Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


2 Comments

13 New and Upcoming Books I’m Excited About

There are a number of new and upcoming books that I’m excited about.  I call it my ‘on deck circle’.  Here are 13 of them:

The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by Albert Mohler
From the Amazon description:
“In The Apostles’ Creed, renowned theologian and pastor R. Albert Mohler Jr. works line-by-line and phrase-by-phrase through each section of the Creed, explaining in clear terms what it means and how it equips Christians to live faithfully in a post-Christian culture. From understanding the nature of the Trinity and the miracle of the Incarnation to the world-shaking truth of the resurrection and the hope of Christ’s return, the theological heritage contained in this ancient statement has the power to shape us for vibrant and steadfast living today. The Apostles’ Creed shows us how.” Continue reading

Advertisements


1 Comment

5 Helpful Resources to Help You Learn More About Yourself

buckingham-quote

I have benefited greatly by completing personality assessments, as well as implementing the work of Marcus Buckingham on strengths and Susan Cain on the power of being an introvert. All of these resources have helped me to not only better understand myself, but my team, those I mentor, family and friends as well.

Here are five resources that have helped me the most and you can find of value as well:

1. Discover Your Strengths/Strengthsfinder – Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton and Tom Rath

now-discover-your-strengths-copystrengthsfinder-copy
I was first introduced to the modern “Strengths Movement” when I saw Marcus Buckingham speak at a learning conference several years ago. I had initially looked forward to seeing Jack Welch speak at that conference. When he had to cancel due to a health issue, Buckingham was a last minute wonderful replacement. The long-time best-selling Strengthsfinder assessment (which has now been used by more than five million people), was first included in Buckingham’s and Donald Clifton’s 2001 book Now Discover Your Strengths. I continue to find the Strengthsfinder assessment to be valuable in learning about myself and others, and have used it at work and we have used it as a church leadership team.  My top five Strengthsfinder themes are Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever.

  1. go-put-your-strengths-to-work-copyGo Put Your Strengths to Work – Marcus Buckingham

Buckingham’s strengths concepts really came alive for me with this 2007 book. The learning organization that I was a member of hosted Buckingham’s book tour for this book, and I have read and discussed this book with several groups. This book helped me to understand the concept of activities that “strengthen” or “weaken” me and others. This encouraged me to find work for my team members that would strengthen them. The book also introduced the concept of strength and weakness statements. When I look back on business books that have had a positive impact on me this one would be near the top.

 

  1. standout-copyStandOut – Marcus Buckingham

As I mentioned, Buckingham and Clifton developed the original Strengthsfinder assessment. Buckingham states that the purpose of that assessment was to be descriptive and affirming. He and Clifton wanted to provide a way to describe the best of us and to make us feel good about our style. Buckingham states that the challenge is that once you have a positive language to describe yourself, what do you do with it?

What careers should you pursue? What techniques should you call upon to capitalize on your strengths and outperform your competitors? What should you share with your manager to help him or her help you do your best work?

In recent years, Buckingham has focused less on measurement and more on what could be done to increase employee engagement, strengths and performance.
StandOut, published in 2011, was based on extensive research, statistical testing and analysis of the world’s top performers.

Where Strengthsfinder was descriptive and affirming, StandOut is prescriptive and innovating. The new StandOut assessment (an updated version StandOut 2.0 was published in 2015), measures you on nine strengths roles, and reveals your top two. My top two are Creator and Equalizer.

  1. myers-briggs-mbfMyers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). There are many personal assessments available. Although I have not completed it, many in my church have benefited from the Enneagram assessment. In the organization I work at, the PACE Palette assessment was very popular a few years back. I still find it as an excellent tool to use with a team.

The assessment that I have found most helpful is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment. There are many free versions online you take. Here is one free version.

The MBTI offers 16 types that are referred to by an abbreviation of four letters. My type is INTJ, meaning that I test as an introvert. The first time I took the assessment several years ago I remember being very concerned that the analysis included with the short online version of the assessment I took indicated that those who hold my profile are not equipped to be good leaders. As with any assessment, keep the results in perspective.

  1. Quiet (2)Quiet by Susan Cainquiet-power

Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was an eye-opener for me. Like the other resources mentioned in this article, it helped me to better understand myself and others.  If you are an introvert, work with or are married to an introvert or have children who are introverts, I highly recommend you read this book. It includes insights that are equally helpful on and off the job. Although I have not read it yet, Cain has recently published a version of Quiet for kids and teens, entitled Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts.  

These are five resources that I have found to be helpful in learning more about myself and others. What resources have you found to be valuable?


Leave a comment

FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles Patrick Lencioni quote

  • Four Productivity Lies. Tim Challies writes “I have invested a lot of effort in understanding productivity and emphasizing it in my life. Eventually I came to peace with it. But I only did so after addressing some of the prevailing lies about it.”
  • Entitlement. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses what entitlement means to him.
  • 9 Ways to Glorify God at Work in Your “9-5”. Paul Sohn writes “I stumbled across a blog post from John Piper, which he spoke at a conference called Engage whose mission is to equip young professionals in the workplace. The 9 ways Piper he suggests how young professionals can glorify work are worth memorizing.”
  • Trust: A Currency For Christian Business. Chris Patton writes “As Christian business owners and leaders, we need people to trust us. We need employees to trust us so we can lead them. We want our customers to trust us so they will buy our products or services and remain loyal to us. Our vendors need to trust us to pay them accurately and on time or they will not continue to service us.”
  • Four Huge Distractions in Meetings and How to Fight Them. Eric Geiger writes “One of the biggest culprits of disengagement in a meeting are distractions. Distractions can steer emotional energy, creative thinking, and collective wisdom away from the important matters being discussed.”
  • Are You Putting the Gospel to Work? Steve Graves writes “Make no mistake; every community has men and women putting the gospel to work. Those who work next to them and live in community with them know them as catalytic vessels of salt, light, and the sweet perfume of the gospel.”
  • The Centennials are Coming. Mark Miller talks about the Centennials. He writes “They are a cohort of approximately 73 million young people born between 1997 and today. And guess what… in many areas, they see the world differently from previous generations.”
  • How I Work: An Interview with Melissa Kruger. Joe Carter interviews Melissa Kruger, a Women’s Ministry Coordinator, writer, wife and mother, about how she works.
  • How to be a Great Mentor. Dan Rockwell writes “Great mentoring is more than developing skills, helping people create connections, and navigating organizational politics.”
  • Lessons from the First 20 Years, Part 2. In this edition of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, he concludes a conversation that explores the best, most effective leadership principles learned in the first 20 years of his organization.

LEADERSHIP:

Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week Bob Chapman Quote

  • The leader’s job is to inspire people to work together in the service of something greater than themselves. Eric Geiger
  • We are most likely to succeed when ambition is focused on noble and worthy purposes and outcomes rather than on goals set out of selfishness. John Wooden
  • Tell me how many things you’ve finished, not how many you’ve started. Dan Rockwell
  • We’re made for work and rest, not toil and leisure. Andy Crouch
  • We must find a purpose or cause to pursue otherwise all we have left are our imperfections to focus on. Simon Sinek
  • With all the negative going on in the world, it is important to lead with a mindful and open heart and be the change you wish to see. Ken Blanchard
  • Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear. Marcus Buckingham
  • Your team will mirror you. If there is something you don’t like, you probably created it. Brad Lomenick
  • Leaders who attempt to make all the decisions are stunting the growth of their people and their organization. Mark Miller
  • When something bad happens you have three choices: You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you. Coach K

Matt Perman BookBOOK REVIEW:  Creating a Business Plan that Actually Works: Especially, But Not Only, for Faith-Based Organizations by Matt Perman. What’s Best Next. 33 pages.
****

Matt Perman is the author of the excellent 2014 book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. That book was so helpful (I’m reading it a second time with colleagues at work) that I’m going to be interested in anything that he writes. He is an important voice in helping people integrate their faith with their work. In fact he states that this resource will be especially helpful for those looking for a resource that makes the integration of faith and work explicit. He encourages us to see our work as an act of service, to the glory of God, stating it is at the heart of how to glorify God in our work and do your business plan in a gospel-centered way.

He writes that this short e-book was written to provide guidance for how to create a business plan that actually works––a plan that will truly help you in launching your new business, department, or other large initiative, without getting you stuck in the details of over-planning. It also gives specific guidance for how to create a business plan from a faith-based perspective.

He defines a business plan as simply a guide or road map for your business, new department, or other large effort. It will help us think through and articulate your mission and values, main objectives, core audience, comparison organizations or competitors, financial plan, core activities, marketing plan, and other key realities. A business plan is not just for those starting a new business. Perman states that if you’re starting anything or want to refine what you’ve already started, a business plan is a key step.

In looking at how to create a business plan that actually works and to do so in a way that relates to the Scriptures, we should learn from the best business minds (Jim Collins, for example), common grace realities as well as the Bible.

He takes the reader through each of the sections of a business plan and briefly explains what they mean and how it translates into the ongoing fabric of our business. He also includes some helpful resources that you may find useful. He stresses that the process of developing a business plan is as important as the final result; as the activity of thinking through your business or new endeavor in this way prepares you for effective implementation.

This short book contains much helpful information and is well worth your time to read it. I know I’ll be sharing what I learned here with others, including my sister-in-law who is the Director of a Pregnancy Resource Center.

StandOut 2.0BOOK REVIEW:  StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths. Find Your Edge. Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham. Harvard Business Review Press. 211 Pages. 2015
****

I’m a big Marcus Buckingham fan, having read all of his books, with the exception of the one he specifically wrote for women. Eight years ago, when on the leadership team for a professional learning organization we brought him to our community as a part of his book tour for Go Put Your Strengths to Work, one of the most impactful business books I have read. He briefly revisits his “Love it/Loathe it” exercise from that book here, an exercise I continue to use both on and off the job.

Buckingham writes that although the strengths-based approach to managing people is now conventional wisdom, performance appraisal systems remain “stubbornly remedial”. In this new book, Buckingham has taken his StandOut strengths assessment (introduced in 2011) and dramatically increased its power.

A few of the enhancements are:

  • To make our strengths visible, he has designed a StandOut Snapshot that can be used to present the very best of ourselves to our teams and organizations.
  • To give us a way to keep learning, he has provided us with our own personal learning channel.
  • The StandOut assessment has been made to be a “front door” to an online performance system that is entirely strengths based. He wants us to think of StandOut as a toolbox, in which each tool is designed to tackle one aspect of performance management. To help us do more of our best work, the reader will receive a weekly “Check-In” tool that will capture our weekly priorities and track how engaged you feel week by week.
  • Leaders will find an employee survey tool that can be used to see what your team is thinking and feeling, as well as a performance tool to evaluate the performance of each member.

The above enhancements are designed to help you and your teams to leverage your strengths and manage around your weaknesses. The new tool is not just a descriptive tool but also a prescriptive tool. The StandOut assessment measures you on nine strengths roles and reveals your top two “strength roles”. The book provides you with a key to input and take the assessment, which will take about fifteen minutes. Your results will reveal how you come across to others.  Buckingham shares with the reader three lessons for building your strengths.  He calls the StandOut assessment an innovation delivery system. It delivers to those who complete the assessment weekly practical innovations, tips and techniques that you can use to sharpen your edge and win at work. I plan to share my assessment with team members and mentees and encourage them to take it as well.

Don’t Waste Your Life Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 2 Breakthrough – the Beauty of Christ, My Joy:

  • If there is only one life to live in this world, and if it is not to be wasted, nothing seemed more important to me than finding out what God really meant in the Bible, since he inspired men to write it. If that was up for grabs, then no one could tell which life is worthy and which life is wasted.
  • The driving passion of my life was rooted here. One of the seeds was in the word “glory”—God’s aim in history was to “fully display his glory.” Another seed was in the word “delight”—God’s aim was that his people “delight in him with all their heart.” The passion of my life has been to understand and live and teach and preach how these two aims of God relate to each other—indeed, how they are not two but one.
  • No one outside Scripture has shaped my vision of God and the Christian life more than Jonathan Edwards. His life is inspiring because of his zeal not to waste it, and because of his passion for the supremacy of God.
  • Delighting in God was not a mere preference or option in life; it is our joyful duty and should be the single passion of our lives. Seeking happiness in God and glorifying God were the same.
  • Here was the greatest mind of early America, Jonathan Edwards, saying that God’s purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God’s glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion. When I saw this, I knew, at last, what a wasted life would be and how to avoid it.
  • God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.
  • The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.
  • The Bible is crystal-clear: God created us for his glory.
  • Life is wasted when we do not live for the glory of God. And I mean all of life. It is all for his glory.
  • We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life.
  • God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.
  • We were made to see and savor God—and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them.
  • The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.
  • Love has to do with showing a dying soul the life-giving beauty of the glory of God, especially his grace.
  • Every good work should be a revelation of the glory of God. What makes the good deed an act of love is not the raw act, but the passion and the sacrifice to make God himself known as glorious.
  • If you don’t point people to God for everlasting joy, you don’t love. You waste your life.
  • All heroes are shadows of Christ. We love to admire their excellence. How much more will we be satisfied by the one Person who conceived all excellence and embodies all skill, all talent, all strength and brilliance and savvy and goodness.
  • God loves us by liberating us from the bondage of self so that we can enjoy knowing and admiring him forever.
  • Would you feel more loved by God if he made much of you, or if he liberated you from the bondage of self-regard, at great cost to himself, so that you enjoy making much of him forever?
  • Now we see that in creating us for his glory, he is creating us for our highest joy. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
  • That is the single, all-embracing, all-transforming reason for being: a passion to enjoy and display God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.
  • God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.
  • Jesus is the litmus test of reality for all persons and all religions. He said it clearly: “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). People and religions who reject Christ reject God. Do other religions know the true God? Here is the test: Do they reject Jesus as the only Savior for sinners who was crucified and raised by God from the dead? If they do, they do not know God in a saving way.
  • There is no point in romanticizing other religions that reject the deity and saving work of Christ. They do not know God. And those who follow them tragically waste their lives.
  • Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain.


Leave a comment

4 Ways to Find Work That You Love

Marcus Buckingham QuoteHave you ever talked to someone who absolutely loves the work that they do? They actually don’t see it as “work”, and enjoy doing it each day. If so, and if you are not in that type of a situation right now – and chances are you are not – you might have been a bit envious of them. In fact, in his book The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success, Marcus Buckingham states that fewer than two out of ten of us get to play to our strengths at work most of the time.

So what can we do about this? Here’s a few ways that I have thought of to help you find the work you love:

  1. Consider Your Calling. The concept of a calling is not something you hear a lot of people talk about these days, but I can point you to a few excellent resources to get started. The best book on the subject that I’ve found is The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness, a book that I read in Dr. Philip Douglass’s excellent Spiritual and Ministry Formation class at Covenant Seminary two years ago. An abridged and more accessible version of the book is Guinness’s Rising to the Call.

a.  Guinness tells us that for Christians, our primary calling is by Him, to Him, and for Him. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

b.  Guinness states that our secondary calling, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations. Guinness states that these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are “callings” rather than the “calling.”

A new, and more secular approach to the subject of calling is The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. Goins tells us that finding your calling is a path, rather than a plan. He refers to our secondary calling as the reason you were born. I wouldn’t quite go that far, believing for example that the reason I was born was to worship God and tell others about Him. However, I would apply what Goins writes as to say that our secondary calling is the work that we were born to do. He also refers to this calling as that thing you just cannot not do. It is not a destination, but a journey that doesn’t end until you die.

A third resource I would recommend is Matt Perman’s excellent book What’s Best Next, which I’m reading and discussing with some friends at work. Matt writes about calling and challenges his readers to develop a personal mission statement, core principles (those things that we would do even if it was to your disadvantage), and a life goal. Here’s a link to my article about personal mission statements.

Have you ever given much thought to your calling or callings? Or do you just see your work as something you need to do until that day you can retire?

2.  Use Assessment Tools. I’m a big proponent of assessment tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or Marcus Buckingham’s Strengthsfinder and new Stand Out 2.0 to help myself and others better understand ourselves to help find work we love. These assessments provide you reports that help you to better understand your strengths, and decide whether you are an introvert or extrovert. For example, I am an introvert. I’ve also greatly been helped in understanding being an introvert by Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. See my review here.

Have you used one of these assessments, or perhaps another one? Did it add value to you, and help you to better understand yourself, leading to helping you to find work that you love?

3.  Use the concepts from Marcus Buckingham’s strengths teaching to determine work activities that strengthen and weaken you. I’m a big proponent of Buckingham’s teaching on strengths (see a list of all of his books here). Buckingham writes that “Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” He states that focusing on strengths is the surest way to greater job satisfaction, team performance and organizational excellence. I was particularly helped with his work in Go Put Your Strengths to Work, where he helps you identify those activities that strengthen you, and those that weaken or drain you. I’m passionate about this, so if you would like to talk more about it, please let me know.

4.  Work with your mentors. Lastly, work with your mentors to help find work that matches your skills, experiences, personality and strengths profile. The emerging leaders that I work with – on my team and mentees – all have multiple mentors, rather than just one. That is something I advocate to get a diversity of opinions, experiences and coaching. If you are not working with mentors, start today by reading my article about the benefits.

I have seen the difference in people when they find work that they truly love. It can be powerful as the light comes on for them. They look forward to coming to work and making a difference. Is that the case with you? If not, consider these four thoughts and start your journey to finding work that you love. And let me know how your journey is going. I’d love to hear from you – just click ‘Leave a comment’ on the left side of the home page.