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Archive for Books

Jul
25

Why People Resist Change

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I’m currently reading Tempered Resilience, by Tod Bolsinger, which includes this fabulous quote from the work of Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky:

“People do not resist change, per se. People resist loss. You appear dangerous to people when you question their values, beliefs, or habits of a lifetime. You place yourself on the line when you tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Although you may see with clarity and passion a promising future of progress and gain, people will see with equal passion the losses you are asking them to sustain.”

Therefore, when a leader proposes change in an organization, it should come as no surprise that the organization’s stakeholders will resist the change, not because it’s new or different, but because it threatens loss. People who are deeply invested in a church will often become enmeshed to the degree that it becomes their identity. Thus, change creates a loss of identity and even threatens their sense of personal power within the church. It’s not the additions that come with change. It’s the subtractions that come with change. Perhaps this is why churches can create new programs easier than discontinue old, ineffective programs.

Unfortunately, when people feel threatened due to the losses created by change they engage in sabotage. Tod Bolsinger writes, “Acts of sabotage are not the bad things that evil people do to stop good being done in the world. Acts of sabotage are the human things that anxious people do because they fear they are losing what little good is left in the world.”

He continues, “At times of crisis or crossroads of change, anxious relationship systems default back to what is known, believing that it is the only path to self-preservation and survival, even if it means returning to slavery (Exodus 16:3).”

If you’ve served in any kind of organization with any level of longevity, these words will ring true. So what should leaders who aspire to lead change do?

  1. Don’t take resistance personally. Resistance isn’t about you, or even the proposed change. It simply reveals something in nature of those who are resisting. It’s not easy to confess that change makes you feel insecure or threatens your sense of significance. It’s easier to sabotage the change or become adversarial to the leader(s). It’s only personal if you make it personal.
  2. Lead collaboratively. Leaders who want to take personal credit for the new idea will ensure they are the targets for personal attacks. The wise leader will lead collaboratively when introducing change, using whatever governance devices are available to depersonalize the initiative. Even if it’s the leader’s idea, some sabotage can be diffused by introducing the initiative through boards, committees or teams.
  3. Be patient. Leaders can legitimately see change as true no-brainers. But not everyone responds to charts and graphs, not matter how colorful they may be. People need stories that are rooted in the church’s history where they are reminded that change is part of their rich history and such changes have led them to that point. Be willing to communicate and present the idea until people are actually tired of hearing about it. Few things in life are communicated in one message.
  4. Be courageous. The white’s of their eyes matter, so go the second mile by sitting down knee to knee with those who are resisting the change. Give them the time of day. They matter to God, so they should matter to you. You may not win them to your cause, but you can care about them and empathize with the loss you are asking them to accept. And that’s not nothing.

Bolsinger’s book serves as a companion to the book, Failure of Nerve, by Edwin Friedman. If you find yourself in the crucible of leading change, I’d recommend you purchase both. They’re timely and timeless additions to your leadership library.

Categories : Books, Change, Leadership
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Jul
25

Canoeing the Mountains

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The year following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis to find the most direct and practical water route across the continent from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean for the purposes of commerce. For over 300 years explorers from at least four sovereign nations had been looking for a pathway that would lead from the Mississippi River all the way through the North America to the Pacific. Lewis was joined by Second Lieutenant William Clark and together formed the Corps of Discovery to under take the challenge from President Jefferson.

The Corps of Discovery began with a faulty assumption. Everyone was certain that the water route to the Pacific was there. All they needed to do was discover it. But they were wrong. There was no passage. When Lewis and Clark came to the end of the river they realized that nothing before them was like anything they had experienced that was behind them. There were no manuals, maps or journals that could help them. They literally marched off the map into the unknown.

What the Corps of Discovery learned over 200 years ago is what we are learning today in the life of our church. The world of ministry is not like anything we have experienced in the past. The cultural landscape has changed to the degree that our assumptions about reaching and serving are experiencing diminishing returns.

Today we are recognizing that many of the ministries we found to be effective in the past are no longer having the same impact today. Like Lewis and Clark, we must realize that we are marching into an age where our canoes may no longer help us reach our destiny. Like the Corps of Discovery, we are finding the need to trade our canoes for horses so that we can stay focused on the mission. Those who choose to love their canoes more than the mission will risk becoming stuck at the headwaters of the river and fail to reach the ultimate goal.

Tod Bolsinger shared this anecdotal story to form the motif of his book, Canoeing the Mountains. He uses this historical event to describe the type of adaptive leadership that is needed in the 21st century. It was written prior to the global pandemic, and coming out of the pandemic is more timely than ever.

Bolsinger suggests five characteristics every leader must possess in order to lead a congregation or organization in unchartered territory:

  1. Recognize you are in uncharted territory, and that the world in front of you is nothing like the world before you.
  2. No one will follow you off the map unless they trust you on the map. Competence and credibility on the map is required to develop the necessary trust to advance into the unknown.
  3. Adaptation is the key to leading in uncharted territory. Adaptation is the process of learning and loss. Once we realize the losses won’t kill us, we can embrace a growth mindset and learn.
  4. Adaptive leadership requires both collaborative relationships and navigating resistance. Today’s leader can no longer go it alone. Successful change is not achieved until the leader has survived the inevitable sabotage.
  5. Finally, everyone will be changed, especially the leader. Survival comes when the leader is willing to allow people to speak into his or her life that previously have gone unheard.

If Bolsinger’s book was important in 2015, it is invaluable in 2021. If you’re an organizational leader who is looking to lead into the dynamic future instead of being content with the static present, this book is a must read.

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Jan
24

Talk Like TED

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I did my doctoral studies in the field of preaching, and consequently have read approximately 100 books on the topic. Each one of these has contributed to my thinking and practice of preaching and public speaking. Some time ago my friend Cliff Jenkins recommended a book by Carmine Gallo that may be one of the most practical helps for those who speak to audiences whether religious or secular. The name of the book is Talk Like TED.

For years “TED Talks” have served as an influential platform for sharing insights and ideas. Some of the most popular presentations have garnered millions of views on YouTube and other media outlets. They have propelled the careers and book sales of presenters. Regardless of the topic or the presenter, these TED talks share one common denominator: they are all outstanding. Carmine Gallo has evaluated hundreds of TED talks and gleaned nine distinguishing features of each to help each of us become better communicators.

#1 UNLEASH THE MASTER WITHIN. You can’t inspire others if you’re not inspired by the topic. Each presenter is clearly passionate about their subject matter.

#2 MASTER THE ART OF STORYTELLING. Passion is best expressed through storytelling, not imperatives. The best stories illustrate and illuminate the subject and inspire listeners to take action.

#3 HAVE A CONVERSATION. Become so familiar with your subject matter that your pace, timing, and gestures become natural and unforced.

#4 TEACH SOMETHING NEW. Reveal information that is either completely new, is packaged differently, or offers a novel way to solve an old problem.

#5 DELIVER JAW DROPPING MOMENTS. Make your presentation memorable and stamp it in their minds.

#6 LIGHTEN UP. Use humor to poke fun at yourself as well as your topic.

#7 CONFINE YOUR PRESENTATION TO 18 MINUTES. Constrained presentations require greater creativity. What is left unsaid makes what is said even stronger.

#8 PAINT A MENTAL PICTURE WITH MULTISENSORY EXPERIENCES. Since the brain doesn’t think without a picture, create images through images, videos and props. Give your topic multiple voices to engage the minds of the listeners.

#9 STAY IN YOUR LANE. Don’t be something other than who you are. Be authentic, open and transparent. People can generally spot inauthenticity. Authenticity is the key ingredient to gaining the trust of the listener.

Gallo’s book should be considered a must read for anyone who speaks publicly. His insights from the presenters of TED talks are both timely and timeless. If you think about it, you’ll find at 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ implemented these principles, and we’re still talking about his presentations today.

Categories : Books, Preaching
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Dec
21

The Best of 2020 in Books

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This past year has been unique, to say the least. One of the disruptions of 2020 was my reading patterns. I did not reach my initial reading goal, but did come across some interesting books that I found beneficial. Here’s the list.

In the field of Personal Development:
Anger Intelligence, by Mitchell Messer
It Takes What it Takes, by Trevor Moawad
The 12 Week Year, by Brian Moran
Talk Like TED, by Carmine Gallo
The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk

In the field of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership:
Pastor Paul, by Scot McKnight
Present Future, by Reggie McNeal
The Vision Driven Leader, by Michael Hyatt
What Jesus Started, by Steve Addison

For Spiritual Formation and Culture:
The Way of the Warrior, by Erwin McManus
The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin
Walking with God in Pain and Suffering, by Tim Keller
The Last Arrow, by Erwin McManus
White Fragility, by Robin DeAngelo
Genesis for Normal People, by Pete Enns

And, my 36th complete read of the Bible.

Unfortunately at the end of this month I’ll have around a dozen titles that I haven’t cracked, but I’m excited to dive into them over the holidays and into the next year. What were some of your favorite reads of 2020?

Categories : Books
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Dec
30

My 2018 Reading List

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2018 was a good year of reading. Although I didn’t get to all of the books I purchased, overall I was helped and inspired by the titles below. My list does not include the Bible, which I read cover to cover, nor does it include the numerous commentaries and reference works that I consulted as a part of my weekly sermon preparation. They appear in the order that I completed them.

  • The Magnificent Story, by James Bryan Smith
  • The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson
  • The No Complaining Rule, by Jon Gordon
  • Uninvited, by Lisa TerKeurst
  • When, by Daniel Pink
  • The Power of Positive Leadership, by Jon Gordon
  • The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom, by Tremper Longman
  • Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Big Potential, by Shawn Achor
  • Drive, by Daniel Pink
  • The Christian Atheist, by Craig Groeshchel
  • Pastor, by Will Willimon
  • Open to the Spirit, by Scot McKnight
  • Your Best Year Ever, by Michael Hyatt
  • Faith Formation in a Secular Age, by Andrew Root
  • The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle

My goal for 2019 is to read 24, and with a measure of discipline I hope to accomplish even more. What are some of the books you enjoyed in 2018? What are your goals for reading in 2019? How do you determine what you will read?

Categories : Books
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Jan
16

The No Complaining Rule

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This week I finished The No Complaining Rule by Jon Gordon. Using parables, Gordon writes simple books with large morals that are helpful in virtually every dimension of life. This book is no exception.

Gordon suggests that people complain for two basic reasons. One, they are fearful and hopeless, and two, its a habit. He offers three beneficial “no complaining tools” to help break the cycle of complaining and move toward more productive and constructive conversations. Here they are, in short.

First, use the but, >>> positive technique, meaning that when you find yourself complaining about something, add the word “but” and follow it with a positive statement. For example, “I can’t believe its snowing again, but at least I have a warm house and a roof over my head.”

Second, focus on using “get to” instead of “have to.” In other words, instead of saying, “I have to go to work today,” try “I get to go to work today and am thankful to have a job.”

Finally, find ways to turn complaints into solutions. According to Gordon, mindless complaining focuses only on problems and is never beneficial. Justified complaining, however, identifies problems and begins to move toward solutions. The only appropriate complaints are those that immediately move off of the issue and immediately begins to work toward solutions.

This is a quick read with many lessons. If chronic complaining is an issue for you at work, at home, or even personally, you’ll find this volume to be helpful.

Categories : Books
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Oct
04

11 Traits of the Best of the Best

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Today I finished an exceptional book by Jon Gordon titled, “Training Camp.” Its a leadership fable, written in the fashion of Ken Blanchard and Patrick Lencioni. The impact is tremendous. The fable that Gordon offers is built around 11 principles that help us move from good to great. Here’s the list:

1. The best know what they truly want.
2. The best want it more.
3. The best are always striving to get better.
4. The best do ordinary things better than anyone else.
5. The best “zoom-focus”.
6. The best are mentally stronger.
7. The best overcome their fear(s).
8. The best seize the moment.
9. The best tap into a greater power than themselves.
10. The best leave a legacy.
11. The best make everyone around them better.

Intrigued? Let me recommend this outstanding work to you. Its a quick and easy read that delivers incredible help to those who are tired of being average.

Categories : Books, Leadership
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Mar
26

The Art of Forgiving

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The Art of Forgiving was introduced to me a few years ago by a friend who highly recommended it for its sensible practicality and common sense. Its brief, a mere 178 pages long, but contains helpful counsel to those who struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Perhaps the most helpful element of the book is Smedes’ explanation of what forgiveness is not. This would suggest that one of the primary obstacles we have to forgiving those who have wounded us is the false expectation of what forgiving looks like, how it is done, and the aftermath that follows. If you are such a person, I would recommend this simple book. As a way of piquing your interest, I have added below some of the better quotes listed in the book’s postscript.

“The most creative power given to the human spirit is the power to heal the wounds of a past it cannot change.”

“We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds; what happens to the people we forgive depends on them.”

“The first person to benefit from forgiving is the one who does it.”

“Forgiving happens in three stages: We rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us, we surrender our right to get even, and we wish that person well.”

“We forgive people only for what they do, never for what they are.”

“We forgive people only for wounding and wronging us; we do not forgive people for things we do not blame them for.”

“We cannot forgive a wrong unless we first blame the person who wronged us.”

“Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey.”

“Forgiving does not require us to reunite with the person who broke our trust.”

“We do not forgive because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.”

“Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us.”

“Forgiving is not a way to avoid pain but to heal pain.”

“Forgiving is best done when it is done intolerantly.”

“Forgiving is the only way to be fair to ourselves.”

“Forgivers are not doormats; to forgive a person is not a signal that we are willing to put up with what he does.”

“We do not excuse the person we forgive; we blame the person we forgive.”

“Forgiving is essential; talking about it is optional.”

“When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us.”

“When we forgive we walk in stride with the forgiving God.”

Categories : Books, Forgiveness
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I really enjoyed the holiday break, using the opportunity to read several books. One title that I finished this morning was Mindset: How We Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential, by Carol Dweck. The premise of the book is simple. People either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, and depending on your particular bent, it can make or break you.

My interest was captured early in the book as the author cited research claiming that if one took a classroom of students and complimented half of the them on “how smart they are,” then complimented the other half on “how hard they work,” those who were complimented on their hard work would out perform those who were complimented on their intelligence.

So what is the difference?

A fixed mindset believes that intelligence is innate and static. In other words, a person is either smart or not. Those with a growth mindset, however, believe that intelligence can be developed and cultivated depending on their responses to particular life circumstances. Dweck summarizes as follows:

A fixed mindset avoids challenges while a growth mindset embraces them.
A fixed mindset gets defensive or gives up easily when faced with challenges while a growth mindset persists in the face of setbacks.
A fixed mindset avoids potential failure while a growth mindset seeks to learn from failure in order to improve.
A fixed mindset sees effort as fruitless while a growth mindset sees effort as the pathway to mastery.
A fixed mindset hears criticism and ignores useful negative feedback while a growth mindset strives to learn from criticism.
A fixed mindset feels threatened by the success of others while a growth mindset finds lessons and inspiration from the success of others.

As a result, those with a fixed mindset may plateau early in life and fail to live up to their potential. Those with a growth mindset will reach ever-higher levels of achievement.

Dr. Dweck, who serves as the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has plenty of hard research as well as human interest stories to support her findings. It is a book that would be very helpful to those who believe that growth remains a possibility and that the best is yet to be.

Categories : Books
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Dec
29

Win at Losing

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I heard the author, Sam Weinman, interviewed on a local sports talk station about his new book, Win at Losing. He was so engaging and passionate about his book I pulled into a convenience store and one-clicked it. It took me about four sittings to finish it. Weinman is a skilled writer, but by the end of the book you feel like he’s the guy who lives down the street at the end of the cul-de-sac. He is transparent with his own relationship to winning and losing, especially when it comes to coaching his own children in sports. Birthed out of those experiences he dove into the lives of 10 people who had experienced loss. Weinman interviewed celebrities from the world of sports, politics, business and entertainment and discovered valuable lessons to help all of us who have experienced loss in some form or another. The book is very utilitarian, therefore anyone with any life experience at all would benefit from reading it.

Categories : Books
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