Measuring Up

stfrancis2"So soon as he certainly has followers, he does not compare himself with his followers, towards whom he might appear as a master; he compares himself more and more with his Master, towards whom he appears only as a servant." That quote is about Francis of Assisi written by G.K. Chesterton.

As a leader, it's easy to start to derive your identity from what your team does or does not accomplish.

And if your team does a great job on a consistent basis, becoming arrogant is certainly a potential pitfall.

I get to lead some amazing people at my local church. People who volunteer their time and skill to help our local church make a difference in our local community and our world.

Staying humble when you work with amazing people can be hard (at least for me). Sometimes I get a bit arrogant. Sometimes I make the mistake of false humility, where I become too self deprecating.

Staying emotionally healthy and having a healthy self image is tough.

I love how Francis addressed this. The more other people wanted to follow him, the more he wanted to follow Jesus. If things were going great, it would be easy to pass that praise on to the Master he so closely followed.

If things were going rough, he has a mentor he can turn to rather than bearing the brunt all on his own.

His perspective and self worth would always be rooted to relationship that would not shift. Assisi would not be 'promoted' above Jesus at any point. Jesus would never fire him.

That's the solid ground on which to build our identity, not the shifting grounds of performance or results.

In order to have the best performance and results, one must have confidence. Jesus can give us that security and confidence.

Francis need not worry whether his followers abandon him, whether for valid reasons or not, because it would not change his identity as a follower himself.

To me, this is a brilliant perspective and one that every leaders - especially church leader - should keep in mind.

35@35 #22: Standards

stock-footage-tape-measure-on-woodTC's guidelines and principles of life #22: "You get what you tolerate." A couple weeks ago, I read 'Boundaries for Leaders' by Henry Cloud. He said that leaders get what they build or what they allow.

It reminded me of how Walter Isaacson portrayed Steve Jobs in the eponymous biography he wrote of Jobs: that Jobs was ruthless about saying no to projects which were not in the framework of what he wanted to accomplish.

Isaacson spoke of how, when Jobs returned to Apple following his exile, he listened to a meeting where multiple projects were described to him before he cut everyone off and told them that, from that moment forward, Apple only made 4 products: Pro desktop, Consumer desktop, Pro laptop, and Consumer laptop.

Steve said no to anything else until they added mobile devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad) later on.

Apple made 4 devices, and they made them better than anyone else (I'm not an apple fanboy, and I say this point is not really up for debate).

Steve would not tolerate anything less than excellent, and he would not tolerate unnecessary competition between the teams at Apple. Everyone worked for the same goal.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke at an event a couple years ago about how he leads multi millionaire superstar basketball players when he coaches the olympic team. He said he doesn't give them rules to follow.

Instead, he gathers them together and asks them, together, to create the standards that he will hold the team to.

His job was not to tolerate anything less than the standards the players give. An example he included was that they would never have a bad practice.

Calling a team, or organization, or even ourselves to our highest ability is hard. We naturally seek the path of least resistance.

Only if we make the choice not to tolerate such things are we able to accomplish our highest aims.

What we say 'no' to is equally important to the things we say 'yes' to.

And we should probably say 'no' more often than we say 'yes' if we are to have the life, team or group we want.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


35@35 #14: Dead Ends

sinking-shipTC's Principles and Guidelines for Life #14: "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got." Yes. I did totally steal this one from Einstein.

I have found that doing some study of human personalities (including assessments of my own personality) has been extremely helpful to me both in understanding myself and in learning to interact in a healthy manner with others - including within a community setting.

Using the DiSC personality system, I have quite a bit of "I" in me. The I personality is generally playful and innovative. Think 'squirrel' or 'otter'.

So I'm not only okay with change, I crave it. I want to do something differently just to keep it interesting for myself.

Vastly different than the I personality is the S personality - somebody who is Steady, reliable, dependable, loyal. Thing 'golden retriever'.

11% of the population has I as their primary trait.

69% of the population has S as their primary trait.

This is why, when you try to initiate mass changes, you get resistance.

When Facebook updates something, all the S personality people on your wall are upset because they don't like change.

So for me, if something isn't working, I'm almost happy, because it turns into a puzzle - what new approach can I try to improve this?

But 7 out of 10 people would rather keep doing something ineffective than try something new.

As a leader in an organization, I have to be sensitive to this. One of the most effective approaches to leading change is by using a model called here to there that Bill Hybels leverages.

Paint a picture of where your organization or group is at, and make sure everybody sees all the problems.

Imagine you're on a sinking ship - you need to take them around to all the places that water is gushing in and show them the areas that are underwater so they get a picture of the fact that the ship is indeed sinking.

Only then can you convince them to move off of that ship.

Because for some people - many people, in fact - getting what you've always got is preferable to doing something new. Even if what you're getting is effectively useless.

So Einsteins statement, which I have totally adopted as a proverb in my own life, is brilliant. But not everyone is going to be able to embrace it immediately. They may need help making that jump.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

Breaking the Rules

olympicsteamusaRecently, I heard Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K from Duke) speak about leadership. He talked about being the coach of Team USA, which included players like Kobe, Lebron, Kevin Durant, etc.

I dont’ know about you, but I was insanely curious to find out how he lead a team full of alpha dogs like that. And not only that, he led them in a way that left every single one of them singing his praises, after they won the Gold medal.

He revealed the approach he took with them: that he did not put a single rule in place for the team.

See, most NBA teams have rules like, ‘If you’re late for a meeting, you have to pay $1,000’. For somebody making $20+ million per year, this is basically a joke.

Coach K didn’t want to use meaningless fines to convince people to fully engage with what the team was doing.

So instead of rules, he asked the players of the team to help him create standards by which the team would conduct themselves.

Rules, he said, are external. But standards are something we hold internally. They are how we truly judge our actions.

So the team created standards: Nobody late for a meeting. No bad practices. Nothing short of a Gold Medal.

Coach K told us that nobody was ever late for a meeting. Nobody had a bad practice. In the London Olympics, they took home the Gold Medal.

I realized that I had made a similar switch from rules to standards in my own life, I just hadn’t recognized that change.

But lately, I have been seeking an overall standard for everything I do. A lens whereby I can view everything I do and don’t do and determine whether I’m doing the right thing.

For some people, the phrase What Would Jesus Do? filled this role in the 90s.

To be honest, I was never really in love with this standard.

I have no idea if Jesus would watch this movie, or read that book, or how much money Jesus would give to that charity.

Jesus lived in a totally different culture than mine.

I learn a ton of valuable principles from Jesus, but I also know this: I’m not Jesus.

There’s a lot of stuff he did that I haven’t been able to do yet (see: raising people from the dead). And there’s a lot of stuff I do that Jesus never would (we can start the list with driving a car and move into other stuff like ‘being selfish’).

So WWJD was a nice idea that didn’t work for me.

Here’s what I’ve come up with lately: before I do or don’t do anything, I’m trying to ask myself the following question:

Is this helping me become more like Jesus?

Because while I may never be just like Jesus, I can certainly become more like him. And I believe that is exactly what I have been called to do.

To be honest, I haven’t fully deployed this question in my life because I’m scared of where it will take me.

I’m going to have to start doing some stuff that I would probably rather avoid. And there’s stuff that I’ll probably have to stop doing that I like.

The thing is, I know that becoming more like Jesus is going to outweigh anything I have to sacrifice or give up.

I want that to be a standard in my life. Something I aspire to instead of a rule that mocks me when I fail.

What standards do you hold up before you?