Look Back and Learn: Investing in Wisdom Equity

In researching and working on some leadership development material for an ongoing writing project, I came across the following:

Christianity is a religion of change. Jesus’ call in Mark 1:15 (the kingdom of God is at hand) was a call to change – change of mind and heart, of conduct and character, of self and society. By its very nature Christianity is a religion for a changing world and has always had its greatest opportunity during times of upheaval.

The Christian leader has no option; he must face a changing world. If the leader is to render maximum service, he must both adjust himself to the phenomena of change and address himself passionately to the business of producing and guiding change. Here are some elements that constitute the changed world in which the Christian leader today is called to fulfill his ministry.

Changed world outlook

Changed economic philosophy

Changed social consciousness

Changed family life

Changed community conditions

Changed moral standards

Changed religious viewpoints

Changed conceptions of the church

Changed media for molding public opinion

Changed demands made upon the leader

Pretty good list, right? Dead on. Taken from today’s headlines.

Nope.

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The author was Gaines S. Dobbins, distinguished professor of Religious Education at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville KY.

Written in 1947.

As the introduction to the book “Building Better Churches: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry.”

Dr. Dobbins retired before I was born, but while in seminary in the early eighties I had the privilege of sitting under a couple of professors who were students of Dr. Dobbins. When I came across this book in a used bookstore, I bought it on impulse. After flipping through it, I realized it was a treasure of leadership wisdom.

At Auxano, we talk about a concept called “vision equity.” As developed by founder Will Mancini in his book Church Unique, it’s realizing that the history of a church is a rich resource for helping rediscover what kinds of vision language past generations have used. That language is very useful for anticipating and illustrating God’s better intermediate future.

As I read Dr. Dobbin’s book, I think there is also a concept called “wisdom equity.” It’s realizing that there have been some great leaders and deep thinkers over the past decades and centuries whose collective wisdom would be a great place to start as we struggle with the new realities that face us every day.

It’s why I love history – I see it not as an anchor that holds us to the past, but as a foundation to build a bridge to the future.

Go ahead – look back and learn.

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How to Invest in Your Future

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 2017 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role required 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 161 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 in 2017 I have “read” 186 books. 

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 186 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.

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 2017 was 117 books.

 

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 2018, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting a new bookstore tomorrow, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery by Amazon the first week of January, and I’m headed to the library to pick up another couple on reserve.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

Wednesday August 9 would have been my father’s 90th birthday.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful instilled in me by my father.

Tomorrow it will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter, and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book summaries, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent consultation with a client, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about Guest Experiences. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

 

I call these my SUMS Remix Book Towers. These towers contain 218 books, representing 73 issues, one published every two weeks. The format of SUMS Remix is simple: one problem statement faced by churched leaders, 3 brief excepts from books that provide a solution to the problem, and ready-to-use applications for leaders to try out immediately.

With a two-week production cycle, and a two week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on 4 SUMS Remix issues, which means there are 12 books on my front burner.

And that’s just for SUMS Remix reading…

Then there’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets and Facebook posts), other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading.

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station and I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest services. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.

 

Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler

leaderslibrary

Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:

hatchbooknotes

I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?

Unlock the Imagination of Your Audience by Using a Map

To help others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination.

The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

Unlock the imagination of your audience by using a map.

wwr122116fb1

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communicate to Influence by Ben Decker

Business communication is annoying. At each meeting and presentation, we are inundated with information, leaving us thirsting for inspiration. Sure, we will check off an action item because we have to . . . but what if we were actually inspired to do something? What if we were so moved that we wanted to do it?

Leaders must earn the license to lead. Not by expertise, authority, or title alone, but by influence. In Communicate to Influence, you will learn the secrets of the Decker Method―a framework that has been perfected over the past 36 years. Ben and Kelly Decker add fresh insights to these proven principles so that you can ignite change and inspire action. Discover:

  • The Five White Lies of Communicating: learn which barriers prevent you from getting better
  • The Communicator’s Roadmap: use a tool to visually chart what type of communication experience you create
  • The Behaviors of Trust: align what you say with how you say it to better connect with your audience
  • The Decker Grid: shift your message from self-centered, all about me content to relevant, audience-centered content that drives action

You are called to communicate well. Not only on the main stage, under bright lights, but every time you speak with your colleagues, your clients, and other stakeholders. It’s time to learn how. Stop informing. Start inspiring. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

When you inspire people, it is much easier to persuade them to buy into your vision and goals. In fact, they will move from a position of “have to” to “want to.”

How do we create an ideal communication experience for our audience? We begin by understanding what experience we are creating as communicators and by becoming focused and intentional about that experience. We need a navigational tool to help us get where we want to be. We must treat every communication situation like a new location, and input the destination of where we want to go. We need the Communicator’s Roadmap.

communicatorroadmapdecker

 

The vertical axis graphs our emotional connection with our audience. The emotional connections are what determine whether or not people like us, trust us, and want to follow. If there is emotional distance our audience will be disinterested or disengaged. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you were emotionally connected to the speakers, you like them, trusted them, related to them, wanted to be around them, or at lease wanted to keep listening to them.

The horizontal axis represents our content, the actual message that we deliver. Are you distributing information, or are you driving action? The left side of the axis is reserved for information sharing. If the content is totally focused on your agenda, your ideas, and your goals, you have self-centered content.

The more you are able to focus your content and make it audience-centered, serving the wants, needs, desires, goals, and priorities of the audience, the more you shift the experience to the right side of the horizontal axis. The right side of this axis is action-oriented, and it is the part of the Communicator’s Roadmap from which influence flows.

Audience-centered content transforms the whole experience. You’ll influence the people in your audience and motivate them to action – and action is what communication is all about.

Ben Decker and Kelly Decker, Communicate to Influence

A NEXT STEP

The quadrants depicted and described above represent the types of experiences you need to create, not the type of communicator you always are. The descriptions should serve as reference points as you prepare for your next presentation.

Each key communication situation in your role as a leader needs a definition, so map it. Be intentional about the kind of experience you want to create and be intentional about where you’re going.

To help you become more comfortable with the map depicted above, practice the following exercises:

  1. A communicator’s highest goal should be to inspire (upper right quadrant). Think about a recent presentation or sermon you delivered.
    1. What quadrant did it start in (if not Inspire)?
    2. What kinds of actions could you take to move it toward the Inspire quadrant?
  2. Over the next week, observe people in various communication settings. Notice where they fall on the map. As a listener, how are you impacted by where they are on the map?
  3. The next time you dine out, don’t just focus on the food but think about the whole experience. How did the whole experience add to (or take away) from your meal? When you are preparing your next presentation, use your dining experience feelings to help you focus your total presentation experience.
  4. The next time you are at an event with multiple speakers, create a map of each of them, noting which quadrant they started in and where they finished. What stood out about the journey? Which speakers inspired you the most? What lessons can you apply to your own speaking journey?

Closing Thoughts

As leaders, we communicate in all we say and do. We may be entertaining at times, we inform much of the time, and occasionally we must be directing in what we say. But in all situations, we can inspire and connect with our audience.

It’s not what the leader thinks can be or even should be, but what must be.

Taken from SUMS Remix 29-3, published December 2015.


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Is “Reading” 286 Books in a Year a Sign of Addiction?

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 2016 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role required 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.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently 139 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 in 2016 I have “read” 286 books. 

reading2016-1

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 286 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book.

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 2016 was 157 books.

reading2016-4

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 2017, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’ve got four books lined up for delivery by Amazon the first week of January, and another two on reserve at the library.

Leaders Know How to Say “No” Gracefully

Does your organization try to do too much?

Every day ministry leaders spend too much time, managing too much church stuff, for too little life-change. It is safe to say that the church in North America is over-programmed and under-discipled.

Behind this reality is a super-irony: The result of our gospel work is limited, not by our lack of ministry activity, but by our excess.

  • We get too little not because of lacking motivation.
  • We get too little not because we need a better toolbox.
  • We get too little, and money is not the problem.

The gospel-centered, life-change impact of church is actually inhibited by the preponderance of offerings at church. We get too little precisely because we have too much.

It’s time to learn the power of “no.”

remix6-2fb1

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Essentialism, by Greg McKeown

The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Leaders today often feel like they should load up their calendars to the max, doing everything they possibly can to expand their horizons and improve their organizations. In this age of abundant information and easy access to knowledge, leaders are often driven to have and do it all. However, this mindset soon runs headlong into an unfortunate fact: we can’t do everything.

Instead, we should be focusing on what we should do, thinking instead about what is essential to our lives.

Remember that anytime you fail to say “no” to a nonessential, you are really saying “yes” by default.

Without courage, the disciplined pursuit of less is just lip service. Anyone can talk about the importance of focusing on the things that matter most – and many people do – but to see people who dare to live it is rare.

Once you have sufficiently explored your options, the question you should be asking yourself is not: “What, of my list of competing priorities, should I say yes to?” Instead, ask the essential question: “What will you say no to?”

This is the question that will uncover your true priorities. It is the question that will reveal the best path forward for your team. It is the question that will uncover your true purpose and help you make the highest level of contribution not only to your own goals but to the mission of your organization. It is that question that can deliver the rare and precious clarity necessary to achieve game-changing breakthroughs in your life.

Greg McKeown, Essentialism

A NEXT STEP

Daring to say no doesn’t mean saying no to all requests. It’s important to learn to say no to the nonessentials so we can say yes to the things that really matter. Leaders need to learn to say no – frequently and gracefully – to everything but what is truly vital.

How do you learn to say no gracefully? Here are some general guidelines for delivering a graceful “no.”

  • Separate the decision from the relationship
  • Saying “no” doesn’t have to mean using the word “no”
  • Focus on the trade-off
  • Remind yourself that everyone is selling something
  • Make peace with the fact that saying “no” often requires trading popularity for respect
  • Remember that a clear “no” can be more graceful than a vague or noncommittal “yes”

Saying no is its own leadership skill and follows any skill development path. You start out with little experience, and then learn basic techniques. As you make mistakes, you learn from them. You keep developing more skills and practicing them. In time, you will learn a whole new skill set.

In this case, it’s the skill of saying “no.”

Sometimes abandoning what’s been around for years is the right move, even if you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and other resources into it.

Doing less will actually make your ministry better in the long run.


Part of a new 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, as biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here. Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.