Welcome to The SHAPE of a Leader. I write this blog with the SHAPE leadership development program (for women pastors) I lead in mind, but it is for all who are interested in leadership, faith, and the intersection of the two.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poem: For the Interim Time

Not everyone identifies with poetry, but if you do, it can capture emotion so much better than simple text or lists.  Here is a poem, shared with me by a pastor in my SHAPE leadership development program, that I think speaks to transition so wonderfully. I often turn to this poem to hear what it has to say to me in the given moment.  I wonder what it's saying to you today (read it 3 times if it's not speaking to you)...

For the Interim Time
(from To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue)

When near the end of the day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing 
Here seems to believe the relief of dark.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you ahve to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
THe more refined your heart will becoime
For your arrival in the new dawn.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gender Equality

Twice today I've been nudged into the topic of gender equality. I guess that means I need to do some thinking on it. :-)   Here I share a well-written exploration of one woman's feelings of her recent unfair experiences.  But I didn't want to share this blog post without exploring and sharing my own views on gender equality or feminism. 

Here's the blog post, called Gender, Church, and the Art of Alternate Endings, by Dr. Michelle Garred.

And here are my thoughts as I muse on her post:
I grew up as the product of the extreme feminist generation. I never considered my mom a flaming feminist, though she had her views on equality, I'm sure. But it was everywhere. You couldn't be a young woman and ignore that for which women all over the United States were advocating and fighting. Somewhat naively, and somewhat because I was just plain tired of what I believed to be a broken record, I thought that if we just didn't make a big deal of it, if we just treated everyone equally and ignored the issue, it would be a non-issue. I felt the same way about race.  Never understanding how anyone could consider themselves better than, or someone else less than, based on color, I determined that I'd make it a non-issue.

It worked for me. I went to college and then worked in a male-dominated field in a male-dominated company quite successfully.  I never felt put down or put out, passed by or passed over, except by those few blatent sexists at whom even other men shook their heads. I felt like I was evaluated on the merits of my work and character, and that was fair. 

It works so successfully for me, in fact, that I guess I had my own version of blinders.  I didn't understand that some women have experienced gender issues as oppressively as some people have experienced racism.  Clearly Dr. Michelle Garred in her story felt some of that oppressiveness (mild as it may have been compared to others' experiences).

The writings of Cornell West, challenging to me, taught me that race does matter.  And given that gender is another form of diversity, then gender matters too.  It does matter where we come from and whether we have female or male anatomy.  It contributes to who we are and informs how we think and act. The sum total of our experiences and the culture in which we were raised, as individuals and as a people, matter greatly.  I think when President Obama was elected, and I saw the tears of joy in the eyes of our black brothers and sisters everywhere, I finally realized that until that moment, they still felt less-than as a race.

In 1970, the first woman was ordained in the Lutheran Church.  Today, we have 65 Bishops in the United States and only 6 of them are women.  There are only 15 female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies (ok, maybe 16 in January when IBM crowns its first female CEO).  Those numbers don't suggest equality, and yet in under 50 years - a blink in time really - we've come so far.

I admit that without those flaming feminists shouting until they lost their voices; without people like Martin Luther King, Jr rallying for civil rights until his final breath - we wouldn't be nearly where we are today. So, we can't stop having the conversation.  Conversation leads to transformation.

Where the red flag in my brain flies is when we jump to conclusions that every difficult conversation, every roadblock or speed-bump along the way, can be blamed on gender discriminiation or racism.  Maybe I didn't get that promotion because I WASN'T the best person for the job! Maybe it had nothing to do with my anatomy or ancestry.  I've seen too many cases where women are too quick to blame a situation on the fact that she's a woman in a setting dominated by misogynists or at least the goold old boys club.

And so, being a self-awareness-as-core-to-leadership-development junkie, I have to encourage us to look carefully at situations in which we immediately want to jump to gender blame, and consider the possibility that it's the lens through which we view the situation. We need to ask ourselves:  am I overly sensitive to gender inequality, such that my view might be clouded?  Could there be another reason why this is happening the way it is? What happens when I view this issue from their perspective?

I'm not saying that Dr. Garred didn't experience discrimination or disrespect. She certainly experienced the latter if not the former. But I wouldn't be doing my job as a leadership coach to not ask us all to consider each situation we encounter with a wider lens.

By the same token, we all (men and women alike) need to examine the biases, baggage, experiences that color the lenses through which we enter the other side of the situation. As Dr. Garred so aptly pointed out, we all - women included - have some of the same biases even toward other women. Where do I make assumptions about other women, and other men, that are clouded by my own experiences?  I really appreciated Dr. Garred's self-reflection that allowed her to come to her alternate ending.  We'd all do well to examine where our baggage gets in the way, so that we might, too, create alternate endings that ultimately change the color of that particular lens.

I believe in equality. I believe that more women Bishops, who are well-qualified, would make this world a finer place -  and more female CEOs, who have proven themselves, can only make Corporate America better.  Why? Because, just as extraverts and introverts bring different competencies and attitudes to the table, so too do women bring a balance and perspective that's needed in a harsh world... It's the "sum of the whole is greater than its parts" thing. Let's keep the conversation going, with blinders thrown off, and grace tried on, and we'll all be better for it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Mind Needs a "Why?"

My mind recalls my mother exasperatedly exclaiming, "You ask too many questions!"  I don't know the nature of my curiosity - my memory's not that good - but I'm sure most of those questions started with "Why....?"  We're born with a need to understand the order and purpose of things.

Some why questions help us understand the nature of the world - how things work, what's customary, why we do the things we do. In the movie "Finding Forester," the challenged youth asks the elderly mentor "Why do you use milk in your tomato soup instead of water?" Turns out the answer is that the elder could afford it, and probably the adolescent's poverty-stricken mother could not.  The simple question and its answer reveal something about the order of this world for each of the conversation's participants.

Then there's the more cosmic "Why?" Why are we here? Why me? Why NOT me?  Why this? Why that? Why now? The answers to these questions are critical to life purpose, to happiness, to growth, and to leadership. The more we understand our purpose in life and leadership, the more our confidence increases, and the more we lead from a foundation of authenticity.

It's easy to run from the cosmic Why. Sometimes we're so busy getting daily life done that we simply don't take the time to ask the big Why questions.  Sometimes, we don't want their answers. We'd rather be blissfully unencumbered with the plan God has in store for us and skip along our merry way. A colleague and I were just sitting with a potential that has appeared in front of her. Her question was "Why me?" My question was "Why NOT you?"  She might not want the answer, but her mind, and her heart, need it.  And the world needs her to answer it.  

By not answering the cosmic Why, our place in the world isn't quite right. We haven't quite fulfilled our intended purpose. By not answering the Why, I, and you, deny the world what only I, and you, are perfectly suited to offer.  

So, what Why does your mind need an answer to?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Repost: Optimistic Enthusiasm as a Form of Realism

Here's a Seth Godin blog I thought was right on the money:

How does your organization respond to new opportunities?

Most companies launch new things, try out new initiatives, brainstorm new approaches. The internal response (or reaction) to these ventures is a cultural choice, one that often turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If your organization is both pessimistic and operationally focused, then every new idea is a threat. It represents more work, something that could go wrong, a chance for disaster. People work to protect against the downside, to insulate against the market, to be sure that they won't get blamed for anything that challenges the system. In organizations like this, a new idea has to be proven to be better than the current status quo in all situations before it gets launched.

On the other hand, an organization filled with people who are rewarded for shaking things up and generating game-changing products and services just might discover that outcomes they are dreaming of are in fact what happen. The enthusiasm that comes from believing that this one might just resonate with the market is precisely the ingredient that's required to make something resonate.

One more thing: outsiders are way more likely to approach your organization with fabulous projects if they think they're likely to both get a good reception and succeed when they get to market.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Leader's Grace

Someone asked me what the word "grace" means.  I once heard a very succinct definition: undeserved favor.  But that doesn't cut it for me. The word "undeserved" comes with judgment, and grace withholds judgment always.

I was just in an elevator and a woman entered, and by the scent that followed her it was clear that she was "a smoker." Before I could even take hold of my brain to control my thoughts, judgment happened. I have strong feelings about smoking - I hate it. 

Grace forgives.  Grace gives the benefit of the doubt. Grace comes from a place of curiosity, reaching for understanding.  Grace puts one in the shoes of the other. Grace understands that humans are flawed and there are no exceptions to that.

Whether a leader uses the term grace or not, a strong leader does well to practice the actions of grace as a consistent part of their leadership development plan. Might as well put it in ink.  It's one of those that never gets perfected.  But then again, I guess I should speak for myself there and not judge others.  It will be on my leadership development plan - forever.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Leader's Tools

The tools a leader has to work with can be categorized into one of the following areas:

  • Ability
  • Authority
  • Character
  • Influence
Character reveals a leader's heart and influence is how the leader transfers what's his/her heart to those who follow.  Ability are the skills that make it all happen.  Authority?  Yes, it's a tool, and yes, sometimes it's necessary to wield (in an emergency situation, for example). But if it's the tool relied on day in and day out, then the leader has lost control, lacks confidence, is ego-centric, and in it for the status.     

Authority as the main tool in the toolbox is just unacceptable. (Check out this link to a blogpost from Pastor Kris Capel on an exercise we did at leadership team this week.)

What leadership tool do YOU rely on most?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

My aunt passed away one week ago today. When I told my daughter, she said, "Mom, I only ever remember her laughing."

These are the Bible passages that she clung to, and that were read at her funeral:

Psalm 13:5: But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
Joshua 1:9: This is my command - be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Isaiah 41:10: Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

And that was the leadership legacy she left:  a model of choosing a positive attitude and finding joy in all parts of life; and in relying on the assurance of God's strength and love.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Personal Mission

Last post, I talked about the importance of having a clear and compelling ORGANIZATIONAL mission and vision statement.  

Our 10th grade confirmation students are studying calling and spiritual gifts in these last 5 weeks before they affirm their baptism through confirmation. Tonight, we're continuing the discussion of calling by talking about PERSONAL mission statements.  I'll share mine with them: helping leaders passionately live into their God-given gifts and talents.

What's yours? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vision and Mission

Does your organization or church have a vision and/or mission statement? Do you think they are "just fluff" or in that category of "touchy feel-ly stuff" that doesn't have any value?  

Here's what I think. I think a vision and mission statement help define the "organizational you" - not only does it help people within the organization decide if their plans are hitting the mark ("is this idea really in the realm of what we're all about?"), but also it helps those who are getting to know the organization decide if there's a good fit ("do I really want to be "friends" with you?" "are we of like mind?").  

My church is Easter Lutheran Church (www.easter.org). We have well-established mission ("to grow in faith and carry on the work of Jesus Christ") and vision ("transforming hearts and lives for Christ") statements. Bravo - what's even more brilliant is that these statements are so ingrained in our culture that I would bet 80% of all confirmed members (more if you exclude the young confirmed members!) know both by heart. (Yes, I'm on staff, and no, I had nothing to do with it!)  

For staff and congregation members alike, we know what we aim to do individually and collectively. We hold all we do up to those two phrases and decide what's appropriate.  For prospective members, they get to consider what those phrases mean to them, and decide if we're a good fit for each other.  Easter gets to do the same thing with prospective members too, of course.  In the extreme, Easter would say, if you're not about GROWING in faith and SERVING the way Christ would serve, then you probably aren't going to be happy here.  We do that here. And we expect that hearts and lives will be transformed because of it. Period.  As a matter of fact, we say that we guarantee the vision - that transformation - if you are committed to the mission.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, says that in marketing, if you start with the WHY of a product or service (as opposed to the what or how), you gather those around you who BELIEVE the same thing.  Now, he's talking from a marketing perspective, but it's the same for vision/mission.  Live by your vision and mission and you'll attract those who have the same belief systems you do, and isn't that what it's all about - whether you're an individual, church, or business? For a look at Sinek's material, you can watch the Ted Talk that features him.

If your organization doesn't have a vision/mission statement, why not? If it does, and you're not using it to examine everything you do as well as the people you have relationships with, why not? It could be that your organization (and maybe your life in it) will be transformed if you do!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Hardest Competency to Learn

Some leadership gurus say that given the large list of competencies a leader would strive to develop, the hardest one is "personal learning." I agree.  It's also, in my opinion, the most important.  To me, it's all about self-awareness.  Can I take the blinders off and hold the mirror up to my own face and tell the truth?  Can I not only accept feedback, but also ask for it, knowing that it might be hard to hear. Can I take the feedback I get with grace and a stiff upper lip, say thank you, and then make a plan to change?  And then, can I share my learning with someone and ask them to be an accountability partner and help me change?

That's a lot.  And I can tell you with 100% certainty, that if you can do this, you too can be a great leader. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago for a family girls weekend. Wonderful connection time! We were walking the strip one night and there was a man with a microphone or megaphone standing on a street corner.  He was casting judgment on all of us sinners - that we were going to burn in hell for ... hmmm... for something he seemed certain of but of which I'm certainly not sure!!!

Setting aside his theology (which I totally don't agree with!), and his judgment (he doesn't even know me!), I started thinking about his chosen method for "motivation."  

Is his rhetoric motivational?  Is he really going to get anyone to do anything differently? By casting judgment upon a sea of people for whom he has no knowledge?  And if he DID know me, is he going to motivate my by threatening me - by attempting to instill fear in me? Is this a method acceptable to leaders?  I don't think so - I hope not.

Motivation comes from being inspired by a vision, passion, a dream.  Motivation comes to people who have respect and trust in the person doing the motivating.

Next time you think about motivating your "troops" - think in terms of lighting a fire within, rather than a fire under....   The former is much more successful than the latter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, studies what factors are present that can predict success.  One of them is 10,000 hours of practice.  He studied successful people like Michael Jordan, The Beetles, orchestral masters, and more, and found that the one ingredient they all had in common was 10,000 of practice under their belt.  

Leadership development is no different in my mind.  Successful leaders practice - a lot. What does that look like? I think it looks like this: act, reflect and analyze, adjust, and act. At the end of important interactions, or at the end of every day or week, we reflect on what went well and not so well, and how we could have acted differently to get a better result.  We analyze why we behaved the way we did - what was behind that action?  What's my motive? Why didn't I step up? We role model or think through what the more successful behavior might look like, and we set it in our minds to try it that way the next time the situation comes up.  Even better, we go back to the situation and try again. That might look like opening up a conversation again with something like, "Yesterday when we were talking, I realize I was bringing some baggage to the conversation that wasn't appropriate. I'm wondering if we can talk about that again."  Or something similar.

Awareness is 75% of correction, in my opinion.  When we become aware of who we are and WHY, then we start catching our less than perfect behavior and begin to be able to change it in the moment.  

Awareness is also the hardest part of leadership development.  Who really wants to face their dark side, live in their mistakes AGAIN, and then practice doing it over?  

What do athletes do?  They watch films. They get feedback from their coach and teammates. They analyze their every move. Then they hit the court, rink, or field again and go for the do-over.

Dale Carnegie, in his book How To Win Friends and Influence People, talks about his father who, at the end of every week, closed his office door and for hours painstakingly analyzed every interaction he had that week - positive and negative - what went well? What didn't? How can I do it differently?  Then he decided how he was going to change his behavior for the coming week.  

My most engaged clients bring situations to the coaching table, offering them up for painstaking analysis and reflection, all so that they can do it better the next time.

The wonderful thing is, life is full of do-over opportunities - many more than 10,000 hours worth!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unintended messages

When I was growing up, I noticed that my parents consistently were praising my siblings, and not me.  What I didn't notice is that they were only praising them when they weren't in the room.  When I was 18 or so, a family friend said to me, "You don't know this, but every time you're not in the room, your Dad is bragging about you."  News to me! As I reflect on that, I figure my dad didn't want any of us to "get a big head" so he was careful to only praise when we weren't within earshot.

A colleague was describing to me his fight with his son who hadn't done as well this period in school as he could have.  In the end, as he asks his son for explanation, his son said, "Dad I don't know what you're so upset about. You told me I needed to have a cumulative GPA of 3.2 and that's what I did."

Messages, verbal or non-verbal (!), lose something in the translation. From my mouth to the others' ear, what message did they hear, vs. what I had intended?  If the message is important, it stands to reason that it's also important to carefully craft it, and then perhaps check that it was received as intended.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Discovering Gifts

I receive daily devotions from Luther Seminary.  Today's was from 1 Corinthians 12, on spiritual gifts.  The NLT translation reads, starting with verse 7: A spiritual gift is given to each of us so that we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing...

After sharing many more spiritual gifts, the chapter goes on to talk about how we all, together, make up one body, and God has put each part just where he wants it.  (verse 18)

As leaders, is it not our duty, then, to use all the parts just as God wants them used?  We are called to discover our gifts, and the gifts of our teammates, so we can put them to full use.  

Romans 12 (which, in my mind, is a recipe for strong leadership) implores us to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves (verse 3).  Being honest about our own gifts and challenges is the foundation of being able to understand the gifts of others.   I guess I haven't known a leader who could be keenly aware of the gifts of others but unaware of her own.  

So, if you want a highly productive team that works well together (and then, by the way, has fun doing it!), start by being completely honest with yourself about your gifts and challenges.  Then, start seeing your teammates through the lens of all the potential God gave them. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

See without Scales on Your Eyes

We all have scales on our eyes. The scales of the experiences we've accumulated over the years, the baggage we bring to any and every situation, the assumptions we make because of our own guarded, sometimes jaded, beliefs or opinions. 

We can't help it, and yet it's absolutely necessary to understand how our eyes are clouded, and then set those notions aside at times.  You've heard the phrase "check your assumptions at the door."  It's a very important piece of advice, but first you have to know what your assumptions, experience, baggage are telling you.  That requires keen self-awareness.  Once you have that, it's much easier to check them at the door, or at least see them when they are coloring your thoughts.

I've noticed that the clouds over our eyes come particularly into play when we're dealing with other people. We make assumptions, and I bet those assumptions are wrong just as often as they are right.  In the book, The Art of Possibility, Zander and Zander talk about "giving people an A." That is, assume first that everyone has the best of intentions, will perform perfectly, will live up to your expectations.  Assume THIS, until PROVEN otherwise.  This is a great way to check assumptions at the door, and likely be pleasantly surprised at least from time to time.  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fear of Progress

When you've always done something one way, and you've been relatively successful at it, why change?  The answer to that is often "what's the opportunity cost?" or missed opportunity.  I can talk myself into feeling successful by harvesting whatever fruit is produced in an untended garden, but think how much more yield I'd enjoy if I put some time and effort into planning and cultivating, and maybe even trying something different! 

Fear is at the core of being stuck, especially so, I think when we're stuck in a relatively successful place.  But what's the missed opportunity? How much more could we gain if we tried a new way, planned a new course, set our goals higher, dared to be different?

Is fear keeping you stuck in a relatively successful place?  Think about it. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 90/10 Rule and our life experiences

Our life experiences serve to color every interaction we have.  For example, if we've been discriminated against, we bring that baggage - the assumption of discrimination - to our interactions.  We assume that the person with whom we're in conversation made that remark because they are against us, for reasons that are in OUR past, not theirs.  But it isn't necessarily true.

That's where the 90/10 rule comes in. Life is 90% attitude and 10% circumstance.  That's really good news. I get to choose the attitude I bring to my day and to every interaction.  I get to choose to believe that the person with whom I'm interacting isn't of a discriminating mind. I get to choose to view every interaction in the best possible light.  It isn't easy to do, but it's possible.  

Women are still experiencing the "glass ceiling" - or so we assume.  But is it because we've put it there through the baggage to which we cling, or is it because someone else really put it there?  If we assume the latter, then we won't bust through it - we've defeated ourselves before we've even started.  If we assume the former, we might just sail right on through, even if it is really there!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm Martha, Nice to Meet You

I gave a talk at the St. Paul Area Synod "Toolkit Conference," which is a conference for lay leaders in St. Paul area churches.  I spoke about strategic planning, from vision casting to execution. For the most part, I received good marks, but was dinged pretty hard by a person who said, "Where is the Holy Spirit in this process?"

Now I could get defensive and make all kinds of reasonable excuses, but instead I stop. Now's the time for reflection, not reaction. And as I reflect, I find myself thinking of Martha and Mary (Luke 10: 38-42).  And I realize that most of the time, I'm Martha - she's a woman who gets things done. I admit it - I admire that!

At times we are called to be Martha, who serves through "doing," and  that's admirable. But never are we called to be Martha in absence of Mary, who sits at Jesus' feet and listens and learns and worships Him, basking in His love and wisdom. 

So while I will always be a Martha, I will always strive to be more like Mary - first and foremost letting the Holy Spirit teach and inform all that I do.

Thanks for the feedback, anonymous one!

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's OK to say NO to Good!

I had a breakfast meeting with colleagues this morning and we started our conversation talking about saying no to good things.  Does it seem strange to say no to something good?  Yes, but consider this: if you have a pie filled with slices of good, there's no room for great when it comes along.  

I'm reminded of a Rob Bell video called "Shells." A family is collecting beautiful shells on the beach and the little boy has his little hands overstuffed with precious shells that he's hand selected from the deposits made by last night's tide.  And then two feet into the water he sees a starfish!  His dad encourages him to run into the water to get the starfish and the little boy is VERY excited. He runs in and then he comes running back and his dad encourages him again.  He does this three times and dad says "Why can't you get the starfish?! That's YOUR starfish!" and the little boy screams, "Because my hands are filled with shells!!!!"

And so I consider, when has all the good stuff in life prevented me from leaving room for great stuff?  Because "great" takes time and space to create.   We need to dream it, to consider it, to reflect on it, and to wait for it, and to see it when it comes along.  And if we're running so fast with and for the good stuff, we may just run right by the great stuff.

So, what "good" do you need to say no to so that you can be "great?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Right Thing vs. The Easy Thing

The right thing and the easy thing are seldom the same thing…  in parenting, in relationships, in leadership.  The easy thing is a short term gain, like maintaining shareholder value. The right thing is a long term gain, like investing in an expensive product for the long term market share it can provide.  There’s a potentially tough conversation that needs to be had.  The easy thing would be to ignore it (avoiding a potential conflict)… the right thing is to have it.  The obvious upside is the positive outcome of the conversation; the intangible outcome is the legacy I leave in modeling strong authentic leadership. And that leaves a legacy.

Are you doing a good job? (REPOST)

Another one from Seth Godin...

One way to approach your work: "I come in on time, even a little early. I do what the boss asks, a bit faster than she expects. I stay on time and on budget, and I'm hardworking and loyal."
The other way: "What aren't they asking me to do that I can do, learn from, make an impact, and possibly fail (yet survive)? What's not on my agenda that I can fight to put there? Who can I frighten, what can I learn, how can I go faster, what sort of legacy am I creating?"
You might very well be doing a good job. But that doesn't mean you're a linchpin, the one we'll miss. For that, you have to stop thinking about the job and start thinking about your platform, your point of view and your mission.

It's entirely possible you work somewhere that gives you no option but to merely do a job. If that's actually true, I wonder why someone with your potential would stay...

In the post-industrial revolution, the very nature of a job is outmoded. Doing a good job is no guarantee of security, advancement or delight.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Luxurious Reflection

Time for reflection might seem like a luxury. This article, shared by one of the esteemed pastors in the SHAPE program, hits that point.  

I had a boss once who told me that if I didn't turn off my lights, put my feet up on my desk, and just reflect regularly, I wasn't doing my job.  That's the mindset to adopt.  The benefits of reflection are huge.  Innovative ideas come. Reflection on how to do things a better way.  Understanding more deeply who I am.  Personal pats on the back for a job well done.  It applies to pastors. It applies to all leaders.

Give it a read:

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Devotion from Matthew

I thought I'd share the devotion I offered yesterday:

Matthew 5: 14-16: “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone else in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

That’s all well and good, and I believe that every person in this room is at their core a very good person.  The thing is, if all people are like a lamp on a stand, for all the world to see, leaders are more like spotlights, beacons, lighthouses. A leader does more leading by example, when she isn’t aware she’s leading, than any explicit, intended leadership behavior.  That reason alone should cause us to truly examine our actions, beliefs, strengths, and hang-ups with the goal of deeper understanding about who we are, and what light we’re shining without really knowing it. As Manz says, “Doing our best ostrich imitation by hiding our heads in the sand (or under a basket) does not make our leadership light go away.” 

Andrew Carneige, who wrote the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, had a rigorous practice of spending hours examining all his interactions with others with the goal of understanding himself better and changing his behavior for the good.  

When we deepen our awareness, and more closely align our actions with the intentions in our heart, it is these new behaviors that become the light that is shined without our knowing. I’ve learned to ask myself, “What’s my motive?” “Why did I respond that way?” “What impression did I just give to the other?” “What is it about myself that is reflected in that person’s behavior that bugs me?”   

To know ourselves deeply is to be able to answer those questions, to know clearly where our boundaries are, to hold each of our interactions against the light of our values and say, “did I live up to them?” “Was I the best example I could be in this situation?” and then when we humbly realize that we didn’t quite do it right, we reflect on why, and what to do differently next time. 
It’s not easy, and that’s why great leaders aren’t made in a day; and that’s why most people shy away from leadership in general. 


Yesterday, in the SHAPE program, a couple people were resonating with something we had talked about in January - that great leaders lead from their unique and personal FOUNDATION. To lead from that place, we all have to understand and embrace that place. That's a huge step in becoming an authentic leader that people want to follow.

What's a leadership foundation?  Your values, your life story, the fears that hold you back, the passions that motivate you, your strengths and your challenges.  To know and embrace these things, and then lead from the authentic place of their center - that's leading from your own unique foundation.

So, what's your foundation?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Your Own Worst Critic...

My colleague and friend Barb, and I were trained last week on a new assessment (Judgment Index).  It measures a lot of things but one of the items that shows up is how self-critical we are.  I think in 100% of the assessment results I saw in training, participants were too self-critical. We're really hard on ourselves.

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians says (1 Cor 4: 3b-4), "I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." He says it's not our job to judge even ourselves.  Leave it to God.

Robert Hartman, the creator of the Judgment Index, found that people who learned to be less critical of themselves were much more effective in living up to their potential - their capacity increased. 

Think about it - if we can practice grace and forgiveness with ourselves, wouldn't it be even easier to practice it with others?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What trips up a leader?

I've coached, worked with, worked for a lot of leaders.  Rarely is the lack of skills the thing that trips them up. Rather it is a character flaw.  That is, when a leader is keenly aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, he or she will compensate for them in some positive way.  And they are viewed as a good leader because of it - rightfully so.  A character flaw - lack of humility, arrogance, selfishness, etc - however is the kiss of death.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Truth, Pain, Improve, Grow, Repeat... (REPOST)

Here's another blog post that I couldn't have said better myself!  This is from Gino Wickman, who is the creator of TRACTION, which is a method and model for running a business.

Are you growing? If you’re not growing, you’re dying. There’s a very specific process for how you grow. As Dr. David Viscott said, “If you cannot risk, you cannot grow. If you cannot grow, you cannot become your best. If you cannot how to grow your businessbecome your best, you cannot be happy. And if you cannot be happy, what else matters?” Are you a growth-oriented person, or are you more comfortable with the status quo? If this quote resonates with you, you’re probably a growth-oriented person.
The process for growth, as stated above, is “truth, pain, improve, and grow.” This means that, a lot of times, the truth hurts. As Dan Sullivan says, “All progress begins with telling the truth.” That truth leads to the pain of hearing the truth, accepting it, and making the decision to change it. This leads you to finding the answers, which forces you to improve, and upon the implementation of that improvement, you then grow. That pattern continues forever, if you truly want to be the best you can be.
Pick one area to improve upon right now. Rule of thumb: Pick the one that hurts the most. It’s a journey; enjoy it.