Leadership

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman believe that all of the conventional rules for how leaders ought to manage are wrong. If we are going to learn to manage well, we need to break those rules.

About two years ago one of our pastors (Zach Imboden) introduced me to Strengths Finder. That then trickled down to our Executive Team and then our entire staff. It has been an encouragement to watch our team grow in our understanding of our own strengths and our co-workers strengths. The impact of learning to contribute our best and focus on the best contributions our teammates can make has made a significant difference.

When Zach tipped me off to this book this year, I was all-in. I’m so glad he did. It’s a great book. Gallup has been around for a long time and in that time they’ve been able to compile a tremendous amount of data on organizations, employers, and employees. They asked the best employers what their secrets of management were and the best employees what attracted, focused, and kept them at their job.

The twelve most important questions for attracting and keeping talented employees are:
1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2) Do I have the materials and equipment to do what I do best every day?
3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4) In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6) Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       In Stores, Secret Surveillance Tracks Your Every Move: Well, this NY Times article by Michael Kwet certainly is disconcerting. He explains Bluetooth beacons, " ...are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis."

2.        Armchair Quarterbacks and Armchair Leaders: Eric Geiger reflects on a missed kick by Chicago's field goal kicker and the danger of Monday morning quarterbacking: " Whenever we evaluate a quarterback or a kicker, we typically evaluate them without understanding the whole context. For example, fans roasted Parkey before they discovered the kick was actually tipped off course by a defender. People often judge a leader’s decisions or actions without full understanding of the context surrounding those decisions. If the context were known, the armchair leader would likely make the same call."

3.       You've Heard of Cultural Marxism, Here is a Better Word to Call it: Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer with a dense, but thoughtful and helpful article on critical theory. They say that "critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their “lived experience” of oppression. Such insight is unavailable to members of oppressor groups, who are blinded by their privilege."

4.       Are you Quarrelsome? The platform of social media seems to have unleashed a wave of quarrelsome people. Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful markers for us to consider. The first is " 1. You defend every conviction with the same degree of intensity. There are no secondary or tertiary issues. Everything is primary. You’ve never met a hill you wouldn’t die on."

5.       Stop Changing Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles: Edmunds on why you should be changing your oil closer to 7,500 to 10,000 miles.

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

You have access to the best pastors in America.

You have at your fingertips access to a trove of virtually endless content by some of the wisest and most powerful thinkers and speakers on the planet. As soon as you finish this post you can have them piped into your office, car, or living room and be impacted by their words. And I hope you do!

What a ridiculous gift we have! If you were born five hundred and fifty years ago in Europe, in all likelihood not only could you not read the Bible, but it was likely that your parish priest didn’t own a whole copy of the Latin Bible and since he knew only a handful of Latin words, he couldn’t even read the Bible. Fast forward a few decades to the Reformation and now, for the first time, you would hear the Bible read in your own language and its words applied to your life.

Fast forward five centuries to today and not only do we (in the West) have unfettered access to the Bible, but we have almost limitless access to some of the very best Bible teaching. What a gift we have!

And yet, that begs a question: how is a normal pastor like myself supposed to compete? Why should you even bother with attending your local church? Why settle for the best I can offer when you can watch the best that Tim Keller and Albert Tate and (fill in your favorite preacher here) can offer?!

The truth is that I can’t compete. I’ll never be on an “America’s Best Preachers” list like this. And frankly, I have no aspirations for that.

Of Mice and Men’s 3.8 Rating and Handling Criticism

Of Mice and Men’s 3.8 Rating and Handling Criticism

One of my favorite all-time books is the great American novel Of Mice and Men. This year I’ve been on a bit of a John Steinbeck binge. I’ve picked up some of his classics that I enjoyed in year’s past and I’ve picked up a couple that were new to me. I picked up Of Mice and Men for the first time in twenty-five years and dropped myself into the world of George and Lennie. It was just as immersive and heart-wrenching as the first time I read it as a fifteen-year-old. No, it was better. As perfect a novel as has ever been written.

I’m not a big crier, but my eyes welled, and then tears streamed down my cheeks as George has Lennie close his eyes and imagine their life on their own farm in the closing scene. Maybe you remember the emotional wallop or reading that final scene? Maybe you cried as well?

I went to Goodreads, where I rate and review books I’ve written (if you have an account, friend me!). My jaw dropped. On a 5 star scale, Steinbeck’s masterpiece has received a 3.86 rating with over 1.7 million ratings. A 3.86 for one of the finest pieces of writing on the planet. As of this writing 51,618 people rated Steinbeck’s novel a 1 out of 5 stars. 51,618 people, more than the population of Prescott, Arizona, decided that Steinbeck’s novel wasn’t just average or disappointing… no, it deserved the worst possible ranking they could give a book.

Confession: I handle criticism poorly.

By “handle criticism poorly” I don’t mean that I don’t receive criticism or seek it out. I do both. What I mean is that I tend to hear criticism in BOLD and CAPS LOCK. My default is to overstate the criticism, to universalize it, and to see too much merit in the criticism. I can slide into doubting my calling and gifting.

Fellow discouraged traveler, remember, 51,618 people gave Of Mice and Men 1 star.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How 32 African Slaves Turned Into Millions: This year we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tragic start of the slave trade to the Americas. This powerful info-graphic rich article shows how 32 slaves ballooned into millions. 

2.       Why People Don't Think You Appreciate Them Even When You Do: Suzanne Vickberg with helpful advice for any leader. She begins by quoting Gladys Bronwyn Stern: "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

3.       Why Calvinists Should Be the Gentlest: John Newton, in his letter to fellow Christians exhorts gentleness and cautions a lack of gentleness, " If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable."

4.       Eternity and Mortality: Jennie Cesario with a beautiful reflection on how a scrape with death shaped her perspective about herself, God, and parenting.

5.       The Ugly History of Mass Incarceration: The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world. And with a disproportionate number of those inmates being black, it is an issue fraught with difficulty. As a former Detention Officer, the complicated history of and solution for our incarceration problem hits close to home. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Saving Retirement: Jeff Haanen on the state of retirement. This is a very helpful read. He says, "Some are now seeing retirement as a social construct that allows them to take an intentional 3, 6, or 12 months of sabbatical rest to prepare the heart for a new season of fruitfulness (Lev. 25). Rhythms of preparation, worship, feasting, learning, simplicity, remembrance, and service are chosen over consumption, travel, or a premature jump into a new field."

2.      Why Treating Your Spouse Poorly Can Be So Easy: Dave Harvey considers his sin against his wife, and his compounding sin even as he sought forgiveness: "Several years ago I became aware of a subtle, destructive habit. Whenever I sensed I had sinned against Kimm I would go to her, confess, and seek to resolve the situation. Looks pretty good when I put it that way, doesn’t it? But I came to realize that my goal was far from noble. I wanted a quick and efficient restoration of our relationship so I could stop feeling bad and get on with 'more important things.'” 

3.      Heroes, Villains, and Guides: Glen Elliott ends his reflection on leadership with these important questions, " Be honest with yourself. What are you seeking? What’s your view of being a leader? Who are you really in your leadership role? Are you seeking to be the hero or intentionally choosing to be the servant who guides others to success?"

4.      Why Tithing Isn't a Pinnacle Virtue or Legalism: Randy Alcorn pushes on some significant barriers in our hearts, "So to those who say all New Testament offerings are freewill, I say fine. My question is, even if we’re convinced tithing is an antiquated practice that doesn’t apply to New Testament believers, if Old Testament saints could rob God by withholding freewill offerings, can’t we do the same? If not, why not?"

5.      The Relationship Timeline Continues to Stretch: Fascinating data that shows a few interesting trends including the fact that the time between meeting and marriage has nearly doubled in five decades, and how the average couple now lives together for over three years before marriage.

6. Romano Tours: This hilarious sketch by Adam Sandler is helpful truth serum for us as we head out on vacations this summer: “if you’re sad now, you might still feel sad then… you’re still going to be you on vacation.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Secrets of the World's Greatest Art Thief: This is an interesting true story where almost every detail looks nothing like the movie version would, and maybe that is why he pulled it off for so long.

2.      3 Things That May Be True If People Are Constantly Complaining to You: Eric Geiger with an important post that we all should consider. " If people are always complaining to you, you should evaluate why. It may not be because you are trusted, but it may be because you are divisive."

3.      Why is it So Hard to Pray: Burk Parsons considers this important question at Tabletalk: " It’s hard to pray because humbling ourselves, getting over ourselves, and coming to the end of our stubborn and sinful selves is hard."

4.      Pastoral Ministry is an Ensemble, Not a Solo: Jay Sanders is so right: " Pastoral ministry is not the stage upon which we showcase our talents for a watching audience. When done right, pastoral ministry is an ensemble. Yes, we’ve been called upon to take the lead but we were never meant to perform by ourselves."

5.      Nothing Has Snuck Past God: In this brief clip, Trip Lee offers a powerful analogy for God and his sovereignty.

How Healthy are You?

How Healthy are You?

“How easy is it for you to handle the stressors of life today? How hard are simple decisions?”

A few months back, Josh Reich, pastor at Revolution Church and author of Breathing Room, shared with a pastors’ group I recently started attending. He asked a series of questions that have served as a great mirror for me in the past few months to assess my health.

It’s a strange thing that it’s a difficult thing for us to assess our own emotional and spiritual health. We’re usually pretty aware when our physical health is off, whether it’s an upset stomach or a headache or a sore back. And yet, I suspect that you have those days where you really don’t know how well you are doing emotionally and spiritually.

In Matthew 11, Jesus casts a vision of what following him looks like. You’re probably familiar with the verses. Read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase and ask yourself how much this resembles your life:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Isn’t that a beautiful vision of the Christian life? Are you living into Jesus’ “unforced rhythms of grace”? Can your life be characterized by its lightness?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Hormones, Surgery, Regret: I was a Transgender Woman for 8 Years--Time I Can't Get Back: Surprising story to read in USA Today by Walt Heyer: "I lived as “Laura” for eight years, but, as I now know, transitioning doesn’t fix the underlying ailments. Studies show that most people who want to live as the opposite sex have other psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety."

2.      13 Ways We Justify, Rationalize, or Ignore Negative Feedback: One of the best articles I've read this year. Peter Bregman of Harvard Business Review says, " It doesn’t feel good to be told you missed the mark. And, since feedback often uncovers our blind spots, it’s especially jarring because, in many cases, we thought we were doing a good job. So we don’t immediately or intuitively agree with the validity of it (we tend not to believe things we can’t see ourselves)."

3.      The Danger of Drama: When we stir up drama, Heidi St. John says, we are sinning: " If you need to address something that should be handled in private, then do it privately. If you’ve been hurt, don’t put it on the internet. Season your speech with grace."

4.      Don't Put Your Hope in Date Night: Interesting perspective by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, "In our modern, Western, first-world culture, our margin for romantic love is a blessing. Many of us have the freedom to select a spouse who matches our preferences and makes us feel weak in the knees—particularly in those first few months of dating. This is a joy and a privilege. As those ideas carry into marriage, we tend to continue emphasizing the importance of romantic feelings. But are cultivating these feelings through date nights essential in God-honoring marriages?"

5.      Beware of Broken Wolves: I resonate with Joe Carter's advice here about protecting oneself from a certain type of leader: "But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.” These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15)."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      How to Stop Hating Yourself: Emma Scrivener with ten suggestions on how to move out of self-hatred. She begins, "God hates your self hatred because He knows the truth about you; that He made you well. This truth is bigger than all the other ‘truths’ you’ve ever been told."

2.      Consolations for Your Burdens: Mike Emlet offers macro and micro consolations for the cares that weigh you down: "Life in a fallen world is hard, often excruciatingly painful. Christians don’t float above the mess of life, stoically relegating disappointments, trials, and tragedies to some back room of our lives. No, we sow in tears (Psalm 126:5). In the world we face tribulation... But where do we go when the inescapable cares of our lives are multiplying? We look for and embrace the consolations of God."

3.      Why Over-Quoting Your Leader Undermines Him or Her and Why We Do It: Wisdom from Eric Geiger: " The leader of the meeting name-dropped. You wonder why. Does the leader not feel confident to stand on his/her own credibility? Does the leader not agree with the conversation you did not even know about until now?"

4.      Tips for Communicating with Teens: Rachel Ehmke with sage advice: "Validate their feelings. It is often our tendency to try to solve problems for our kids, or downplay their disappointments. But saying something like “She wasn’t right for you anyway” after a romantic disappointment can feel dismissive."

5.      5 Myths About Abortion: Scott Klusendorf takes on four challenges to the pro-life movement, "Myth #4: Pro-life advocates must take on a broader 'whole life' agenda to legitimize their efforts. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must, therefore, take responsibility for all societal ills?"