Archives For Leading Thoughts

Twice during my working career I’ve had to come home and tell my family, “I was let go.” Once during the fallout from the financial crisis in 2010 and again during the economic boom in 2017.

Both times were due to circumstances beyond my control. In 2010, I told myself that 9 million other Americans were in the same boat, and in 2017, I knew a third of my division had been chopped. But those facts didn’t make it any easier.

I wish I could say, “I navigated unemployment like a champ,” but I can’t. Here is one thing I did wrong and one thing I got right while unemployed…

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organicsI heard a news program report that U.S. organic farmers are having a “row,” as the Brits say, over the organic label.

One side, we’ll call Purists, want the label to apply only to foods strictly raised without synthetic substances.

The other side, we’ll call Pragmatists, want broader availability of organics in the market and are willing to accept the use of some synthetic substances.

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In our time, we are seeing the birth of a new natural resource.

That resource is data. Social media is really about Big Data. Social networks are happy to facilitate connections between us because ultimately what they want is the data we create when we click, buy, post or share.

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berlin wall handshakeTwenty five years ago the Berlin Wall fell.

Twenty three years ago I spent the summer in Germany studying engineering. During my time there I visited Berlin, and stayed in an East Berlin hotel. It was a surreal experience to sleep and eat in a place that had been cut off from the western world for 30 years.

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Freedom RidersImages of the American Civil Rights movement both terrify me and make me proud.

They terrify me because of the brutality shown to people of color. They make me proud because the images are so distant from my children’s America that they require explanation.

Not long ago I watched the Freedom Riders documentary with my children. The Freedom Riders were a group of blacks and whites who set out to ride commercial buses across the South in order “to challenge local laws…that enforced segregation in seating.”

In the documentary it is sobering to watch a modern-day interview with John Patterson, the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Riders demonstration. In the interview Patterson admits that he was wrong to have labeled the Freedom Riders rebels, and if he had it to do over again he would support the Riders.

History is full of people who were first labeled rebellious but were later called pioneers. (click to tweet)

It’s easy to see now that leaders like Governor Patterson were on the wrong side of history, but what about in your organization or community?

How can you tell if a non-conformist is being rebellious or pioneering?

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Keep the RulesRecently I spent time on the receiving end of two great nonprofits, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Ronald McDonald House (RMH). Both organizations do amazing work to serve families.

I’ve spent over 18 years as a leader in nonprofits, so whenever I have a chance to be the customer/patient I pay attention. I’m watching for the insights that can only be mine through the eyes of a recipient.

It is impossible to see all the assumptions you make about your own organization as a provider, but as a recipient you clearly see the assumptions other’s are making in their organization. Often the best way to evaluate what you do is to be on the receiving end of what others do.

The impetus for every nonprofit is a cause, and effective nonprofits clarify a compelling mission around that cause.

RMH keeps families together to help kids heal faster and cope better. My family interacted with dozens of employees and volunteers at RMH who embodied that mission. We also encountered a few who had forgotten the mission and where just keeping the rules.

This past week my recipient eyes noticed that nonprofits attract two kinds of people: mission pursers and rule keepers. Here is the difference:

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oscar statueI recently heard Dustin Hoffman interviewed about his 50 year film career. In the interview Hoffman described himself as a peripheral person.

He noted how his 5’6″ boyish look never made him the automatic choice for a leading role. In 1967 Life Magazine said, “If Dustin Hoffman’s face were his fortune, he’d be committed to a life of poverty.”

The amazing thing about Hoffman is that he changed the idea of a leading male actor. The screenplay for one of Hoffman’s early films was written with a 6′ blonde-haired, blue-eyed leading role in mind (Robert Redford auditioned for the part.) Hoffman not only got the part he got an oscar nomination for his performance.

I’m not one to take sage-wisdom from Hollywood actors but something Hoffman said in his interview grabbed me: “Many times in life a peripheral person is the leading role.” (tweet that)

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confessionOne of the best teachers I ever had began the first class of each semester with a confession of how he had been fired from his last job.

There was something about that opening confession that set the whole class up to succeed. In fact a majority of his students did very well.

One time his students’ success brought him into question before the academic dean. The dean felt sure he was making exams too easy for his students. My prof brought a copy of his final exam and challenged the dean to pass it. The dean declined and dropped his concerns.

A few months ago I came across a post entitled “The 13 Biggest Failures from Successful Entrepreneurs and What They’ve Learned from Them”. These are not light-hearted confessions about failing to show up to work on time or missing project deadlines. I was struck by some of the “black-eye” confessions of wasting money and letting growth exceed the ability to lead.

I have worked in churches for over 18 years and I’ve rarely heard a pastor confess a leadership failure unless it was attached to moral failure. I certainly haven’t heard confessions from 13 prominent pastors.

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Thanks for making 2013 a great year at Almost 1,000 visitors per month visited the site. Here are the top 10 most-read articles of 2013, and some links to my favorite blogs for 2014.

Number ten: Where is My “X”? Reflecting on JFK

Number nine: Solve Problems to Achieve Success

Number eight: Growth is a Goal, Not a Solution

Number seven: There Should be Books You No Longer Read

Number six: Why Pastors (more than churches) Need To Be on Social Media

Number five: 3 Ways I Use Evernote

Number four: Helping Churches Find Their Social Media Voice

Number three: What Social Media is Restoring & Why Organizations Should Notice

Number two: Donors & Followers: Incorporating Social Media into Fundraising

Number one: Why Some Churches Are Pastored Like a Mom & Pop

My favorite blogs for 2014:

Alli Polin:

Chris Brogan:

Michael Lukaszewski:

Jeff Brodie:

Dorie Clark:

For coaching, consulting, or speaking, let’s connect in 2014!

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Best Advice 2013Here it is #BestAdvice2013. Thanks to everyone who contributed these words of wisdom. Some advice was shortened to be tweetable.

All the Best in 2014!!!

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