Questions Often Drive Innovation

“But I want to focus on why questioning is a particularly important tool for introverts. Indeed, asking questions is the quiet person’s secret weapon—if we can learn to appreciate and exploit that gift more than we might already.
I’ve studied hundreds of successful artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs known for their curiosity and questioning acumen. Most are humble, thoughtful, and reflective, as well as keen observers and good listeners. These qualities help innovators be more attentive and aware, which in turn enables them to formulate better questions about the world around them—and those questions often drive their creativity.”

Berger, Warren. (2018). The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead. New York, NY. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Questions are indeed powerful, but unfortunately we have been conditioned to not ask questions. Think about when you were a child and full of curiosity and a desire to learn. What has happened since then? Often through the educational system that encourages you to sit down and be quiet while the teacher dispenses knowledge to the insecure bosses who perceive questions as being challenges to authority we have had the desire to question suppressed until it is now habit.

Regain that childlike curiosity and learn to ask questions once again – you will be better and so will the people around you.

4 reasons this is the best reading app

BooksGood article by Michael Hyatt on why reading on paper, especially long-form reading, is much superior to reading on electronic devices. I agree with him.

Click here to read Michael’s article.

  1. Memory
  2. Comprehension
  3. Distraction
  4. Immersive Engagement

It’s a good article!


leading when you’re not the expert

Have you ever been in a situation where you were leading an area in which you had little or no expertise? Where many of your team knew much more about the area/industry than you? How did you handle yourself? What did you do?

For me, except for the first two years of my military life, that has pretty much been the case most of my working life. I now am once again in the situation of leading a team that has much more technical expertise in our area than I do. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a good leadership team who want to be even better. I have learned to choose to trust my team and to do my best to take care of them while they take care of business. Of course, I do learn the technical aspects in each new situation, but it is often the case that I will never catch up to the experts I have led and do lead now. So I have learned to give power away and to take care of my team. So far that has worked for me – not perfectly of course – but it has worked.

One of the best books on this subject, in my opinion, is L. David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around. Following is  TEDx Talk by David Marquet – it’s worth watching if you are interested in a better way of leading others.

quotes from a young man that is changing the world

adam-braun-profile_727_447_c1Good morning,

Sunday, I finished an excellent book by Adam Braun entitled The Promise of a Pencil. Other than a few places where he uses some less than best language, the book is excellent. He has several quotes through the book I want to highlight for you. They are not new – many are rooted in Scripture and you have read other versions of them in other places. But they sound fresh from this young man who is changing the lives of so many.

1. “. . . I would find far more fulfillment if I measured my life in purpose, not profits.”

2. “The biggest difference between the person who lives his or her dreams and the person who aspires is the decision to convert that first spark of motivation into immediate action.”

3. “The purest joys are available to all of us, and they are unrelated to status, recognition, or material desires.”

4. Listening intensely is far more valuable than speaking immensely.”

5. “I could never make assumptions about how others perceive me.”

6. “Most ventures fail in the early stages because people stop trying after they’re told no too many times.”

7. “Our cultures glorifies founders and CEOs far too often, when in fact the early adopters and evangelists are actually the ones who make a company’s success.”

8. “. . .we recreate our reputation every day.”

9. “We exist because of the sacrifices of those who came before us . . . ”

10. “Become your dreams.”

11. “Those I met defined themselves by what was on their mind, not on their business card.”

12. “How many times have I missed an incredible connection that could have been made because I had my face in my phone instead of paying attention to those around me?”

13. “I understood that I might fail, but I wouldn’t let it happen because I changed my compass along the way.”

14. “You need to know the character of the people at your side. Trust is everything.”

15. “Creating something new is easy, creating something that lasts is the challenge.”

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is Adam Braun comes across as a learner. He is constantly talking about how he benefitted from the advice of others. He was candid about his mistakes. Equally impressive is that he is a young man making a huge difference not only because of his passion and hard work, but also because he seeks and listens to good advice. Something some of us older folks have yet to learn.

His story is compelling and the book is worth a read.




three ways you might be demotivating your staff

“The point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely -all your skills, gifts, and energies- in order to make your vision manifest. Enjoy the process of becoming.” – Warren Bennis (from Susan Cain)

leaders eat last book with Simon SinekMotivation is something that we read about a great deal. Most of what I have read about motivation actually smacks of manipulation. One of my strongly held opinions is that you can’t really motivate people, but you can demotivate them very quickly. Many organizations look for, and find, motivated people which is what you should do. Unfortunately, they then go about demotivating them.

Simon Sinek, in his book Leaders Eat Last, talks about several subjects, but three things really stood out to me as ways we demotivate those we lead.

First, do you see people as a commodity to be managed in order to help grow the money/ministry? Great organizations see money as the commodity to grow their people. Want to demotivate your staff? See them as a mens to an end. See them as “human resources” to be managed just as you would money, buildings, machinery, and so on.

Second, take away their sense of safety. I am not talking about physical safety (although that is critical), but it is using stress, intimidation, humiliation, or isolation to “motivate” people that makes them feel insecure and lack a sense of emotional safety. Instead, give them a place based upon a clear set of values where everyone is valued and are provided a “safe” place to work.

And thirdly, take away a person’s sense of control over their job and watch their motivation plummet. In studies cited by Sinek, the lack of control over ones job is probably the greatest contributor to destructive workplace stress. Sinek goes on to say, “A supportive and well-managed work environment is good for one’s health. Those who feel they have more control, who feel empowered to make decisions instead of waiting for approval, suffer less stress.”

So, does the culture of your organization value people as people? Is your organization a safe place to work emotionally – for everyone that works there and not just a select few? And finally, do you actually empower people and give them control over their jobs? If not, maybe these are some of the reasons you are struggling with a demotivated staff.

Organizational health is critical to the success of your organization and these three areas are indicators of your health – how are you doing?

Have a great week!


mission true or mission drift?

Good morning! Still hoping it will one day actually be Spring here in the Midwest, but we have snow in the forecast for Tuesday!!

Last week, I did a brief post on the book Mission Drift and was asked by a friend of mine if there is mission drift, how do you get back on track? What I am going to do is take some key points from the book to talk about how you might be able to get prevent and even correct mission drift

First, this statement: “Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen.”

Read the following mission statement and then tell me who you think it applies to. “To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of our life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.” Who did you guess? Would you believe that it is the founding mission of Harvard University? It’s original motto was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Now it is simply Veritas. Eighty years later Yale was founded to counter the drift seen at Harvard – we have seen how that has worked out over the years!

The Pew Charitable Trusts were founded by a devout Christian, Howard Pew, and he helped Billy Graham launch Christianity TodayHoward Pew created the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Today, the Pew Charitable Trusts fund Planned Parenthood and some Ivy League schools, but no longer do they support the seminary founded by Howard Pew. An astonishing example of Mission Drift.

However, there are ways to counter our natural tendency towards mission drift (as the authors note, since organizations are made up of by individuals, then this has to be addressed at the individual level). The authors talk about what it means to be a Mission True organization.

Mission True – the authors of Mission Drift give us several examples of what characterizes Mission True organizations.

1. They recognize that Christ is the difference

2. They affirm that faith sustains them.

3. They Understand that functional atheism is the path of least resistance.

“Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher levels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.”

Steps Mission True organizations take:

1. Seek clarity first.

2. Acknowledge that the pressure to drift is constant.

3. Realize there’s a point of no return.

4. Make hard directions to correct drift.

Please do realize that change does not equal drift. In fact, being Mission True necessitates that you change to continue to meet your mission.

Mission True Boards do the following:

1. Recruit carefully and prayerfully.

2. Hold the CEO responsible for the mission.

3. Follow standard board practices (Note: check out Boards That Lead).

4. Create policies and safeguards.

5. Remember the mission.

In regards to hiring, Mission True organizations:

1. Hire slow and fire fast.

2. Clearly define your approach to hiring based on faith.

3. Be consistent with your hiring policy.

4. Inculcate staff in your values and history.

Mission True organizations understand the importance of culture. They know that:

1. Small things matter.

2. Consistency counts.

3. Exemplars should be celebrated.

4. Embed spiritual disciplines.

Mission Drift is real and a threat to all organizations founded with a purpose. And there are ways to prevent and correct that drift.

As a leader you must be always aware of the danger and vigilant in quickly detecting and correcting mission drift when it begins to occur. Also, do not confuse changes of methodology with change in mission. Very often, change in methodology is exactly what is needed to prevent mission drift.

This is a key leadership task – what are you doing to prevent mission drift in your organization?


do you see mission drift?

Mission-Drift-coverMission Drift – it is a common issue among faith-based organizations – just think of Harvard and the YMCA.

In their book, Mission Drift, Peter Greer and Chris Horst make the following statement:

“Without careful attention, faith-based organizations drift from their founding mission. . . Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare organizations routinely drift from their purpose and many never return to their original intent.”

Is this happening in your organization? What do you need to do to correct your course?


what’s the 1 thing?

Good Monday morning! I have been in Mississippi last week speaking at the Mississippi Community College Leadership Academy. Each year a group of next generation leaders for the state community colleges are run through a full year of the MCCLA to prepare them for future senior leadership roles in the community colleges. A pretty good idea in my estimation.

What is the One Thing that you need to focus on for the greatest impact in your life? I have found the book The ONE Thing to be an excellent tool to help me focus. Watch the video and check out the book and let me know what you think.

the better way

Christian Reflections Leadership Challenge book coverGood Monday morning to you! Hope you had a refreshing weekend. Ours was beautiful, but a tad messy as we received about four inches of snow.

What are the responsibilities of a leader? In my opinion, a key responsibility is seeking the better way. In my experience it has been called continuous improvement, innovation, and so on. But the CEO of the company where I work is always talking about seeking the better way – in all areas of your life, not just your work. It is a much more holistic approach to life. So, I much prefer seeking the better way than continuous improvement.

James Kouzes and Larry Posner have this to say in their book Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge:

Exemplary leaders search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve. They’re always on the lookout for anything that lulls a group into a false sense of security, and they constantly invite and create new initiatives that can make a difference. The focus of a leader’s attention is less on the routine operations and much more on the untested and untried. Leaders are always asking, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s better?” That’s where the future is.*

As a leader – are you consistently seeking the better way? Do you encourage and model seeking the better way to those that you lead?

Have a great week and continue to center your heart on the beautiful and wonderful mystery of the birth of Jesus and all that it means.


*James M. Kouzes;Barry Z. Posner. Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge (Kindle Locations 299-302). Kindle Edition.

to be a leader


“. . . to be a leader is not to hold down a job; it is to develop a character inside one’s self that is inextricably linked to giving purpose, motivation, and direction to others.”

– Brigadier General (ret) Thomas A. Kolditz in Leadership Lessons from West Point