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.

12 questions to ask your staff

Fall in MI OCT 2013Good morning! A nice morning here, but there is a freeze warning for tomorrow – not sure if I am ready for that!

Questions are powerful tools – that has been proven time and again. However, if you’re like me, you may have a hard time coming up with good questions. So, what I have done is to become a collector of good questions developed by others like Bobb Biehl.  Another person is Marcus Buckingham. In his book. First, Break All the Rules, he lists 12 excellent questions for people to ask. I am going to slightly  modify the questions so that they become ones that you can ask those that you lead. Here they are:

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
2. Do you have the materials and equipment that you need in order to do your work right?
3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
4. In the past seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission or purpose of this company make you feel that your job is important?
9. Are your coworkers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do you have a best friend at work?
11. In the past six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
12. This past year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Try these questions with your team and then just listen. Don’t respond at first and especially don’t become defensive – just listen. What you learn will be critical to the success of your team.

Blessings on your week,

“Humility is th…

“Humility is the intentional recognition that God is everything to you, and that you are nothing without Him. It is the acknowledgement that life is not about you, and that the needs of others are more important than your own.”

Crawford Loritts in Leadership as an Identity.

you will be accountable for your leadership

ken_blanchard“I’m always reading about leadership. It is my chosen profession. It’s how I serve people, how I add value to my organization, and how I impact the world. I know that someday I will be accountable for my leadership” (emphasis added)

Ken Blanchard in Great Leaders Grow.

quotes on learning from Louis L’Amour

Louis L’Amour was and is one of my favorite authors. He was a man with a love for learning and it permeated all of his books. Following are a few of his quotes on learning that I particularly like. As you read his comments, maybe you can take time to reflect on your own attitude towards learning. Do you have a hunger for learning? Does the complexity and beauty of God’s creation cause you amazement and wonder?

“A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner, so if one’s life is cold and bare he can blame none but himself. You have a chance to select from some pretty elegant furnishings.

… I seek when I can the company of others who learn, for who knows when my knowledge combined with theirs might prove the answer? Each man learns a little, but the sum of their knowledge can be great. 

Sometimes I wonder if anything is ever ended. The words a man speaks today live on in his thoughts or the memories of others, and the shot fired, the blow struck, the thing done today is like a stone tossed into a pool and the ripples keep widening out until they touch lives far from ours.”

L’Amour, Angelique (2010-12-01). A Trail of Memories: The Quotations Of Louis L’Amour. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Encourage the Heart and Keep Hope Alive

Good morning to you this Friday morning.  I hope you have a great weekend planned of spending time with people you love and setting aside time to quietly meet with the Lord.

As a leader you are, or should be, a dealer in hope.  Actually that should be fairly easy as we serve the One who is our Hope.  However, I am afraid that at times I lose sight of that fact in the midst of busyness.  We of all people should be brimming over with hope.

James Kouzes ad Barry Posner in their excellent book Encouraging the Heart make the following statement:

“Encouraging the Heart is ultimately about keeping hope alive. Leaders keep hope alive when they set high standards and genuinely express optimism about an individual’s capacity to achieve them. They keep hope alive when they give feedback and publicly recognize a job well done. They keep hope alive when they give their constituents the internal support that all human beings need to feel that they and their work are important and have meaning. They keep hope alive when they train and coach people to exceed their current capacities. Most important, leaders keep hope alive when they set an example. There really is nothing more encouraging than to see our leaders practice what they preach.”

So are you keeping hope alive in those that you lead?  Including your family?

Have a great weekend.

Are Meetings Crippling Your Organization?

“If an operating room were as sloppily run as our meetings, patients would die. If a restaurant kitchen put as little planning into a meal as we put into our meetings, dinner would never be served.”

“Regularly interrupting the day to bring our best minds together to focus on the urgent makes it impossible for these people to spend their focused energy on what’s actually important.”

Do these two statements resonate with you? Are you tired of continually spending time in the conference room and then walking out and wondering what, if anything, was accomplished? If so, the book The Modern Meeting Standard might be a good read for you.  In this book the author quite directly lays out many of the reasons for our ineffective meetings including it being a key way to avoid decision making and taking responsibility for decisions.

The author mentions seven principles of modern meetings (as opposed to traditional meetings):

 – It supports a decision that has already been made.
 – It moves fast and ends on time.
 – It limits the number of attendees.
 – It rejects the unrpepared.
 – It produces committed action plans.
 – It refuses to be informational.  Reading memos (emails) is mandatory.
 – It works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Some excellent points in this book.  So if you want to quit wasting the time of your best and brightest, I would recommend you picking up this book and seing how you might apply its principles in your organization.  Additionally, another good book on meetings is Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting.

Remember, you are a steward of your time and of the time of the people in your organization and they are your most precious resource.

Let’s serve our Lord with excellence this week.

The Way of the Shepherd

Good morning and I hope your week is getting off to a great start.  Here at Life Action, we are entering into an annual event we call “Revival Week”.  It is a time when we pretty much stop fir the week and collectively focus on the Lord seeking Him to work deeply within this ministry.  We would appreciate your prayers for us during this time.

The following is a slight update of a previous post about one of my favorite books.  I have used this book at the ministry and in many of the classes I teach at Bethel College and the impact has been tremendous. The book is The Way of the Shepherd, 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People by Kevin Leman and William Pentak.

Following are the highlights of the book:

1. Know the Condition of Your Flock
a. Follow the status of your people as well as the status of the work.
b. Get to know your flock, one sheep at a time.
c. Engage your people on a regular basis.
d. Keep your eyes and ears open, question, and follow through.

2. Discover the Shape of Your Sheep
a. Your choice of sheep can make flock management easier or harder.
b. Start with healthy sheep, or you’ll inherit someone else’s problems.
c. Know the SHAPE of your sheep to make sure they’re in the right fold.

3. Help Your Sheep Identify with You
a. Build trust with your followers by modeling authenticity, integrity, and compassion.
b. Set high standards of performance.
c. Relentlessly communicate your values and sense of mission.
d. Define the cause for your people and tell them where they fit in.
e. Remember that great leadership isn’t just professional; it’s personal.

4. Make Your Pasture a Safe Place
a. Keep your people well informed.
b. Infuse every position with importance.
c. Cull chronic instigators from the flock.
d. Regularly rotate the sheep to fresh pastures.
e. Reassure the sheep by staying visible.
f. Don’t give problems time to fester.

5. The Staff of Direction
a. Know where you’re going, get out in front, and keep your flock on the move.
b. When directing, use persuasion rather than coercion.
c. Give your people freedom of movement, but make sure they know where the fence line is. Don’t confuse boundaries with bridles!
d. When your people get in trouble, go and get them out.
e. Remind your people that failure isn’t fatal.

6. The Rod of Correction
a. Protect: Stand in the gap and fight for your sheep.
b. Correct: Approach discipline as a teaching opportunity.
c. Inspect: Regularly inquire about your people’s progress.

7. The Heart of the Shepherd
a. Great leadership is a lifestyle, not a technique.
b. Every day you have to decide who’s going to pay for your leadership—you or your people.
c. Most of all, have a heart for your sheep.

Again – a great little book.

My question – Are you shepherding your people or are you just managing them?

A Reading List for Leaders

Leaders tend to be people that are continuously learning and one of the best sources to learn from is good books.

I have been talking to people to pin down the top books they would consider core to any leadership development process.

Following are some that I have come to value highly:

1. The Bible is foundational of course

2. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

3. Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Lorritts

4. Most of Peter Drucker’s works

5. Most of Patrick Lencioni’s books

6. Good to Great by Jim Collins

7. The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner

8. Built to Serve by Dan Sanders

9. Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf

10. Execution by Bossidy & Charan

11. Linchpin by Seth Godin

12. Switch by Chip & Dan HEath

Those are just a few of the books I would include.

What books would you consider key for a developing leader to read? I would appreciate your advice.






12 Great Questions for Leaders

Marcus Buckingham’s great book – First, Break All the Rules, has 12 powerful questions that managers need to ask themselves and then ask their team members.  Following are the questions:

Do I know what is expected of me at work?

Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

Does my supervisor or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

At work, do my opinions seem to count?

Does the mission / purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

Do I have a best friend at work?

In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

This last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

Marcus Buckingham is a researcher for the Gallup Organization and through extensive research, Gallup found that these twelve questions that measure the strength of a workplace.  They capture and measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented staff.

So, I recommend answering the questions for yourself and then ask them of your team members.  The answers may not be fun at times, but they will be powerful in you becoming more effective in your calling / profession.