How Clarity Helps You Move from Present Realities to Future Focus

In the months leading up to the year 2020, there was no shortage of social media posts, articles, sermons, and more talking about a “2020 Vision.” For many pastors, it was a dream topic to build a sermon series around – and many did.

A sampling of sermon topics in January 2020 would have shown an intentional look forward into a future of a year or two, or maybe even five years or more.

But when March 2020 rolled around, and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to sink in, the lofty visions of 2020 evaporated. Church leaders around the country and the world began to shrink their vision from the lofty goals of just a few months earlier to, “What are we going to do this weekend?”

Fifteen months later, though that immediacy has lessened somewhat, only to be replaced with even more troubling questions like these:

  • How long is this pandemic going to last?
  • Will we be able to return to normal?
  • What if normal never returns?

In just a few weeks, future thoughts became present realties, and many leaders find themselves stuck there today.

Even when treading water in reality, leaders can get mired in a flood of information and answers about what to do next.

The world around us is evolving at dizzying speed. Tomorrow refuses to cooperate with our best-laid plans—the future routinely pulls the rug from underneath us.

Although people yearn for a return to “normal,” or try to predict the “new normal,” there is no such thing as normal. There is only change. Never-ending, constant change. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but constant nonetheless.

Answers to vexing problems are no longer a scarce commodity, and knowledge has never been cheaper. By the time we’ve figured out the facts – by the time Google, Alexa, or Siri can spit out the answer – the world has moved on.

Obviously, answers aren’t irrelevant. You must know some answers before you can begin asking the right questions. But the answers simply serve as a launch pad to discovery. They’re the beginning, not the end.

Our ability to make the most out of uncertainty is what creates the most potential value. We should be fueled not by a desire for a quick catharsis but by intrigue. Where certainty ends, progress begins.

Ozan Varol

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Full-Spectrum Thinking by Bob Johansen

The future will get even more perplexing over the next decade, and we are not ready. The dilemma is that we’re restricted by rigid categorical thinking that freezes people and organizations in neatly defined boxes that often are inaccurate or obsolete. Categories lead us toward certainty but away from clarity, and categorical thinking moves us away from understanding the bigger picture. Sticking with this old way of thinking and seeing isn’t just foolish, it’s dangerous.

Full-spectrum thinking is the ability to seek patterns and clarity outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories while resisting false certainty and simplistic binary choices. It reveals our commonalities that are hidden in plain view.

Bob Johansen lays out the core concepts of full-spectrum thinking and reveals the role that digital media – including gameful engagement, big-data analytics, visualization, blockchain, and machine learning – will play in facilitating and enhancing it. He offers examples of broader spectrums and new applications in a wide range of areas that will become possible first, then mandatory. This visionary book provides powerful ways to make sense of new opportunities and see the world as it really is.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Bob Johansen, in a future loaded with dilemmas, disruption will be rampant, and clarity will be scarce. In his book, The New Leadership Literacies, Johansen wrote that the disruptions of the next decade will be beyond what many people can cope with.

Written in 2017, his words are a clarion call for leaders today. Leaders in 2021, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, will need to provide enough clarity to make disruption tolerable – even motivational. They will also need to communicate realistic hope through their own stories of clarity.

The best way to lead in a disruptive world is to be very clear where you’re going, tell a great story about it, and then be very flexible about how you bring that future to life.

Clarity emerges in the space between insight and action. Clarity is the ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see.

When facing a highly uncertain future, you need to use strategic foresight to think like this:

Now – FUTURE – Next

It is completely appropriate to spend most of your time on the Now, the Action. That is where your organization is, and where you should focus. Incremental innovation is great, as long as it keeps getting results. If you invest in Future – not just Next – you will be able to achieve much greater clarity. Clarity emerges in the space between insight and action.

The future is not always incremental, and it is often disruptive. Trends are patterns of change you can anticipate with confidence, but disruptions are breaks in the pattern of change. Looking long can help you get a better view of where things are going.

Bob Johansen, Full-Spectrum Thinking

A NEXT STEP

When your team is stuck and can’t decide on moving forward, try the following exercise to evaluate ideas according to their level of innovation, their desirability, and feasibility.

  1. Write the idea or decision to be made on a chart tablet, and divide your team into three groups. Here’s the kicker: As leader of the team, try your best to place members of your team into groups that would not be their first choice. Give them 30 minutes to do their group work.
  2. The first group evaluates innovation – is the idea new? The group should evaluate the idea as:
    1. Disruptively new (might cause major consequences)
    2. Totally new (people might become familiar without major consequences)
    3. Improvement (improves something in a way people haven’t noticed before)
  3. The second group evaluates the desirability. Do people want this idea? What kind of needs are fulfilled? Evaluate the ideas as:
    1. Proof of need and desire – there is evidence of need and desire
    2. Assumed need and desire – there are high chances of need and desire
    3. Unknown need and desire
  4. The third group will evaluate the feasibility. How will the idea be developed? Evaluate the idea as:
    1. Highly feasible
    2. Moderately feasible
    3. Not feasible
  5. At the conclusion of the group discussion period, bring everyone together and have each group report the highlights of their discussion, listing them on the chart tablet in the three areas of innovation, desirability, and feasibility.
  6. Utilize the newly discovered information to move forward with your idea or action.

The above exercise was adapted from 75 Tools for Creative Thinking, Booreiland


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

How to be a DAREing Leader

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. This pace has only been accelerating because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in our lives.

The very nature of ministry often makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Is it possible that our productivity could actually be increased by first slowing down?

THE QUICK SUMMARYWhat’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

Do work that matters.

Productivity isn’t just about getting more things done. It’s about getting the right things done–the things that count, make a difference, and move the world forward. In our current era of massive overload, this is harder than ever before. So how do you get more of the right things done without confusing mere activity for actual productivity?

When we take God’s purposes into account, a revolutionary insight emerges. Surprisingly, we see that the way to be productive is to put others first–to make the welfare of other people our motive and criteria in determining what to do (what’s best next). As both the Scriptures and the best business thinkers show, generosity is the key to unlocking our productivity. It is also the key to finding meaning and fulfillment in our work.

By anchoring your understanding of productivity in God’s purposes and plan, What’s Best Next will give you a practical approach for increasing your effectiveness in everything you do. This expanded edition includes a new chapter on productivity in a fallen world and a new appendix on being more productive with work that requires creative thinking.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

Jocelyn Glei describes the concept of “reactionary workflow” as follows: “Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us.”

According to this line of thought, being informed and constantly updated becomes a disadvantage when the deluge of information coming in supplants your space to think and act.

Cal Newport takes this concept further, writing about a “deep reset.” Already in existence, but exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing a severe dislocation to much of what they’ve come to trust and to expect.

What is the best response to this “severe dislocation”?

The essence of a Gospel Driven Life is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God – and that this is the most exciting life.

Matt Perman

To be a gospel-driven Christian means to be on the lookout to do good for others to the glory of God, in all areas of life, and to do this with creativity and competence. Further, being gospel-driven also means knowing how to get things done so that we can serve others in a way that really helps, in all areas of life, without making ourselves miserable in the process through overload, overwhelm, and hard-to-keep-up systems.

There are four steps for leading and managing yourself for effectiveness: define, architect, reduce, and execute.

Define

This means not only knowing where you are going, but also knowing your criteria for deciding that altogether. This is not just a matter of clarifying your values, It is a matter of identifying the right values to have, and basing outlives – our entire lives, especially right here at the center – on those values that God and His Word lift up as central.

Architect

Once you identified the most important principles, goals, and ongoing priorities in your life, you can’t just leave it at that. You have to weave these things into the structure of your life through a basic schedule, or time map, because intentions aren’t enough. The essence of the architecture step can be summarized this way: Structure your life by living your life mainly from a flexible routine, to a set of lists.

Reduce

After creating this structure, often you’ll find that making everyone fit is the biggest obstacle. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve archived wrong; it just means you need to reduce. But you don’t get rid of the rest by simply letting balls drop. Rather, you do it by creating systems and using tactics that ultimately expand your capacity. The essence of reducing can be summarized this way: Reduce not the basis of what’s most important, not on the basis of living a minimalistic life, and do this by implementing systems that enable you to ultimately expand your capacity overall.

Execute

This is the stage of making things happen in the moment. It is easy to think of execution as synonymous with productivity, but in reality it is actually only the last step. Execution is about living out our priorities every day, on a moment-by-moment basis. Plan your week, manage your workflow, and make your projects and actions happen – along with navigating your day in the moment.

Conveniently, these steps form the acronym DARE. We should be radical and risky and creative and abundant in using our effectiveness to make life better for others.

Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done

A NEXT STEP

In the author’s words, will you DARE to let the gospel transform the way you get things done? Here are some of his ideas:

Define

  • Develop a mission statement for your life that actually works
  • Define your roles and keep track of them

Architect

  • Create a good weekly schedule
  • Set up the right routines

Reduce

  • Learn how to handle interruptions
  • Overcome procrastination

Execute

  • Plan your week in a few simple steps
  • Create simple project plans

Even by just reading the above list, you will be able to improve your productivity. For deeper dives into each of the areas listed, as well as additional helps, be sure to check out these additional author’s resources.


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

During my elementary school years, one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of My Weekly Reader, a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

How to Build Your Leadership Dream

It’s easy to talk about enhancing performance, improving efficiency and being a more influential leader. So why don’t we do it more?

Maybe it is because leadership books often feel stale. It’s often a same-idea, different-author experience. Leadership is a set of abilities, and it can be learned and improved on a regular basis. But we have to seek that improvement.

Does boredom keep you from scheduling time on a regular basis to grow your leadership skills?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights by Douglas Conant with Amy Federman

In 1984, Doug Conant was fired without warning and with barely an explanation. He felt hopeless and stuck but, surprisingly, this defeating turn of events turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. Doug began to consider what might be holding him back from realizing his potential, fulfilling his dreams, and making a bigger impact on the world around him

Embarking on a journey of self-reflection and discovery, he forged a path to revolutionize his leadership and transform his career trajectory. Ultimately, Doug was able to condense his remarkable leadership story into six practical steps. It wasn’t until Doug worked through these six steps that he was able to lift his leadership to heights that ultimately brought him career success, joy, and fulfillment.

In The Blueprint, part leadership manifesto, part practical manual, Doug teaches leaders how to work through the same six steps that he used to transform his journey. The six steps are manageable and incremental, designed to fit practically within the pace of busy modern life. Knowing how daunting the prospect of change can be, Doug arms readers with exercises and practices to realistically bring their foundation to life in every situation. Now, today’s leaders who feel stuck and overwhelmed finally have a blueprint for lifting their leadership to make meaningful change in their organizations and in the world.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The work of personal leadership is hard, inner work. And it isn’t just for those who want to lead people and teams; it’s for all who want to lead a life of meaning and purpose – a life that earns the trust of others.

Becoming an effective leader who lifts your organization to new heights may seem challenging, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Strong leadership is rooted in basic principles. No matter the specifics of the organizations you may work for throughout your career, the essential foundations you must build will remain constant.

The tough problems organizations face today can best be solved by wise, principled leaders built on solid foundations.

The blueprint is a tool for bringing to life the dreams of leaders. You’re not manufacturing a building; you will be manifesting your leadership dreams.

Douglas Conant

To build your foundation, and get where you want to go, there are six steps.

Step 1 – Envision: Reach High

First, you have to set the intention to do better and Envision what success looks like to you – to reach high. It is in this sep that you will take your fist crack at articulating your Leadership Purpose.

Step 2 – Reflect: Dig Deep

Next, you will Reflect on our experiences to uncover your leadership beliefs, to dig deep into what makes you, you; in this step, you will uncover the life lessons that anchor your leadership, and develop a deeper understanding of your unique personality, motivations, temperament, and skill set.

Step 3 – Study: Lay the Groundwork

In the third step, you will Study, to fill in all the cracks from your dig, laying the groundwork with all the learnings and insights from the world that exists beyond your own personal experiences.

Step 4 – Plan: Design

Using design thinking techniques, you get to conceive your Plan – an exquisite design for the exact Leadership Model you envision, derived from your Leadership Purpose and your Leadership Beliefs.

Step 5 – Practice: Build

In this step you will build Practice into your change process. You’ll brainstorm small steps you can take – little, actionable practices – that you can begin to fold into your habits.

Step 6 – Improve: Reinforce

Finally, you Improve, continually learning from what you did right, and what you could have done better, reinforcing the strength of your Foundation in perpetuity.

Douglas Conant with Amy Federman, The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights

A NEXT STEP

Use the following ideas, suggestions, and exercises by author Douglas Conant to help begin the process of building a solid foundation for your leadership dream.

Envision

  • Given your unique purpose and motivations, what do you want your future to look like? If there were not limitations, what would you want to do? What is possible?

Reflect

  • Develop a leadership vocabulary which will ultimately help you communicate your vision to others and bring your dreams to life in your leadership model. It will also help you articulate the traits you admire in others.

Study

  • Develop a list of five to ten of the top practices you’ve observed in the best leaders you’ve known or studied. These “best practices” will help connect the reflection you have done so far to upcoming actions.

Plan

  • Create a visual model to anchor your thinking and express the unique approach of your leadership model. This will provide a way to grasp something seemingly complex in a simple and easy-to-understand way.

Practice

  • Extracting specific actions from your recollections, write down one distinct and actionable practice for each area of your evolving leadership model.

Improve

  • Taking a look at the work you have done so far, think about three things you care deeply about and that you will be able to pursue with a joy that comes from doing the things you are good at. Thinking back to the first step, Envision, what did your boldest dreams of success look like. What do you have to improve to get there?

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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Are You a “Rested” Leader?

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. This pace has only been accelerating because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in our lives.

The very nature of ministry often makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Is it possible that our productivity could actually be increased by first slowing down?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Every Day Matters: A Biblical Approach to Productivity by Brandon D. Crow

True productivity is less about getting things done; it is more concerned with stewarding priorities, time, and resources wisely and faithfully in a way that honors God. In Every Day Matters Brandon Crowe provides an accessible and biblical understanding of productivity filled with practical guidance and examples.

Crowe draws insights from wisdom literature and the life and teaching of the Apostle Paul to reclaim a biblical perspective on productivity. He shows the implications for matters such as setting priorities and goals, achieving rhythms of work and rest, caring for family, maintaining spiritual disciplines, sustaining energy, and engaging wisely with social media and entertainment.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In the book of Genesis, we find the description of a seven-day week. On the first six of these days, God works. He begins by creating the universe, and as the week progresses, culminates His work of creation with man and woman.

As God’s week progressed, things got more complicated. After each of the first five days, God said, “Good.” After the pinnacle of his creation – Adam and Eve – God said, “Very good.”

But on the seventh day, God created the Sabbath, and whispered, “Holy.”

Up until this point, everything had been created out of nothing, but on the morning of the seventh day, God makes nothing out of something. Rest is brought into being.

The word Sabbath means “cease from working.” Resting one day a week by any name is holy – the point is to stop on that day and look for God.

Could it be that if we want to be our best, to be productive, we must do so from a day of rest?

To maintain an effective, productive lifestyle, you need rhythms of rest built into your schedule. Instead of working longer hours each day, you should aim to maximize your time devoted to working so that you have time to recover before the next day.

Brandon D. Crowe

Rest

One of the great productivity myths is that you can accomplish more by working longer hours and cutting back on sleep. But sleep cannot be cheated. You need various kinds of rest:

  • You need to get enough sleep each night.
  • You need breaks while you are working.
  • You need a weekly day of rest.
  • It’s wise to take time for an extended period of rest on a yearly basis – a vacation.

Refresh

In addition to sleep, you need recreation of down time in order to be refreshed. Not all rest, in other words, has to be sleeping. Sometimes resting from work means being alive in other ways. You need things to do when you’re not working that bring enjoyment, which ends up funneling into increased productivity when you are working. These are ways to decompress and unwind.

Despite your best intentions, you will not succeed in staying focused each day. You will fail. You will get distracted. Every day matters, but you will not be at your best every day. Do not be discouraged; each day is a new day, and each day is a new opportunity to move forward.

Repent

You should repent daily from your sins. This is not simply a matter of productivity, but a matter of pleasing God. You should constantly be examining your life to consider where you have sinned, and where you have sinned, you should repent and ask God to forgive you. A consistent review process will give you an opportunity to recognize and address negative habits.

Resolve

You also need to consistently renew your commitment to the most important things. Resolve to grow each day. As you identify areas that need improvement, recommit yourself anew each day to your vision and priorities. Each day is a new day for you to live by your priorities and do those things you know need to be done.

Brandon D. Crow, Every Day Matters: A Biblical Approach to Productivity

A NEXT STEP 

Author Brand Crowe developed the following action steps in the areas of Rest, Refresh, Repent, and Resolve. Set aside some time before the end of this week to review these, and resolve to begin implementing them next week.

  1. Track your sleep to determine how much sleep you need to function well.
  2. Determine what time you need to get up in the mornings for your personal routine, and resolve to go to bed sufficiently early to allow for your needed levels of sleep.
  3. Put away work related issues after your eventing shut-down rituals.
  4. Write down two to three activities you would like to do to provide refreshment. Begin to pursue these as you have opportunity.
  5. Resolve to take Sunday off from work to focus on worship and others.

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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

Do You Understand the Nature of YOUR Crisis?

There are few certainties in ministry today. Unfortunately, one of them is the inevitability of a potential crisis occurring in our country, your community or even your church that could have a major effect on your congregation and even your reputation.

A crisis is an event, precipitated by a specific incident, natural or man-made, that attracts critical media attention and lasts for a definite period of time. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies.

But life is full of other types of disruptions, some seemingly minor in nature and others truly of a global scale. In between those two bookends are countless events that require leaders to be at the forefront in communicating to their organizations, the community, and the greater public.

When your church finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and operations for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly addressed and stewarded.

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis can determine the difference between an organization’s life or death. In the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

There is a solution – you can prepare for the inevitable crisis by proactive actions that will help in preempting potential crises or help make them shorter in duration. Finding yourself in a crisis situation is bad; not being prepared when a crisis occurs is devastatingly worse.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message by Steven Fink

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis determines the difference between a company’s life or death. Because in the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

The inevitability of a crisis having a potentially major effect on your business and your reputation – at some point – is almost a guarantee. When your company finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and business for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly shaped and managed.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Crisis communications and crisis management legend Steven Fink gives you everything you need to prepare for the inevitable—whether it’s in the form of human error, industrial accidents, criminal behavior, or natural disasters.

In this groundbreaking guide, Fink provides a complete toolkit for ensuring smooth communications and lasting business success through any crisis. Crisis Communications offers proactive and preventive methods for preempting potential crises. The book reveals proven strategies for recognizing and averting damaging crisis communications issues before it’s too late. The book also offers ways to deal with mainstream and social media, use them to your advantage, and neutralize and turn around a hostile media environment.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Steven Fink, a good working definition of a crisis is any situation, that if left unattended, has the potential to:

  • Escalate the intensity
  • Damage the reputation or positive public opinion of the organization or its leadership
  • Interfere with the normal operations
  • Fall under close government or media scrutiny
  • Impact the organization’s financial well-being

Using the five-step list above as a pragmatic guide, the responsible leader will realize that what may not qualify as a minor crisis in one situation may actually threaten the existence of the organization in another.

So the question becomes, do you know what YOUR crisis is?

Before you can even begin to think about communicating during a crisis, there are three absolute imperatives that must be undertaken in any crisis situation.

Steven Fink

Identify your crisis

Isolate your crisis

Manage your crisis

IDENTIFY

How hard can it be to identify a crisis when it’s happening to your organization? Actually, it’s harder than you might think. Focus on identifying your crisis – the one with which you have to deal, the one over which you have some measure of control. Try to avoid distracting scenarios, of which there will be many.

In a crisis, especially a crisis with competing interests, the only person who is looking out for your organization’s reputation is you.

ISOLATE

Isolation might very well mean designating a crisis management team to deal exclusively with the crisis, with its members temporarily delegating their normal duties and responsibilities to others for the duration of the crisis. Ideally, this team would be isolated from the rest of the company, and hopefully, keep quiet about its progress until the appropriate time.

MANAGE

If you have properly identified and then successfully isolated the crisis, the actual management of the crisis is the easiest part (assuming you are a good manager to begin with). That’s because you will now be laser-focused on the specific task at hand, and once you’ve cleared away the distracting brush, your mission becomes crystal clear. When that occurs, making vigilant decisions – the epitome of good crisis management – is well within your grasp.

Steven Fink, Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message

A NEXT STEP 

While the COVID-19 crisis is certainly on everyone’s mind, it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and “understanding” it in terms of the discussion above is beyond the scope of this exercise.

However, your organization likely has faced a crisis within the last year – a physical event, a natural disaster, or a personnel issue. No matter what the crisis, it was a disruption to your normal activities.

Using a past crisis, have your team walk through the three steps listed above. You are actually doing a post-mortem or after-action report: using a past event, evaluated through a new lens (the three steps above) to help prepare you for the next time you have a crisis.

Taking note of any actions you should have done, but didn’t, develop an action plan to make sure you do it the next time.


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

Leaders Must Learn How to Be Unhurried

In our fast-paced, get-it-done-now culture, the fact is that almost everyone on your team could use some help in increasing their personal productivity. This pace has only been accelerating because ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The very nature of ministry often makes the “I’ve gotten something done today” feeling elusive. For many church leaders, there are no edges to their work – it’s not easy to tell when the work is finished, because it really never is. Most of your team have at least half a dozen things they are trying to achieve right now – today! And a pastoral need could arise at any moment to make that to-do list completely irrelevant.

Is it possible that our productivity could actually be increased by first slowing down?

The Quick SummaryThe Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

 “Who am I becoming?”

That was the question nagging pastor and author John Mark Comer. Outwardly, he appeared successful. But inwardly, things weren’t pretty. So he turned to a trusted mentor for guidance and heard these words:

“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.”

It wasn’t the response he expected, but it was—and continues to be—the answer he needs. Too often we treat the symptoms of toxicity in our modern world instead of trying to pinpoint the cause. A growing number of voices are pointing at hurry, or busyness, as a root of much evil.

Within the pages of this book, you’ll find a fascinating roadmap to staying emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author John Mark Comer, the new normal of hurried digital distraction is robbing us of the ability to be present:

  • Present to God.
  • Present to other people.
  • Present to all that is good, beautiful, and true in our world.
  • Even present to our own souls.

The noise of the modern world makes us deaf to the voice of God, drowning out the one input we most need.

Whatever you call them: habits, practices, or spiritual disciplines are how we follow Jesus. How we adopt His lifestyle. How we create space for emotional health and spiritual life.

John Mark Comer

And like all habits, they are a means to an end. The end is life to the full with Jesus. The end is to spend every waking moment in the conscious enjoyment of Jesus’ company, to spend our entire lives with the most loving, joyful, peaceful person to ever live.

Silence and solitude

Here’s to tomorrow morning, six o’clock. Coffee, the chair by the window, the window by the tree. Time to breathe. A psalm and story from the Gospels. Hearing the Father’s voice. Pouring out my own. Or just sitting, resting. Maybe I’ll hear a word from God that will alter my destiny; maybe I’ll just process my anger over something that’s bothering me. Maybe I’ll feel my mind settle like untouched water; maybe my mind will ricochet from thought to thought, and never come to rest. If so, that’s fine. I’ll be back, same time tomorrow. Starting my day in the quiet place.

Sabbath

If your story is anything like mine, Sabbath will take you a little while to master. After all, Shabbat is a verb. It’s something you do. A practice, a skill you hone. To begin, just set aside a day. Clear your schedule. Turn off your phone! Say a prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to pastor you into His presence. And then? Rest and worship. In whatever way is life giving for your soul. And something happens about halfway through the day, something hard to put language to. It’s like my should catches up to my body. Like some deep part of me that got beat up and drowned out by meetings and email and Twitter and relational conflict and the difficulty of life comes back to the surface of my heat. I feel free. And at the end of the day when I turn my phone back on and reenter the modern world, I do so slowly. And, wow, does that ever feel good.

Simplicity

The goal isn’t just to declutter your closet or garage but to declutter your life. To clear away the myriad of distractions that ratchet up our anxiety, feed us an endless stream of mind-numbing drivel, and anesthetize us to what really matters. To follow Jesus, especially in the Western world, is to live in that same tension between grateful, happy enjoyment of nice, beautiful things, and simplicity. And when to err on the side of generous, simple living. The truth is you can be happy right here, right now, “through Christ who strengthens me,” meaning through investing your resources in ongoing relational connections to Jesus. Right now you have everything you need to live a happy, content life; you have access to the Father. To His loving attention.

Slowing

The basic idea behind the practice of slowing is this: slow down your body, slow down your life. If we can slow down both our minds and bodies – the pace at which we think and the pace at which we move our bodies through the world – maybe we can slow down our souls to a pace at which they can “taste and see the the Lord is good.” John Ortberg and Richard Foster both label this emerging practice the spiritual discipline of “slowing.” Ortberg defined it as “cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we have to wait. There’s more to life than an increase in speed. Life is right under our noses, waiting to be enjoyed.

John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

A NEXT STEP

John Mark Comer believes that unlike other types of habits, the practices of Jesus aren’t just exercises for your mind and body to grow their willpower muscle and cultivate character. They are far more: they are how we open our minds and bodies to a power far beyond our own and effect change.

The four disciplines listed above may seem like a strange way to become more productive, but in the sugar-rush of the busy lives we are leading, slowing down will actually help you become better at what you do.

For excellent guidance on these disciplines, be sure to download the author’s workbook to accompany his book.

Toward which of the four disciplines are you feeling led by the Holy Spirit? What is one step to take today?


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

Leaders of Remote Teams Must Learn to Protect the Overachievers

Your team has probably been working remotely for a year or more now, and even as the country moves into fast-forward about “opening up”, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and new reality?

THE QUICK SUMMARYRemote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits. Most important, they show why – with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo – more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution’s “under one roof” model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is “move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend. A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. In Remote, authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea–and they’re going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

A common belief among managers contemplating remote work teams is the fear that their employees would slack off when out of the office and away from their watchful eyes.

The reality is that remote employees are more likely to overwork than underwork.

The employee who has passion and dedication to their work often has difficulty balancing their work and demands of their private lives when their work is being done in the spaces normally dedicated to private lives.

Leaders of remote teams must be aware of the signs of overwork, and intentionally work to prevent it.

Be on the lookout for overwork, not underwork.

If you’ve read about remote-work failures in the press, you might thing that the major risk in setting our people free is that they’ll turn into lazy, unproductive slackers. In reality, it’s overwork, not underwork, that’s the real enemy in a successful remote working environment.

Working at home and living there means there’s less delineation between the two parts of your life. You’ll have all your files and all your equipment right at hand, so if you come up with an idea at 9pm, you can keep plowing through, even if you already put in more than adequate hours from 7am to 3pm.

The fact is, it’s easy to turn work into your predominate hobby.

If work is all-consuming, the worker is far more likely to burn out. This is true even if the person loves what he does. Perhaps especially if he loves what he does, since it won’t seem like a problem until it’s too late.

It’s everyone’s job to be on the lookout for coworkers who are overworking themselves, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the managers to set the tone.

In the same way that you don’t want a gang of slackers, you also don’t want a band of supermen. The best workers over the long term are people who put in sustainable hours. Not too much, not too little – just right.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Remote: Office Not Required

A NEXT STEP

As the leader of remote teams, how you practice working remotely will often set the pattern and practice of your team.

Using the following ideas from Work Together Anywhere, evaluate your own remote practices, and then determine how you will share the expectations with your team.

Motivation and Self-Discipline

  • Have a set routine
  • Dress like you’re going to work
  • Work in a space designated for work
  • Set a schedule and stick to it

Productivity

  • Experiment with time- and task-management methodologies and apps
  • Minimize multitasking; instead, focus on one thing at a time
  • Pace yourself to regulate your energy, maximizing your stamina and mental acuity
  • Make sure your workspace aids rather than hinders your productivity

Self-Care

  • Balance stints of productive, focused work with sufficient breaks that include movement.
  • Don’t forget to allow yourself the perks of remote working, like taking a break in your living room, or eating lunch on your patio
  • Combat the risk of loneliness by actively seeking social interaction both in person and online

Communication and Collaboration

  • Adopt a virtual-team mindset by trusting others to deliver the results they committed to while doing the same
  • Practice positive communication by being overtly friendly and assuming positive intent
  • Be reliable, consistent, and transparent: make sure your teammates know what you’re working on and how to reach you, within agreed upon guidelines

How to Practice the 10 R’s of Crisis Management

There are few certainties in ministry today. Unfortunately, one of them is the inevitability of a potential crisis occurring in our country, your community or even your church that could have a major effect on your congregation and even your reputation.

A crisis is an event, precipitated by a specific incident, natural or man-made, that attracts critical media attention and lasts for a definite period of time. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies.

But life is full of other types of disruptions, some seemingly minor in nature and others truly of a global scale. In between those two bookends are countless events that require leaders to be at the forefront in communicating to their organizations, the community, and the greater public.

When your church finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and operations for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly addressed and stewarded.

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis can determine the difference between an organization’s life or death. In the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

There is a solution – you can prepare for the inevitable crisis by proactive actions that will help in preempting potential crises or help make them shorter in duration. Finding yourself in a crisis situation is bad; not being prepared when a crisis occurs is devastatingly worse.

THE QUICK SUMMARYCrisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies by Edward Segal

How many splashy scandals and crisis situations have befallen companies and public figures in the past week alone? How did the organizations and people at the center of those crises manage the situation? Did they survive with their reputations intact or are they facing an ongoing public nightmare that keeps building on itself in the era of social media?

This new book from veteran public relations expert Edward Segal is based on the following premise: it’s not a matter of IF a scandal or crisis will hit, it’s WHEN. How a company deals with it will have lasting impact on their reputation, profits, and more. But for most organizations, when a crisis hits, they’re caught off guard and ill-prepared. While essential, crisis plans are worthless unless properly executed, as the stories and examples featured throughout Crisis Ahead attest. Edward Segal’s vivid and memorable accounts underscore the benefits of practicing and updating crisis plans at least once a year. The book also includes a template for creating a customizable crisis management plan, and a list of the early crisis management lessons to be learned from the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

Crisis Ahead is for CEOs, senior staff, corporate communication professionals, HR and legal teams, boards of directors, and front-line employees who need to know what to do in the moment: what levers to pull and what moves to make in real time when faced with a crisis, scandal, or disaster. This book is written with the need for speed in mind. It’s concise and practical with a light touch and occasional humor to help people on the front lines prepare for, survive, and bounce back from a crisis. It includes dozens of anecdotes, stories, and lessons about how companies, organizations, and individuals – ranging from Amazon, Apple, and the European Union, to Disney, Starbucks, and entrepreneur Elon Musk – have prepared for, created, managed, and communicated about crisis situations.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Edward Segal, most organizations have not dealt with a crisis before, and certainly not one like the COVID-19 crisis. As it continues to unfold, it’s clear many organizations are flying blind.

If your organization doesn’t have a crisis plan, it’s time to make one now. Letting people know you have a plan for dealing with any type of disruption or crisis can help provide a level of confidence that you know what you are doing and are doing it in a logical, comprehensive, and coordinated fashion.

It’s not a matter of if companies will face a crisis, but when they will, where it will happen, how bad it will be, and what they will do about it.

There are several major steps you can take to help ensure that you are as ready as you can be for any crisis. Here are Segal’s “10 Rs of Crisis Management.”

Risk. Identify the risk triggers that would cause a crisis for your organization.

Reduce. Take the steps that are necessary and prudent to lessen known risks.

Ready. Have a crisis plan in place and ready to implement when it is needed.

Redundancies. Have back-up and contingency plans in case they are required.

Research. Get all the information you can about your crisis, including details about what just happened, is happening now, or you expect to happen.

Rehearse. Practice implementing your plan on a regular basis—at least once a year.

React. Activate your plan when necessary.

Reach Out. Immediately communicate with those who are affected by or concerned about the crisis.

Recover. Know how you would bounce back from a crisis.

Remember. Keep in mind the experiences of those who have already gone through a crisis.

Edward Segal, Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies

A NEXT STEP

Set up a time with your leadership team to review your organization’s preparedness through the lens of the 10 R’s of crisis management listed above.

First, copy and distribute this page to all of your team, asking them to read it in advance of the meeting.

Second, write each “R” word on a chart tablet, two or three per sheet. Beginning at the top, use the accompanying phrase to discuss as a team how your organization has addressed or is addressing the situation. List any current actions with a green marker, and any actions that need to be done with a red marker.

Finally, after you have worked through the entire list of 10 words, go back and as a team assign responsibilities for each item in red to a specific leader. Ask them to prepare a preliminary plan of action and report back to the team within 10 days.

As Leaders of Remote Teams, We Need to Prioritize Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves

Your team has probably been working remotely for most of the last year now, and even as discussions about “opening up” begin to become more prevalent, it’s likely that remote work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.

That’s the question Google is tacking with a new set of policies recently rolled out by the company’s CEO. They center around just three words:

Flexibility and Choice.

What may have been quick emergency actions like having the basic tools and defining remote processes is now moving toward a new normal.

To make it through the current crisis and return to that new normal, you and your team will need to be resilient. The good news is that leaders can help create the conditions that make this possible.

As Bryan Miles, CEO and cofounder of BELAY, a leading U.S.-based, virtual solutions company says:

“Productivity comes from people completing their tasks in a timely, professional, adult manner, not from daily attendance in a sea of cubicles and offices.”

How will you lead your team through both this changing tide and likely new normal?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Long-Distance Leader by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

As more organizations adopt a remote workforce, the challenges of leading at a distance become more urgent than ever. The cofounders of the Remote Leadership Institute, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, show leaders how to guide their teams by recalling the foundational principles of leadership.

The authors’ “Three-O” Model refocuses leaders to think about outcomes, others, and ourselves—elements of leadership that remain unchanged, whether employees are down the hall or halfway around the world. By pairing it with the Remote Leadership Model, which emphasizes using technology as a tool and not a distraction, leaders are now able to navigate the terrain of managing teams wherever they are.

Filled with exercises that ensure projects stay on track, keep productivity and morale high, and build lasting relationships, this book is the go-to guide for leading, no matter where people work.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Leadership has never been a simple task. Factor in the many complications of leading your team remotely, and it would seem that leadership difficulties have magnified exponentially.

According to author Kevin Eikenberry, “It may have always been lonely at the top, but now we’re literally, physically, by ourselves much of the time.”

Being a Long-Distance Leader may feel radically different from how you’ve led in the past, but the core part is still the same: you are a leader, first. 

Accept the fact that leading remotely requires you to lead differently.

What’s needed is a change in mindset from time-based working to results-based working, which calls for evaluating output rather than hours.

Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

There are three areas of focus all leaders must recognize and use to reach their maximum success.  

  • Outcomes—you lead people with the purpose of reaching a desired outcome. 
  • Others—you lead with and through other people to reach those outcomes.
  • Ourselves—you can’t leave yourself out of this model. While leadership is about outcomes and other people, none of that happens without you whether you like it or not.

At the highest level, organizations exist to reach outcomes of one sort or another. As a Long-Distance Leader, this focus on outcomes is, if possible, even more important and can definitely be harder. There are three reasons for this difficulty:  

  • Isolation. When people are working remotely, they are likely alone more of the time, often leading to silos of the smallest nature – people acting as if they are a team of one, and forgetting how their outcomes are part of the larger whole.
  • Lack of environmental cues. Working from a home office or remote location, people do not receive the very clear clues and cues that reinforce the organizational focus.
  • (Potentially) less repetition of messages. Unless leaders consistently, and in a variety of ways, communicate and reiterate the goals and outcomes for the team, people may get lost in their own bubble.

Long-Distance Leaders must also focus on others. Here are seven reasons why: 

  1. You can’t do it alone anyway. Leadership is about the outcomes, but those must be reached through others.
  2. You win when they win. True and lasting victory comes from helping others win, too.
  3. You build trust when you focus on others. Focusing on others and showing them you trust them first will build trust with others.
  4. You build relationships when you focus on others. When you’re interested in, listen to and care about others, you build relationships.
  5. You are more influential when you focus on others. Since we can’t control people, only influence them, our focus on others will help be a positive influence.
  6. Team members are more engaged when you focus on them. People want to work with and for people who they know believe and care about them.
  7. You succeed at everything on “the list” when you focus on others. Whatever your to-do “list” contains, by focusing on others first, achieving that list will be more successful.

The great paradox of leadership is that it isn’t about us at all—as we have just said, fundamentally leadership is about outcomes and other people.

Finally, who you are, what you believe, and how you behave plays a huge role in how effectively you will do the other things. Here are three reasons why Long-Distance Leaders must focus on themselves:

  • Assumptions. You have assumptions about what it means to work remotely. We could give you the statistics that show teleworkers are more productive, but if you don’t believe that, or assume people are multitasking on non-work items while they are at work, you will operate based on that belief rather than the facts.
  • Intention is important, but not enough. Throughout this book we talk about being intentional with nearly everything. Here, though, the challenge lies in the gap between what you want and mean to do, and what you actually do.
  • Making a decision. As a long-distance leader, you will face many choices and have lots of ideas. But none of them will work until you decide to act.

Kevin Eikenberry and Gary Turmel, The Long-Distance Leader

A NEXT STEP 

Use the following questions by author Kevin Eikenberry to honestly evaluate how you are practicing the three “O” principles listed above: Outcomes, Others, and Ourselves.

  • What do you feel are the most important outcomes expected of you as a leader?  
  • How has working remotely impacted those outcomes for you and your people?  
  • What do you feel are the most important ways to focus on others in your organization?  
  • How has working remotely impacted that focus?  
  • How do you see yourself in your role as a leader?  
  • How has leading remotely impacted your beliefs and behaviors?

How to Unwrap the Power of a Beautiful Question

The most important thing business leaders must do today is to be the ‘chief question-asker’ for their organization.

– Dev Patnaik

Patnaik is quick to add, “The first thing most leaders need to realize is, they’re really bad at asking questions.”

A questioning culture is critical because it can help ensure that creativity and fresh, adaptive thinking flows throughout the organization.

By asking questions, we can analyze, learn, and move forward in the face of uncertainty. However, the questions must be the right ones; the ones that cut to the heart of complexity or enable us to see an old problem in a fresh way.

Nothing has such power to cause a complete mental turnaround as that of a question. Questions spark curiosity, curiosity creates ideas, and ideas lead to making things better.

Questions are powerful means to employ (read unleash) creative potential – potential that would otherwise go untapped and undiscovered.

 THE QUICK SUMMARY – A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger

In this groundbreaking book, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger shows that one of the most powerful forces for igniting change in business and in our daily lives is a simple, under-appreciated tool–one that has been available to us since childhood. Questioningdeeply, imaginatively, “beautifully”–can help us identify and solve problems, come up with game-changing ideas, and pursue fresh opportunities. So why are we often reluctant to ask “Why?”

Berger’s surprising findings reveal that even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning “falls off a cliff” as kids enter school. In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged–and, in fact, is sometimes barely tolerated.

And yet, as Berger shows, the most creative, successful people tend to be expert questioners. They’ve mastered the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking–and finding powerful answers. The author takes us inside red-hot businesses like Google, Netflix, IDEO, and Airbnb to show how questioning is baked into their organizational DNA. He also shares inspiring stories of artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, basement tinkerers, and social activists who changed their lives and the world around them–by starting with a “beautiful question.”


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

With the constant change we face today, we may be forced to spend less time on autopilot, more time in questioning mode—attempting to adapt, looking to re-create careers, redefining old ideas about living, working, and retiring, reexamining priorities, seeking new ways to be creative, or to solve various problems in our own lives or the lives of others.

When we want to shake things up and instigate change, it’s necessary to break free of familiar thought patterns and easy assumptions.

We need to learn to ask beautiful questions.

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.

The nonprofit sector, like much of industry, is inclined to keep doing what it has done—hence, well-meaning people are often trying to solve a problem by answering the wrong question.

People tend to approach and work through problems – processing from becoming aware of and understanding the problem, to thinking of possible solutions, to trying to enact those solutions. Each stage of the problem solving process has distinct challenges and issues—requiring a different mind-set, along with different types of questions. Expertise is helpful at certain points, not so helpful at others; wide-open, unfettered divergent thinking is critical at one stage, discipline and focus is called for at another. By thinking of questioning and problem solving in a more structured way, we can remind ourselves to shift approaches, change tools, and adjust our questions according to which stage we’re entering.

The Why stage has to do with seeing and understanding. The “seeing” part of that might seem easy – just open your eyes and look around, right? Not really. To ask powerful Why questions, we must:   

Step back.

Notice what others miss.

Challenge assumptions (including our own). 

Gain a deeper understanding of the situation or problem at hand, through contextual inquiry. 

Question the questions we’re asking. 

Take ownership of a particular question.

The What If stage is the blue-sky moment of questioning, when anything is possible. Those possibilities may not survive the more practical How Stage; but t’s critical to innovation that there be a time for wild, improbable ideas to surface and to inspire. If the word why has a penetrative power, enabling the questioner to get past assumptions and dig deep into problems, the words what if have a more expansive effect – allowing us to think without limits or constraints, firing the imagination.

The How stage of questions is where the rubber meets the road. It’s the point at which things come together and then, more often than not, fall apart, repeatedly. Reality intrudes and nothing goes quite as planned. to say it’s the hard part of questioning is not to suggest it’s easy to challenge assumptions by asking Why, or to envision new possibilities by asking What If. Those require difficult backward steps and leaps of imagination. But How tends to be more of a slow and difficult march, marked by failures that are alley to be beneficial – but don’t necessarily seem that way at the time.

Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

A NEXT STEP

According to author Warren Berger, when it comes to questioning, companies are like people: They start out doing it, then gradually do it less and less. A hierarchy forms, a methodology is established, and rules are set; after that, what is there to question?

In A More Beautiful Question, Berger lists a series of questions from consultant Keith Yamashita that leaders should consider. To arrive at a powerful sense of purpose, Yamashita says, organizations today need “a fundamental orientation that is outward looking”—so they can understand what people out there in the world desire and need, and what’s standing in the way. At the same time, leaders also must look inward, to clarify their core values and larger ambitions.

At a future team meeting, ask the following questions, and record all answers.

  • How is our mission best expressed in everyday life?
  • Which of our values are most relevant in this season? Which of our values is most aspirational?
  • What ministry or program is having the most impact? Which is having the least? Why?
  • What area of spiritual growth is most underdeveloped among our body?
  • What are we most excited about in the next year?
  • What is most important in the next 90 days?
  • What do we want to celebrate five years from now?
  • How will the results of this exercise change the direction of your organization?