Difficult Conversations as Opportunity [Guest Blog Post]

Co-Active LeadershipA client continues to miss calls. One of your direct reports is missing important deadlines. You need to let someone go…a customer, a client, an employee, a significant other. Difficult conversations.

These challenges are an important part of what it means to be in relationship with other people. In each instance, there is an opportunity to create clean “AIR” – to step more fully into Authenticity, to point towards greater Intimacy, to grow ever more Responsible for one’s own learning. Sounds good, right?

And yet we tend to avoid these difficult conversations like the dickens. We procrastinate and blame. We fashion elaborate emails to make our point. We ignore the problem, hoping things will improve on their own. We do just about everything except, as Lady Macbeth says, screw our courage to the sticking place and wade into a difficult conversation.

Difficult conversations don’t have to be fractious. Often we focus on the problem rather than the opportunity and person. When we have to fire someone, we tend to put our attention on the problem to be solved rather than the human being. It’s not about stepping over anything or making nice, but about “I hear and understand your position, you hear and understand mine. They may be different but what do we still share? A goal? Some values? A vision?”

The AIR acronym is useful here. The AIR has become somewhat toxic. This conversation is an opportunity to generate cleaner AIR so that everyone, most particularly you, can breathe more freely.

Authenticity: What is the authentic truth that needs to be spoken? What are the values you need to honor in this conversation? Note that being right or self-righteous is not a value that anyone’s authentic self truly holds. I’m talking about values like integrity, honesty, communication, clarity, heart, etc.

Intimacy: Where do you need to put your attention so that you can be fully present with the person that is there, rather than the one you wish was there or think should be there? It’s useful in difficult conversations to distinguish the person from the issue. Whatever the issue, the other person is still worthy of your respect and compassion simply because they draw breath. This doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on the action that needs to be taken. Performance issues still need to be corrected. People still need to be let go. You still need to leave a relationship that no longer serves you. All of these actions can proceed with dignity and respect and love.

Responsibility: Begin by looking at how you have contributed to the current situation. Any relationship challenge is co-created and it is useful to own your part. You have very little control over another person’s response and infinite choice about your own conduct.

There are several Co-Active skills that will help you stay grounded and clear if you work on developing them:

  1. Curiosity– Come from a curious place of wanting to explore and understand the other’s perspective. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your point of view to want to learn about theirs. It shows you care about them, hold their view as valid and are looking for alignment. It also makes them less defensive.
  2. Deep Listening– We think we listen and we don’t, especially when we’re anxious. What helps is to breathe, relax the body, and really try to listen to what’s being said, knowing you don’t have to agree or disagree.
  3. Acknowledgement– To enhance the connection, help the other person feel held, seen and known, acknowledge them. It puts the focus on the relationship rather than the problem. Don’t praise what they do but notice who they are, who they’re being in this conversation. People are astonished when they receive real acknowledgements, it’s so rare.

The most important thing about difficult conversations is to have them. Have lots of them. Let them get messy and human and real. After all, that’s what being a human being is all about…your human-ness and your human-mess. Let go of the illusion that you are supposed to have it all together and step into the freshness and liberation of clean AIR in all your relationships.

This post was originally published on The Huffington Post on 5/10/2013.

Karen Kimsey-House is the co-author of Co-Active Leadership and Co-Active Coaching. Additionally, she is the co-founder and CEO of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. Learn more about Karen’s work at http://www.thecoaches.com or connect with her on Twitter @kkimseyhouse


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The Dangers of Emotional Decision Making [Guest Post]

disciplined leader

The ability to make good decisions can make or break your career over time. Yet, a really bad decision can end your career in an instant.

Over the past 55 years, our clients have consistently told us they made some of their worst decisions when they were emotional. While emotions can guide us, they also can trigger reactive feelings that alter our perspectives and prevent us from understanding what’s really going on at a given moment. Making important decisions when emotional can also hinder logic and weaken our ability to reach vital goals.

As a leader, you’re going to get mad, worry, or feel frustrated at times. It’s normal–but stay the course. Recognize those emotions but then learn how to avoid making rash, reactive decisions that could hinder goal achievement by taxing your time, money, or other such precious resources.

With the leaders we coach, we’ve noticed that poor choices, as a result of reactive, emotional decisions, commonly happen in the following areas of business. Can you relate?

Dealing with poor performers. It’s all too easy to demote or even fire someone when you’re reacting emotionally to poor performance. But when you’re feeling frustrated and tempted, find a way to cool off. Then manage that person with your head, not your heart, avoiding any tendencies to let reactivity and emotions dictate your leadership habits or create any passive-aggressive tendencies. Discipline yourself to stay cerebral, keeping your focus on the person, and don’t make their poor performance about you or the company.

Managing conflict. Learning to effectively manage conflict and decision-making applies to your professional and personal life. With both, find ways to practice setting emotions aside when making important choices. Allow emotions to be but resist the urge to get fired up, match their energy level, and react immediately and perhaps erroneously. Develop a plan you can follow and trust for healthy decision-making. For example, perhaps when feeling angry or otherwise emotional, you may promise yourself to wait 24 hours before responding. In this time, you may commit to gathering more facts and how you’ll communicate productively and proactively.

Career changes. In the past, we’ve coached many professionals who told us that they were sick of a boss—and suddenly quit an otherwise great job because of it. After leaving, however, they ended up regretting the rash decisions because they found themselves out of work and that the job search was more difficult than anticipated. Looking back, these same people realized making career changes is a very serious matter and that when they used their wits instead of their emotions to guide professional decisions, they were less apt to make costly mistakes. If you’re ever facing that same situation, try not to jump ship in response to desperation, anger, or other emotions. Use your off-the-clock time to build a job-hunting plan and then be purposeful and proactive about following it.

As leaders, when else are we prone to make emotionally based decisions?

Originally published April 3, 2015

John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), and author of The Disciplined Leader – now available on Amazon. Learn more about his work at www.disciplinedleader.com, or connect with him on Twitter @JohnMManning.

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Transform Yourself With These Examples from Wind In your Sails

This is a guest blog post from my new friend David Greer. David is an author, serial entrepreneur, lifelong sailor, and success coach, focusing on strategic planning, sales, and excellent customer service to achieve personal breakthrough in both life and business.

In my book Wind In Your Sails: Vital Strategies That Accelerate Your Entrepreneurial Success, I highlight ten entrepreneurs who have led themselves and their companies in new directions. I want to share some of these stories to highlight Joshua Lee Henry’s theme of transformation in this blog.

Bob Park, Founder and CEO Fincad

Bob Park founded Fincad twenty-five years ago to solve pressing challenges in the modern over-the-counter financial derivatives business. The story of Bob Park is so much more than the products and solutions he and his company have created. This is a people story highlighting:

  1. Financial risks Bob took to start the business.
  2. Courage for Bob to bring in outsiders to objectively look at their business and then to take it on the chin when Bob himself was identified as part of the problem.
  3. Reinventing the business and the people to take Fincad in a completely new direction.

Bob has transformed his business in ways that he could never have envisioned when he started it. His growth and example show all of us how we can transform ourselves in whatever role we play in our businesses and community.

James Shaw, Founder Twin Creek Media

James founded Twin Creek Media out of necessity. He had recently graduated from a two-year marketing program. Jobs were paying half what James needed to support his wife and young family. Left with no choice, he founded Twin Creek Media and worked harder than he ever had before to make it a success.

James had to learn and grow continuously in the ten years since he started the business. While everyone else was saying they needed to specialize, James break through moment was when he realized that in their market what business owners wanted was a one stop marketing services firm who could look after all of an entrepreneur’s marketing needs. The exact opposite of what the experts were saying.

In the early days, James scrambled from client to client to make ends meet. What this taught him was that he would fail. As he says in Wind In Your Sails, “Get over it.” James gives all of us insight into how we can transform ourselves by taking on new challenges, knowing that some of them will fail, but that we will learn and grow from them.

Murray Goldberg, Founder Marine Learning Systems

Murray Goldberg is one of the leading North American experts on Learning Management Systems (LMS). As I wrote in Wind In Your Sails, Murray was engaged by BC Ferries, one of the largest ferry operators in the world, to look at their training systems. BC Ferries committed themselves to having the best training in the world.

Murray joined a small team that looked at how BC Ferries did their training. The group identified the key requirements of an effective commercial maritime electronic training program. This included capabilities for non-vessel specific core competencies along with specific training that was unique to each vessel and the equipment used on board that vessel. The solution had to also work on the ship, away from any Internet connection, and at home away from the ship.

This is completely different from how any other LMS works in the maritime industry. By focusing on the unique aspects that every individual needs to learn and ultimately to be safe, and to keep passengers safe, Murray and his team have created a special system that is transforming learning throughout the maritime industry.

In my book Wind In Your Sails, I feature ten innovative business leaders who transform both themselves and their industries. What do you need to transform you and your community today?

wind in your sails

wind in sails 2

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Is Your Gospel Too Small? Book Review of “Revangelical”

Is there nothing more to being an “evangelical Christian” other than simply voting conservative in politics, embracing a capitalistic view of economy, and preaching the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, meant for establishing the morality code of a society? Is the developed and free world, namely the United States of America, really a foretaste of Heaven’s coming reality on earth? Does Jesus’ command to “love your enemy” include Muslims and liberals? These questions, and the gross misconceptions they represent, address just some of the issues that Lance Ford tackles head on in his new book Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be published by Tyndale Momentum.

Unfortunately, my preceding list of general inquires captures the heart’s concern and stereotype of many whom claim to be in the evangelical camp. As a self-identified, evangelical, I myself am thankful for this new book and the gentle correction it brings, not just to poor theology, but more importantly, for a repentance and renewal of the genuine Christian life.

Lance is a speaker, consultant and cofounder of the Sentralizled conferences. He is also on the national leadership team for the Forge America missional training network and is a board member for Missio. Like his previous books, Right Here, Right Now”, coauthored with Alan Hirsch, (2011) “Unleader” (2012), andThe Missional Quest” coauthored with Brad Brisco (2013), “Revangelical” (2014), is a prophetic call to action for the Western Church at large.

As the title of this book suggests, Lance believes there is a need in the North American Church to “recalibrate”, “reunite”, “restore”, and “reposition” (just some of the chapter titles), our current understanding of the Gospel and how it is shared with others.   

As a native Texan who came to faith during the Cold War era, Ford learned early on that the Pledge of Allegiance held equal, if not more weight, than the Lord’s Prayer. In the time period that saw the emergence of Ronald Reagan and the “Religious Right”, the Good News of the Kingdom of God was also sadly reduced to the articulation of “four spiritual laws” and a sales pitch for cosmic fire insurance. Indeed for some, the gospel has become too small.

So what is a “Revangelical”? Lance gives definition to his made-up word by stating that revangelicals are really just a new breed of evangelicals that are converted to the entire gospel in authentically living by the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, to be Good News people in the world. Lance writes that “Revangelicals are followers of Jesus who have moved beyond merely favoring Jesus with their belief in him and have committed themselves to actually following him with the substance of their day-to-day lives. They take Jesus’ words very personally, and often quite literally, and are convinced that his example is indeed a livable model and standard for us to emulate. Revangelicals are those who seek to live their lives as Good News people for the Kingdom of Heaven, even if it costs them the American Dream” (p. 19). 

He goes on to explain how the word “evangelical” comes from the same word as “gospel” and that as Christians or followers of Jesus; we are to be disciples who embody the Good News, right here, right now.  Continuing, Lance states that “Revangelicals have come to the conclusion that if what Jesus taught and commanded is too impractical for the real world, then the real world must be false” (p. 20).

Recently I had coffee with a young “twenty-something” who is currently attending a small Bible college. As we sat talking to each other from across the table, my spirit became troubled. He told me of how during the first two weeks of his evangelism class, the professor focused more on teaching flashy communication techniques, apologetic arguments, and models for conversion that seemed all too formulaic. Not a single mention of the Kingdom, no talk of mercy and compassion, and an apparent absence of anything that sounded like a pleasant and joyful announcement. However, as Lance Ford explains, that is the very kind of exclamation Jesus made as he embarked upon his public ministry. In Luke 4:18-19, we read that just after his baptism, Jesus walked into the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath, and declared that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (NRSV).

Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus makes a public announcement that preaches grace, justice, salvation, and abundance. The Good News Jesus made known, resembled the declaration of the year of Jubilee. During this time, family, freedom, and forgiveness were available to all. This is the kind of Good News evangelicals should be known for. Instead of messages of hate and damnation, revangelicals preach heaven come near and demonstrate it in both word and action. As the saying goes, revangelicals are more known by what they stand for, what Jesus stated as love, rather than what they stand against. Truly, love is the greatest gift; ripest of all spiritual fruit and the number one marker by which the world can tell we are Christ’s disciples.

Through stories from his own life and the lives of other revangelicals, Lance makes clear that this love, the love that compelled God to send His only Son into the world to die as an eternal sacrifice, is exhibited in the Church when we incarnate the Gospel into our neighborhoods, identify with the poor and marginalized, value stewardship over ownership, and confess salvation in Jesus more than condemning sinners and casting judgment.

Revangelicals share the earth shattering news of God’s Kingdom breaking forth into our reality by the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. They place their hope in a bloodied and wooden cross, stained red by the shedding of God’s life for the reconciling of creation, instead of a flagpole. It is not the stars and stripes of the good old red, white, and blue revangelicals commit their life to, but the scars of Christ and the stripes of His wounds in which we find our healing.

Ford clarifies the Kingdom of God as being neither communist nor socialist, but admittedly communal and social. Revangelicals put their trust in the Lamb not the elephant or donkey. They understand life as exiles sent on mission to live in but not of the world.

As a millennial Christian leader, pioneering missional communities on multiple university campuses, I have become all too familiar with the research on the “nones” –those that identify as “no religious affiliation” and the negative attitudes postmoderns have towards all things church. Ford makes clear that it is not relevance that will attract younger generations, but a fresh encounter with the Risen Lord. This type of ministry service brings the Kingdom of God right into the center of the local community. One of my favorite stories of how Lance fleshes this out with the church planters he coaches involves driving around Kansas City’s Troost Avenue, the line of socio-economic demarcation with U2’s song “Where the Streets Have No Name” on a constant replay loop in the car.

Through the practical experience of Lance’s frontline ministry adventures and his engagement with the current missional church movement, he shares how advancements in the Church’s future can be found in the remembering of great missionary heroes of years past. For this I am thankful Ford draws on the rich well of wisdom found in the missiological writings of E. Stanley Jones. First addition copies of “Christ at the Round Table” (1928), “The Christ of Every Road” (1930) and “Conversion” (1959) sit atop my office desk. In our current pluralistic age, there is much to be learned from this great peacemaker and missionary to India. Jones truly embodied the Good News of Jesus Christ to a country that had nearly as many Hindu gods as its population count.   In a brief statement to close a chapter section, Ford summarizes his argument by saying “Revangelicals are those Christians who seek to live their lives as Jesus would live if he were us” (p. 51).

Complete with an accompanying website (www.revangelicalbook.com), supplementary videos, small group resources, and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, “Revangelical” is a timely resource for the Church and presents an incredible opportunity for ambassadors of the Kingdom to embrace the Good News.


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An Essential Guidebook for Journeying With the Missional Church

The Missional QuestThere have only been a handful of books that I have really, really anticipated the release of in the last few years. While there are always new books on the publishing horizon, there are only a select few that I eagerly await for their arrival.The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church for the Long Run” (2013) by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco was one such book. I had it “saved for later” in my Amazon shopping cart since the day it became available for pre-order online. However, thanks to my friends at InterVarsity Press, I was provided a complimentary review copy in exchange for this honest critique.

While I know that at the time of this writing we are already more than halfway through 2014, I still contend that “The Missional Quest” is not only one of the best new books available for understanding the missional church, but is also one of the best books to date, as an introduction  to the theological implications of the subject. Scripturally sound and full of practical advice, I recommend “The Missional Quest” as essential reading on the topic. But don’t just read the book, live its’ message, as echoed from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: Here I am, SEND ME!

Divided into two parts –Section One: Fostering a Missional Mindset (How Should My Church Be Thinking?) and Section Two: Fostering a Missional Posture (What Steps are Necessary?), Lance and Brad spend nine chapters fleshing out what it means for a church to think with  missional orthodoxy and live with missional orthpraxy. With back and forth chapters written by each author, Lance and Brad cover relevant themes such as the theology of the missio Dei (chapter one) “Rhythms of Inner Formation” (chapter two), and the missional opportunities presented by post-Christendom (chapter three).  It is in these beginning chapters that the authors lay the foundation of a gathered and scattered church, explain the spectrum that exists between attractional-extractional and missional-incarnational, and promote a dependency on the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps my favorite segment of the book is chapters four through seven. Each of these chapters focuses on building authentic relationships and being intentional about incarnational mission. Starting with chapter four “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the authors look at Jesus’ greatest commandment of showing love by creating vibrant communities, ministering to those next door, seeking the welfare of the city, and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Chapter five presents a biblically radical case for hospitality and offers tangible insights to making it happen. Chapter six discusses the value of what are called “third places”, a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his seminal book “The Great Good Place” (1989). Building on Oldenburg’s definition, the authors describe third places as “a public setting that hosts regular, voluntary and informal gatherings of people. It is a place to relax. It is a place where people enjoy visiting. Third places provide the opportunity to know and be known. They are places where people like to ‘hang out’ (p.136). Lance and Brad then cover the eight key characteristics of the conventional third place as defined by Oldenburg and essentially synthesis his work with that of Robert Putnam’s bestselling title “Bowling Alone” (2000) and Peter Block’s “Abundant Community” (2010). While these books are more sociological than missiological in study, with their acumens combined, Lance and Brad do an incredible job at highlighting the church’s opportunity for mission, our culture’s desperation for community, and the pitfalls of individualism that has undergirded our increasing postmodern society.

However, it was chapter seven, subtitled “Small Groups Becoming Missional Communities” that really grabbed my attention during my initial scan of the table of contents. Missional Communities seem to be all the rave right now. And while there have been whole books written on the subject matter (see for example “Missional Communities by Reggie McNeal, and “Leading Missional Communities” by Mike Breen), there is still some confusion as to how a church can “launch” missional communities out of a preexisting small group structure. In a short and clear definition, Lance and Brad explain that “Misisonal Communities are groups of people who commit to living their lives with devotion of heart, mind, soul, and strength in the three spheres of relationship with the Lord” (p. 153). These three spheres, described by founder of the Vineyard movement, John Wimber as Father, family, field, or perhaps more commonly known as “up, in, and out”, courtesy of 3dm, are basically the Christian’s relationship to God, the Church, and the world. As Mike Breen has noted elsewhere, missional communities are not the end goal in and of themselves. But rather they operate as a vehicle to take people to the desired outcome of “oikos”, a Greek word meaning “household” or in this context, a spiritual family on mission. While Brad and Lance do not use the term oikos in their chapter, they do mention the Greek word “koinonia”, translated as fellowship or more accurately, partnership. They state that “It is a mistake to think of missional communities as groups that do mission together. We prefer to think of them as groups of missionaries” (p. 155). Therefore, they suggest building community around the mission, and providing opportunities for everyone to join in.

After outlining the principles of mutual commitment, accountability, and devotion, found in Acts 2:42-46, they then unpack several of the “one another” passages in Scripture and present the acronym “LIGHT” to help memorize and embody five missional habits. The letters in LIGHT stand for Listen to the Holy Spirit, Invite others to share a meal, Give a blessing, Hear from the Gospels, and Take inventory of the day. Similar to Mike Frost’s “BELLS” and Dave Ferguson’s “BLESS”, Lance and Brad describe how living by the acrostic LIGHT, taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16), “becomes the outline for the sharing portion of the group time” (p. 165).

Chapter eight tackles developing leaders, or servant followers, through the discipleship process, raising up and sending out the priesthood of believers, and equipping each and every church member in his or her fivefold ministry of Ephesians four. Finally, chapter nine addresses how to create a new scorecard for “success” in the local church by ultimately asking a series of self-diagnostic questions that measure the missional effectiveness of activity outside of the four walls of the church. Celebrating stories to create a “tipping point” for mission, embracing risk, and prayerfully discerning what God is already doing, are all also parts of “Having a Great Trip”, the heading of chapter nine. Finally, an appendix of the “Sending Passages” in the Gospel of John is included for personal or corporate reflection.

Lance and Brad are thinking practitioners and participant observers who provide an immense amount of wisdom. Through their ministry as authors, church planters, consultants, and co-founders of the Sentralized Conference in Kansas City, I am thankful for the voice and influence of these two in the continuing conversation of the missional church.

In closing I would like to take a moment to recommend all of the other books in the Forge InterVarsity series, especially, “Incarnate(2014) by Michael Frost and “Sentness” (2014) by Kim Hammond and Darren Crownshaw.

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“He Said… She Said… & You?” Guest Interview with Blogger and Author Paul Sohn

'He Said, She Said, and You' - Paul SohnIf you haven’t picked up my good friend Paul Sohn’s revised edition of “He Said… She Said… & You? A Pitstop for Inspiration”, then you need to immediately. This is an incredible resource that Paul is offering, simply as a service and blessing to others. While I am glad to have endorsed the book, I am even more grateful to call Paul a dear brother in faith. He has a genuine heart for equipping a generation to be Christ-centered and intentional world changers. This book is a perfect example of how he is doing it. One of my favorite quotes that Paul mentions in the “C” chapter is a statement made by D.L. Moody : “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” This book shows how Paul’s reputation, and character, precede him. Below is my guest interview with Paul. Way to go! I’m proud of you brother.

1) Your book “He Said, She Said and You?” is full of inspirational quotes for intentional living. But I’m curious, what is your all time favorite quote?

One quote that has made a profound impact in shaping my life and worldview comes from C.S. Lewis. He said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” As this quote percolated through my mind, I could appreciate the richness, depth, and beauty behind this truth. This is my first encounter of a quote that has made a lasting, life-changing transformation in my life.

2) Similar to the quote question, what is your favorite Bible verse or Scriptural passage?

In the season of my life today, the Bible verse that God seems to have planted in my heart comes from Job 8:5-7 which says, “If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.”

3) You and I are both avid readers, would you mind explaining your book selection process?

I’ve always believed that reading the “right” books matter. Franz Kafka said it best: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” First, I generally focus on several topics that interest me most that align with my passion and purpose. For me, that would be leadership, purpose, growth, and Christianity. Then, I usually search for books that thought-leaders in these respective areas recommend as “must-reads.” I also follow magazines and periodicals in these areas for book reviews, which is a great source of reading great books. I also tend to rely on Amazon reviews for selecting the right books as well. I use Amazon.com Wish List to catalogue all the books I need to read based on each category. There are other great books currently in the market that serves as an excellent resource to help find read great books such as, “The Best 100 Business Books of All Time.”

4.) Besides the Bible, what three books have had the most impact on your life?

I can’t forget the time I finished reading Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” The book was written by holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who observed that people who survived were those who had a laser-like focus on living which was undergirded by a sense of hope. The narrative Frankl writes in his story utterly changed my perspective on how I appreciated life and the importance of finding purpose and meaning in life. The second book which were formative in my development as a leader is John Maxwell’s classic “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” I learned how leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. Leadership is a mindset, lifestyle, skillset that needs to be intentionally cultivated to fulfill the purpose God has given me. Lastly, I have been profoundly impacted by the ministry of Ravi Zacharias. “Walking from East to West” is a biographical account of his life story. His passion to serve the Lord through articulating his faith through philosophy and science helped me strengthen my faith.

5) What is God currently teaching you?

God is teaching me to build a strong foundation in this season of my life; that is, to build a godly foundation by cultivating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I’ve experienced and realized the seduction and lure of attaining power, money, and status. Without a strong sense of character, it’s so vacillate back and forth and succumb to the flesh. Everyone has vices that are like “thorn in the flesh” that must be overcome to fulfil God’s calling in our lives. For me, it’s a sense of pride in myself and the work I pursue. I need to always remind myself to surrender myself, crucify my flesh and let God take the reign. I believe God is leading me instill a sense of unshakable foundation so that as John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  

Paul Sohn blogs at www.paulsohn.org. Paul’s an organizational chiropractor, kingdom-minded influencer, and intentional leader and works for The Boeing Company. He writes about his perspectives on intentional living, growth, leadership, and the Christian life. You can also find him on Facebook. For a limited time, he is offering his new quote book, “He Said, She Said, and You?” for FREE. To download his book, click HERE.

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[Book Review] “People-Pleasing Pastors” by Charles Stone

people-pleasing pastorsThe subtitle of this new book says it all: “Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership“. The author is Charles Stone, lead pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario and founder of StoneWell Ministries.

There is definitely a need in the Body of Christ for this very important book. I know first-hand from church consulting, that often because of their public position; pastors and ministry leaders feel they can’t be open about their weaknesses, past wounds, or sense of inferiority. Unfortunately, those without any appropriate accountability and encouraging relationships, often have the tendency to fall into a rut of confusion, frustration, and potentially an extremely immoral sin or crime.

Hopefully, with the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the findings presented in this study, more pastors will seek inner-healing and will be able to serve the Bride of Christ fruitfully and faithfully.

People-Pleasing Pastors” is part pastoral care for ministers, part personal discovery and self-awareness, and part psychology and neuroscience. The author describes his work as a “3B” approach: the first B is for the “Bible”, the source of all written truth. The second is for the “brain” and corresponding functional MRI research. And finally, the third B is for “Bowen” as in Dr. Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist who developed a perspective on how people process their internal world, as well as relational issues and dealing with difficult emotions like anxiety.

The seven steps Stone provides for a solution can be remembered with the acronym “PRESENT”. In sequence they are “probe your past”, revisit your values”, “expose your triangles” “search for your gaps”, “engage your critics”, “nurture your soul through mindfulness”, and “tame your reactivity”.

Stone has a pretty extensive family genogram exercise that he recommends, in chapter 4 “The Rearview Mirror Look”. For me this was the most helpful chapter of the book and has surprisingly stayed in the background of my thinking, far longer than I thought it would. This process of reflection is especially helpful when it comes to analyzing your family’s history and how that shapes your personality. It is also eye-opening when the topics of unhealthy generational cycles and the effects of ancestral sins are exposed. Some of the questions Stone suggests pastors work through include asking “what effect did birth order have on your family?” “Do any addictions run in your family?” and “How did your family handle anger and conflict? The good news is that Stone also offers advice on how to find freedom in Christ, and reminds pastors that they are not imprisoned by the negative events of their past. These unresolved issues however if not addressed, are typically the main contributing cause for the desire pastors have to please congregants and avoid confrontation.

Statistically backed up by a large survey of one thousand pastors done through LifeWay Research, Stone presents his “PRESENT” solution with relevant findings, sound biblical reference, and helpful practices for moving forward, listed in Appendixes’ A and B: “The Seven-Day Personal Development Plan” and “The Eight-Week Team Development Plan”, respectively. In the first addendum, Stone unpacks two more acrostics, “BEETS” and “RIPE” and explains how each can help pastors move from trying to make people happy, to ministering to their felt needs.

Each section of the book has a “chapter snapshot” and includes a “take away” list of comments and questions. Included are snippets of advice and wisdom from some well-known pastors, such as Dave Ferguson, Pete Scazzero, Lance Witt, and Dr. Elmer Towns. With a foreword by Ed Stetzer, and supported by strong endorsements from Thom Rainer, Larry Osborne and Aubrey Malphurs, I highly recommend “People-Pleasing Pastors” and the lessons it teaches on the inner-workings of a leader’s life. That’s why I am so thankful to Charles Stone for producing this study and to IVP Praxis publishing the book and providing this reviewer with a complimentary copy.

For further reading on the inner health of pastoral leaders, I’d suggest Kevin Harney’s book “Leadership from the Inside Out: Examining the Inner Life of a Healthy Church Leader” (2007), “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction” (1997) by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima, and “Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness” (2006) by Dan Allender.

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