Monday, December 17, 2012

Power Generators

I am very careful about who i listen to and follow when it comes to leadership.  Some people know about leadership, but have never led.  Others have some really odd ideas about leadership.  But there are a few voices in the crowds that speak truth with clarity and wisdom.  Max Webber is one of them.  The following is from his blog.  I would encourage you to sign up and follow him.  He does not post often but he posts wisely.  Below is just a portion of his post.  You can see it all by clicking here.

Power Generators
In organizations that rely on external power and control to make people perform, the constituents rarely achieve their best. The capacity of individuals and organizations to excel grows when the people do things because they want to, and not because they have to. When people are mere powerless pawns, they feel weak and insignificant. Empowered people, however, possess greater confidence, determination and effectiveness. Exemplary leaders accomplish great things by enabling others to take ownership of and responsibility for the organization’s success.
As the following “formulas” demonstrate, when you give away responsibility you must also give away authority.
What Is Empowerment?
E = R + A + E2
Empowerment = Responsibility + Authority + lots of Encouragement
R – A = F2
Responsibility without Authority produces much Frustration and Failure
E = O
Empowerment = Ownership
Leaders have a choice: they can hold onto their power (authority, responsibility and privilege) and use it purely for selfish ends, or they can give their power away to others. The more power you have, the less you should use, and the more you should give away.....  Read it all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tips from Others

I always enjoy reading tips from people who look back over their lives and know they could have done better if only they had known.  Quora is a fun place to find answers to unusual questions.  I enjoyed reading the following post and hope you will to:

Read Quote of Faisal Khan's answer to Entrepreneurship: What is one thing you wish you had known at 21? on Quora

Friday, November 30, 2012

Of No Reputation

How many of us work at developing a good, solid reputation?  We want to be known as "somebody" worth knowing.  We look at opportunities that give us a chance to stand out and up above the crowd.  In leadership we want to be those who rush to the front to guide the troops to take the next hill.  But Paul says of Jesus that "he made himself a man of no reputation, taking on the very nature of a servant" (Phil. 2:7).  This is the theme behind Scott Rodin find article written ten years ago.  If you are a reader you may benefit from Rodin's five key points of where he failed as the President of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  It might even save you from failing in the same areas:  Down Load Here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brain Based Education

There is a revolution going on in education.  In the past 200 years teachers, researchers, and parents have been working hard to understand how to maximize education.  Education has been the key that has opened many doors to financial success and security.  Everyone wants their child to grow up with an excellent education and thus capable to making their way in the world.  Until recently most of the research has been based on a "black" box model of research.  Simply put, the black box is where things happen and the only way we know what is happening is to watch what goes in the box and what comes out (behavior).  Over the past twenty years that has changed dramatically.

We now have the ability to peer inside that box and watch what happens when different stimuli is presented to us.  We now can measure the effectiveness of our historical pedagogy and decide if it works.  At best we find that in "kind" of works.  But now our researchers, teachers and educational psychologists are able to study what is happening inside that box and begin designing strategies to be more effective.  These strategies are now finding their way in the main stream of education.  Check out: Click here  Using brain science teachers are aligning their teaching to how the brain actually learns.  In the next two decades progressive schools and progressive teaching will look very different from the information dump currently used.

Stay abreast of some of the latest outcomes of this type of learning at the ASCD Click Here

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Determination and Persistence

Since the latter part of the 19th Century when  Friedrich Nietzshe went to war against virtues, character has increasingly been defined by individual choices, not absolute virtues.  The following is a quote from an article written by John Heenan that puts things in perspective...

"Just over one hundred years ago the German philosopher, Friedrich Vilhem Nietzsche began to speak of values in a new way. He used values not as a verb, meaning to value or esteem something; nor as a singular noun, meaning the measure of something (the economic value of money, labour or property); but in the plural, meaning the moral beliefs and attitudes of society.

      Neitzsche used the word consciously and repeatedly to signify what he believed to be the most profound event in human history. His invention of "values" was to be the final revolution against virtues. "Values" would be the death of morality and truth. There would be no good or evil, no virtue or vice. There would only be "values." His purpose was to degrade virtues into "values" and to create a new set of "values" for his "new man."     
John Heenan

But we are now left with a mess where virtues are almost forgotten, but not quite.  It appears that there is a universal movement back to character defined by virtues (Martin Seligman).  If you read this blog you will find more and more examples of virtues in action.  Examples and stories teach the heart more than truths that simply inform the mind.  Two very important virtues for the Christian life are determination and persistence.  Take a few moments and read about some really persistent people!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Context Gives Meaning

Words are potentially powerful means to motivation.  Jesus as the Word of Life has been a moving power for many of us.  As we seek to share the message of the Gospel we need to remember that words make sense only in context.  That is one reason why Jesus never taught except through the use of stories and parables.  Truth gains powers as it is seen in the context of application.  The same event presented within the context of a story carries more life change that any list of doctrines.  While doctrines are critical to our faith and growth, they must find their true meaning within the context of application.

My friend Jim Marino passed this little example on to me.  We see truth expressed as a statement and then see truth expressed within the context of experience and life.  Which has the greatest potential for moving people to action?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Disruptive Innovation

If I told you that I have found a disruptive innovation for Africa you would have good cause to wonder what I was talking about.  While the term disruptive gives a negative connotation, it has the potential to be very positive.  Some of us who are old enough saw this happen with the advent of the personal computer.  The typewriter,  Dictaphone etc. was soon put out of business.  We saw it again with the advent of the Internet.  Everything changed.  We saw it again with cell phones.  In essence disruptive innovation forces a paradigm shift concerning the tools we use and how we use them.  The downside for some is that they replace the way things were done with something different: cheaper, better, more efficient.

Over the past weekend I found a new, potentially Disruptive Innovation.  It has been developed by Biolite.  For a full explanation watch the video below.  Actually I would encourage you to watch and listen on two levels.  The first is about a camp/cook stove that produces almost no smoke and produces electricity as a side benefit.  But the other is to listen to what these folks have learned about introducing innovation into a community.  There are many great ideas that can help people, but many of them fail because they are not introduced in a culturally appropriate way.  Let me know what you think!

Watch and Learn!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Change and Education

We all know that change in large organizations are often painfully slow.  This is good news for those who want to keep everything as it is, but for those innovators that want to catch the next wave it is frustrating.  But what happens when a whole industry changes?  We have seen these major changes take place in industries in  the past: the automobile industry and TQM, the office and the personal computer, and of course the Internet and World Wide Web.   There is another paradigm shift taking place and that is in education.  Until recently technological advances have simply added value without changing the paradigm.  Now there is a growing convergence of technology and young entrepreneurs that is leading to a major shift in education thinking and delivery.  This is far bigger that the debate about Internet education vs brick and mortar.

Does free sound good?  One of the catalysts to the major shift has been the willingness of top Universities to offer their professors' courses online for free.  Would you rather take a course from the Jr. College teacher or the person who is defining the field?  While some of you might like the former, many professionals and others are choosing the latter.  Initially these super courses were offered through the institutions they came from: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc.  But now another shift is taking place as consolidators move into to offer courses from many institutions.  Coursera is now a major player in this move.  Read the email below of what they are doing as we move into the start of the school year in the US.

Dear Coursarians,

It’s been a wild month—launching 12 new university partners, kicking off Coursera Meetups with a massive BBQ, finishing our first peer-graded course (Human Computer Interaction) and announcing that over 1 million students have signed up to take courses. We also know that we are still very much in our early days. There is still so much that we want to do to improve our platform to make it an even better learning experience for you and still so many courses that we hope to offer.

We are also excited to welcome you back to school in a big way with 29 classes starting between now and the end of September. From Gamification, to Statistics, to Modern Poetry, to Big Data, to Social Network Analysis and more! Grab a friend, find a local study group and learn with students from all of the world through the forums.

Happy back to school!
Andrew, Daphne and your Cousera Team |

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Board Less Founder

I continue using the work of Carter McNamara to help guide me as a leader.  This is especially true when it comes to Board governance.  The following in its fullest can be seen at: McNamara 

One of the challenges we have in Africa is the lack of understanding concerning the purpose of a Board.  We all know the frustration of watching a founder or CEO have a conflict with his/her board and then fire them.  Of course this is unethical and illegal, but it happens all the time.  A real board assumes responsibility for the ministry at the broadest levels.  The Founder, CEO, Executive Director is to be submitted to the board.  This means that the board has the moral right to fire the leader if needed.  It is not supposed to happen the other way around.  This also means that the Founder, CEO, Executive Director, Leader, cannot be the Chairman of the Board as this presents him/her with a conflict of interest.  But do not listen to me, hear with McNamara says..

An email said:

My organization is 2nd in my life only to my family.  I also feel responsible for the integrity of the organization and for protecting it from changes that would endanger that integrity.  This organization works to create programs that bridge educational gaps between and about indigenous cultures.  A lot of what we do is very sensitive and, if mismanaged, could do more harm than good.
The idea of hiring the wrong person for the job of ED when the time comes is terrifying to me.  However, the idea of giving up my position on the Board is even MORE terrifying.  Having been involved with other organizations that … became oligarchies full of power-struggles and politics [and having] watched those organizations sacrifice the quality and purpose of their programs because the politics became more important or because someone “found a shortcut, cheaper method, etc.,” that placed “efficiency” over quality.


You sound like any mama protecting its cub, and we would expect no less of someone who cared enough to begin the process/organization in the first place.
The answer to your specific question, right now — where you can maintain the direction and focus of your organization, and still derive compensation from the process — is to help your board become the “mature” group that will assume the governance role and help ensure funding, while you resign your board seat and become the ED (only).


I agree that someone being the top of the Board AND a paid staff member could create a conflict of interest.


Not “could.”  It is a conflict !!
If you can create a board that will do what’s needed, and continue to support your vision, you can give up your board role and become a paid employee.
It sounds like you’d benefit from conversation with a consultant who specializes in helping NPOs with needs like yours – look around, wherever you’re located, there are likely to be folks with the expertise you need.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Education and Transformation

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” 
― Plutarch

Education is in the throws of the greatest change in decades.  The promise of the "computer" to become an educator is beginning to reap the promise it has held out since its earliest days.  But how that is happening might surprise you.  I remember years ago when the computer came on the scene and the teacher was expected to exit.  Well, that has not happened and will not in the near future.  But what has happened, as Daphne Koller tells us, is the ability of one teacher to teach 100,000 learners in one class.  Watch the video from below.  It is a window into the future of educational change.  Koller shares with us the amazing growth of, an online site for courses from major universities...and they are free!  It is well worth the 20 minutes.

But what I am more interested in is what is not being taught.  Skills and knowledge are needed to advance science and careers.  The computer age brings to us new and wonderful ways in which we can learn from some of the greatest minds teaching today...and its free!  But what it has not been able to do in any broad way is bring about spiritual transformation.  While I believe that the computer and online education can add to the process, it cannot be the process.  Spiritual transformation, at its simplest, is the process of spending time with Jesus so that Jesus will be part of us over time.  The danger that Christian education faces is one of emphasis not technique.  If Christian schools take advantage of this new age, and they should, without understanding the essence of Christian education as spiritual formation, they will develop highly educated and, maybe, morally sound men and women without spiritual backbone or connection. Christianity will slowly fade into the background to take its place as a "nice" belief without any of the revolutionary actions called upon by Jesus.

Knowledge and skills are essential.  But if we are to live out the Christian life as Jesus wants us to then we must surrender all and let Him build those skills and knowledge on the foundation of the transformed life.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to be Happy

I have never met anyone who said, "I want to be unhappy!"  Everyone I meet wants to be happier.  There is some good news and bad news.  Let's start with the bad news.  Recent research reveals that happiness in genetically linked.  This means people are born with a happiness "set" point.  Ever wonder why some people seem to be happy all the time and not effected by most things in their lives?  Or why others seem to be a bit on the dour side (we call them Eeyors).  No matter what happens they are expecting it to get worse.  Turns out that we are pretty much born with a happiness set point that is melded into our personality.

And the good news?  There are things that can effect the happiness point.  Actually there are three things that have significant impact on it.

Seems that the anticipation of something that we want has a way of increasing our happiness.  It is Friday and pay day.  We feel a slight rush as we anticipate receiving those hard earned wages.  Or we are saving up to purchase that new Ipad and getting close.  This anticipation is a happiness builder.  The downside is that shortly after receiving what we want our new found happiness fades away in the wind.  Seems the anticipation is the happiness trigger.  Closely connected to this is the happiness that comes from dopamine release.  While anticipation and actually receiving something longed for releases dopamine, addiction causes it to hang around and actually flood areas of the mind bringing intense pleasure. The down side is what scientist term hedonic adaptation.  Ever long for a piece of chocolate?  After eating a few pieces it begins to lose its appeal.  Hedonic adaptation causes us to get use to certain levels and then requires more of something to bring about the same sense of pleasure.  This is basic addiction.

But there is another way to increase your happiness.  Ever started working on something or playing a favorite sport and then find yourself so engulfed that you lose track of time?  Scientists call this flow while athletes refer to it as being in the zone.  As you move into the zone or stay in the flow your basic happiness increases.  It also increases as you anticipate being in the flow.  This is one good reason to find those things that you can do well and then seek to do them more often.  In Ephesians 2:10 we discover God has things for us to do.  I believe that as we find and "flow" with these we will increase our happiness.  Tied to this is that happiness increases as you "flow" with others.  Relationships in the process increase the impact.

Finally happiness increases as we reach out beyond ourselves and help others with no expectation of reward.  Perhaps a Greek Proverb says it best:

Civilization flourishes when people plant trees under the shade of which they will never sit.

God has intended that we become part of others by reaching out and helping where nothing is expected in return.  This benevolence is part of us that needs to be exercised.  Over time it benevolence atrophy can decrease its potential to increase happiness.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Look Like a Leader!

What does a leader look like?  If you are like Samuel in 1Sam.16 you think of a leader as tall, handsome and fit.  But the Lord pulled him up short as he was trying to discover the next King of Israel.  Rather than picking the one that "looked" like a leader God held out for the smallest, youngest, and least likely in Jesse's family.  God taught Samuel an important lesson:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”   1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) 

But once you are chosen and have dawned the mantel of leadership responsibility, how do you carry yourself?  May seem like a simple question, but people do relate to you based on their perception of you.  This is not good or bad, just reality.  Here are five things to consider from the writers at Inc magazine.

Click Here

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Henry Drummond and Transformation

Henry Drummond was born August 17, 1851in Stirling Scotland and died March 11, 1897.  While not well known in our day, he was a moving force in for Christianity during his short life.  A graduate of of Edinburgh, Scotland, he was a minister, world traveler, mathematician.  You can learn more about his life from Wikipedia.
Phil Hodges, partner with Ken Banchard handed out a small pamphlet entitled The Greatest Thing in the World and other Addresses.  This is a wonderful little booklet describing the power of love.  You can read  it as a pdf file at: Greatest Thing.

But I found another article that I believe is even more powerful for our day and time.  It is entitled The Changed Life.  In this short very readable essay Drummond makes the case that spiritual transformation is as natural as a rose plant producing roses.  His thesis is beautifully simple: transformation is the outcome of spending time with Jesus.  He starts the article by describing four traditional ways of transformation that do now work.  After that he warms to his basic premise that transformation follows from time spent with the one who transforms.

In a day and age where men and women are seeking all kinds of ways of sanctification Drummond draws us back the Biblical model God designed for that purpose.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

New Board and the Founder

I continue using the work of Carter McNamara to help guide me as a leader.  In the following discussion he looks at the work of the board in getting started.  A new organization needs a board but the board must mature and develop over time.

An Email Said:

My organization has no paid staff, is essentially unfunded at this time, and Board Members receive no compensation of any kind including expense reimbursement.  I’m the chairman of the Board and founder of the organization.  When I sign things, I use the title “Executive Director,” even though (in actuality) I’m the chair.

I Responded:

What you describe sounds like an organization in its infancy — one that hasn’t been around for too long or that hasn’t yet begun the process of “maturation.”
First stage in the life of a NPO (Nonprofit Organization) is where a group of people in a community recognize the existence of a specific need and get together to do something to address that need.  The organization typically has one or two “founders” — who are the heart and soul of the org, and are the ones who tend to make things happen.
The situation, where you are Board Chair and Executive Director, can only continue to work to a point….  It is really only acceptable up to where your NPO can assemble a “representative board,” one that brings skills, perceptions, experiences, commitment, passions to the role, and is (to some degree) representative of the “community” being served.  (The Board of a NPO is the community’s watchdog over that organization.)
The role of the initial board is to get the NPO to the point where it can make that transition from “infancy” to “maturity,” with the transition stage being the “adolescence” — a period of painful change and growth.  Painful, because the original board members and founders may have to give up some or all of the roles they’ve been playing.  They may even have to turn governance responsibility over to others — who have the traits needed to ensure….

Read the full article: click here

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Self Managed Work Groups

Learning is never static, but dynamic.  Yesterday's ideas of what makes us more efficient in the work places superseded by new ways.  Sometimes what was superseded can return under a new guise.  Taylor and his scientific management helped move us forward, but with the advent of new ways and technologies it became evident that 1) people are not cogs in the wheel of industry and 2) the key to productivity is worker satisfaction.  Once thought a waste of time self-managed work groups are now back in fashion.  Taking control of your destiny has a wonderful way of motivating you. Carter McNamara is one of my heroes.  He has put more information about organizational leadership on line than anyone I know.  Unlike so many other smart capable people he has made the content free and easy to access.  Take time to read about the history of self managed work groups at his site:   Carter McNamara 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

12 Questions

One of my favorite researcher/writers is Jim Collins.  His thirst for understanding and dedication to good research encourages my own journey towards understanding.  Organizations are not black boxes.  They can be understood.  But like many things in life the first step to understanding is asking the right questions.  Here are 12 questions that Collins says should be asked by every CEO or President of a company.  This is quoted from Inc magazine.  You can read the full article at: (click here).

Jim Collins's Plan for Growing Companies
Hedgehogs, Cannonballs, BHAGs, and Bullets
Jim Collins has spent a career probing the inner workings of great companies. Below, he boils 25 years of research into 12 questions that leaders must grapple with if they truly want to excel. Collins's advice: Be systematic. Every month, have your leadership team discuss one of the following questions. Repeat the process annually for five years.
1. Do we want to build a great company, and are we willing to do what it takes?
It begins by making a choice, with a clear understanding of what that choice entails.
2. Do we have the right people on the bus and in the key seats?
You need to decide whom you do and don't want to have with you. You should do that even before deciding exactly where you want to go.
3. What are the brutal facts?
You can't make good decisions if you don't confront the facts, especially the most troubling ones, those that could represent a serious threat to your survival. The key is to do it without losing faith.
4. What is our hedgehog: What can we be the best at, with an economic engine, and for which we have unbounded passion?
"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing," wrote Isaiah Berlin. Your hedgehog combines your passion and your special talents with what you can make money doing.
5. What is our 20-Mile March, and are we hitting it?
That is, what is the specific performance goal you've made a commitment to meeting year in and year out, in good times and bad, and how are you doing with it?
6. Where should we place our big bets, based on empirical validation?
You should devote major resources to a new initiative (fire a cannonball) only if you already know it's likely to succeed. That means first conducting low-cost, low-risk tests on a range of possibilities (shooting bullets).
7. What are the core values and core purpose on which we want to build this enterprise for 100 years?
The challenge is not just to build a company that can endure, but to build one that is worthy of enduring.
8. What is our 15- to 25-year BHAG?
To build a great, enduring company, you need a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that is tangible, energizing, and highly focused and that people can understand immediately with little or no explanation.
9. What could kill us, and how can we protect our flanks?
Paranoia is productive when it helps you survive the inevitable bad surprises that will come along and avoid the disasters that they are capable of producing.
10. What should we stop doing, to increase our discipline and focus?
In creating a culture of discipline, it's as important to determine what you should not be doing as it is to know what you should be doing.
11. How can we increase our return on luck?
All companies experience both good and bad luck. It's what you do with your luck that counts. How can you get the most benefit from it either way, and how can you minimize any damage that a run of bad luck will cause?
12. Are we becoming a Level 5 leadership team and cultivating a Level 5 management culture?
The fifth, and highest, level of leadership builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. Are you providing it?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Little Thanks

The following is advice from Giftworks.  They have some wonderful ideas to help you better connect with your donors.

Posted: 06 Jun 2012 10:25 AM PDT
So much of our work in development relies on the contribution of time and money from others.  It seems like there’s always another thank you letter to write!  And it feels like you’ve already written more than your quota for a lifetime!  Here are some ideas for keeping those thank you notes and letters fresh:

Remember that each thank you is a “personal” note to the individual volunteer from you (or someone in the organization the volunteer will recognize—the executive director, a board member, or the project’s head).  Although you may  incorporate common elements in all the letters, make sure when Sally receives the letter she feels it is a personal letter from you. (No mailing labels this time.)

Start out with a celebration of what’s been accomplished (not mailing 500 letters, but receiving $6,000 in gifts in response to the letters.) 
   Mission accomplished! Together we made it possible for 30 homeless students to attend a week-    long summer camp.  That’s ten more "happy campers" than we were able to send last year!

Move right into how the volunteer’s efforts made the achievement possible.
Without you, it never would have happened. By helping us provide sleeping bags, back packs, pillows, toiletries and towels—and pay tuition, you enabled our campers to come to camp with all of the supplies that every other camper is provided by their families.  These children would never otherwise have the opportunity to attend such a camp and make new friends and wonderful memories.  This is a week off the streets, away from the shelter, with nutritious meals, caring supervision, fun and games, all in a Christian atmosphere.

In fact, Jamie, a 12-year old from last year’s camp, wrote a thank you note saying “Thank you -- if you guys didn’t pay for me to go, I wouldn’t have had the time of my life!”

Show the connection between the project and your agency’ mission. 
In our work to improve the lives and futures of the homeless children in our community, the        Camp Donegal project is just one of the ways we create opportunities for the 300 families our programs touch each year.  This is truly a project that changes lives, and it depends on your generosity.

Close with thanks again, mentioning both the current experience and the ongoing support the volunteer offers throughout the year. 
We thank you for your help with Camp Donegal this summer and for your ongoing support of our work all year.

Add a P.S.  Invite a contact.
 I’d love to hear from you about your experience with the campers, or if you are interested in participating as a regular volunteer.  You can reach me directly at -------.
Try a few new ideas to inject life into your thank you letters!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It is All About Connecting

Ministries and nonprofits MUST connect to people.  Often connection is the difference between having enough to carry on or giving up.  More and more people are connecting via the Internet.  One of the key tools to help us stay connected to our stake holders is eNewsletters.  But if you are like me most eNewsletters do not get read.  So, how do you write an eNewsletter that people will actually read?  Fortunately smarter people than me have been working on this challenge.  Here is one site that gives you the information in ten easy steps:

10 Surprisingly Easy and Startlingly Effective Ways to Improve Your Nonprofit E-Newsletter .  

If you are in the process of developing your eNewsletter strategy this is a good place to begin!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adult Learning

Most of us are involved in some kind of education or training.  We never out grow our need to expand our understanding and skills.  The older we get the more we want to pass on what we have learned.  I will never forget teaching elementary school in my younger days.  As the teachers gathered in the break room during the recess they talked and shared.  What struck me was how they talked to one another as if they were still in the classroom rather than in the adult break room!

In education we tend to have one style for everyone.  But research has shown that adults have different styles and expectations from children.  If you want to engage adults in the learning process you need to teach and train in an adult way.  Malcolm Knowles was known as the father of adult education (Andragogy).  His principles have been foundational for those of us in adult learning.  This article builds on what Knowles has taught us and expands it to the online arena.  But it is applicable to all of us who are dealing with teaching adults.  It is not long, but it does give some practical ways to more effectively train adults.