Tag Archives: Leadership Development

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: Self to Lose – Self to Find

Last week I gave a quick review on the enneagram book The Road Back to YouHere is the second book I’ve read recently in my attempts to explore and understand the enneagram as a tool to help myself and others dig deeper into the heart issues that drive behavior.

Self to Lose Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil was a much shorter treatment of the Enneagram types, but had much more depth to it from a spiritual standpoint. Half of the book is presenting a theology of Spirit-filled living, unpacking a framework of spiritual formation through the paradigm of dying to self and grounding one’s identity in the person and work of Christ.  This was a solid treatment and helpful for both those who jump into these things for the quick rush of finding their “type” like its a horoscope as well as those trolls out there who are quick to try to destroy anything that feels different to what they are used to.  I still am exploring how useful the enneagram is in life and ministry, but Vancil does a great job laying a solid framework for the bigger picture of how self-awareness is in service of our journey to put off the old self and put on the new self.

Self-awareness is something we all need and most people in leadership and ministry are trying to help other people develop in as well.  But often, the foundation of why we should pursue self-awareness is shaky or fuzzy. I like the beginning of this book as a primer of self-reflection and the Enneagram stuff aside, the rest of the book unpacks a helpful framework or process for cultivating Spirit-facilitated self-awareness. Vancil entitles that process with the acronym OWNUP, which links the process of reflection with the fundamental taking of responsibility inherent to what it means to “die to self.”

The descriptions themselves of the 9 types are helpful and framed more from a Biblical perspective with some helpful categories to give insight to the types such as core sins, core fears, and several other areas helpful as a road map for personal reflection.

While the strength of the book is framing everything through a clear Biblical framework for following Jesus through putting off the old self and picking up our cross daily and embracing the new self, the cost is at more contextual content related to the specific types. I find that I need more context and content on each type to really get a handle on them, but having already read The Road Back to You and listened to some other content really helped. I am not sure this is the first book I would recommend to someone on the Enneagram for that reason. I benefitted because I already had some context.

Another disappointment was the section on wings was practically non-existent. That’s something still confusing to me and Vancil really doesn’t try to tackle that outside of making a small argument that each type is affected to some degree by each wing to the number’s left or right. That seems like a different take than some of what I’ve heard so far.

There are two unique contributions to the Enneagram as a spiritual encouragement. First, there’s a section where the author includes an “invitation” through God’s perspective to each type through a more Biblical lens and vision for what God may want for each person based on Scripture. Second, there’s a section of prayers from the perspective of each type that walk through a process of confessing core sin patterns and inviting God into the core needs and desires.  Both the invitations and the prayers were great and I think provide a helpful roadmap for people how to approach God authentically and in full surrender to His purposes and power.

So if you are into the Enneagram or are exploring it, I think this is a great resource – but its strength is in providing Biblical foundations and a framework to understand how this can be in service to God’s work of sanctifying a person. It is not the comprehensive resource for descriptions of the types themselves or other nuances, though the material that was included was helpful in what it tried to do.

I still plan to read a couple more, but will take a bit of a break from the Enneagram for a couple of months but hope to come back to it around the holidays when I have more time.


Quick Review: The Road Back to You

About 15 years I was first exposed to the spiritual tool/diagnostic known as the “enneagram” and found it somewhat interesting, but the exposure was so minimal that I did not really do anything with it. But it introduced or reinforced the notion of core sin patterns that different profiles of people live out.

This summer I listened to a seminar on the enneagram and interacted with a couple people that had been exploring it as well so I’ve been exploring it further and learning about what it is, where it came from, what it entails, and the scope and limits of its application.

The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey To Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile was a recommended book to get an overview. From what it sounds like it’s a good overview and more humor involved than most of the overviews and books that are emerging out there.

I am not going to unpack what it is – only that I know there’s plenty of watchdogs that look to shred the use of anything that remotely facilitates contemplation in the spiritual life and assert it’s all new age or the demonic. For years I actually thought the enneagram was the scientology tool so didn’t rush to learn more about it. That is something else.

I am interested in it because I’m always looking for things that help surface self-awareness and guide people into root heart idolatry or heart sin that drives a lot of behavior but that goes unnoticed without intentional reflection or courageous community.  From what I’ve explored thus far, this is a really helpful tool toward that end – rooting out the false self in its many different expressions and guiding to a deeper surrender to Jesus at the innermost level that can result in an authentic and free worship of God as an image bearer of God.

I have an idea of where I fall in this, but it’s not crystal clear yet.  Two of the nine profiles look pretty familiar to me and resonate fairly deeply to my core.  But I have been impressed as a basic knowledge of the profiles has already helped me re-assess how I approach certain relationships of mine and how to handle tricky leadership development moments.

Like all tools, it’s not something that should be used to label or take an expert position. It should result in humility and compassion and I think this really helps facilitate greater orientation to truth and increased grace towards others.  There are other books that unpack things with more spiritual depth, but this was a comfortable and easy read for an overview and introduction.

It’s worth saying that not all uses of the enneagram are grounded and integrated in Biblical truth and foundations. It’s origins are quite ancient and it’s been appropriated in different ways, but in its raw origins from what I understand, it was the source of what became known as the seven deadly sins.

Anyway – I’ll be reading a few more books on this because as one who is invested daily and weekly in Biblically rooted spiritual and leadership development and formation, there’s a lot of insight and wisdom to be gained here.


Quick Review: Stuck! Navigating Life and Leadership Transitions

Last week I read the book Stuck! Navigating Life and Leadership Transitions by Terry Walling. Terry once led a brief time of organizational refocusing at my home church about 15-20 years ago so the name has stuck with me, but I was motivated by this book because he offers a popularized book of some of Dr. Robert Clinton’s work on Leadership Emergence Theory. Clinton is most known for his book The Making of a Leader and he has been at Fuller Seminary for quite a while.

Walling offers an incredibly practical description and road map for journeying through some of the biggest moments of leadership and spiritual development in life – what he calls “Transitions” and what Clinton calls “Boundaries.”  These are moments where old paradigms are being broken down to make way for the new. They can take a few months or they can take years to journey through.

Clinton’s work was formative for me in my late twenties as I was going through a significant boundary or transition. It was a 3-year phase of my life, but I would have taken much longer to navigate the deep truths I was being invited into about myself and about the Lord without Clinton’s Leadership Emergence Theory. It shifted the direction of my life and increased my leadership influence significantly the following decade.

Walling’s book was so easy to read and understand. My wife is a great test case in this. She is reading it right now and she is finding it to be a powerful read in the context of her life right now.

There are significant times in life where we can focus on the challenges and struggles and just try to get through. But it’s a much different experience to see such a phase as an invitation to go deeper and have our paradigm of life with Jesus expanded for the sake of preparation for what’s ahead. My wife is definitely in a big transition season right now and I may be in one too – it’s been helpful for us as we discern God’s leading.

The focus for Walling is the 3 big transitions in a leader’s life, which range from about the 20’s for the first one, the 40’s for the second, and late 50’s or early 60’s for the third.  We’re reading it in a timely way because we’re around that 2nd major life/leadership transition and boundary.

This could be a great intro to Leadership Emergence Theory if you want to begin reflecting on the big picture / sovereign hand of God in your life. It’s a far more practical and manageable version of Robert Clinton’s theory and work. I can’t think about my own leadership development at this point without some of the categories of the theory so I recommend you get acquainted with it and explore it.  This book is a practical introduction for you.


Quick Review: Taking People With You

I just finished David Novak’s book Taking People With You.  I am currently in the process of helping coordinate a large organizational change both in structure, culture, and in leadership roles and placement.  I was intrigued by the title of the book.  Then I found out it was written by the CEO of YUM, the company than includes Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell and I got excited – probably disproportionately so.

For one thing, when it comes to American Fast Food or “Quick Serve” Restaurants, KFC and Pizza Hut are right up there at the top of the list in the Philippines along with McDonalds.  So KFC and Pizza Hut are in my face.  I have to work a little harder to find a Taco Bell – but the products and tastes are so substantially different in Manila that I steer clear of that option.

Anyway – this company spun off from Pepsi Co. in a unique set of circumstances into its own company.  That made for a lot of interesting leadership stories and nuggets.  Besides some of the larger principles, I probably just enjoyed hearing the stories behind crystal Pepsi, the new KFC Colonel Sanders logo/brand, failed breakfast menus at Taco Bell, and popular Pizza Hut promotions. A lot of them were fascinating to me.

This book is not a research book, it’s an individual leader’s leadership philosophy and it reads that way.  So you get a lot of values, nuggets, and principles throughout.  There’s a lot of things borrowed from big names like Jim Collins or Jack Welch, but there’s a lot of wisdom with stories and anecdotes that back them up.

Maybe what I liked most besides the stories was that this book included several “tools” where the author shares a concrete and practical management tool to accomplish some particular task or goal – both developmental and strategic.  Some reinforce vision development.  Some get after self-awareness.  But some really provide helpful approaches to aligning employees, building trust, building unity on teams, getting honest dialogue, and a host of other things.

Many people teach all these leadership things.  Finding appropriate and practical tools or exercises to reinforce them in action is more challenging.  But Novak has some good ones here.  Last month I designed one such tool on vision and alignment for a class I’m teaching.  In this book, Novak has a very similar tool that I think was better and easier to use and I plan to use it next year.  But there’s an easy 4-5 tools I plan to file away and use in my leadership efforts working with teams or individuals.  In actuality, many of these “leadership tools” are great small group activities so there are broader applications than even he hints at in the book.

If you’re new or unfamiliar to the leadership theory or business world, this book actually could serve as a good intro or survey for you because he covers so much ground and references so many of the top names in the field.  If you have been around the block and are well read on leadership dynamics, then the practical tools and applications may be intriguing to you as you continue to explore effective ways of mobilizing people for effectiveness on a mission.

But if you just want to read or listen for stories about Pepsi, Pizza, KFC, and Taco Bell – then I think you’ll enjoy the read 🙂


Quick Review: DRiVE

Last week I finished reading Daniel Pink’s DRiVE:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. 

Understanding motivation seems to be an under explored aspect of leadership studies and action.  Given how much discussion there is in leadership and ministry ventures about empowerment, it surprises me there is not more intentionality to ground more leadership development and empowerment of workers and new leaders with healthy awareness as to what will lead to long term change and impact.

Pink provides a brief survey or overview of the history of how people have understand motivation – from survival, to external reward motivations, and finally to intrinsic motivation.   I disagree with the evolutionary assumptions behind how Pink frames this – as if the journey towards intrinsic motivation is part of humanity’s destiny in evolving towards self-actualization.  I happen to think a lot of the research actually instead supports a holistic theology of creation.

That’s one of the things I enjoyed thinking about when reading this book – how the research tends to affirm that men and women were created for intrinsic motivation when there is enough stability and freedom that allows for it.  Intrinsic motivation is an expression of identity and I believe it is meant to be an expression of worship to our Creator.  So a theology of creation makes the research in DRiVE even more interesting and exciting to me, not less.

What’s fascinating about DRiVE is that there are some jobs where external rewards are helpful – what Pink describes as algorithmic work.  But if external rewards are linked to generating motivation in heuristic work – work that requires creativity among other things, external rewards end up generating a host of negative results and implications.

The core areas Pink explores as key to fostering intrinsic motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  Essentially he argues that people need freedom over their work and schedule and methods to some degree in order to truly be passion driven in what they do.  Mastery is a product of struggle and sacrifice.  Purpose is a deep connection to a greater cause, something greater than us.  In short, these three areas must be fostered and developed if we are to empower others through intrinsic motivation.

A helpful section in this book relates to parenting – how we often try to generate intrinsic motivations in our kids through methods that actually work against that.  That section might alone be worth reading for those in the parenting stage.  I have been thinking a lot about how to be intentional in targeting and developing intrinsic motivation in both my family and in teaching and organizationally.

Chances are there are at least one or two areas in your life and leadership that a closer look at human behavior and motivation would help in.  It definitely has been helpful for me in my own self-leadership and my leadership of others.

Quick Review: After You Believe

A couple months ago I read N.T. Wright’s After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.  This book has really got me thinking and I’ve been continuing to think about the implications of Wright’s arguments as it relates to ministry and leadership formation.

Wright considers this to be the third book of a trilogy of sorts after his books Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope.  The first of those is his type of “Mere Christianity” and the second his a treatment of Heaven and eschatology.  After You Believe is a treatment of what discipleship and sanctification looks like post conversion – it’s about how true transformation of character develops.

The real focus of the book is the process and development of character which doesn’t get produced naturally – character which is only produced through struggle and intentionality and perseverance.  This type of character refined by fire, in which behaviors become second nature, is what Wright discusses as “Virtue.”

Virtue, besides being my last name, is a concept growing more popular today especially in business and leadership development discussions.  “Virtue-based leadership” as a philosophy has been gaining steam in leadership circles and Virtue seems to be making a comeback since the days when Bennett’s “Book of Virtues” was popular.

Wright discusses the two extremes of character development – what he describes roughly as “following the rules” on one hand and “following your heart” on the other.  He describes this as a spectrum in which most philosophies of personal change will fall on one side or the other.  He discusses how either philosophy of change – legalism or emotionalism/feeling driven change are inadequate for the kind of character development that equates to the New Testament mandate of “putting on” the new self.

Wright addresses some of the history of virtue development and highlights some of the Catholic / Protestant tensions of the Reformation related to the concept of virtue based character formation.  His discussion on these themes related to Shakespeare’s Hamlet has me pursuing that play to see some of how those themes are reflected in the art of the time.

Wright fundamentally calls for a grace based approach to intentional character development that invests in developing new habits while getting rid of old habits.  Some get nervous when talking about habits and intentional character development because they believe all transformation is a product of the Spirit. Wright supports that as well, but argues that there is an embodied expression of faith in the believer as he makes choices and struggles to die to him or herself and put on the behavior consistent with the new identity in Christ.

Sanctification is produced by the grace of God as his children die to themselves by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and put on the new self – even when the behavior isn’t “natural” or second nature yet.  Wright argues that over time, such Spirit driven behavior and struggle in faith produces that character refined by fire that is described by virtue.

We live in an age when many believers are trapped in legalism and performance on one hand and cheap grace on the other.  There is a need for an integrated view of sanctification that calls believers to a more holy integration of faith and works, all grounded in the grace of God.  Wright makes compelling arguments from Scripture and challenges all believers to reject cheap grace or regulations and embrace an authentic journey of denying themselves and putting on the character of Christ – even if it feels uncomfortable or not natural at first.




Third Year of the SPLC!

I’ve just opened up registration for the 3rd running or 3rd cohort of the Systems and Power Leadership Community. If you’re looking for some different leadership development that what you might have previously experienced or just love learning with other people, check out the details at my SPLC page.

If you know somebody that could be served by this type of learning experience – send them the link!

The 2012-2013 group kicks off officially October 1st. Earlybird registration ends on September 19th!

What have past participants said about their experience?

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Maturity is Contextual

Have you felt like there were some situations or places where you really felt like you were growing?  Strong, healthy, empowered?

And then maybe you also find yourself in other situations or places, but you don’t feel like those descriptions are true.  Maybe there are places or situations where you find yourself weak, anxious, powerless, angry, or maybe even just young and immature.

I believe Maturity is Contextual.

What does that mean?  Well it means there are some places you might actually function pretty maturely and there are others in which we find ourselves giving expression to various dysfunctions and immature behavior that maybe we had forgotten existed or that we’re not aware of yet.

I think a majority of folks have a paradigm of maturity that is linear – you grow or mature and it’s kind of like a static thing that you take with you wherever you go. You don’t regress…you keep climbing the mountain of adulthood.  It’s kind of linear in that it’s like a straight line on a graph. Maturity = growth and transformation over time.

I think there’s a kernel of truth there.  But we also in some ways are different people in different places.  Each context or situation is a different emotional system.  They are made up by the unique collection of people and players.  What’s important for this discussion is that each setting we might find ourselves in, the pressures upon us and the challenges to our identity and maturity vary greatly because dynamics change with different people.  So authority relationships, family, gender, ethnicity and race, and host of other factors shape our experience of our contexts.  And you know what – different situations often tap into different things. Sometimes we don’t have to grow up in some places because people don’t make us.   However we can’t get away with those same things in a different context because the expectations are different.

This is part of why even grown men and women can feel and act like children or adolescents when they return to their parent’s home.  Or maybe it’s why even very mature and experienced leaders can’t speak up in the face of perceived authority.  Whatever it is – we don’t act the same across the board.  Therefore we develop differently in differently places, because those places call us to grow up in different ways (except for those places which work to not let us grow up at all in the first place).

I worked with short-term international mission teams for about five years so I got to work with students and staff of my organization before, during, and after significant and often intense cross-cultural experiences in various places around the world.  It wasn’t uncommon during a debrief or conflict mediation session to hear someone express in frustration, “That wasn’t me.  I don’t know what happened.  That wasn’t really me.”

Now we all know that feeling and understand what’s being communicated there.  But I always tried to ask the question, “Well, who was it then?”

Sometimes we regress, a situation or team or relationship or dynamic draws out the worst in us.  There’s often flat out sin involved too as a result of immature reactivity.  Usually there’s also an exposure of areas that are immature – that haven’t grown up yet.  And it’s hard to integrate those immature moments, those childlike moments with those experiences in which we feel like we’re on top of our game and where we feel good about ourselves and what we want people to see and experience from us.

Maturity is contextual in that it is through unique contexts and situations in which we are formed and shaped and challenged and exposed.  Yet maturity is not purely contextual as we seek to integrate our sense of self, allowing us to become someone who is consistent, who embodies integrity and wholeness, and who can embrace the challenge to grow up as a result of whatever challenge that comes. I’m speaking here more on a developmental level rather than on the theological/sanctification level.

Who we are is not “somewhere in between” our best environments and our worst.  Who we are is both.  Our underlying character gaps and our immaturity or vulnerable to sin areas are exposed more in certain settings – and they should drive us towards grace and humility and learning.

But we should be mindful that in our best environments – we might have a false sense of confidence about just how far we’ve come.  I’m not talking about pride per se.  I’m talking about a monstrous blind spot that comes from failing to recognize that we function really well in some contexts and situations because our weaknesses are not tested in those moments or places as they are others.  This is why people in power can go a long way and maybe never really recognize how many glaring holes in their character are really there.

So as you think about your own growth and development – recognize that it’s fluid, it’s environmentally influenced, and it’s a sign of maturity to do the work of integrating your self as different contexts experience you differently. That’s where you really experience grace and exhibit authentic humility as a person and leader.

And remember this warning – you might not be mature in the setting in which you function most.  You might simply be lucky – lucky that you’re set up in a situation in which your true character just isn’t tested or challenged or exposed.  We have seasons like that.  But those seasons come to an end sooner or later and we’ll have a test of our character and convictions. Our maturity then may be exposed both by the situation…and then how we respond after we find ourselves in the light in new ways.