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Managing Transitions

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I’m currently working to bring change to a local church, and there’s more change to come. That’s not bad, just a reality. I’ve come to the conclusion, that dealing with change is part and parcel of every leader’s life. Doing it effectively is one of the things that separates average from good or great leaders. Last week I finished reading the book, Managing Transitions, by William Bridges. He has helped me understand some of the key issues that make the difference between success and failure. This book is really practical, and a good read for anybody that leads anything. Here’s a brief synopsis for you. Enjoy! 

It isn’t the changes that do you in. It’s the transitions. Change is situational: the move to a new site, the retirement of the founder, the reorganization roles on the team, or the revisions to the pension plan. Transition is psychological. It is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.

Managing transition involves helping people through three phases: 

1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending, and the time when you need to help people to deal with their losses. 

2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. We call this time the “neutral zone.” It’s when the critical psychological realignments and re-patterning takes place. 

3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop the new identity, experience the new energy, and discover the new sense of purpose that makes the change begin to work. 

Several important differences between change and transition are overlooked when people think of transition as simply gradual or unfinished change or when they use change and transition interchangeably. With a change, you naturally focus on the outcome that change produces. If you move from California to New York City, the change involves crossing the country and then learning your way around the Big Apple. 

Transition is different. The starting point for dealing with transition is not the outcome but the ending that you’ll have to make to leave the old situation behind. Situational change hinges on the new thing, but psychological transition depends on letting go of the old reality and the old identity you had before the change took place. Organizations tend to overlook that letting-go process completely, and do nothing about the feelings of loss that it generates. In overlooking those effects, they nearly guarantee that the transition will be mismanaged and that, as a result, the change will go badly. Unmanaged transition makes change unmanageable.

Once you understand that transition begins with a letting go of something, you have taken the first step in the task of transition management. The second step is understanding the neutral zone. This is the psychological no-man’s-land between the old reality and the new one. It is the time when the old way of doing things is gone but the new way doesn’t feel comfortable yet.

It is important for people to understand and not be surprised by this neutral zone. If you don’t understand and expect it, you’re more likely to try to rush through or even bypass it only to be discouraged when you find that doesn’t work. You may mistakenly conclude that the confusion you feel there is a sign that something is wrong with you.

The neutral zone is both a dangerous and an opportune place, and it is the very core of the transition process. It is the time when re-patterning takes place as old and maladaptive habits are replaced with new ones that are better adapted to the world in which the organization now finds itself. It is the winter in which the roots begin to prepare themselves for spring’s renewal. It is the chaos into which the old form dissolves and from which the new form emerges. It is the seedbed of the new beginnings that you seek.

Ending—neutral zone—new beginning. You need all three phases in that order for a transition to work. The phases don’t happen separately. They often go on at the same time. Endings are going on in one place while in another everything is in neutral zone chaos, and in yet another, the new beginning is already palpable. Calling them “phases” makes it sound as though they are lined up like rooms in a house. Perhaps it would be more accurate to think of them as three processes and to say that the transition cannot be completed until all three have taken place.

It has become a truism that the only constant today is change. (Ironically, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the very same thing 2,500 years ago!) Yet we all feel that change is different today: it’s continuous, wall-to-wall, and nonstop. A department is reorganized, and that’s hardly finished when a new director arrives and decides to reorganize it again. We talk not of a single change but of change as an ongoing phenomenon. It is a collage, not a simple image. One change overlaps with another, and it’s all change as far as the eye can see.

Nonstop change is simply a lot of different changes that overlap each other as well as an increase in the rate of overlapping change. Every new level of change is termed “nonstop” by people who are having trouble with transition.

At the same time, every previous level of change comes to be called “stability.” Seen in this light, what people today call “nonstop change” is simply a new level of what has always existed. It isn’t pure chaos as much as a new experience. When people adjust to it, they will look back upon it as “the stability that we used to enjoy.”

We are still caught in the mid-twentieth-century mindset, which conceived of the main organizational problem as the lack of change. That outlook led to the idea of the “change agent,” a person who knew how to enter an organization, often from outside, and change things. But as we enter the twenty-first century, we’re increasingly faced with the fact that the current problem is change itself. It’s the problem of “survivors” of yesterday’s change projects, and everyone is a survivor.

This is why transition management is such a critical skill for you to develop. You’re going to find yourself dealing with the aftermath of mismanaged or unmanaged transition every time you turn around. That aftermath is a manager’s nightmare. 

If we know anything about the future, it is that it will be different from the present. Whatever currently exists is going to change. What it will look like is something that the futurists can debate. The only certainty is that between here and there will be a lot of change. Where there’s change, there’s transition. That’s the utterly predictable equation: change + human beings = transition. There’s no way to avoid it, but you can manage it. If you want to come through in one piece, you must manage it.

Interested in reading this book in its entirety? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2EkiKr3

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The 7 Deadly Sins Of Small Group Ministry

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Many churches today—maybe even most—have some kind of small group ministry operating. My ministry does!Some groups are highly effective; many of them could be doing better. This training tool has helped me over the years, The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry: A Troubleshooting Guide for Church Leaders, by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson, the authors outline some of the key “sins” that hinder the development of an effective small group ministry. 

Robinson and Donahue developed and directed the small group ministry at Willow Creek Community Church for many years and I was able to personally meet them one on one. Great insightful leaders! They bring a lot of good and practical wisdom to the table, and I found the content very helpful. Enjoy my synopsis taken right from the material.  

We’ve identified “the seven deadly sins” of small group ministry breakdown. During our years of helping Willow Creek and other churches untangle their small group problems, we’ve navigated great frustrations, quick fixes, “worst decisions,” and “best practices” to discover basic solutions that work. 

Sin One: Unclear Ministry Objectives

Too many churches plunge into small group ministry without an end in mind. There is a general sense that building community in the church is the right thing to do and that somehow small groups will help. But few understand or even agree on what must be done to get there. The leadership has failed to provide clarity about God’s call, the vision for their church, the purpose of groups, and the role each member plays in achieving the God-given vision. As your church decides on the purpose and underlying values of its small groups, remember you want to develop clear ministry objectives appropriate to your church’s unique design. 

Sin Two: Lack of Point Leadership

When starting a small group initiative, some churches start with a point leader who is a person who can embody the vision of the initiative and help their church figure out where their small group ministry is going. Other churches first set clear ministry objectives before deciding which person should be given responsibility for championing the cause of community throughout the congregation. The point leader motivates the congregation to set a high priority on building loving relationships. They champion small group vision by creating urgency, coalescing opinion, building consensus, and celebrating successes.

Sin Three: Poor Coaching Structures

Sports teams lacking great coaches rarely experience championship seasons. Winning the small groups game requires that every leader receive consistent coaching. Regardless of the small group model you adopt, you will need a coaching structure once you have more than ten or twelve groups. Once it becomes clear that the point leader can’t care for all of the new small group leaders, the solution is to add a layer of coaches between small group leaders and the point leader. The point leaders can now focus their shepherding and development efforts on the coaches who, in turn, do the same for small group leaders.

Sin Four: Neglect of Ongoing Leadership Development

Churches committed to small groups have to take the leadership development challenge seriously and determine a systematic approach to growing their leadership corps. For a small group ministry to keep thriving, you must constantly ask, “What are we doing to reproduce our leadership?” A church will never develop a leadership culture unless it teaches about the gift and role of leadership. You must also develop a strategy. We suggest you concentrate more on leadership selection than on leadership development as you identify people to enter the leadership pipeline. Eighty percent of the leadership development game is about selecting the right person in the first place.

Sin Five: Closed Group Mind-Set

The dark side of Christian community is our inclination to form a holy huddle, intentionally or unintentionally. A closed group mind-set is a death sentence to true community. Closed group mind-set happens because churches are insensitive to seekers. Without a clear vision for the “open chair,” groups don’t grow spiritually, nor do they reach their highest potential for serving the congregation as a whole. As our mobile culture works to pull people from our groups, groups with a closed mind-set are guaranteed a short life span. The open chair is just one of three interrelated dynamics in small group ministry, along with birthing and apprenticing. 

Sin Six: Narrow Definition of a Small Group

Providing our people at Willow Creek with a broad range of group options remains central to becoming a church of groups. Multiple entry points and leadership opportunities are becoming standard practice, assuring that everyone can find a place in community under the watchful care of a trained shepherd. We organize small groups around affinities. Affinities are not intended to represent the complete expression of community life in the body. They are simply a means of gathering people together so that little communities can begin to form. Most of our groups fall within four major affinities: age/stage-based, interest-based, task-based, or care-based.

Sin Seven: Neglect of the Assimilation Process

Unless there are clear and functional pathways for people to connect into group life in your church, people will remain out of reach. There are three major steps of assimilation. They are collecting vital data, following up, and handing off interested people to ministry leaders. The key to assimilation is meeting people at the point of their desire to belong. Assimilation is not merely about growing a small group ministry or designing systems to mobilize and connect with the masses; it means wanting to provide people a place to belong and give them a chance for community. At Willow Creek, we remind ourselves that God sent these people to us, so we can’t afford to overlook any step of assimilation, no matter how small. It is our responsibility to follow up on every lead, every person with whom there is a point of contact.

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2Fscz0f

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Designed to Lead

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I really enjoy the book, “Designed to Lead,” by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. It digs into the importance of leadership development in the local church, and gives ways to begin to implement it. That’s huge! I found their ideas about a leadership pathway and a leadership pipeline in particular to be very encouraging. Enjoy my synopsis……

The center of the Church is the gospel, but the center of leadership development must be the Church. This means that the leaders who will ultimately transform communities and change the world come from the Church. Most churches merely exist to keep running their programs and services. They are not developing leaders intentionally and consistently. When leaders emerge from some churches, it is often by accident. “Wow, a leader emerged…. How did that happen?” should not be heard among God’s people. Something is missing. Something is off.

Churches that consistently produce leaders have a strong conviction to develop leaders, a healthy culture for leadership development, and helpful constructs to systematically and intentionally build leaders. All three are essential for leaders to be formed through the ministry of a local church. 

Conviction is a God-initiated passion that fuels a leader and church. Conviction is at the center of the framework because without conviction to develop others, leadership development will not occur. Developing leaders must be a burning passion, a non-negotiable part of the vision of a local church and its leaders, or it will never become a reality. The essential task of developing others must not be at the mercy of other things, of lesser things in a local church. 

Once the church leaders share this conviction, this ambition must become part of the very culture of the church itself. Culture is the shared beliefs and values that drive the behavior of a group of people. The church that believes in and values the development of others collectively holds the conviction for leadership development. When development is in the culture, it is much more than an idea or program; it is part of the very core identity of the church.

Wise leaders implement constructs to help unlock the full potential of a church that seeks to be a center for developing leaders. By constructs, we mean the systems, processes, and programs developed to help develop leaders. Constructs provide necessary implementation and execution to the vision and passion of culture and conviction.

Pastors, and churches, with a biblical approach to ministry possess a deep-seated conviction that all believers are gifted for ministry, not just the “professionals”. The Scripture never uses the term “minister” to set aside a special class of people who serve other Christians. All believers are ministers. So those selected by the Lord to be pastors are to invite all believers to engage in ministry and view themselves as equippers of all of God’s people, within the Church.

Equipping changes a church from a mere consumption center to a gathering of people who serve one another and the world around them. A church focused on developing God’s people to serve is a church that knows why it is on the planet, and the people are likely to sense the urgency and significance of the opportunity. When a church is overwhelmed with the immensity of the mission, small issues of disagreement are less likely to overtake it. There is too much mission to focus on. 

Often ministry leaders will ask, “What do you do for discipleship?” and then a few moments later ask, “What do you do for leadership development?” as if the two are mutually exclusive. While it may be helpful to view leadership development as advanced discipleship or as a subset of discipleship, it is detrimental to view leadership development as distinct from discipleship.

Leaders are developed as knowledge, experiences, and coaching converge. All three are essential for a leader to be developed. Knowledge is what leaders must learn and know. Experiences encompass the ongoing opportunities to serve and put knowledge into practice. Coaching occurs when a shepherding leader applies the knowledge and experience with a new leader.

If you view development as solely informational, knowledge will be your solution. If you view development as merely behavioral, experiences will be your solution. If you view development as part of discipleship, you want to use both knowledge and experiences, alongside coaching from godly leaders, as tools for the ultimate goal of transformation.

If you hold a deep conviction to equip people and develop leaders, the conviction will drive you to constructs, and constructs will help you create a culture that values development. Two constructs you need are the leadership pipeline and the leadership pathway. The pipeline focuses on the flock as a whole. The pathway focuses on an individual in the flock or a sheep.

A pipeline in the realm of local church ministry may look like this:

*Lead Yourself (be in a group)

*Lead Others (lead a group or team)

*Lead Leaders (shepherd or coach a group of leaders)

*Lead Ministries (direct a ministry area)

As one has proven faithful in following Christ and leading self, the person is asked to lead others. As the person proves faithful in this responsibility, the person is given the responsibility to lead and shepherd other leaders. As the person has effectively cared for and developed other leaders, the person may be willing and ready to direct a larger portion of ministry.

A pathway is simply a view of the pipeline that is tailored for the individual. It may be as simple as showing a person his place in the pipeline and the training plans designed for him. It may be as simple as helping a leader see how the training the church offers is designed to develop her. Give the people you serve a map or a picture of their development, and not merely a menu of all your church does.

Your church is unique. The passion of the leaders, the local context, and the gifting of those the Lord has put in your church all combine to make your church different from every other church. Yes, God wants to do something very specific in your context, but at the same time there are some things that are non-negotiable for every church that gathers in the name of Jesus and is centered on His work for us. In other words, developing leaders must not be seen as optional for our churches.

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2FKWinU

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Speak Life

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I’ve been home, sick this last week, and was able to read a book by one of my favorite pastors Brady Boyd. He wrote the book “Speak Life”, and writes about how powerful our words are and breaks down how we can grow in our ability to speak life to others, and likewise avoid speaking words that will tear people down. This book is really practical, applicable, and I hope you enjoy my synopsis taken right from it. 

INTRODUCTION: The Four Conversations

Whenever Jesus interacted with another person, not once did he speak unwise words. Before he opened his mouth here on this earth, Jesus communed with his Father above. 

PART ONE: The Conversation between You and God

Getting good at communicating well begins with prayer. 

Chapter 1: The Speaking God

The most common question I get asked as a pastor is this: Does God really speak? I always say the same thing: “He will. He does. He has! He is speaking to you today. All you have to do is listen to what he has to say.” 

Chapter 2: Static

When God seems so far away that we’re incapable of hearing his voice, He isn’t the One who moved. We created the distance. Nothing in life works as it should when the lines between God and us have been clipped by the distractions of life, stubborn independence, and outright disobedience. 

Chapter 3: Tuned In

When I work to win intimacy with Jesus more than I work to win an argument with another person, I start looking like a modern-day prophet using His words to strengthen, encourage, and build others up. 

PART TWO: The Conversation between You and Yourself

Is your self-talk helpful or harmful as you approach someone else? 

Chapter 4: Which Voice Wins? 

I envision God watching us as we get reeled in by the lies people and the devil tell us that imply we’re useless or hopeless or stupid or poor. As he watches, he’s thinking, Wait. Do I get a vote here at all? 

Chapter 5: Insidious Insecurity

When we spend our energies nursing our inadequacies, begging for the spotlight, or trying to keep a leg up on the competition, we forfeit every noble opportunity to live life as God meant us to live it. 

Chapter 6: Taking God at His Word

Negative self-talk won’t quiet itself. It simply has to be overcome. The battle strategy I’ve seen work best is to hit it with a few rounds of God’s Word. 

PART THREE: The Conversation between You and the Enemy

It’s absolutely crucial to acknowledge that you have a very real enemy and he is very interested in how you use your words. 

Chapter 7: Division unto Destruction

Whenever Satan sees us inching toward godliness, he takes aim. Whenever he sees us activate our faith by responding to hatred with kindness, he fires. 

Chapter 8: Jumping the Fence

What is stored up in your heart is going to come out, so if what you’ve stored up isn’t positive, wait until you have the chance to swap out anger for grace. For now the pie hole ought to be shut:)

Chapter 9: What Forgiveness Always Achieves

When we walk around eager to extend forgiveness, we become the most loving versions of ourselves we’ve ever been because we’ve released the burden of putting people who hurt us in their places. 

PART FOUR: The Conversation between You and Me

I find it astounding how kind, timely, and wise the words I speak to others can be when I’m faithful to steward the other three conversations well. 

Chapter 10: It Sounds a Lot Like Love

That spirit of forgiveness, compassion, and grace can disappear in a jiffy. This is why you and I must keep coming back to God and spend time in his presence so our hearts will soften toward the people he created. 

Chapter 11: Weird-Free Prophecy

Prophecy is hearing God’s input for another person and then opening your mouth to speak it to him or her. Paul encouraged the believers at Corinth to pursue the gift of prophecy and let the Holy Spirit work through their lives. 

Chapter 12: Being Known for Weighty Words

I want to speak words that breathe life into weary souls, that inspire stagnant hearts, and that bring hope to disheartened souls. To do so, all I have to do is stay close to Jesus, and Jesus’ influence will come out through my words. 

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2CSeXkc

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The 5 Dysfunctions Of A Team

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I love the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” written by one of my favorite management coaches &  leader (Patrick Lencioni). I have read this book from front to back once, and have reviewed it multiple times. Lencioni says, “Teamwork—not finance, not strategy, not technology—remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Lencioni goes on to identify five key elements that can make or break a team. If you’ve ever been part of a really good team (or a really bad one), you will probably recognize the wisdom in these elements. I find this resource helpful, insightful, and very practical. Enjoy my review of the book, taken right from it. 

The founder of a company that grew to a billion dollars in annual revenue once told me, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” 

Teamwork—not finance, not strategy, not technology—remains the ultimate competitive advantage. But teams, because they are made up of imperfect human beings, are inherently dysfunctional. 

Understanding and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions

Organizations fail to achieve teamwork because they unknowingly fall prey to five natural but dangerous pitfalls, which I call the five dysfunctions of a team. These dysfunctions are not five distinct issues, but they form an interrelated model, making susceptibility to even one of them potentially lethal for the success of a team. 

1. The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation of trust. 

2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction which is fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments. 

3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team which is lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings. 

4. This lack of real commitment and buy-in causes team members to develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team. 

5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team. 

Like a chain with just one link broken, teamwork deteriorates if even a single dysfunction is allowed to flourish. Now imagine how members of truly cohesive teams behave: 

1. They trust one another because of shared experiences over time, multiple instances of follow-through and credibility, and an in-depth understanding of the unique attributes of team members. 

2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas because they realize that healthy conflict is productive. 

3. They commit to decisions and plans of action even without perfect information. When everyone has put their opinions and perspectives on the table they confidently commit to a decision knowing they have tapped into the collective wisdom of the entire group. 

4. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans, thereby demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance. 

5. They focus on the achievement of collective results by clarifying those results and rewarding only those behaviors and actions that contribute to those results. 

The reality is that teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time. Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and a focus on results so elusive. 

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2ChvkmB

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The Neighboring Church

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What does modern-day evangelism look like? I just read “The Neighboring Church”, by Rick Rusaw & Brian Mavis, and in the book they suggest that it may look a lot like “olden-day” evangelism—one that takes the Great Commandment about loving our neighbors seriously. They make a strong case that learning to love our neighbors is more effective than launching big programs in a church. I found this book challenging and encouraging, and I hope you will get as much out of it as I did. Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book. 

On our journey to being a church our community would miss, we stopped asking, “Are we the best church in the community?” and started asking, “Are we the best church
for the community?”This shift caused us to do a lot of rethinking by creating a slew of follow-up questions. What does it look like to be the best church for the community? Do we know the answer to that, or do we need to be asking our community what that looks like? 

We found out that being the best church for the community meant being even more aware of cultural, environmental, political, societal, and religious trends. It meant we had to know what the community needed, not just what we thought they needed. We had to go outside of ourselves to get answers to our questions. 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”This verse can be interpreted with more than one meaning. It is commonly understood to mean “love your neighbor like you love yourself.” In other words, think of ways you would like to be loved, and love others the same way. The other way to understand this verse is “love your neighbor who is like yourself.”The context of the text supports this meaning. 

Love your neighbors, who you think are weird, because they are human. By the way, you’re weird too. Like you, they are amazing messes and made in the image of God and have fallen short of that image. This verse is an affirmation of the Imago Dei of all humanity and a confession that we all fall on the grace of God. All people, including ourselves, are flawed and sinful, but we need to love them because we ourselves commit the same sins. We’re alike in our weaknesses and frailties. We are to love those who do not seem worthy because we ourselves are unworthy and need God’s mercy. 

What do we hope to see come from this? To put it simply, we want to see changed lives and grace-filled neighborhoods. To be specific, obeying the Great Commandment can look like: 

• Knowing the names, histories, hopes, and hurts of our neighbors. 

• Praying for our neighbors and recognizing their gifts and encouraging them. 

• Inviting neighbors over for meals, throwing block parties and playing together. 

• Helping single parents raise their children. 

• Taking care of one another when someone falls ill. 

• Encouraging one another to pursue God’s dreams for their lives. 

• Consoling one another when we suffer losses. 

• Loving our neighbors because we are Christians, not because we are trying to make them Christians. 

• Inviting neighbors to join us in ministries to foster children, mentoring in public schools, serving meals to the elderly, etc. 

• Introducing people to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. 

The goal of loving your neighbors is to be best at what Jesus said matters most. We love our neighbors because we are Christians, not because we are trying to make them Christians. We need to stop hijacking the end game with other things. It happens so subtly. We love our neighbors so they will go to church. We love our neighbors so they will join our small group. Those motives fall short. Those motives turn people to be loved into projects to be directed. If those are your motives, will you give up on them if they don’t cooperate soon enough? Will you stop loving them when they go to church or small group? What’s your motivation now? People will know when they are a project. 

The beauty of neighboring is that it is one hundred percent comprehensive. Not everyone can be a pastor, teacher, elder, Sunday school teacher, or usher, but everyone is a neighbor. Everyone can get into neighboring and no one can opt out. Neighboring is comprehensive in that sense, too. Your church has neighbors that fit nearly every demographic: young, old, single, married, adults, teenagers, apartment dwellers, soccer moms, HOA presidents, bachelors, grandmothers, and retired couples. What you do is comprehensive as well. It’s pastoral care, divorce care, children, youth, women, men, discipleship, prayer, Bible study, sports... everything is encompassed in neighboring. No wonder Jesus said it was the Great Commandment. 

Loving your neighbor isn’t about religion but compassion. The hero in the parable of the Good Samaritan is the guy who showed up and did something. The invitation for us is to get outside our transactional comfort zones and travel into a zone that is transformational. To transform something means to change or alter it, and some dictionaries even define it as “transforming through radical change.” It is being loyal to God and our fellow man who is our literal neighbor. 

While we have done several series around the Great Commandment, when our church taught this series it seemed to have more stickiness than others. We explored four habits of building better relationships and contextualized them to neighboring. With each topic, we created a “be” statement to challenge us and an action step to follow, because love, by Jesus’ definition, is an action, not a feeling. 

• Stay: Let’s be a people who love our neighbors by getting to know them. 

• Pray: Let’s be a people who love our neighbors by praying for them. 

• Play: Let’s be a people who love our neighbors by offering hospitality. 

• Say: Let’s be a people who love our neighbors by sharing Christ with them. 

This series didn’t end with a “bring a friend to church” day. Rather, our hope was that this series would be a launching pad to living a lifestyle of obedience to the Great Commandment. 

The world is changing, and the church is competing for people’s hearts and attention in ways we haven’t had to before. What used to work may not work anymore. “What’s next?” is our rally cry. Maybe what’s next isn’t a new thing; it’s possible it is a really old thing. It’s possible that in looking forward we may need to look back. In a culture that is demanding what’s real and authentic, it’s possible that if we were better at the two things Jesus said mattered most, we just might help people find what they have been looking for. Does it cost more? Probably. Is it harder to produce? No doubt. Jesus never said it would be easy, just that everything about faith hangs on two things. Loving God and loving our neighbors. If we help people hinge the door of their lives on those two things, we may end up finding out what’s next! 

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2DFgiqX

 

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Deep Work

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Do you want to do your best? Are you used to doing things the easy way, and living distracted? I

just finished reading the book “Deep Work”, by Cal Newport. You’ll like it! I’ve learned that

carving out time to think deeply about what we’re doing in life is highly necessary, and he also

lays out what is involved to do our best work. It definitely will challenge you. Enjoy a synopsis of

this book…..

 

Deep work refers to the professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free

concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value,

improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of

value out of your current intellectual capacity. We now know from decades of research in both

psychology and neuroscience that the state of mental strain that accompanies deep work is also

necessary to improve your abilities. The ubiquity of deep work among influential individuals is

important to emphasize because it stands in sharp contrast to the behavior of most modern

knowledge workers (a group that’s rapidly forgetting the value of going deep). 

 

In an age of network tools, knowledge workers increasingly replace deep work with the shallow

alternative which includes constantly sending and receiving e-mail messages like human network

routers, with frequent breaks for quick hits of distraction. Larger efforts that would be well served

by deep thinking, such as forming a new business strategy or writing an important grant

application, get fragmented into distracted dashes that produce muted quality. 

 

Current economic thinking argues that the unprecedented growth and impact of technology are

creating a massive restructuring of our economy. In this new economy, two groups will have a

particular advantage: those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines, and

those who are the best at what they do. 

 

What’s the secret to landing in these lucrative sectors of the widening digital divide? I argue that

the following two core abilities are crucial: (1) The ability to quickly master hard things, and (2)

the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. Most of the intelligent

machines driving the Great Restructuring are significantly more complex to understand and

master. To join the group of those who can work well with these machines requires that you hone

your ability to master hard things. These technologies change rapidly, so this process of

mastering hard things never ends. You must be able to do it quickly, again and again.

This ability to learn hard things quickly, of course, isn’t just necessary for working well with

intelligent machines, it also plays a key role in the attempt to become a superstar in just about

any field, even those that have little to do with technology. 

 

Now consider the second core ability from the list shown earlier, which is producing at an elite

level. If you want to become a superstar, mastering the relevant skills necessary, but not sufficient.

You must then transform that latent potential into tangible results that people value. How

does one cultivate these core abilities?

 

It’s here that we arrive at a central thesis of this book. The two core abilities just described

depend on your ability to perform deep work. If you haven’t mastered this foundational skill,

you’ll struggle to learn hard things or produce at an elite level. To produce at your peak level,

you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from

distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work. If

you’re not comfortable going deep for extended periods of time, it’ll be difficult to get

your performance to the peak levels of quality and quantity increasingly necessary to thrive

professionally. Unless your talent and skills absolutely dwarf those of your competition, the deep

workers among them will out produce you. 

 

It seems that in today’s business landscape, many knowledge workers, bereft of other ideas, are

turning toward this old definition of productivity in trying to solidify their value in the otherwise

bewildering landscape of their professional lives. Knowledge workers, I’m arguing, are

tending toward increasingly visible busyness because they lack a better way to demonstrate their

value. If you send and answer e-mails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly,

if you weigh in on instant message systems within seconds when someone poses a new question,

or if you roam your open office bouncing ideas of all whom you encounter, you seem busy in a

public manner. If you’re using busyness as a proxy for productivity, then these behaviors can

seem crucial for convincing yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.  

 

The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained. Once your brain has become

accustomed to on-demand distraction it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to

concentrate. Once you’re wired for distraction, you crave it. Instead of scheduling the occasional

break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from

focus to give in to distraction. To make this suggestion more concrete, let’s make the simplifying

assumption that Internet use is synonymous with seeking distracting stimuli. Similarly, let’s

consider working in the absence of the Internet to be synonymous with more focused work.

With these rough categorizations established, the strategy works as follows: schedule in advance

when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times. I suggest that you

keep a notepad near your computer at work. On this pad, record the next time you’re allowed to

use the Internet. Until you arrive at that time, absolutely no network connectivity is allowed, no

matter how tempting. 

 

The value of deep work vastly outweighs the value of shallow, but this doesn’t mean that you

must quixotically pursue a schedule in which all of your time is invested in depth. For one thing, a

non-trivial amount of shallow work is needed to maintain most knowledge work jobs. You might

be able to avoid checking your e-mail every ten minutes, but you won’t likely last long if you

never respond to important messages. In this sense, we should see the goal of this rule as taming

shallow work’s footprint in your schedule, not eliminating it. 

 

The deep life, of course, is not for everybody. It requires hard work and drastic changes to your

habits, but if you’re willing to sidestep these comforts and fears, and struggle to deploy your

mind to its fullest capacity to create things that matter, then you’ll discover that depth generates

a life rich with productivity and meaning. Writer Winifred Gallagher said, “I’ll live the focused life,

because it’s the best kind there is.” I agree, and I hope you’ll agree too. 

 

nterested in reading this book in its entirety? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2ybb5na

 

 

 

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Kingdom Triangle

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How does the church effectively confront the chaos of the age we live in. That’s what J.P. Moreland explores in what I’m calling an outstanding book of the 21st century, “Kingdom Triangle.” He says the church needs to recover three things: A Christian worldview, a focus on the renovation of the soul, and the ability to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. This book has been so  thought-provoking for me that I thought I would should share some highlights with you. If you long to see the church operate with the same impact it had in the first century, you will benefit from reading it. Here’s a overview from the book. Enjoy!

Preface

Make no mistake about it: The crisis of our age requires nothing less than a revolution of those who live in, proclaim, and seek to advance the Kingdom. 

Chapter 1: The Hunger for Drama in a Thin World

Currently, a three-way worldview struggle rages in our culture between ethical monotheism, postmodernism and scientific naturalism. People under the influence of naturalist and postmodern ideas no longer believe that there is any ultimate meaning to life that can be known. These folks have given up on seeking that meaning and instead are living for happiness. Today, the good life is a life of happiness. But if happiness is overemphasized or made the focus of one’s life, it leads to depression, a loss of purpose in life, and a deep-seated sense of fragmentation. In short, it ruins your life. 

Chapter 2: The Naturalist Story

The dominant worldview of Western culture is scientific naturalism, which says, “The only sort of knowledge of reality is that which can and has been quantified and tested in the laboratory. If you can measure it and test it scientifically, you can know it. If not, the topic is nothing but private opinion and idle speculation.” Unfortunately, physicality is woefully inadequate to account for the world as it really is. People pretend that there are no serious implications for individual and social life that follow from accepting a naturalist worldview. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Chapter 3: The Postmodern Story

Postmodernism is primarily a reinterpretation of what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge. More broadly, it represents a form of cultural relativism about such things as reality, truth, reason, value, linguistic meaning, self, and other notions. In a postmodern view, there is no such thing as objective reality, truth, value, reason, and so forth. Postmodernists generally deny the notion of objective truth. Reality for postmodernism either does not exist or we have no direct access to it. 

Chapter 4: From Drama to Deadness in Five Steps

Naturalism and postmodernism both disagree with Christianity on one important point: there is no non-empirical knowledge and no objective immaterial world. Many people believe religious claims are neither factual in nature nor subject to rational evaluation. Even many Christians accept the claim that religion is a matter of faith. The contemporary version of tolerance, popular in general culture, claims that one should not even judge that other people’s viewpoints are wrong. 

Chapter 5: The Recovery of Knowledge

The possession of knowledge is crucial for life. In essence, knowledge is the ability to represent things as they are on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. Knowledge provides truth about reality along with the skillful ability to interact with reality. This is no time for the church to adopt an anti-intellectual approach to knowledge and faith. 

Chapter 6: Renovation of the Soul

It has never been more critical to weigh Jesus’ words about “happiness” and one’s basic approach to life than today as we live in a culture united in support of a perspective diametrically opposed to his. Jesus’ invitation to “follow him” is actually an invitation to enter a different kind of life and to learn from Jesus himself how to live well. If one wants to become a flourishing person of character with a deep sense of well-being, then one must learn to give one’s life away for Jesus’ sake. This brings true happiness. The Christian life requires transformation, and a spiritual discipline is a tool for laying aside bad habits and forming new ones more consistent with the nature of God’s kingdom. 

Chapter 7: Restoration of the Kingdom’s Miraculous Power

Evangelicals are often too quick to dismiss healing, demonic deliverance, miracles, and prophetic words of knowledge and wisdom. But in imitation of Jesus’ ministry, the church is invited to exercise the miraculous power of the Spirit in the service of the Kingdom. We must put into place the Kingdom Triangle meaning the three legs that provide a balanced, healthy way forward: recovery of knowledge and the Christian mind, renovation of the heart and spiritual formation, and restoration of miraculous power. All three are crucial if we are to meet the needs surfaced by the crisis of our age. 

Conclusion: Confronting the Crisis of Our Age

Make no mistake about it, you are here to be an apprentice of the Lord Jesus to learn how to live your life well as part of God’s broader purposes. This is your calling, this is your destiny, and this is your only chance to have a life of genuine, full human flourishing. The Kingdom Triangle must be at the core of your life and strategy. The first leg provides a thoughtful sense of truth, knowledge, and direction to this approach to life. The second leg gives passion to the journey and allows one to lay aside baggage that gets in the way. The third leg provides the faith and confidence to risk more and more for God, and expect him to actually be a co-worker in the only sensible life plan available. 

Interested in reading more? You can purchase the book here: http://amzn.to/2AnC8QV

 

 

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Thanksgiving Quotes

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Thanksgiving is here in the United States. Even outside of the USA, you can benefit from a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude. Here are fifteen quotes to get you started:

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.” –Amy Grant

“Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then they discover once a year is way too often.” – Johnny Carson

“I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me.” – Marcus Samuelsson

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” – W.J. Cameron

“Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck

“An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.” – Irv Kupcient

“Thanksgiving Day comes…once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” – Edward Sandford Martin

“I like football. It’s a great way to avoid conversation with your family at Thanksgiving.” – Craig Ferguson

“Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home.” – Wilbur D. Nesbit

“I absolutely adore Thanksgiving. It’s the only holiday I insist on making myself.” - Ina Garten

“Thanksgiving is America’s national chow down feast, the one occasion each year when gluttony becomes a patriotic duty.” – Michael Dresser

“My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day and leave out the gratitude.” – E.P. Powell

“On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.” – William Jennings Bryan

“There is no better opportunity to receive more than to be thankful for what you already have. Thanksgiving opens the windows of opportunity for ideas to flow your way.” - Jim Rohn

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Thanks + Giving

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Rethink the Order

We celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow in the United States. It’s a holiday that I love for many reasons.

A tradition in many homes on Thanksgiving is to ask, “What are you most thankful for?”

Growing up, I heard all types of answers from the serious to the hilarious.

The focus on thankfulness and gratitude is a welcome one in a world that’s often negative and draining. It’s impossible to feel entitled when you’re busy thanking those who have made a difference in your life. Expressing thankfulness has numerous benefits from reducing depression to boosting your immune system.

But today I was thinking about the holiday differently.

Because it’s not only about being thankful and grateful.

The equation, in my way of thinking, is backwards. We often think of it this way:

Giving ⇒ thanks.

We think of Thanksgiving as the time to give thanks. We stop and show appreciation, express gratitude for all that we have in our lives. And that’s good.

But perhaps the equation is supposed to be exactly as stated:

Thanks ⇒ giving

Instead of giving thanks as the end result, it’s the beginning. We should give to others as a result of our thanks. In other words, because of our thankfulness, we are to be giving. Does that way of looking at it change anything?

It does for me. I realize that I can use this opportunity to do more for others.

Instead of simply expressing thankfulness, what about getting active in the giving part of this equation? Thanksgiving is not only expressing thankful appreciation but also about paying it forward.

As you gather for Thanksgiving this year, remember that it’s not about the turkey, the mashed potatoes or the stuffing. It’s about the two words: THANKS and GIVING.

So, give THANKS.

1. Send some thank you notes.

2. Meditate and pray.

3. Recognize everyone you can who has made a difference in your life.

4. Express your gratitude for all your many blessings.

And then start GIVING.

A few ideas:

1. Get involved with a local charity.

2. Volunteer at a hospice, hospital, or nursing home.

3. Give financially. If you have the means, write some checks to some charitable organizations.

4. Bake something for a friend or neighbor.

5. Invite others over for dinner. Know someone who doesn’t have family around? Make it a Thanksgiving dinner to remember.

6. Work at the local homeless shelter. And yes, even clean up the dishes without being asked…

Rethink the Recipe

****Be thankful and get giving. It’s the recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving!****

 

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KidLead

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I just arrived back from England (Oxford & London), as well as South Africa (Johannesburg & Cape Town). All locations focused on Equipping leaders, and specifically emerging young ones too. So I thought it appropriate to share one of the best resources on helping you do just that. It’s the book “KidLead”.  In it, Alan Nelson believes that we can, and should, start developing leaders when they are young. In KidLead, he argues persuasively that we should not wait until potential leaders are 25+ years old to develop them; we can start much earlier. He gives some great ideas for how to spot and develop young leaders, both in the home and outside it. For anyone with a passion for young people or leadership, this book will very encouraging and insightful. Enjoy the synopsis……

The goal of this book is to unleash leadership potential. Every child is filled with incredible potential in a variety of areas. Unfortunately, the typical leader in our culture doesn’t begin to receive formal leadership training until the ages of twenty-five through thirty-five, if at all. How sad that kids have to wait so long to not only lead but also to receive skill development in this area. As a result, we miss a very critical time in the point of young leaders’ lives when we can teach them the character components that may make or break their leading as adults. 

Honesty, honor, integrity, servanthood, commitment, and responsibility are vital qualities in leading. Character is very important for effective leading, so learning leadership in the context of ethics is essential. When we interweave character issues with skills, we increase the likelihood these won’t be separated during leading. We should not assume leaders possess these qualities or understand how they apply to real-world situations. Good leadership development focuses on this intersection because when it fails to do this, collisions will occur. 

The good news is that whether you’re a leader or not, you can grow the young leaders around you. Here is how: 

Look at your child as a young leader. See his or her potential. Leadership development of your child begins between your ears, with how you think about him or her. 

Treat your child as a young leader. The reason why we need to begin seeing our children as leaders is because this will directly affect how we treat them. How we treat them influences how they see themselves and, as a result, how they react. 

Develop at-home opportunities to lead. You can, with a little tweaking, transform everyday activities into leadership training opportunities. The main point is that you can give your child a big head start in leadership by transitioning from parent to leadership coach in any number of ongoing chores and events. 

Discuss leadership situations as they arise from school, news, movie and work. Nearly everyday, you’ll have life events, stories, and media that provide opportunities to talk about leadership, whether in brief sound bytes or more prolonged discussions. The goal is to make your child aware of situations where leaders influence others—for good and for bad—in order to create an unconscious orientation so that they can “read” leadership situations. 

Find opportunities for leading in the community. The key, as in all leadership projects, is that you have a clear objective, that there are multiple people involved, and that you truly let your child lead, as opposed to telling him or her what to do and then calling the task leadership. 

Introduce your child to other leaders. Leaders recognize other leaders. A child with leadership aptitude will have a certain amount of natural affinity with other leaders regardless of their age. When you are meeting someone who is a leader in his or her organization or field, go out of your way to have your child meet this person. 

Help your child find a mentor. One thing parents can do to nurture their young leaders is help them find mentors who lead in different organizations and with varying style. 

Seek formal and informal leadership training. When we detect musical talent, we get our child music lessons. When we discern academic ability, we move them toward AP classes and Gifted and Talented programs. When we observe athletic ability, we hire coaching from a pro and seek a competitive-level team. Why not the same with leadership? 

We teach that KidLead training programs are not substitutes for parents and guardians being involved with leadership development in a child’s everyday life. The difference between a parent growing a great grown-up and being a leader developer is that the latter establishes leadership situations. There are three basic ingredients needed to constitute a “leadership” situation: 

1. There needs to be at least two other people involved on the “team.” Great life skills are numerous, but leading is about helping others achieve together. Being in charge of one person is okay, but there are far more dynamics for learning leadership when you have a minimum of three. 

2. There needs to be a measurable goal. What is expected? Measuring outcomes is important, but be sure that the objective involves setting direction, organizing and/or accomplishing it in a new way. 

3. There needs to be legitimate authority. Although you’re ultimately responsible as the parent, your young leader needs to know that s/he has a certain amount of authority to determine how to accomplish the task. This is room to spread his or her wings. Being in charge creates confidence. 

Most importantly, debrief after the project. Feedback questions are very important to the learning process, but they often get overlooked because we don’t make time for them and they can feel anticlimactic to the activity. “What went well? What didn’t go well? What could you do next time to be more effective?” Avoid scolding or punishing. Keep the questions neutral and matter-of-fact, and be very affirming. Treat your young leader the way you’d like to be treated as an adult in the workplace. 

We do have the power to significantly improve the future by influencing those who are and will be influential. I can think of no greater legacy than to leave the world in the hands of people like these. Remember, if you want to change the world, focus on leaders. If you want to change leaders, focus on them when they’re young. 

Interested in reading this book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2mMacks

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Mission Drift

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It’s very easy for any organization, church, or ministry to get off-track and lose sight of its mission. But it is possible to avoid it, and possible to recover from it when it happens. A book I just finished reading, “Mission Drift”, by Peter Greer & Chris Horst, takes a good look at some of the causes of that drift, and they give some prescriptions for how to avoid it. I found it very helpful, and insightful while I’ve been traveling. Here’s a synopsis from the book…..

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen. Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare, organizations routinely drift from their original purpose, and most will never return to their original intent. It has happened repeatedly throughout history. 

What is a Mission True organization? In its simplest form, Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul. 

This doesn’t mean Mission True organizations don’t change and it doesn’t mean they aren’t striving for excellence. In fact, their understanding of their core identity will demand they change, and their understanding of Scripture will demand they strive for the very highest levels of excellence. But growth and professionalism are subordinate values. To remain Mission True is to adapt and grow, so long as that adaptation and growth does not alter the core identity. 

Our initial research into Mission True organizations surprised us. In the interviews
we conducted, the first response we heard was almost always “Mission Drift is a daily battle.” As we heard the stories, we developed a simple framework. On a grid, we plotted two variables: Clarity of Christian mission and intentionality of safeguarding it. In other words: Do you know who you are? Are you protecting your identity? 

Again and again in our research, we saw how the second law of thermodynamics plays out within faith-based organization’s mission. Without generous doses of prayer and management, the gravitational current of secularization will have an unstoppable tug. Expansion, professionalization, and corporatization don’t always dampen an organization’s mission vibrancy, but they often do. To avoid it, we must keep our eyes focused on protecting what matters most. 

“The single greatest reason for Mission Drift is the lack of a clear mission and vision,” reflected David Wills, president of National Christian Foundation. “Crystal clear vision is the starting point for avoiding Mission Drift. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”Your company could bring in the greatest inventors to produce ideas and many of these ideas could be very good. But you continually ask yourself if the ideas align with your purpose. Mission True organizations distinguish between guarding the mission and guarding the means. Knowing who you are is the first line of defense against drift; it allows you to determine if adjustments are equipping you to better accomplish your mission or slowly moving you away from your foundation. 

“It’s the board,” stated Al Mueller without hesitation. “It’s all about the board. Everything hinges on them.” As CEO at Excellence in Giving, a philanthropic advisory firm, Mueller advises high-capacity donors and organizations they support. For him, Mission Drift starts and ends with the men and women sitting on the board. They set policy, guide strategy, and manage the senior executive. They govern the organization. But even more, they protect the mission. Board members are guardians.“Boards of faith-based organizations are often filled with well-meaning people,” shared Lowell Haines, a lawyer, board member at Taylor University, and consultant to many other boards. “But most boards don’t realize it is their fiduciary duty to remain loyal to the mission of their organizations. This is the law.” 

To prevent Mission Drift, organizations require as much process, rigor, and intentionality in recruiting board members as they do in recruiting key executives. Yet often the process lacks consistency or even a clear method. If a high-powered person expresses an interest in the mission, we sidestep the process and move forward at full speed. Slack board recruitment is one of the primary causes of Mission Drift. If the board isn’t composed of folks who live out the values of the organization they lead, the organization will drift into secularization. 

Mission True organizations are obsessed with issues of the heart. They believe everything they do is downstream from who they are. Without attention to personal faith, they are without an anchor and left to drift. Through words, actions, and behaviors, leaders either undermine or reinforce the mission. 

To remain on mission, people need a deeper definition of success and a more thoughtful approach to metrics. But they must start by recognizing that there is no perfect tool and that all measurement is imperfect. When drafting assessments, organizations should measure ways to best advance the mission, as well as identify issues that could threaten it. 

As a starting point, organizations should begin with the following yes-or-no questions as a self-analysis: 

1.  Have we translated our mission into specific and measurable goals?

2  Are we asking those we serve whether programs are effective and having impact? 

3. Are we measuring program outcomes against benchmarks or averages?

4. Have we completed independent evaluations of program out-comes?

5. Do we use an internal scorecard to track key performance indicators?

Mission True organizations move beyond the paralysis of perfection and get to work measuring what matters most. 

Today, you have the privilege of choosing which path your organization, church, and ministry will take. Will you follow the path toward Mission Drift or will you have the intentionality, courage, and resolve to follow a path of faithfulness? Imagine the potential impact of a generation choosing to remain Mission True! 

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: https://goo.gl/kddp6M

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Smarter - Faster - Better

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At NewHope-RoundRock.org we just took a flyer on canceling church gatherings on the 5th Sunday’s of the months that have 5th Sunday’s. Basically we the church are reaching out to the community, versus always gathering but never making an impact. Novel idea huh?:) 

This book,  Smarter, Better, Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, has helped me feel comfortable taking more calculated risks and identifies a small number of core ideas that consistently help both companies, churches, and individuals get more done, more efficiently. I found it helpful and challenging; I trust you will as well. Here’s a synopsis of the the book. Enjoy! 

Introduction

This book is the result of my investigations into how productivity works, and my effort to understand why some people and companies are so much more productive than everyone else. Productivity isn’t about working more or sweating harder. Rather, productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways. 

Chapter 1: Motivation

Motivation is a skill that can be learned and honed. The trick is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. To self-motivate we need to see our choices not just as expressions of control but also as affirmations of our values and goals. Self-motivation is a choice we make because it is part of something bigger and more emotionally rewarding than the immediate task that needs doing. 

Chapter 2: Teams

Some might hypothesize that “good teams” are successful because their members were smarter. But research shows that good teams succeed not because of the innate qualities of team members, but because of how they treat one another. There were two behaviors that all the good teams shared. First, all the members of the good teams spoke in roughly the same proportion of time. Second, the good teams tested as having “high average social sensitivity” toward one another. How teams work matters more than who is on them. 

Chapter 3: Focus

To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention: we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge. When you’re driving to work, force yourself to envision your day. While you’re sitting in a meeting, describe to yourself what you’re seeing and what it means. If you are a parent, anticipate what your children will say at the dinner table, so you’ll notice what goes unmentioned or a stray comment you see as a warning sign. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next. 

Chapter 4: Goal Setting

Making a decision and moving on to the next question feels productive. But there are risks associated with a high need for closure. When people begin craving the emotional satisfaction that comes from making a decision, or when they require a sensation of being productive in order to stay calm, they are more likely to make hasty decisions and less likely to reconsider an unwise choice. When people rush toward decisions simply because it makes them feel like they are getting something done, missteps are more likely to occur. 

Chapter 5: Managing Others

Employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision-making authority and when they believe their colleagues are committed to their success. A sense of control can fuel motivation, but for that drive to produce insights and innovations, people need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored, that their mistakes won’t be held against them. And they need to know that everyone else has their back. A culture of commitment and trust doesn’t guarantee that an idea will bear fruit. But it’s the best bet for making sure the right conditions are in place when a great idea comes along. 

Chapter 6: Decision Making

Making good decisions relies on forecasting the future, but forecasting is an imprecise, often terrifying science because it forces us to confront how much we don’t know. The paradox of learning how to make better decisions is that it requires developing a comfort with doubt. How do we learn to make better decisions? We must force ourselves to envision various futures by holding contradictory scenarios in our minds simultaneously, and then expose ourselves to a wide spectrum of successes and failures to develop an intuition about which forecasts are more or less likely to come true. 

Chapter 7: Innovation

Creativity can’t be reduced to a formula. At its core, it needs novelty, surprise, and other elements that cannot be planned in advance to seem fresh and new. There is no checklist that, if followed, delivers innovation on demand. But the creative process is different. We can create the conditions that help creativity to flourish. We know, for example, that innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways. We know that, sometimes, a little disturbance can help jolt us out of the ruts that even the most creative thinkers fall into, as long as those shake-ups are the right size. 

Chapter 8: Absorbing Data

The people who are most successful at learning, which means those who are able to digest the data surrounding them, who absorb insights embedded in their experience and who take advantage of information owing past, are the ones who know how to use disfluency to their advantage. They know the best lessons are those that force us do something and to manipulate information. When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we must force ourselves to do something with the data. Though we can track our spending and cholesterol, we too often eat and spend in ways we know we should avoid. 

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2idpcCd

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One Big Thing

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I just finished reading the book, One Big Thing,  by Phil Cooke. He talks about the importance of identifying your purpose, or your “one big thing,” and really committing to it. He hits on some of the obstacles and challenges and presents a way to move forward. This book will both challenge and inspire you. I really liked it. I hope you will as well. Here’s a synopsis below……

You are facing two big questions: What am I supposed to do with my life? In a hyper- competitive, cluttered, and distracted world, how do I get noticed? The intersection of those two questions is what this book is about. 

Who’s Painting the Portrait of Your Life? 

Recently I was in a museum looking at the portraits of political, artistic, social, and military leaders, and I was gripped by a distinct sense of“intention”in their faces. These were leaders from another century who lived strategically, and with purpose. They had serious ambition, and lived lives of intentionality. I wondered about the place of ambition in my own life. What would have happened had I lived my life more intentionally? 

Do We Really Have a Destiny? 

Your destiny is a moving target, and that’s why I prefer to use the word purpose or your “One Big Thing.” Your purpose is bigger than any obstacles, limitations, or failures. Nothing can change the fact that you have a unique reason for being here, and there’s still time for it to play out. It took me years wandering down many blind alleys before
I started noticing the connections, honestly facing up to what I was actually good at doing versus what I wanted to do. 

Why One Big Thing? 

Are you going to continue trying a little of this and a little of that, being unremarkable at a lot of things? Or are you going to find out what your One Big Thing is, let go of everything else, and pursue that with all your passion? When it comes to your career, calling, or dream, understand that you won’t get noticed for being pretty good at everything. 

The Power of One Big Thing

The most important thing you can possibly accomplish with your life is a legacy of influence. Whom do you want to influence? Start thinking about the answer to that question now because it will help you focus on your OBT. 

The Power of Perception

Your one big thing is your purpose for living, while your brand involves your perception surrounding that thing. In other words, what do people think of when they think of you? I define brand as “a compelling story that surrounds a product, person, or organization.” I believe God made everyone unique, and finding that distinctive combination is the key to understanding your One Big Thing. 

The Power of Values

I would say that most unsuccessful people are unsuccessful because they either can’t or won’t decide on the important priorities in their lives. The secret to understanding your priorities is values. Values determine what’s important and help determine your daily decisions. Your ability to change your life is directly connected to your ability to make choices and to take responsibility for those choices. 

What’s your One Big Thing? 

Begin looking for ways to focus more on your strengths and less on your weaknesses. I spent years thinking I was capable of roles totally outside my zone, and it wasn’t until I realized my real strengths and weaknesses that I was free to let go of the things that were holding me back. 

The Map of Your Future

Your One Big Thing is really the quest for what you were put on the earth to accomplish. Start by considering what comes easy in life for you. Consider what you have done that made people notice. Another important signpost is discovering a cause you love. On the other hand, the thing you hate the most could be the problem you were born to fix. 

Become a Force to be Reckoned With

In a digital culture, only the messages that actually connect will make an impact. In a sea of competition, the quickest way to get noticed is to be completely original. Stop trying to be like someone else and start looking deep into your life for what makes your message, story, or project unique and different. 

Just When You Thought It Would Be Easy

I’m convinced a significant number of people fail not because they aren’t talented, determined, or passionate, but simply because they get distracted. Stop doing what other people think is urgent, and start focusing on what matters to you. 

It’s Never Too Late

It’s never too late to discover your one big thing. Perhaps you’ve read this book and even though you’re good at your job, perhaps even brilliant, you’ve also realized you’re on the wrong path. What do you do? Uproot, change everything, and step into the unknown, or turn away from what you know is the truth, and carry on as usual? 

Discovering your OBT and then stepping out to pursue its reality will be the greatest adventure of your life. When that happens, work becomes passion, and you will join the ranks of the very few who have accepted the risk, calculated the peril, and leaped off the ledge. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2xP2xa0

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Be Mean About The Vision

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The primary job of every leader is to keep the vision front and center in the organization. But that’s easier said than done. The book I just recently read, Be Mean About the Vision, by Shawn Lovejoy, identifies ways churches and organizations can drift from their vision, and identifies ways to either keep that from happening or get back on track. This is a book every leader can benefit from. Here’s a synopsis….

CHAPTER ONE: Being Mean

One definition of the word mean is “to have an intended purpose.” Being “mean” about the vision is being intentional about the vision. If we’re not intentional about the vision, we will lose it. We will drift off course. We will end up going somewhere we don’t want to go and becoming something we don’t want to become. 

CHAPTER TWO: It All Starts with Vision

None of us actually invents the vision for our lives, churches, and organizations. We were created by God for His purposes, so we discover God’s vision for our lives through our relationship with Him. I believe we will make a mess of things if we skip our personal wrestling-with-God process to discover our unique mission. 

CHAPTER THREE: Vision and Success

I truly believe that any organization can be successful if three key points are in place: if the vision is clear, if it is compelling, and if there is consistency over time. We don’t need to have a revolutionary idea that no one has ever thought of to be successful. We don’t have to be the best communicator in the world. We don’t have to do it like someone else is doing it. 

CHAPTER FOUR: A Vision We’re Willing to Die For

If your vision ever has a chance of becoming a reality, it must be such a deep-seated conviction that you’re willing to do anything to see it through. You must believe the vision is even bigger than you. We need to know that at some point in the future, we will be asked to risk everything for the vision. 

CHAPTER FIVE: Keeping the Vision Alive in Me

Because I am a leader, everyone is depending on me to maintain the passion and energy that vision requires. They’re counting on me to regularly run to the source, fill up my vision bucket time and again and then challenge everyone else to keep doing the same. If I grow weary, everyone else will. Before we can cast the vision to others, we have to begin with ourselves. 

CHAPTER SIX: Keeping the Vision Alive in Others

Our next leadership task is to pass it on so that others can make it their own. We believe God has spoken to us—and the way we communicate should demonstrate that. People are more often persuaded by passion than logic. What our listeners need from us is a white-hot passion for the vision. 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Identifying a Vision Hijacker

Every organization begins 100 percent unified around the vision. Over time, new people come on board who don’t understand what the organization really stands for. They certainly have different ideas about where it should go. Vision hitchhikers often become vision hijackers. If we don’t wake up and seize the wheel, we’re going to end up miles away from our destination. 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Keeping the Vision from Being Hijacked

We need to be slow in placing people into positions of power. I evaluate new team members by four equally critical components—character, capacity, chemistry, and calling. A leader’s primary job is to protect the vision. The sooner we confront any perceived vision drift the better. We don’t need to wait until we’re positive that there’s a problem to confront it. 

CHAPTER NINE: When It’s Not Working Out

We know it’s time to release someone when a team member refuses to change problematic behavior, or if they’ve reached their maximum capacity and moving them to another role doesn’t resolve the tension. When personal chemistry is not there, we owe it to the team member to acknowledge it. Once the decision is made to release a team member, act quickly. 

CHAPTER TEN: Getting Back on Track

What do we do when we look up and realize the vision has drifted? We should seek to get key players on board first. Everyone needs to know why change is good for them. Remembering why we do what we do always creates passion. Go public only after your leaders are 100 percent behind the proposed changes. 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Pleasing the Right Audience

Leaders must understand that people usually buy into us before they buy into the vision. But there’s a difference between pleasing people and being a people pleaser. At the end of the day, we must choose to please God first and foremost. He has called us and placed us where we are for a reason. He is ultimately the only audience we must please at all costs. 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Releasing the Vision to a New Leader

Leadership succession is one of the great challenges for churches. Founding and long-tenured pastors have historically not done so well. The most common approach to succession: A wonderful pastor moves to another church or retires, the church takes a long time to find a replacement, and the successor doesn’t last long. 

CONCLUSION: Don’t Be Afraid

We simply cannot lead if we’re making leadership decisions based on what will make everyone happy, or on who might leave or not leave, give or not give. So go out there and be mean about the vision! 

If you’re are interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase is here: http://amzn.to/2fzMmlh

 

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The 5 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

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Peter Drucker was widely considered to be the world's foremost pioneer of management theory, and had a special focus on nonprofit management. I’ve read and sought to apply much of what he’s taught me over the years through his teachings. I just finished reading again “The 5 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization” by Peter. In this book he goes through the five essential questions you need to ask in order to improve an organization's performance.

I won’t lie, it’s a challenging read, and you’ll really need to think about the things he says, but if you do, I think you'll find a lot of value. Here’s the synopsis of the book. Enjoy! 

For years, most nonprofits felt that good intentions were by themselves enough. But today, we know that because we don’t have a bottom line, we have to manage better than for-profit businesses. We have to have discipline rooted in our mission. We have to manage our limited resources of people and money for maximum effectiveness; and we have to think through very clearly what the results should be for our organization. 

The self-assessment process is a method for assessing what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you must do to improve an organization’s performance. It asks the very essential questions: What is our mission? Who is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? What is our plan? Self-assessment leads to action, which lacks meaning without it. To meet growing needs and succeed in a turbulent and exacting environment, social sector organizations must focus on mission, demonstrate accountability, and achieve results. 

Tomorrow’s society of citizens is getting the help being created through the social sector by your nonprofit organization. In that society, everybody is a leader, everybody is responsible, and everybody acts. Therefore, mission and leadership are essential for nonprofits. Self-assessment can and should convert good intentions and knowledge into effective action as soon as possible. 

Question 1: What is Our Mission? Every good mission statement reflects all your opportunities, competence, and commitment. You look first at the outside environment. The organization that starts from the inside and then tries to find places to put its resources is going to fritter itself away. Above all, it will focus on yesterday. Demographics and needs change. You must search out the accomplished facts or things that have already happened which present challenges and opportunities for the organization. Leadership must anticipate the future and attempt to mold it, bearing in mind that what happens next is where your opportunity lies. 

Question 2: Who is Our Customer? Not long ago, the word customer was rarely heard in the social sector. Nonprofit leaders would say, “We don’t have customers. That’s a marketing term. We have clients, recipients, or patients. We have audience members. We have students.” Rather than debate language, I ask, “Who must be satisfied for the organization to achieve results?” When you answer this question, you define your customer as one who values your service, who wants what you offer, and who feels it’s important to them. 

Often the customer is one step ahead of you. So you must know your customer—or quickly get to know them. Time and again you will have to ask, “Who is our customer?” because customers constantly change. The organization that is devoted to results will adapt and change as they do. 

Question 3: What Does the Customer Value? This may be the most important question, yet it is the one least often asked. Nonprofit leaders tend to answer it for themselves. “It’s the quality of our programs. It’s the way we improve the community.” People are so convinced they are doing the right thing, and so committed to their cause that they come to see the institution as an end in itself. But that’s a bureaucracy. Instead of asking, “Does it deliver value to our customers?” they ask,“Does it fit our rules?” That question not only inhibits performance but also destroys vision and dedication. 

To formulate a successful plan, you will need to understand each of your constituencies’ concerns, especially what they consider results in the long term. Integrating what customers value into the institution’s plan is almost an architectural process. It’s not too difficult to do once it’s understood, but it’s hard work. First, think through what knowledge you need to gain. Then listen to customers and accept what they value as objective fact. Make sure the customer’s voice is part of your discussions and decisions, not just during the self-assessment process, but continually. 

Question 4: What Are Our Results? The results of social sector organizations are always measured outside the organization in changed lives and changed condition. They are measured in people’s behavior, circumstances, health, hopes, and above all, in their competence and capacity. To further the mission, each nonprofit needs to determine what should be appraised and judged, then concentrate resources for these results. 

One of the most important questions for non-profit leadership is, “Do we produce results that are sufficiently outstanding for us to justify putting our resources in this area?” Need, alone, does not justify continuing, nor does tradition. You must match your mission, your concentration, and your results. Like the New Testament parable of the talents, your job is to invest your resources where the returns are manifold which is where you can have success. 

Question 5: What Is Our Plan? The self-assessment process leads to a plan that is a concise summation of the organization’s purpose and future direction. The plan encompasses mission vision, goals, objectives, action steps, a budget, and appraisal. Now comes the point to affirm or change the mission and set long-range goals. 

To further the mission, there must be action today and specific aims for tomorrow. Yet planning is not masterminding the future. Any attempt to do so is foolish as the future is unpredictable. In the face of uncertainties, planning defines the particular place you want to be and how you intend to get there. Planning does not substitute facts for judgment, or science for leadership. It recognizes the importance of analysis, courage, experience, intuition and even hunch. It is responsibility rather than technique. 

True self-assessment is never finished. Leadership requires constant re-sharpening and refocusing, never really being satisfied. I encourage you to keep asking the question, “What do we want to be remembered for?” It is a question that induces you to renew yourself, and the organization, because it pushes you to see what you can become. 

Interested in reading the entire book for yourself? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2xgKoQQ

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Triggers

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Our surroundings, or our environments, influence our behavior much more than we often realize. That’s what led me to read the book “Triggers”, by notable leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith.  He looks at how that happens, and even more importantly, how to rise above.

He gives several strategies for how to stop being triggered by our surroundings, and instead begin to rule over ourselves in fresh ways. If you’re interested in personal growth, this is a great book. Here’s a summary taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel in a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise placid demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us. If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. The result turns us into someone we do not recognize. 

It’s not just environmental intrusions and unpredicted events that upset our plans. It’s also our willful discounting of past experience. We make plans that are wholly contradicted by our previous actions. The planner who intends to make a deadline is also the myopic doer who forgets that he has never made a deadline in his life. The planner believes this time will be different. The doer extends the streak of missed deadlines. The yawning gap between planner and doer persists even when conditions for success are practically ideal. 

It’s a simple equation: to avoid undesirable behavior, avoid the environment where it is most likely to occur. If you don’t want to be lured into a tantrum by a colleague who gets on your nerves, avoid him. If you don’t want to indulge in late-night snacking, don’t wander into the kitchen looking for leftovers in the fridge. Of course, there are many moments in life when avoidance is impossible. We have to engage, even if doing so terrifies us (public speaking), or enrages us (visiting our in- laws), or turns us into jerks (conducting business with people we don’t respect). 

For years I’ve followed a nightly follow-up routine that I call Daily Questions. I have someone call me wherever I am in the world and listen while I answer a specific set of questions that I have written for myself. As an experiment, I tweaked the questions using the “Did I do my best to” formulation. Did I do my best to be happy? Did I do my best to find meaning? Did I do my best to have a healthy diet? Did I do my best to be a good husband? 

Using the words “did I do my best” added the element of trying into the equation. It injected personal ownership and responsibility into my question-and-answer process. After a few weeks using this checklist, I noticed an unintended consequence. Active questions themselves didn’t merely elicit an answer; they created a different level of engagement with my goals. To give an accurate accounting of my effort, I couldn’t simply answer yes or no or “30 minutes.” I had to rethink how I phrased my answers. Then, I had to measure my effort and, to see if I was actually making progress, I had to measure on a relative scale, comparing the most recent day’s effort with previous days. I chose to grade myself on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the best score. If I scored low on trying to be happy, I had only myself to blame. We may not hit our goals every time, but there’s no excuse for not trying. 

This “active” process will help anyone get better at almost anything. It only takes a couple of minutes a day. But be warned: it is tough to face the reality of our own behavior—and our own level of effort—every day. 

My first six questions are the Engaging Questions that I suggest for everyone: 

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning today? 
  • Did I do my best to be happy today?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged today? 

There’s no correct number of questions. The number is a personal choice, a function of how many issues you want to work on, but your Daily Questions should reflect your objectives. They’re not meant to be shared in public, meaning they’re not designed to be judged. You’re not constructing your list to impress anyone. It’s your list, your life. I score my “Did I do my best” questions on a simple I to 10 scale. You can use whatever works for you. Your only considerations should be first, are these important in my life? Second, will success on these items help me become the person I want to be? 

Daily Questions, by definition, compel us to take things one day at a time. In doing so they shrink our objectives into manageable twenty-four-hour increments. By focusing on effort, they distract us from our obsession with results (because that’s not what we’re measuring). In turn, we are free to appreciate the process of change and our role in making it happen. We’re no longer frustrated by the languid pace of visible progress because we’re looking in another direction. 

There are no absolutes in behavioral change. We never achieve perfect patience or generosity or empathy or humility. The best we can hope for is a consistency in our effort—a persistence of striving—that makes other people more charitable about our shortcomings. What’s worrisome is when the striving stops, our lapses become more frequent, and we begin to coast on our reputation. That’s the perilous moment when we start to settle for “good enough.” 

The problem begins when this good enough attitude spills beyond our marketplace choices and into the things we say and do. The mustard on a sandwich can be good enough. But in the interpersonal realm—we’re talking about how a husband treats his wife, or a son deals with an aging parent or a trusted friend responds when people are counting on him—good enough is setting the bar too low. 

There is an ultimate blessing of not settling for good enough. When we dive all the way into adult behavioral change with 100 percent focus and energy, we become an irresistible force rather than the proverbial immovable object. We begin to change our environment rather than be changed by it. The people around us sense this. We have become the trigger. 

Interested in reading the entire book? Purchase it here: http://amzn.to/2vxWW6T

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The Power Of The Other

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With a little bit of time away, I was able to read the “Power Of The Other" by Dr. Henry Cloud. I’m not going to lie, he’s one of my favorites!:) So here you go…..The quality of your life and the level of your success are both highly influenced by the kind of relationships you have and the people you connect with. So says the Dr., who says our success in life isn’t only dependent on how we develop our own skills or abilities, but is highly connected to the kind of people we have in our life. I totally agree, and I recommend anything my friend writes. I was challenged and encouraged by his insights, and I think they are incredibly important for any leader to grab hold of and apply. I encourage you to really dig into the things he says! Enjoy! 

CHAPTER 1: The Neglected Truth 

Your best and worst seasons were also about who was in that season with you. It was not just about you. It was about the others who were playing a big part in whom you were becoming and what you were doing. 

CHAPTER 2: The Science of Connection 

Science confirms that getting to the next level is 100 percent dependent on relationships. Whatever we hope to achieve, our success depends on relationships with others. 

CHAPTER 3: The Four Corners of Connection 

The reality is that you are always in one of four places of connection or four possible corners of relational space, and only one of them will help you thrive. 

Corner One: Disconnected/No Connection 

Corner Two: The Bad Connection

Corner Three: The Pseudo-Good Connection

Corner Four: True Connection 

CHAPTER 4: Go to Corner Four 

In the simplest terms, a real connection is one in which you can be your whole self, the real, authentic you; a relationship to which you can bring your heart, mind, soul, and passion. Corner Four is a place where people have true connection, and where they can be authentic. 

CHAPTER 5: The Fuel for High Performance 

Look at your own life and work right now. Are you surrounding yourself with people who fuel you? Make sure that you have these kinds of Corner Four “fueling stations” in your life, at regular intervals. Similarly, start paying attention to those who drain your energy. 

CHAPTER 6: Freedom and Control 

The degree to which you are going to soar depends, in part, upon finding Corner Four partners who empower your sense of self-control instead of trying to take it away or diminish it. 

CHAPTER 7: Freedom Requires Responsibility 

Corner Four relationships don’t rescue us from hard decisions or responsibility. Corner Four accountability is a commitment to what is best at three levels: (1) both for all the individuals involved (2) the relationship(s) and (3) the outcomes. 

CHAPTER 8: Defanging the Beast 

When we are in a negative critical state, the brain is not doing its best thinking, problem solving, or a host of other capacities that you need to win. Breaking the pattern requires more than a shoulder to cry on. We need to take the fangs out of failure. 

CHAPTER 9: The Right Kind of Push 

Corner Four relationships possess specific ingredients that help people move uphill. One absolutely critical role that others play is helping us achieve challenging, realistic and achievable goals. 

CHAPTER 10: Bringing the Outside In 

Corner Four relationships don’t end even after they end. The lessons we learn and the phrases that motivate us are ours to keep forever. Psychologists refer to this process as internalization. It’s bringing what was on the outside inside. 

CHAPTER 11: The Bermuda Triangle of Relationships 

Divisiveness is one of the most destructive forces in any relational system. It not only prevents resolution, growth, and forward movement, but it also makes problems worse by pitting one person against another and creating further splits throughout the team, family or organization. 

CHAPTER 12: Trust 

There are a handful of universal concepts and principles that apply to every single individual or group performance challenge. Trust is one of those concepts, especially when it comes to tapping into the power of the other. To make an investment in anyone, trust is paramount. 

CONCLUSION: Nice Guys Don’t Finish Last 

As you go through the routines of your life such as meeting with colleagues, catching up with family at holidays, having dinner with friends, or taking walks with your spouse, are you feeling protected, advised, supported, and rewarded in Corner Four? I hope you find your Corner Four, live there as much as possible, and outperform even your wildest dreams. 

Interested in reading the entire book? Get it here: http://amzn.to/2vmAQ29

 

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Go Team!

I just finished reading an oldie but a goodie, “Go Team!”, by Ken Blanchard, Alan Randolph & Peter Grazier. If your desiring to take your team to the next level, this book will help you look at the difference between work groups and highly functioning, effective teams, and outlines a process for developing those teams. As work, ministry, and life get more challenging and more complex, our need for effective teams only increases. “Next Level Teams” is a great resource that answers how you can move forward with your team, and I think you’ll find this book highly applicable if you lead any type of team. Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

Too few people really understand how to build a team that puts into action the knowledge, experience, and motivation of its people. We do not have to look very far to see numerous examples of failed team efforts. It is no surprise that people often give up on the idea of teams and try to go it alone. We do not believe that is an effective solution for today’s workplace. Go Team! is our game plan for building better teams: Next Level Teams.

As business changes, the nature of work needs to change. Relationships, responsibilities, and information-flow between management and the workforce must change to meet the demand for ever-improving performance. The move to Next Level Teams begins with sharing the information necessary for people to carry out their work effectively and efficiently. Information sharing is absolutely essential for solving the problems that plague organizations.

The sharing of information requires us to manage our prior beliefs about what people need to know. If team members are being asked to accept more responsibility and accountability for work performance, then they must be given more resources to affect that performance. Next Level Teams become powerful because information is shared openly in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Team members know that they are protected by the bond of trust that exists among them, so they feel freer to offer information that may be sensitive but important to the team’s success.

When we begin to operate as a Next Level Team, the freedom associated with new responsibilities and authority may seem unclear. This is where boundaries become valuable because they help us define our authority clearly and thus allow us to make good decisions and take independent actions.

Independent actions need boundaries so that people can take them with a sense of direction and autonomy and without fear of reprisal. The intent of boundaries in a Next Level Team environment is not to restrict action but rather to create the responsibility and freedom to act. The old system narrows the boundaries, whereas the Next Level approach is to widen them.

At the outset of the journey to the Next Level, it is better to err in the direction of more restrictive boundaries that create a small playing field for people. It is easier to widen a boundary and allow more freedom than to suddenly close it in because people have not been able to handle the scope of responsibility. It will also be difficult to identify all boundaries at the outset, so everyone should be very aware that the journey to Next Level Teams is, indeed, a journey. The process will need to be adapted as it evolves.

There is a need in today’s global business environment to establish a true partnership between the team and the organization, built around extensive information sharing and wide boundaries of authority that allow more freedom for teams to take action. In a Next Level Team, members take ownership of the responsibility for continually developing themselves and improving their work processes. Team members understand that the organization succeeds or fails depending on how effectively they and their leadership perform the work. Next Level Teams operate as integral parts of the organization, making full use of the knowledge, experience, and motivation of team members to impact team and organizational results in powerful and effective ways.

Research on teams for almost one hundred years has shown that there are four primary elements of highly successful teams. To develop your Next Level Team properly and keep it on track, you need to ask and answer four questions:

1. Do we have a common purpose or mission? Most teams that fail do so because team members lack clarity and alignment about their mission. The mission is what the team does, its purpose for existing. New teams or teams in trouble should clearly define what they do to each member’s satisfaction. The more clearly this mission is defined, the more able team members will be to take the appropriate actions to accomplish it.

2. Do we have agreed-upon operating processes? An operating process gives a team structure as to how it will operate while completing its task or tasks. It tells the team how decisions will be made as they relate to important issues. In actuality, the team may have multiple operating processes to accomplish various tasks. To be effective, a team must have clear and agreed-upon operating processes.

3. Do we have shared operating principles? Operating principles determine how team members will work together, particularly how they will treat each other. Teams frequently struggle with the “people” aspects of running a team because members lack a common view of how they want to work together. Operating principles are guidelines that help team members put into action the values they share in terms of how they work together. 

4.  Do we understand and appreciate our different roles? Team members have both formal and informal roles to play on a team. The formal roles are usually defined by work responsibilities, such as electrician, plumber, apprentice, clerk, accountant, scheduler, coordinator, team leader, and so forth. The informal roles are defined by the natural skills and talents each team member brings to the team process. These abilities should be discussed to identify people’s natural talents and how they might best be used. The team should also attempt to identify missing skills and their implications.

Your team is moving forward during one of the most significant transition periods of the post-industrial business age. Regardless of any bumps in the road you may encounter, understand that you are breaking new ground in how organizations work. You and your leaders are to be commended for your foresight and persistence in moving your organization to a new level of functioning and, ultimately, a new level of performance. Your team is now in a position to contribute to the business in extraordinary ways.

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: http://ow.ly/W3S230el7IV

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Daring Greatly

I just finished reading the book “Daring Greatly”, by Brene Brown. She is a researcher and lecturer in the areas of shame, relationships, and connections. Her TED talks are some of my favorites, and among the most popular talks ever. Her insights in the above topics are a must reading for any pastor or leader. I’ve benefited tremendously from her work, and I’m sure you will as well. Here’s a synopsis taken right from the book. Enjoy! 

When our self-worth isn’t on the line, we are far more willing to be courageous and risk sharing our raw talents and gifts. From my research with families, schools, and organizations, it’s clear that shame-resilient cultures nurture folks who are much more open to soliciting, accepting, and incorporating feedback. These cultures also nurture engaged, tenacious people who expect to have to try and try again to get it right— people who are much more willing to get innovative and creative in their efforts. 

A sense of worthiness inspires us to be vulnerable, share openly, and persevere. Shame keeps us small, resentful, and afraid. In shame-prone cultures, where parents, leaders, and administrators consciously or unconsciously encourage people to connect their self-worth to what they produce, I see disengagement, blame, gossip, stagnation, favoritism, and a total dearth of creativity and innovation. 

Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists— it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name
it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it out at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it. 

There are a couple of very helpful ways to think about shame. First, shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Shame is the fear of disconnection—it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong. 

How we experience these different emotions comes down to self-talk. How do we talk to ourselves about what’s happening? The best place to start examining self-talk and untangling these four distinct emotions is with shame and guilt. The majority of shame researchers and clinicians agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” and “I did something bad.” 

We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying. Researchers don’t find shame correlated with positive outcomes at all—there are no data to support that shame is a helpful compass for good behavior. In fact, shame is much more likely to be the cause of destructive and hurtful behaviors than it is to be the solution. 

Shame is bad. So what do we do about it? The answer is shame resilience. Note that shame resistance is not possible. As long as we care about connection, the fear of disconnection will always be a powerful force in our lives, and the pain caused by shame will always be real. But here’s the great news. In all my studies, I’ve found that men and women with high levels of shame resilience have four things in common—I call them the elements of shame resilience. Learning to put these elements into action is what I call “Gremlin Ninja Warrior training.” 

Here are the four elements of shame resilience—the steps don’t always happen in this order, but they always ultimately lead us to empathy and healing: 

1. Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers. Shame is biology and biography. Can you physically recognize when you’re in the grips of shame, feel your way through it, and figure out what messages and expectations triggered it? 

2. Practicing Critical Awareness. Can you reality-check the messages and expectations that are driving your shame? Are they realistic? Attainable? Are they what you want to be or what you think others need/want from you? 

3. Reaching Out. Are you owning and sharing your story? We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting. 

4. Speaking Shame. Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame? 

Shame breeds fear. It crushes our tolerance for vulnerability, thereby killing engagement, innovation, creativity, productivity, and trust. And worst of all, if we don’t know what we’re looking for, shame can ravage our organizations before we see one outward sign of a problem. Shame works like termites in a house. It’s hidden in the dark behind the walls and constantly eating away at our infrastructure, until one day the stairs suddenly crumble. Only then do we realize that it’s only a matter of time before the walls come tumbling down. 

In an organizational culture where respect and the dignity of individuals are held as the highest values, shame and blame don’t work as management styles. There is no leading by fear. Empathy is a valued asset, accountability is an expectation rather than an exception, and the primal human need for belonging is not used as leverage and social control. We can’t control the behavior of individuals; however, we can cultivate organizational cultures where behaviors are not tolerated and people are held accountable for protecting what matters most: human beings. 

Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen. 

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