Boundaries For Leaders (Book Review)

The first tweet I shared about this book was two months ago. I finally finished it today. It fell victim to multiple books being read simultaneously, not being on my kindle while traveling, and other excuses.


But I did not want this book to be read hurriedly. Dr. Cloud’s works should require margin in the reader’s heart and mind to receive the full impression. And this book, for leaders in particular, should be given the fullest margin.

I had only managed to get through a couple of chapters before last weekend. I determined to give it my full attention and get it finished. Let me say, last Saturday was a memorable reading day. My highlighter was busy. My mind was engaged. My heart was encouraged.

Leaders, no matter what size your tribe/company/organization/ministry, this book has something, probably lots of somethings, for you. For those in church world, that goes for paid staff leaders as well as volunteer/lay leaders. It order to fully serve as a body, we all must pursue being people who get results. If read with an open mind, this book will resource a team to do better for the kingdom, particularly mentally and emotionally. Here are 15 quotes to illustrate:

If you have the right people on board, they will exceed your wildest expectations.

The gap between where we are and where we want to be, which is the goal, does not go away by itself. We have to close that gap. And we have to deal with gaps that, sometimes, are difficult to face but motivating.

Two sets of reality consequences – the promise of positive outcomes and the fear of losing something of value – are among the most fundamental drivers of human performance.

Research shows that a “getting better” orientation goes much farther than a “being perfect” orientation.

The first element missing in many leadership scenarios: the right kinds and the right amounts of time together.

Don’t allow big problems to become elephants in the room. Name the elephant.

Put your smart phone in your pocket, purse, or bag. Some of the best leaders I know have a “no cell phone or email during this meeting” rule.

What you create, and what you allow, is what you get as a leader. Especially thinking.

Great leaders do the opposite of exercising control over others. Instead of taking all the control, they give it away.

When people assign a specific time and place for completion of specific tasks and goals, their chances of success increase by up to 300%.

The best leaders and organizations I know make use of outside sources for coaching and lifelong learning in a very organic fashion.

To be the best you can be, you must develop a hunger for feedback and see it as one of the best gifts that you can get.

“Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so…don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fears is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional.

Many leaders allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

If one person calls you a horse, blow it off. But if five do, buy a saddle.

Advertisements

Are We All Brothers or Not?

Finished this book today. (Is there an unworthy read by Gladwell?)

If nothing else, I like the orderliness of his books. In this one, the nine chapters are divided into three parts driving home this theory: The powerful are not as powerful as they seem-nor the weak as weak.  Each chapter is entitled by the person’s name, the “David,” whose story Gladwell unfolds supporting his theory. These people include students, doctors, activists, coaches, educators, lawyers, pastors, Irish Catholics, and parents of murdered daughters. (Saw some glimpses of myself in Wyatt Walker, chapter 6. You’ll have to read to decide if you agree or to see in which person you see your own glimpse.)

The final chapter tells the story of Andre Trocme, a Huguenot pastor that lived in the French town Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during World War II.  He led the town to become a haven for Jews, despite being imprisoned for it.  Gladwell argues that one reason why Trocme and his town could stand up for the Jews was because of their own history of persecution.  They didn’t view protecting Jews as a dangerous thing like the rest of France.  Trocme’s wife Magda said this about her thoughts when the first refugee appeared at their door:  “I did not know that it would be dangerous. Nobody thought of that….There was no decision to make. The issue was, Do you think we are all brothers or not?  Do you think it is unjust to turn in Jews or not?  Then let us try to help!”

Magda did what few of us do.  She dug beneath the surface question to answer the deeper question.  And the question she answered is critical to all our foundations.  After reading these nine stories, I’d say one of the most clear differences between Davids and Goliaths is their foundations.  Most likely, we’d all like to think our foundations are David-ish.  If you’d like to test yours, you should read this book.

Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.

Quiet (book review)

My guess is most readers of my blog have not read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. My encouragement is that you should.

Her book first came on my radar in 2012 when I heard her interviewed briefly about it at a Catalyst conference. I was intrigued but didn’t reach for it until now. Too bad I didn’t read it earlier.

Why? Because she helps you get it-the differences between extroverts and introverts. She helps you embrace your introversion, if you are one. And she helps the extrovert understand you. Yes, that’s possible. She even gives you insights into those people who appear to be one but are really the other. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you?

So who should read this book?

  1. Anyone who suspects they are introverted but aren’t sure
  2. Anyone who knows they’re introverted and struggle with it
  3. Anyone who lives with an introvert
  4. Anyone who works for or leads introverts
  5. Anyone who wonders why they are drawn to have introverted friends

Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. P266

This is one of those books to not only read but add to your library. Power Up!

Let the Creating Begin

(A final thought from No One Gets There Alone)

In giving helps for mental toughness, Dr. Bell says that consistency is the key.

Remember, we first create habits, then our habits create us.

Whatever we want to get better at, we must consistently do. Don’t mistake action for achievement. If we want to get better at swimming, then swim; if we want to get better at public speaking, speak. If we want to improve our sales, get a coach. Period.

Whenever I’ve led discussions about spiritual disciplines like prayer or taught on following the leading of the Holy Spirit, comments are always made about not feeling confident on how to do either of these. Let me suggest that Dr. Bell’s encouragement to swimmers and public speakers applies here. Create habits. Be consistent. Just Keep Doing It.

What could some habits be that would create you into a confident disciple?

  1. Pair up with another growth-desiring person. You could do this in many ways. Ask God to bring that person into your life. Be real with them and start pursuing growth together. Chances are that person is already in your life and you just need to take the first step.
  2. Develop your strategy. If you want to read the entire Bible, then find a reading plan that works for you. If it takes you one month, one year, or many years, who cares. Figure out your plan and start moving. 
  3. Say hello to God often. What if you turned off the radio in the car going to or from work just to be alone with God? What if you paused midday to talk about your morning and your afternoon? What if you didn’t get out of bed before saying good morning? What if one day of your weekend you didn’t ask for anything in your prayers and just said thank you? What if you prayed as often as you texted your spouse or best friend?
  4. Test your nudges. It’s possible that thought about that person you rarely think about was a Holy Spirit prompt to reach out. It’s possible that thought to bake your neighbor some cookies was a Holy Spirit avenue to relieve loneliness. It’s possible that cry for sympathy by your waiter’s comment was a Holy Spirit opening to offer a prayer with them.

Here’s a personal example from a different life arena. By nature, I’m not a morning person. I hated my teenage years when my mother would come in my room every morning turning on the lights and declaring it was breakfast time. But you might say, since I began running over ten years ago, I’ve been recreated by developing new habits. The discipline needed to properly train for races has slightly altered me. I now have little problem getting out the door to run by 6am several times a week.  I can even meet people at 6am for a group run and actually enjoy it, occasionally. Let’s not push it.

Who do you want to be? Who is God prompting you to be? What are the habits of that kind of person? Work to establish the habits of that person and let the creating begin.

NO ONE Gets There ALONE (book review)

What a nice surprise this book by Dr. Rob Bell was. While checking out a recommended book on Amazon, his book popped up also. Not familiar with him, I was intrigued by the title. Knowing I have a commitment to reading a few coaching books this year, I went ahead and purchased it. Here are some quotes to illustrate why you could consider doing the same:

  • Everyone is an athlete; our office is just different. Some of us are corporate athletes, sales athletes, or entrepreneur athletes. Being an athlete is an attitude and awareness. It means looking through our own lens of life as an athlete.     
  • True competition is me vs. me.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.   
  • When we focus on the differences between us, we are in comparison mode, believing we are better than or less than someone else.   
  • Talk about all stressful situations in non-stressful environments.   
  • When we are not all-in, we are just in the way.   
  • The chicken is invested in breakfast by supplying the eggs, but the pig is fully committed by providing the ham or bacon.   
  • Complaining is the first small sign of giving up.   
  • There are two types of pain, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.

You can read this book because you are a coach. You could read this book because you need a coach. Or you could read this book to explore why you should consider being coached. 

For example, Dr. Bell’s section on faith may help you explore yours in a new way. And his approach to mental toughness is encouraging and tool-giving to all readers, regardless of your reading agenda. My personal best takeaway of the entire book was the section entitled “Focus on the Similarities, not the Differences.”

You’ll have takeaways from this easily digestible book. Give it a look and improve how you are getting there.

Miracle in the Andes (book review)

I’ve been obsessed with this book while listening to it. So much so that when disc 7 wasn’t listenable because of scratches, I checked out the book today in order to read what I missed. (NOTE: Manatee County Library rocks! Not only did they bring the book from another branch to the branch closer to me to pick up, but they also called to let me know it was ready. BOOM!)

Nando Parrado is one of sixteen survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Argentine Andes Mountains. Another book, Alive, was written and made into a movie in the 90s. I’ve never heard of this story, so I was riveted by it. My riveting is a credit to Parrado’s storytelling and personal account of the survivor’s ordeal.

If you enjoy true stories that make you think and marvel, you should read Parrado’s book. You’ll be satisfied. But what you’ll hopefully also receive are some life lessons to model. He gives you plenty. These 72 days gave more than 72 lessons. The survivors continue to live them out. Read it and see what you could live out.

Through the Thorn

This week I finished a book that a friend gave me entitled Kiss the Wave by Dave Furman. Furman is a pastor in Dubai who suffers from a nerve disease and struggles with disability in both arms. I’ll just go ahead and recommend this book for anyone who is living with or giving support to someone with a lifelong disability.


Chapter 9, “Weakness is Always the Way,” had the most nuggets for me. Furman reminds the reader that God’s ways are not our ways. He talks about the Japanese form of art called Kintsugi, which involves joining together broken pottery pieces with gold or another precious metal, as an example. God uses the brokenness of pain and suffering to create in us images of his power through our weakness. Weakness is the way (a borrowed title from a book of the same name by J.I. Packer).

If we were steel vessels without blemish or weakness, we might be tempted to think we have no need for God. However, God uses weakness to show our need for dependence upon him.

It is a privilege to boast in our weaknesses because they reveal who are Father really is – a great God.

Have you ever considered that your weakness is a part of God’s glorious plan for your life?

We can embrace God in our trials with faith that God is doing a work in us beyond our comprehension. Our scars are not things to run from or to hide from others. Through them we exalt the one who is conforming us more and more into his image.

Furman’s final scriptural example in this chapter is from 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about his weakness of a thorn in the flesh. Paul says he boasted in his weaknesses and was content with them because he was made strong through them. Then Furman wrote this: “We might wonder what Paul could have accomplished if he didn’t have that the thorn. But the reality is, everything Paul accomplished was done by God – not in spite of the thorn but through the thorn.”

Most likely you have a thorn. It could be physical, emotional, mental, even spiritual. Maybe you live with MS, or you battle depression, or you’re trying to overcome the emotional scars of family history. Maybe your thorn is like Thomas’s where you tend to doubt and worry more than trust and believe. What if you studed Paul’s life then followed his example of surrendered contentment? What could God do if you let him work through your thorn? 

Understanding Gender Dysphoria (book review)

January 13 I posted my 2018 reading plan. My coach helped me develop it as an answer for personal growth. Apart from that plan, I would have missed an important read.


In my search for a book on the divisive cultural topic of sexuality, I discovered author Mark Yarhouse, a Wheaton College graduate and a psychology professor at Regent University in Virginia. He’s written several books in this field for the Christian audience, so I figured he would be a good choice. He proved me right.

It is important to consider that original sin has corrupted all of existence, including human sexuality and experiences of our gendered selves.

Scripture reminds us that God does not abandon us in our fallen state.

The topic of gender dysphoria is not the same as homosexuality.

This 7-chapter book is graciously written for readers on all sides of the conversation. To assist us all in the conversation, he gives a great explanation for where we could fit in an integrated framework in the dialogue. He divides everyone into one of three groups: integrity, disability, and diversity. These names are lenses through which people often approach the topic of gender identity. Evangelical Christians are drawn to the integrity framework as it emphasizes the sacredness of maleness and femaleness. He encourages learning from all three in order to inform ministry settings and engage the broader culture. I agree.

You may be asking, “So what is gender dysphoria?” If you haven’t already googled it, do so. But then give Yarhouse the opportunity to give you an exhaustive look at the topic. If you are asking “should I read this book,” allow me to answer with the following questions:

  • Are you a church leader who truly wants to engage your community? If so, yes.
  • Are you a therapist? If so, yes. Your specialty field doesn’t matter as much as this subject does.
  • Do you know someone in your family or in your friend’s family who struggles with sexuality questions? If so, yes.
  • Do you struggle with giving grace to others outside your belief system but wish you didn’t? If so, yes.

Christians can benefit from valuing and speaking into the sacredness found in the integrity framework, the compassion we witness in the disability framework, and the identity and community considerations we see in the diversity framework. No one framework in isolation will provide a sufficient response or a comprehensive Christian model of pastoral care or cultural engagement.

For everyone’s sake, consider reading this book.

Safe People (book review)

I finished another great read from Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

One of the marks of a truly safe person: they are confrontable.

Safe people know that they are subject to change. They want to mature and grow over time.

Safe relationships are not just about trust, support, and sharing. They are also about truth, righteousness, and honesty.

To best deal with unsafe people, we first need to understand what causes us to be unsafe.

And that’s just from chapters two and three.

I came across this book while searching for a resource for developing a coaching program about relationships. Pretty sure this book is worthy. Here’s why:

  • Clear definitions, illustrations, and suggested tools for implementation.
  • Complete and thorough look on the subject.
  • You are not given the idea that you are perfect and others aren’t. It’s a look at yourself, if you choose to accept the opportunity.

Anyone would find this book helpful. Keep your ears open for a group coaching program on this subject, most likely coming this fall.