You Can’t Lead Well Without Serving

It takes leaders to make more leaders.

As a leader, you are not out to create followers, but to discover, disciple, and distribute more and better leaders throughout your organization.

Let’s take the simple but accurate path of dividing people into two groups – leaders and followers. Followers don’t develop leaders – they follow them. Only leaders can develop more leaders.

The odds are high that you have someone on your team that is now only a follower – but you recognize potential in them. You want them to become the leader you already see in them.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Mark Miller and Ken Blanchard

In this new edition of their classic business fable, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller get at the heart of what makes a leader successful. Newly promoted but struggling young executive Debbie Brewster asks her mentor the one question she desperately needs answered: “What is the secret of great leaders?” His reply—“great leaders serve”—flummoxes her, but over time he reveals the five fundamental ways that leaders succeed through service. Along the way she learns:

• Why great leaders seem preoccupied with the future
• How people on the team ultimately determine your success or failure
• What three arenas require continuous improvement
• Why true success in leadership has two essential components
• How to knowingly strengthen—or unwittingly destroy—leadership credibility

The tenth anniversary edition includes a leadership self-assessment so readers can measure to what extent they lead by serving and where they can improve. The authors also have added answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model in the real world.

As practical as it is uplifting, The Secret shares Blanchard’s and Miller’s wisdom about leadership in a form that anyone can easily understand and implement. This book will benefit not only those who read it but also the people who look to them for guidance and the organizations they serve.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

If you are looking for the latest techniques to help you coerce people to do what you say, you will not find any such techniques in the broad category of servant leadership.

Servant leadership is not a strategy or shortcut to success. Servant leadership is a long journey, leading with people as you add value to them by putting their interests ahead of your own.

Creating culture always starts with the organization leader, and it is no different in your church. If you are going to create a culture in which leaders SERVE, you are going to have to demonstrate these five principles first.

A person can serve without leading, but a leader can’t lead well without serving.

Five Strategic Ways Great Leaders SERVE

See and shape the future. Leadership always begins with a picture of the future. Leaders who cannot paint a compelling picture of a preferred future are in jeopardy of forfeiting their leadership. Clarity will often come in the midst of activity. If you are stuck, get moving. When the vision is clear and compelling, it will create life, energy, and momentum.

Engage and develop others. Engagement is about creating the context for people to thrive. Low engagement of your teams is not an indictment of the workers; it is the leaders who need to make a change. We believe leaders who are not proactively developing others are missing a vital aspect of their role.

Reinvent continuously. To make progress, to move forward, to accomplish bigger and better, something has to change. There are three arenas of change:

  • Self – How are you reinventing yourself?
  • Systems – Which work processes need to change to generate better results?
  • Structure – What structural changes could you make to better enable the accomplishments of your goals?

Value results and relationships. Virtual every leader has a natural bias toward one or the other of these. While not bad, that bias can limit your effectiveness. The best leaders value both and manage the tension between them.

Embody the values. People watch leaders, looking for clues regarding what’s important to the leaders. They are also trying to determine if the leader is trustworthy.

Mark Miller and Ken Blanchard, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do

A NEXT STEP

At your next team meeting, write the five SERVE statements on separate chart tablets.

On a scale of 1 (I don’t do this at all) to 5 (I consistently do this), ask your team to individually (and privately) to rate themselves.

Next, have a group discussion, asking for a consensus rating using the same scale above on how your team is taking these actions.

Next, list as many specific and concrete actions that demonstrate each particular action. After you have completed this action, ask the group for a consensus decision on the top three in each category, and circle them.

Finally, ask what actions are missing from each list. Discuss how these actions can become a part of your team’s regular practices.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 95-3, released June 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

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Leadership Lessons from the Sidewalk

In a recent post on walking unplugged, I mentioned that I would be walking the next day with my feet.

I wasn’t trying to be flippant – I was merely stating that your feet can tell you a lot about where you’re walking, and what you’re walking on, and in the process, you can learn a lot.

It brought to mind this post on my other website: Sometimes the Best Part of the Story is Under Your Feet.

With that going through my head, I began my walk – and it wasn’t long before I realized Leadership Lessons the sidewalk could teach me.

In a short, two-mile walk through my neighborhood, I felt and observed the following:

  • Raised Sidewalk – visible, growing tree roots: Leaders should always be looking for things that will help them grow and lift their capabilities.
  • Sunken Sidewalk – hidden sources of water: Leaders should be cautious of hidden things that will bring them down and stunt their capabilities.
  • New Sidewalk Section – replacing to make it functional again: As your leadership grows and matures, you can count on learning new ways to do some things better.
  • Clean Sidewalk – appearances matter: Leaders must present themselves in the best manner possible, which instills confidence.
  • Dirty, Stained Sidewalk – see above: Conversely, sloppy appearances give others pause.
  • Cracked Sidewalk – too heavy a load: Leaders aren’t super heroes, and must balance the “load” they carry.
  • Grass in Sidewalk – maybe lazy, but at least distracted: Leaders who allow interruptions won’t be able to focus.
  • Grass growing over the Sidewalk – know your boundaries: Leaders know that boundaries help focus attention and align teams.
  • Sidewalks – take you somewhere: Leaders don’t fly solo; they must take others with them.
  • Sidewalks – make your journey easier: Well-prepared leaders are in a better position to help others on the journey.
  • Sidewalks – make your journey safer: Leaders watch out for the safety and welfare of others.
  • Sidewalks – lift you above the road: Leaders must rise above their surroundings.

In their civic role, sidewalks play a vital purpose in city, town, and suburban life. As conduits for pedestrian movement and access, they enhance connectivity and promote walking.  Safe, accessible, and well-maintained sidewalks are a fundamental and necessary investment.

But for me, they provide great leadership lessons.

And of course, I couldn’t resist sharing Shel Silverstein’s most appropriate poem:

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

 

How to Lead Your Organization with the Power of Storytelling

Storytelling embodies an approach that is well adapted to meet the deep challenges of leadership. Situations in which story impacts people across an organization include:

  • Persuading them to adopt an unfamiliar new idea
  • Charting a future course
  • Attracting the best talent
  • Instilling passion and discipline
  • Aligning individuals to work together
  • Calling everyone to continue believing in leadership through the unpredictable ups and downs

The underlying reason for the affinity between leadership and storytelling is simple: narrative, unlike abstraction and analysis, is inherently collaborative.

Storytelling helps leaders work with other individuals as co-participants, not merely as objects or underlings. Storytelling helps strengthen leaders’ connections with the world.

After all, isn’t this what all leaders need – a connection with people they are seeking to lead?

“The mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better you make the strategy better.”

– Ben Horowitz

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Storytelling Edge by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow

Content strategists Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow offer an insider’s guide to transforming your business—and all the relationships that matter to it—through the art and science of telling great stories.

Smart businesses today understand the need to use stories to better connect with the people they care about. But few know how to do it well. In The Storytelling Edge, the strategy minds behind Contently, the world renowned content marketing technology company, reveal their secrets that have helped award-winning brands to build relationships with millions of advocates and customers.

Join as they dive into the neuroscience of storytelling, the elements of powerful stories, and methodologies to grow businesses through engaging and accountable content.

With The Storytelling Edge you will discover how leaders and workers can craft the powerful stories that not only build brands and engage customers, but also build relationships and make people care—in work and in life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Transform your organization through the power of storytelling.

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource, but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • The communication is emotional.

Imagine the implications of these attributes for your church’s communications. Are you sending targeted, HTML e-mails to supplement snail mail and print communication? Are you delivering your most important sound bites via podcast? Finally, it is important to keep good communications people close to the core leadership. They shouldn’t have to guess about your church’s DNA. Rather, allow them to be privy to all the conversations and dialogue that surround development and articulation of your vision.

Harness the power of storytelling, and organizations and their leaders will win advocates and customers at a larger scale than ever before.

Stories Make Products and Services Better

Stories have a huge impact on the way people decide what products to buy. We’ll do a lot because of a good story. We’ll change our minds about a product if it incorporates a good story. We’ll change our minds about a product if it incorporates a good story. We’ll pay a little extra for a product that has an inspirational backstory. And we’ll give something a second chance because of a redemption story.

Stories Make Advertising Better

Corporations are realizing that the most effective way to find a hit is to strategically create content (story), test how it will connect with audiences, and then optimize the approach based on what they learned.

Stories Make Your Hiring Process Better

There are no real boundaries between internal and external marketing anymore. When you tell a great story that inspires the outside world, it also inspires the people inside your four walls.

Stories Build Your Brand

Brands that embrace great storytelling can achieve an incredible advantage over their competition.

Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge

A NEXT STEP

How do you effectively invite people to take an active part in your vision? This is a constant challenge for leaders of every organization I work with. The answer? Vision-soaked communication. Get clear about your vision, develop a palette of tools to communicate it, and then let it soak into and through every way you communicate.

This is what the best organizations in the world do so well. Apple. Tesla. Amazon. Every piece of communication or interaction you have with these organizations is absolutely soaked in their vision, mission, and values. Just when you read the names of those organizations, colors and feelings were evoked inside of you, weren’t they? That’s the power of vision-soaked communication.

All ministry is communication intensive. It follows that story telling and understanding the nuances of story will help any leader in the daily ebb and flow of communication. Use these story types as described by Auxano Founder Will Mancini to do an inventory on your own “range” of utilizing of stories as a leader.

CREATION STORY

This does not refer to the first book of Scripture but to the genesis of the organization itself. If you are a pastor, you should know more about the creation story of your church than anyone on the planet. What are the circumstances—passions, problems, and people—surrounding how the church got started to begin with? Mastering the richness of the creation story will help in two major ways. First, it will hold insight into the unique culture of the church and therefore future decision-making and vision. Second, your mastery of the story itself will bring tremendous credibility with people when initiating change.

> ACTION STEP: Write a one-page, two-minute creation story talk. If you have any gaps in your knowledge interview people in your church until you know more than anyone else.

SIGNATURE STORY

A signature story relates to any milestones or hand-of-God moments after the creation story. Obviously a church with more history will have more signature stories. These accounts show off strengths of the church and God’s hand in its history. Look for signature stories when discerning a church’s Kingdom Concept (What can your church do better than 10,000 others?). These stories reveal the values and mark the high-water line of God’s activity and unique journey for each church. Use the signature stories the same way as the creation story: celebrating God’s goodness, explaining decision-making and guiding change.

> ACTION STEP: Make a list of 3-5 possible signatures stories in your church. Ask key leaders to do the same and make a master list of the top five.

FOLKLORE

Folklore stories are simply ones that are worth being told and retold. While there may be overlap between the first two on the list, folklore often focuses on the life change journey of individuals. Even though everyone has special stories of God’s transforming work in their lives, folklore shows off, in brilliant detail, the mission or strategy, a value or life mark, from the church’s articulated. Folklore often embeds a moment of modeling—like repeated prayer, gospel conversation or invitation toward an unchurched friend—that reflects “the win” we are striving for as a congregation. Imagine a church planter who sees a convert grow with unusual intentionality to become a key leader in the church. This story could model the pattern that we hope to see repeated over and over.

> ACTION STEP: Identify three stories from individuals in your church that you know could never be shared too muchAsk another leader in your church to capture all of the details of the story in a two-page, five-minute summary.

HORIZON STORY

Now turn your attention of story-telling to the future. Think of the horizon story as a time-machine window where you tell people what God is going to do. It may have a lead in like, “What if…” or “Imagine…” Tell a story of what the church will be like in one year. How about three years? When crafting this vision-casting story, it’s important not to be presumptuous. To guard against that make sure you show what we call the “God smile,” that is, remind people that this is God’s idea not yours.

> ACTION STEP: Prepare a two-minute story to tell someone what your church will look like in one year. To give yourself freedom, don’t worry about sharing it with anyone— you may or may not. But practice thinking about the future feel of a story.

THE GOSPEL

The centerpiece of all story telling is the gospel. It is important to define every other story in relationship to the grand news of God’s intervention in our world and our lives through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You may wonder, “This is a given, so why would you mention this as an organizational story?” First, many congregations are stuck in a shallow appreciation for the gospel’s ongoing presence and power in daily life. Second, as you master story as a leader, you won’t want to develop and practice the other story types to the neglect of the gospel. Rather, let the gospel develop you as you integrate it into all story telling. 

> ACTION STEP: Grab a copy of Center Church by Tim Keller and study the section on “Atonement Grammars.” This is one of the most helpful summaries available.

TEACHABLE POINT OF VIEW

The last two kinds of stories have to do more with the personal life of the leader. A teachable point of view, a term coined by Noel Tichy in The Leadership Engine, is the story that surrounds personal leadership learning. Informal leadership development happens best when an experienced leader, in relationship with other leaders can unpacks stories of why they do what they do. Where did this conviction come from? What led me to develop this skill? Why did I make what seemed to be a counter-intuitive decision? The more that you have thought about your leadership’s teachable point of views, the more often and intentional will be the transference of wisdom in your leadership culture.

> ACTION STEP: Take 20 minutes and write down your top 10 learnings as a leader. Write down a few bullet points and begin to flesh out the story behind the learning.

CONVERSION STORY

The last story is the perhaps the most obvious, but should not go unstated. In many leader’s lives, there is a failure to acknowledge the story of the personal journey with God at its very beginning. Maybe that’s because it happened when the leader was young, which seems pretty distant from the “important” leadership work of today. How many people on your leadership team know the details of how you trusted Jesus and how you grew in affection for the gospel? Using your own conversation story as a leader is important for at least three reasons. First, it will keep you humble. Second, it’s a personal help to keep the gospel at the center of all stories. Third, it will model for people the importance of sharing a personal testimony.

> ACTION STEP: Create a one-page, two-minute conversion story testimony. Practice sharing it with one other person a week, asking the other person to share their conversion story.

 

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 94-2, released June 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

How to Find Something You Aren’t Looking For

Over the coming century, the most vital human resource in need of conservation and protection is likely to be our own consciousness and mental space.

Tim Wu

A runner I have never been, and not likely to ever be.

A road biker (bicycle) I once was (150+ miles per week), and plan to be again one day.

Active sports participation (first as a player on various teams, and then as an active soccer coach for 14 years) is long past.

My exercise now is walking.

Not a lot – sometimes a couple of miles a day, sometimes three-four miles daily.

For the longest time, I listened to podcasts during these walks. I would have time to listen to at least two or three, and often came back from those walks with eight-ten voice memos on my phone.

Yesterday, I walked unplugged from my phone…

 

Pay attention to what you pay attention to. That’s pretty much all the information you need.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

While I will always be a learner, both by genetics and environment (vocation), I think that hour a day might be better put to use paying attention, and seeking to grow wiser, not just smarter.

The stimulation of modern life, philosopher Georg Simmel complained in 1903, wears down the senses, leaving us dull, indifferent, and unable to focus on what really matters.

In the 1950s, writer William Whyte lamented in Life magazine that “billboards, neon signs,” and obnoxious advertising were converting the American landscape into one long roadside distraction.

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” economist Herb Simon warned in 1971.

The sense that external forces seek to seize our attention isn’t new – but it feels particularly acute today. Billboards, shop windows, addictive video games, endless news cycles, and commercial appeals tantalize us from all directions. We contend with the myriad distractions flowing through the pocket-sized screens we carry with us everywhere. By various estimates, a typical smartphone owner checks a device 150 times per day – every six minutes – and touches, swipes, or taps it more than 2,500 times.

The Art of Noticing, Rob Walker

And so I walk, unplugged.

Yesterday, I watched for American flags. In my neighborhood, I’m never out of sight of one. Some are bright and relatively new, since we are in the Flag Day – Memorial Day – Independence Day period. Others, not so much (mine included). Looking a little faded, I’ve got a new one on the way. The American flag has always been more than a piece of cloth to me. A symbol for sure, but one rich with history, sacrifice, and uncommon wisdom.

I’ve also listened to the summer sounds of a mid-morning North Carolina symphony of insects and birds. The insects I’m guessing are mostly cicadas and katydids – first one, then the another, then a whole chorus. And then quiet. And then it starts over.

With one section of my walk bordering a park and the streets and yards filled with trees, I can always hear birds – robins, blue jays, mockingbirds, crows, and more – including a nighttime hair-raising screech owl.

I listened for sounds I didn’t hear – cars up and down the street. Most people have gone to work if they’re going, and lunchtime hasn’t yet arrived. No planes on approach to CLT – that means the winds have shifted direction, and the landing pattern, often overhead, is further to the west. About a mile away, I-77 traffic is no doubt busy – but I didn’t hear it, again thanks to the wind direction.

Tomorrow I’m walking with my feet. Well, of course I will. But I’m going to “listen” to what my feet are saying about the path I choose, and see what I can learn.

When you actively notice new things, that puts you in the present…As you’re noticing new things, it’s engaging, and it turns out…it’s literally, not just figuratively, enlivening.

Ellen J. Langer

 

inspired by The Art of Noticing, by Rob Walker

Do You Have the Five Disciplines of a Multiplying Leader?

It takes leaders to make more leaders.

As a leader, you are not out to create followers, but to discover, disciple, and distribute more and better leaders throughout your organization.

Let’s take the simple but accurate path of dividing people into two groups – leaders and followers. Followers don’t develop leaders – they follow them. Only leaders can develop more leaders.

The odds are high that you have someone on your team that is now only a follower – but you recognize potential in them. You want them to become the leader you already see in them.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

A revised and updated edition of the acclaimed Wall Street Journal bestseller that explores why some leaders drain capability and intelligence from their teams while others amplify it to produce better results.

We’ve all had experience with two dramatically different types of leaders. The first type drains intelligence, energy, and capability from the people around them and always needs to be the smartest person in the room. These are the idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. When these leaders walk into a room, light bulbs go off over people’s heads; ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations. These are the Multipliers. And the world needs more of them, especially now when leaders are expected to do more with less.

In this engaging and highly practical book, leadership expert Liz Wiseman explores these two leadership styles, persuasively showing how Multipliers can have a resoundingly positive and profitable effect on organizations—getting more done with fewer resources, developing and attracting talent, and cultivating new ideas and energy to drive organizational change and innovation.

In analyzing data from more than 150 leaders, Wiseman has identified five disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers. These five disciplines are not based on innate talent; indeed, they are skills and practices that everyone can learn to use—even lifelong and recalcitrant Diminishers. Lively, real-world case studies and practical tips and techniques bring to life each of these principles, showing you how to become a Multiplier too, whether you are a new or an experienced manager. This revered classic has been updated with new examples of Multipliers, as well as two new chapters one on accidental Diminishers, and one on how to deal with Diminishers.

Just imagine what you could accomplish if you could harness all the energy and intelligence around you. Multipliers will show you how.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

A central support in any leadership development structure has to be the concept that recognizes the value of people. Your team is not just cogs in a machine that gets things done. They are unique creations of God, and to not develop them is in some ways an abuse of their God-given abilities.

But as often is the case, the swirl and business of ministry often leads you to overlook this.

Is it possible to focus on the tasks in front of your organization AND consistently lead in the discovery and development of those on your team?

Multipliers look at the complex opportunities and challenges swirling around them and think, “There are smart people everywhere who will figure this out and get even smarter in the process.”

Multipliers see their job as bringing the right people together in an environment that liberates everyone’s best thinking – and then get out of the way and let them do it.

So what are the practices that distinguish the Multiplier? In researching the data for active ingredients unique to Multipliers, we found five disciplines in which Multipliers differentiate themselves from Diminishers.

Attracting and Optimizing Talent. Multipliers are talent magnets; they attract and deploy talent to its fullest, regardless of who owns the resource, and people flock to work with them because they know they will grow and be successful.

Creating Intensity that Requires Best Thinking. Multipliers establish a unique and highly motivating work environment where everyone has permission to think and the space to do their best work.

Extending Challenges. Multipliers act as challengers, continually challenging themselves and others to push beyond what they know.

Debating Decisions. Multipliers operate as debate makers, driving sound decisions through rigorous debate.

Instilling Ownership and Accountability. Multipliers deliver and sustain superior results by inculcating high expectations across the organization.

Liz Wiseman, Multipliers

A NEXT STEP

Set aside time at a future team meeting to discuss the concept of a Multiplier as follows:

List each of the five practices of a Multiplier above on a separate chart tablet.

As a team, discuss each practice using the questions below as guides, and writing the answers on each chart tablet sheet.

  1. Name individuals on your team that first come to mind when you say the practice.
  2. What attitudes do they possess, or actions to they take, that make them a model for that practice?
  3. Who on your team does not exhibit the practice?
  4. List specific actions you can take with these individuals to help them become a Multiplier.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 95-1, released June 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Are You a Story-Driven Leader?

Storytelling embodies an approach that is well adapted to meet the deep challenges of leadership. Situations in which story impacts people across an organization include:

  • Persuading them to adopt an unfamiliar new idea
  • Charting a future course
  • Attracting the best talent
  • Instilling passion and discipline
  • Aligning individuals to work together
  • Calling everyone to continue believing in leadership through the unpredictable ups and downs

The underlying reason for the affinity between leadership and storytelling is simple: narrative, unlike abstraction and analysis, is inherently collaborative.

Storytelling helps leaders work with other individuals as co-participants, not merely as objects or underlings. Storytelling helps strengthen leaders’ connections with the world.

After all, isn’t this what all leaders need – a connection with people they are seeking to lead?

“The mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better you make the strategy better.”

– Ben Horowitz

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Story Driven by Bernadette Jiwa

Every one of us—regardless of where we were born, how we were brought up, how many setbacks we’ve endured or privileges we’ve been afforded—has been conditioned to compete to win. Ironically, the people who create fulfilling lives and careers—the ones we respect, admire and try to emulate—choose an alternative path to success. They have a powerful sense of identity. They don’t worry about differentiating themselves from the competition or obsess about telling the right story. They tell the real story instead. Successful organizations and the people who create, build and lead them don’t feel the need to compete, because they know who they are and they’re not afraid to show us.

How about you?

  • What do you stand for?
  • Where are you headed and why?
  • What’s been the making of you?
  • What will make your career or company great?

You must be able to answer these questions if you want to build a great company, thriving entrepreneurial venture or fulfilling career. Whether you’re an individual or you’re representing an organization or a movement, a city or a country, Story Driven gives you a framework to help you consistently articulate, live and lead with your story. This book is about how to stop competing and start succeeding by being who you are, so you can do work you’re proud of and create the future you want to see.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Story is the emotion that makes your organization come to life in the eyes of your audience.

For most of human history, we communicated through the oral tradition. A person shared something with another person, and if it was interesting enough, they passed it on to a third person. And if it wasn’t, the message died then and there. It was survival of the fittest for messages.

In this environment, there’s one type of information that passed along most effectively: stories. Stories are memorable because they are emotionally resonant, and easy to take ownership of. The storyteller adopts the story in their own image, modifying it slightly, and passing it on. Storytelling arose not as a form of entertainment, but rather as a mechanism for communicating deeply held truths across societies. We don’t tell stories because we want to — we tell stories because they are essential.

The reason online social sharing, linking, and direct messaging so quickly became a core part of society is because it taps into an ancient need for humans to tell stories to each other, without an intermediary. People are once again passing on the information they see as most valuable, and discarding that which is not.

Organizations who are looking to reach their target audiences and connect with them need only look to the ancient form of the story to understand how best to engage people today. 

By failing to also see our narrative as part of our strategy, we’re missing the opportunity to get clear on our purpose, differentiate ourselves from the competition and create affinity with the right audience.

Before you write a line of code or a word of copy, before you apply for that promotion or plan your growth strategy, and before you create your next marketing campaign or send that email, you need to understand what’s driving your story. Where are the roots that will enable you to grow healthy branches that bear fruit? How will you show, not just tell? What promises are you intending to keep?

“Story” is frequently used as a tactic to attract the attention of our audience. We agonize for weeks over perfect taglines, choosing logo designs and articulating features and benefits, often without fully understanding how or even if those tactics (the things we spend most of our time doing) are helping us to get where we want to go.

The hardest part is not only working out the mission, vision, and values that are the foundation of your business, but also intentionally living them so you can achieve your goals. You have to begin by getting clear about why your business exists. The very act of questioning your purpose forces you to dig deeper. It invites you to clarity why you wanted to make that particular promise to those particular people in the first place and to create an action plan to deliver on it.

Clarity of intention is where your story starts. Whether it’s obvious to us or not, the businesses we are loyal to understand what they’re here to do.

When your business or organization is story driven, its aspirations and strategy are underpinned by a clear philosophy that deepens employee engagement and commitment, creates momentum, and drives innovation and customer loyalty, thus leading to to a solid plan for achieving success.

Having a story-driven strategy enables you to adapt in times of change because that your story is bigger than the scene that’s playing out in the moment.

Bernadette Jiwa, Story Driven

A NEXT STEP

As Auxano Navigators spend hundreds of hours each week serving churches across the country, they spend a lot of time helping churches find vision clarity. Much of that time, as you can imagine, is spent at the big picture level, not in the week-to-week details. It’s in the midst of slogging through the details of what announcements to make and what goes in the weekly bulletin and how all our activities get communicated that clarity is most needed.

In other words, once you have clarity in your understanding of God’s preferred future for your church, how do you make sure that clarity at the big picture level filter down to the details each week?

Auxano Founder Will Mancini thinks there are four things that you must know whenever you’re communicating in order to maintain clarity and craft effective communication.

Know your audience.

Any good communicator will tell you that you have to know your audience in order to communicate well. And while that’s certainly true, in the church, this carries another level of complexity. Each specific event or program that you want to communicate about may not apply to the entire church. Your first question should always be, “How can I get as close as possible to the primary audience?” Here’s what I mean: Let’s say your church is offering a series of classes for parents on raising kids with a strong faith foundation. Should you simply put something in the weekly bulletin and make an announcement? That’s not getting very close to your target audience, and you’re going to be communicating to people (singles, grandparents, etc.) to whom the communication does not apply. Instead, hand out a flyer regarding the classes to every parent as they pick up their kids from the children’s ministry on a Sunday morning. It would be best to schedule some extra workers that morning so they could have a short conversation with each parent about the class and its importance to parenting well. Now you’re communicating well. This kind of targeted, more personal interaction is much more effective than a scatter-shot announcement or bulletin blurb.

Know your message. 

You must, of course, be crystal clear about what you want to communicate. Apart from communicating the details clearly (what, when, where), you must always communicate the why. Why does this matter? And the answer to that question should always lead you right back to your vision. With clarity on your mission, values, strategy, and measures, you should leverage that clarity in all your week-to-week communication efforts. How does this specific event or program move us toward accomplishing our mission? Where does it fit within our strategy? If you don’t connect everything back to your vision, you will end up just communicating a disjointed calendar of events that have seemingly no connection to each other.

Know your context. 

Some people may call this politics or organizational history. You may want to argue and say, “That shouldn’t enter into how and what we communicate. If we’re doing what God has called us to do, then politics shouldn’t matter.” Maybe it would be easier to think of this not in terms of politics, but in terms of relationships. Who has a vested interest in what we’re communicating? Have we brought them into the loop? Have we gotten their input? If you proceed without asking these kinds of questions, it’s like obliviously strolling through a field of land mines. You want to communicate effectively, right? You want people to hear the true message, right? Why not remove any potential misunderstandings or hurt feelings before things get started? You actually have an opportunity to get buy-in from these key players before communicating more widely. So don’t think of it as bowing to organizational politics, think of it as intentional vision-casting and inviting people to be a part of moving the church forward. Trust me, you’ll be glad you took the time to do it right.

Know your place. 

This is a special note for those of you that help to craft church communication from a seat other than the lead pastor’s chair. You need to understand that although you may be responsible for putting together the communication plan for different church initiatives, you are not the lead pastor. So don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’ve put together a strategically beautiful plan (in your humble opinion) that your lead pastor doesn’t agree with, be willing to change it. Of course, make your case as to why the plan is solid, but in the end, always defer. This is the only way for the organization to work well in the long run. I’ve seen too many communications people that try to bring about organizational change through their role in ways that only end up hurting the church.

If you keep these four things in mind, you’ll craft communication that’s much more effective in generating movement toward accomplishing your church’s mission. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Stop and identify one leadership moment in the next five days in which you can live story-driven. Using Mancini’s four clarity pillars, answer these four questions as you prepare to lead with story:

  • Who is my primary audience?
  • What is my central message?
  • Where are the landmines of context?
  • How does my role impact this moment?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 94-1, issued June 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Are You Leading Followers or Leading Leaders?

Following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military accelerated the ongoing and gradual process of searching for the best people available to lead – regardless of sex. As a result, female career military officers began to advance into very visible leadership roles: the first female combat pilot in the U.S. Navy, the first female in U.S. history to command in combat at the strategic level, and the first woman in U.S. military history to assume the rank of a four-star general.

They didn’t want to be “female leaders”—they just wanted to lead.

These women were wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. But they were also military leaders, warriors, academics and mentors in their own right.

As the military has evolved to develop an appreciation for the potential of women to serve in the most challenging of positions, it is also time for the American public to see these women for what they bring to the fight: brains, strength and courage.

They are leaders.

No one does leader development better than the military. Behind winning our nation’s wars, its primary purpose is to develop leaders. This happens through organized leader development programs, like institutional schooling and courses, but mostly through personal interaction and example. It’s the unit-level leaders out there who are making the critical impact in our armed forces.

Falling in the period around Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May) and Memorial Day (the last Monday in May), this SUMS Remix honors three female leaders who demonstrated principles of leadership development that all leaders will find helpful in leading their own organizations.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – A Higher Standard by Ann Dunwoody

On June 23, 2008, President George W. Bush nominated Ann Dunwoody as a four-star general in the US Army-the first time a woman had ever achieved that rank. The news generated excitement around the world. Now retired after nearly four decades in the Army, Dunwoody shares what she learned along the way, from her first command leading 100 soldiers to her final assignment, in which she led a 60 billion dollar enterprise of over 69,000 employees, including the Army’s global supply chain in support of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What was the driving force behind Dunwoody’s success? While her talent as a logistician and her empathy in dealing with fellow soldiers helped her rise through the ranks, Dunwoody also realized that true leaders never stop learning, refining, growing, and adapting.

In A Higher Standard, Dunwoody details her evolution as a soldier and reveals the core leadership principles that helped her achieve her historic appointment. Dunwoody’s strategies are applicable to any leader, no matter the size or scope of the organization. Packed with guiding principles, A Higher Standard offers practical, tactical advice that everyone can use to lead and achieve with maximum success.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

It’s happened once again. You’ve lost a key leader and find yourself filling in and doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing. So, once again, you promise yourself that this year will be different. You’re going to conquer the challenge of leadership development and build a deep leadership bench- a pipeline for developing leaders – for your ministry. But what practical next step can you take to really build a church leadership pipeline?

Why is leadership development a reoccurring problem for so many? In short, it’s a lack of intentionality.  We know leadership development is important, but few leaders integrate it into their weekly routine. And even fewer develop an intentional plan that ensures an ongoing reproduction of leaders. It’s just too easy to be distracted by the urgent and allow the development of leaders to take a back seat to everything else. We feel stuck and we’re too busy to develop leaders, but we need more leaders to get all the work done.

Our legacy will be measured by the depth and quality of the leaders we develop.

One of the most important jobs a senior leader has is to develop leaders or to “build the bench.” It is common in sports to “build the bench,” where a versatile bench is often the determining factor in whether a team survives the rigors of a demanding season while building a team for the future. In your organization, do you have “players” ready to step in when inevitable changes occur?

The temptation is to put building a bench on hold while focusing on imperative day-to-day duties. Without consciously taking time to build your bench, you run the risk of hurting your organization for generations.

Beyond the structured leadership program there’s an informal mentoring process that truly makes the Army special. The most important leadership lessons I learned throughout my career came directly from someone who took the time to teach, coach, and share ideas with me. Sometimes it happened in a classroom or a war zone, but just as often it happened during a run or at dinner.

I had many great role models at crucial stages of my career. They helped develop me – and countless other soldiers – without bullying tactics. They didn’t care about my gender – they cared about me. They pushed me physically and challenged me mentally. In the military, you can’t achieve your best without sound mind and body. Most important, they put their faith in me and put me on the bench.

Ann Dunwoody, A Higher Standard

A NEXT STEP

One of the most fundamental things you must do in a growing church is to build a culture of leadership development. If you wait until the need is pressing then you are already behind. Talk, pray, prepare, and lead as if God is going to bring growth. Doing so will cause you to work with your current leaders to begin producing new leaders for the future.

To understand your current state of leadership development, download this Leadership Development Assessment and complete it. Review your score and evaluate it in the categories listed.

The following quote from the U.S. Army Field Manual on Leader Development serves as a good conclusion, reminder, and challenge for you and your church:

Army leaders are the competitive advantage the Army possesses that technology cannot replace nor be substituted by advanced weaponry and platforms. Today’s Army demands trained and ready units with agile, proficient leaders. Developing our leaders is integral to our institutional success today and tomorrow. It is an important investment to make for the future of the Army because it builds trust in relationships and units, prepares leaders for future uncertainty, and is critical to readiness and our Army’s success.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 93-3, released May 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<