Tag Archives: Communication

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: 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.


Quick Review: The Tipping Point

A few weeks ago I finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little things Can Make a Big Difference.   I fully enjoy Gladwell’s books as they often popularize more complex ideas out there. His books are also ideal audiobooks for driving in traffic given how story oriented they tend to be.

More detailed reviews and summaries can be found out there, but I enjoyed the book because of its blatant relevance for leadership, ministry, and the sharing of ideas. Gladwell is focused on the phenomena of what makes some ideas really take off while others do not.

Gladwell is focused on the phenomena of what makes some ideas really take off while others do not. He structures the book around “The Law of the Few”, “The Stickiness Factor”, and “The Power of Context.”

The law of the few suggests that there unique types of people that drive the spreading of ideas. He calls them connectors, mavens, and salesmen.  Some people have unique gifts in connecting other people, some have unique talents and passions to be informed on all of what is going on, and some have the charisma and gifts that can bring alignment to ideas or products effortlessly.  I enjoyed the illustration about Paul Revere being an example of an individual who was a couple of these – why is Revere so remembered in the events of the opening of the Revolutionary War when there was another man who equally shared the same task?

“The Stickiness Factor” is the sense of memorability (if that’s a word) or ease at which people can lock into a concept, product, or idea.  This is what marketing strives for and what much of educational theory is working to master.

“The Power of Context” is looking at the systemic impact of the environment on change phenomena. I was intrigued most by the example of the “Broken windows theory” that was at the heart of change efforts in New York’s dramatic crime reduction over a decade ago. After analyzing a host of variables – the idea that small symbols of neglect can lead to widespread invitations for crime. By quickly cleaning up graffiti and making other quick improvements to fix things and keep things in shape among other minor changes, there was radical changes in crime for the better.

These are quick and hasty summaries, but this book is a great stimulator of ideas and creative energy if you are thinking about how to spread ideas or lead change in a particular context. All such efforts will involve the need to shape thinking, relationships, and behavior. This book touches on all three of these areas and thus, a great resource.


Stats Lie Pt 14: You Think You Know But You Don’t

This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Stats Lie

I’ll be honest.  Sometimes this all-time Jim Mora (former NFL coach) rant pops into my mind when people outside of my leadership and the cultural context I’m in make one-up judgments or bring criticism that is anchored in a totally different worldview or ethnocentric perspectives.  Sometimes criticism is fair and we always need to take it in with a humble ear and learning posture.  Sometimes it says more about those giving the criticism. So this is a post about a contextual reaction and polemic against non-contextual criticism.

This fits the general scope of my “Stats Lie” series as well despite not dealing directly with measurements. But this does deal with the presuppositions behind what measurements or clues we look for to define success (or failure).

And sometimes I can be the one to make the judgments or bring ethnocentric criticism unfairly onto others who know their landscape better than me or anyone else.  And every time I do that – I fully deserve the Jim Mora treatment.

This obviously has a lot of humor to it, but it covers some legitimate arguments as to why the best people to assess success and failure are those working with all the knowledge and who know the context and all the variables the best.  It’s actually genius and not just a reactive meltdown.

So next time someone “who thinks they know, but they really don’t know” tries to judge what you’re doing – be inspired by Jim Mora!  Just find a way to enter the dialogue in less of an aggressive way 🙂

**I just really love the breakdown too of how sometimes people think something’s bad, but it’s good and sometimes they think it’s good, but it’s bad.  And how sometimes you think it’s good and it’s good and how sometimes you think it’s bad and it’s bad.  Fantastic summary of cross-context success criteria challenges!

And my friend and were messing around with the iphone app smule and it generated this beauty of a song/video:  http://www.smule.com/p/51484037_2660855


Do Your Words Heal Lightly or Deeply?

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Prophets or Posers

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a good “Prophets vs. Posers” quote. I was re-reading a book I read before I started blogging a few years ago and wanted to submit this quote for your reflection,

“Throughout these events [anxiety times] God sends prophets to open the people’s eyes and to expand their horizon.  As we know, though, true prophets are without honor in their own anxious country.  Many of God’s messengers are ignored, mocked, or annihilated.  But the false prophets who cry, “Peace, Peace,” and heal the wounds of the people lightly are too often welcomed.  They promise stability but invite no reflection.  False prophets offer simple, immediate relief.  They don’t challenge people to change their limited point of view.”

-Peter Steinke, How Your Church Family Works, pg. 44

In our positivity driven culture, truth is so often treated like a buzzkill.  Worse yet, it can be treated as toxic when the desire to medicate and bath in the delusions of happiness overwhelm the quest for reality and wisdom.

Do you tend to gravitate towards denial and delusion to preserve your perceived safety and the status quo?  Or do you courageously pursue truth wherever it might lead you?  Do you choose stability over wisdom?

Originally posted November 4, 2010

Embracing the NO’s to Sex: Putting On The Big Boy Pants

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Why I Love It When My Wife Says NO to Sex

Putting On the Big Boy Pants

Encountering limits and experiencing boundaries are reality checks.  We need limits as they remind us that our reality is in fact bigger than just ourselves.

While it might be a rude awakening if a particular spouse is in the mood and starting to put the moves on and they are met with, “You know, I just really don’t want to right now because I’m…..” or “I’m really not feeling that great…” or “I’m not sure I can right because I feel like we need to finish that discussion we had earlier and I can’t be close until we resolve that.”

Initially it might be a buzzkill, but in the bigger picture it can be reality giving you a cold slap to the face, reminding you that your burning desires and the sexual feelings you have in the moment aren’t the only thing going on in the world.  We need to be slapped by reality sometimes.  Some of us are far too crafty in our efforts to avoid reality and we need it to find us and wake us up if we’re getting a little too insular in our perspective on life and marriage in this example.

But we’re talking on some level about rejection. More than building resolve and serving as a catalyst to a husband to be a student of his wife, being told no when you’re putting the moves on can be pretty developmental in other ways – identifying areas of insecurity or pride being some of them.

Those buying in that we ought not ever reject our spouse amidst sexual initiation (according to some teachings on 1 Cor 7 which I’ll address in a few days) create a dynamic in which the husband especially never has to deal with his own security as a person and a man.  When he wants sex, he gets it.  He can feel comfortable in his own world of his own desires without ever really having to be ok when he doesn’t get his way all the time.  There are men whose ego’s are riding pole position in their marriage and all the dynamics are designed to support that ego.  These are men who hear these types of marriage teachings and feel validated for their “rights” as a man.

You know what this reminds me of – raising my young kids.  What happens if my kids always get what they want and they never learn to be ok with disappointment and not getting what they want in the moment – their heads get big and they become more self-centered and demand more.  They need to hear “No” a lot because they have to learn how to balance their own desires with the desires of others and the limitations that often exist in getting what you want.

There’s a pattern to some of the leaders and ministers that flame out later in life for some kind of moral failure or character issues – usually they were coddled a lot and often they had wives who instead of helping their husbands become stronger and more accountable, they enabled their husbands through unconditional cheerleading and refusing to do anything that wounds the ego.  Some get wrapped up in the success of their spouse and things become about image and performing rather than strengthening the relationship and marriage in a mutually transforming way.

When my wife says no to sex or no to a host of other things I might want to do that she feels strongly about, I believe she’s helping me become a better leader when she sets limits with me.  She’s helping me live within my personal and family limits.

So you know what we as men (and sometimes women too) need to do when our sexual mojo doesn’t get the results we might want in the moment?

We need to go put our big boy pants on and figure out an alternative way to connect with our spouses or we need to go find something else to do besides brooding or pouting.  I believe there’s a connection between our capacity to stay secure in our relationships and handle “No’s” in both the personal and professional contexts.  If we can handle “No’s” without making it all about us in marriage – we’ll be able to demonstrate those same dynamics in our work relationships.

Related to this, my suspicions for a while have been that those I see not being able to work with strong female leaders are coming from marriages in which their marital “system” doesn’t allow for a lot of no’s to the male ego.  They aren’t used to hearing “No” from women and therefore such leaders aren’t secure enough to lead WITH leaders of BOTH genders – especially ones that will say “No.”  Just an observation that at this point seems to me to be a pattern, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Never say no to your spouse’s sexual initiation as a teaching in my mind reinforces a Napoleon complex for husbands.  Little dudes wearing big hats expecting everyone to fall in line with their will.  I think God’s design for marriage and sex in marriage aims a little higher than that.

So let’s exchange our Napoleon’s hats for our big boy pants and embrace adult and peer dynamics in marriage.  Because one of the fruits of our marriages should be that we become more mature and better leaders – in our families and in our vocations.


Turning Clarity On

I’ve posted a few times on communication clarity in leadership and loved this cartoon.  We always underestimate what it takes to communicate clearly in leadership.  If you want to check out a few related posts I’ll put the links below the cartoon…


Ringing the Bell of CommunicationWithout Vision, Maybe the People Will Be Better OffMISdirect Communication

Developing Cross-Culturally on Mission

As I slowly build the Article and Resources section on my site, I’m releasing an updated and newly formatted version of an article I wrote a couple years ago focused on developing cross-culturally in the context of cross-cultural situations with an emphasis on cross-cultural missions.It’s a “tested” article in that I’ve used in for a couple years in a cross-cultural movement launching training course that we do within my ministry (Epic) for interns and new staff.  I haven’t released it publicly until now so if this is an arena that interests you I hope you find it helpful!

Without Vision, Maybe the People Will Be Better Off

In the Christian world, if you haven’t heard Proverbs 29:18a used to educate folks about casting vision then it’s only a matter of time.  The King James version is actually used a lot because it’s got a nice tragic tone to it.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

Peter Steinke in the same book I quoted from yesterday reframes this nugget into the following:

“Without clarity people perish in their emotional intensity.” (pg. 66)

What he means by this is that given human nature and the dynamics of fear and anxiety and panic, especially in large groups, one of the central leadership responsibilities is CLARITY.Have you ever left a meeting and felt more confused than when you started?  Have you ever felt like those with the responsibility to communicate clarity spend so much time beating around the bush or trying to manage people’s responses that they never ended up really stating or communicating clearly what they most needed to communicate?Leaders often are so trained to focus on “casting vision” to their people that they don’t often think about what their people need to hear clearly so that they can be responsible about their own decisions.  The focus in much vision casting is on getting people EXCITED and MOTIVATED and ALIGNED, but those tactics without clarity result in increased confusion and anxiety.  If leaders focused more on clarity than merely on generic vision and goals then they might make more progress and do it quicker than what usually transpires when there’s a lot of words, but little clarity of meaning.How might you ensure clarity is achieved in your leadership when there are so much dynamics and sounds that are producing “white noise” around you? Seriously – I’m looking for some good ideas!