I was introducing a client (who has become a very good friend) to a ministry leader. It was a beautiful collision of gifting and ability with hope and desire. The three of us were powerfully aligned in many ways. It is what I imagine a war council must feel like. Leaning in. Map on table. Our territory was a generation of young people being overwhelmed by a cultural post-Christian tide and some like-hearted kings shoring up their battle plans to re-take some ground.
It might not surprise you that some companies we talk to simply want a strategic plan. They feel like that is the ultimate solution to all their problems. We couldn’t disagree more. That, in a vacuum, will not solve your problems. In our extensive experience and research, if you don’t walk through the essential steps necessary to get to this kind of strategic plan, the plan won’t be…
As we prayed through how we are to offer proper stewardship over all these processes, exercises, and tools that lead organizations down a transformation journey, we were left with a very clear conclusion, we are supposed to make it available to everyone.
We defined 3 different paths that lead to the same destination:
- Coaching for Your Team - Hire us to work with you and your team directly.
- Get a Coach - Meet with me or another coach and gather around a table with other leaders.
- Do It Yourself - We’re building a free online database of all the tools, processes, and exercises we use to take a team on a complete transformational journey.
This resolve gets tested sometimes.
Understanding my own identity as a man and understanding all the gaps in my masculine journey to adulthood was a necessary, but very challenging journey. There was a natural progression of things I needed to learn, know, and understand, that I had largely missed in my matriculation from boy to man. It is the same for nearly every honest man or woman I have ever come across.
The revelation of all of this, had me doubling back to fill in gaps in my developmental journey. It also had me aggressively seeking out the wisdom of old age. It was in this season that I began to see myself as an “Inverse Abraham,” a son of many fathers. I needed and cried out for maturity, wisdom, and mentoring.
hyper-local [hahy-per-loh-kuh l]
Information oriented around a well-defined community with its primary focus directed toward the concerns of the population in that community.
It is one of those terms you typically hear associated with hipster restaurants and grocery stores, but is now starting to gain some broader appeal. During the recent Olympics, Subway got into the act by positioning the concept around all their stores.
He was sort of unnerving, but in a way that made me totally comfortable. Even in this first meeting, he seemed to know more about me (or at least more of the things that really mattered) than I knew myself. He didn’t seem to need anything from me or particularly care what I thought about him. That was the unnerving part.
The fact that he cared so deeply about the deepest things about me was incredibly disruptive, but intriguing at the same time. It was as if I had stumbled into a conversation I had been desperate to have, but didn’t know I needed. The fact that I was 23 years into a successful banking career didn’t seem to faze him. He knew I was born to be a professional coach and referred to me that way in our very first meeting.
My friend Jeff played piano with Tim McGraw for almost two decades. When he started to look into recording on his own, he met with some industry types to talk about getting singed to a record deal. They told him they had to figure out his potential commercial viability by calculating the strength of his following as an artist.
Believe it or not Facebook follows, Twitter traffic, number of likes, fan emails to his artist website, etc. all had a numerical value. But the thing that was worth the most… many, many order of magnitude beyond all the rest… was hand written (snail mail) letters from fans.
Someone taking the time to bypass all the convenience and impersonality of the much easier technological methods of communication, reflected a depth of feeling and interest that dwarfed the others.
Living in San Antonio, we have had a front row seat on a selfless life expression of another sort. In an industry where arrogance, flash, and self-aggrandizement seems to be the barometer for success, Tim Duncan chose a different path. His recent retirement prompted dozens of tributes. Most of the tributes focus on his selfless play, his unassuming manner, and how much better he made everyone around him. They obviously point to the five NBA championships during his career, but the more astounding statistics are around the sustained excellence of the team through his career.
I stopped at a convenience store just down the street from the golf course where I would be speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. I was a little behind schedule, but needed to stop for some aspirin due to a piercing headache. I never expected I would find a line six people deep at this time of day.
I’ve been working on being more patient with some success, but given the circumstances there was a good chance I wasn’t going to pass this test. There was a young girl checking people out and another employee standing beside her watching and giving her instructions.
Speech helped me gain confidence, taught me to better frame up my thoughts, and gave me a place to belong. As you might imagine, as a thick-tongued boy lacking confidence, they kept chiding me to speak louder and enunciate. It wasn’t until I felt like I was almost screaming and articulating every syllable as an individual word, that they felt like I was actually speaking in an appropriate manner. Sometimes when you are not used to speaking up or having anyone care about what you have to say, you have to exaggerate in the other direction. You have to do what feels like shouting, just to be heard.
I call that “fighting your tendency.” It is a concept that seems to show up in conversations all the time. It is the simple idea that you have go against the grain of your default behavior to get decidedly different results.
We’ve observed something in the teams we work with. Once they get really clear on their desired culture (Values, Purpose and Vision), the herd starts to thin itself. The inconsistency with the now clearly defined culture makes it difficult to remain on the team. Also, the rest of the team buying into and operating under the powerfully embodied culture won’t allow others who don’t fit, to remain.
The book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” in not a minimalist manifesto, in fact, it is about the pursuit of a more abundant life where you provide the maximum contribution. It flies in the face of our western cultural sensibilities that says the only path to “more” is through doing “more.” It also flies in the face, interestingly enough, in the way we often measure ministry success.
I went to a non-fiction writing conference a couple of years ago. They took us through a series of writing prompts with the objective of getting us to declutter and simplify our thoughts. We were shown a simple photo of a weathered house in the middle of an endless field of grass and asked to describe what we saw.
The process was to have us increasingly simplify our descriptions, each time working with less words to accomplish the task. I was undaunted by the shrinking word count and just started using bigger and more elaborate words (one of the byproducts of reading a lot to escape my troubled reality as a kid). At one point the leader of the conference got so exasperated with me, that he blurted out: "Just say the damn thing!!" That phrase comes to mind often.
If you put it into rowing parlance, out of every ten employees at the average company, 3 are rowing forward aggressively, 5 are along for the ride, and 2 are actually trying to sink the boat! Before you summarily reject that idea, take a hard look at your team. Those that are actively engaged (30%) need to be honored, celebrated, and rewarded. Those along for the ride (52%) need a plan to help them get more actively engaged. Those actively rowing against you (18%) need to find someone else’s boat to sink. Things are difficult enough without hauling dead weight around!
Who wouldn’t be anxious? After twenty years of launching and then fathering a not-for-profit to significant maturity and impact, it was time to find a replacement. It takes incredible maturity and humility to step aside from all that you’ve created… to believe that ultimate success and long term viability of the enterprise requires another at the helm. Many founders or entrepreneurs never find the temerity of spirit to reach this point. Of the few that do, most find it difficult to actually let go.
As much as the deliverable of our faith was always intended to be restoration and transformation, the history of many of our organizations, the culture of our families, and even the experience of our faith journey, has been about everything but that. That is no accident. Everything the Father desires is specifically opposed. And everything the Father ultimately intends, is ultimately opposed.
Bringing real honest-to-goodness change (transformation) to lives and organizations has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever attempted. And you will often find me both signing the praises and shaking my fist at the heavens.
I often get the sense, talking to some business leaders; that they believe there is someone just beyond the horizon that can do the jobs of everyone on the team better than the folks they currently have. That there is a magic pill, program, person, or thing, that will magically solve all their problems and make their dreams come true. That unicorns exist.
An inspired vision can be cast that both inspires and motivates a team to reach for more. This is not something an outsider can craft and design, but merely cultivate from the team. A well defined vision provides the destination from where you can craft powerful strategic initiatives and action steps to make sure it is realized. With our clients, we commit to work for as long as it takes to get them in a strong rhythm for execution of those plans and any other issues that incidentally occur.
At the end of the day though, company leadership is going to make sure all this happens or not. It doesn’t matter how powerful, comprehensive, or well-defined the processes are, success will still be contingent on the endorsement and support of your leadership. That cannot be outsourced.