Category Archives: Development

Quick Review: Rising Strong

A few months ago I read Brene Brown’s Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Last year I read her Daring Greatly as well as The Gifts of Imperfection and they were excellent, making my top book list in 2016.

Rising Strong is an application of a lot of the same research and ideas to the realm of failure and resilience in life.  Daring Greatly was more about risk-taking generally and courage for the sake of more in the face of shame and fear.  Rising Strong is a much deeper dive into identity and vulnerability in the context of pain, loss, rejection, and failure.

There’s a lot in the book, but there are great sections related to emotions and failure, storytelling, the psychology of failure and trauma, and identity.  I appreciated the diverse applications ranging from family to work to relationships and life overall.  The core idea of the book is that failure often dictates identity to us. It sets the stage for an identity conflict and how we respond and the process that we filter the experience of risk and failure dictates our identity and self-concept.  Meaning that if allow failure to speak failure into our identity with all the shame and condemnation that comes with it, it will become a part of us. We surrender to the failure in ways.  However, if we see failure as part of a risk-taking, courageous life and can lean into the pain with vulnerability towards a higher calling then failure loses its power and even becomes a tool towards growth and strength.

Personally, this is a great resource for self-awareness and personal development in a variety of areas.  As I’m studying conflict in multi-ethnic contexts, I find this to be a great resource to explore the connections between identity, emotions, and redemptive risk-taking.

If you want an in-depth summary to get a deeper chapter by chapter sense of the book, here’s a good one:  http://www.meaningfulhq.com/rising-strong.html

 

Quick Review: Beyond Reason

Another help Negotiation book I’ve gone through in the last few weeks is Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro’s Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate.  This isn’t the most dynamic of books content-wise, but there’s tons of gold throughout that is extremely useful.

It’s common knowledge that emotional dynamics present some of the biggest challenges to negotiation, including conflicted negotiations. This book focuses less on the substantive dimensions of negotiation and instead tries to unpack how to use emotion in positive ways – but really it’s just a framework for being civil, encouraging, and good to others in the context of negotiation.

Shapiro is the founder or head of Harvard’s Negotiation Project and Fisher was the author of Getting to Yes and is pretty influential in the field. Shapiro provides the book content while Fisher provides a lot of examples and anecdotes from his career as a negotiator and mediator.

The book addresses 5 core areas:  appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role.

I’m looking at affiliation and autonomy as complementary concepts that might complement some of what I’m researching for my dissertation. But there’s also tons of honor and shame embedded in these categories. In the west, a lot of people still are ignorant of honor and shame dynamics but it really does impact the emotional landscape of a lot of conflict and negotiation.

What I appreciated about this book is that the spirit of it is not manipulation, but on shifting mindsets so that there can be productive conversation in which relationships are being nurtured and not destroyed.

The five categories I think are helpful beyond negotiation into the realm of leadership and supervision. I think all five of those categories are important pieces of an employee’s relationship in their organization and with their team or supervisor. So these elements are pretty significant to increasing organizational health.

People on a team need to be appreciated, need to feel like they are a part of something and that they aren’t alone, they need to be empowered with a defined scope of authority and responsibility, they need to have appropriate status and honor in their community and situation, and they need to have meaningful contributions and purpose (role).  In that sense – this book isn’t just a negotiation resource, but a team leadership resource as well.

Both reasons are sufficient to spend some time with this book. It has an immense amount of wisdom and insight in the interpersonal level that can impact us wherever we might be seeing to influence.

 

Quick Review: Crucial Conversations

Among the negotiation books I have been going through the last month or two is Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.  There’s a lot on this one out on the internet so I don’t need to get into it too much.  But there’s some simple and very helpful aspects of this book when it comes to interpersonal negotiation on the relational side – particularly when things are in danger of escalating towards conflict.

One of the things I like is that the authors start with the heart.  They explore some of the centrality of identity and motivation in high stakes conversations before getting into communication strategy and technique.  A lot of the book aims at self-reflection and self-awareness as to what is driving our engagement with others and what our emotions might reveal about the heart.

This book is grounded in a storytelling approach to high emotion conflict or negotiation.  That’s one of the strengths of the book – it’s focused on the intersection of two stories and how to navigate emotion in establishing shared meaning.

In this discussion, there are 3 “clever stories” the authors discuss as the common strategies people use to justify their position or situation rather than really learn and listen.  There are victim, villain, and helpless stories.  I find that these 3 stories cover a lot of ground when people are stuck and limited in conflict.

There’s helpful chapters on listening, emotional self-awareness, asking questions, and discerning safety through personal clues or from another person.  This dimension of equipping people how to assess safety with a view of how to build it or restore it is a pretty practical and helpful resource for what is a  pretty crucial skill set for most leaders.

I would check it – at the very least you can google some summaries and find some good stuff out there.  But it’s a great resource to have on the shelf and to use as a teaching and training tool.

 

Quick Review: The Myth of Equality

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to go through Ken Wytsma’s The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege and want to pass on highest recommendation if you are in the Northern American context.

Last year I read Wytsma’s book Pursuing Justice and it was a good complement to this book. But The Myth of Equality is a needed book that seeks to lay out theological, historical, sociological context for both historical racism as well as contemporary racism in its various forms. I won’t give a comprehensive summary but will hit the highlights.

First, he did good Biblical and theological work, building on some of his work in Pursuing Justice. It informs the reader, especially if there’s not much Biblical or theological background, on the spiritual backdrop of the discussion.  He’s working to give the average lay church member, especially white lay church member, a context for the discussion outside of attacks and emotions. Most important to this is the question of who God is and what does God care about.

Second, he does a great job unpacking a “history of racism” that is very insightful and informative in terms of political and social develops several hundred years ago.  However, the unpacking and analysis of racism in the U.S. including slavery and then through the various post-Civil War legislation and government efforts through the 20th century is downright piercing. Even for someone who has read or studied much of what was covered in other places, to go through this history is deeply disturbing and generates a flood of emotions. But the reader is brought into the sacred space of just how much suffering has been driven by the systematic oppression and marginalization of ethnic minority groups in the U.S.

My heart started pumping midway through in an excited way because Wytsma goes into Walter Brueggeman’s work in The Prophetic Imagination to discuss the dynamics of power, leadership, change, and theology.  This book was one of the fundamental influences on me in terms of how I view leadership overall and the church’s role in the world.  To get a chapter about the “royal consciousness” was a delight. However, to do a deep analysis today on themes of racism and privilege through that lens continues to be sobering.

One of my big takeaways related to the discussion on privilege was a section where he discussed “creation stories” as a metaphor for each person’s story. Many are “birthed” into stories where they only know possibilities and freedom. Others are birthed into stories that have origins in shame, invisibility, closed doors, and a host of other atrocities. While it’s true that God can redeem every story, this was a helpful new window into understanding how people come at these discussions from very different lenses and perspectives. It’s simply very hard to connect and form relationships of equality and dignity without an awareness into how these starting points in a society impact identity.

I personally liked Wytsma’s approach to the language.  I think there is more to write on terms like privilege and white supremacy and other core terms of the modern discussion. I think Wytsma handled them well without resorting to a single story approach.  My struggles with these words over the years have primarily involved a pragmatic struggle with how hard it is to explain them to people prior to being able to have a meaningful conversation when there are so many landmines of meaning and interpretation around them that escalate emotion in often unhelpful ways. But Wytsma I think does a really good job explaining how these terms fit in the contemporary discussion and why they are appropriate even though there are all sorts of semantic and meaning issues connected to them in the journey of common understanding.

This is an important book for the church because more and more in the church want to be a part of a different story, but so many do not know the history and the reality that is often hidden from them if they’ve not leaned into cross-cultural relationships and issues of social injustice.

This is a 2017 book so it might be new to you, but I’d encourage you to go through it with some people you do life with.

 

Quick Review: The Coaching Habit

As I continue to read various things on coaching, I read Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.  The book is a fairly concise toolkit for coaching conversations along with helpful insights as to why coaching is the most effective way to come alongside others.

At the heart of the book are 7 questions that can provide a basic questions roadmap to a lot o coaching conversations. Here they are…

Stanier’s Seven Essential Coaching Questions:

  1. “What’s on your mind?” (The Kickstart Question)
  2. “And what else? (The AWE Question)
  3. “What’s the real challenge here for you?” (The Focus Question)
  4. “What do you want?” (The Foundation Question)
  5. “How can I help?” (The Lazy Question)
  6. “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” (The Strategic Question)
  7. “What was most useful to you about this conversation?” (The Learning Question)

The key for all of these questions is the coach exercising self-control and not offering advice to short-circuit the learning by discovery Stanier calls it taming the advice monster.

There was a helpful chapter here talking about the dynamics of “helping” that was helpful. He demonstrates through his “Drama Triangle” how there are 3 typical roles people find themselves in – victim, perpetrator, and rescuer. All of these work against adulthood and flourishing. Questions like the above questions help pull people out of any of those 3 roles they might be in and push them towards responsibility.

This was definitely worth the money as there’s great nuggets throughout and it’s overly heady or verbose. It’s practical wisdom and insight that can really help someone become a better coach, leader, or supervisor. I recommend it if you haven’t done read much on coaching.

 

Quick Review: Getting to Yes

I’m doing a lot of reading and research related to negotiation right now for a class and one of the key books that started the contemporary discussion related to negotiation is Fisher and Ury’s Getting To YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

For a long time I hated the idea of negotiation because I equated it with positional bargaining, which often is just a prelude to conflict. While I like engaging in ideas and discussion, I’ve always hated debate and hated positional confrontations because of how much stress it generates for me. I hate both sports and political shows where people just yell and debate. And in general – I hate bargaining too and I’m the type of person that if I tried to bargain at a store I’ll end up paying more than my starting price. Anyway – that’s what I’ve equated with the discussion of negotiation.

But – it was a game changer to begin seeing negotiation’s role in the bigger picture discussion of conflict and it’s one of the best insights I’ve gained from the PhD program I’m in right now – that a lot of conflicts never happen if people learn to negotiate well both relationally and in terms of the substantive issues that may be involved. This book is one of the first that tries to get outside of the positional bargaining box and into what we often know now as “win-win” negotiation. So the book covers positional bargaining, “win-win” or integrative bargaining, and aspects of negotiation related to dealing with difficult people and some of the nuts and bolts of a general negotiation discussion.

There’s a lot more that goes into navigating workplace negotiation and there’s perhaps even more that is required for interpersonal or social negotiation amidst polarizing diversity and social conflicts.  This is what I’m exploring in the negotiation realm. This book covers a lot of ground and is a classic in the field if you’re looking to dip your foot in the waters of negotiation.

 

Quick Review: Coaching In Ministry

I wanted to pass on a quick and easy resource that was helpful. Keith Webb is one of the big names in Christian coaching and Coaching in Ministry is a short apologetic for coaching’s role in ministry and Christian leadership.

The central notion of this book and overall approach is captured in Webb’s statement that he believes that coaching is the missing ingredient in leadership development. I would probably agree with him and that’s part of why I’m starting to read a lot more and practice a more coaching approach.

The coaching industry has been a growing one that is focused on helping individuals discover next steps for themselves towards results and success instead of “telling” people solutions which don’t translate to ownership and transformation. Research overwhelmingly validates that coaching for discovery is an important and strategic approach to seeing changed lives.

This book is not very long, but he does introduce a few of the questions he has found to be most powerful, including the implementation question, “What could you to help yourself move forward in this area?”  Questions like these allow someone to think, internalize, and own the solution. It’s a higher order approach and it translates to “less work” according to Webb since leaders can use questions to stop solving problems they shouldn’t be solving for others, but to keep the responsibility on the shoulders they belong to.

I’ll post a few more books in the coming weeks related to coaching. This one is typically 99 cents on amazon and only about 80 low stress pages to read. You can probably do it in 2 hours. Webb has another book called The COACH model which I hope to get to soon that is the full treatment of his approach to coaching.

 

Quick Review: The Skin You Live In

 

A book that I wanted to offer a brief review of that I’ve read recently is Dr. David D. Ireland’s The Skin You Live In: Building Friendship Across Cultural Lines.

The author hides his own ethnicity until the end of the book to avoid any potential reader bias, which I found interesting. I did not know the author’s background until the end and at many points I found myself wondering.  But that choice does allow one to engage the content of the book without any potential bias against the content and where it’s coming from.

Diversity efforts are occurring everywhere. This is a helpful and somewhat brief treatment on how to take steps from cultural isolation towards cross-race relationships.  There’s a lot of helpful insights throughout the book – particularly related to ethnicity and identity. There are prophetic challenges to both majority culture folks as well as ethnic minority folks who can find their identity in their ethnicity or their political-social situation. From a Christian perspective – both sides of this divide are challenged related to fundamental identity and to live out a God-given identity to reconcile and bridge difference through meaningful relationships.

A part of the purpose of this book is trying to help provide a roadmap to what he calls being “racially attractive.” By that term, he means someone who can form meaningful relationships across racial or ethnic difference.  From the author’s own doctoral research he asked people who were consistently living life with these types of relationships about what makes them “racially attractive.” Here are the responses:

  1. Offer hospitality.
  2. Be free to laugh and joke.
  3. Go on social outings.
  4. Engage in vulnerable conversations.
  5. Have cross-race friends.
  6. Seek mutually rewarding outcomes.
  7. Demonstrate comfort in the friendship.
  8. Practice honesty in the relationship.     (pg. 71)

This list was interesting to me and links to several other models, but noticeably Andy Crouch’s matrix in Strong and Weak.  I’m currently reading and researching a lot related to multi-ethnic negotiation and there are some connection points here as well.

This book is written primarily with the U.S. ethnic context in mind, but it was interesting to read this through the international lens as well as much of the suggestions about building relationships are just as relevant here in Asia as elsewhere, maybe they are even more crucial here because of the weight of relationship and community in collectivist cultures.

Many people today, despite increased political polarization, do want to experience diversity and cross-cultural relationships even if there is systemic racism and hidden personal racism that prevents those desires to be realized. It always starts with identity and relationships and this is a helpful resource for people on the journey. There’s other helpful sections related to cross-cultural forgiveness, advocacy and other aspects of diverse community so it’s definitely worth reading if this is an area of development for you.

Quick Review: Shaping Your Family Story

Over the last few weeks, I read “Shaping Your Family Story” by David Welday III and Dr. James Coffield.  My wife and I wanted to read this book after getting acquainted with Dr. Coffield this summer at a training we attended.  He presented on some of the principles that are in this book and overall we really benefitted from our exposure to him. So we wanted to read the book.

Here is the main framework that makes this book unique compared to some other family leadership books out there. They offer 6 principles for shaping a good family story (chapter 2)  (18-23)

They offer 6 principles for shaping a good family story (pp. 18-23)

  1. Create High Emotional Warmth
  2. Have Low and Productive Conflict
  3. Have High Fun
  4. Have High Purpose or Theme
  5. Answer the Right Question  (i.e. “Am I loved?”)
  6. Parent Consistently

This summer Dr. Coffield primarily used the 1st four as an assessment of sorts for really any kind of relationship or community-based situation:  marriage, family, and even teams and larger communities. And that’s the biggest thing that has stuck with us – evaluating our relationships and community commitments through the lens of those 4 categories. From a parent standpoint, 5 & 6 are great and important as well and I think they also apply to leadership as well.

From a parent standpoint, 5 & 6 are great and important as well and I think they also apply to leadership as well. So I believe all 6 categories are a good diagnostic for any relationship or community, but the 1st four provide for a very easy assessment.

Is there high warmth?

Is there low/productive conflict?

Is there high fun?

Is there high purpose?

I think most of us have experienced environments that have been heavy on 1 or 2 of these or where 1 or 2 was completely lacking. I find that these have really helped me develop some simple and practical solutions and next steps whether it relates to marriage, family, or team leadership.

What do you think? Do you think these questions cover the essence of what contributes to a safe and healthy relational environment?

This is not the first go to marriage or family book I would recommend, but I enjoyed it and there was a lot of great insights and nuggets in there – particularly on discipline and the importance of consistency (#6 above).  It was a simple and practical book so it’s very accessible.