Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Enemies of Excellence - by Greg Salciccioli

Bad Habits...
Ignoring family life or friends for the sake of work...
Lack of attention to exercise and health...

And the list goes on...the things that can slowly escalate from annoying habits to outright moral failure and the destruction of all that we say we value in life and ministry. 

Everyone faces these challenges.  Every leader especially faces these challenges.  And every ministry leader is even more at risk as the Deceiver delights in fertilizing the above list in order to destroy the work of the Kingdom.

Greg writes pointedly and succinctly in this book.  He shares the story of 'Rob,' a high-profile ministry leader who eventually crashed in moral failure, losing all that he had worked for.   By tracing Rob's steps backwards, we see the ingredients that contributed to his final crash. 

High profile failures are not uncommon.  It is far too easy to point our fingers at high-profile ministry leaders who endure a public failure and display our sometimes self-righteous shock and horror at what they have done.  It is far more difficult to point the finger inward and ask, 'what am I now doing that, if left unchecked, would bring me to the same result?'  In essence, that is the focus of Greg's book. 

I read this book quickly, breezing past the suggested worksheets and activities NOT because they are disposable, but first, because I wanted to see the big picture layout of Greg's direction in this process.  And second, because I will soon be going through this book piece by piece, step by step, in community: in order to engage deeply each area of my own life that could derail me if left unchecked.  If you desire to glean the utmost value from this book, my suggestion is that you do the same. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful! by Marshall Goldsmith & Mark Reiter

Executive coaching is a growing business.  Renowned coach Marshall Goldsmith gives his perspective on some of the ways that leaders hurt their own staff and effectiveness without even realizing it. 

This book is worth reading.  That being said:

As a believer (Christian), it is my opinion that the ideology of change in this book is flawed . This author is not a believer, and thus, does not write or think like one who is filled with the Spirit.  There is certainly truth in the book, but its not all truth.  The author (1) is almost purely behaviorally oriented and does not focus on the heart of the issues revealed by these behaviors, and (2) believes that the best way to motivate anyone to change is to appeal to natural law: i.e. their basic desire to benefit themselves.  For example, the author believes that if being a less critical person will enable an employee to move up the corporate ladder...then the motivation for lessening their critical comments must come from self-interest: one's personal advancement.  While behavior change is important, changing behavior alone stands in clear contrast with Biblical teaching and Gospel-centered transformation.  I don't recommend reading this book to strengthen your Biblical foundation, however...

I do recommend reading chapters 4&5 that list and describe the top 21 habits leaders have that decrease their effectiveness and irritate their staff.  These habits are:
  1. Winning too much
  2. Adding too much value
  3. Passing judgment
  4. Making destructive comments
  5. Starting with 'No,' 'But,' or 'However'
  6. Telling the world how smart we are
  7. Speaking when angry
  8. Negativity, or 'Let Me Explain Why That Won't Work'
  9. Withholding information
  10. Failing to give proper recognition
  11. Claiming credit that we don't deserve
  12. Making excuses
  13. Clinging to the past
  14. Playing Favorites
  15. Refusing to Express Regret
  16. Not Listening
  17. Failing to Express Gratitude
  18. Punishing the Messenger
  19. Passing the Buck
  20. Excessive Need to Be 'Me'
  21. Goal Obsession
The author's descriptions of those habits (verbal and otherwise) that we all have, but don't realize, are well illustrated so that one cannot help but find two or three or four that hit 'too close to home.'  He points out that most of the time - we are unaware of these habits - and of course we all know that awareness is the first step toward change.

If you decide to continue on:  the final chapters discuss the author's recommended methodology for changing one's behavior:  (1) get honest feedback about yourself and acknowledge its truth, (2) apologize to those you have wronged - this step cannot be skipped, it is crucial, (3) 'advertise' that you are trying to change.  People have a hard time noticing your efforts - you've got to help them see that you're really trying and asking for their help.  (4)  Listening - i.e. active listening that truly engages and shows respect,  (5) Thanking - actively and intentionally acknowledging others efforts and the fact that you could not be a success without them (6) Following Up - change can easily be a passing fad unless you continually and actively check with others about how you are doing  (7) Practicing Feedforward - asking people for positive ideas on how to improve your future behavior (in contrast with negative criticism about your past). 

The above steps are Biblical in every way - not surprising that Scripture could be applied to each step.  I wonder what Marshall would think of that! 

The last few chapters contain some good advice!  I can recommend this book - just know that I don't agree with everything in it. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Failing Forward - by John Maxwell

Have you ever failed at something?  I have.  Have you let the weight of that perceived failure hang over your head longer than it should have?  Another yes for me!

John Maxwell has hit the nail on the head in this outstanding book on learning how to fail forward, in other words, how to learn from your failures so that you don't stay in the same failure-producing patterns.

This book gave me a fresh perspective on the failure/s in my life.  I see them as God's instruments to teach me deep and valuable lessons.  I see them as a way to know who I really am (not who I thought I was!) and what I really need to work on.  I see them as a step toward brokenness.  I see them as an opportunity to develop maturity and resilience so that I can get up, dust myself off, and keep going.  I see them as a milestone, a 'marker' in my life that allows me to ring every drop of growth from it so that I can improve on my future performance. 

When I look over the variety of failures in my life, large or small, I can see clearly that God had something to teach me, and that I needed to learn it through experience. Beck Weather states, "...You never know who you are and what you are until you've really been tested.  You gain a whole lot more from having failure kicked up from around your ears than success could ever teach you." 

More than anything else, I can now more deeply distinguish between something that 'failed' versus seeing myself as a 'failure.'  Big difference.  There is a time for personal learning and growth, and a time to get up and move on and try again. 

Maxwell gives 15 points on how to 'fail forward':
  1. Realize there is one major difference between average people and achieving people.
  2. Learn a new definition of failure.
  3. Remove the 'you' from failure.
  4. Take action and reduce your fear.
  5. Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility.
  6. Don't let the failure from outside get inside you.
  7. Say good-bye to yesterday.
  8. Change yourself, and your world changes.
  9. Get over yourself and start giving yourself.
  10. Find the benefit in every bad experience.
  11. If at first you do succeed, try something harder.
  12. Learn from a bad experience and make it a good experience.
  13. Work on the weakness that weakens you.
  14. Understand there's not much difference between failure and success.
  15. Get up, get over it, get going.
You've got to read the book to understand his points...and its well worth it!  No matter if you are dealing with a small or big failure in your life, or simply preparing for the possibility of it, this is a fantastic book to read.

Its never, ever, ever too late to 'fail forward!'