Tag Archives: Organizational Leadership

Quick Review – Re-Centering: Culture & Knowledge in Conflict Resolution Practice

This month I’ve worked through the book Re-Centering: Culture and Knowledge in Conflict Resolution Practice by several editors and contributors.

This is a book written from an ethnic minority perspective on contemporary negotiation and mediation scholarship and practices. It’s a collection of 22 essays and papers covering a wide range of perspectives and cultural perspectives.

There’ are only a couple essays that I thought had marginal value, but by and large, this is an awesome resource for people working in a multi-ethnic context – especially related to theory and practice in dealing with conflict and reconciliation between cultures.

There are a few themes that stand out in this collection that are not often represented in a lot of the classic literature. One of these themes is that of power and neutrality. Majority culture driven practices often assume that neutrality is possible and approach conflict and mediation with a “blank slate” perspective.  This volume addressed that in multiple papers and from multiple angles and it really is helpful. There are some excellent perspectives.

Another theme is that of ethnic identity and how that impacts the arena of conflict and how the approach to a conflict can impact identity. Identity is a theme showing up more and more in the conflict and negotiation literature, though it’s more representative in peace and reconciliation literature. But here, those are woven together with a helpful cross-cultural perspective that illustrates why identity needs to be at the heart of any approach to conflict.

There are essays from a native Hawaiian, Chicano,  Latino, African-American and other perspectives that I thought were really insightful and add a lot of value.  There are some worldviews and elements to some essays I do not agree with and share, but the majority are quite insightful and powerful to read and reflect on.

If you do conflict work in multi-ethnic contexts or even broader cross-cultural contexts, I think this would be a much-needed resource to read for reflection and discussion.  It offers a framework for tensions between white leaders and structures and processes related to conflict and mediation and ethnic minority leaders who find themselves often further marginalized by the processes that others assume will help them.  I’ve already gone back to several of these essays/journal article style contributions to reflect more deeply on some of the themes.


Quick Review: Crucial Accountability

After reading Crucial Conversations a couple months ago I wanted to also read Vital Smarts’ Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. It used to be called Crucial Confrontations, but the name change was probably a good thing.  I’m supervising a lot more people and coaching some others on supervising and have been looking for more tools on how to establish supervising relationships characterized by development and accountability.

There’s some overlap with crucial conversations, but there was sufficient new content that was really helpful. However, there are so many small pieces or elements of this book that a review is tough.  A lot of the book functions like a flow chart to supervising – which is really practical from a reference standpoint.  The book covers a lot of ground – from personal storytelling and identity to conversational dynamics to supporting structures and mechanisms.

There is also a lot of added content borrowed from the Vital Smarts book Influencers when discussing how to coach people for change. There are some aspects of non-directive coaching, but given supervision and accountability dynamics – not all coaching will be able to be non-directive. But the book offers a lot of suggestions and ideas to help address these conversations. It discusses basic conflicts as well as ongoing patterns that merit intentional engagement.

One of the more helpful components is the authors’ identification of common ways leaders take alternative paths to hard conversations or holding others accountable. There’s an in-depth section exploring the ways leaders bypass accountability for safety and security or certainty. It also covers elements such as passivity, blaming, manipulation, passive-aggressive, and other common approaches used by leaders to avoid having the hard conversation.

This is a good one for the toolbox of the leader – every leader needs a clear philosophy and system for how to supervise others and hold people accountable in ways that empower and hold up grace and truth instead of the alternatives such as control, manipulation, avoidance, condescension, and fear-based strategies.  This book can help you evaluate your approach and generate a lot of ideas for a fresh vision for your leadership moving forward.

The vital smarts website has a great companion pdf download as well that can walk through the more collaborative problem-solving dimensions of a crucial accountability discussion.


Quick Review: The Cubs Way

So as the 2017 MLB playoffs are just underway, what better way for a brief review on one of my favorite reading experiences of 2017 – The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci.

This book was like a drug for me. Re-living the 2016 Cubs championship season and World Series run was plain awesome. Doing that while getting a healthy dose of organizational change philosophy and culture shaping nuggets add up to a combination that was like a drug.  I loved this book – but I’m a Cub fan so I’m biased. But seriously – this was like a book version of one of those “snuggie” blankets from TV back in the day.

I would have liked more coverage of the NLDS series against the Giants and of the NLCS against the Dodgers, but the coverage of the World Series, as well as the accounts and storytelling of how the culture was shaped by new leadership and how each significant piece of the team was acquired, were excellent.  I loved the chapters on Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, and Kyle Hendricks among others. So much good stuff!

There are tremendous accounts of how the organizational leadership worked to change the culture – one of the most significant components involved a detailed manual about what the Cubs were going to be about called “The Cubs Way” and the implementation of personal development plans and face to face development conversations about those plans before the season.  Loved so much also the commitment of the organization to recruit and identify talent that has the character to take responsibility for weaknesses and areas of growth.  The other component from a leadership standpoint relates to Joe Maddon’s approach to leading the team as the manager. A lot of good stuff and nuggets.

This may become an annual read for me as I continue to live in the glow of the Cubs winning the World Series. I don’t know what 2017 or beyond holds – but 2016 was a dream and I cannot get enough of it.


Quick Review: The Five Temptations of a CEO

Thanks to Audible, Patrick Lencioni’s book The FIVE Temptations of a CEO was on sale last week for 50% so I think I got it for around $4 or so. It’s one of his shortest books and also the first of his well-known leadership fable books to my knowledge. The audio version was about an hour and a half. I listened to just about the whole thing while supervising my kids in the swimming pool on vacation one afternoon. Water was WAAAY too cold for me so I opted for some Lencioni instead.

This was maybe the most simple of all the books I’ve read from Lencioni. Simple story and five simple principles that have a significant and disproportionate impact on leadership and team success. It was a brief book, but it came at a good time for me as I’ve been stretched lately through having to lead at a higher level. It’s not just for CEO’s, but for anyone really leading a team and who is in a position to steward organizational mission, vision, and values.

The five temptations are essentially these:

  1. Status (protecting self over focusing on results)
  2. Popularity (wanting people to like you instead of holding them accountable and making the needed decisions)
  3. Certainty (wanting to avoid risk and failure)
  4. Harmony (wanting to avoid tension and uncomfortability in the team)
  5. Invulnerability  (Maintaining distance and avoiding authenticity)

Here’s his model in simple form as it’s covered on his website. You can download the model here in pdf form.

Much of these principles are unpacked in more detail in later books, especially The Five Dysfunctions and Getting Naked. So I don’t know if paying full price for this book is what you need to do. I would think a lot of it can be gleaned from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. But for the price, it was a great and simple overview of some key things. Of all the ones here, the temptation of certainty was the one that was most helpful for me right now. It’s the one least covered in other books I’ve read so maybe that’s where I found a lot of value here. But overall – it provided a great opportunity for self-assessment and to explore possible development and change moving forward.

It was a great hour and fifteen minutes – I listened at 1.25x speed 🙂

The website for the book is here.




Quick Review: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

I love Patrick Lencioni and I love his books, wisdom, and style of communicating. He does a great job communicating some complex things in simple modes. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is a book I’ve been wanting to get to and I’ve seen summaries of it, but only recently was able to get to.

This book is the intro book more or less to his overall model of organizational health that he unpacks more completely in more recent books. But this provides a good overview.

I’ve been involved in a lot of organizational health and change work lately so this was a helpful resource for me to do some assessment of what I and my team are doing well and where we need to be more intentional with the big picture in mind.

You can get some of the resources free online related to this book and the model included at Lencioni’s site here.

The book demonstrates through fable and a model 4 disciples for executive leaders for the sake of organizational health.

  1.  Build and maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team
  2. Create Organizational Clarity
  3. Over-Communicate Clarity
  4. Reinforce Clarity Through Human Systems

#1 is unpacked further in his well-known book,  Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but I’ve been in a perfect space to reflect on all four of these.  It’s been both affirming for some of what we’ve been able to do and also encouraging me to persevere in some of these areas for further clarity.

But the biggest value for me was Lencioni unpacking more specifically what each of these things involve.  Everyone believes clarity and communication is in important, but Lencioni provides a bit more detail that can help someone get a handle on where to focus their attention.

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!


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: Death By Meeting

As I came into 2016 I wanted to give audiobooks a try.  I never had done one.  But seeing as I live in the world’s worst traffic city and spend at least 10 hours a week trapped in a car or somewhere else because I can’t get to where I want to go, I’ve had a personal goal of trying to figure out how I can leverage that dead space into something that can add to my development and intellectual and leadership capacity.

I managed to figure out how to get everything set up and got an audiobook system linked up with our public library in the U.S. and I was finally good to go.  I’m teaching a Strategic & Organizational Leadership course right now so I wanted to read a couple things that might help me as I train leaders in some of these core leadership areas.

The first book I took on was Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.  First, his books seem like ideal audiobooks because they are mostly narrative.  I had some bad traffic the day I embarked on this and ended up listening to the entire book on my 2 work drives of the day.  I listened to it in one day!  That got my disproportionately excited that I could be that efficient when so many things in the Philippines do not tend to be very efficient.  I got hooked on the audiobooks for my drives and found an app to listen to other lecture and audio at a faster pace.  I like listening to things around 1.2x or 1.25x speed and the apple products only only 1x or 1.5x.

The book has been around awhile and I’ve been aware of the gist of it from summary notes and the like – but I enjoyed reading it all the way through because it crystallized for me how important drama, context, and purpose are to meaningful and high performance meetings.  These three elements are what Lencioni goes after and it’s always resonated with me – especially drama and purpose.

He borrows from Hollywood to illustrate how important it is to keep people engaged.  That’s the leader’s job and meetings that are not compelling or that fail to have people engage means there’s a problem.

The context part is key because you need containers or mental models to influence expectations and set parameters for meetings so that they can serve a higher purpose.  So in the book Lencioni talks about 4 different types of meetings:  a 5 minute standup meeting for daily checkins and scheduling, a weekly tactical that lasts about an hour for direct reporting and ongoing needed communication, a monthly strategic where deeper thinking and discussion can be targeted, and a quarterly 1-2 day offsite meeting for bigger picture dialogue and discussion.

There’s plenty here that doesn’t relate to my situation or many people’s situations , but I love the heart of the idea that meetings aren’t a necessary evil – it’s where leadership happens and leaders need to own that.  So we can make meetings better, more engaging, and more effective in light of the big picture as opposed to complaining about them and playing the victim.

Meetings is where leadership influence is exerted, where leaders are empowered, where skills are modeled and transferred, and where vision and hope can be nurtured and kept alive.  I agree that leaders should stop dogging meetings and double down on trying to become the best leaders of meetings that they possible can be.

Check out Lencioni’s site at tablegroup.com for more