"A Window of Opportunity"

At eighty years of age, Tom Peters is regarded as one of the most influential leaders, motivational consultants, and prolific authors of our day. He has nineteen book titles to his credit. In 1982, Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr., co-wrote the best-selling book,  In Search of Excellence. Forty years later, millions of copies have been sold and it continues to be one of the leading resources for CEO’s, company managers and organizational leaders! I  listened to an online podcast interview this week with Tom Peters and was immediately captivated by his enthusiastic, salty (Navy vet!), and sometimes profane, but straightforward style of speaking.

Credit: Adam Nemeroff, unsplash.com

Peters espouses a social management approach to leadership. He made it clear in the interview that management is not just about strategy, structure, and organization! Rather, excellent leadership focuses on the principle that “people are the only thing that matters!” And this translates into “People serving people, leaders serving frontline employees, and employees serving customers!” He also gave me something further to think about in this surprising comment, “Excellent companies hire people who are kind!” Who would have thought that a “soft skill,” like kindness, should be so valued in today’s leadership environment?!

I subscribe to a daily email, Good Clean Funnies List (GCFL). Recently, one of these funnies featured various planner quotes and as it would turn out, one of them was from Tom Peters! This too caught my attention, “If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” I serve as a workplace chaplain in a senior living facility and have been looking for a “breakthrough opportunity” with a particular individual for quite a while now. This woman usually reacts negatively and like a curmudgeon to me.

Last week, as I was making my usual way through the dining room at breakfast time, I made another attempt to connect with this woman. By contrast, most of the other residents are sweet, glad to see me, and welcome a brief two to three minutes interaction with them. But this lady is an obvious holdout! Once again, when I tried to address her by name, it was obvious that she didn’t want to be bothered. As I asked about her day, she only grunted out a terse, “Okay!” I did not dare to ask her if I could sit down for an extended conversation!

This facility has been going through a renovation project for months now. The residents have been moved about in stages to temporary apartments and then relocated to their original residence when their rooms were ready. It has been an unsettling time for everyone! On this occasion, I was about to knock on the door of one of them who had moved across the hall. As I started to touch the door, I heard a strong voice almost commanding me, “Hey, can you help me?” I looked up and was shocked to see that “The Curmudgeon!” was looking back at me! I started to look around to see whom she was addressing, but soon figured it out! This was my “window of opportunity!”

With the prospect of service, there was only one thing to say, “Sure! How can I help?” I then cautiously approached the woman and could see that she was standing behind her walker at the apartment’s threshold. The door was only partially held open. I also noted that there were several items, including a medicine cup, balancing on the walker’s tray top. The need was simple enough. “Could you turn on my light?” she asked. “I can’t reach far enough inside to touch it!” Her tone had changed from gruff to a kind request and I readily responded.

As she seemed stuck there, I reached around her left shoulder to flip the switch and then,  outstretched my arm to open and hold the door for her easy passage. I was floored by her gratitude in the moment as she simply said, “Thank you!” It wasn’t gushing but seemed sincere! My reply might have been a little folksy, “Thank you for letting me help you!” I heard her giggle as she disappeared behind her closing door. I stood there for a moment completely stunned by this brief interaction. I found myself whispering under my breath, “I think I can build on that!” 😊

There is a story in the Bible of a time when Jesus had to break up an uncomfortable disagreement among His disciples. He scolded them with this instruction, “Those who are in top leadership positions rule oppressively over their subjects, but this is not the example you are to follow. You are to lead by a different model. If you want to be the greatest, then live as one called to serve others. The path to promotion comes by having the heart of a bond-slave who serves everyone. For even the Son of Man… (came) to serve everyone, and to give his life as the ransom price for the salvation of many.” (Mark 10:42-45, The Passion Translation).

Are you trying to cultivate a relationship with a casual friend at work, a neighbor, a server at a local restaurant or clerk at the grocery or convenience store? Are you trying to be sincere and kind in your attempt to add value to that person’s life? Some will welcome you while others may be indifferent to your kindness. Pray and depend on the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Timing is everything! God is working on His schedule with each of us.

When "a window of opportunity” comes your way, be kind as you speak up and serve! You never know the difference that chance encounter will make in that person's life!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com






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