Leaders Curate Ideas

You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room.

That’s a warehouse.

What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go. There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The best is a sub-sub-subset of all the possibilities.

It’s the stuff you leave out that matters.

So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Be a curator. Stick to what’s truly essential. Pare things down until you’re left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff back in later if you need to.

The inspirational words above come from the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals. If you don’t own it, you should.

The artwork below is by illustrator Mike Rohde.

Be a curator

Both are important to me, as they represent the role I began at Auxano four years ago today – the Vision Room Curator.

My role has expanded in many ways since 2012 – but at the heart of everything I do is the concept of curation. But I don’t curate things – I curate ideas, represented in the image above by the light bulbs. There’s a lot of ideas floating around in the world today – but only a few need to be turned on.

Being a curator may be my vocational role, but it’s also something every leader needs to practice.

What will you curate today?

 

 

 

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Book Summaries Strengthen Reading as a Discipline for Critical Thinking

Underneath the surface of every successful leader is a reader.

Reading provides the best regimen for establishing and nurturing the information necessary to lead others. Reading provides a constant stream of intelligence, ideas, and information that enables the leader to act from a foundation of knowledge.

A survey of the typical leader’s desk, workspace, or briefcase includes a stack of books, a pile of magazines, and at least one personal electronic device with access to a vast digital library of resources.

Having the right information is not as big a problem as much as having too much information!

Enter SUMS.

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For years Auxano Founder & Team Leader Will Mancini dreamed of providing a best of class and totally free book summary service to church leaders. In the fall of 2012, Mancini and his team launched just such a service, called SUMS – a biweekly book summary service.  

>Why Auxano created SUMS

Like many church leaders, Will loves reading, and appreciates book summaries. But he took it to the next level by creating a team who was serious about selection of books for church leaders, designed something great to look at, and created applications for the world church leaders live in every day. As Vision Room Curator, I get the privilege of leading that team – and I love it!

After a two-year run, SUMS underwent changes, including moving to a subscription-based platform which launched last January.

Beginning in 2015, we took the SUMS tool to a whole new level. Every other week subscribers receive not ONE, but THREE book “summaries” all focused around solving a practical church leadership problem. It’s called SUMS Remix.

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That’s 26 issues of SUMS Remix – addressing the ministry problems you encounter at your church – delivered to your inbox every two weeks.

In a nutshell why is SUMS Remix better?

  • You need content that solves the challenges you face every day
  • You want to scan more information in less time to find the best content
  • You will to achieve more with more credibility as well-read leader
  • You have ready-to-use staff action steps in each issue

For example, the first of four free introductory SUMS Remix focused on the problem, “We want leadership development to be happening all of the time, not just at special events.” To solve this problem we looked at Noel Tichey’s Leadership Engine, Aubrey Malphur’s book (co-authored with Auxano founder Will Mancini), Building Leaders, and Dave & Jon Ferguson’s book, Exponential.

Check it out for yourself and see if you would agree that this is an incredibly innovative content tool for the church. Here are the first four free introductory issues of SUMS Remix:

SUMS Remix 1 We want leadership development to be happening all the time, not just at special events.

SUMS Remix 2 It’s difficult inspiring my team to be more productive.

SUMS Remix 3 I communicate a lot, but don’t consider myself a great storyteller.

SUMS Remix 4 My stomach goes into knots when I think about preaching on the subject of giving.

Click here to subscribe to SUMS Remix. Imagine – an entire year of the gift of insight, delivered to the your inbox – for the low price of $48. 

Think of it as creating a personal leadership and innovation literacy program.

Is It True Collaboration… or Is It a Team?

At Auxano, we practice what we preach.

Editing

Our primary tool for working with organizations is the Vision Frame, consisting of Mission, Values, Strategy, Measures, and Vision Proper. Before we led the first client through the process over 11 years ago, the original team of Will Mancini, Jim Randall, and Cheryl Marting worked out Auxano’s Vision Frame – which we still follow today.

One of our Values is Collaborative Genius, which is accomplished partly by the fact that we are a virtual company of over 20 team members living in 15 cities across 4 time zones.

I only thought I knew what collaboration meant!

In my adult work career, I have served as the accountant in an office setting for a food services company, an audiovisual technician as part of a team of 7 for a seminary, various roles on 3 church staff teams, a church consultant for a design-build company, and as the Vision Room Curator for Auxano.

That’s 36+ years in an environment of multiple team members, ostensibly working together for the good of the organization.

Was I collaborating with others, or merely part of a team?

Collaboration is not the same thing as teamwork. Teamwork is simply doing your part. Collaboration involves leveraging the power of every individual to bring out each other’s strengths and differences.  – Greg Cox, COO, Dale Carnegie, Chicago

At Auxano, we don’t just do our part, we collaborate to deliver excellence in all we do. Here’s a great example: our book summaries for leaders, called SUMS Remix.

The original concept of SUMS was dreamed up by our founder, Will Mancini. When I joined Auxano as Vision Room Curator, it was natural that the SUMS project fall under my guidance. Working from a curated list of books with a focus on the Vision Frame, I read the designated book and wrote the draft summary with recommended resources. I then oversaw the following process:

  • Proofing by Mike Gammill, a scholar and grammatical genius
  • Navigator Applications written by 4 of our full-time Navigators, applying the concepts to the local church leadership context thru their unique lenspowered by auxano
  • Editing by Cheryl Marting, who has eagle eyes
  • Review editing by Angela Reed, a production editor at our parent company, LifeWay
  • Design by James Bethany and our Creative Team, who produce a visual masterpiece every time
  • Final review and approval by Will

Beginning in the fall of 2012, every two weeks, a SUMS was distributed to the SUMS subscriber list. Practically every day of that two weeks, some of the actions above were taking place within our team as we work on multiple books at the same time.

That’s collaboration.

As we neared the end of our second year of SUMS, Will and I refined a concept that came to be called SUMS Remix. Instead of a single summary of one book, SUMS Remix consists of brief excerpts from three books, focused on providing simple solutions to a common problem statement that ministry leaders are facing every week in their churches.

SUMS Remix launched in November of 2014, and we release an issue every two weeks. And a similar collaboration process described above is still taking place.

The collaboration process for SUMS Remix is very similar to the one above, but on steroids! Because SUMS Remix involves 3 books for every issue, and we have a 5 week production cycle, and we release an issue every two weeks – well, without collaboration, it just wouldn’t – no, couldn’t – happen.

At any given time during that 5-week cycle, books are being read, notes are being taken, drafts are being written, drafts are being revised, additional research is being conducted, finished drafts are being designed, proofs are being reviewed, and the final SUMS Remix issue is being delivered.

That’s collaboration!

Want to see the end product of that collaboration? You can learn more about SUMS Remix here.

Midnight LunchI’m indebted to Sara Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and author of the book Midnight Lunch, for translating Edison’s world-changing innovation methods for use in the 21st century. Here are some of her thoughts on collaboration:

True collaboration embraces:

  • A discovery learning mindset versus a pure task orientation
  • A belief in anticipating and creating rather than merely reacting and responding
  • Presence of inspiration across multiple facets of both individual and team endeavors
  • Coherence of purpose
  • A dedication to elevating the performance of every team member
  • Connections to human and social networks of influence

Do these qualities sound different from the ones valued by your team? Do they draw upon ideas that feel new or seem broader than your current concept of what teamwork embraces?

Based on my experience, the answer would be yes.

So what are you going to do about it?

 

 

Understanding and Using a Journey Map

Journey maps are documents that visually illustrate the particular range of activities of a Guest over time. Many journey maps plot the entire course of a Guest’s relationship with an organization – all of the steps that Guests take as they discover, evaluate, attend, access, use, get support, and leave – or re-engage – the church. Others zoom in to just one particular part of the journey.

The scope of the journey map, the exact visualization, and the degree of detail it contains vary based on how the organization wants to use it.

Jonathan Browne, Forrester Research

At Auxano, our version of a simple journey map is called “The Seven Checkpoints.” We believe the first place to start is to imagine seven checkpoints for your guest. Think of the checkpoints as “gates” or even “hurdles” that any first time Guest must navigate to get from their comfy family room to your worship service.

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With every gate comes a simple question: Has the church removed the inherent difficulty of navigating the gate for the first time? 

More specifically we look for every opportunity to make each gate simple, easy and obvious to navigate.

The Seven Checkpoints

#1 Before Departure: Are directions and service times immediately accessible to Guests from your church website, phone recording and yellow pages (yes – they’re still around!)?

#2 Travel to Location: Do Guests know where to turn into your church location?

#3 Parking Lot: Do Guests know where to park?

#4 Building Entrance: Do Guests know which door to enter?

#5 Children’s Ministry: Do Guests know where to take their kids?

#6 Welcome Center: Do Guests know where to go for more information?

#7 Worship: Do Guests know which door to enter?

These seven checkpoints can be plotted on a graph that illustrates how your Guest ministry is doing: is it simple, easy and obvious where your hospitality creates a WOW! or is it complex, confusing, and frustrating where your Guests cry out “Someone help me now?”

Any particular difficulties created by your location or facility should be viewed as hospitality opportunities. By providing a great solution to an obvious barrier, you enhance the wow-factor of the hospitality.

Have you ever considered creating a journey map for Guests coming to your church?

Part 3 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

 

>> Read Part 2

Leaders Should be Students of History

Usually the word “history” elicits one of two responses: a glassy-eyed stare and memories of those required classes in school that were mind-numbing, or an excited look followed by the phrase “Did you know that…”

I, proudly, am guilty of the latter.

Not content to read and study “normal” history (both my undergraduate and graduate minors are in history), I default to the obscure and strange. Who else would read books on the history of salt – or the history of dust – or the history of cod. Yes, cod. The little fish, that when salted, kept it edible for long sea voyages, allowing the “discovery” of the Americas by Europeans, among other uses (that’s a two-for-one use of history, in case you didn’t notice).

Leaders need to understand history, too.

Not just the history of books, though that’s a great start. Leaders in the local church need to know the history of the people and place they are serving. Only by understanding the past can you ever hope to lead to the future. Will Mancini, author of Church Unique and founder of Auxano, calls that “vision equity.” It’s the stories and actions over the years that have led that church to the place it is today. It’s the solid foundation that tomorrow is built on. To be ignorant of it or to ignore it is an invitation to mediocrity at best, or disaster at worst.

There is history in a place, too. Last week I was onsite for a Guest Perspective Evaluation at Cape Christian Fellowship in Cape Coral, FL. During my Saturday evening walk around of the campus, I was struck by the visual and audible impact of 3 existing water features, and 1 more in the construction phase:

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A simple aeration spray in the lake on the edge of the property.

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This beautiful waterfall is at the edge a a large grassy play area by the children’s building.

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This water jet fountain is the first thing you see on the path from the parking lots to the worship center.

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Fellowship Park, under construction. The splash fountains in the center circle will be a kids and family magnet.

These water features are part of the history – past, present, and future – of Cape Christian. They are telling a powerful story in the community.

History is a rock. Not an anchor to the past, but a bridge to the future.

Are you a student of the history of the people and place you serve? If not, there’s still time.

Class starts today.

 

Reading Requires Deliberate Practice

Researchers are clear about this point: It doesn’t matter whether it’s in sports, music, medicine, computer programming, mathematics, or other fields. Talent is not the key that unlocks excellence.

You need a particular kind of practice – deliberate practice – to develop expertise.

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Sums, the best-of-class book summaries for leaders, I want to paraphrase authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s discussions in their book The Truth About Leadership on deliberate practice and apply them to reading.

Five Elements in the Deliberate Practice of Reading

  • Design a reading discipline to specifically improve your performance – if you want to become an expert, you must have a methodology, a clear goal, a way to measure success, and a specific process for accomplishing the goal.
  • Reading has to be repeated a lot – sloppy execution is not acceptable to top performers. Read far and wide in your chosen field with sustained effort.
  • Feedback on your results must be continuously available – every learner needs feedback. As you are reading, make it a practice to share your insights, comments, and questions with a group of peers, a mentor, or some other third-party to help you analyze how you are doing.
  • Reading is highly demanding mentally – developing expertise requires intense concentration and focus. Reading sessions need to be free of those daily interruptions that are commonplace in everyone’s day-to-day routines.
  • Sometimes reading isn’t all that fun – while you should love what you do, deliberate reading practice is not designed to be fun. The knowledge that you are improving and getting closer to your dream of superior performance should outweigh the sacrifices you make.

The best leaders are the best learners.

The best learners are the best readers.

Want to join me on the “practice” field of reading?

 

 inspired by and adapted from The Truth About Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner

The Truth About Leadership

 

>>Discover Sums, a free, best-of-class book summary service for leaders here

Washington DC Walking Tour

I was in Washington DC for the “Greening America’s Congregations” Conference on September 13. The conference was held at the Executive Office Building next to the White House, and concluded with a reception at the National Cathedral that evening. As I am a history buff, I took advantage of being in DC by staying an extra day and taking a quick one-day walking tour of some of my favorite memorials and museums.

Here are just a few of my favorite photos:

The US Capitol

 

The Wright Brother’s First Airplane at the National Air & Space Museum

 

US Air Force Predator, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – my son is a Sensor Operator on the updated version, the Reaper

 

US Capitol viewed through 2 of the 50 flags encircling the Washington Monument, being flown at half-staff in honor of the deaths of US Embassy staff

 

The Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool

 

Wall of 4,048 gold stars at the WWII Memorial, each one representing 100 Americans who gave their lives for freedom

 

The Lincoln Memorial

 

A tribute left at the Viet Nam Memorial

 

President Obama flying from the White House on Marine One

 

Vision Clarity at the White House