Sunday, December 6, 2009

“Derailed” by Tim Irwin

How is it that some of the best companies, growing companies with ability and resources to pick the best of the best for leadership, still have to fire CEO's? Did they choose the wrong people? What can smaller companies and non-profits learn from this?


Dr. Tim Irwin answers these questions and more in Derailed, by taking a case study of 6 highly talented and capable CEO's that did not make it in companies such as Home Depot, HP, and Lehman Brothers. Through a wealth of examples demonstrating the repeating patterns in what caused the falls of great leaders, Irwin gives real solutions for preventing this type of collapse. Leadership at all levels from the smallest non-profit to the largest Fortune 25 companies could benefit from this fresh approach to development of the kind of character that has enough strength to prevent the repeated problem of power that corrupts.


While my own leadership positions would be light years removed from the influence held by these case studies, I saw my own weaknesses in some of these CEO's weaknesses. I was challenged to grow in all 4 character traits of authenticity, self management, humility, and courage.




Friday, November 27, 2009

Transparent Thanksgiving

At this Thanksgiving season, we're surrounded with written expressions of thankfulness from many writers, leaders, communicators, friends and acquaintances. Some feel forced, some are preachy, some are light easy reading while a delightful few feel truly transparent. What was it that caused me to react negatively to many that I'm sure were written in the deepest sincerity?


First – preachy. While my life thrives based on my relationship with God and what he reveals to me daily from his word as well as his creation, I find that "preachy" sorts of advice are better received audibly than in writing, perhaps in a face to face gathering where affirming feelings are apparent with the relationship being forefront (i.e. unless the reader has been on a particular search for a certain topic). So I need to balance my expressions of God-given gratitude with the struggle the pilgrims and their native American friends and enemies experienced prior to that first celebrative day. Because it's in the struggle that I find God's outpouring into my life to be the most meaningful to someone else.


Second – forced. Thankfulness. It's a nice topic. As Jim Hawkinson used to say, this is the kind of thing " like apple pie and motherhood", no one wants to be against it. So we ask the question and we who love to express ourselves are quick to communicate. But the answers feel glib. A teacher in China asked her students and they all responded the same, "I'm thankful for family and friends and country," but when the teacher responded with more specific, perhaps transparent reasons she was thankful, the students gasped with open mouths.


Third – light. It's always refreshing to read humor and stories written in a light spirit, but when an article about Thanksgiving is all humor, it too feels contrived – as if the person is covering deeper hurts and vacuums and doesn't want to admit he's really struggling with something for which to be thankful.


Fourth Рtransparent. Those are the ones we all connect to. Because we've all been there, at the edge of the cliff when we weren't sure if the next breeze would just blow us over, when we couldn't imagine how we would ever get to the other side. And at this holiday season, most people have those areas of struggle, perhaps covered by spiritualizing or clich̩s or comedy but they're there Рand it's in hearing those transparent expressions of gratitude from someone else I am inspired to look more carefully at the good things in my life and be grateful Рthis day and every day.


And so I am grateful – for surviving the difficult moments, for God's grace and love that sustains me when I think it's too hard, for the people in my life who reach out when I can't reach. For the memories of the difficult times because they give perspective to the present. For the hope of the future, for knowing that if I am privileged to awake one more day that there is hope, there is life, and that the most oft quoted and favorite proverb of many in Proverbs 3:5,6 is still true … to trust in the Creator, to recognize His place in my life, and to be confident that he has set the path for the next step on the edge of the cliff.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Power of Attention

Book Review: The Noticer by Andy Andrews


Master story teller Andy Andrews combines the best of personal growth teaching, including Chapman's 5 Love Languages, in an Og Mandino style. Jones, a symbol of Jesus, with the ability to relate to anyone from any background in any culture and language, with an understandably supernatural knowledge of one's past, quietly changes the lives of hundreds of people in a small gulf coast beach town by noticing them – caring – establishing rapport – listening = encouraging – guiding – casting vision.


With poignant stories from the homeless orphan living under a pier to the wealth businessman who does not know how to love his wife, these examles demonostrating how toserve others humbly yet powerfully, kept me captivated in one sitting. Personally challenged myself to be more transparent in my own communication as well as to listen more carefully to the cares of people closest to me, this could easily be my favorite modern day parable for becoming all we were made to be. Challenged by Jones' style and persistence in sticking with someone long enough to get to the core of the problem, I found myself anxious about note taking in order to remember as many dialogues as possible. The book includes guidelines for personal or small group study as well, with intergenerational connections from adolescent to antediluvian.

Purpose Beyond Pain

A Book Review: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain, by Paul Meier, MD and David L. Henderson, MD

Expecting a contemporary Paul Tournier, this book being written by physicians, I was initially disappointed that Meier and Henderson didn't discuss physical pain, focusing instead on what they define as the 7 universal struggles (injustice, rejection, loneliness, loss, discipline, failure, and death). Beginning reading somewhat mechanically, I found myself unexpectedly fully engaged by the second section. Seeing myself relatively strong emotionally, I was moved by how often I found myself in this book. Before reading this I would have suggested the bigger publishing need to be modern day references for people of faith dealing with physical pain, but having read it, I will refer others here often.

The lifelong psychiatric experience of the writers has given them a wealth of real life stories with which I believe any reader would find connection, either thru living out that current aspect of pain, having overcome in the past, or being close to people today struggling in that area. The Biblical examples demonstrate that anyone can experience any of these issues, no matter how spiritually strong or successful. Nor did the examples risk the offensive cliché in suggesting every pain has a purpose, but rather there is purpose bigger than the pain. The section conclusions guide the reader to practical steps for overcoming, both immediate "to do's" and spiritual/psychological introspection.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Review: Green by Ted Dekker

The beginning the end, or a point in a circle? Dekker wants the reader to make that choice in this book that converts his triangle (the Red, White, and Black trilogy) into a circle. A story of parallel universes set 2000 years apart, offering perhaps an opportunity to change the future by movement between worlds (hence moving back and forth between history and future), Green demonstrates the apathy and complacency that tends to come with time after any revolutionary life changing experience. Whether a modern science fiction pharmaceutical factory in Bangkok or gatherings in the future that could resemble ancient tribal warriors, the similarities that face western society and in particular the church of 2009 are frighteningly remarkable.

With my own personal reading habits drawn mostly to non-fiction; this was the first science fiction/fantasy story I had read in many years. While I no doubt missed the significance of a few details for not having read any other Dekker books previously, the ongoing development between the two worlds kept the plot suspenseful, and the humanness and feelings in relationships of the lead characters compelled me to keep reading. Inspired by the passion in Thomas and Chelise's desire to lead their people in an unwavering faith that continued to recognize a life without God is a life without hope, I would share this book with avid fantasy readers, anticipating engaging discussions about eternal values.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: The [expanded] Bible, (New Testament), 2009: Nelson.

I was raised on the Scofield Reference Bible, perhaps the first Bible to include commentary and cross references in the text, maybe the leading one of its kind in the mid-20th century. While the original Scofield Reference was strictly for the purpose of aiding in Bible study, a subsequent edition demonstrated strong dispensational theology and, as a result, alienated a lot of potential readers. However, its value as a study tool was undisputed in those days.

The [expanded] Bible takes what earlier reference Bibles have tried to do in middle columns, footnotes, wrap around commentary, and put it all into one readable format. The original translation(New Century) is written in bold, with additional synonyms, relevant other translations, cross-references, textual comparisons, etc included within the text with various forms of brackets and abbreviated symbols to identify the differences. Unlike many reference Bibles, there does not appear to be any theological bias. It takes a little while to get used to all the different suggestions in the midst of the text but once I read a few portions and then went back to the introduction to review the explanations so I could remember what each abbreviation meant, I found the reading much more meaningful. And it is nice not to have to move my eyes all around the page when I'm looking for what a particular reference might be. As a reader, I can choose to just follow the bold type or pause when desired to look at an explanation.

I think this is the kind of translation I will keep in the car to pull out for a spontaneous read during those waiting times or unexpected relaxing times at the beach or park. Doing serious study I like access to tools and technololgy a computer affords, but there are times when it is nice to just pick up a book and read. At those times I appreciate having a little more reference materials available than just a simple pocket Bible. There is adequate space in the margins (along with subtopics and parallel gospel references) for note taking and the print is large enough for all ages of eyes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Falling Down and Getting Back Up

I remember hearing Rich DeVos say one time that someone asked him if he was ever "down". He said, "of course, I just don't like being there. So I've learned to get back up quickly."

I'm thankful for grace, for having grown up in a place that encourages and in fact applauds an understanding of forgiveness. It's not a natural phenomenan by any means. Something very foreign if not almost anti-cultural in many eastern cultures. And I'm sure that even in the west we may claim to understand it but may invest a lifetime learning to truly forgive and receive grace, as God intended it should be experienced and given.

I also remember when I first tried skiing, recognizing how essential it was to learn to get up. Falling is a given. Without the ability to easily get up, feeling somewhat spastic at the beginning, extended legs and arms flailing everywhere on a slippery sloping surface, one can at best hope to just slide down the hill on one's rump and take the rest of the day to nurse a wet body, freezing nerves and aching muscles. But getting up successfully lets one try again, and keep on trying, until the joy of coming down the hill, under control, clean crisp air, white and blue surroundings, beautiful mountain views changing every moment takes over and the rewards of having humbly repeated process of falling and struggling to get up again reign in one's experience and memory.

So whether it's mental, such as lack of a desired discipline (in this case writing every day) or emotional (absence of self control in relationships), physical (repeatedly doing the wrong thing to one's body), spiritual (such as ignoring God's call in an area that requires some sacrifice) or whatever area, falling down is part of the journey. Getting up, with an attitude of forgiveness towards self, of recognizing it is God's grace that sustains us no matter whether we do what we believe is right or wrong, is just as important as staying up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goalsetting...Fruition or Failure

When my son was around 14, he went off to his boy's choir rehearsal smiling one day because he had just set some new goals for his life - as I recall related to school and discipline in homework. When I asked him later how was choir, he shook his head and with a faint smile, waving his hand in a circle, answered, "Well you know how it is when you set a goal." "Oh?" I continued the conversation. "Well you know Mom, everything goes wrong to discourage you. That's how I felt at choir tonight - it seemed I coudn't do anything right." I listened to his story of the details of choir rehearsal and wondered what that had to do with homework. He continued, "But I know it's not about choir; it's about the goal."

Writers on the topic of goal setting are great at analyzing why people don't set goals. They talk about fear (of success as well as failure), perfectionism, too much work to achieve, not worth it when the results do come. But not so often do they talk about this reality - that there will be attacks on one's spirit and belief the moment new goals are set. Attacks that might purify the motivation and tests to be sure that one is really committed. Those who don't know they are coming will rarely get past the 3rd day (at the most) to keep working in the newly determined direction.

If you climbed inside my journal (and it's obvious from looking at dates on this blogsite), you would know I had the attacks. The taunts that say,"Are you SERIOUS?" "What, you really think you're going to write every day?" "And what makes you think you have anything to say?" "Besides, of course, you know Solomon taught there is nothing new under the sun - and that was how many milleniums ago? Why would you ever think there is something new coming from you today?"

And so they go. They come in many forms - not the least of which is the mind. But they also come in more measurable distractors - sickness, negative financial surprises, a new challenge with a child or teenager, extrinsic crises in work, family, community. The list is infinite.

And so I must ask, "Can I do this for 21 days? How about 3 months of 21 days? How about 3 seasons of 3 months of 21 days?" Then I might be able to believe the new habit is set, the change has taken place, and growing into a little more of the person I was created to be might be actual reality.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Writing - a Discipline and a Risk

For years I've struggled with guilt of not disciplining myself to write, being asked and even beseeched by others to go through the energy (and perhaps tedium) of putting my thoughts into written word. Struggling to change, I've written affirmations and goals for the same. Write daily. every other day. On the weekend. Sunday afternoon - it could be rest. Yet no change. Today, however, in committing to a day of rest, I determined read what others said about writing - and in so became totally convicted through a facebook reference to a Michael Hyatt blog, leading to more reading of his blogs that talked of blogging as being the aboslute requirement for 21st century publishing, I finally succombed. I can post my motly thoughts up there in Cyberspace for all to see.

So Michael said the first part is to do it. The second part is to build a following. What? Ask peoople to come and voluntarily read my writing? As if this is something that will reward them, satisfy them, encourage them, make their day better? Yes, it is something I must do. He said it will exercise my practice in using words, and of course it will, but even more, it will exercise my practice in confident communication, confident expresison, confident living.

And so I embark on this journey - to become the person I was created to be. To risk creating boredom in others, criticism, snickering smiles, but to look for the opportunity to share the word that might encourage someone to take one more breath, experience one more day, live one more dream, with an attitude of expectatncy that lets loose those serendipities of life that await that one.