Every Day is NOT Friday

I walk the hallways of the rehab and care facility where my mother is recovering from a fall – a broken rib, gash in the head, skin tear on the arm, and ongoing healing from a minor operation – and I look and listen.

The hallways are filled with nurses and caregivers, pushing their portable healing stations, dispensing medications and changing bandages, filling out charts and greeting patients. Sliding past them are janitorial workers, therapists, doctors and administrative staff, all working to make this 200-bed rehab/nursing home facility run smoothly and efficiently.

And then I turn and look, from left to right, into each open door along the hallway, and face the reality of longevity. For the most part, it’s not pretty. Part of me does not want to look. But like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol I am forced to confront my life and my past, and I ponder the realities of suffering and dying and life’s ultimate meaning. And I grieve.

But I also choose to learn, remembering the wise writer in Proverbs 24:32.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.

My eyes meet the gaze of a woman in her 90’s, lying on her side, a red-white-and-blue stocking cap on her head to celebrate the 4th of July. We smile at each other. Her eyes twinkle. Her body is broken, frail and withering but something in me whispers, “Don’t judge too quickly, Bill…there’s a lot of life in that smile.”  Yes, and our smiles are gifts to one another, a momentary treasure we share.

I look across the hall and see a man who stares at me from his crumpled bed sheets, lying awkwardly, clearly with multiple maladies. His body is present…but his mind is not. This time I hear an unwanted voice, one that haunts me for a moment…”This is where your life is headed, Bill…Someday one of these rooms will be yours.”

So I do the math. I am 56, my mother is 85, and many here are in their late 80’s and 90’s. Maybe 30 years…maybe much less. If you are over 40, look back at the last 30 years. How quickly did they pass?

Ok, so this is not winning “Positive Post of the Day!” But let’s be real –  every day is NOT a Friday.

Now a new voice is speaking. It is His voice. “Yes, Bill. Life is short and fragile and hard. So what choices are you making today?” I see a man looking at me two rooms down the hall. As I approach I smile, and say hello. “How are you today?” I ask.  “Dumb question,” I think to myself. He is in a rehab center, moron!

With a slight smile he surprises me and says, “Pretty good,” shifting from his slouched position to an energized upright posture. I ask how long he will be here in rehab. He does not know, but likes it here much better than where he lives. Hah! It is all a matter of perspective. This is a prison for my mother for 2 weeks, but an oasis for this guy!

Suddenly, I am aware my perspective is changing. Partly because of this man. Mostly because God has been teaching me all along this hallway journey. This place has served as a metaphor for life, filled with all the sadness and pain it brings, along with joy-filled surprises and gentle graces along the way. Soon I will leave, passing through a doorway into the blaring sunlight, taking in the fresh air carried along by a warm summer breeze.

Soon many here will also depart to a new reality. But I am wrong to picture them simply as people with one foot in the grave when, in reality, they stand at a threshold. Beyond lies eternity…and for some it is filled with light and joy and freedom from all that holds them captive in this bed. For others, a sadder reality awaits. Are they ready?

More importantly, am I ready? Is my life what I hope it can be, what God desires it to be?

I sit here today fully aware of my past and I regret the foolish choices, bad decisions, mismanaged relationships and other disasters that lie in my wake. And I am tempted toward depression, anxiety and grief. But then, as if on cue, in perfect timing, His voice whispers once again. Actually, this time it shouts, “Forgiven! Loved! Redeemed! Gifted! Treasured! Loved! (Did I say Loved??!!)” And I am free. Inside I smile.

I have today. . A day to serve and love the least of these, praying some prayers, sharing some smiles. And I take joy in this moment, and in this place that so many people want to avoid. And I watch my mother, who for two weeks has been loving people here and sharing the good news of Jesus with nurses and just about everyone who enters her room whether they are ready to hear it or not! (This is one of the cool things about being 85!)

And I smile.

Today may not be a Friday. But is it a good day. Not because life is good; but because God is good. And if you and I are willing to listen, today He will teach us…right where we are. And He may just show up in the smile of an elderly, bed-ridden woman wearing a red-white-and-blue stocking cap.

And that will be your gift today.

The ABC’s of Deep, Personal Change

We Admit we are powerless…

 We Believe a Power greater than ourselves can heal us…

 We Conform our will to God’s by turning our lives and wills over to Him…

These paraphrases of the first 3 steps of AA/Al-Anon are essential to any program or process of spiritual growth. In effect they are all aspects of surrender, something about as desirable as warm, mayonnaise sandwich with a sour glass of milk.

Unless you want to change.

When my pain is great, my hope is small and my problems seem overwhelming, surrender is my only option. Forget the fact that it is the best option in the first place. Which is perhaps why virtually all people point to pain or suffering as a major factor in spurring them on to real change and growth.

So why do we often start our “discipleship programs” with Bible memory, attendance at events, “accountability” partners, quiet times and serving opportunities? Why not start with these words.

“Tell me about your pain.”

Because it sounds “too therapeutic” and what do therapists know?  (News Flash – therapeuo is the NT Greek word used for physical and spiritual “healing.” ) In Matthew 9:12 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy but the sick who need a Physician,” and it’s pretty obvious that the Great Physician does not do surgery on healthy patients.

Are you sick? Where does it hurt? What is broken? What do you hunger and thirst for? What needs attention? Let’s start there. It could be…

  • Your unhealthy or distorted view of God
  • Your false view of self
  • The way you hide, run, or withdraw from deep friendships
  • How you avoid challenges or suffering
  • How you medicate your pain
  • How your family reacted to loss or failure in your life and theirs
  • The destructive habits/patterns that hurt you and others
  • Whether you believe what others said about you is true

Or dozens of other ideas, events or beliefs that have shaped you into who you are right now. This is who you are, and yes, the causes behind how you got here do matter and should be explored. But they cannot be changed. Being attentive NOW and taking responsible steps to move forward TODAY is the only choice you have.

Are you willing to surrender? To give up and let God begin His redemptive work in new ways, and in new places in you? I thought I had done a lot of that work early in my Christian life. And maybe for that phase, I really did. But the reality is that I need the first 3 steps again today, and every day – not an event, but a daily process of awareness and a bold declaration that I cannot fix, manage or control all the people and circumstances surrounding me. I must place them in His hands and work, by His grace, on me.

I need God to show up in ME first. And so do you.

Your “symptoms” – anger, fear, arrogance, control, pride, self-hatred, are all indicators that places deep within are damaged. It is who you are right now.

So let’s start there. If you want to.

Or, you can focus all your energy on the outside – language control, showing up at the required meetings and services, following the program, memorizing the material – all of which is good. But can also make you a good Pharisee if the inner work is neglected.

Don’t get me wrong. The outer practices and support structures are necessary and helpful for long-term growth. But be careful never to confuse the structures that support spiritual change with the processes that produce it.

The ruling religious elites in Jesus’ day saw the structure, not themselves, as the problem. And it was other people, not themselves, who were ill and sinful; and “those people” needed to be managed and changed and to get with the program. This kind of thinking is a sign that legalism is taking root, not to mention evidence mental illness.

So begin with surrender. Listen to your pain and sorrow – they are great teachers who will tell you where to start.

They will point you to the Great Healer, and your “discipleship program” can begin.

So let’s start with the letter A, then B… then….OK , you get it. Now you’re making progress!

Do You…(I mean, I) Have The Courage to Change?

Change is hard. Change is necessary. Change is good.

And I do NOT want to change. Not really.

Well, …maybe a little.

In recent months I have come face to face with my real desire to change. Unhealthy patterns, undesirable habits, unrealistic ways of thinking, unnecessary actions; do I really want to get beyond them and re-form my life?

Of course I do…and so do you. At least intellectually we do. Trust me, my intentions are good. (What is it they say about good intentions? That “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and “God save us from people who mean well!”).

Here’s the truth sometimes – maybe too often – about me. I intend to change. I think about intending to change. And I even sometimes consider thinking about intending to change.

But of course that does not bring about change.

I have a decision to make and some actions to take. A woman shared this morning in a meeting I attended that “nothing changes if nothing changes.” This is not just some simplistic slogan or positive-thinking hype. It is just a plain, simple observation about the spiritual life and about any organization or organism on the planet.

To be sure, there are those who think God does all the work for us. I believe this is a theology driven by fear, not truth, an abdication of our God-given responsibility. If we screw up, then we can blame God, say He caused it, or make some theological excuse for our inaction (“must be His will I do not have a job” even though I do not look for one.) How sad it would be if God caused everything.  (FYI: I believe God is so powerful that He can control everything without causing everything).

Why create a community of people for the sole purpose of manipulating and causing their every thought, word and action? If that is true there is really no need for change. We are simply floating adrift on the sea of predetermination. Let’s just pull in the oars, take down the sails, let go of the rudder and take a nap, arriving wherever, whenever. Whatever!

What a waste of Divine energy and power…coercing the actions and activities of 7 billion people 24/7. This cannot possibly be a joyful use of the Creator’s power.  (Ever notice how much work it talks to try to control just one person so they do what you want? Imagine manipulating a whole planet!)

If God is simply the Great Manipulator instead of the Glorious Creator then there is no need for His help or our prayers. No need for the power of His Spirit, no need for the guidance of His Word or the sacrificial life of His Son. All that remains is a dark fatalism, and unending circle of boredom and depression, and the ultimate realization that we do nothing and are nothing (or as one ill-trained pastor has said, “We are all just worms.” WOW… THAT’s a day-maker!!).

But if I really believe I can change, that God has given me the power to change, then anything really is possible – even my growth! I can affirm that I really place my trust in Him (and—here’s a scary thought – that He trusts what He is doing in me!), that my decisions and actions to cooperate with His will and purposes make a difference, that when I obey the scriptures to “make every effort” to live in the truth, I can grow!

When I admit the truth about myself, about God and about the world, then there is HOPE! As I walk with Him as Father, Friend, Leader, Lover, Forgiver, Healer, Victor, and Teacher, I enter a new, ultimate reality! I discover there is meaning and activity and purpose and joy and work and reward and celebration and love and …LIFE !!

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” – Jesus of Nazareth, The Message, John 10:10

And so I persevere, not because I can bring change on my own but because my God is with me. He is before me to guide me and behind me to urge me on, beneath me to carry me and above me to protect me, beside me to walk with me and inside me to empower me.  And He beckons me to act!

So today I will act – I will pray, I will listen and I will step out in faith and with courage (even if only taking the tiniest of steps), and I will find He is there, He is already at work, and I am growing.

 

I can change. And I want to. Really.

 

Do you?

When Leaders Get it Right

News stories tend to focus on destructive and tragic events in our culture. Like most major metropolitan areas, the Chicago evening news fills the first ten minutes with murders, fires, accidents and natural disasters. Kind of a “bad news, then good news” approach, with emphasis on the bad news (like some preaching we hear!).

When it comes to leaders, we like to point out where they got it wrong. Politicians behaving badly, pastors talking arrogantly, athletes living shamefully – all these provide journalists with more than ample fodder for “BREAKING NEWS” at almost any moment of the day.

Because so many of us have a stake in a leader’s failure, we tend to overlook the leadership successes around us. After all, when a notable leader stumbles, it makes us feel better about ourselves, gives us someone to blame for our apathy and ignorance, or provides interesting lunch conversation for our otherwise boring and meaningless lives.

But when leaders get it right (and many do!), a lot of good stuff happens. We need to tell their stories – to our teams, our friends and ourselves!

Because when a leader gets it right…

Energy flows to creating solutions and rather than making accusations

Team members feel empowered rather than overpowered

A compelling shared vision replaces a crippling ego-driven “visionary”

Conversations are truthful and gracious, instead of ruthless and tasteless

Tough decisions are boldly faced and, not cautiously feared

Movement is fostered by a mission, not forced through manipulation

Justice is rightly pursued not wrongly ignored

People feel honored and valued, not shamed and used

Success measures how people are treated, not just how profits are made

Workers are promoted by quality performance, not a deal-making cronyism
We need more of leaders who get it right, and we need to ferret out the real ones from the posers, the platform personalities who talk the leader game at conferences and conventions, but who play by a different set of rules behind closed doors. Lance Witt  describes this difference by comparing the leader you see on the front stage versus what is going on “back stage” where character, the soul and the real personality are seen.

Replenishbook

We need real leaders whose performance “backstage” – off camera, away from the excitement and spotlights – is congruent with we see up front. Some are pressured to perform even thought their souls are damaged, and they cover their broken parts. Others are just mean “Jekyll and Hyde” types who present well publically but are awful to work with, toxic to their staff and self-centered ego-driven tyrants.

Ask people who work with these leaders about the “back stage” persona – is it the same person you see “up front” in public settings? Are they as funny, winsome, easy going, and likeable after their scripted, “front stage” persona is set aside and the back stage personality – the real person – emerges in the darkness?

Maybe that is why we give the media so much material to work with. But if we can become leaders with increasing integrity and healthier souls, admitting we are not the center of the universe, not letting the front stage make us posers, we will get it right.

And when leaders get it right…great stuff happens. It really is amazing. And the stories … oh, the stories are grand. They won’t make the evening news—they’ll just make the world a better place.

And that’s the real story.

 

How to Have Healthy Conversations About Tough Topics

Nothing creates fear in a relationship more than entering a difficult conversation. We tell ourselves that so much is at risk, that we fear the very thought of failure in the convo and so we avoid it altogether.

Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian and Switzer is a researched base guide to “talking when the stakes are high.” And the stakes are always high in a marriage, business partnership, church staff meeting or a dozen other high expectation environments.

In their chapter about how to speak persuasively not abrasively, the authors offer this acronym as a tool: S.T.A.T.E. my path. I have found this helpful and want to pass it along.

Share Your Facts
Tell Your Story
Ask for Other’s Paths
Talk Tentatively
Encourage Testing

Share Facts: Facts are not very controversial or insulting, so simply state the reality. I like to say, “here is what I am hearing…seeing…feeling…what I observed that happened.” Don’t start with your story (how you are feeling about the facts), but start with the facts themselves. “You tend to look around the room when I am talking to you and it appears to me you are not listening.” IF I add anything to that like, “and that’s just awful” or “and it hacks me off!!” then I am going beyond the facts.

Tell Your Story: Here is where you add your feelings or reactions, but do it with discernment. “You often raise your voice when you disagree with the discussion. That makes the environment really emotional for me because I am not sure if you are mad at me or just don’t like the idea I shared.” Use grace but be direct, clear and – according to the authors – do not apologize for your views.

Ask for Other’s Paths: Here is where you ask others to express what they are seeing and feeling. Don’t dump all your truck. Share Facts, Tell some of your story, and invite a reaction, input and their point of view. “Do you see this happening like I do? Help me understand …”

Talk Tentatively: You can be direct, but using the right words signals you have humility, are open to dialogue and might even have some of the facts wrong. “I might be wrong or have misunderstood what you said, but it sounded like…” is a softer way to engage a difficult topic. “I was wondering if our meetings seem as contentious to others of you in the room as they feel to me at times (then provide some general observations about the tone of conversations the team has had.) Not too hard (you are rude!) and not too soft (I feel really bad having to say this) but just right (it appears when we argue a point we can get edgy with one another pretty quickly).

Encourage Testing: As you invite others to talk you must genuinely want to hear their ideas and be open to the fact that you are not seeing everything clearly or accurately. The authors exhort us to really mean it when we invite input. I served in a church environment where the top leader invited input but it was clear to everyone he had already made his decision. It killed creativity, broke trust and built walls. The authors say,

“You must be even more vigorous at encouraging –even pleading with—others to disprove it. The real test of whether your motive is to won a debate or engage in real dialogue is the degree to which you encourage testing.”

How do you handle tough stuff in personal relationships? How does your team engage and process tough conversations at work? What insights can you add to this that have helped you along the way?

 

Communication – Clear and Simple

I am in the teaching business. When I’m doing strategic consulting, developing leaders, working with a management team, leading a class at the college or training some grad students how to build an effective team, I am teaching. In some ways, we are always teaching.

Because I communicate for a living, I tend to watch others when they teach, looking for ideas, gaining insights, observing teaching styles, evaluating delivery methods and learning more about my craft. While there are many things to teach young communicators (a group I work with on a consistent basis), I like to start with some basics that anyone can use to deliver an effective teaching session. I still use them.

Here they are – easy to remember and easy to you as a basic framework.

First: What do you want them to KNOW, to FEEL and to DO as a result of spending time listening to you? Get this real clear before you even structure your talk.

Second: Consider this simple 4-part structure that you can alter and vary later.

Hook…Book…Look…Took

Ok, maybe a bit corny for some of you, but like I said, easy to remember.

 

HOOK: get their attention!

In a world of information saturation and social media A.D.D. it is essential to get and KEEP someone’s attention.  Why should they listen to you and what will you help them learn? Of course you want to remove barriers and distractions as much as possible (avoid awkward gestures, make sure sounds systems are working before you speak, look in the mirror at EVERYTHING before you stand and deliver).

But get my attention. A story, anecdote, visual piece, challenging quote, or event a controversial opener. “You have heard it said, ‘Experience is the best teacher!’ but I am here to tell you that is a lie.” Link your opener to your key idea, theme or desired outcome. My big idea is that evaluated experience, not just “experience” is the best teacher. You can do something poorly for 30 years.

 

BOOK: get people into the text.

For many of you this is the Bible or some spiritual truth. For others it is some skill set you want to train people to do or some core material they must know for their job or role.

If it is not a lecture, get them involved in the content. Read in groups of 2-3 and generate questions, ask people to give their first reaction to the content, choose members of the audience to take turns reading, read slowly several times, and so on.

 

LOOK: get the big teaching point(s) across.

This is NOT personal application—that comes next. This is the information or key ideas that apply broadly or come from the text, so we all know what we should be learning or thinking about.

A big idea might be, “Communication that is clear and simple is more memorable than a barrage of facts ideas that overwhelm the student.”

 

TOOK: get the text into the people.

What is the “takeaway?” Work together to determine next steps, ideas for action, and suggestions for how to put the material into practice. The last thing you want is, “That was interesting!” or “Wow, she is smart!” as the only takeaway. You want action. You want people to DO something, to be able to make the teaching actionable. In sermons, forget the “Let’s trust that God will use this in our lives this week” kind of statement. That is just code for “I did not prepare well and have no idea how this might work in my live or yours.” Spend time with your people and you will have no problem with making it actionable.

You can provide some ideas for them to consider, but make sure you know the audience. The more homogenous the more likely you can suggest next steps they can all try. But if diverse in growth stages, ethnicity, experience and age, you must have lots of different ways to use the material or it may be better for them to group up and discuss ideas, then share with the whole class/group.  This is the problem with most Sunday morning preachers who tell us “what we all should do this week” when, in reality, there must be a broad range of applications.

I am working to become a better communicator. If you have any ideas, let me know! Let’s all get better at this – for EVERYONE’s sake!

The Woman Nobody Knew

…CNN reported it this way on their website March 7, 2014

For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid. And life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan

Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual. The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself. One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy. At some point, her bank account ran dry. The bills stopped being paid.

After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes. Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house. Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.

The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the backseat of her car, parked in the garage. The key was halfway in the ignition.

Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago. They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

“I’ve been doing this 37 years. Never seen anything like this before,” said Undersheriff Mike McCabe of Oakland County, Michigan, just outside Detroit.

The woman, who authorities aren’t identifying until they’ve informed her family, paid her bills from her bank account through auto-pay, according to McCabe.

Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the dead woman, describing her as in her 40s and of German descent.

“She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” neighbor Caitlyn Talbot told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Talbot said she wasn’t aware of anyone having seen the woman, who traveled a lot, in about six years.

“She was probably there for a couple of days, then she’d leave for a week, then she’d come back. Then she’d leave for a month and come back,” Talbot said.

McCabe says neighbors chalked up the woman’s absences to her returning to Germany for long periods of time. Despite years without a living owner, the house was never broken into, he said.

Another neighbor, Darryl Tillery, told the Detroit Free Press that mail never piled up at the house and the lawn never grew out of order. McCabe said one of the neighbors cut the grass for years.

My Question: Is it OK to let a person “keep to herself?”

She kept to herself…but should we let someone “keep to herself?” I wondered about that when I read this. I am such a proponent of community – in neighborhoods, churches, workplaces and educational institutions. While I never force myself on people (I, too, have an introverted side), I like to get to know people where I live, work and play.

So what if a neighbor is a loner? What about the guy at work who eats lunch alone, or the professor who teaches and heads to her study? While we cannot force people to have relationships, we can move toward them in love and service. In this sad story I kept wondering:

Would I knock on the door? Would I go in? Call the cops? Would I care if a neighbor seemed to “disappear” for too long? What does “love” look like if it does not look like movement toward people? If I love people, can I ignore their apparent desire to be alone? Can I at least nudge forward by asking, seeking and knocking (literally), wondering if God might use me to break through?

The next time you see a pattern of isolation, don’t assume it is desired or even the best thing for someone. Ask, seek and knock. I wonder if she was so lonely she ended her life. We do not know the cause of death, but loneliness had to be a contributing factor.

People are dying for community…literally. Are we aware? Isn’t our lack of awareness and action a sin of the worst kind?

This story could have ended differently. If it had started differently. We can be part of the solution.

Ask…Seek…Knock. Don’t let someone be “the woman/man nobody knew.”

Leadership Essentials and Their Implications

5 Leadership Essentials and Their Implications for the Church

 

One of my students created this summary of the widely admired and broadly used (over 1 million copies in 20 years) book “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner.

The Leadership Challenge

 

I have included some comments about how these might apply in the world of the 21st century church among younger leaders. I would love your thoughts as well.

Model the Way

Leaders establish principles concerning the way constituents, peers, colleagues, and customers should be treated, and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. They set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. They unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action.

Implications:– Walk the talk; those of us who teach about leadership must first act, then teach. Younger leaders hear leadership talks and are skeptical, because they talk to their employees who almost laugh at the hypocrisy…except it is too sad to laugh. Emerging leaders do the research – they know. A great “talk” is not good enough. Like Ezra modeled…Study, Practice and then Teach (Ez. 7:10)

Inspire a Shared Vision

Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become. Leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for the future.

Implications: “Shared” is the key word here. Not imposed. Pastors and other church leaders often assume their vision is THE vision. After all, we are the spiritual leader. The “I have the vision; you need to follow me” days are over for rising church leaders. I just spoke to one at a major giga-church in the US. They can’t wait for the older guy to step aside so a true team vision can emerge.

Challenge the Process

Leaders search for opportunities to innovate and challenge existing sacred cows. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.

Implications: This is a no-brainer for many young leaders. While some young leaders are stuck in theologies that allow little creativity of thought (everything was decided in the 1600’s or 1800’s or…), the more they read, the more they realize they must challenge the status quo. While some new organizations and coalitions seek to drive people backward, these young leaders are creating their own movements and associations – and they are broader, more inclusive and more biblical.

Enable Others to Act

Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. Leaders understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.

Implications: Liz Wiseman does a great job distinguishing diminishers from multipliers. Here is a short summary of her work. I think younger leaders really get this. Would love to see the over 45 crowd get this as well, but a hierarchical leadership model versus a shared leadership model gets in the way (should be “elders” plural, 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1:5 – a circle of leaders). This is where a lot my research is focused these days.

Encourage the Heart

Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. In every winning team, the members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes.

Implications: YES! The people who really “do the work of the ministry” as in Ephesians 4, the “volunteers” are our heroes. Just met with two of my heroes Sunday – a couple 91 and 89, who are in a care facility. What are they doing? The same thing they did at Willow – serving people by guiding small groups, leading communion, and organizing worship for about 20 people! Love it!

What are your thoughts? Can these 5 areas of leadership practiced better by a rising generation than mine has done?

 

 

 

 

Here I am today

Here I am. 

After a day of classes and meetings and decisions and traffic and after being misunderstood and feeling incomplete and having too many things unresolved.

Here I am.

What do I want today? Really?

Oh, there is so much I want. But too often I am tempted to want the lesser things. So I want to get focused before ending this part of my day. I am sitting here in Barnes and Noble for a quick decaf before driving the last 5 minutes home. I sit amidst the cries, “Read me, see me, hear me, buy me” … empty promises and false hopes surround me.

Yet I find myself strangely centered. A calming assurance washes over me. The music of Audrey Assad singing I Shall Not Want fills my ears, warms my heart and steadies my soul, reminding me that I need deliverance from these things and many others.

 

Admittedly, I am too easily gripped and bound by the many voices that clamor for my fleeting attention. But I am called to want not. Instead, to find rest. To hear that one, still voice deep within. Henri Nouwen calls it the Inner Voice of Love.

The Inner Voice of Love

 

So I sit and listen while the world fades into the shadows.

Audrey’s simple lyrics and haunting melody are just what I needed …

 

From the love of my own comfort

From the fear of having nothing

From a life of worldly passions

Deliver me O God

 

From the need to be understood

From the need to be accepted

From the fear of being lonely

Deliver me O God

 

From the fear of serving others

From the fear of death or trial

From the fear of humility

Deliver me O God

 

And her chorus brings it all into one calming declaration…

 

And I shall not want, I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

 

So today it is His goodness I experience. It feeds my soul. And I am glad.

Here I am. Right where I need to be.

 

Extraordinary Groups – achieving personal transformation and great results

Extraordinary Groups

I am working with a group of young leaders in the area of high-performance teams and groups. One of the best resources I have come across for this is Extraordinary Groups by Bellman and Ryan.

Extraordinary Groups by Geoffrey M. Bellman, Kathleen D. Ryan

Extraordinary Groups by Geoffrey M. Bellman, Kathleen D. Ryan

 

In my opinion this is one of the most comprehensive resources in this arena because:

  • it combines author experience with very practical ideas and approaches
  • has a sound working model easily adapted to your situation
  • has transferable concepts and processes for any team, for-and-non-profit
  • walks you through the model in very practical ways
  • focuses on outcomes and how to engage robust discussions for your team
  • is well written with a language and style that is engaging, accessible and not too complex

 

Geoff Bellman’s approach is based on research and experience – you can watch a 40-minute presentation here that your team would get a lot out of! Very solid work.

Kathy Ryan and Geoff are a competent people who have built teams, led high-capacity groups, worked in complex organizations, understand the non-profit sector, and are advocates for relational transformation while honoring the need for great results

I like Kathy’s bio where you find this

Through The Orion Partnership, a consulting firm based near Seattle, Washington, she has been known for her work in turning fear-based organizations into ones where collaboration and trust are the keys to high performance.

There are many organizations that could really use her help!

Here are a few of my big takeaways from their work and this book.

First, get the book. It really is solid. And work the model with your team – the exercise is worth the effort.

Second, the 8 Characteristics of a an Extraordinary Group make for a solid framework and assessment (the work and book have been so well received that they just developed a team assessment and resources for the process.

Here are the 8 Characteristics
Outstanding Results Transformation
  • Compelling Purpose
  • Shared Leadership
  • Just-enough Structure
  • Full Engagement
  • Embracing Differences
  • Unexpected Learning
  • Strengthened Relationships
  • Great Results

 

 

Take your team through a discussion and reality check on this list alone, and you will be glad you did.

And third, the Group Needs Model they use is fresh, coherent and very applicable for creating a high-performance culture with a strong emphasis on personal growth not simply team results. The model addresses 3 major aspects of a team with 2 components in each, with an overall focus on personal and organizational change:

SELF = Self Acceptance and Potential

GROUP = Team Purpose and Relational Bonds

WORLD = Current Reality and Desired Impact

How is your team doing with respect to building people who connect deeply and together achieve great results? Where are the gaps? What is your process and model for evaluating and guiding a team?

 

I plan to utilize more of this work in my work with church and leadership groups – outstanding tool!