Are You Investing Your Best Resources in the Wrong People?

It is easy to see other people making this mistake. It is more difficult to catch yourself doing it. I’ve been guilty plenty of times.

Two Trees: One Alive and One Dead - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/weka, Image #2311331

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/weka

For example, a few years ago, while I was still CEO of Thomas Nelson, I met with an important author. In the course of the meeting, I learned he was unhappy with the cover design we had done for his previous book.

Being the people-pleaser I am, I thought I could fix his problem. “I will take personal responsibility for this next cover,” I announced. “I will work with you directly to make sure we get a cover you love.”

I then hired a designer I knew who had delivered stellar results for another one of our authors. In a few weeks, the designer delivered six superb cover comps. I made a few suggestions, the designer revised his work, then I submitted them to the author.

He didn’t like any of them.

I spent an hour on the phone with him, as he berated the designer. Undaunted, I rolled up my sleeves and spent the afternoon personally searching through a stock photo library, trying to find just the right image—not exactly the best use of my time as a CEO.

But finally I found a photo I loved. This is it, I thought. Perfect!

I went back to the designer and had him create several more comps based on the new photo. I submitted the new batch to the author, confident he would love one of the options. I followed up with a phone call.

He hated them all.

Again, he criticized the designer. He then came after me. “If you would just spend the money and hire a decent designer, we could get onto more important things.” He lectured me like this was the first time I had ever done this.

Silly me. I hired another designer and went through one more round with him. We produced twenty-one cover comps in all. He didn’t like any of them.

Finally, we acquiesced and used a cover designed by his team. I wish I could show it to you, especially compared to the others.

With that, I woke up to the fact that I had invested all this time, money, and emotional energy and had not moved the needle one bit. It was a total waste. He was incorrigible.

The resources I wasted on him would have been better spent elsewhere.

We finished out our contract with him but passed on offering him another one. We had had enough. We let him go to another publisher.

Leaders often make this same mistake in various areas of their lives. For example,

  • A mother invests all of her emotional energy in a difficult child to the neglect of the quiet, compliant one. The difficult child gets worse and the compliant one begins acting up to get attention.
  • A corporate executive spends most of her time helping under-performing salespeople rather than provide leadership and inspiration to her top producers. She then wonders why she can’t keep her best people.
  • A pastor expends so much of his time trying to fix broken people that he doesn’t have the energy to develop the leaders who could help shoulder the burden. He constantly grumbles about his workload.

What can you do if you are in this situation?

Make sure you are investing your best resources—including your time and energy—in your best people. Here’s how:

  1. Acknowledge that your resources are limited. Your time, money, and energy are finite resources. It’s easy to forget this and overcommit. But it’s a zero-sum game. Every time you say “yes” to one person, you are saying “no” to others.
  2. Become aware of where your resources are going. It’s easy to think the situation is temporary or an exception. But is it? This is the little lie that keeps us stuck if we aren’t careful. Look back over your calendar and make an honest assessment. It will reveal the truth.
  3. End unproductive or unhealthy relationships. This is the hard part. If you can’t end them, then at least establish boundaries. If you need inspiration or moral support, read Henry Cloud’s excellent book, Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward.
  4. Identify the people you should be investing in. This is the most important step. Change your focus. Who are the individuals you have overlooked? Who are the people who should be getting the bulk (or at least more) of your resources? Who are the ones who represent the future?
  5. Schedule time on your calendar to serve these people. Good intentions are important, but they are not enough. Like the old adage says, “What gets scheduled gets done." The opposite is also true, “What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done.”

Yes, Jesus spent time with broken people. He healed the sick. He comforted the broken-hearted. He ministered to the outcasts.

But he spent the bulk of his resources on just twelve people. He proactively invested in them, knowing that his mission was, humanly speaking, dependent on their success.

Question: Where do you need to shift your focus and allocate your resources differently? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    At what point so you determine that, not only do you not pour timeto and money in the wrong people, but you cut them loose?

    • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

      I often ask myself the same question in the course of trying to live out this concept.  While I believe it is different for each situation, I think there are some clear indicators that the time has come.

      1. Through their actions (or words), they show they do not want to be helped. I will usually spend a little more time with someone (even past the time I should) if they are eager to be helped and attempt to apply the instruction they are receiving.

      2. Like the example author, their attitude is so bad that they begin to affect me and/or the team.  In this case, everyone will benefit when they are gone.  The same would be true if their performance is so bad that they are a financial drain on the team (e.g. a salesperson with low close ratio that continues to burn through large numbers of leads).

      3. When you determine they are simply not capable of growth in this particular job.  Do them a favor and set them free to find a job where they can use their God-given strengths.

      Just my thoughts…

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

         Great, clear advice, Chris. Resistance, Attitude, Gifting.

      • Sharon Minor

        some very good thoughts!

    • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

      Larry, I hired and fired a lot of people.  Two thoughts:

      1.  If I am working harder than they are…that is a sign to me that I must change the relationship.

      2.  If I see a negative pattern of behavior….Once is a mistake.  Twice needs to be coached.  Three times is a pattern and I need to evaluate the time I am spending.

      Do not overlook Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings that Michael recommends.  It is perfect for answering your question in more depth. 

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         I’d just echo Dave’s recommendation. Dr. Cloud’s book helps you understand who you’re working with (the wise, the foolish, or the mean) and how to work with each personality.

      • http://www.professionalcontentcreation.com/ Rebecca Livermore

         Dave, this is really helpful. Especially the point about if you are working harder than they are. This is true even when you have clients who are not putting in the effort they need or doing what needs to be done.

        As I read your words, I realized that my clients that I’m most happy working for are the ones who are working super hard themselves to  their business and I’m coming along side to assist. The ones that I’m not so happy with are not working as they should and that puts a lot of stress on the entire team.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        I hadn’t considered #1 before, but you’re right. If I’m working consistently harder than the other person, they probably don’t believe in the project/goal/mission as much as I do. Not a great environment for synergy.

      • http://www.stuckinnewyorkcity.com/about Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

        Very true Dave — if you are working harder than your employees, there needs to be a conversation on “why?” :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great answers, Dave and Chris. I was about to recommend Henry Cloud’s book again. I really do think it provides a great framework for thinking through this stuff.

    • Pat68

      When you find that the wrong people or association with the wrong people is impacting your emotional and mental health (and possibly even your physical health) in a negative way.  Having lived this, while it is painful to do initially, it is for the best and you find that there really is life beyond those individuals.  Not being able to let them go or feeling that you can’t, could also be a sign of co-dependence.  

    • http://twitter.com/Ladiesgofirst NurseFrugal

       At the point when you realize that these people will not change (and most people are not.)  It’s hard because you may feel like you have already invested a lot into the relationship, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep beating yourself by trying to do something that won’t happen. I like what Michael says when he suggests to intentionally make time for these people….just don’t have any expectations.

    • Shelb

      Larry, Highly recommend you read the book Michael suggested, “Necessary Endings.” Just finished it. Excellent book! Will be life changing as soon as I implement his suggestions. Good luck in your situation.

  • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

    I completely agree with this counterintuitive advice, Michael. It seems that people of faith especially have it ingrained into us that we must always “go the extra mile” and “turn the other cheeck” even when we are “casting our pearls before swine.”

    Maybe a few too many quotes but your thgouhts certainly line up with the teachings of Christ.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Bill, that’s a great way to relate the casting of pearls to the church. Why do you think we overlook and ignore that scripture so often?

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I resemble that. ;)

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    3 and 4 remind me quite a bit of Jim Collins principle of getting the right people in the right spot of the bus. And moving the wrong ones or getting them off of the bus completely.

    This lesson is a tough one to learn and follow through on. Yet it creates such results when you’re able to do it.

  • http://www.revivallifestyle.com/ Daniel Vogler

    Excellent article, Michael! I was just talking about this very same topic to several church leaders in Germany yesterday! I myself have suffered under leadership that seemed to only care about the most passive and unmotivated people and have promised myself I will never repeat this mistake.

    As leaders we can choose the culture we want to build in our environment. I believe the most successful one is a culture of honor, in which people feel recognized, acknowledged and rewarded for their excellence. This will inspire everyone else in the organization to rise to the same level.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    What a timely post, Michael. I’m currently working on my second book and developing platform resources to go along with it. I hope to launch it in December and have set aside a finite budget to get everything done. Out of the blue, I got an e-mail this week about a leadership conference coming up next week in San Diego. It has an amazing lineup of speakers, many who I have followed for quite a while, but is expensive. Since I am local, I can get a reduced rate, and commute instead of staying in a hotel. The numbers work, but take up about half of the budget I’ve set aside for the book project. 

    I’ve really had to think about this one. Should I spend money on training, or spend money on things like web design, editing, and software. As I looked through the conference materials, one thing stood out…

    “On the first day of the conference, you’ll be strategically placed in a Mastermind team. Your Mastermind team is your personal brain trust for three days — and perhaps, for many years to follow. At the end of three days you’ll carry your own leadership action plan home and be ready for new opportunities. ”

    This sounds like exactly what I need. Gaining a new perspective and building professional relationships seems like it would be very helpful for my project in the long run. I remember what you have said about your experiences with leadership training and how it transformed your life. This seems like the best use of resources to me. What would you recommend?

  • Agatha Nolen

    Brilliant observations on one of our weakest areas: spending time where God doesn’t want us. Until I realized that my weakness was “needing to be needed” I couldn’t move on to healthy relationships. I wanted things to be falling apart so that I could be the “rescuer”. Another helpful book for me was Cloud and Townsend’s: Setting Boundaries. 
    Your post is a clear ROADMAP how to break the cycle of spending too much time, energy, and emotion on the wrong things.
    Thanks; I’m sharing this one with many of my friends!
    Agatha Nolen
    http://www.agathanolen.com

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       I was just thinking about the “Boundaries” book as well.

  • Harrison Wilder

    I struggle between recognizing a zero-sum game with my time and increasing my capacity to do more. I also feel like occasionally doing something that’s not the best use of my time keeps my humility in check. But, I know I need to focus on the right relationships more. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      It’s a struggle for all of us.  For me, the Pareto principle applies here.  I try to spend 80% of my time with the top 20% of productive/value-add/bucket-filling relationships and 20% of my time with the other 80%.

  • http://lesdossey.com/ Les Dossey

    Excellent post Michael. Reminds me of several things.

    The visual that Stephen Covey used to help people see how to get the highest priority things done and that you wrote about in this post with video http://michaelhyatt.com/put-the-big-rocks-in-first.html could just as easily have been titled put the high value people in first…

    If God calls you to build a superbowl caliber team the process includes scouting, recruiting, probation, placing and CUTTING…

    The best grapes come from the vines that have been pruned

    and of course there are men who are called to pour their resources into the broken, abused, ignorant, uneducated, addicted men of this world.

    The truth is that everyone has a place and there is no better place to be than where you belong. When a leader discovers that someone doesn’t belong on his team and cuts them from the roster he just did a righteous thing by freeing that person to find where he really belongs.

    I like to call it freeing their future so that theirs and ours can emerge. :)

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great “vine” analogy Les!

      • http://lesdossey.com/ Les Dossey

        Thanks Tor – even a blind squirrel finds an acorn from time to time

    • Janettemiddleton58

      And women of course.

      • http://lesdossey.com/ Les Dossey

        Oops… sorry Janette, I only coach guys so I get kinda use to the male references, but certainly women too

  • http://www.practicalonlinemarketing.com/ Chris Jaeger

    Another great post Michael. Thank you! I look forward to reading your daily updates and always find them tremendously insightful. It’s pretty rare that “trouble” gets by me these days but it still does. I do much better interviews now before taking on a new client. When I was younger I thought I had the solution for everyone. I could “help” anyone. I still hear the words in my head when I get a new inquiry or lead. I’m embarrassed to admit how many situations I ended up in like you wrote about. Another common downside to this for me was I always ended up being the bad guy! It actually hurt my efforts to build my reputation and business. Similarly, I’ve found the same applies to personal relationships, not just business.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Chris, Great point about the cost of not focusing your resources on productive business and personal relationships!

  • Alan Kay

    It’s the old ‘squeaky wheel’
    story. We pay attention to the complainer, not the opportunity. Not only are we
    doing disservice to the others, but also allow the complainer to fool themselves
    into a false sense of importance. When I was a manager I did my best to help
    them to be successful somewhere else, i.e., I fired them in the nicest possible
    way. 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Indeed, Alan – it ‘s the old “squeaky wheel” conundrum. I like your solution of helping the person find a fit elsewhere. I’m always amazed in football how a player who fails with one team is able to thrive under another system or team.  Sometimes a change of venue is enough.

  • http://www.growing4life.net/ Leslie A

    Yes, yes, yes!  This is so true.  We have found that we have had to fire both employees and customers, too, on occasion, because they took far too many of our precious resources (including time and peace of mind) at much too great a cost to the rest of the company.  It has taken us a long time to learn this lesson (we are in business 25 years) and I just wish that we would have understood the importance of this much earlier.  

    • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret Wortman

      “Firing customers”. That’s fantastic that you had the sense and perspective to realize that customers aren’t always right and that you can choose which ones to serve.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        I think we forget we have a CHOICE. So do the people who serve us! Great point, Bret.

  • http://josephmfoster.com/ Joseph

    This was an awesome post. I enjoyed the comments about Pastor, but what about leaders who spend their and energy on Pastors who are never satisfied with their results. 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I think the same principles apply.  First try sitting down with him/her to gain a clear understanding of his/her expectations.  Then, do you best to meet those expectations.  If it’s never good enough, there eventually comes a time when you need to move on from that relationship.  

    • Acg_mag

      This is  what happened to me.  Thankfully my wise husband taught me that you can’t do the right thing for the wrong people.  They would be grateful for my help for a moment and then forget the next day.  I kept giving and giving even through their childish put downs and hateful innuendos. I finally realized there was no satisfying an immature and insecure group.  I stopped throwing my pearls, stopped letting myself be used and realized I didn’t have to sacrifice my dignity or health just because they were of the”five-fold ministry”.  I went to people who appreciated what I had to offer and who were ready for it.

  • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret Wortman

    I’ve seen this happen in too may workplaces where an underperforming employee is retained for far too long, and watching how the company falls all over itsself trying to either build a case for termination or produce an action plan for corrective measures (no one seems to ever be sure which is actually going on) just drags the rest of the team down into the doldrums. Even after the original problem child has left, the effects linger.

    It’s a shame that fear of lawsuits have made it apparently harder to just fire the dead weight.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great point Bret. It’s even worse when those “problem” employees are promoted within the organization making the Peter Principle (individuals advancing to the level of their incompetence) a reality.

  • Scott

    Thanks Michael, this is some great advice. I know I have got to do exactly what you are saying. I will start today!

  • Brett

    I’ve struggled with a similar idea regarding which clients to work with in my business.  I’ve come to my sales career with a ‘treat everybody equally’ attitude. It feels great and holy and such, but I’m pretty sure it’s not as right as it seems.   I’m supposed to be productive and if I’m spinning wheels on non-revenue producing relationships, I’m doing nobody good: my clients who value the service, my management, my family (this directly effects my income).

    I’ve done some work in creating the profile, but need to improve on enforcing it. I need to grow a pair and enforce it is probably a little crass but a better way of saying it. 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Brett, I agree that it sounds good to treat every client the same but it’s a challenge especially given the fact that 80% of business is usually generated by 20% of customers. Unfortunately, that delta proves not all customers are created equally and treating them as such is due to lead to diminishing returns.

  • http://www.sweetieberry.com Sweetie Berry

    I find that in examining my business, heart, and priorities that too often if I do not use the boundaries of writing down what is truly happening schedule and production wise, it is all too easy to be engaged by tones instead of outcomes. 

    The squeaky wheel often does get the attention if you’re not tracking your resource expenditures…and as my work roles are changing I find that how I acknowledge the stewardship of the gifts I was given and accept responsibility for their use. In business there is a delightful amount of analytics and metrics to support what is working, what needs changing, what content is being received and what product purchases are supported by the presence they have in the marketplace, audiences, and in person.

    Coordination and facilitation of client outcomes is best developed through education, but to be effective, the client must be willing to engage in the knowledge and experience that your perspective brings to the table.  Remaining capable of earning to learn in my opinion is the single hardest trait for most entrepreneurs…gifted learners want to know, they often do now recognize the steps to that knowledge without effort.

    Opinions matter, but outcomes do as well, and as I move more adeptly I recognize that the maturity to know the difference between pleasing and productive is still a battle I am personally toes on the line for accountability.  As a former pleaser, I’ve had to learn that simply because others may have an opinion that differs, if I am the experienced one and accountable one for outcomes, they may need to be educated on why what our team says matters, and always, as a consumer, they have the right and choice to choose differently.

    However, what I have this year learned, is that when my team has focused strategy based on multiple alignments of resources, the chances are high, when severe discrepancies of direction occur, its best to simply let the client find his own way, for the times we haven’t, the outcomes have been disappointing. Recipes cannot be altered without chemistry of the final product. Owning what you know you do well is as important as coordinating with the client on his/her opinions, to serve them best we have to do what we do well and allow them to be who they are as well.

    This mantle we call leading is not for sissies. ~Sweetie

    • Jim Martin

      I really like your first sentence!  So true!  You are right that it is too easy to be engaged by tones instead of outcomes.  I might add that when this is the case, those who are loud, squeaky, and threatening have a sense that their volume, persistence, and threats will ultimately allow them to get their way. Thanks.
      “I find that in examining my business, heart, and priorities that too often if I do not use the boundaries of writing down what is truly happening schedule and production wise, it is all too easy to be engaged by tones instead of outcomes.”

  • Anita

    I work with high risk kids in Bogota, Colombia.  Our goal is facilitating the transformation of these young lives from poverty, violence and crime to a positive, Christ-centered futures.   These will be, by definition, draining relationships.  To consider where, when and with whom resources are being poorly invested and to the detriment of other children is a tough question.  It is very interesting however, to consider which kids might represent the twelve.  I am pondering whether that would actually work, keeping in mind that Christ’s disciples were for the most part not your most likely candidates for changing the world.

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

      Anita, your situation and the tension you describe working with these kids puts this principle to the test. Do you have a blog that you keep? It would be fascinating to follow your journey in this.

      What you said about jesus’ unlikely choices with his twelve reminds me that he spent 40 days in the wilderness in deep prayer before he made those decisions. He was also led into that time by the Spirit, the same person we need to lead us into this times and decisions.

      • Anita

        Hi Aaron.  I have tried my hand at blogging, but more to record my personal spiritual journey rather than to specifically track our project. http://thegospelaccordingtopuppies.blogspot.com/  I do feel called to get the Bogota experience in writing, so your nudge is well taken.

        Your point about the 40 days in the wilderness has given me pause.  Thank you for mentioning that.

        In reflection of today’s topic, I have come to realize that I have been more focused on responding to the needs than perceiving the children themselves as assets.  I imagine that is why exhaustion is one of my greatest battles.

        We exist for the most difficult and demanding children because they are the ones that will be most destructive to society in the future. But what would happen if we selected apprentices from amongst the more responsive children?  What if they, through positive example then began to carry some of the burden of the more difficult ones?

        • http://twitter.com/eccle0412 Jackie Anderson

          I applaud you.  With troubled youth it is hard to define those boundaries and strategies to identify and implement often have need to be “flexible” while still being clear and consistent. As an adoptive and foster mom of high risk children with 2 bio’s, this subject was very real life to me. When your home is “work” it is challenging. Even more important to be defined and clear in method and purpose. 
          Thank you Anita for the investment of hope. 

        • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

           Anita, I love where you are going with that last thought on mentoring and apprenticeship. Will pray for guidance and success i your efforts. And adding you to my blogs to follow list :)

  • Sandy

    Mr. Hyatt , thank you so much for this article. Nutritious breakfast!

  • http://twitter.com/cupojoegirl Eileen Knowles

    Great advice.  You reminded me of the lady I was beside in the Subway restaurant yesterday.  She was so bossy and upset by the way the lady behind the counter was making her sandwich.  Nothing the sandwich maker did was right according to the customer.   I was thinking to myself….lady, it’s a sandwich!   I was impressed by how the lady behind the counter responded.  I would have been tempted to throw the sandwich at the lady.  But she remained calm, finished the job and moved on to the next one.  Not sure how this story fits with your post….but the way you handled your customer reminded me of that.   You deal with the difficult ones as respectfully as you can and then you move on!!

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

      Eileen, it’s amazing how much energy we can choose to expend in those kinds of situations. I’ve let these little things drain away a lot of my day – it’s a choice though. Thanks for the reminder.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great example Eileen – I think each of us have been inline behind “that lady” at least one time or another…

  • http://www.foxfotostudios.com/ Rachel

    I love this. I can definitely see impossible clients that I’ve done everything I possibly could to try and make them “happy”, but making someone who isn’t my ideal client happy isn’t really my goal. Yes, sometimes you can totally turn it around and leave someone the exact opposite of when you found them through a great customer service experience, but you have to learn to let go of the people who absolutely will not be happy no matter what. 

    I also love what you say about Jesus investing most of his time into 12 people. I’ve never thought of him having that kind of shrewd focus to accomplish his goals, but it absolutely makes sense. Invest in people who will believe in and carry out your goals/ministry. 

  • http://twitter.com/PromisesFC PromisesFinancialCch

    #5 is my personal favorite. If it’s important enough for me to schedule, it may take me longer than I first thought it would, but it WILL get done.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Dr. Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, is an excellent resource. I found it insightful in helping me to assess where I was in relationships and where I needed to be. 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      TNeal, based on the numerous recommendations generated by this post – I just bought it for my Kindle Fire. Thanks for the perspective!

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        Tor, hope you find it as helpful as I did.–Tom

  • Susan Sims

    Thanks for this post. I was just talking to someone last night about this same topic. I am working on my first book project and am a stay-at-home mom. I feel I juggle my home responsibility with what I now consider my “work” responsibility. My kids are now all in school so it’s easy to feel my job with them is done, but when they come home from school, I realize they are the future and my job is far from done. I have a limited time with them at nights after dinner and homework, so I have to know which child needs the most attention and who doesn’t. I don’t want my kids to always be babies, I have to continually cut them and prune them throughout their lives so they can learn how to emotionally handle circumstances on their own. So, my focus shifts multiple times a night between the kids and my husband, but the vision is the same…build a strong christian family.  My compromise has been writing a book to help build your strong christian faith to help with my focus and vision for both aspects of my life.

  • http://www.SharonSpano.com/ Sharon Spano

    Thank you, Michael.  Once again, you have hit it out of the ballpark.  I am in the middle of this exact dilemma on several fronts.  I so appreciate your reminding me of the bigger picture.  Great blog.  Sharon Spano

  • annepeterson

    I can’t believe how well-timed this post is for me. I have sometimes struggled with hanging onto unproductive relationships which have drained me dry, giving more attention though it is never enough. All because I didn’t know how to let go. I will definitely be getting the book by Townsend and Cloud you mentioned. The picture you painted of the unsatisfied customer really brought it home. Struggling with people-pleasing I have come to realize I am trying to please the wrong person. 

    In addition, yesterday I struggled with being on the other end and deciding whether to express the couple of things that would have made things better. I’m so glad I just let it go. Sometimes I have let perfectionism drive my train. The ride has always been less than perfect.

  • http://www.danielevans.org/ Daniel Evans

    Excellent! I have had similar experiences and might I say, more than one before I learned this important lesson. Thank you Michael!

    After learning this lesson I have found that investing in my inner circle is a lot less stressful,  and time consuming. The most valuable asset I have as human being is time. How you invest it is very important, because it is not like money and so many other things you can replace. Once it is spent, it is gone. This awareness of how I should invest my time wisely is a driving force in my daily activities.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great comment Daniel, I especially like your point “…awareness of how I should invest my time wisely is a driving force in my daily activities.” That’s great insight!

  • Pat68


    End unproductive or unhealthy relationships.”

    So very true.  I’ve spent the last year doing that and it has been so freeing.  

  • http://www.danapittman.com/ Dana Pittman

    This post has my mind spinning. I dealt with a similar concern yesterday and often here recently as I change gears. I have people around that love me and mean good but they don’t always get it. Which is difficult. I’m slowly acknowledging everyone is not meant to go where God is taking me. I’m still processing it. But had to comment. Great post.

  • http://www.grmwebsite.com/ Koleen

    This is so true.  I hate to lose a client that is unhappy because it seems like a failure, but I have to remind myself that the problem could very well be that there is no way to please some people.  Great post.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Isn’t it interesting that we assume someone’s dissatisfaction is a personal failure? We can certainly look for ways to improve. But, even then, I don’t have to own their feelings.

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

         A timely comment Michele. I tend towards this as well, taking responsibility for the dissatisfaction of others. Thanks to both of you to putting language to something that is so often felt, but hard to recognize for what it is.

  • http://twitter.com/LawrenceEarlMD Lawrence Earl, MD

    As a medical director, I’ve been in this situation many times with docs with big egos who think it’s OK to bully the office staff, or others who couldn’t develop good patient rapport.  Document everything, set a deadline for improved behavior, stick to it, fire them if it isn’t working out.  Too many bosses are afraid to fire people for just being jerks.

    Lawrence Earl, MD
    http://www.urgentcarementor.com

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Documentation is a great point Lawrence. I think too many managers stumble  in that regard as well because they tend to view negative interactions in the immediate short-term rather than taking a long-view perspective. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      So true. The worst part is that it creates a toxic environment for everyone when they are allowed to continue with their bullying behavior. Thanks.

  • Yvonne Thigpen

    Obviously by the number of posts you hit on common concern. I needed this today! Thanks.

  • http://www.towardcontent.com/ Jonathan Wilson

    Just curious, Michael – At what point would you have ended this transaction with the author? You managed the initial design, found the image to base the next set of designs, and then implemented his own design. If you had to do it again, would you have started making changes after the first set of designs were discarded? I ask because I often find it difficult to find the bright line while in the middle of the relationship. The rationale in my head is “we have come this far, let’s finish it off.” 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Great question. The point of the story to me is that it didn’t matter what Michael did, the author wasn’t going to be happy. The sooner we can identify this type of scenario, the sooner we can move on. The key is discernment in knowing whether or not it is worth it giving it that extra little bit.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      If I had to do it again, I would have listened to my staff, given them more credit for their prior work, and not thought of myself as the Messiah who could save the relationship. The truth is that they had been telling be about his unreasonable behavior for years. I just wouldn’t listen.

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    “Necessary Endings” is sitting on my shelf. Time to actually read it! I gravitate toward the relationships/situations that need maintenance or fixing. Whoever is complaining the loudest (or whoever is likely to become the most disgruntled) gets my best. It’s my poor attempt at keeping everyone happy. I know this is impossible and it’s a poor use of my energy and resources. But I struggle with identifying the line between compassion and enabling, and knowing when to cut the ties for the health of myself and the other person.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      You nailed it for me Michele – finding that healthy separation point is a significant challenge.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        When you master it, send me your notes please. :)

  • http://www.theparsonagefamily.com/ Jessica Miller Kelley

    Oooh. I’ve been in that exact situation with the book covers. (Only I wasn’t CEO, so spending an afternoon on istock wasn’t quite as much of a waste, but still not my job.) In one case, the author’s team did do a better job, but in others, it was a mistake and a big waste of my time and mental energy trying to accommodate diva-like authors.

  • http://www.kathleenmcanearsmith.com/ Kathleen McAnear Smith

    Am giving thanks for Evangelista Media ( formerly Destiny Image-Europe)- especially after reading your blog today. They chose the cover of both of my books and I am still delighted- I never would have thought of what they came up with! Cover design is a totally different gifting than writing and I love the freedom of staying with my my calling and letting cover designers do theirs! Thanks for the reminder that this is team work, and we must appreciate each other.

  • Giblesc

    Michael, thanks for making me think!  I’ve had mixed feelings & thoughts since I read this post and therefore I waited to write versus writing my first inclination.   I am a big fan of Cloud & Townsend work, but haven’t yet read this book so I went to read the reviews and in particularily the lowest star reviews to learn what was missing.

    Here’s where my thoughts are at the moment (they are subject to change).   Some of Michael’s examples initially rubbed me the wrong way – particularily the use of the phrase “wrong people” in his title.  God didn’t make wrong people – he created us ALL in his image and when we consistently label people negatively they will start to live that out, rather than be who God intended them to be.  My belief is that we all should do some research on Positive Psychology – which Jesus was the master at.

    Michael also wrote this:
    “A mother invests all of her emotional energy in a difficult child to the neglect of the quiet, compliant one. The difficult child gets worse and the complaint one begins acting up to get attention.” To me this is an example of co-dependency in the leader and not an issue of the child, both children deserve attention, that’s a fact, but this parent & the children could benefit by the parent getting parenting coaching.  A parent leader’s job is to invest in all their children & their spouse & in their own growth. In this example of Michael’s:A corporate executive spends most of her time helping under-performing salespeople rather than provide leadership and inspiration to her top producers. She then wonders why she can’t keep her best people.

    Jesus spent time coaching & teach his disciples so that they could then go coach & teach others.  What if this executive believed in his whole lot of producers & got them the coaching they needed.  I see that as a much better way of handling the situation than leaving the others to flounder.  Lest we forget…leadership Jesus style isn’t all about the money. 

    Michael’s next example said:
    “A pastor expends so much of his time trying to fix broken people that he doesn’t have the energy to develop the leaders who could help shoulder the burden. He constantly grumbles about his workload.”

    Ouch!  Michael, did you forget that we are ALL broken people?  I know you didn’t mean it the way I read it, but grumbling about the workload?  If the pastor was thinking he had to do it all on his own isn’t he relying to much on his own strength versus God’s?

    Just my thoughts!  Thanks for letting me share!

  • http://www.shannonmilholland.blogspot.com Shannon Milholland

    You make a great point here. I think we all get occasionally linked with the wrong people. They trick as Kenny Rogers would put it is to know when to fold ‘em. That’s where I get tripped up. 

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    This is great advice that’s consistent with Marcus Buckingham’s “Find Your Strengths” mantra. He stresses the need to focus on developing strengths rather than shoring up weaknesses. 

    However, this is a challenge in some environments. 

    My wife was a public high school French teacher before we had children, and she decided to stay at home. She taught for several years and was spending more time on “classroom management” (a.k.a. student discipline) rather than teaching.

    The bottom line, the most disruptive students hijacked her time and talents – keeping those attributes from the good/great students. She couldn’t figure out how to change that differential due to the various dynamics in play (e.g. diluted parents, lack of administration support, jaded students, a free education system that’s taken for granted…etc.)

    Any thoughts on applying these principles to a classroom setting?

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/ Aaron Johnson

       Tor, thanks for the question. It’s got me thinking. It’s a tough one because, unlike a difficult client, you usually can’t just get rid of a student – usually you don’t want to, because you have some insight into why they are so difficult.

      One approach is to turn the tables and to make students responsible for their own learning process. I’m trying this this year with a group of seniors and I’ll admit that it’s taking me way out of my comfort zone. Students will be working in teams, and it will be project-based. Instead of working with 24 students, I’m working with 6 groups, all who will need to learn to handle their own conflicts internally, but with my oversight. Theoretically, the disruptive student is now under the peer pressure of the group more than me. We’ll see how it actually plays out :)

      It’s not for every age group. I’d say grades 9-12, but I’ve heard of master teachers making this work even at elementary level. Again, I’m blessed to be in a place where the administration lets me try things out, and that’s not always the case for a lot of teachers.

      I’d love to hear more from other teachers on applying the principles to the classroom.

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    It’s sad to think about the misdirected influence in my life. As a leader, I’ve tried to inspire those around me to pursue excellence. I’ve even tried to influence those who were my leaders. Unfortunately, some people have no desire for excellence. Good enough is OK with them. Complacency is a disease that affects many organizations because the leaders are infected.

  • http://www.Godsgracefulness.com/ Janice

    Michael, this is awesome!
    I admire you as a blogger! :) 

    Oh this needs to be fixed: The difficult child gets worse and the complaint one begins acting up to get attention.

    Compliant not complaint. :D Your fingers was working too fast there! lol

  • http://adamcdennis.com/ Adam C. Dennis

    Great reminder today on resource allocation. I agree that #3 is probably the hardest.

    This was my favorite part of the post….
    “Yes, Jesus spent time with broken people. He healed the sick. He comforted the broken-hearted. He ministered to the outcasts. But he spent the bulk of his resources on just twelve people. He proactively invested in them, knowing that his mission was, humanly speaking, dependent on their success.”

    • Jim Martin

      Adam, it took me years to really learn what you quoted from the post.  For years, I spent so much time with broken people that I actually spent very little time equipping and helping healthy people become equippers themselves.

  • Jim Dent

    Great article! I find myself asking the question, “Am I investing my best resources in the wrong tool?” I have been working with a new software tool that is a continual headache. I think it is time to make a change.

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  • Bonnie Clark

    This made me think of a blog post by Seth Godin a year ago.  After a quick search, I found it:

    Pleasing
    A motto for those doing work that matters:”We can’t please everyone, in fact, we’re not even going to try.”Or perhaps:”Pleasing everyone with our work is impossible. It wastes the time of our best customers and annoys our staff. Forgive us for focusing on those we’re trying to delight.”The math here is simple. As soon as you work hard to please everyone, you have no choice but to sand off the edges, pleasing some people less in order to please others a bit more. And it drives you crazy at the same time.http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/02/page/3/Michael, both you and Seth always cause me to think!  Thanks!

    • Jim Martin

      Bonnie, thanks for this great quote from Seth Godin.  Very good!

  • Marc Johnson

    This is so true in business, my personal life, and in my church ministry. Thank you for your inspiring posts everyday. 

  • http://www.davidpmariano.com/ Dave Mariano

    I think the 80/20 rule applies to people too. Spending time with that top 20% is crucial. I cringe just a little to use the 80/20 explanation because we’re talking about people, but I think it still applies.

  • Marcia_Ramsland

    This was excellent! Just what I needed. I’m an author working on interior book layout and the designer asked if I had the time to change the images to higher dpi. Are you kidding? That is the other side of an author’s brain that would take as much time as training to climb Mt. Everest.

  • Icunpink

    I had a recent experience on a ‘healing outing’ for young girls with one other adult that I TRUSTED.  By the end of the weekend retreat; I discovered the ‘trusted’ adult just wants to be ‘friends’ with everyone while compromising my / the ministries standards.  This was a harsh reality for me.. still haven’t swallowed it all the way down.  I’m struggling.  Because now ~ do I say something to the now untrustworthy adult / compromising my standards?  Cut them loose?  Or, am I just being to judgemental?

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  • Esther Bradley-DeTally

    Excellent article – so right on – thank you.

  • Steve Swann Jr

    Being a pastor who is trying to love people like Jesus… and also being with people who are draining… if I ‘redistribute’ these draining people on other faith disciples, aren’t I just dumping on them instead?

    • Jim Martin

      Steve, as a pastor also, I have had to deal with this issue.  For years, I functioned (as a minister) like a Dr. in an emergency room.  I was there for whoever was in crisis, dysfunctional, broken, etc.  What was missing in my work was any sense of building up a core group of healthy people to do ministry themselves.  I finally had to change the way I functioned because it was impacting the rest of the church.

  • Cj

    Amazing piece, as always!

  • http://www.reflectionsfromthealley.org/ Dave Arnold

    This is a very encouraging post, Michael.  Thank you.  In fact, I just did a blog post this week on a similar topic.  I even quoted Henry Cloud and Townsend in thier book “Boundaries.”
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Annette Skarin

    Great post as always Michael. I am so blessed to have your posts as a balanced resource to grow by.  Also, great lesson in boundary setting. I have a son who’s technologically intelligent, so he helps me with things that are over my head. Thanks again. Look forward to more…

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great post Michael and your use of this story really brings your points to life. For me as a leader I’m coaching several people and one of them reminds me of that author. There’s always an excuse and reason for not completely something we talked about, there’s not really a desire to move forward, I think it’s time to move on. Thanks for the tips, have to think about this one for a minute.

  • Ian

    I needed this right now. Thanks!

  • Drakehunter

    Thank you for your insights and instructions.  A good reminder to wrap my mind, body, heart and spirit around some of my life principles.

    1. Love people, use resources to develop self and others

    2. What ever I focus on magnifies, so choose to focus on the best (God’s ways) things in life.

    3. Spend 2 minutes with some people, but not 4 minutes. Spend 30 minutes with others, but not and hour, etc… 

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Grace and peace!

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    I recently had a coaching client who was frustrated by one of his customers. As a result I helped him create ‘this is my dream client’ and ‘this is my nightmare client’ profiles. I was so impressed by it, I made one for my own company too!

  • http://www.leavingconformitycoaching.com/ Randy Crane

    This is great advice. I’ve definitely been putting some of my time into the wrong people, and the wrong activities. I’ve seen which ones (of each) provide the greatest return on my time and energy, but I, too, am a people-pleaser so it’s hard to say no. not impossible, but difficult.

    I’ve found that the more I clarified my priorities, and the more I invested in people who valued it in ways that bring the most value to them I can, the less inclined I am to waste that time and effort in other areas.

  • Cherry Odelberg

    What important information.  Thanks for the reminder – and the clear examples.

  • Juanita Brooks

    “But he spent the bulk of his resources on just twelve people. He
    proactively invested in them, knowing that his mission was, humanly speaking,
    dependent on their success”      Quote- Michael Hyatt

    My Question….
    How do you know and select who qualifies for your investment of time?
    Is there a pattern to use ?

    I look forward to your blog email each morning.
    I share each email on my Facebook Page & Twitter friends.
    Valuable teaching….Thank YouJuanita Brooks

  • PaulJolicoeur

    Great post! A good reminder that with our limited bandwidth, we need to make sure we are investing where it is going to make the biggest impact. A leader must make the development of other leaders a top priority!

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    Proverbs 9:7a struck me recently: “He that teacheth a scorner doth an injury to himself.”
    The commentary expands: “”He that reproveth a scorner – לץ lets, the person who mocks at sacred things; the libertine, the infidel; who turns the most serious things into ridicule, and, by his wit, often succeeds in rendering the person who reproves him ridiculous.”This SO explains some of my greatest struggles as a teacher. The reason I’ve quit several times, in fact. I could never “get it right” with this kind of student. I kept judging my effectiveness / success as a teacher based on their response to me and my teaching. Far too many times, I’ve poured most of my energy into this one student, leaving precious little for all the others.

  • http://www.changevolunteers.org/ Change Volunteer

    My ex-boss advised all the managers on his last day to choose the right people for the right job and try and take everyone along, because you can only become a good manager if you see a potential successor in each one of the team members you manage. Profound wisdom that I can relate to your article. 

  • http://twitter.com/JulieSunne1 Julie Sunne

    Thank you for this fabulous, thought-provoking post, Michael!  Your insight will definitely help me as I pursue expanding my platform and making lasting, valuable connections.

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  • http://www.stuckinnewyorkcity.com/about Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

    Nice post Michael.

    I think that part of the issue is that we build emotional connection to nouns – people  place and things. And because we become emotionally invested  – especially true with people — we become blinded and poorly invest those scarce resources.

    I wonder if someone told you that you were not using your resources wisely — would you have stopped?

    Sometimes, it takes other people to point out what we are doing wrong — before we realize that we are doing it wrong.

  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    I’ve just been going through this period in my life and business where I’ve had to make the tough choices. One particular parting of ways was with a mastermind group that was started by a number of business “friends” in my area.

    Upon returning from a NYC conference, I looked at my schedule for the next couple of weeks and my heart sank when I saw the mastermind group on my calendar. These people were my friends but I just wasn’t getting what I needed for my business to grow. There was no agenda, no topic for discussion and it always turned into a “what’s new with you?” dialog. Needless to say, it was far from the morning brainstorming and business stimulation I needed. Sure, it was nice to get together for a cup of coffee but it wasn’t a wise use of time – for any of us.

    At first, I was concerned about the friendship and hurting their feelings. The thing is though, I see them at other events that are more fruitful and add to our relationships. Sure, it’s been 4 days and I haven’t received a response to my “leave” from the group but I know, deep in my heart and soul, I made the right move to open myself to other opportunities that will strengthen my walk along this path.

  • Chuck F

    Thanks for the reminder.  I really needed this today.  

  • http://www.monicadeliz.com/ Monica de Liz, Style Coach

    Enlightening article Michael, thanks for the priceless wisdom! I’ve shared your post on my social media today since this is a life skill we shall develop if we wish to be wholesome. As a former people pleaser, I totally agree with your worldview. The book “How to say No without feeling guilty” has changed my life by helping me clearly see the difference between healthy and toxic relationships. Because of your valuable post, I discovered Dr. Henry Cloud’s work, I plan to read “Necessary Endings” and “Boundaries”. Stay blessed!

  • http://twitter.com/kurt_bennett kurt bennett

    …he spent the bulk of his resources on just twelve people. He proactively invested in them, knowing that his mission was, humanly speaking, dependent on their success.”
    Great post! Invest where the most fruit will be produced! Just what I needed to hear today.

  • Prophetess Breneta Bowser

    This truly has encourage  me…to go forth in somethings in my life!   

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  • Shaorn Minor

    Great article…falls right in with my decision to use the “vip-velvet rope” filter to carefully choose customers that will be a good fit for my company & allow me to provide my best work! 

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  • JulieSanders@comehaveapeace

    This was really timely reading for me. As a Women’s Ministry leader, I know that I need to make one particular change immediately, in order to shift my limited resources where they’re needed most and where they’ll produce the most fruit. Thanks! 

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  • Dawn Vesco

    I think that the time to cut people loose (or prune) is a case by case basis. I think it should be done before the leadership vision is polluted and the team dynamics de-railed that upholds it.Overview responsibilities should include a regular pruning program to ensure the changes and dynamics of a project,dept or organization stay healthy and productive -that can be in-house or acquiring clients. I also highly recommend Henry McCloud’s book,I had the pleasure of seeing him at a Women of Faith event and he’s real.

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  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    This is a theme that needs to be revisited frequently (at least by me).  I can even apply the question to how I spend my time.  Am I giving my best time (of the day or the week) to the highest impact activities?  

    Thanks for challenging my thinking.

  • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

    Thank you for sharing this story…in its painful detail.  This wisdom is SO RICH.  

    As a leader in a luxury services firm catering to ultra-high net worth families, I had a propensity to bend over backward when someone wasn’t happy, sometimes to no avail.  

    Fred Reichheld’s brilliant book, The Loyalty Effect, REALLY helped me get some perspective.  

    Develop a detailed profile of your desired customer, desired employee, and desired investor…calculate their lifetime value and invest accordingly.  

    For customers, employees, and investors who don’t fit your ideal profile, exit quickly and graciously.  Perhaps they fit someone else’s profile!

  • Rebecca Jo Cannon

    This is very helpful to me! I have been praying for wisdom.  Last year I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C & Liver Cirrhosis. Treatment did not work. My oldest son 28, rushed to Maui to help. My youngest 23 serving in the Army can only help from afar. My oldest has PTSD from Iraq, Pakistan & Kuwait. We did not know until he arrived here. I raised both boys alone. I know I am not a business. But I am in the business of Jesus! So it became clear from this message to invest in the son immediately in front of me as he is keeping a roof over my head. To pray for him to continue with the Christian war vets to help him. Invest in my other son who is trying to get here. I don’t have strength, but to pray & build them up. I have a small group of friends that try to help with my liver fund.  I will invest that their faith grows strong. I need a strong team. I also believe they need me in other ways! The statement that Travis Dommert made – This wisdom is SO RICH; yes it is not only in the business world but in everyday life with huge trials. Amen!

  • John Jolley

    Interesting post and I agree. I think it also applies to those folks in our network that we spend time attempting to invest in. Just spent an hour yesterday with someone in a conference in Dallas that in retrospect was a complete waste of time. I wonder if knowing where to spend your time isn’t one of those simple but extremely difficult to execute tasks…

  • Robin

    I am in the middle of a large employee turn over, started by the decision to do this very thing. Although hiring is painful, I truely feel rejuvenated and optimistic about the future of our business. We will see where this road leads but I am very hopeful that new blood will bring improved results and that I can learn better how to spend my resources in the beginning of these relationships.

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  • Skimhenson

    Love it and sharing the link on my blog since I recently wrote about helping others, and this post says it so much better. Plus I can always use confirmation when I’m letting go of my helper role, the one that’s helping no one. 

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  • Cathey

    This is such an eye opener! Thank you.

  • http://gricefullyhomeschooling.com/ Jen G

    Wow, thank you! Really, really needed to hear this today… as a wife, as a mother, and as a friend!

  • http://brianbbaker.com/about/ Brian B Baker

    Ending unproductive relationships is the hardest for me. The resources are a difficult one since I’m rebooting my blog with self-hosted right now.

    I made the assessment to do Self-hosted and get my feet wet this year.

    Wonderful post Michael.

  • IAMSynt

    Wow! So timely! That’s all.

  • Dale L.

    Wow I loved this. I needed to see the big picture also. I often want to fix people and problems. I have seen my precious time ( which they don’t appreciate), and resources ( they don’t value either), and end up with them not appreciating my efforts. Sigh, good insight. Dale L

  • Anne-Marie Gosser

    Thank you for that observation regarding how Jesus spent the bulk of his resources. I had never noticed that before but you are correct. Excellent!

  • Robert Zimmerman

    Truly a challenging topic especially for someone who struggles to say no to anyone.