. And I am recognizing I need that focus to be clear again. I need to answer that same question again in the context of new corporate roles, older kids, and more years of marriage.

Why do I blog?

I blog because it gives me pleasure to use my gift of writing with the hope to encourage others. Truly, this is why I write! I’m not an expert in the topics of home and work because I never make mistakes, I’m an expert because I fall down, learn from it, and hopefully get back up stronger than before.

I post messages online because I hope to reach even if one person and make them realize that life can be fun when we are vulnerable enough to be true to ourselves and the people around us. That is why I share about my lessons at work. This is why I tell my kids about how big my shortcomings are. This is why I humbly share the ways I am growing as a human being and Christ-follower.

My hope is that one day these writings will serve as an artifact for my family and friends to know that I cared enough about them that I would share openly about my life, my leadership, and my faith.

This is why I blog. Why do you do what you do? I would love to hear from you.

Peace in relationships – my 3 personal lessons

I spent the last month digging deeper into the meaning of peace and how it can impact my life. I don’t want my word of the year to be a cliche or part of a social media trend. I want it to mean something; to transform me daily. It is evident with everything going on in the world that peace is needed all around us. During a time of war and increasing discourse peace is the key to unlocking us out from a destructive cycle. And nowhere is it more evident than in our personal relationships. This is true for the relationships we hold with family, at work, or where we live.

I’ve heard it said that while we all have immeasurable value the quality of our lives is directly correlated by our relationships. If we consider this truth in light of our desire for community we must recognize the need for peace just as we recognize the reality of conflict. Relationships are messy and the way we handle them can either make us or break us. I recently mended a personal relationship that created pain for multiple years. These are my 3 personal lessons when seeking peace.

Peace acknowledges pain

It’s easy to correlate pain with conflict, but more than anything we need to acknowledge it. In my recent experience I could not remember what I did wrong but I knew exactly what it had been done to me. Acknowledging pain for both sides was a key to peace.

I’ve learned that it is possible for pain to originate from unintentional acts or claims. Still, accepting the existence of pain shows empathy and gives peace a chance.

Peace always empathizes

It would be easy for me to claim my hurt feelings and scarred memories as more important, but for peace to flourish it needs to recognize pain on both sides. I saw this in my own experience as instead of choosing to be right in my argument I choose to understand.

Seeking understanding doesn’t take away the pain but it opens the door for empathy to be reflected on the other person. That is when healing begins.

Peace allows for redeeming

Relationships can be messy and one important aspect I’ve learned from conflict management is that healing doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation. This is especially true with toxic relationships. What we should be looking for is redemption.

In my recent experience redemption has been rich in opportunities to reconnect and further understand the other side. Whether that leads to a stronger connection or not that is okay as ultimately kindness allows peace to be sustainable moving forward.

I share these lessons not because I have it all figured out. I share it because they have truly made me a better man and I’m still learning and growing. Since conflict can happen all around us in what ways do you seek peace? I would love to hear about it.

Peace in the workplace – 5 ways it can help you in 2022

My word of the year for 2022 is peace. I selected this word based on my recent journey to understand the motives behind my thoughts and actions. You can read more about it here. I don’t know if this is true for you but my overall reaction to peace has always been detached from some serious application from every day life, and definitely not a work related quality. But somehow that has changed as I’ve sought an active meaning of the word in my life. As someone passionate about work, I want peace to reveal itself in my leadership.

As a definition peace is a state of calm joined by a lack of disturbance. But that is just an explanation. What does it mean to be an active participant in peace? Thinking through the application of peace in the workplace I’ve uncovered 5 ways it can help me and you this year.

Peace builds confidence

Confidence is all about mental strength, so this one hits home for me. Being confident in your work and your capabilities frees you from overthinking things. Still, being confident can often times be misunderstood by a lack of humility. In these cases peace builds confidence beyond what others might think of you. That consistency of thought turns confident leadership into action.

Peace fuels trust

I’ve heard it said that trust is a human currency. An exchange between people. But what happens when you don’t trust yourself, your own thought process or capabilities? That is where confidence built by peace can be powerful beyond it’s leader and spread to a team. A true leader who is comfortable in his/her strengths and weaknesses doesn’t feel threatened by the team but trusts in each member to the point of empowerment.

Peace makes you bold

Fear in the workplace is often associated with failure. We deny these emotions because we very seldom read about great leaders being this vulnerable. When you experience peace you end up seeing failure not as a fear but as a result of inaction. Great leaders who experience peace take more risks because they believe in their abilities and trust their teams efforts to be bold enough to lead without the fear of failure.

Peace generates positivity

Like a domino effect, a leader who is confident and builds a trusting environment sees the work of the team through positive lenses. Peace helps generate an atmosphere of positivity that is genuine and real. Leaders who experience peace are positive in the way they speak about the challenges at hand and in the sensitive interactions we all have with difficult people. They even remain positive when things don’t go according to plan.

Peace fuels persistence

A true sense of peace transforms a leader to go after his/her team’s goals with a real belief that they can be achieved. While good planning and clean execution are hallmarks of great leadership, being persistent in the continued pursuit of an objective is just as important. Peace allows leaders to set aside any selfish motives and helps them realize what is truly important to push through. Persistence is an energy that when fueled by positive motives rooted in peace it can be unstoppable.

In what other ways do you see peace being important to you? How can it influence your leadership? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

The 3 reasons for having a word of the year

Like most people I see the new year as an opportunity to recharge and set new goals and milestones. But sometimes the pressure to achieve something new can be overwhelming. This is why I try to focus on a word of the year. Just one word but with a much broader meaning. It can be a simple thought, feeling, skill, or trait. One word that will help me grow personally, professionally, and spirituality. These are the three most important aspects of having a word of the year.

Personal growth – not a new year’s resolution

Let me be objective: choosing a word of the year is not about setting a new year’s resolution. It’s so much more than that. Take losing weight as an example. As I look at the world of social media the month of January is primetime for meme creators. We’ve all seen the pictures of crowded gyms on January 1st, poking fun at people who want to make a change. A word of the year would allow you to take a holistic approach that goes beyond your physical appearance.

I’ve done this exercise for many years now and the way your word changes year after year reveals much about who you are and who you are becoming. Last year my word was trust and it carried me to a place where I discovered how I can be a better husband, father, son, brother, and leader when I trust the people closest to me. My recent blog posts reflect that. This year my word of the year is peace. And in the example of potentially wanting to lose weight, the word peace gives me the ability to pursue that goal with the freedom to make decisions that go beyond my physical health.

Professional growth – not focused on money and promotions

If you know me you know I like work. I think this desire to work and be successful grew on me from an early age and for various reasons. I recall my parents modest lifestyle that allowed us to live comfortably but with some reservations, and early on that reality planted a desire for me to make more money for my family. Or when I graduated from college with top grades and landed a job ahead of many of my peers. This made me want recognition by moving up the corporate ladder quickly. Choosing a word of the year doesn’t mean I disregard these desires or declare defeat to these goals if I don’t achieve them, instead it allows me to see growth even if that is not the end result.

If I can be honest, seeing growth beyond the promotion and financial raise was difficult for me. Much of my career journey has been made of ups and downs. And in light of this reality the word peace provides me the comfort to navigate these experiences with controlled emotions, without loosing sense of the learning opportunities that are present in the here and now. This approach has actually allowed me to grow from each position I’ve held with the different teams I’ve worked with. Even when the promotions didn’t happen when I wanted them to happen, overall I am a better professional because of all these experiences.

Spiritual growth – not a set of rules

Every time I write or speak of spiritual growth I know I am getting into personal space. But I don’t want to shy away from it either (there is peace in this too). Whether you believe in a deity or not the truth is that wholesome living and real growth happens when you see mind, body, and spirit as one. The way I think and the way I act are connected through my soul. I believe this is why Jesus wanted a relationship with us. It has nothing to do with my appearance or my level of knowledge. It’s all about a relationship.

Wherever you are in your relationship with God my hope is that you seek a word that allows you to find your purpose beyond the things of this world. I believe this is the part of your life that unlocks the most growth in the personal and the professional. The spiritual side of your word helps you answer the question why. Why do I want to lose weight? Why do I want to be promoted at work? The way you think and act come from your beliefs which are shaped by this relationship. Your word can help you in this conversation. There is no set rules as to how you do this. That is the beautiful part of it. For me it is starting every day reading scripture and writing my thoughts and prayers in a journal. For you it may be different.

Have you chosen a word of the year before? How has that word shaped your life? Comment and share below.