Tag Archives: change

Quick Review: Leadership Coaching

Over the past couple of months I was going through the book Leadership Ccoaching: The Disciplines, Skills, and Heart of a Christian Coach by Tony Stoltzfus and it’s such a great resource for leaders. Here’s some of why it was so helpful to me.

First – it goes after the heart, both in the coach and as the target of transformation in coming alongside others. The approach to coming alongside others puts a high value on honoring people and what God may be doing in the deeper places as the roots of their behavior. It was a refreshing focus and right on.

Second – he offers a helpful framework and paradigm for coaching that I thought allowed me to get a really good handle on the main components of the theory.

Third – maybe this is the best part of the book, but the book includes so many questions to use and they are grouped and categorized in helpful ways. I had not put much thought into categorizing types of coaches for different purposes, but that’s been really helpful for me to think about different groupings of questions according to what they are really trying to accomplish in conversation or in coaching.

If you are not aware of the industry of “coaching,” this is a growing part of the leadership community and business world that is recognizing the power of non-directive coaching. Instead of “telling” someone solutions or answers, a coach helps the other person “discover” or find the solutions themselves mostly through questions. This includes accountability, listening, question asking as mentioned, and discernment.  It’s a really important skill set for any leader and there’s a lot of books that are trying to pass on those skill sets.  This book blends those skill sets with the Christian commitment to heart change as the center of all transformative work.

This book finds a permanent place in my leadership toolbox and I’ve already gone back to it to review certain types of questions relevant to different conversations I’ve been in.

Highly recommend it! I’m convinced that the core principles of this book involve areas of development for just about every person out there so chances are it will really help you even if you’re not functioning as a professional coach.

Quick Review: Community – The Structure of Belonging

I finished Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging last week and want to share some of his thoughts if it interests you. This book essentially is about community development and transformation. Block’s style is often theoretical and heady in its content and tone, yet there is a real commitment to organizing work and life around the dignity of human beings and the impact of relationships and organizing efforts on that dignity. This is one of the things I like about Block in his books.

What is helpful about this book is that it steers conversations in the process of community building away from victimization and learned helplessness and paternalism.  His focus is on building what he calls the social fabric – the quality of relating within a community.  He unpacks the ideas and patterns of modern society that are undermining true empowerment in society at large and argues for methods and community processes that both lead to the goal while also being the goal themselves.

Many want to build communities and build the social fabric, but they focus on the end result and meanwhile their methods and processes undermine the very relating and social fabric they want to achieve.  Block proposes a set of commitments and processes to help communities begin relating in empowering and accountable ways that increase the consistency and quality of the social fabric. He argues that the small group is the unit of transformation.

There’s a lot here – and it’s a big that needs a lot of reflection to make connections for the sake of integration and application. But Block does a great job building a process around question asking and safe spaces.  He argues that community transformation is driven by well-crafted questions that create the kind of anxiety and tension that drives people to get involved and commit.  He offers sets of questions for key conversations around ownership, dissent, gifts, and other key areas.  What is unique about Block is the methodology that seeks to bring the goal into the process.  This is some of how I’ve tried to teach strategic planning – that leaders don’t lead towards a goal or vision, but they must live out that vision through the whole process from day one. That affects actions and relationships.

He offers sets of questions for key conversations around ownership, dissent, gifts, and other key areas.  What is unique about Block is the methodology that seeks to bring the goal into the process.  This is some of how I’ve tried to teach strategic planning – that leaders don’t lead towards a goal or vision, but they must live out that vision through the whole process from day one. That affects actions and relationships.

In today’s society, you have many groups in many places blaming other groups for their situation and looking externally for solutions.  Block offers a methodology and community building approach that challenges all of us to take ownership of our communities and commit to something new together instead of engaging in the toxic cycles of blame and dependence.  It’s easier said than done, but there’s a lot here to inform how we try to bridge differences today in a culture that is often very divided.


Pre-School Theology: Origin Story of A Vegetarian

We have a kid who is a picky eater.  Like way picky and it drives us crazy.  He’s essentially vegetarian, maybe even vegan in practice. We’ve tried many a things to expand his range, but sometimes it’s hard to see change when deep values are at work.  Here’s a recent conversation that surfaces my son’s theology of food.

Me:  “Colin, don’t you want to start eating meat to get more protein and build muscle?”

IMG_4254Colin: “There’s other ways to get protein.  I don’t want to eat animals.”

Me:  “I think you should try to see what types of meat you could eat, maybe you’ll like different kinds and we can cook it more often.”

Colin: “I just don’t want to eat animals.  I mean, God made the animals.  I love animals.  I really love nature.”

Me: “Well you eat chicken nuggets, so you do eat meat sometimes!”

Colin:  “Dad, chicken nuggets aren’t real chicken. Everyone knows that!”

Me:  “Well it’s close enough.  How can I get you to try more meat?”

Colin: “I just don’t want to eat animals.  I want to have them as my pets.”

Me:  “Is the taste of meat or is it the idea that you are eating animals really the hard thing for you?  I really want to know.”

Colin:  “Well, it’s both really.  I don’t like the taste, but I don’t like thinking I’m eating an animal.   I mean…..how do you know the meat you are eating isn’t the animal’s butt?”

There you have it…true confessions of an 8 year old vegetarian 😀

We all have our motivations and values.  Change is hard!

Quick Review: Switch

A few weeks ago I read Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.  I was a big fan of Made to Stick so was motivated to read this book.

On the face of it, the content reminded me a lot of the book Influencer by Joseph Grenny as the six sources of influence covered in that book can be found in different places in Switch.  Switch has a more narrative approach and in someways is more simple and memorable in my opinion.

That dominant metaphor used is that of a rider directing an elephant on a path.  The rider represents the rational mind, the cognitive aspect of a person.  The elephant is the emotionally driven part of a person that supplies the motivation and energy.  The path is the context and circumstances that impact the degree to which new behavior is easy or difficult.

As they dive deeper into the book, they include the broader categories that are found in the six sources of influence.  So individual and corporate motivation, ability, and structure are represented as they unpack the elephant metaphor.

In short – their conclusions are that some people problems are not people problems, but situation problems.  That behavior can change when different key variables are changed that impact behavior.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book deals with motivation and the conclusion was from research that will power or that type of motivation for change is an exhaustible resource.  Or to put it succinctly, self-control is an exhaustible resource.  Meaning you can only say no a certain number of times before you will give in unless you have time to replenish that capacity.  It’s why people are more prone to various temptations when they are tired or after they have had to engage in rigorous decision making for a time.   Another book I’m reading calling the The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Arielly had an appendix that affirmed this very thing.

All this to say – there is a lot behind why people do or do not do things.  To lead people or even to lead ourselves, it is helpful to understand what things make the difference in helping the most number of people, or ourselves, get to the behavior that’s desired or needed.  This is critical, not so we can manipulate, but so we can mature and serve others and communities or teams move towards maturity and healthy behavior.  So there’s a lot of application – from planning, to organizational leadership, to ministry, leadership development, education, training, and yes – parenting!


Stats Lie Pt. 11: Quick Review on the Book Moneyball

So after writing a multi-post blog series called “Stats Lie” and seeing the movie Moneyball and posting my reflections on that, I was encouraged by a friend that it would be worth it for me to actually read the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis because there was a lot more there.  I’m glad I read it because this kind of book really is in my wheelhouse for the issues and dynamics it covers and I couldn’t read it fast enough.

I stayed away for years from the book because I thought it was just a book on statistics and was primarily number driven. But it really is a book about leading change, battling and overcoming the forces of resistance, thinking creatively in innovation and taking responsibility for limitations without succumbing to a victim mentality.  It’s about a relentless pursuit into statistics and knowledge in a quest for something higher than measurements:  meaning.

This book has a couple examples where the title of this whole series is explicitly used – proving I’m not very original and that even Kenny Smith of TNT (see post 1) was not very original in his use of the phrase which triggered this series.

Here’s one by the author in response to Bill James’s work on defensive statistics and the widespread problem in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s and later in regards to the inefficient use of metrics within baseball (which reflect what I address in post #7):

“The statistics were not merely inadequate; they lied.” (Kindle, loc 1196)

Here’s another quote from two of the “sabermetric” pioneers,

“Ken Mauriello and Jack Armbruster had been part of  that generation. Ken analyzed the value of derivative  securities, and Jack traded them, for one of the more  profitable Chicago trading firms. Their firm priced  financial risk as finely as it had ever been priced. “In  the late 1980s Kenny started looking at taking the same  approach to Major League baseball players,” said  Armbruster. “Looking at the places where the stats  don’t tell the whole truth—or even lie about the  situation.” (Kindle, loc 2168-73)

So in addition to providing a good apologetic for the title of this blog series, it also speaks to what is at the heart of this whole discussion about metrics and measurements and moneyball.  If there are accusations about stats lying, then it logically follows that the heart of the issue is about truth and trust.  What viewpoints or perceptions of reality are telling the truth and what can be trusted to be a light to your path of decision making and direction?

The book (and the movie) Moneyball is about the quest for truth and meaning and about the vision, the determination, and resilience required to bust through the illusions offered by those defending the status quo and general culture.  I loved this book far more than I thought I would, but it highlights dynamics and tensions experienced in so many places every day.  I look forward to highlighting a couple other things from it in the coming days.


Stats Lie Pt. 10 -Quick Thots From The Movie Moneyball

I am re-posting this blog in preparation for my next few posts that will relate to the book Moneyball and because I think this post and those to come belong in my “Stats Lie” series. This was originally posted on October 8th, 2011.


My wife and I pulled off a miracle and actually went to a movie together this weekend. We hit Moneyball which came on the recommendation of several folks.

I really enjoyed the movie.  I’m a baseball fan and I lived in the Bay Area during the time frame in which this movie covers so I saw some games and first hand lived through a lot of the media coverage of the events.  One of the best part of the movie was seeing its portrayal of the dramatic 20th win in the record breaking win streak.  I watched that game and Hatteberg’s game winning home run after blowing a monstrous lead was one of my more memorable sports moments to watch or live through.

But here’s some systems insights that I thought the movie illustrates through the baseball context so as to connect the movie to the themes I often post on..

First, cultures adapt certain ways of measuring greatness or effectiveness.  It doesn’t mean that people who don’t fit that grid or standard aren’t effective or successful.  It means there’s an accepted criteria for what’s successful and to go outside of that threatens the establishment and generates a lot of anxiety for folks in the “system” whatever type of system it might be. People want the “sure thing” when evaluating talent and doing leadership or talent selection, but often they settle for what feels safest to them – which leans often on tradition and cultural norms.

Second, if you do step outside the criteria endorsed by the establishment and manage to endure the ridicule, resistance, or even hostility, and actually succeed….then many of those people who made life hard for you when you were trying to be original and think differently and meet the demands of reality will come full circle and want your help or start copying what you are doing.  Beane started a revolution in the baseball world and changed the landscape of his profession, but it took a lot of nerve and passion and maybe some desperation too in order to do it.

But this is a cycle that comes with creativity and cutting edge leadership efforts. You either get honored in the end, or people indirectly affirm what you’ve done by hijacking your stuff and copy you with or without giving you credit, or you fail and you get hung out to dry.  Not a lot of middle ground here when trying to boldly lead outside of the norm.   No matter what happens – it’s still worth leading towards reality in new and innovative ways.

Third, as one of the key lines of the movie illustrates, “It’s gotta mean something.” I think the movie captures one of the tensions often experienced.  Do you keep chasing numbers and goals?  That’s a bottomless pit, even when one considers a ministry context.  What we do and how we go about it reflects a lot about who we are and who we want to be.  Meaning is often assumed in leadership and in ministry, but something that we continually have to enter into and not just assume that because our goals and objectives are significant that meaning will be embedded in our experience of what we’re doing.

On a personal note, my wife paid me a compliment after the movie. She said the main character reminded her of me.  I appreciated that because I value courage in leadership and honest assessments of reality and bold efforts to go to the heart of the issue. What I do has to be meaningful in terms of its impact on people and not just in the cliche or standards that are reflected in traditional metrics.  But if I’m honest I personally relate more to the assistant GM in the movie who is the awkward and insecure, yet smart and innovative guy behind the scenes who people don’t always listen to.  He sees the landscape with different eyes, but the landscape doesn’t see him.  I enjoyed watching his story illustrated in the movie. It doesn’t mean that’s who in fact I am in reality, it’s just that there are elements to his experience I relate to at times (but without the genius piece).

One of my values has been to try to identify folks who I think see the landscape they are in for what it is and not for what people want it to be.  Those are the people I want to platform and invest my time in as a leader.  Moneyball is a lot about metrics, but what got the ball rolling was one leader finding the right person to listen to and partner with in a time where radical change was needed.

If you saw it – what did you think? About the movie in general? About leading innovative change?


Leaders Help People Become Uncomfortable

I came across this quote and thought it was genius and very much in line with several recent posts about human anxiety in systems and in general bad and destructive behavior.

“A task of leadership is to help people “become uncomfortable with their inappropriate behavior” and to focus on the possibilities that change presents rather than the pain that accompanies it.”


At the link above you can access a free pdf download in the arena of leading congregational change.

Leaders set culture not just by their strategic efforts, but by what they allow to take place and what they permit to happen. 

Most people who like to talk about culture – all those people today adding “cultural architect” to their job descriptions frequently focus on what they want to cultivate and build into the environment. Culture change is as much about setting limits on toxic, immature, or even just irresponsible or non adult behavior than it is about what you try to positively instill into a community of people.

And just to make the connections to my last post, this is a clear argument that leaders do have the task of helping monkeys grow uncomfortable with their behavior of throwing poo at others.

How do you think leaders best execute this task of helping people grow uncomfortable with their bad behavior?  How do you avoid inappropriate shaming, but still help people feel the weight of their behavior or even sin?

Change is Hard – Especially When You’re 3

If you think about it, the transition for a toddler to go from being the “baby” or the one with a lot of the attention from mom to now being the “middle” and losing out on mama time to a new baby is pretty challenging, maybe even traumatic. Colin had a few rough days with all the hospital time, but he’s bounced back nicely.  However today was a little challenging as he is learning to adjust to the new family dynamics and new boundaries he has to deal with.So how did he handle it?   If you had just turned 3 and were no longer the center of the family universe, what you do?

Would you study this new intruder?
Would you food cope?

Would you stay close to your consistent and dependable big sister?

Colin’s done all these things and pretty much all of them today.  He has moments of greatness and moments of competition and moments where you would think his world is falling apart.Today he defiantly told my wife while she was breastfeeding Kaelyn, “Put that baby back in her crib!”It’s “that baby” when he’s mad, but “our baby” when he’s in a good mood.Change is hard…especially when you’re 3 years old.   He’s working through it though 🙂

Bearing an Albatross

Here’s another reflection in the “Leading on the Seas” series of posts here.  Check the category link to “Leading on the Seas” for a listing of other posts in the series.

There’s some great background on the term Albatross from the wikipedia entry “Albatross metaphor”,

“the word albatross is sometimes used to mean an encumbrance, or a wearisome burden.[1] It is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798). 

In the poem, an albatross starts to follow a ship — being followed by an albatross was generally considered an omen of good luck. However, the titular mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, which is regarded as an act that will curse the ship (which indeed suffers terrible mishaps). To punish him, his companions induce him to wear the dead albatross around his neck indefinitely (until they all die from the curse, as it happens). Thus the albatross can be both an omen of good or bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried (as penance).

The symbolism used in the Coleridge poem is its highlight. For example:

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks

Had I from old and young !

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.”

An Albatross is a significant burden then in modern language, which stems from some of the above traditions and context.  In fact, where I hear it the most is in reference to really bad professional athlete contracts.  As a Cub fan, the 8 year and billion dollar contract given to Alfonso Soriano is frequently identified as an “Albatross.”  If you think of your favorite pro team, chances are there’s someone on the team that earns a disproportionate amount of money compared to performance and it’s a commitment that hamstrings the team’s ability to make the team better.  The contract becomes an immense burden that a team cannot escape.

There are things in any leadership context that can become an Albatross.  Traditions and commitments to the way things have been can lead to a significant investment in “preserving the past.”  Some of this is important for continuity and values and heritage.  But when a disproportionate amount is invested, then the past and the traditions of the past can become an Albatross.

Conferences can be an Albatross when tradition dictates you keep doing them though perhaps there is a disproportionate amount of resources going into them.  You commit to contracts, you execute the traditional yearly program, you get locked in and the commitments end up dictating your leadership and not the other way around.

The impact of significant decisions can be an Albatross, just like the Mariner’s decision to shoot the Albatross with a crossbow in Coleridge’s poem.  Some decisions are so bad, they leave a stench for years even when nobody can recall its origins after years have gone by.  The impact of losing quality people, damaging trust, squandering resources, going into significant debt, or whatever it may be can create an Albatross like burden that contexts have to bear for years.

But fear not, we don’t need to follow the Ancient Mariner and be doomed forever by our Albatrosses.  There are times where we must bear an Albatross for a time.  We need to have the fortitude to persevere when there’s limited options.  However, with intentionality and courage and hard work we can eventually shed those Albatrosses and lead free.

As a side commentary, these are days in which it is important to be free of leadership Albatrosses.  Contemporary community, modern technology, and a host of other things have shaped a faster and more agile leadership climate in which trust and flexibility is critical.  Leading free is important for long term success and empowering future generations.

I’m curious what comes to your mind personally or organizationally when you think of the metaphor of an “Albatross.”  Please share a thought or reflection if something comes to your mind.  Is there something you’ve identified that is holding you back as a leader – personally or organizationally?

When you see or have been under the weight of an Albatross – personally or organizationally – how have you seen success and fruit in getting free of it?