Tag Archives: integrity

Quick Review: TrueFaced

This past spring I read TrueFaced by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall and I just re-read it again this past week.  I was interested in this book because I was impacted a lot by the book Ascent of a Leader by the same authors a long while ago. I owned this book but just never got around to reading it.

The book is really about authentic leadership as compared to performing or “false” leadership. It is not an attempt to do a deep dive on new self, false-self theology. However, there is a good basic foundation of theology in this book for how identity impacts character, behavior, and leadership. The book explores how performance mindsets and approaches to dealing with vulnerability, limitations, and especially sin can lead to false faces – or masks.

The mask metaphor has grown quite common in the last couple decades since this book came out. The reality has always been true – that leaders develop a false face or imposter identity that is aimed at pleasing others or performing for God and end up creating culture and environments that replicate that kind of falseness and allergy to the truth and authentic vulnerability. The authors here specifically attack the ways a Christian approach to orienting life around “pleasing God” leads to a spiral of inauthentic ways of relating to others. This is a book for sinners and legalists – which is all of us so I recommend it!

The authors talk about 3 groups of masks – one is the “doing fine” folks who hide behind shallowness and avoidance of intimacy; another is the “fixers” who go hunting from one technique to the next to solve what they sense is wrong or not working; and the third they call the “pedigreed masks” which are masks anchored in self-righteousness or performance.

Then they dive into chapters specifically on Grace, Love, Repentance, Forgiveness, and Maturity.  The strength of the book I think is some of the unpacking of what grace is and what it is not and how that impacts love, repentance, and forgiveness.   There are great discussions on how grace based love impacts others, what authentic grace based reptentance looks like, and what forgiveness is and is not.

Fundamentally, they argue that our motive to please God must be submitted to our calling to trust God with who we are and what He has done for us. This could be a topic for some healthy debate, but I tend to agree with them.  The Scripture points us to the truth that without faith it’s impossible to please God. So if we try to please without trusting God with ALL of who we are, then we are entering false-self territory.

At the core, I believe one of the great many reasons why the Christian church in the West and elsewhere has lost a lot of its credibility and its voice in the culture is because the focus of “church” has been pleasing as opposing to trusting and resting in God’s grace. Pleasing leads to self-righteousness and condescension. Trusting in the identity God has given us leads us to a freedom in our limitations and with the limitations of others. That would have significant impact.

There are a lot of versions of this book out there and it may be hard to get the original version of this book, but there are some versions available. If you want to read the full original book you may need to find a used book online.


Quick Review: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

A couple of weeks ago I read Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty:  How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves.  The book is loaded with research and stories that illustrate the ways humans consistently rationalize dishonest activity.  And consistency was a key word – I was fascinating at how the research consistently showed people being dishonest to a similar threshold.

The main takeaway from the book is that people lie or engage in dishonest behavior up to the point where they can still rationalize themselves as being a good person.  So it suggests that there is some kind of unwritten cheater code that we humans like to live by – where we can seek to gain an advantage for ourselves and also fully believe that we are good people.

What was most interesting to me was that the research indicated that religion and the reminder of a greater power and spiritual moral code had a significant influence on dishonesty in a positive sense.  People simple were more honest and demonstrated more integrity when they had recently been reminded of this higher power and moral code.

However – the author dismisses this arena from the book because of the impracticality of mobilizing humanity to embrace a common religious solution.  He abruptly dismisses the discussion about the depths to which religion might be the best solution and instead seeks a more pragmatic or secular solution that would not be controversial.  On one hand, I understand that much of the research focuses on specific behavior.  But it is disappointing that the religious sphere had such a powerful impact in the research, but did not get explored in depth.

There’s a lot of practical application here as well as areas worth reflecting on- as it relates to leadership development, culture shaping, and ministry activities like discipleship and spiritual formation.  The question is how we can foster integrity in communities and in leaders when research shows that dishonesty is rampant, subtle, and mostly hidden by rationalization.

One particular example stood out to me as a professor.  We have various things that often require students signing an honor code or pledge of honor that they did something they said they did.  Research shows that it’s almost useless to have people sign at the end of the document verifying that everything prior was true.

Research shows the rationalization or dishonesty has already happened and been justified.  But if you have people read and sign a pledge of honesty of some sort before they fill out a document or take a test, then the results are outstanding that dishonesty will be much more minimal.  I am changing all such documents I use for my classes to account for some of these learnings. I can help them be honest through how I design various documents and through what and when I remind them of related to a higher standard or authority.  You can obviously use this information in heavy handed ways, but if used appropriately it can just make honesty easier for everyone.  That was really interesting to think about.

There were other great anecdotes including one about how just being under a “set of eyes” has on cheating or dishonesty behavior.  Even a symbol of “eyes” looking on someone in situations where temptation is high resulted in more honest behavior.

So there’s a lot of fascinating research that gives a lot of windows into people’s self-understanding and inner workings.  It’s fully worth reading this because you’ll learn things that will help you in whatever walk of life you are in.

I want to grow in my awareness of how I rationalize and justify dishonest behavior and I want to help others do the same. This book provides some practical helps for regulating behavior, but does not offer any ultimate solutions because it avoids the spiritual realm. What it does do – is illustrate how people think and behave and how deep down there is an almost pathological drive to preserve a sense of being “good” all the while looking for every self-serving advantage we can get away with.

This points us to the need for the gospel.  We need it to be reminded of a better and holy way. We need it because we are deeply fallen and yet we desire to be good though we can’t seem to rid ourselves of the duplicity and the falseness.  Sometimes it helps to look in a mirror as to how we tend to deceive ourselves and even though there weren’t great answers, this book provided me with the questions I want to be asking of myself and others.


Keeping Things Above Board

The phrase “Above Board” has long been associated with transparency and integrity – that nothing is shady or being hidden for corrupt purposes or selfish gain.  This term is anchored in marine tradition and practice.  When crews were to have their ships inspected or if they had a business deal, they would put out everything on the deck or in plain sight as a gesture of good faith or so business could be conducted easily or so they could be inspected.

Captains and crews who wanted to hide cargo or hide things of value would keep those things strategically hidden in the recesses of the ship.Above Board in common lingo and in sailing lore refers to things that are set out in plain sight, not hidden out of sight.

The metaphor is so ingrained in our culture as it relates to integrity and maintaining openness that I will go a little bit different direction as far as a modern day application.  If you have functioned in any organization then likely you have seen “closed door” meetings as well as “open door” meetings.  By open meetings I don’t mean that anyone can walk in off the street and join your meeting.  It means you give people access to what really is happening over the course of setting direction and making decisions.  Closed door meetings is when only the select few have access.  I like the “Above Board” metaphor because I think it relates really well to how leadership teams seek to control their image by taking refuge in privacy.

Certain things are often put out “on the deck” to project a spirit of openness and to build trust and confidence.  But often others can get a feel for whether everything’s “Above Board” or if there’s secret cargo below that is not being talked about.   Leaders and teams who try to hide cargo can fool some people, but not their best people.Hiding cargo doesn’t mean necessarily corrupt activity.  I think the danger I see is that teams and leaders can try to control their image so much that they keep all the real substance to their decisions and their presence to themselves.  The stuff that is put out on deck is only that which is polished and organized.  But here’s a couple things that teams can do to keep things Above Board and build trust and accountability rather than a culture of image management and organizational control.

  1. Let team members speak with independent voices at times.  Sometimes team members have to be in a position to be able to be held accountable.  There frequently is a “one voice” policy out there, which I believe from a communication standpoint is typically good as it relates to direction and whatnot.   But sometimes “one voice” becomes something that leadership teams can hide behind because it’s hard to hold individuals accountable when only “team” things are put out on the deck.  Be unified.  But be accountable too.  Let people own their decisions and take responsibility for them.
  2. Be intentional to put things out on the deck that are incomplete or unfinished.  Leaders who like “secret” meetings where they are solving the worlds problems often don’t like to let people know about process or the real issues and tensions that come up over the course of significant decisions.  They just work them all out behind closed doors and then come out and present a nice looking finished product.  But this usually dismisses context.  People trust you more when they can see the context and backdrop of where the decision or end result came from.  Just looking at the final product doesn’t typically allow people to appreciate the full scope or context that makes such a decision or product appreciated.  Ironically, by trying to control you can lose control as people lose trust because they don’t have access to the leadership struggle below the deck.  They don’t need to know all the business, but real is better than fake.  You can end up with a good or necessary leadership decision and still be fake doing it.
  3. Invite an inspection below the deck.  Choose to be open, vulnerable, and transparent out of a commitment to building trust and empowering others.  Let followers and other leaders check you and your team out a bit to learn about what makes you tic and whether you are trustworthy or not.  If you are not trustworthy, it would make since why you try to hide.  Reality will be exposed.  If you are trustworthy, then you only reinforce that by giving people access and you open yourself up for continued learning.

Keeping things “Above Board” is about honesty, trust, and fostering partnerships.  Sneaky efforts to hide cargo or disguise unsavory or unfinished things erodes trust and undermines empowerment.

Where do you think leaders need to keep things “Above Board?”  What types of things do you think most frequently are hidden away under the deck?

Click the category link “Leading on the Seas” in the right hand column to see more in this series of posts.  These posts are part of a larger leadership development project I’m working on so please feel free to add your thoughts and perspectives!

A Team’s Last Line of Defense Pt 1

Spring 2008 Pictures, Images and PhotosIf you think about your current team – whether it’s a formal and ongoing team or whether it’s more informal and temporary, then sooner or later you’ll have to face the reality of things slipping through the cracks and balls getting dropped.  A lot of times this is okay and par for the course.  Stuff happens and you learn from it and move on.  That’s part of a team’s journey.

But what about those things the slip through the cracks that blatantly (or secretly) undermine your team’s values and culture?  I’m not talking about a task here or a task there, but about decisions or even passive choices that conflict with stated and understood values and the integrity of the team or organization.   It might be different for your context, but I’ve seen how some of these big misses can take place and more often than not no learning takes place, no accountability takes place, and spin – positive or spiritual or otherwise – encourages people to just move on.  Evaluation happens without its sister – accountability.

When watching a little bit of the World Cup I saw a parallel.  You’ve got a team working together to preserve the integrity of the team.  When a goal is scored, it’s a clear indication that something has broken down.  And things break down more often than goals are actually scored thanks to the goalie – who represents the last line of defense.  When the defense doesn’t do their job, the goalie can bail them out some of the time; however, the constant pressure that comes from defensive breakdowns sooner or later will overwhelm even the best goalkeeper.

One of my favorite images from the NBA playoffs this past year was Celtic Coach Doc Rivers in his huddles in the fourth quarter.  I’ve always liked Doc back to his playing days and I loved him as a broadcaster, but he’s an awesome coach.  But I found it compelling watching him look at all his players in the eyes and say, “Everybody needs to do their job.  Do your job!”  His message was that if everyone is accountable to do their part and if they preserve the integrity of their teamwork and defense then success would follow.  Maintaining the integrity of their teamwork would lead to results.

Working on teams together, I see integrity-undermining misses as “goals allowed.”  In a team sport, people are held accountable because of instant replay and video analysis.  After a goal is scored there is a total analysis of who didn’t do their job and what caused the goal.  On typical teams this type of accountability is more rare and it’s more difficult to produce.  What message would it send if a World Cup team allowed a couple goals in a game, but never thought to look at the video or learn about where the breakdowns were and talk about how to better protect the goal?  But I would say many teams do the equivalent of that with a “let’s just keep moving on” mentality.  They have no passion to protect their “goal” which is the symbolic metaphor of the integrity of their team and its vision and values.

So nurturing team and individual accountability is vital to team integrity, but as I’ll post in part two of this post – accountability needs to extend beyond just people’s job descriptions or individual responsibilities or else the goalie’s on your team will get disillusioned and the culture of the team will be dictated by job descriptions rather than core values.

So in the spirit of soccer, I want to remind you of Doc River’s exhortation to “Do your job!” as you reflect on the photo below of defenders “doing their job” to protect their goal 🙂  And can you guess which guy is my favorite in this picture?

What do you think is involved in “protecting the goal” on your team?

Failing Leaders

I was going through an old magazine I got at some conference I went to and I came across this top 10 list – the top 10 ways to fail as a leader. It was in the march and april 2008 version of Rev magazine (Rev.org). This is quite the collection in my mind – but so many of them are unbelievably too common. When you add a few together you get a nice recipe for a toxic environment.Here they go:

  1. Fill Your Team With People Just Like You.
  2. Ask Someone to do a Specific Job, and then do it Yourself
  3. Don’t Trust Anyone
  4. Look Out for #1
  5. Exercise High Control
  6. Make Sure All Ideas Originate With You
  7. Foster an Atmosphere of Paranoia
  8. Make Sure Nobody Appears Smarter Than You Are.
  9. Have a Closed-Door Policy (Shut the Door to Feedback & Lack Teachability)
  10. Conserve Affirmation

The best part of the one-page article was the insight that the authors offered. They state how most of the above failures in leadership flow from unresolved insecurities. I agree.A random observation on #1: Many leaders do struggle surrounding themselves with diversity. Yet just as damaging are leaders who have diversity around them, but who systematically get rid of those who are different or who challenge them. I think this can be subconscious or conscious.I think #10 is the one I can fall in to the most naturally. Gotta share the love more.