It’s Hard to Go Wrong When You Follow the Advice of Dr. Seuss

One of my greatest passions is reading.

I developed this passion at an early age, and have continued to strengthen it over the years. In addition to being my passion, reading is also an important part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano. In that role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book summary in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2018 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 79 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role requires reading current trends books, used for social media posting and content writing.

Then there’s my passion area of Guest Experience, in which I am constantly researching customer service books for application for churches. I’m building The Essential Guest Experience Library.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently over 300 volumes and growing!

Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction.

Add those 5 categories all together, and by the end of 2018 I will have “read” 191 books, pretty much following the advice of Dr. Seuss:

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 191 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, and knowing there is more to my job than reading, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book. There’s a few dozen of that total in which I only read the “highlights,” following the methods below.

Here’s how I did it – and, of course it starts with a book!

How to Read a Book

Literally – that’s the name of a classic book by Mortimer Adler.  The first lesson of reading is to learn that you don’t need to “read” each book the same way. Here are Adler’s 4 levels of reading:

  • Elementary Reading – What does the book say?
  • Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?
  • Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?
  • Syntopical Reading – What does a comparison of books on the subject reveal?

Some books are only meant to be read at the first level; others are meant to be digested at some of the other levels. Know which is which!

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:

  • Read the title.
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the Table of Contents
  • Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and subheadings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
  • Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
  • Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.
  • Read the first chapter.
  • Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph in each chapter. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.
  • Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
  • Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.

If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!

With that caveat in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2018 was 127 books.

For the curious, like picking your favorite child (I have four), I don’t typically make a “Best of” list for the year. I find some value in almost every book I read, and for me, that’s good enough.

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book in the first weeks of 2019, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting one of my favorite bookstores tomorrow, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery via Amazon by the end of next week, and I’m headed to the library today to pick up another couple on reserve.

After all, you can’t read all day…

…if you don’t start in the morning!

 

 

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Getting Your Ideas Off the Ground: 7 Lessons from the Wright Brothers

On December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Flyer became generally accepted as the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. 

Looking back over these 115 years from a personal viewpoint:

  • In 1903, my grandmother was 5 years old.
  • In 1953, my parents were married.
  • In 2003, the second of my four children began college.
  • Today, in 2018, all 14 of my immediate family have traveled by airplane. My Air Force grandkids, even at 5 and 8, have more frequent flyer miles than I do.

In the lifetime of my extended family, “flying” has come from non-existent to a routine afterthought.

The principles of flying even extend beyond our earth, to travel in space.

How did two men, in 1903, working essentially alone and with little formal scientific training, solve a problem so complex and demanding as heavier-than-air flight, which had defied better-known experimenters for centuries?

Certainly the brothers were talented, but the true answer also lies in their background and early experiences.

With no education beyond public schools, how did the the Wright brothers get past numerous obstacles the world’s other scientists hadn’t even begun to tackle?

In 2003, on the 100th anniversary of the first flight, Mark Eppler published The Wright Way, defining seven essential problem-solving principles the brothers used in accomplishing this enormous feat.

  • A passion for knowledge and information
  • An ability to argue through tough issues in search of truth
  • An ability to identify the hardest part of a problem, and the discipline to begin there
  • A talent for tactile and conceptual tinkering
  • An ability to conceptualize new (often radical) ideas, and the courage to consider them
  • A penchant for method and meticulous attention to detail
  • An ability to create infinitely more together than they could by themselves

On today’s 115th anniversary of the flight at Kitty Hawk, leaders should look at the above list and apply them to problems they are facing.

Applying these principles might just help you get your ideas “off the ground.”

For additional information about the fascinating story of the Wright Brothers, here are four great books I recommend:

 

 

 

Are You Living in the Leadership Loop?

Leaders, by definition (if not practice) have followers. Leaders find, recruit, and train followers for specific tasks. While this is an important task in any organization, a leader who can only lead followers is limited. To make it to the next level of leadership, a leader must be able to lead other leaders – those alongside them.

Leading peers is a unique challenge, no matter what organization a leader is part of. A highly competent leader who is seen – rightly or wrongly – to have considerable influence with his boss is often at a disadvantage when it comes to peer-to-peer relationships.

To succeed at leading alongside your peers, you must work at giving your colleagues reasons to respect and follow you. You do that by helping them win, and in doing so, you will not only help your organization but you will also help yourself.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The 360° Leader, John Maxwell

Don’t wait for that promotion! Start leading NOW…right where you are!

What’s the number one question leadership expert John C. Maxwell is asked while conducting his leadership conferences? “How can I implement what you teach when I’m not the top leader?” Is it possible to lead well when you’re not the top dog? How about if the person you work for is a bad leader? The answer is a resounding yes!

Welcome to The 360° Leader. People who desire to lead from the middle of organizations face unique challenges. And they are often held back by myths that prevent them from developing their influence. Dr. Maxwell, one of the globe’s most trusted leadership mentors, debunks the myths, shows you how to overcome the challenges, and teaches you the skills you need to become a 360° leader.

If you have found yourself trying to lead from the middle of the organization, as the vast majority of professionals do, then you need Maxwell’s insights. You have a unique opportunity to exercise influence in all directions—up (to the boss), across (among your peers), and down (to those you lead). The good news is that your influence is greater than you know.

Practice the disciplines of 360° leadership and the opportunities will be endless . . . for your organization, for your career, and for your life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The middle of an organization is a great place to practice and build your skills while at the same time extending your influence in all directions. Leaders above you recognize your contributions to the greater organization. Followers below you are grateful for your leadership and influence in developing them.

However, people who find it difficult to lead alongside their peers are often individuals who don’t excel at building relationships. More so than leading up or down, developing and deepening relationships with your peers is critical to your success in leading alongside them.

If you want to gain influence and credibility with people working alongside you, then don’t try to take a shortcut or cheat the process. Instead, learn to understand, practice, and complete the leadership loop with them.

Take a look at the following graphic, which will give you an idea of what the leadership loop looks like:

You can see that it’s a cycle that starts with caring and ends with succeeding.

  1. Caring – Taking an Interest in People

You have to show people that you care about them by taking an interest in them. People always move toward someone who increases them and away from anyone who decreased them.

  1. Learning – Get to Know People

Take time to talk to your peers in the organization. Ask to hear their stories. Try to discover their best skills. Ask for their opinions on work-related issues. And as much as you can, try to put yourself in their shoes.

  1. Appreciating – Respect People

We should strive to see others’ unique experiences and skills as a resource and try to learn from them. If you treat your peers with this kind of respect, appreciating them for who they are, then they will be more likely to respect and listen to you in return.

  1. Contributing – Add Value to People

Few things increase the credibility of leader ore than adding value to the people around them. When you go out of your way to add value to your peers, they understand that you really want them to when with no hidden agenda of your own.

  1. Verbalizing – Affirm People

Few things build people up like affirmation. When you affirm people, you make firm within them the things you see about them. If you want to influence your peers, become their best cheerleader.

  1. Leading – Influence People

The things you’ve done up to know have served to build your relationship with them, give you credibility, and display that your motives are good. With that kind of history, you will have earned the opportunity to influence them.

  1. Succeeding – Win With People

Great leaders don’t use people so that they can win. They lead people so that they all can win together. The wonderful thing about helping others succeed is that it earns you more opportunities to help an even greater number of people.

If you help others succeed, additional people will come into your life whom you will have an opportunity to help succeed, and the cycle will start over again.

John C. Maxwell, The 360° Leader

A NEXT STEP

Draw the leadership loop pictured above, and post it in a visible, but out-of-the-way place in your office or work area as a reminder.

Create a matrix on a spreadsheet listing your peer’s names in a horizontal column, and the seven leadership loop actions in a horizontal row across the top.

Over the next month, review the seven actions above on a daily basis, and intentionally schedule and follow through on these actions each day with your peers. At the end of each day, make a brief note in the respective place what action you have taken with each of your peers.

At the end of the week, review your progress, and consider how you will continue and improve in the next week.

At the end of the month, call your team together and debrief your experiment with them.

  • Ask them at what point they realized you were doing something differently.
  • Ask them what they thought about your actions.
  • Encourage them to express what it felt to them as an individual.
  • Ask them if they, in turn, began to do some of the same things with others.
  • Discuss with the group how the actions you took increased the relationships of the team.
  • Challenge your peers to work through the leadership loop in a similar manner.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 79-2, issued November 2017.


 

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<<

 

Exploring the Continuing Leadership Influence of Walt Disney

J. Jeff Kober’s latest book, “Disney, Leadership, and You” is an excellent work that more than delivers on its title.

Drawing from an inquisitive mind and keen insight, Kober has nearly five decades experience with Walt Disney – from both within and without the company – which provide a very readable, practical, and thoroughly enjoyable leadership book that you will find yourself returning to time and again for just the right nugget to use.

I have “known” Jeff for years through his writing, and earlier this year was grateful to meet him and engage his services for an immersive park experience with a group I was leading. The warmth, wit, and sheer knowledge of Disney, coupled with his ability to instantly link it to practical applications of my group, was one of the highlights of our experience. That same experience has been translated into this book.

If you are a leader in any size or type of organization, the stories Jeff Kober has captured in “Disney, Leadership, and You” should be a valuable addition to your library, a source of personal encouragement, and a wealth of practical training for both you and your team.

The book is divided into four sections:

  1. Defining Leadership
  2. Leaders Attain Results
  3. Leaders Build Relationships
  4. Putting It All Together

In those four sections you will find 18 themed chapters, each chock full of leadership principles illustrated with stories of Disney leaders from all ranks. The principles are solid in themselves, but what makes them memorable is the stories of the Cast Members.

The stories and principles perfectly describe how Disney Cast Members create magic each day through their hard work and respect for Walt Disney’s original vision.

You organization is not Disney, but you can learn from their excellence. “Disney, Leadership, and You” is an extraordinary source of lessons and learning to help you make a dramatic impact on why you do, what you do, and how you do it.

 

 

Effective Leaders Know How to Make the Shift from Critic to Critical Thinker

Leaders, by definition (if not practice) have followers. Leaders find, recruit, and train followers for specific tasks. While this is an important task in any organization, a leader who can only lead followers is limited. To make it to the next level of leadership, a leader must be able to lead other leaders – those alongside them.

Leading peers is a unique challenge, no matter what organization a leader is part of. A highly competent leader who is seen – rightly or wrongly – to have considerable influence with his boss is often at a disadvantage when it comes to peer-to-peer relationships.

To succeed at leading alongside your peers, you must work at giving your colleagues reasons to respect and follow you. You do that by helping them win, and in doing so, you will not only help your organization but you will also help yourself.

SOLUTION #1: Shift from critic to critical thinker

THE QUICK SUMMARY – How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins

Are you letting your lack of authority paralyze you?

One of the greatest myths of leadership is that you must be in charge in order to lead. Great leaders don’t buy it. Great leaders lead with or without the authority and learn to unleash their influence wherever they are.

With practical wisdom and humor, Clay Scroggins will help you nurture your vision and cultivate influence, even when you lack authority in your organization. And he will free you to become the great leader you want to be so you can make a difference right where you are. Even when you’re not in charge.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

As a leader, you have undoubtedly been told “no” at some point in your life. When that happens, what is your typical reaction? Do you become cynical and defensive, or do you redirect that energy into a more positive direction?

Leaders who want to become a positive influence with their peers must learn how to overcome the tendency to be critical and become a critical thinker.

Great leaders know how to listen, watch, connect the dots, and fix problems because they’re able to think critically.

If you are seeking to develop the skills of a critical thinker, there are four subtle shifts you must make.

Shift #1 – Stop thinking as an employee.

Start thinking as an owner.

Owners see things others don’t see.

Owners have more buy-in than others do.

Owners care more deeply because their future depends on it.

If there is trash in the hallway or in the parking lot, employees may decide to walk past it. Or worse, they call someone in facilities to pick up the trash. Owners pick up the trash because it’s their reputation on the line.

Shift #2 – Stop stacking your meetings.

Start scheduling thinking meetings.

As a staff member, you often get sucked into a multitude of meetings. It’s the natural gravitational pull of any organization. The worst is having a stack of meetings, back to back. While this may seem efficient, it can also be an enemy of critical thinking. You get to the end of the day and realize you’ve generated no new thoughts or new ideas.

Schedule space to think critically, marking it down like a meeting, at points throughout the day. The greatest enemy of thinking critically is an overcrowded schedule.

Shift #3 – Stop being critical.

Start thinking critically.

If thinking critically is a skill, being critical is a snare. Many leaders don’t want to be critical. They don’t sit around planning to be cynics, but they still get caught in the trap.

The key difference between someone who is critical and someone who is a critical thinker is motive. People who are critical want you to lose. They’re bringing problems, not solutions.

People who are great critical thinkers want you to win. They’re motivated to make something better.

Shift #4 – Stop giving others a grade.

Start lending them a hand.

No one likes the feeling of being constantly measured and monitored. If you’re not careful, your critical thinking will make others feel like you’re giving them grades.

This is not about whether you should convey the thoughts that could better those around you. It’s about how you pass on those thoughts. When you communicate critical thoughts to others, you need to do so with a helping hand, not a grading tone.

Clay Scroggins, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

A NEXT STEP

On a chart tablet, write each of the shifts, leaving space below each one to add comments.

Set aside time to review your actions in the last week, focusing on activities in which you were involved with one or more of your peers.

Write down, under each shift, the actions that fit the first part of the shifts – the “negatives.” For each one, write out how you can make the shift as described in the second part of the phrase.

Take the initiative to review these actions with your peers, and ask them to comment on the shift you would like to enact.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 79-1, issued November 2017.


 

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<<

It’s Highly Possible that You’ve Already Had Your Next Best Idea

Most of us attach the word “audit” to “IRS” and the word association isn’t pleasant.

The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product.

The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, internal auditing, and government auditing, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, water management, and energy conservation. (from Wikipedia)

Debra Kaye, writing in Red Thread Thinking, wants to give new meaning to the word audit by attaching it to your ideas instead of your tax returns.

There’s plenty of information, products, materials, and technology that can be looked at in a fresh way, modified somehow, and used again.

We’ve all experienced deja vu – looking at an unfamiliar situation and feeling – almost knowing – that you’ve seen it before.

It’s time to flip that phrase.

William Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical, writes that it’s time for the best leaders to demonstrate a capacity for vuja de’. It’s looking at a familiar situation (say, being a leader in ChurchWorld for decades, or designing and delivering a weekly worship experience for years) as if you’ve never seen it before, and with that fresh line of sight, developing a distinctive point of view on the future.

You can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past.

It’s time to look at your organization and your calling as if you are seeing them for the first time.

We all have ideas that never went anywhere. It’s time to unearth old notes from previous development projects. Are there innovations or ventures that you started to work on and then abandoned for some reason?

It’s time for an “idea audit” to see what’s in the back of your hard drive, filing cabinet or closet. When you reassess what’s already there you can uncover what’s worth revisiting.

What should you be looking for in an idea audit? Most organizations and innovators have or can find hidden assets in their past ideas and efforts, including:

  • Existing old technologies that have accessible benefits that can be enhanced and revealed to new constituents
  • Underleveraged technologies or products that could be valued in categories that were not previously considered or by new or niche groups of consumers
  • Unreleased products or too quickly discarded product concepts that could be potential winners, but that went astray because the going-in insight or platform wasn’t properly tweaked
  • Undervalued distribution networks that can be reawakened with partners who want to be where you are
  • Consumer perceptions and sluggish brand equity that can be refreshed to awaken new revenue

In short, open your eyes fresh and look anew.

Look at your resources – every false start, tool, prototype, note, gadget, materials, formula, recipe, or report available – from a different perspective.

Maybe it’s even time for a little Vuja De’.

Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar. – Andrew Wyeth

 

inspired by:

 Red Thread Thinking, by Debra Kaye with Karen Kelly

Practically Radical, by William C. Taylor

 

Look Back with Old School Thinking to Look Forward

Translating New Testament Principles into Present-Day Practices

One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through used bookstores in towns I travel to. Recently, I discovered a treasure in the form of the book “Building Better Churches” by Gaines S. Dobbins, prominent Southern Baptist educator from the 1920s-1950s. He asks some great questions:

  • What sort of church would it be that undertook intelligently and fearlessly to fashion itself according to the basic principles of the New Testament?
  • On what vital functions would it major?
  • What would be revealed to be its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would it give up as encumbrances inherited from a traditional past but clearly of doubtful value in the living present?

His answers? He thought the church should be a

  • Regenerate body – an inward change growing out of a personal experience in which the shift of life’s center has been from self to Christ
  • Beloved community – sacrifice for the common good is the essence of true community; love cannot flourish in an atmosphere where some assume an attitude of superiority over others as their inferiors
  • Company of worshippers – the object of worship is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ made real through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The practice of worship is in spirit and truth; the purpose of worship is to maintain vital unity between the worshiper and God through the mediator, Jesus Christ, and the illuminator the Holy Spirit. A church may do much else besides worship, but it will do little else of consequence without worship
  • Winner of believers – the process of intelligent persuasion began with Christ’s invitation to “come and see.” It continued throughout His ministry and Paul expanded it. There is no mistaking the proposal of the New Testament that believers be won to saving faith through persuasion
  • Teacher of disciples – preaching and teaching are indispensable means of leading toward Christ, to Christ, and into the service and likeness of Christ. A church is essentially a school with Christ as the Great Teacher; the Holy Spirit as His interpreter; the Bible the chief textbook; the minister the chief officer of the school with other leaders gathered around him as teachers and staff; every believer an enrolled student; and all others who can be reached are sought as learners to be led toward Christ
  • Server of humanity – the early Christians caught the spirit of Christ and like Him, “went about doing good.” It must send regenerate men and women out into an immoral society to transform evil into good, wrong into right, injustice into justice, not so much by political measures as by the leavening process of Christian influence
  • Agency of the Kingdom – the Kingdom of God is a present and future reality. It is not an organization to be promoted, nor a movement to be advanced, nor a social ideal to be realized, but a relationship to be entered and a spiritual order into which others are to be brought through persuasive witnessing

Dobbins, after a lifetime of service to the church, but writing this in 1947, had this final thought which I leave for you to consider:

Ours is an age of revolution. Inevitably the churches are undergoing change. Why not seize on this opportunity to make changes back to the New Testament rather than farther away from it?

And we thought all this “church change” stuff was new…