Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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4 Reasons to Consider Starting a Faith and Work Book Club in Your Workplace

book-club
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed participating in a Faith and Work Book Club in my workplace. We meet early on a Friday morning and are currently working on our fifth book since the group began. It’s a highlight for me each week as I get together with a small group of peers to discuss the book and how to integrate our faith and work and be a positive influence and representative of Christ in our workplace.

I can think of 4 reasons that you should consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club in your workplace:

  1. To help others with the concepts of calling and vocation. While some people think of their work as a career, many think of it as just a “job”, and a way to pay the bills. They look forward to each weekend and can’t wait for retirement. In your Faith and Work Book Club, you help participants see their work as a clear calling from the Lord. They can see that the work they do Monday through Friday in the workplace is a way to serve the Lord.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24)   

  1. To show the value of “secular” work in comparison to “full-time Christian ministry”. Many believers (and I used to feel this way) don’t think that their secular work has value in God’s eyes. Yes, their jobs provide for their families and allow them to support their churches and missionaries, but does God really care about what a computer programmer does in an insurance company, for example? In other words, can they code for the glory of God? I’ve seen the light come on when people realize that the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”!

One of the books we have read and discussed is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. In the chapter entitled “Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5”, Piper writes:  “Seek to do your work in such a way that Christ looks more important than your work. Seek to make and use money in such a way that Christ looks more important than money. Seek to have relationships with people in the workplace such that Christ is more important than those relationships”.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

  1. I know far too many people who are unhappy in their jobs. When you are unhappy in your job, it can easily carry over into your home life, negatively impacting relationships with your spouse and children. I’m also aware of some who have actually retired earlier than originally planned because they were unhappy in their work. You don’t want your group to become a “gripe session”, but you do want it to be a place of encouragement.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (2 Thessalonians 5:11)

  1. Prayer and Fellowship. A Faith and Work Book Club can be a place in which rich relationships can be made and strengthened. We share what is going on in our lives and pray for each other (and others) in our group.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

These are just 4 reasons that I can think of why you should consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club where you work. Do you have others? Have you started a Faith and Work Book Club in your workplace? If so, please let us know what your experience has been. And feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about how to start a Book Club in your organization.

There are many excellent books being published to help us integrate our faith and work. Here are 5 that I would recommend that you consider for your Book Club:

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

How Then Should We Work

How Then Should We Work? by Hugh Whelchel

 


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10 BOOKS LEADERS SHOULD READ

I enjoy reading leadership and personal development books to continue to grow as a leader. I have a number of favorite leadership and/or business authors. They include John Maxwell, Malcom Gladwell, Patrick Lencioni, Ken Blanchard, Marcus Buckingham, Jim Collins, Andy Stanley, Mark Miller and Dave Kraft.
It was hard to come up with just a few, but here are 10 books that I would recommend that leaders consider reading.  Just click on the links to read my reviews or highlighted passages:

  1. Five Dysfunctions-001The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This is one of the most helpful books that I’ve read and I continually go back to it time and again, often recommending it to others. It is helpful in any setting in which you work with a team – business, church, non-profit, sports, etc. In this book Lencioni follows his usual practice of using a fictional account (fable) to make his points in an interesting manner, and then summarizing those points in the last section of the book.
Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional. This is inevitable because they are made up of fallible, imperfect human beings. This is an excellent book on team dynamics and teamwork. Being written as a fable allows the reader to get a vivid picture of how a team interacts and what it feels like to be part of a successful team. This is a quick read, the author’s model is simple and the book is full of practical advice which leaders can use in building good teams.

  1. The Advantage by Patrick LencioniThe Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

This book by Lencioni gathers his most important insights from his previous books into a single volume. His contention is that the most important, and untapped competitive advantage, is organizational health. He writes that a healthy organization (and that organization may be a business, government, non-profit or a church), is one that has eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. Without politics and confusion, the healthy organization will inevitably become smarter and tap into every bit of intelligence and talent that it has.
Lencioni states that there are four simple, but difficult steps or disciplines to organizational health. In addition to the four disciplines, Lencioni states that it is essential that a healthy organization get better at meetings. This book will help leaders of an organization that either needs to “get in shape” or “get in better shape” to gain or increase its competitive advantage. Lencioni provides not just concepts, but real life examples which are particularly helpful.

  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwellmaxwell - 21 irrefutable

This “modern day classic” is a book that I often use in mentoring relationships. Broken into 21 relatively short chapters that are practical and full of illustrations, the book is excellent for mentoring discussions with those who want to grow their leadership skills in any area of life (business, church, etc.). Christians will particularly enjoy the many illustrations that Maxwell uses from his 25 years as a lead pastor.

  1. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell5 levels

I saw Maxwell speak on the topic of the five levels of leadership at a learning industry conference several few years ago. He writes that it is the most popular topic he is asked to speak on, but until this book was published in 2011, the material was never been put into book form.
Maxwell goes into great detail as he discusses each Level. There are assessments included to help you determine which Level you are at and also assessments that your team can take so you can see what Level you are perceived to be at by team members. As he does with all of his books, Maxwell includes throughout the book quotes and stories from some of the most successful leaders of all time.

  1. Lead Like Jesus RevisitedLead Like Jesus Revisited by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges and Phyllis Hendry

In this revised and updated 10th anniversary edition of Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, Phyllis Hodges, President and CEO of the Lead Like Jesus ministry joins the original book’s authors.  They write that “Leading like Jesus is essentially a matter of the heart. It is also the highest thought of the head, it is the principal work of the hands, and it is both expressed through and replenished by the habits.” The authors teach to lead like Jesus whether you are leading at home, at church, or in an organization.
The authors tells us that Leading like Jesus is a transformational journey. They discuss the role of the Heart, Head and Hands in this alternative way of leading. They also discuss Habits, both Being and Doing. They state that the greatest barrier to leading like Jesus is Edging God Out of our lives (EGO).
This new edition features helpful “Pause and Reflect” sections throughout the book, a “Next Steps to Leading Like Jesus Checklist”, resource list and a Discussion Guide, which is useful for individual study, but it is designed primarily for use in a group setting after everyone in the group has read the book.

  1. Good to Great by Jim Collinsgood to great-001

This modern day business classic by the author of the best-seller Built to Last, was based on a comprehensive research study of 1,435 companies, whose performance was reviewed over the period of 1965-1995. Eleven companies met the criteria of being an average company that successfully moved to being a great company based on specific criteria.
In this book, Collins describes from the research study how companies transition from being average to great companies, and also how companies can fail to make the transition. Collins defines greatness according to a number of metrics, including specifically financial performance that exceeded the market average by several times better than the market average over a sustained period of time. He found the main factor for achieving the transition to be a narrow focusing of the company’s resources in their field of competence.
Collins links the findings of Good to Great to the conclusions he reached in his prior book Built to Last which focused on the factors that define companies that survive in the long-term. He considers Good to Great as the prequel to Built to Last, as Good to Great is what has to happen before a company becomes Built to Last.

  1. The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

This excellent book by Albert Mohler blends two of my passions – faith and leadership. Mohler begins the book by stating: My goal is to change the way you think about leadership. I do not aim merely to add one more voice to the conversation. I want to fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced.
Mohler’s burden is: …to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership. He wants to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead. The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire.
Mohler uses many examples from history (such as Winston Churchill), as well as his own leadership journey at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where he has been President for 23 years, to illustrate his points over the course of 25 short chapters. This is not a leadership book with a few scripture references thrown in, but has Mohler applying scripture to leadership. This is a book that I will refer to often and probably re-read on a regular basis. Highly recommended for all in leadership positions, inside and outside of the church.

  1. Start with Why by Simon SinekStart with Why

Sinek writes “There are leaders and there are those who lead. This book is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them. They are the ones that start with why.” The message of the book is clear, stated early and then reinforced throughout the book. Sinek believes that people don’t buy into what we or organizations do, but they buy into why we or organizations do it. He encourages us to focus on the why and put our focus on that. As in his other book, Leaders Eat Last, Sinek effectively discusses examples of those who do this well (Apple, Southwest Airlines, Martin Luther King, Harley Davidson, the Wright Brothers and others), and those who don’t (Wal-Mart, the railroads, Samuel Pierpont Langley, Barings Bank, TiVo and others).

  1. The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungymentor leader

Dungy writes that in his life and career he has seen all kinds of leaders, but the ones that had the greatest impact on his life are the select few that have been not only leaders, but also mentors. He indicates that much of what he has learned has been due to two men in particular – his father Wilbur and Chuck Noll, his head coach when he was a player and assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He indicates that mentor leaders have a direct, intentional, and positive impact on those they lead. At its core, mentoring is about building character into the lives of others, modeling and teaching attitudes and behaviors, and creating a constructive legacy to be passed along to future generations of leaders. He doesn’t think it is possible to be an accidental mentor.
Throughout the book, Dungy offers interesting illustrations from his time as a player and coach in the NFL, and he teaches the reader what it means to be a mentor leader. He ends each chapter with “Action Steps”, taking the most important learning points from the just completed chapter and putting them into action form for the reader.

  1. Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanleymaking vision stick

Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, the largest church in the United States. Although I wouldn’t agree with him much on how he runs a church (as described in his book Deep and Wide), I have enjoyed his Leadership Podcast for several years. He has written several helpful leadership books that I’ve enjoyed (Visioneering, The Principle of the Path, Next Generation Leader and When Work and Family Collide).
He writes that this is not a book for those whose organizations have not developed their vision yet, but rather for those leaders who want to make their vision stick. He has described vision as a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be. He writes that one of the greatest challenges of leadership is making vision stick.
Stanley writes that it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that those within their organization understand and embrace the vision of the organization. However, when a leader blames their followers for not following, the leader has ceased to lead. The leader has to communicate things in a consistent and coherent manner.
He gives five steps to make your vision stick. This short book contains much helpful information about how to make vision stick.

These are 10 books that I suggest all leaders, particularly those who are Christians, read. What books would you add to the list?


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Do You Have a Teachable Spirit? Here are 3 Areas of Your Work Life Where You Need One

proverbs-on-criticismDavid Murray has written that the one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life is teachability. He states that those who are teachable and remain so usually succeed, while the unteachable usually fail. He goes on to say that it doesn’t matter how much talent and gifting we have. If we are unteachable, we will never reach our full potential in the various facets of our lives – Christian growth, callings, relationships, etc.

My friend Kevin Halloran has written on the characteristics of a teachable spirit. You can read his article here. He states that another word for teachability is humility.

There are many areas of life in which we need a teachable spirit. Here are three of them in the workplace:

  1. In your performance. Do you get defensive when you receive performance feedback? Do you blame others, instead of taking the feedback in the spirit it was intended and growing from it? Or, as one of my former leaders often said, do you look at feedback as your friend and use it to improve?
  2. In your development. Do you listen to your mentors on what is needed to help you get to the next level and then take the appropriate action? I recently worked with a very teachable emerging leader. When they didn’t get an interview for a position they had put in for, they demonstrated their teachability. They looked at what experiences and education those who had gotten an interview had and took immediate action to make themselves more competitive. The next time the job was posted, they got an interview. They worked hard on their interviewing skills with their mentors and got a job offer, all due to a teachable spirit.
  3. As a leader. Have you created an environment with your teams in which they can challenge you, and provide you feedback? As a servant leader, are you willing to learn from those you lead? Or have you created an environment in which your team members do not feel comfortable approaching you? Leaders need to be teachable, and can learn a lot from those they lead. Check out this article from Dave Kraft “Leaders are Teachable”.

Those are just a few areas in our work lives in which we need a teachable spirit. Can you think of others?


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Top 10 Attributes of a Great Leader

john-maxwell-quoteWhat makes a great leader? There are many blogs and articles that address this question. Ask ten people this question and you’re likely to get ten different responses. For example, John Maxwell is famous for saying that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. One organization summarized the obligations for their leaders to be developing people, achieving results and creating a high performing work environment.

In this presidential election year, what attributes will voters find most important when they vote for the leader that will represent this country? Some people may focus more on results, while others may focus more on character.

I asked a number of leaders in the organization where I work what they thought were the attributes of a great leader and got a number of responses. Below are some of the attributes that were shared with me, some of which overlap:

  • Asking great questions
  • Motivator, energizer
  • Inspirational
  • Embracing diversity
  • Appreciative
  • Open to feedback
  • Seeks counsel from others
  • Leads by example
  • Reader
  • Belief in their people
  • Honesty/sincerity
  • Self-awareness
  • Patience
  • Ego-less
  • Fun
  • Engages others
  • Connector
  • Storyteller
  • Compassionate
  • Mentor – develops other leaders
  • Inclusive
  • Values diverse opinions (open-minded)
  • Respectful
  • Risk-taker
  • Problem solver
  • Confident
  • Non-judgmental
  • Optimistic
  • Positive
  • Hopeful
  • Creates a culture of trust
  • Addresses life issues
  • Selfless – thinks of others first
  • Thinks long-term
  • Organized
  • Supportive

With so many excellent attributes, it was hard to come up with just a few.  Here are my top ten, some of which overlap:

  1. Vision.  Andy Stanley has written that vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be. We need our leaders to present to us the vision of where our organizations are headed. Stanley goes on to state that it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that those within their organization understand and embrace the vision of the organization.
  2. Influence.  I mentioned the famous quote on influence from Maxwell above. In his Law of Influence, he states that if you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader.
  3. Humility. As we look at our presidential candidates, I don’t know if humility is an attribute that would come to mind in describing either one of them. But Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, writes about leaders who have what he refers to as personal humility and professional will. His term “level 5 leader” refers to individuals who are very humble on a personal level, but who possess a great deal of drive and desire to succeed, where “success” is not personal, but defined by creating something great that will outlast their time as the organization’s leader.
  4. Servanthood.  I am a big proponent of servant leadership, having written about it here. In that article I state that Ken Blanchard has written that effective leaders should serve their people, not be served by them, which is different than the norm. Similarly, John Maxwell states that the leader should be there for their people, not the people there for the leader. This is what is referred to as servant leadership. Maxwell tells us that the measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him but the number of people he serves.
  5. Character.  Years ago I heard someone describe character as doing the right thing when nobody is watching. Character is closely related to trust and integrity. Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, has compared leaders that have competency vs. character. Of course we would like our leaders to have both attributes.
  6. Competency – experience, results, proven track record. We want to know that our leaders have what it takes to lead us. This helps build trust in the leader.
  7. Caring and empathy. John Maxwell has said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This attribute is related to being a servant leader. What a difference it makes when we know that our leaders care for us.
  8. Learner.  Whenever we go to a new doctor, my wife checks to see if they are board certified. If they are, that communicates to her that they have stayed current in their education, and continued to learn in their field. It’s the same thing with leaders. Leaders need to continue to learn through a variety of means (books, seminars, conferences or webinars, mentors, etc.). If you don’t continue to learn, you will not be an effective leader.
  9. Communicator.  A leader needs to have excellent verbal and written communications skills. On top of that, they need to be a connector. John Maxwell, who had a book titled Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, has said that all good leaders are connectors. They relate well and make people feel confident about themselves and their leader. I work with a connector. He seems to be able to instantly connect with everyone he meets. It’s really amazing.
  10. Listener. Great leaders are great listeners. But most leaders need to talk less and listen more. We can gain knowledge, wisdom and empathy not from talking but from listening. I know that this is an area I can really improve in.

Those are my top ten attributes of a great leader. Which would make your top ten? 


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In Appreciation of Our Leaders

Thank YouI think that we too often don’t stop to think about those who have helped us along the way, including our leaders and mentors. I recently realized that three of my former leaders will be retiring in the next few weeks.  Our leaders can influence us in a positive or negative manner – these three have definitely impacted and influenced me in an affirmative way. You can read what I’ve written about them here. Below, I’d like to single out one of my former leaders and tell you what I admire about him.

More than ten years ago I went through a very difficult time at work which you can read about here.  Although the Lord used this time for good, for a long time the wind was taken out of my sails at work.  About four years later I started reporting to Dan.  I was not necessarily looking forward to this based on what I had heard about him, which I wrote about here.  But I was wrong about him – as wrong as I could be.

From the beginning, Dan was great to work for and with. He was an encourager and very supportive. As an encourager, he made me and my team feel appreciated. One way he did this was to send handwritten notecards to employees in his function who had done something particularly noteworthy. He was supportive in things that I wanted to do in my areas of responsibility (work efforts, personnel decisions, etc.) as long as I had done my homework.

A year after beginning to work for him, when a position that would result in a promotion opened up, Dan took a chance on me and we continued to work together for the next few years. During that time I did get the wind back in my sails. And about the reputation that I misjudged? I’ve told many people since then that I would take a bullet for that man.  Although I no longer report to him, I’m proud to call him a friend.   Maybe I can correct his rumored reputation.

We learn from all of our leaders. Sometimes it’s for good, like my experience with Dan. Sometimes we learn what not to do from other leaders as I wrote here.

Don’t forget to thank those that have helped you along the way. Let them know how they have impacted you and your story.


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6 Keys to Successful Leadership Development

Maxwell QuoteI have the privilege to work and mentor with several talented people who are pursuing formal leadership positions. As I work with them to prepare to compete for those positions I have found there are six keys to successful leadership development:

  1. Consistently strong performance. Bottom-line, before you can even think about moving into a leadership position, you need to be doing excellent work and delivering strong results in your current assignment. You need to be a top performer. If you aren’t a strong performer at this time, stop here, don’t read on. You need to become a strong performer and role model, striving for continuous improvement, before pursuing a formal leadership position.
  1. Diversity of experiences. A leader I know often talks about “depth and breadth” when reviewing an emerging leader’s experiences. I think that’s a good way to describe what I want to communicate here. You should have a diversity of experiences to prepare you for a leadership position. Look for those assignments and experiences in which you will be able to demonstrate your leadership and get results through others. If you can’t get results through others, you are what Marcus Buckingham refers to as an “individual contributor”, not a leader.
  1. Work with multiple leadership mentors to help you grow in different facets of leadership. You might want to read and discuss leadership books with them. The mentee should drive the relationship, so have a plan when you approach someone to mentor you. You should also demonstrate your leadership by mentoring others. So be a mentee and a mentor.
  1. Self-awareness. Learn about yourself through asking for feedback and taking assessments such as Strengthsfinders, StandOut and Myers-Briggs. I have found these assessments to be extremely helpful to learn about myself and about those I work with and mentor. Some of these same folks have provided input for this article.
  1. Continuing Education. Be a lifelong learner and model continuous learning, and then apply what you are learning. Read good leadership and personal development books, and consider advanced degrees and designations in your particular field. Get involved in the professional organization aligned to your field. Continue to grow yourself and in turn you will increase your competitiveness for a leadership position.
  1. Leadership presence. With this one, I always say it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it – or you don’t. How are you perceived when you walk into the room, when you are attending or presenting in a meeting. Do others see you as a leader?

These are six keys that I have found for successful leadership development. Do you agree? Do you have others to add?


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What is Your Brand?

What is you brand graphicWhat do you think of when you see the Apple logo? Perhaps some think of innovative, cutting edge products. When I see the Chick Fil-A logo, I think of a respected, well-run faith-based organization. The brand of an organization or their products is very important in what it represents to others.

Where I work, we often talk about someone’s “brand”. I first heard of that concept years ago when my friend Kevin was doing a leadership talk on the subject. But what does that mean, our personal brand? It may be a new concept to you. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your personal brand:

1. Distinguishing factors. What distinguishes you from others, or what makes you different from others? What words describe you? A few things to think about here are your unique…

  • Passions
  • Callings
  • Goals
  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Beliefs
  • Core Values
  • Experiences
  • Gifts, talents and strengths

What would you add to this list?

2. Reputation. What do people, who don’t even know you, think of you? We can call that your reputation. How do you develop a reputation? And how do you correct one that is not what you want it to be? Reputations are often accurate, but not always. I remember a few years back when I found out that I would be reporting to a leader that I had formed an opinion about based on what I had heard about them over the years. In one of our first meetings they stated “You may have heard some things about me.” Well, in the bubble above my head I’m thinking, “Yes, I certainly have”. They went on to say “I would challenge you to talk to people who have worked closely with me. They may have some different things to say about me than those who have only worked with me on the periphery”. And guess what? Despite my concerns, I very much enjoying working with that leader. They were one of my favorite leaders in my 35+ year career. They were very supportive and caring, not at all like the reputation of them I heard from others.

What do you think your reputation is? What do people who don’t know you think about you?

3. Reflecting Christ. Most important to me, as a believer, I want to reflect Christ and represent Him well. When others see me, I want them to see Christ in me. I want to reflect Christ’s light just as the moon reflects the sun’s light. I want to be the best worker with the highest degree of integrity and character. I want to be the same in public as I am in private. I want to be the same person to my friends and family that I am to people I am meeting for the first time.

What are some ways we can reflect Christ in our vocations?

So what is your personal brand? If someone were to ask you, how would you describe your brand? I’d love to hear your thoughts – just click on “Leave a comment” on the upper left hand side of the home page.