Episode 15 The AWP: Mastering the Art of The Ask

Episode 15 The AWP: Mastering the Art of The Ask

Every single day we contract with people and don’t know it.

How many of you have said at one point or another:

I didn’t sign on for that…” or 

“they got me doing something different now then when I was hired…” or 

“I switched roles and thought we agreed to this, but I spend most of my time over here…”???

THE BASIS OF TODAY’S CONVERSATION (DON’T MISS THIS SIMPLE TRUTH): 

There is always a conversation going on beneath the surface of what we agree to in our relationships-family, professional and romantic. So we need to get this right!

Mastering the Ask includes two things:
1, PASSION
2, CLARITY

Parenting PRO-TIP:
The real breakfast of champions = Feedback
The key = form your kids toward the people you hope they become!

Application Question #1: What are the terms and did we every really agree?!
Application Question #2: Why don’t we contract/ask well? A, lazy? B, don’t care? Or C, Don’t know how… diagnosis yourself.

Challenge:
#1 write down a bullet point list of 5 tangible & time-based responsibilities of the agreement
#2 schedule a review meeting with the person you most need to contract with (for the first time!) or re-contract with!

Sources:
Patrick Lencioni: Hungry, Humble and Smart https://www.tablegroup.com/imo/media/doc/IdealTeamPlayerSelfAsssesment(11)NEW.pdf
QBQ Book: https://www.amazon.com/QBQ-Question-Behind-Practicing-Accountability/dp/014305709X
Dan Reiland: trust as follow through https://danreiland.com/7-subtle-ways-to-erode-trust-as-a-leader/

Listen here:
MP3
iTunes

Episode 10, The AWP: The Language and Led Blanket of Love

Episode 10, The AWP: The Language and Led Blanket of Love

Featuring Special Guest Eric Markle: father, friend and fellow church leader.

Early last year I talked about the rare and unlikely event of having a very tranquil experience in the dentist chair…

I know, like I said, rare and unlikely.

But I wrote about one particular aspect of which: the moment that big, heavy, led blanket is laid across your chest and hips prior to x-rays of course.

So there is our metaphor for God’s love in fact.

God’s love is like a led blanket in at least 3 ways:

  1. It is the only place you will find real and lasting protection
  2. It must be made available to every single person and deserving of every single person
  3. It is used indiscriminately, even with an arch-enemy

Please have a listen!

Here is the MP3

Here is the iTunes link

References:
Gary Chapman book “The Five Love Languages”

1. There is no protection like the Led Blanket of Love
2. You are worthy of a love like the Led Blanket can offer
3. Led blanket love is enemy love

Bonus:
-in all things, choose love
-optimize love by loving others according to how they best receive and experience love

Application:
Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
1. Gift Giving
2. Quality Time
3. Word of Affirmation
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

What are some examples, in your daily walk with God, of how he shows His love to you?
What is your strategy with your spouse, to express the ethic of love?
What is your strategy with your children, to express the ethic of love?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

I have exciting things coming in 2018 that I can’t wait to tell you about but for now let me leave you with this question…

Are you a leader people love to follow?

As 2017 comes to a close, we all find ourselves at the wonderful intersection of looking back and looking forward.

(Don’t miss that part by the way-looking back. There’s learnings and lessons and all the good with the bad; you’d be a fool if you didn’t devote a serious portion of your thought life and let all of that inform you goals, hopes and dreams for 2018).

As you look back and look ahead, I want you to ask that question and I’ll be doing the same.

To get you started, I want to give you a surprisingly beautiful picture of why, of all the questions, this should be the question for you in 2018.

And I want us all to be reminded of our legacies in this picture. That’s what the end and beginning of each year builds anyway-our lifelong legacies.

It happened early this month watching (for the first time) the mid-century classic White Christmas with the wife and kids.

There’s this opening scene on the front lines of WWII and if you know anything about the film, of course, the guys break out in song.

It is the content of this one old Hollywood musical classic that is haunting me… and it goes like this:

We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go

Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe

We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay

Long as he stays away from the battle’s fray

Because we love him, we love him

Especially when he keeps us on the ball

And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call

With the grandest son of a soldier of them all

I mean part of it is a satire because they only wanna follow him so long as he steers clear of any danger, and yet we all know that part’s not the picture of real life-hence the satire.

Real life is a battle; you’ll face foes both spiritual and natural-this was true in 2017 like it’ll be true in 2018. The defining moment for every leader is the repeated facing of decisions through conflict. Those who fought in WWII and any conflict since then would assuredly attest to this.

So if you can take the satire for what it is, then it’s: “We love him… we’ll follow him wherever he goes…”

That’s influence you cannot buy.
That’s a leadership built on love.
That’s a legacy of fear-no-evil followership.

The romantic side of me loves the military allusion and respects the character required to attain the rank of General (who this song is devoted to).

The Jesus-follower in me understands the fundamental difference between leadership by power, force, merit, rank or even pay and leadership by humility, compassion and peace-brokering martyrdom.

Which one inspires you more? Which one would you give your life for?

You think the disciples felt that way about Jesus? I bet you they did. Every last one of them followed him all the way to their own gruesome deaths. All for the leader they loved.

Can and will your people say the same? Your kids… your staff… your team… your employees… your church?

Man I sure hope so.

And because I know I’m not there yet, I want to be willing to have the passion, grit and discipline to do the things necessary to get there… starting today, tomorrow and 2018.

What are some of your hopes for 2018?

Vision Alone is not Vision At All

Vision Alone is not Vision At All

This last month that was one of my greatest learnings…

You can have literally the best idea in the whole world, you can communicate it with all the style and grace imaginable, but if you have not people, you have nothing.

I’ve said it to a couple different groups of people now-the staff team I’m a part of, a group of volunteers during a training event and then I think I may have given the same speel to the entire church that we lead but what I’m learning last month, this week, this moment is:

You can have the most tremendous vision in the world, but if people aren’t invited along, have as much buy-in as you do and you are all moving together, then you will simply be alone on an island called vision. And that’s not where any of us want to be as leaders.

Most of what I’m talking about has to do with leading change, by the way. And now that I’m finally reading John Kotter’s seminal work by the same name-things are beginning to come into even greater focus.

The Kotter model has to do with an 8-step process for leading change and one of the “unskippable” early steps is creating a coalition for change… WITH at least some people who have power.

Before finally stealing this book from another pastor, I had been listening to an Andy Stanley podcast wherein he was interviewing the former Home Depot CEO, Frank Blake.

Blake gives yet another tremendous model, equation rather, that supports the same principle; he says:

i X a = e. OR

IDEA times ACCEPTANCE equals EFFECTIVNESS.

In other words, we as leaders often get trapped in our little vision caves where we fully orb this new idea, change effort or cultural direction and it is birthed in a vacuum of 1.

We then run out and tell the world about it, praying for a mutual sense of excitement, and yet how could they-they had no hand in the evolution of this idea?

Blake suggests getting the idea to 80% and then inviting the “coalition” or the people or the team or the influencers in and together forging the last 20%. In this way we will be working toward far greater impact and effectiveness.

So I have this book, I have my podcast and yet I have another source of input waking me up to this principle over the last few weeks.

A friend, and fellow leader at our organization, came along and said, ‘Ben I think you just need to over-communicate in this season of change.’

He went on saying, ‘people here have experienced haphazard and chaotic change-making processes that leave people somewhat sensitive to any sort of change.’

This, on top of the fact that most of the known world is change resistant already! (Despite the classic saying that change is perhaps the only constant in life!).

In your leadership wherever you are-family, church, business-learn from these greats and from my mistakes and:

1. Build a coalition for change (that includes at least some people with real power)

 

2. Work toward more acceptance by inviting people into the creative processes earlier

 

3. Over-communicate. I’ll use a recent quote a heard (Craig Groeschel via Thom Rainer from Groeschel’s latest podcast post on developing leaders):

As people are learning, they are forgetting.

This is especially true within the context of fresh vision and leading change, because we already have a natural sense of resistance.

I love and appreciate you all.

If you haven’t seen my last post, please look at it and even scan to the end: I am requesting some census data on the book you would like to read next! DO IT AND HELP A BROTHER OUT!

1 Thing You Never Knew About The 12 Disciples

1 Thing You Never Knew About The 12 Disciples

If you’ve ever struggled with doubt, insecurity or the feeling of inadequacy as a leader, this one is for you.

If you’ve ever wondered why the disciples of Jesus seemed like such a hot mess sometimes, this one is for you.

If you’ve lost sight of who you are and what you’re capable of as a person and leader, then this one is for you.

I’ve been reading this book bit by bit at night (as I’m sitting in the hall keeping a straying eye on my toddlers infinitely trying to finagle their way out of bedtime) on the topic of Discipleship.

First 5 chapters in and it’s not what I expected at all.

For starters, the author Robby Gallaty doesn’t go into the 5 or 7 step plan or program for discipleship. Instead he spends the first several chapters laying the ground work through topics like 1st century Judaism, church history/church fathers and this idea of Keshers-which are New Testament allusions to Old Testament references.

All of it very fascinating-making for a much more general educational experience too, by the way, which is a win for me (a pastor who is not “Seminary trained” whatever that means!)

But none so fascinating as this one chapter titled “Disciples are Made, Not Born” where Gallaty is having the broader discussion around just how normal these 12 men really were.

He lays out a profile of the disciples concerning 3 main categories: how they were blue-collar workers, how they possessed no formal religious training and how they were young men.

It’s this last profile item that has made an absolute proselyte out of me for this book.

Gallaty goes on to lay out a highly convincing 7-fold argument for why the disciples may have very well been… TEENAGERS.

Consider the following few as a sample:

When you look at the title Jesus often used for them; the original greek words Mikronos and Teknion they mean “little ones” or “little children”…

You think about their formal Jewish training which would have ended at 15 (these 12, Jesus’ 12 were not selected to progress onto the next elite stage)…

You take this reality and combine it with the normative age for getting married at the time-18 (it was frowned upon in this time and place to be a bachelor after 18; none but Peter was thought to be married), and you begin to see the power of the argument.

These facts along with 2 other major defenses: their tenure of ministry long after Jesus’ death along with their seemingly constant and petty quibbling-ridden immaturity… this really starts to make sense.

So my first thing is this…

Why have I never heard this before?!

I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years, I’ve gone to Christian College, I’ve worked in vocational ministry for over half a decade, read several books, listened to hundreds of sermons and not once did I hear someone allude to the disciples being teenagers.

I can only surmise that this is because the same scorn for youth and young people that exists today was alive and well  in the time and place of Jesus.

You see I think we, in the marketplace as well as church organizations, need to strongly reconsider the worth, value and investment ascribed to young volunteers and young staff.

And the key word is investment… worthy investment. We need to trade our scorn for open-minded and intentional investment.

Here’s a good question to consider in giving young people more opportunities:

Why are you still recruiting and hiring to skills and competencies?

The chapter title reminds me of something Craig Groeschel says in his leadership podcast:

Leaders are not found, they’re developed. 

The point is this: we need to start looking for the intangibles when it comes to our team members… character, attitude, heart, mindset and emotional intelligence.

With these as the baseline all else can be trained and equipped.

After all, if you’re a boss, hiring manager, CEO or lead pastor and you’ve ever been frustrated with the expense (material and immaterial) of letting someone go after they failed to meet the needs of the organization then you understand that 9/10 of those departures were based off of organizational culture and DNA fit.

In other words they were based off of the above baselines. Which, without these, excellence and proficiency in skills, tasks and competencies don’t matter because there’s never enough chemistry and unity to forge through to that level of productivity anyway!

Look back and consider Jesus’ selection of these young men; he believed they had the right stuff, the stuff that could be built on.

One final question when considering the 12 disciples as teenagers:

Who do you think it is that is charged with changing the world?

There was 1 and then there was 12 and then there was 70 (Luke 10) and then there was 120 (Acts 1) and then there was 3000 (Acts 2-Pentecost) and then there was 6 million (end of 3rd Century) and then there was nearly a billion (today).

A movement that began with 12 young men… quite possibly teenagers.

Was Jesus, in fact, trying to tell us something… was he trying to send us a message by selecting these ordinary, common-even juvenile-mere teenagers?

These boys were just on their official summer job. School was out, except school was out for good and they did not get the acceptance letter for higher learning.

They’re taking back up that trade that paid their way last summer and except this time it’s for life.

Who would even have the gall to imagine something greater, something bigger, something more profound?

We know now looking back at history that  it was not “if” it was “when” for this group of leaders.

And so if a rag-tag bunch of teenagers could be grown up and trained in the way that they ought to walk in order that they might partner with the actual author of history to affect the trajectory of the human story… maybe, just maybe it’s possible that we could play a hand too…

Men, women, boys and girls, mom’s, dad’s, students, workers, blue-collar, white-collar, black, white, brown and yellow… all have a name and a place… all have a call that’s grander than the task at hand… all have the ability to multiply the way like those who went before them.

Closing The Loop (1 Habit of The Most Focused Top Performers)

Closing The Loop (1 Habit of The Most Focused Top Performers)

It’s time for another MEGA-learning from the sheer gold vault of lessons, modules and learnings of my former supervisor…

Have you ever had SO MUCH going on at work or at home that you seem to riffle through one issue to the next, but never really gaining resolution?

Do you feel like someone on your team (family or work) is just an idea, program, initiative MACHINE, but you’re left wondering: ‘who was supposed to keep track of those?!” and “where are we at on that deal anyway?!”

Here’s a simple one: did you ever wonder why your training or resourcing event didn’t have the impact or traction that you desired?

I believe the answer lies within 3 simple words:

Close. The. Loop.

Well simply said, not always simply done…

I would define closing the loop like this:

Def. intentionally revisiting anything you start, until you’ve brought it to a finish.

This could be any idea, request, action item, program or initiative. Check in and continue to do so until you have reached agreed-upon resolution or success. 

The most simple illustration is this:

Last year I proposed a team goal of walking my people through a hospitality training.

It was your basic format where I had each team member read some case study material in advance then I would go around 1:1 with each person and walk them through an agenda of bullet point principles.

You see I actually thought my job was done at that point… you know, like “well I did the training, had 100% attendance and got the content out there so everyone must be ‘trained’ now, right?”

Here was the simple brilliance of what my supervisor encouraged me to do next…

He said what you should do now is go around 2-3 weeks later and first watch each one of those team members in action and see if they are actually implementing the new theories and techniques.

Watch them and ask them: how are you applying the material that we covered almost a month ago now.

That was closing the loop: do the training, check back in on the training. (Otherwise what was the point of the training?)

And that is the first principle of what closing the loop is all about

#1 Closing the loop essentially asks the question: “so what?”

You see, it’s not good enough to simply be a great idea man. The logic is totally intuitive: we all know that great visionaries and idea people would be nowhere without the doers and systems thinkers to enact these great ideas.

So in essence, the art and discipline of asking “so what?” “what’s next” is your accountability structure for testing outcomes and effectiveness. That brings us to point #2…

#2 Closing the loop means having someone consistent and focused enough to constantly ask that question.

If you aren’t that person, if you can’t perform this, what I’ll call “adapted discipline,” early or often enough then maybe this is your next hire, maybe this is your next volunteer recruit.

Because I’m convinced that team members who operate this way are absolutely the top performers in every organizational level… any organization, at least, that cares about actually working their mission and vision through their strategy into a reality.

And I introduce the idea of adapted style because probably not just anybody can do this well forever.

It has to be within someone’s “natural” style of leadership. Hence the sense of urgency you may need if you don’t already have this strength available on your team.

#3 Closing the loop is fundamentally about execution and implementation

If you feel forever stuck in the ideation stage, the brainstorm session, the dream cycle it’s not long before you realize how badly you need this way of thinking to positively infect your culture and DNA.

Ideas, programs and strategies never moved to implementation (which requires constant reassessment) are just that: sweet dreams. But closing the loop is not merely about doing, it has a built-in review gene…

#4 Closing the loop serves as a constant barometer for success, efficacy and effectiveness

Everyone wants to make progress, but few people know how to measure it.

Fewer still have the time or money to hire outside consultants to conduct, compile and analyze the data that will explain progress.

So here is your simple and free skill: the quickest measure for success is to build constant loop-closing opportunities and questions into the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly fabric of your organization.

Back to my illustration above: how did the training go? I don’t know, let’s go around and find out. I didn’t have to compile massive amount of numbers or data, I simply had to go ask and watch. Ask the team members what they were using and watch them in action.

#5 Closing the loop people are note-takers and note-takers are history-makers

That’s what we used to say to our teenagers at church: “note-takers are history-makers.”

The truth is: even the simple practice of writing or typing notes for something that is communicated to you is a quick and small way of closing the loop. How?

Because it’s is proven that when you are learning through listening (auditory style) and you connect that to moving your body or hands (kinesthetic style) to connect what’s going in your ears, you have a better shot at retention, growth and learning!

Well the same is true in your organizational leadership: you must have someone who is tracking the status from ideation>implementation and implementation>review.

Let me put it more plainly: no one can remember everything, so write it down, write it down and later on revisit by closing the loop.


I am a part of a small resource-lean organization that is entering a season of fairly massive rediscovery.

If we hope to see any traction in our renewed structures, we have no choice but to excel at closing the loop.

Here’s the reality: for you this tool may not be about winning, it might, literally, be about surviving.

I use the word focus in the title for a reason; if you don’t begin the disciplined process of staying focused by closing the loop, your job and your organization may not be around tomorrow.

Maybe you feel this same way; I suggest starting small: start taking notes to track progress and start asking the question: “so what?” You may not look or feel smart doing that now but over time it will reap a harvest. (Galatians 6:9)

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Extraction: The Art of Actualizing What’s in Your Head

Have you ever had something in your head that you needed to get out? Some vision, idea, program, talk, training, “how-to” guide… some thing you needed to move from abstract constellation of thought into a clearly outlined, usable thing?

When I was transitioning from my last church job my supervisor-a man whose analytical genius is always bent toward better execution-suggested that I write down a general who, what, when, where, why for my successor. 

When we would check in for our weekly 1:1s, a greater and greater percentage of our time was devoted to passing the baton (of information and how-tos) well.

During our time together he would drive me deeper and deeper into cataloging the most important standard operating procedures held under the 2 or 3 major hats that I wore. 

I will never forget what he said one day toward that end. He said very simply, “we need to get what’s in your head out.”

As basic as that might sound it triggered something in me…

For starters it made me think: what are the hundreds of little things I do each day that no one knows about, that’s not in writing somewhere, that no one told me to do, but it effectively gets my job done. 

And while, at the end of my transition time, I did not produce a list with every one of those hundred items, I was able to produce the broader strokes of my past deliverables. 

The second thing my supervisor’s comment triggered was a an affirmation of this blog actually. 

The whole point behind this writing discipline was two-fold: 

1, as an external tool to inspire, influence and ignite something in others and;

2, as an internal tool of recapping all that I had learned in the past year-a sort of personal development journal for the sake of never forgetting all the amazing takeaways.  

Herein lies the first principle of what I will call Standard Mental Operating Procedure Extraction or SMOPE for short:

(1) SMOPE requires a pause in our daily mental activity so that we may become more conscious of what’s behind our daily decisions and actions. 

The answer to my rhetorical question above (have you ever had something in your head that you wanted to get out?) is: of course you have. Everyone has…

I just think that most people sell themselves short on this level of thought life and ideation.

Most people will go about their work and leadership never having given a second thought to why it is they do a certain thing the way they do!

And that is a fundamental component of principle #1: it’s not pausing to think about what you just decided or did, it’s pausing to reflect how or why you did it that way. 

I should back up and give some definition 

SMOPE is the standard operating procedure of your mind. You do it, almost unconsciously, every single day… you plan, you act, you execute.

And there is most certainly a very particular mental model or procedure you use that you could go your whole life never thinking about distilling or bottling that very good thing in order for your very good “way” to ever go beyond yourself.

This brings me to point number two…

(2) SMOPE is all about extending your legacy beyond yourself. 

Whether it’s in the example I listed above about a simple job transition or it’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company working through a major succession, the difference between good and great is extension beyond yourself. 

Why is this so critical-the ability to pass your excellent mental methods of success and growth? Here’s an example from both the church and marketplace context. 

Take the multi-level marketing example. Say what you will about them, the bottom line is this: you have a product or service that, assuming authentic quality, you can spread like wildfire through multiple tiers of people leading others and multiplying their methods. 

In other words they train and equip those below them to achieve similar results.

Now whether it’s multi-level marketing or just any scalable business where you include the large-scale training of people, there was someone along the way who distilled and bottled what was in their head.

The companies and organizations who have the best ability to do this will also continue a proven legacy that goes beyond any founder or CEO.

The church belief and process of discipleship is no different. This example is one of the most deeply held beliefs of our organization.

Jesus did it; Jesus commanded it and it is essentially the one central model, method, vehicle-whatever you want to call it-way to spread the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection and grow the church. 

Now, even though there may be no two churches alike in what they will call their discipleship process or system, the point remains the same: Jesus took what was in his head, heart, spirit he spoke about it, he lived it and he invited 12 other men along to see, do and multiply. 

The churches and faith-based organizations that create a plan for discipleship (and actually work their plan!) will also experience a proven legacy that extends across the generations. 

There’s another thing you should know about SMOPE.

(3) SMOPE is the ability to move from unknown, unformalized, unstandardized (however, not random) thought life to a clearly outlined and action-oriented system of organization.

This is the crux of the issue. It’s one thing to pause and intentionally think about the why and how behind your decisions and actions. It’s another thing entirely to distill and bottle that product into a clear and scalable tool.

This third principle and step is really where you will live. While it is truly an ongoing discipline to begin holding every thought captive (and training your people to do the same!), the main gear and life-cycle of this process is slowly and intentionally taking the mental operating procedure and putting it into tangible malleable material. 


Closing Thoughts:

As 1 of the top 5 fastest growing restaurant chains in America, Chic-fil-A just opened it’s 2000th restaurant… that is not a typo. That is not an extra 0. TWO THOUSANDTH location. 

I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me (and I know there are chains with more locations in the world), but I sat amazed when I read this in a Business Insider article weeks ago! And I’m still talking about it so there! 

I mean how many reference points can you have for thinking about a scaled, legacy-oriented thing like that. 

And it’s not like someone said one day, ‘well this whole selling chicken thing is going well, how about we open another store and go on ahead and let the managers of that place just do whatever they see fit in their own eyes’

NOOOOO they said, ‘here’s what makes us great now go and do the same… cause we took the time to distill and bottle that sucker!’

Consider a more personal example: maybe you’re a high level leader or maybe you know a high level leader (that’s all of you!) we have a tremendous opportunity to make sure that the following conundrums recieve an excellent response…

What was that marketing method he or she used in a down market?

How was it that he/she filed that year during tax season?

What did he/she always do with that one difficult customer?

How did he/she deal with litigation in this one case?

That high level leader and, who knows, maybe the executive team who worked with that leader for years-they know the how and why behind their standard operating procedures but shoot, does anybody else outside their own brain space?!

Action:

Regardless of your position in the organization, take a step today and catalog, record, WRITE DOWN the why or how behind a few things (just 1 thing even!) that you do well within your scope of responsibilities… you have no idea; it could just be the thing that gets distilled and bottled to over 24,000 locations in 74 countries (Starbucks)…