Uncover the Only You

We live in a world where every artificial thing is designed. Whether it is the car we ride in, the streets we drive on, the lights that illuminate the road, or the building that is our destination, some person or group of people had to decide on the layout, operation, and mechanisms of the journey described above.

Your life has a design, too.

Design doesn’t just work for cars and roads and streetlights and buildings, and all the hundreds of thousands of components that make those things up. You can use design thinking to discover the life God has uniquely created for you. It is a life that is meaningful, joyful, and fulfilling.

Several years ago, Auxano founder Will Mancini launched Life Younique, a training company that certifies church leaders to offer gospel-centered life design through their church. Will, along with co-founder Dave Rhodes, is passionate about helping people get life mission right – what exactly is the best way to know and name what God has created you to do?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly

In The Rhythm of Life Matthew Kelly exposes the lifestyle challenges and problems that face us in this age obsessed with noise, speed, and perpetual activity. Kelly’s message rings out with a truth that is challenging and unmistakably attractive Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do, or what you have. Are you ready to meet the best version of yourself?

The Rhythm of Life is a brilliant and clear-eyed rejection of the chaotic lifestyle that has captured the world, written with common sense, humor, and extraordinary insight. This book is destined to change lives.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

What is the brief and bold big idea that best captures today what God made you to do?

Think of it as a golden compass pointing the way or a silver golden thread that weaves through every activity of your life. It’s the enduring rally cry of team-you; it’s the victory banner waving over everything you do.

Ideally, every priority, project, and penny is filtered through, guided by and championed through this concept. Imagine every person in your sphere of influence being blessed better, served stronger, and loved longer because you form a unique life mission every day.

Translate a wide variety of life-awareness and self-awareness into a meaningful, practical, and simple understanding of what God has made only you to do.

Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do or what you have. The meaning and purpose of life is for you to become the best version of yourself.

In the diagram below, Point A represents you right now – here and today – with all your strengths and weaknesses, faults, failings, flaws, defects, talents, abilities, and potential.

Point B represents you as the person you were created to be – perfectly. If you close your eyes for a few moments and imagine the better person you know you can be in any areas of your life, and then multiply that vision to include the better person you know you can be in every area of your life, that is the person you have become when you reach point B – the best version of yourself.

At every point along the path closer to point B, we more fully recognize, appreciate, and use our talents and abilities and are more dedicated to our development – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

At each point along the path toward point B, there is a more harmonious relationship among our needs, desires, and talents. Through this process of transformation, we begin to reach our once hidden potential. At point B, through the dual process of self-discovery and discovery of God, we have overcome our fears and transformed our faults and failings into virtues.

Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life

A NEXT STEP

Duplicate the drawing above on a chart tablet. Add the four words “Physically, Emotionally, Intellectually, and Spiritually” above the line between Point A and Point B.

Below the line, and under each of the words, write in actions that will help you move towards Point B. These are the best things you can do for your spouse, your children, your friends, your colleagues, your employees, your employer, your church, your nation, the human family, and yourself.

The best thing you can do is to become the-best-version-of-yourself, because it is doing with a purpose.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 101-1, released September 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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Creative Leaders Explore Three Areas of Prototyping

Despite all our planning and analyzing and controlling, the typical church’s track record at translating its rhetoric into results is not impressive.

In the business world, researchers estimate that only somewhere between 10% and 60% of the promised returns for new strategies are actually delivered. The reality for many churches would be between 10% and 30% – tops. Practices that consume enormous amounts of time and attention mostly produce discouraging results.

All the empty talk is making it harder and harder to get anything to actually happen. Churches expect the staff to be member-focused while the majority watches. When a staff or volunteer actually takes a risk, they are punished if it doesn’t succeed. Ambitious growth goals aren’t worth the spreadsheets they are computed on.

Getting new results requires new tools – and design thinking has real tools to help move from talk to action.

Design thinking is actually a systematic approach to problem solving.

Design thinking is fundamentally an exploratory process; done right, it will invariably make unexpected discoveries along the way.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Change by Design by Tim Brown

The myth of innovation is that brilliant ideas leap fully formed from the minds of geniuses. The reality is that most innovations come from a process of rigorous examination through which great ideas are identified and developed before being realized as new offerings and capabilities.

This book introduces the idea of design thinking‚ the collaborative process by which the designer′s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people′s needs not only with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy. In short‚ design thinking converts need into demand. It′s a human−centered approach to problem solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and more creative.

Design thinking is not just applicable to so−called creative industries or people who work in the design field. It′s a methodology that has been used by organizations such as Kaiser Permanente to increase the quality of patient care by re−examining the ways that their nurses manage shift change‚ or Kraft to rethink supply chain management. This is not a book by designers for designers; this is a book for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking into every level of an organization‚ product‚ or service to drive new alternatives for business and society.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Iterate – Leaders who thought like designers would see themselves as learners.

Leaders often default to a straightforward linear problem-solving methodology: define a problem, identify various solutions, analyze each, and choose one – the right one. Designers aren’t nearly so impatient, or optimistic. They understand that the successful invention takes experimentation and that empathy is hard won. So is the task of learning.

For example, the IKEA way of business we know (and love!) today didn’t originally start out that way. Almost every element of IKEA’s legendary business model – showrooms and catalogs in tandem, knockdown furniture in flat parcels, and customer pick-up and assembly – emerged over time from experimental response to urgent problems.

“Regard every problem as a possibility,” was IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad’s mantra. He focused less on control and “getting it right” the first time and more on learning and on seeing and responding to opportunities as they emerged.

Prototyping at work is giving form to an idea, allowing us to learn from it, evaluate it against others, and improve upon it.

Anything tangible that lets us explore an idea, evaluate it, and push it forward is a prototype.

Techniques borrowed from film and other creative industries suggest how we might prototype nonphysical experiences. These include scenarios, a form of storytelling in which some potential future situation or state is described using words and pictures.

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as is necessary to generate useful feedback and drive an idea forward.

Prototyping is always inspirational – not in the sense of a perfected project but just the opposite: because it inspires new ideas. Once tangible expressions begin to emerge, it becomes easy to try them out and elicit feedback internally from management and externally from potential customers.

In the ideation space we build prototypes to develop our ideas to ensure that they incorporate the functional and emotional elements necessary to meet the demands of the market.

In the third space of innovation we are concerned with implementation: communicating an idea with sufficient clarity to gain acceptance across the organization, proving it, and showing that it will work in its intended market.

There are many approaches to prototyping, but they share a single, paradoxical feature: They slow us down to speed us up. By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea too long.

Tim Brown, Change by Design

A NEXT STEP

Quick prototyping is about acting before you’ve got all the answers, about taking chances, stumbling a little, but then making it right.

Prototyping is a state of mind.

A prototype is a simple experimental model of a proposed solution used to test or validate ideas, design assumptions, and other aspects of its conceptualization quickly and cheaply, so that the leaders involved can make appropriate refinements or possible changes in direction.

Long used in the design of “things,” prototyping is increasingly used to work on designing experiences or other non-material objects.

To explore a current situation at your church that can be improved, work through the following prototyping exercise:

Select a situation consisting of multiple elements and nuances that a guest encounters at your church. For example, a guest family with a preschool child visiting for the first time.

Prepare any accessories (props) needed to recreate the scene where the action takes place. Use cardboard, tape, or any cheap material at hand to create the “sense” of the action a guest is going through.

Make a list of the roles people are involved in and define the sequence and time required to enact them.

Replay the situation three – four times. Each time, try to understand the emotional layers of the situation. Then add elements you forgot at the beginning.

Video record the re-enactment, playing different roles each time. Assign one team member to observe and take notes.

After the exercise, watch the video and listen to the observer’s notes. What parts of the process can be changed to make the experience more enjoyable to the guest? What types of training are needed for your volunteers to make that happen? Are there any physical or space layouts that can be improved?

Leaders who practice design thinking are energized by the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with constant change. These leaders don’t accept the hand-me-down notion that cost cutting and innovation are mutually exclusive, or that short-term and long-term goals are irreconcilable. They reject the tyranny of “or” in favor of the genius of “and.”

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 98-3, released August 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 Develop Processes that Help Create Clarity

We all have days during which we feel as though we are running at full speed from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning till the time we stumble into bed late that night. These are the days of deadlines to meet, tasks to accomplish, meetings to lead, and … the list goes on and on.

Do we ever stop to think that our busyness might actually be dangerous?

Busyness can be dangerous, because it causes us to focus on pressing problems rather than on priorities. When that happens, we can miss strategic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – like developing the leaders on our teams toward their highest potential.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Clarity First by Karen Martin

Award-winning business performance improvement and Lean management expert Karen Martin diagnoses a ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.

Through her global consulting projects, keynote speeches, and work with thousands of leaders, Karen has seen first-hand how a pervasive lack of clarity strangles business performance and erodes employee engagement. Ambiguity is the corporate default state, a condition so prevalent that “tolerance for ambiguity” has become a clichéd job requirement.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In Clarity First, Karen provides methods and insights for achieving clarity to unleash potential, innovate at higher levels, and solve the problems that matter to deliver outstanding business results. Both a visionary road map and practical guide, this book will help leaders:

  • Identify and communicate the organization’s true purpose
  • Set achievable priorities
  • Deliver greater customer value through more efficient processes
  • Build organization-wide problem solving capabilities
  • Develop personal clarity to become a more direct, purposeful, and successful leader

Eliminating ambiguity is the first step for leaders and organizations to achieve strategic goals. Learn how to gain the clarity needed to make better decisions, lead more effectively, and boost organizational performance.

When it comes to leading an outstanding organization, every great leader needs Clarity First.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Processes, in their broadest meaning, are a series of actions, changes, or functions that are strung together to produce a result.

They combine human and physical resources in various ways to produce different outcomes. A car is produced using a process that combines parts and labor in specific sequences on an assembly line. An appendectomy is performed using a process that combines medical staff and an operating room in a sequence of actions. All organizations can be thought of as a collection of processes. A process delivers a result. That is, it delivers an output, such as a product or service.

Think of process as a railroad engine. If the engine does not run properly, it does not matter how friendly the conductor acts or how attractive the passenger cars look, the train will still not move and the passengers will not pay their fares.

Process is the engine of clarity.

Everything a business does – in fact, everything in life – occurs as a result of processes. Yet few leaders overtly advocate for process to the extent needed for clarity.

I would argue that one of the most high-impact activities for a leader is to understand and improve the processes under his control.

The degree of detail that an individual needs about the processes that make work happen throughout the organization differs depending on the level at which he or she operates.

Clarity by itself does not make outstanding processes, but no process can reach outstanding levels without absolute clarity in its design, execution, and management.

Well-managed processes are:

Documented. Not only are the process steps captured, but so are the descriptions of how the work should be performed within each step.

Current. The documentation reflects the way the work should be performed today, not how it was performed last month.

Followed. Team members have been trained in the process, and adhere to it until the process is improved.

Consistently monitored. Process performance is measured against relevant key performance indicators.

Regularly improved. Processes that consistently meet KPI targets are analyzed to identify performance gaps with the goal of setting new, more aggressive targets, and identify process changes necessary to meet them.

Karen Martin, Clarity First

A NEXT STEP

Begin your journey toward greater process clarity in one area of your organization. Work on the processes in that area to learn about and improve your training methods for designing, documenting, training, measuring, and improving them.

Use the following six steps to guide your development of processes:

  • Identify and select the problem to be worked on
  • Analyze the problem
  • Generate potential solutions
  • Select and plan the best solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Evaluate the solution

Once you have identified a solution and find that it works, continue to use it, evaluating it periodically as needed, replacing it completely when it no longer works.

Pay close attention to the results you reap from greater clarity.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 96-2, released July 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 Work Smarter: Do Less, Then Obsess

We all have days during which we feel as though we are running at full speed from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning till the time we stumble into bed late that night. These are the days of deadlines to meet, tasks to accomplish, meetings to lead, and … the list goes on and on.

Do we ever stop to think that our busyness might actually be dangerous?

Busyness can be dangerous, because it causes us to focus on pressing problems rather than on priorities. When that happens, we can miss strategic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – like developing the leaders on our teams toward their highest potential.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of Great by Choice comes an authoritative, practical guide to individual performance—based on analysis from an exhaustive, groundbreaking study.

Why do some people perform better at work than others? This deceptively simple question continues to confound professionals in all sectors of the workforce. Now, after a unique, five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, Morten Hansen reveals the answers in his “Seven Work Smarter Practices” that can be applied by anyone looking to maximize their time and performance.

Each of Hansen’s seven practices is highlighted by inspiring stories from individuals in his comprehensive study. You’ll meet a high school principal who engineered a dramatic turnaround of his failing high school; a rural Indian farmer determined to establish a better way of life for women in his village; and a sushi chef, whose simple preparation has led to his restaurant (tucked away under a Tokyo subway station underpass) being awarded the maximum of three Michelin stars. Hansen also explains how the way Alfred Hitchcock filmed Psycho and the 1911 race to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole both illustrate the use of his seven practices (even before they were identified).

Each chapter contains questions and key insights to allow you to assess your own performance and figure out your work strengths, as well as your weaknesses. Once you understand your individual style, there are mini-quizzes, questionnaires, and clear tips to assist you focus on a strategy to become a more productive worker. Extensive, accessible, and friendly, Great at Work will help you achieve more by working less, backed by unprecedented statistical analysis.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

We all know the feeling of not enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks in front of us. The platitude, “work smarter, not harder” often rings hollow in our ears. Yes, we must work smarter, but work oftentimes is hard, and there’s no way around that fact.

Conventional wisdom states that people who work harder and take on more responsibilities accomplish more and perform better. Countering this view, management experts recommend that people focus by choosing just a few areas of work.

“Doing more” is usually a flawed strategy. The same goes for being asked to “focus harder.” Focus isn’t simply about choosing to concentrate on a few areas, as most people think.

The smart way to work is to first do less, then obsess.

People in our study who chose a few key priorities and then made huge efforts to do terrific work in those areas scored on average 25 percentage points higher in their performance than those who pursued many priorities. “Do less, then obsess” was the most powerful practice among the seven discussed in this book.

“Doing more” creates two traps. In the spread-too-thin trap, people take on many tasks, but can’t allocate enough attention to each. In the complexity trap, the energy required to manage the interrelationship between tasks leads people to waste time and execute poorly.

Here are the three ways you can implement the “do less, then obsess” principle:

  1. Wield the razor: Shave away unnecessary tasks, priorities, committees, steps metrics, and procedures. Channel all your effort into excelling in the remaining activities. Ask: How many tasks can I remove, given what I must do to excel? Remember: As few as you can, as many as you must.
  2. Tie yourself to the mast: Set clear rules ahead of time to fend off temptation and distraction. Create a rule as trivial as not allowing yourself to check email for an hour.
  3. Say “no” to your boss: Explain to your boss that adding more to your to-do list will hurt your performance. The path to greatness isn’t pleasing your boss all the time. It’s saying “no” so that you can apply intense effort to excel in a few chosen areas.

Morten Hansen, Great at Work

A NEXT STEP

Set aside a two-four hour time block when you can work on the principle outlined above by Morten Hansen: First do less, then obsess.

Create three chart tablets, listing each of the three phrases above on a page.

Review the activities listed under each phrase, and brainstorm how you can accomplish each.

After you have completed the task, schedule a time to review the results with your supervisor, and work toward a mutually-agreed upon plan of action.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 96-1, issued July 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<<

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<<

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<<

 

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<<