The Missing Ingredient (Leading Change)

The Missing Ingredient (Leading Change)

I’m a new part of a church organization that is in the midst of finding itself. It is what a mentor called an identity discovery phase.

Another way of describing this unique place and process is leading change. Though I have not read John Kotter’s preeminent 1995 book by the same name, I have read the executive summaries and I have participated in models that mirror his principles and prescriptions.

The ethos, and indeed mandate, of leading change is critical for all leaders and organizations (who are striving for any degree of health or impact in the world, that is.)

A strong leader once told me that great organizations should experience change every 8 months (just to keep up with culture, technology, economy, etc etc) and that made sense to me.

The problem, of course, is that many of us don’t like change and then for the rest of us who are open to change it’s a painfully slow and difficult process.


Let’s handle those 2 obstacles right off the bat:

1. For those who are change averse: you maintain an extreme sense of irony.

At a certain point you must admit that very world around you is constantly changing; and not just a macro level either.

So you can go on “not liking” change all day long and even keep screaming it from a mountain top if you like, but with that attitude and posture you will always being sitting in immediate juxtaposition with the natural world around you.

2. For those who believe it’s just too hard or too late to change: you have chosen the poorest excuse.

If people succumbed to “it’s too hard” mentality we would not have a single lick of innovation from the last century (let alone since the beginning of time). What if Lincoln would have said, ‘reconciliation is too hard’… if Ford had said, ‘building a “car” is just too complex’… if MLK had said, ‘this thing will never change.’ I think you get my point.

To cease tackling a thing because it is too hard is to cease doing the very central thing we are called to do: live well.


The fact of the matter is: all organizations and systems (even the family system!) are in need of change.

How do I know?

Because all organizations experience stuckness.

In their good intentioned pursuit to diversify, spread out the eggs, reach into new markets, industries or niches organizations get stuck for so many reasons-most of which we are not here to discuss today.

I think one of the most important reasons people and organizations get stuck is this:

a loss of focus.

On the why, the win, the action and execution.

You can imagine the snowball effect above, but lets take a closer look at the importance of each…

1. The why: the mission; the vision; the values…

If you don’t have them, if you don’t hold tightly to them, if you don’t have them at the top of your performance dashboard then what’s it really all for anyway-it’s anyone’s guess and it’s up for grabs and when its up for grabs people will create their own why.

2. The win: how we know what success looks like…

First of all have you defined it? Second of all, have you defined it BEFORE you execute (run the event, program, marketing campaign). Most people and organizations operate in the opposite order, ‘lets just do it and see what happens.’

3. The what: this constitutes the bulk of your working hours…

What kind of action are you taking? Is it the right action at the right time? And is it focused action? If you’ve set a target (the why and the win) then you should be able to filter every working hour through those first two things. When we fail to do this, we are now facing a stewardship (management) issue (i.e. How will we be judged by the way we invested every waking hour of our lives?)

4. The execution: the final delivery.

If you are a manager or leader of people and you can’t account for why your staff, team, people aren’t producing better results than you need to seriously evaluate the above three. Odds are: all this lack of focus in the why, the win and the what are leading to a high level of stuckness at the execution level.


Committing to Change…

We have only to first admit that we are stuck.

Therein lies the first principle from Kotter’s work: change will be most successful when the greater percentage of your leaders carry a mutual sense of urgency around change.

It was not an intentional plan of mine, I have to admins, coming into my new organization but I found myself saying the same thing over and over again to key staff and volunteers.

In my envisioning to people about this new season at the church, with just as many competing ideas, programs, initiatives as the marketplace, I found myself encouraging our team that it may be time to say a healthy “no” to the options and ideas out there.

…to forgo doing several things very half-heartedly and inefficiently and, in the end, poorly. And instead to focus on one thing, and here’s the mantra:

We are committing to do a very few things, very well…

As to what those things are-that’s our plan and our issues. You probably just need to work your plan. But make sure people understand the why, the win and the what. Whether its your family or your startup, hold fast to these things and you will not only bring about focus, you will have a great shot at bringing about change.

Book Review: Monday Morning Atheist

Book Review: Monday Morning Atheist

I’m going to try a little something new this time and cover the great learnings that someone else has thoughtfully and excellently elucidated.

In other words, I’m reading about 6 or 7 books simultaneously right now (I know just the nastiest habit… call it A.D.D.) and I’d like to share those outcomes with the world.

The first one is from Doug Spada and Dave Scott’s great little (just over 100 half pages) book called “Monday Morning Atheist.”

First of all, props for a great title; it definitely caught my eye and I’m a total victim for book marketing-in titles and in cover artwork (one reason why I’m messing around with more than 5 books at once right now).

But more than that, the book title caught my eye because I have been hounded by the challenge of what it takes to carry the Sunday morning church experience into the week beyond.

I feel the burden (and danger!) of church simply being relegated to 90 minutes of information transfer, lukewarm musical engagement and surface level community.

I want to be a part of a generational movement where Church is defined as so much more than that.

But the principle has to do with physically being the church and carrying our faith outward.

That’s the essence of Spada and Scott’s great work in this book.

I will briefly highlight their 3 challenges for us as people who leave the church Sunday and go into our workplace Monday (as always, whether that place takes you to corner offices or kitchens):

1. We tend to leave God back at church because we are still hung up on this sacred/secular spiritual divide

I love this reminder so much.

And there are scriptural references left and right but a few of my favorite are:

(God Speaking to Peter in a dream about Jewish/Gentile reconciliation) “The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”- Acts 10:15

(God Speaking to Moses giving him his mission to free a people from captivity) “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” – Exodus 3:5

All the ground on the earth is God’s ground; everything on heaven and earth belongs to God so how can you call it unclean, “secular,” or unholy…?

The major challenge put to the believer is to stop compartmentalizing our lives into sacred/secular, holy/unholy, spiritual/non-spiritual…

As believers we have the Spirit of God within us, that means that wherever we go we at least have the opportunity to make it sacred… to make it holy… to make it spiritual.

2. We tend to take matters into our own hands because we leave God out of our work lives, which results in us feeling alone, isolated and separated from God in our work.

This is your basic truth about how we always try to control things. Since birth we are bent toward this reality.

Because we feel like work is ours to produce and manufacture and manipulate, just like everything else in our lives, we end up refusing to let go and let God.

We don’t give to him what rightfully belongs to him in the first place (the plan, the circumstance… destiny!) and when we do that, the result is actually a greater sense of loneliness in the world.

3. We tend to buy the lie that because our work doesn’t have the coolest mission or vision, that it’s all a waste

This is one of the saddest and most grave of all and it hits my generation with unusual poignancy. 

The millennial generation is particularly plagued with finding meaningful work and purpose.

We have this desire to be change agents and cultural movers and shakers, yet when we feel like our minimum wage job doesn’t chalk up to that, we slack off in our pursuit of making a difference or we just up and change jobs altogether.

God wants us to delight in everything we put our hands to, because he delights in it and because when we do, ultimately, that’s an incredible example to the world around us.

The way that Spada ties all of this together is through this very consistent thread around light and darkness.

We have the greatest opportunity, and indeed call to action, to take our faith and our God into our work week and yet most days we walk around like the light of the Lord is virtually non-existent in our lives.

The idea comes most clearly from Matthew 5:

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

That’s the bottom line.

We have to enter into our work week with a newfound sense that we have a very bright light in our lives and others want and need to be a part of that too…

Go ahead and let them in by proving by the way you act, talk and live that its a worthy endeavour, that it’s a beautiful thing, that it’s a life changing force for the greatest good and transformation!

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Don’t Ever Abdicate (3 Areas of Your Life That are Under Assault)

Recently I was reminded of one of my most profound learnings from 2016… the danger of abdicating. (And the power that exists on the other side of abdication… walking into the fullness of what you’re called to do.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of abdicating is someone leaving a throne room in some far off distant land or time.

And in truth, that’s probably because we relegate the term to those sole sources of history or literature where, in fact, someone is giving up or renouncing their power.

Therein lies the gist of the dictionary definition, but honestly the more I look at this world the more enthralled I become with its meaning, significance and potential.

Ab*di*cate

To formally relinquish power, office or responsibility 

[Latin abdicāre, abdicāt-, to disclaim : ab-, away; see ab-1 + dicāre, to proclaim; see deik- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

ab′di·ca·ble (-kə-bəl) adj.
ab′di·ca′tion n.
ab′di·ca′tor n.

It’s like to ‘disclaim’ away your power, office or responsibility.

As people we love to bail on our jobs & responsibilities, in so doing we forfeit the very essence and power of leadership.

The reason that this word carries such weight with me is not its Latin linguistic origins, it’s because of the word’s origins in the Bible.

Like most good ideas, this concept of calling… of vocation… of purpose and meaning comes from the Bible. The concept of what we are called into, which is fundamentally about identity, has a rich and extensive biblical reference.

And I will be your Father and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty -2 Samuel 7

I mean seriously? At first glance, we kind of take all that for granted… ‘oh yeah sure we are his children… right he is our father… what a cute little so-called family…’

Like nearly so many references in scripture I fear that the terms are almost too familiar so they are in danger of becoming too garden variety, generic or watered down.

Quick identify recap according to this foundational biblical truth: if we are his sons and daughters and he is our Father and he is also Lord Almighty-that is to say: supreme king, ruler, the sole universal source of power and authority-this means that we are his heirs, we are his inheritors, we are his princes and princesses.

We are called to co-rule, co-create, co-reign…. great power and authority has been vested in us.

So you have an identity… you also have a power… that means you have options… leverage that power or abdicate that power.

I’ve already sought to establish from day 1 of this blog that all people are leaders… leaders of themselves, leaders of their children, leaders of their household, leaders of employees and organizations. If you are a leader of some thing then great power has been vested in you.

Will you leverage the power or abdicate the power?

I figure we abdicate in 3 major areas…

1, we abdicate in our marriages

Here’s what I know:
We abdicate in the way that we don’t pray for our spouses.
We abdicate in the way that we don’t make sex a priority.
We abdicate in the way that we put other things (kids, work, hobby) ahead of our spouse.

First, notice that I strategically use the word, “we” in each of these… I’m guilty in every one of these areas. And they are ordered pretty closely as well. Prayer is always the 1st and easiest hold out. Who has time to pray?

Or if we do it is “all day… as I’m driving and walking and cooking and working”-yes that is a good and wonderful thing in the life of a believer when we can be in some sort of constant prayer, but it’s also not the same as a devoted, concerted, set apart prayer discipline. And that’s what is needed in covering our spouses with prayer…

Prayer for protection against the enemy.
Prayer for what troubles or ails her.
Prayer for wisdom, guidance, purpose.
Prayer for grace and mercy. (Hello-Kids!)

Sex. Yep, sex… Some how, some way, God smiled upon my wife and I by sending a small handful of couples into our lives really over the last 4 years who have stressed the importance of intentional intimacy as the bedrock foundation for all else in the lifeblood of a marriage.

And that’s simply the truth of God’s gift of sex: it is the forging of all other securities. This physical intimacy breads all the other intimacies needed: emotional, spiritual… even financial!

I mean think about it, you can’t (not in good conscience) come together in this intimate fashion, with things drastically at odds in those areas, but even if you have felt recent tension in one of those areas, the coming together from 2 to 1 has an absolutely mysterious and powerful effect on bridging those gaps of where we were missing each other… emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially.

2, we abdicate in our vocation

We abdicate in our calling.

This abdication has two levels: 1, when we carelessly throw aside key aspects of our job description-our actual functional calling-we abdicate. And 2, when we refuse to carry the Light of the World with us into our individual sectors and industries we abdicate spiritually.

But when you think about it: both are bad witnesses. 1, when we show a lack of care for our work product, what does that say about our character->our heart->our God?

And of course 2, when we don’t seek to emulate Jesus in the way we act, talk and treat others while at work, what does that say about our faith being a worthy endeavor for others to inquire about…?

3, we abdicate in our parenting

It’s sad you know because recently at a group book study, when I was reminded all over again-the power of this word, I realized that our abdication has a certain unwieldy multiplying effect.

Take for example refusing to have the tough conversations with your children… hearing them, understanding them, spending time with them when you walk in the door.

Well when they-only a few years down the road-begin acting up and lashing out, how long before we finally conclude (based on even the counsel of good people) that they just need professional counseling or therapy?

(*Disclaimer: I’m not saying that therapy is bad for kids, teens and adults… of course it has its place! I’m talking about here the concept of preventable bahvior and character lapses due to OUR abdication as the primary developmental leads in the home!)

That would be a primary abdication that breeds a secondary abdication. We dropped the ball on seeing them, listening to them, sharing in process with them and then to compound that abdication we shipped them off.

Therein lies the cyclical nature of our abdication in parenting.

Abdication breeds abdication. Abdication multiplies abdication. Abdication supports and confirms more abdication!

Anytime we do not invest the time, effort and energy on the front end of things, we succumb to the assault of abdication.


But there’s a flip side because just as our abdication has a multiplying effect for weakness and loss, when we seize our God-given identities and authorities the power that comes with THAT has a radically multiplying affect too!

Where have you recently abdicated and sense the need to lean back in?

4 Leadership Learnings From United Airlines

4 Leadership Learnings From United Airlines

This past week another major leadership and organizational failing was put on display for the world to see through a 2 minute viral video (these days captured from multiple angles).

It was painfully sad to watch; hard to believe that something like this could happen in a developed, civilized, modernized, progressive, etc etc etc type of society.

But alas it did happen and with pretty immediate and broad-sweeping repercussion.

Stock values plummeted in the millions, thousands of people nationwide speaking of boycotting, celebrities make their typical noise-the whole thing very bad for business.

I want to address the learnings from this international faux pas by connecting with how United lost their way in 4 key areas.

1. They forgot that the customer is the hero.

That is to say ALL customers should be treated like they are the hero of the story.

I mean you could say they fell pretty far, pretty fast from “hero” and forgot altogether they were dealing with people… human beings, PAYING HUMAN BEINGS!

LEARNING:

If you want to get new customers, create loyal customers and generate repeat customers, your best bet is to create a narrative with the customer at the epicenter.

2. They forgot to train their people around ownership and autonomy.

The best startups these days focus on hiring and training people who can adopt company values, execute on company vision and all at the same time think for themselves the best way to serve the customer.

I was listening to a podcast this morning where one of the most legendary hotel executives of all time was saying that he would empower his staff (cooks, cleaners and managers) With $2k in discretionary allowance for serving the guest as they saw fit!

LEARNING:

The best companies do this; they devolve powers. And they can get away with that kind of trust because they have taken the time to create value, vision and buy in.

There are countless illustrations for this from Zappos and Amazon to even hospitals and mom and pop shops who have learned the beauty of training employees to make the best independent decision for the customer (patient, parishioner, etc) sometimes regardless of the employee handbook.

It’s clear from reading any one of the myriad headlines from this week, but this company (its senior leadership and thus its employees) had their heads so buried in handbooks and even unspoken standard operating procedures that they forgot what really matters!

3. They forgot what it means to hustle, innovate and determine what success looks like.

I’d be willing to guess that one reason that this company, (its CEO and thus its employees) arrived at this place, this major public screw up, is because they became fat and happy.

As you can read from this article and so many others like it, the airline along with 2 other major ones handles nearly 85% of the total market share… that right there will leave you pretty out of touch with reality.

It’s what made the idea of a so-called “boycott” so ironical because it was very clear that, at least if you want to fly in most major cities, you won’t have a choice.

LEARNING:

Can you imagine what kind of debilitating affect this has on the lifeblood of an organization?!

It’s like Craig Groeschel always says: the biggest threat to future success is current success.

They got lazy, lackadaisical and then they just got flat-out rude.

4. They forgot how to communicate like they were actually in the people business!

This is how, from a PR standpoint, the CEO can mess up 3 more times before finally getting it right.

He was so out of touch with having to defend and protect (let alone polish!) the brand that he made it worse before making it better. It took almost the entire week for him to arrive at, “I’m sorry, we were wrong, here’s your money back.”

LEARNING:

This last one affects everything from marriages to multi-national conglomerates because it’s fundamentally about ownership and repentance. The fastest way to mend a broken bridge is to call it was it is: BROKEN!

But #4 and #3 are intimately connected because when you’ve so lost touch with your vision and your customer it’s a very natural slide into forgetting even how to apologize for a gross and basic wrong.

Which therein lies the undergirding principle of every item on this numbered list: a total and complete loss of vision for what serves people best.


What’s a recent leadership learning of yours? It’s easy to point fingers at big targets like United (on blast via viral video), but it’s another thing to practice personal introspection for your last 3 screw ups and determine your course of action for proactively getting better… so I’ll ask: where are your growth opportunities?

Leaving Well…

Leaving Well…

So I know this post was supposed to be about leaving well, but it turns out I had to write about something much more important: what I’m leaving with

You should consider both things, don’t get me wrong, but I think anyone can leave well. It takes a leader (as a learner) to know the blessing and benefit of what they leave with.

I’ll explain… 

At the end of the month I have a job transition and the truth is that long before this transition was eminent I knew full well that I would carry with me countless (and newly acquired) skills. However, more than that, I would take with me a deeper sense of character and relationships into the next thing. I want to share about two of those things below but first…

After nearly 3 years at the Crossing Church (a Non-denominational, Evangelical church where I worked since August, 2014), I will be leaving at the end of April to take up a new position at the church I first came from that summer nearly 3 years ago (Watermark OC Church).

It is a decision that has been weighed and measured and is still very bittersweet as we have built many relationships over those years. Relationships with staff, relationships with families and relationships with some of the most amazing volunteers and leaders in the whole world.

There are two more relationships that, while they have ended in an hourly work sense, have made an incredibly enduring impact on my life, my leadership, my view of the world, even my view God.

The first relationship is with the mission and vision of this church organization.

Which, ever since 1988-when it would have been far more radical even that it is today-has remained the same potent mix of belief in the command to reach those outside the church and actually living that command within every church program, ministry, message and person.

I have often described the mission and vision of this place as intoxicating or addictive. It’s the type of purpose or motivation that will make you want to forsake every other thing in your life to pursue. It’s that way not just because it sounds good on paper, but because the church actually lives it out.

For the past 3 years I sat in a room with fellow staff members and celebrated all that God has done and all that we witnessed-small moments of people making a subtle turn in their lives along with truly unbelievable stories of complete life transformation.

And I’ve alluded to this reality before but the proof is in the pudding as far as the types of “all people” who are welcome at this place… for starters, nonbelievers. 

From there every other type of “atypical” person you wouldn’t expect to see at church. Homeless, drunk, addicted or in recovery, gay, straight, black, white, Latino and Asian-we’ve baptized them all, we’ve sat next to them all and we’ve suggested that they all deserve the grace of God in their lives.

But it’s one thing to say and it’s another thing to do, we all know that axiom to be true, but this church-because of the mission and vision that has driven it these nearly 30 years-is the real deal.

The second relationship that has forever marked me is this church’s founding and senior leader-Tim.

It’s difficult to synthesize and communicate the ways in which Tim’s leadership has impacted me as a person, pastor, leader because I’ve watched him as closely as I could over these past 3 years and there’s so much you can learn from a person like Tim-himself an insatiable life-long learner.

The first thing though is just how entirely flat-out obsessed (possessed?) he is about playing a part in seeking and saving those who are lost.

I’ll give it to you mathematically first, but it is a universally known fact (on staff) that Tim’s given 24-hour day looks a little different than yours or mine.

For starters he invests only 5 hours in sleep.
He wakes up at 3:30am he invests 2-3 more hours working out… everyday, literally everyday.
From then on, he invests in the people and work of the Church.

I know that, for Tim, its an all out assault on seeing the mission and vision realized (i.e. to see people say yes to Jesus in every way and phase of their lives).

He takes morning meetings with newcomers and new believers as early as 6am, back to back to back 2-hour staff meetings throughout the day and he goes and goes and goes because he believes with the core of his being that living every ONE day-investing those hours in the things and people that matter most-is the highest call of any person on earth.

I’m not trying to make him out to be some sort of mini-messiah or Jesus Jr. I’m just trying to show you that the depths of this man’s care for the lost and his grit to introduce them to Jesus have now formed a piece of my own DNA and I’m forever changed because of him.

And I have a feeling I’m not the only one, by the way. Because the other thing I’ll say about Tim is that it’s all about tenure-which I wrote about a couple weeks ago, but his commitment and resolve (and I do mean RESOLVE, because being a pastor ‘aint the easiest job around… well it is, if you don’t mind knives in your back and forces of darkness on your shoulders) for the better part of 3 decades to stay the course is, to me, one of the most remarkable legacies I’ve ever heard of (and it’s filled with the new lives of people).


And while I could site loads of big conceptual things from this relationship that have marked me, I will descend to what may seem like the smallest and seemingly most insignificant example. I want to end by talking about pieces of trash…

Yep, pieces of trash. One of the things that Tim always instilled in us staff was an owner mentality. And employees who think like owners-they don’t wait for janitors or gardeners to pick little remnants up here and there, they don’t assume its someone else’s job; they pick it up, because they have an owner mentality.

I share this example for 2 reasons: 1, to illustrate the high levels of character that Tim is spreading through his example and 2, to explain what leaving well really looks like…

Because you may be familiar with the data on employees who over-stay the “two weeks notice” industry standard… it typically doesn’t work for most people… they become well… useless.

And even as my impending transition ensues and that little voice inside my head says, ‘that piece of trash doesn’t matter, you won’t be here next month anyway…’ I know what I must do in the face of what is truthfully a character challenge.

The high call of character is to answer that voice by doing the right thing. ‪The high call of character is to answer that “morally flexible” voice in your head by doing the very thing you doubt matters enough. ‬

So I know this hasn’t been the typical, take these 5 pointers/self-help blog post but I guess I would say if you are preparing to transition in your workplace begin thinking about what you’re going to take with you and I’m not talking about staplers or quality pens or severance.

I’m talking about the personal, emotional and spiritual leadership skills, takeaways, competencies and yes especially relationships-good, bad or otherwise-that you will take with you to the next stage, place and people that will serve and guide you there.

I’ve told people repeatedly over the last month that this transition is bittersweet. Bitter because of the transition from the people I love. Sweet because I have the utmost in hopeful expectation of what I get to leave with and take to the next chapter of ministry that God has ahead of me at Watermark. 

Thanks to all sincerely for taking the time and thanks for your support!

Know Your Blind Spots (3 Things All Leaders Must Work On Now!)

Know Your Blind Spots (3 Things All Leaders Must Work On Now!)

The other day I realized something about myself that isn’t really the greatest…

I was merely walking to the ATM to deposit a check when I realized how much I prize efficiency and simplicity.

From the walk up to the ATM-no one in line-to the way I pressed the buttons on the touch screen, to the way the check was seamlessly deposited then onto how I grabbed my card out of the machine smoothly and with ease slid it back into my wallet, turning and walking away from the ATM (with no time to read the “goodbye, thanks for using” message at the end)….

It was then, at that moment, that I realized how much I cherish efficiency and simplicity.

Everything about this very small everyday occurrence fulfilled my expectations for how things should be quick an easy.

Now you may say to yourself, ‘well I don’t know if those are necessarily bad things are they Ben?’ To which I would reply, ‘it depends…’

You see, if you value efficiency so much that it impacts the aggressive nature in which you drive your motor vehicle (speeding, swerving, giving nasty glares to people who somehow don’t understand basic efficiency driving etiquette), you may have a problem of over-valuing efficiency.

I’ve decided for myself, as an example, that when I get like that on the road it’s not just because I’m impatient or need to control or have ‘road rage’… it’s because I value efficiency in all things. When people, places or things become a hindrance in this smooth functioning, I feel the need to assert myself so things will get back into working order.

And it’s the same for simplicity I would say…

If you value simple things such that you are not willing to do the hard, grinding work in the office that is required for creative problem solving, system development or program implementation all because you think it has to be simple enough to explain to a 3rd grader, you may have a problem (like me *wink emoji*) of over-valuing simplicity.

Still don’t buy what I’m selling? Well then think about it in terms of the following principle (that I am 100% convinced is true for all human beings)…

Every strength, gift, talent taken to an extreme may become a weakness, problem, blind spot.

You’ve probably experienced this or watched it in someone close to you, but here’s what I mean…

We are all naturally hard-wired with a certain set of gifts, talents and strengths. One of mine, for example, is energy. I’m a naturally energetic person. I don’t really require coffee most days. I drink it anyway because its delicious and amazing, but I could probably go without it.

This energy when managed well can lead to all sorts of fruitful activity. It’s useful for leading and motivating people when it’s at its contagious best. It’s good for getting stuff done in a timely manner. It’s good for spreading passion and building culture… all at its very best.

However, in some of its more unfavorable forms this “talent” of being an energetic person can look like: A.D.D:
-the inability to focus for ver long on one task and see it through to excellence…
-talking to other people in the office (double whammy-now you’ve taken out 2 people!)
-working harder when all that’s needed is smarter…

We have a saying at the church (which is what my supervisor would be looking for from me by the way), it’s “impact over effort.”

You get the gist, but the point is that I need to spend less time spinning my wheel, running all over the office, completing this laundry list of tasks (when these maybe aren’t even the right tasks by the way!), just because it expends lots of energy (that may give the false appearance of momentum by the way)!

What I need to do is harness that energy for focused action that leads to impact, excellence and results.

Here’s the principle: we all have these blind spots. If we’re not careful they’ll go from personal blind spots to bad culture creators, momentum barriers and organizational ceilings!

So here are 3 things I recommend you do…

ONE…

Build in feedback loops... This could be 360 degree style where people (below, across and above you) are asked to assess and review you.

This could be setting up a blind feedback link where co-workers get an email then fill it out anonymously and you see the results.

Whatever you choose, it just needs to be early and often (hence the “loops” part, by the way, that means it’s build it, it’s frequent, it’s quarterly) and it has to be that way if you’re going to be healthy and growing.

This could also be hounding your significant other or friends who know you well to give you something that you can work on… their view from a ‘non-work angle’ might be the exact type of emotional feedback you need that affects every other relationship and context!

None of us no matter the age or tenure as leaders, at least leaders as lifelong learners, can say ‘we don’t need this… we are past this… or we’ve already heard all the feedback.’ The moment you resolve yourself to that type of thinking, you’ve just cemented that organizational ceiling right then and there.

TWO…

Work your plan... In other words, once you receive that feedback (which is just data-by the way-cold, hard, FREE data and you’d be a fool to reject free data), begin the difficult work of leading change…

One of my favorite quotes that we’ve picked up over the last 6 months at our organization is that, ‘you don’t need a new plan, you just need to work the plan you have!’

The suggestion is: we know something is broken within our organization and simultaneously we see a plan or system that’s working “over there” so maybe we should implement their style or plan…

The truth is: you already have a plan and it’s tailor-made for you and your organization, you just simply have to build the guts and discipline to work the plan right where you are.

Get your feedback. Work it into your plan.

THREE…

Give yourself (and others!) grace... This whole process is about humility-a very worthwhile humility because of what it will produce in all of your staff and organization-but humility is also painful. So give yourself and those around you an immense level of grace when rolling out this process.

When it comes to giving and receiving feedback, you’re really turning the corner for a healthy workplace. And around that corner, down the hall is the break room and that’s the place where people can get mean and nasty if they are not fully bought in to how this whole humble honesty thing is going to work. THAT’S why the delivery system of feedback must be grace.

When/what was the last piece of constructive criticism or feedback you received? Have you done anything in the way of self-improvement? Why or why not?

Work Ethic (And How To Hear From God)

Work Ethic (And How To Hear From God)

Have you ever sat there at your desk or workspace, in the car taking calls, in the kitchen while toddlers swirl, tug and scream… wherever the physical places are that you take up work and thought:

What is the point or real value to this tedious and redundant work… Here I am day after day chipping away at this seemingly rote behavior and what’s it all for?

There once was a man who understood the answer more profoundly than most. He was a 17th century dishwashing monk, his name was Brother Lawrence and I only learned of him very recently. But I’m very glad someone pointed me in the direction of Brother Lawrence.

He is best known for the published work “The Practice of The Presence of God,” which only served to present the way this remarkable man lived his very simple life all for the love, devotion and worship of God.

Ironically, it is said that Brother Lawrence, born Nicholas Herman, came to faith whilst in the military. Standing one day in the open field, gazing upon a barren tree-he realized its deciduous nature was a metaphor for human beings-capable of death and new life… it reminds me, squarely, of my last post by the way…

Here is a great snippet from the above link that represents a mantra for how Brother Lawrence lived his life, in which I would LOVE to emulate…

Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.

Anyway, the point is, the memory of this humble man could not have come at a more opportune moment for me as I dwell on purpose, focus and renewal for 2017.

For the week between Christmas and New Years I felt in a scramble to somehow artificially create some spark or revelation about the new year.

The truth is: I felt at a totally unoriginal loss of God’s voice, direction or newness.

And then it happened 2 or 3 days after New Years, where things were coming into focus and it was only THEN that I realized:

‘how hilarious it is… that we somehow believe that God’s revelation is dictated by a holiday or a ticking clock or a year-end or really any of our amusing human expectations.’

The revelation centered around three things, and it’s how, at this point in my life, I’ve learned to acknowledge God’s voice:

a word from a friend/mentor

The whole reason I’m even talking about “Brother Lawrence” is because of Jerry. While praying with me the other day, Jerry mentioned Brother Lawrence as, “the one who washed dishes if only for the love of God.”

Instantly, rather distractingly while he was still praying, I thought, ‘whoa, what the heck is he referencing right now?? Is that an author or a book I need to run out and purchase right now?’ There was just something that, in a brief utterance, struck me immediately about a person writing about washing dishes for Jesus that convicted me in that moment.

In other words, it spoke to me. It spoke to me in the way that the comment intersected with a personal need. I believe that is probably how God operates when he speaks. In fact, somewhere else I was reading recently that if only we could stop acting like we need to somehow drum up the activity of God and instead join the work that he is already actively creating on his own, we would be just fine.

That’s at least one way he speaks… if we are only willing to be patient and put ourselves in a position to listen.

a word from a movie

The next place I met with God, heard his voice, felt that conviction was after my wife and I went to see the movie La La Land. In short, it’s a musical about a struggling musician (Ryan Gosling) and a struggling actor (Emma Stone), who must fight to keep their dreams alive.

At this point I’m starting to see the constellation of aha moments that I’m chalking up to the actual voice of God. My conviction, what I now believe God was speaking, was patience and faith in the midst of waiting for action and next steps within doing God’s work.

Do you think it’s strange that God could use a ridiculous blockbuster film to speak to you? Well he was fond of using burning bushes, donkey’s, fire and all manner of natural forces… why couldn’t he use a hollywood movie? He will use ALL means by which he intends to fulfill ALL ends.

a word from a podcast

Next, rather I should say first, as this was earlier than the other two occurrences (but it’s funny how the first one doesn’t come into focus until it has been reinforced by 2-3 other things, moments, messages), was a podcast called Robcast (by Rob Bell).

In it Rob interviews Scott Reynolds, one of the key writers on the show Dexter, who shares his amazing slog of years at an L.A. bookstore before finally earning a position with a team of writers and then years still before he got his big break writing for Dexter for 7 seasons.

Now… now, this is not tenuous, this is not thinly veiled… this is thematic. And you cannot underrate God’s voice in the thematic.

And so yet again I’m hearing: patience, presence, take delight in the work that is in front of you, take nothing for granted, devote yourself to the very worthy work that you’ve already been given.

a word from my brother’s chosen profession

Finally as a connection-almost a thread that was woven between all of the above-I walked away from the film that day thinking of my brother David.

Dave has worked very hard to land a steady job in the film industry working in animation and effects, but his aspirations lie much bigger within the creative realm… directing.

And it was David, who saw the film too and we debriefed the meaning of the film, who made me think of the directors chair (you know that vaulted, boom directors chair typically with that guy sitting in it wearing a hat, glasses and headphones around his neck… whose never under 40 years old.)

I wondered to myself: ‘how many directors are there currently under the age of 50?’ I’m guessing not many. And for my brother David, just 28 this past December, how long of a road does he have yet ahead of him to get even close to a role like that?

Here I am thinking I should be the boss and run the world before I’m 30. What kind of wasted energy and thought leadership have I expended not fully devoting myself to the task and day at hand when so many others are patiently toiling?

But one of the key things in all of this is:

I almost missed it.

If I had not been paying attention, if I had not (very recently!) been trained to know who I am and what God’s word says, if I had simply be going my usual foolhardy speed in life… I could have missed it.

I’ve said it before, but one of the hallmarks of a strong leader is being a life-long learner.

Learn from my wrong behavior and attitude: don’t miss what God is speaking to you…

What connections can you make in your life right now that you’ve been avoiding or numbing, turning down the volume on? What do you feel God may be speaking to you by any means necessary?