- Leadership skills such as challenging people by asking deep questions and moving us toward a culture that is mission-centered, others-focused, values-driven, externally-open
- Managing skills such as listening, understanding, and helping people discern their talents and putting them in roles in which they can thrive — strengths-discerning and learning how others work
At a deeper level, CFL Consulting and CFL Incubator are focused on helping others discern their gifts and calling:
- Gifts: unique talents that correlate with success
- Calling: a “holy discontent” that motivates good works
Discerning, developing, and deploying gifts and calling require certain practices. The following articles emphasize those practices, which can be remembered with the acronym MOVE SLOW.
- MOVE (Mission-centered, Others-oriented, Values-directed, Externally-open) according to our “holy discontent” and reflecting “eulogy virtues.”
- SLOW (Strengths-discerning and Learning how Others Work)
- “Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker
- “What Great Managers Do” by Marcus Buckingham
- “Moments of Greatness” by Robert Quinn
- Holy Discontent by Bill Hybels
- Overrated by Eugene Cho
- The Road to Character by David Brooks
“Managing Oneself” by Peter Drucker*
“Now most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution” (HBR Leadership Fundamentals, p. 7).
“We need to know our strengths in order to know where to belong” (p. 8). [Strengths-defining]
“The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or twelve months later, compare the actual results with your expectations” (p. 8).
“Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis. First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results. Second, work on improving your strengths….Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it” (p. 8).
“It is equally essential to remedy your bad habits — the things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance” (p. 8).
“Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction” (p. 8).“Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what not to do….In those areas a person…should not take on work, jobs, and assignments. One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence….Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer” (pp. 8, 9). “Amazingly few people know how they get things done….For knowledge workers, How do I perform? may be an even more important question than What are my strengths?….A few common personality traits usually determine how a person performs” (p. 9).
- “The first thing to know is whether you are a reader or a listener” (p. 9).
- “The second thing to know about how one performs is to know how one learns” (p. 9). “[Writers] do not, as a rule, learn by listening or reading. They learn by writing” (p. 9). “Some people learn by doing. Others learn by hearing themselves talk” (p. 10). “Am I reader or a listener? and How do I learn? are the first questions to ask. But they are by no means the only ones.
- To manage yourself effectively, you also have to ask, Do I work well with people, or am I a loner? And if you work well with people, you then must ask, In what relationship?” (p. 10). “Another crucial question is, Do I produce results as a decision maker or as an adviser?” (p. 10). “Other important questions to ask include, Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment? Do I work best in a big organization or a small one? Few people work well in all kinds of environments” (p. 10).
“The conclusion bears repeating: Do not try to change yourself — you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform” (p. 10).
“To be able to manage yourself, you finally have to ask, What are my values?….To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with one’s own condemns a person both to frustration and nonperformance” (pp. 10, 11).
“Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values” (p. 12).
“Knowledge workers in particular have to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?” (p. 12).
“Managing yourself requires taking responsibility for relationships. This has two parts.
- The first is to accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are. They perversely insist on behaving like human beings. This means that they too have their strengths; they too have their ways of getting things done; they too have their values. To be effective, therefore, you have to know the strengths, the performance modes, and the values of your coworkers….
- The second of relationship responsibility is taking responsibility for communication” (p. 13).
“[There] is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it [Learning how Others Work]. Average managers play checkers, while great manager play chess. The difference? in checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. in chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves” (p. 39).
“Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they cut through differences in race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share. The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn a person’s particular talent into performance. Managers succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires” (pp. 39, 40).
“The ability to keep tweaking roles to capitalize on the uniqueness of each person is the essence of great management” (p. 41).
“To that end, there are three things you must know about someone to manage her well: her strengths, the triggers that activate those strengths, and how she learns” (p. 43).
- “To identify a person’s strengths, first ask, ‘What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?’ Find out what the person was doing and why he enjoyed it so much. Remember: A strength is not merely something you’re good at. In fact, it might be something you aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something you find so intrinsically satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time [i.e., a talent theme]” (p. 43). “To identify a person’s weaknesses, just invert the question: ‘What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past three months?’ (p. 43).
- “A person’s strengths aren’t always on display. Sometimes they require precise triggering to turn them on…..The most powerful trigger by far is recognition, not money….Given how much personal attention it requires, tailoring praise to fit the person is mostly a manager’s responsibility” (p. 45).
- “Although there are many learning styles, a careful review of adult learning theory reveals that three styles predominate” (p. 46). “First, there is analyzing….The best way to teach an analyzer is to give her ample time in the classroom. Role-play with her. Do postmortem exercises with her. Break her performance down into its component parts so she can carefully build it back up. Always allow her time to prepare….[Don’t] expect to teach her much by throwing her into a new situation and telling her to wing it” (p. 46). “The opposite is true for the second dominant learning style, doing. While the most powerful learning moments for the analyzer occur prior to performance, the doer’s most powerful moments occur during the performance….So rather than role-play…pick a specific task…give…a brief overview of the outcome you want, and get out of [the] way” (p. 46). “Finally, there is watching…Watchers learn a great deal when they are given the chance to see the total performance. Studying the individual parts of a task is about as meaningful for them as studying the individual pixels of a digital photograph….If you are trying to teach a watcher, by far the most effective technique is to get her out of the classroom. Take her away from the manuals, and make her ride shotgun with one of your most experienced performers” (p. 46).
“[When] leaders do their best work, they don’t copy anyone. Instead, they draw on their own fundamental values and capabilities — operating in a frame of mind that is true to them yet, paradoxically, not their normal state of being. I call it the fundamental state of leadership. It’s the way we lead when we encounter a crisis and finally choose to move forward….Most likely, if you made a decision not to meet others’ expectations but to suit what you instinctively understood to be right — in other words, if you were at your very best — you rose to the task because you were being tested” (p. 23).
“In my work coaching business executives, I’ve found that if we ask ourselves — and answer honestly — just four questions, we can make the shift at any time. It’s a temporary state. Fatigue and external resistance pull us out of it. But each time we reach it, we return to our everyday selves a bit more capable, and we usually elevate the performance of the people around us as well” (p. 23).
“In the normal state, people tend to say within their comfort zones and allow external forces to direct their behaviors and decisions. They lost moral influence and often rely on rational argument and the exercise of authority to bring about change. Others comply with what these leaders ask, out of fear, but the result is usually unimaginative and incremental — and largely reproduces what already exists” (p. 24).
“To elevate the performance of others, we must elevate ourselves into the fundamental state of leadership” (p. 24).
- “First, we move from being comfort centered to being results centered….[The] question is this: What result do I wish to create? Giving an honest answer pushes us off nature’s path of least resistance. It leads from problem solving to purpose finding” (p. 24). [Mission-centered]
- “Second, we move from being externally directed to being more internally directed. That means we stop merely complying with others’ expectations and conforming to the current culture. To become internally directed is to clarify our core values and increase our integrity, confidence, and authenticity” (p. 24). [Values-directed]
- “Third, we become less self-focused and more focused on others. We put the needs of the organization as a whole about our own. Few among us would admit that personal need trump the collective good, but the impulse to control relationships in a way that feeds our interests is natural and normal. That said, self-focus leads to feelings of isolation. When we put the collective good first, others reward us with their trust and respect” (p. 24). [Others-focused]
- “Fourth, we become more open to outside signals or stimuli, including those that require us to do things we are not comfortable doing. In the normal state, we pay attending to signals that we know to be relevant. If they suggest incremental adjustments, we respond. If, however, they call for more dramatic changes, we may adopt a posture of defensiveness and denial; this mode of self-protection and self-deception separates us from the ever-changing external world….But in the fundamental state of leadership, we are more aware of what is unfolding, and we generate new images all the time We are adaptive, credible, and unique. In this externally open state, no two people are alike” (p. 24). [Externally-open]
“I’ve come to refer to the powerful, spiritual congruence that connected Moses’ priorities to the priorities of God as his “holy discontent,” and it’s a concept that works in our modern world as well. Still today, what wrecks the heart of someone who loves God is often the very thing God want to use to fire them up to do something that, under normal circumstances, they would never attempt to do….And it all starts with finding your holy discontent; it begins with you determining what it is that you can’t stand” (p. 25).
“For twenty years prior to her work as a world-renowned friend to the friendless, though, the young woman born Agnes Gonzha Bojaxhiu was just an average geography teacher who worked in Calcutta. This is where her Popeye moment [the point where we ‘cant’s stands it no more”] comes in. Each morning, she’d make her way to St. Mary’s High School to inspire young minds, but all around the school, conditions were anything but inspiring. Life on the streets was deplorable! Her route to work took her right by men and women who were homeless, destitute, and incapacitated by disease. Every day, something in her spirit would cry out, ‘That’s all I can stand! I just can’t stand this anymore!’ Ultimately, though, the gut-wrenching poverty that assaulted her senses and wrecked her soul day in and day out thrust her into solution mode” (p. 35).
“Someone who was crystal clear on the issue of what he couldn’t stand was Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision….In 1950, Pierce experienced a massive firestorm of frustration in his heart. He watched with disbelief as little kids who had been orphaned in the Korean War in third-world Asia dropped dead while standing in line for food. When Pierce went seeking answers as to why, he learned that there just wasn’t enough food at the front of the food lines. In what I consider a dramatic ‘Popeye moment,’ Bob Pierce headed back to the United States, gathered his most affluent business partners together in a meeting room in Los Angeles, and together birthed the reality known as World Vision. “We’re going to get food at the front of the food lines,’ Pierce vehemently declared. ‘If it kills me, we’re going to do it'” (pp. 45, 46).
“We were all created to do good works [Ephesians 2:10]. I was created to do good works. Just as confidently, I’m here to tell you that you were created to do good works, which explains how I know that you have a holy discontent banging around in your brain somewhere — if you’re alive and kicking today, then a specific work that that you are expected to do” (p. 51).
“The danger in opting out of the holy discontent pursuit is that in doing so, you also opt out of tackling the good works God has wired you to accomplish. The goal, friends, is to cultivate your soul’s soil so that this doing-of-good-works process can unfold in your life….There is no greater satisfaction this side of heaven!” (p. 51).
“About the time I was fleshing out my thoughts around the holy discontent concept, I came across a book written by University of Michigan business school professor Robert Quinn. It contained a theory that really resonated with me — something he called the “fundamental state” theory. Essentially, it says that when a person is gripped by a powerful passion (or driven by holy discontent, you might say), he or she literally enters into a completely different state of mind; in fact, they shift mental gears altogether and begin operating on an entirely new level” (p. 117).
“According to Quinn, people can actually migrate at will from what he calls the “normal state” to a place known as the “fundamental state.” This is helpful to know, especially since you may be stuck in the “normal state” without even knowing it. Here’s how to tell: in the normal state, you’re almost entirely self-absorbed. You have a reactive approach to life. And you try to maintain the status quo, regardless how unbearable the status quo is. Professor Quinn puts it this way in his book, Building the Bridge as You Walk Across It: ‘When we accept the world as it is [by living in the normal state], we deny our ability to see something better, and hence our ability to be something better. We become what we behold.’ Accepting the world as it is. Denying our ability to see something better. Denying our ability to be something better. This is life in the normal state. What’s not normal, Professor Quinn says, is embracing the fact that another state exists” (pp. 117, 118).
“Leo Tolstoy: ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself'” (p. 26).
“I fear that we might be more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world” (p. 29).
“I fear that we might be more enamored with the idea of changing the world and are neglecting to allow ourselves to be changed” (p. 30).
“Yet I think our wealth of resources and opportunities lends itself to this theory that we may be part of the most overrated generation in human history — because we have access to so much data, info, resources, modes of communication…but we end up doing so little. We tweet, blog, talk, preach, retweet, share, like, and click incessantly…(pp. 30,31).
“But here’s the tension and truth: There’s always a cost to doing justice. And there’s always a cost to following Jesus” (p. 34).
“God’s justice is renewing the world to where He would have intended it to be” (p. 37).
“To more thoroughly understand justice, we must reflect on the truth that justice is a reflection of God’s character” (p. 38).
“God invites and commands His people to not just be aware of injustice but to pursue justice. Not just to pursue justice but to live justly” (p. 38).
“Martin Luther King: ‘A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions….Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion'” (p. 47).
“We should not serve on the condition that recipients behave the way we deem right, or make our services contingent on someone’s theological and spiritual convictions. That is a distorted twenty-first-century vision of colonialism” (p. 48).
“What brings credibility to the gospel is not more hour-long sermons. What brings credibility, passion, and, ultimately, belief is seeing the gospel at work…the incarnate gospel” (p. 58).
“In seeking to do justice, we have to be open to the reality that God will challenge us, change us, and transform us. In doing justice and in doing things that matter to God, we actually grow more in His likeness. We begin more to reflect the character of God. We grow more intimate with the heart of God” (p. 51).
“The inescapable truth about justice is that there is something wrong in the world that needs to be set right. Sometimes the things that need to be set right are not just in the lives of those we seek to serve. The things that need to be set right may also be in our own lives” (p. 52).
“Henri Nouwen: ‘Just as bread needs to be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives'” (p. 95).
“I live for a gospel that not only saves but also serves; a gospel that not only saves but seeks to restore all things back to the One who ushered forth all that is good and beautiful; a gospel that not only saves but restores the dignity of human beauty — even in the midst of our brokenness and depravity” (pp. 96, 97).
“When God gives us a vision, conviction, or dream, He may not want us to act on it instantaneously. Instead, all it to incubate in the waiting room. Some of us see the waiting room as weakness, but I believe it is an example of character and maturity” (p. 103).
“While following Jesus does bring blessing, including the blessing of being in relationship with our Creator, we learn quickly that the kingdom of God beats to a different rhythm from the kingdom of his world. And if you’re not convinced of this, read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount” (p. 119).
“And this is the gospel: The good news is not merely that Jesus saves but that Jesus is with us….Let’s not be so quick to curse the storms and abandon our ships” (pp. 121, 122).
“Who am I? Whom do I serve? What are my values? Where am I going?” (p. 150).
On this side of Christ’s complete reconciliation of the universe to himself — the new heaven and new earth at the end of time — our own personal lives are in irreconcilable tension. We are both “Adam I” and “Adam II.” We straddle the pursuit of our gifts and calling because we seek to establish both our “resume virtues” and our “eulogy virtues.”
“Adam I is the career-oriented, ambitious side of our nature. Adam I is the external, resume Adam. Adam I wants to build, create, produce, and discover things. He wants to have high status and win victories. Adam II want to embody certain moral qualities. Adam II want to have a serene inner character, a quite but solid sense of right and wrong — not only to do good, but to be good. Adam II wants to love intimately, to sacrifice self in the service of others, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have a cohesive soul that honors creation and one’s own possibilities.
While Adam I want to conquer the world, Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world. While Adam I is creative and savors his own accomplishments, Adam II sometimes renounces worldly success and status for the sake of some sacred purpose. While Adam I asks how things work, Adam II ask why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for. While Adam I want to venture forth, Adam II wants to return to his roots and savor the warmth of a family meal. While Adam I’s motto is ‘success,’ Adam II experiences life as a moral drama. His motto is ‘Charity, love, and redemption'” (pp. xi, xii).
“Adam I — the creating, building, and discovering Adam — lives by a straightforward utilitarian logic. It’s the logic of economics. Input leads to output. Effort leads to reward. Practice makes perfect. Pursue self-interest. Maximize your utility. Impress the world.
Adam II lives by an inverse logic. It’s a moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave. Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning. In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.
To nurture you Adam I career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths. To nurture you Adam II moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses” (p. xii).
“We live in a culture that nurtures Adam I, the external Adam, and neglects Adam II. We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life. The competition to succeed and win admiration is so fierce that it becomes all-consuming. The consumer marketplace encourages us to live by a utilitarian calculus, to satisfy our desires and lose sight of the moral stakes involved in everyday decisions. The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths. We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character” (p. xiiii).
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*Harvard Business Review (2006), Leadership Fundamentals, Products 4444, 1487, 1460.