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There are words which can be, and frequently are, used as a manipulative fulcrum and lever device to gain the upper hand in a relationship, company or a ministry. It is a commonly employed linguistic device which left unaddressed will bring unrelenting pressure to bear. The problem is that such words seem totally innocent, yet they camouflage a cruelly manipulative power play.
"More," is one. "Enough," is another. But these are just two examples. The issue is an open-ended "complaint" or "need" for which there is no specific answer, no real resolution. Such words are manipulative because they dig a bottomless pit. There is not, in all the world, enough efficient management, salary, love, affection, sympathy or whatever to fill it. Hence digging such a verbal and emotional pit keeps the other party constantly on the defensive, ever striving to meet an unmeetable need. That is manipulative.
Here is how it works and what to do about it.
For some years now I have included that "law" in a lecture at The National Institute of Christian Leadership. I have also lectured on its balancing reality, called "outrunning your market," but that is for another column. There are two questions you should be asking yourself right about now. What does the law mean, and how does it relate to me and my leadership?
It means that cornering the market on some product or service is not a business advantage if that market is disappearing.
Imagine the Acme Scroll company's 1445 board meeting. What I know about entrenched thinking makes me believe that the largest scroll manufacturing company in Europe read about Gutenberg's invention and the stir it was causing and said, “Well, they may sell a few, or even a lot of these printing machines, but there always be a need for scrolls.” Then some years later, the president proudly announced to the board that in the previous year every scroll sold in the all of Europe was an Acme scroll. The next year, Acme went out of business.
Kodak serves as a cautionary non-fictional example. When they were the last film company standing, were they gloating or were they terrified? I was not in the board room, but one must ask, did the disappearance of film catch Kodak's executives by surprise? Was the board prepared and fore-warned or were they shocked and dismayed?
One wants to believe visionaries at Kodak saw it coming from way back and had a plan in place. However, when I recently drove past the vast but nearly empty Kodak plant in Rochester, NY, I saw very little sign of a plan B.
A shift is what causes a market to change or even disappear. There may be many such shifts. Here are three to which leaders must pay attention.
I love basketball, but March Madness doesn't usually affect me, or should I say INFECT me, all that much. I like the intensity of basketball. I especially enjoy it if one of the teams has some particular meaning to me. I served as the president of two universities where basketball fever was pretty intense. I certainly got intense. Referees! What can I say? But that's for another column. Even so, I do not get all that revved up over bracketology. I seldom watch very many of the NCAA tournament games because I almost never have an emotional investment in any of the teams. However, I do occasionally find myself ensconced in my Archie Bunker recliner with a night off, plenty of not very healthy snacks and the relaxed mindset to just enjoy a game that's not likely to give me a heart attack, horrible refereeing notwithstanding.
I recently enjoyed just such an evening when North Carolina played Notre Dame. North Carolina won and won pretty handily but that is not what got my attention. Both teams were wonderfully talented. I suspect several future NBA players were on the court that night. At least one player could probably play there right now. Yet neither was that what really engaged me. Great players. Excellent coaches. A terrific game. Yet I was enthralled with something else.
"Bodies at rest remain at rest. Bodies in motion remain in motion."
Sound familiar? I am quite certain you have heard and quoted Newton's First Law of Motion many times. Nowadays it is most often quoted in respect to exercise, which, since I am disinclined to do myself, I find irritating. Yet, it is actually one of the most important laws of physics.
This law explains, among other things, why seat belts are important. In a moving vehicle, your body is also moving. Hence, if the vehicle stops your body wants to keep moving ---- right out through the windshield!
Newton's Second Law of Motion is not so oft-quoted, but you know it by common sense or at least by observation.
"An object at rest will not begin to move without the application of an unbalanced force, and neither will a body in motion change speed or direction without just such an unbalanced force."
Ok. So what? And how, exactly does any of that apply to leadership?
The National Institute of Christian Leadership was carefully designed with practicality as its preeminent and presiding value. I have developed every page of the NICL material with one idea as my true north. Keep it practical. That was the foundation upon which the NICL was created and it remains my singular determination. I continue to tweak the dials, constantly trying to enrich the material, add to it, carve out the superfluous, and improve the presentation.
This year-long program is now fuller and better and uses more sophisticated technology than ever. There are, for example, well over 275 individual graphic presentations from which the lectures are presented. Hundreds of leaders in business, the ministry, education and even politics have attended and graduated. Many have gone on to seek graduate degrees from multiple universities.
Three college presidents have attended. An Oklahoma state senator attended, as have pastors of mega churches and, in fact, churches of every size. Business persons from real estate to publishing to construction have attended and found the NICL invaluable. Students have commuted (four times in the year of the NICL) from multiple countries including Brunei, Myanmar, Albania, Israel, Canada and Australia among others.
Why? That is a serious question. Why do leaders who are incredibly busy with jobs and companies and large ministries take the time to attend the NICL and subsequently describe the program as "the most important educational experience of my life?” Why would the founder and owner of one of the world's most prominent Christian publishing companies say the NICL "transformed my company?" Why are more than one hundred pastors bringing the Institute to Australia in 2016? Why?
I have spent most my life in leadership at one level or another. My leadership experience began in sports, playing, coaching and officiating. That season was invaluable, as was every subsequent phase of the journey in pastoral leadership, in the non-profit world, in business and in the academic arena. Every step was a laboratory of life and leadership. Then, as I began to teach leadership and management, I searched through all the seemingly random data this journey had provided in an effort to formulate transferable concepts. Had I just accumulated miles on my personal odometer or had I really profited from the trek? I knew where I had been and what I had done. The question remained, what had I learned and could I teach it?
Some say they have had forty-five years of experience when, in fact, they have had one year of experience...forty-five times. THAT I did not want. I wanted to learn from the journey, every step of the journey, including, and perhaps especially, my failures. When I started the National Institute of Christian Leadership, my desired outcomes were clear in my mind. "Keep it practical, keep it real and structure it in an understandable format for anyone at any stage of their leadership." That was it.
One of my favorite quotes goes something like this. "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not." That pithy nugget is credited to many, including the disparate likes of Albert Einstein and Yogi Berra, which in theory makes little difference, but which in practice is a substantial gap. Hence the title of this very column. I am both weary and wary of unproven theories. I care little who believes it to be a so called "best practice." I want to know if it has ever really worked anywhere. Theories that sound great in classrooms and board rooms are quite often exploded by reality.
Increasingly, younger learners are not asking their teachers what they know. That want to know what they have done and how it worked out. One practical ministry student at a well-known grad school talked to me about one of his professors. He made little or no attempt to varnish his poor opinion.
"He is out of it," he said. "Theoretical stuff. I'm sick of it. Every student I know is sick of it. I want to pastor a church. The class he teaches is called Pastoral Leadership, but he has never even pastored a church! How's that work?"
This was no dismissive young know-it-all who despises all professors. He told me he had taken a minor in business and heaped extravagant praise on one of the professors in that department. When I asked him what made that teacher so good, he explained it with passion. "He's been there. He owned his own company. He worked in the corporate world. I just loved listening to him. He didn't just know his stuff. He could point to things in the text book and tell us, ‘That won't work. It's fine in a book, but it won't work in a real business.’ I wanted to take every course he taught. I want ministry classes like that "
It may well be that the most intellectually strenuous role of the senior executive is that of chief decision maker. Whether pastor, company president or governor of a state, the unrelenting barrage of questions demanding answers is enervating to say the least. Perhaps CEO should be changed to Chief Decision Maker (CDM). All this is one of the reasons state governors tend to do better in the White House than legislators. They are used to the constant decisions, at least at the state level.
Where do you want the ...
When should we start the …
Should we buy the ...
Do you want me to sell the ...
Are you going to fire…
And so on and so on and so on. It's never ending.
To complicate matters even more, in any given day none of the decisions may seem to connect. This can leave the CEO with a scattered feeling; the sense that out of all the decisions and meetings and battery of questions, what has been accomplished?
At the National Institute of Christian Leadership, I teach an entire session on decision making. For use in that lecture I have designed what I call the Risk-Reward Decision Making Quadrilateral. I cannot go through the entire teaching in this brief post, but I want to share a few points which I hope will be helpful.
This from Middleton, Idaho:
From inside a house already in flames, the firefighters heard cries of "Fire!" and "Help!"
Obviously there were desperate people trapped inside. The brave firefighters fought their way through only to discover not humans but two parrots. There were no people in the house. KBOI TV in Boise reports that the two birds were rescued in time, given oxygen by the firefighters and are doing well. I have so many questions! One is right there. How did they get the oxygen masks on the birds? I'd like to see that.
The report does not include any background information on who taught the birds to cry, “Fire!” and, “Help!” A second question, please. Were the birds owners prescient? Did they have some premonition about a fire in their future or were they preparing the birds just in case?
"You never know. Someday there just might be a fire while we are out of the house and the birds will be ready."
Another provocative option is that the birds were not taught to scream for help. Did they just know what to say? That's a stretch. But then this entire story is a bit of a stretch.
A man on an airplane told me his organization was considering hiring on a "brand consultant." This interested me since branding and brand recovery is something I teach on at the National Institute of Christian Leadership. As we talked further, however, I realized that he had several words very confused: brand, logo and tag line. Since that conversation I have come to realize that many folks, even in some sophisticated businesses, suffer considerable confusion in this area. What my friend actually was hiring was a "logo design expert." It was not my job to define terms without being asked and our snippet of a conversation certainly did not afford us the time. What I couldn't help wondering was if the company he was consulting with was confused. Surely the consultants will clarify the terms in the course of the contract. For the purpose of today's Notebook: some brief definitions are in order.
Fear of formal education has long existed on the part of some in the Christian world. Unfortunately this has gained and maintained traction because of well-documented "failures of mission" at some major, and shall we say famous, institutions. Their retreat from the values and original purposes that brought them into being have been the subject of broad research and commentary. No one can deny that schools such as Harvard and Yale have drifted far from the dock where they were once moored. Liberals call this drift "maturity." The rest of us see ever so clearly that it is the extinguishing of the lamp lit there at the start.
The Harvard story and many others like it have not made it easy to advocate for higher education, and continuing education, especially in the ministry. Likewise, some in the Christian world, having seen what happened in such schools, have assumed an adversarial posture with ministerial education as a whole. In a culture where education is revered, ministers can marginalize themselves by their lack. I heard someone say recently that, "Letters after your name don't make you any smarter or more anointed." True. Oh, so true.
On the other hand those very letters may open doors. There may be entire populations that prove unreachable by ministers without formal education. Cosmopolitan congregations have a right to expect the pastor to know the difference
At a diverse variety of organizations, across a span of about forty-five years, I experienced leadership at many levels. Nearly twenty years of that time was spent as a CEO, leading organizations with a combined total of about a thousand employees and combined annual budgets of nearly $200M. Throughout that time I was constantly trying to understand better what my real job was. I know that sounds awful. Am I saying that I never knew what I was doing in those positions? Absolutely not.
I am saying I have dedicated myself to trying to understand and teach the various roles of the senior leader. Not the formal duties written out and filed somewhere and pretty much taken for granted. I don't mean specified duties such as
An interest in physics, of all things, is one of the lesser eccentricities of my life. Let me be clear. I am not saying I understand physics. I am simply interested in some aspects of it in the same way I am drawn to opera, which I am, and which is yet another somewhat embarrassing admission. I am certainly no opera aficionado. It's just something that appeals for reasons I cannot fully explain. Often in a language I cannot understand with absolutely unsingable music, opera is a fascinating display of complex staging, antique-sounding music and bizarre costumes all passionately over-done, way over the top, in a way that somehow intrigues me. You just haven't lived until you seen “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Valkyries? Oh, yeah!
Physics has become something like that to me. It is in a language I do not speak. I grant you that. But when I hear it spoken, I am drawn to it. Go figure. This is a late in life aberration. I certainly do not cherish happy memories of the
The Leader's Notebook today is different from anything I have ever posted before. It is, on the one hand, quite clearly an advertisement. I hope it will entice you to attend the National Institute of Christian Leadership. On the other hand, I also want you to know about this Institute even if you never attend. In the first place, it may be that someone you care about would benefit greatly from this program.
I also just want you to know about one of Global Servants' most successful and productive programs. Many of my readers' only connection is through this blog. While I am delighted for such folks, I also want every reader to understand
Every employer has made or eventually will make a bad hire. If you already have this unhappy box checked, welcome to the club. If you have not yet made an unfortunate choice, your seat at the table awaits you. It's probably just a matter of time. If you have made a bad hire and you are merely living in denial, its time to face the truth and "man up."
Having said all that, I want to offer a few insights on the interview process, which thoughts, I believe, can he helpful in making good hiring decisions. No system is infallible. I know that. However, when I have carefully followed a few simple
In the National Institute of Christian Leadership, one topic is devoted entirely to one idea: managing along the horizontal continuum between chaos and control. It is always one of the most popular and engaging of the lecture topics in the whole year. Of course, I am not able, in this brief blog, to treat the concept exhaustively, but I will broach the idea.
Every person, every leader and every organization has an inner compass that points to their true north which lies somewhere on a continuum between utter chaos and absolute control. Some have a high tolerance for chaos. Life in a