May 082013

I enjoy meeting all kinds of people and it’s easy for me to talk with people without an agenda. I love to get to know people by sharing our stories with each other, talking about what we’re working on, and explore how to help one another in life. But, I have to confess, I get easily confused about these “networking” opportunities, when I read tweets like these:

The best way to convince people you don’t have an agenda is to not have an agenda.” — Kip Jacob via @Qideas

It’s great to have good friends who truly love me and don’t have an agenda.” — @JanPlansATL
I’m good at not having an agenda, being sincere, unassuming, and helpful. But maybe there’s more to the story, or there’s too much to explain that doesn’t fit into a tweet, because just having no agenda doesn’t quite work in cultivating business as a consultant or salesman, does it? I’m confused, when the tweets above are contrasted with these tips for success::

via 3 Powerful Skills You Must Have to Succeed in Sales

Listening sincerely and without an agenda. The buying process is not about you and your wants and needs, it is about the customer. Too many of us come to the sales table with our own agenda. We are sometimes too busy thinking about quotas, promotions and commissions. It’s not about us, it’s about the wants, needs and expectations of the prospective buyer.

A sales person with an agenda tends to push too hard and often doesn’t listen well. Leave your agenda at home.

Huh? How can a sales person close a sale if s/he doesn’t have a desire to make a sale, thus an agenda? I get that listening well and explaining how a product/service fits the customer needs is a good thing, but that sounds like an agenda to me, because a competitor’s product/service might fit better during that conversation. Does a good sales person without an agenda tell the truth and honesty refer the competitor, rather than manipulate the conversation to sell the product/service that’d earn him/her commission?

via book description for The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following by Kevin Allen –

Each of us pitches ideas every day. Sometimes we sell our ideas to a small room full of skeptical colleagues. Sometimes we pitch to a boss, or a board of directors, a new organization, or for the contract of our dreams. Regardless, it all boils down to the act of stirring someone to join you—to agree to follow you. Yet we consistently underestimate how critical it is to recognize the needs, spoken and unspoken, of the decision maker. Decisions are made by people, and people have needs and agendas. Understanding these needs and agendas are critical to success in business. Kevin Allen’s approach is not about persuading, but about creating a connection that assures a mutual win.

So do I need to have an agenda or not? Or are there different rules when it’s about friendship vs. work in the marketplace? Help a brother out, help me understand, please, thank you.

Sep 282012

Attended the Mosaix Global Network members retreat in Chicago this week for the first time. So sweet to be with a wide variety of multiethnic church and ministry leaders who took the time and energy to invest in relationships that will no doubt bear long-term fruit and impact, though it may not quite look like what people tend took for in so-called measurable results.

There could be many pages written about those 2 days together, as the conversations delved into a handful of big issues that seem to hinder the American church from breaking free from being the most segregated hour in society. One study found that only 8% of Christian congregations in the U.S. are considered racially or ethnically “mixed,” meaning no one group makes up more than 80% of the congregation. One of the things about diversifying is how much work it takes, and how much time it takes, to really understand being in someone else’s shoes.

Active listening takes that extra effort and time. People can use the same words and mean different things. People could use different words and mean the same thing. It’s not so much about the words that people say, it’s what people mean by the words they say. And in so doing, becoming more sensitive to others, and being less sensitive about ourselves — thinking others more highly than yourself.

Listening is long, hard, ardouous work.. it’s slow and inefficient. If I were to take a stopwatch and time, a majority of the time was necessary to sort through definition of terms (like multiethnic or multicultural or multiracial or something else) and hearing stories and back stories, leaving a minority of the time to work on takeaways and so-called practical next steps. I love how Krista Tippett (host of On Being podcast)  poses a listening posture through her question, “what does that word hold for you?”

Yes, it can feel like we’re inching our way alon, and the metaphor that comes to mind is a turtle running a marathon. Rather than making everyone train for and run a marathon, we can all finish if we walk together. More concisely, the African proverb: “Alone, we go faster. Together, we go further.”

And aren’t long-term relationships more important than short-term results? People are far more important than tasks. Getting it right rather than (only) getting it done. And it is the church that should be the one safe place on earth where people can find rest for their soul, in a world surrounded by ruthless expectations for performance and results.

[also] Tricia Johnson’s blog post, A High Privilege, about this retreat

Mar 182010

Through my work with Leadership Network, I’ve had incredible times to connect with church leaders all around the United States, and even a few around the world. I love to connect people to people and people to resources. The resource I want to connect you with is this new book by Scott Wilson, Steering Through Chaos: Mapping a Clear Direction for Your Church in the Midst of Transition and Change.

Scott Wilson is pastor of The Oaks Fellowship just south of Dallas. I first met him in Dallas at the Multi-Site Churches Leadership Community that I’m a part of managing, along with the church’s leaders, which included Justin Lathrop. What I love is the inviting vibe of their leaders, doing amazing things (by the grace of God) as a fast-growing church while also being personable, relational, and accessible. That’s what came through to me in my interactions with Scott and Justin, and this came through in Scott’s new book too. (cf. Download a sample chapter of Steering Through Chaos)

Watch this video of Scott Wilson talk about the book (cf. extended version):

What caught my attention with Steering Through Chaos were these things:

(1) Scott quotes so many other people in this book, like a synthesis of all that he’s gleaned from other church leaders! I didn’t fact-check, but the acknowledgements section would be dozens of pages if he were to list all the names of leaders mentioned in the book!

(2) Scott shares his own story of going through a massive church transition, that included relocation, building campaign, leadership transitions, personal challenges, and managing healthy relationships. This narrative approach sure makes the underlying principles much more understandable and practical. Yes, this book covers a lot of ground.

(3) The book speaks to personal health. In an early chapter, the author lists a stress chart to honestly show the reality of what changes do to people, and doesn’t ignore or overlook this in the name of being “spiritual” or bieng a “leader.” Being emotionally healthy is vital for short-term and long-term success, for both personal and organizational health. And, it means getting the help you need, whether a life coach, counselor, or whatever. I’m glad this is weaved in throughout the book.
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Jan 062010

Question >> ” what do u think of this paid church coaching trend? is it biblical? Somewhere deep down, I just can’t imagine Paul turning to Timothy and saying I’ll help you for $250 per month? ”

djchuang >> coach and teamI am seeing a growing trend of people offering their services as a coach or mentor. There’s already been a growing trend of coaching professionals in the past decade (cf. Professional Coaches and Mentors Association, International Coach Federation,, International Association of Coaching, MentorCoach), and now there are coaching programs specifically for the church & ministry world.

It can be said that just as you’d have a coach to help you perform as an athlete, or hiring a coach to improve your golf or tennis game, people can hire a coach for developing their leadership capacity. This is all acceptable in the sports world, in the business & non-profit organizational world (cf. executive coaching), in the personal development & self-improvement world (cf. life coaching), and yet the practice has raised some questions in the church & ministry world. (i.e. Ministry Coaching International, Leadership2Go: an online mentoring community, Partners in Church Consulting Coaching Network, Next Coaching Network, International M Network’s 7-Day Mentoring Immersion, Expo Coaching, Pastors Coaching Network, Celera Group, to name a few)

While there is some overlap between mentoring, coaching, spiritual formation, teaching & training, disciple-making, the distinction isn’t paid vs. unpaid. Right? I’ve personally benefitted greatly from all of these kinds of relationships, both paid and unpaid.

Should coaches & mentors be paid or not? Here’s what I think at this time: the Bible doesn’t forbids payment being involved in these relationships per se. Just as there are pastors who are paid and those who are unpaid, there are coaches who are paid and unpaid. So for me, this matter is one of freedom and personal conscience.

Personally, I think I’m at an age and stage of life where I may be called upon to be a coach or mentor to a few others. I’d love to do that for free, personally. However, not being financially independent, I do have to use a large portion of my time to earn wages to provide for myself and family. Where money fits in the equation is that if I were to be paid as a coach or mentor, then I would be able to commit more time and energy to it than if I volunteered as a mentor.

Would you pay for a coach or mentor? Why or why not? How do you decide when you would be an unpaid mentor to someone else, and when you’d charge money for being a coach / mentor?

[photo credit: jfre81]

Oct 252009

Earlier this week, I put an anonymous poll out to my peeps, with this simple question: “For those who know me from offline or online, how much of a people person am I?”

I don’t think of myself as the consummate people person, whatever that means. I confess that my personal visceral reaction when I see a person with a big toothy smile is a tinge of suspicion, that they’re hiding something, have an agenda, or out of touch with reality of life that’s a mix of ups and downs.

So I put out the poll to get myself a reality check, because how I see myself is only a part of what’s real via self-awareness. To not be self-deluded, there’s also being open to what others see. And, there’s also what no one sees or knows — what only God knows.

It was strongly suggested for me to read John Maxwell’s Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships. I got the book out, again, to learn more of what I may have missed. Now, back to the issue at hand.

How do you describe what is a “people person” anyways? I think the label would have a wide range of perceptions and definitions, as does the labels introvert and extrovert. Extroverts recharge themselves by being with others, while introverts recharge by being alone.
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Jun 092009

It all unravels eventually. Whether it’s getting tired of hiding the indiscretion, telling a lie, living a lie. Or, getting caught red-handed.

Another pastor admits an emotional and physical affair. It’s wrong and there are tons of consequences. I think in the information age, with the openness of the Internet, more bad news is known and spreads faster. shattered livesMoral failures have been around before, easier to hide in some sense, though just as devastating. This past weekend, another pastor falls, even more in the public eye because of social media. And the online chatter perculating.

Scott Williams lists 4 Reasons Leaders FAIL, i.e. fake, attitude, integrity, lacking. Geoff Surratt warns pastors of how they’re already toast if they think they aren’t vulnerable. Ron Edmondson adds his thoughts and Todd Rhoades adds his prayer for another fallen servant.

To reiterate, from Why Pastors Fall Into Affairs: “What is it with pastors and affairs? I did a brief search through Google and found all kinds of stories about pastors having affairs with secretaries, the wives of other ministers, and who knows who else. … Curiously, many pastors fall into affairs when their ministries grow. Success has a way of turning on its master. … Of course we’re not big fans of learning from our mistakes. … I know if I started pastoring a church tomorrow I’d say to myself, “Those other guys fell, but not me. I’m going to be fine.”

Pastors know what they’re supposed to do. They teach it and preach it. And the inevitable stresses of ministry will come (or never goes away, in many cases). Pastoring the most stressful job I can think of. Sometimes the church is overly successful. The stresses of marriage and family life will show up too — nobody has a perfectly easy marriage. And there’s always someone of the opposite sex who is more attractive to the average red-blooded male. I’m one, so I know what I’m talking about (tongue in cheek.) Plus there’s the spiritual realm too. Pastors have a red bulls-eye on their back, constantly in the cross-hairs of Satan’s destructive schemes.

My own thinking is that keeping precautions and rules won’t guarantee moral & marital purity. Rules don’t change the heart. From my vantage point, I’m of the opinion that high-capacity leaders tend to be task-oriented, and not as relationally-oriented. Task-orientation is what makes them that much more effective, but it’s also is the achilles’ heel, because there’s going to be the tendency of not spending enough time in close relationships with a few trusted others — especially in transparent vulnerable friendships where they are fully known. If friends knew the struggles and temptations in the heart & soul of a leader, especially in this area of temptation, then a leader doesn’t have to bear it all by himself. It’s true that leadership is lonely at the top, and the higher you go, the lonelier it gets. No one will understand what the leader is going thru. Partly true. Others don’t have to understand, but others can know. At least get a professional counselor to relieve the stress that mere rest and sports will not.
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Sep 272008

Lots of buzz words dominate the conversations I’m hearing: excellence. productivity. purpose. effective. passionate. mission. vision. results.

Frankly, it’s overwhelming to me. The past 2 weeks have been humbling to me, and I’ve had to slow down. And, Craig Groeschel spoke to this powerfully last Sunday. Towards the end of my travel season, some circumstances have indicated to me that I gotta pace myself better and add margin. No need to worry about me — my health is fine.

So, what I’m learning is to not push myself so hard, trying to be frenetically driven, always looking for ways to be more productive, more excellence. It strikes me as being more workaholic. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do our best, or that we shouldn’t grow and improve ourselves. Not to say we shouldn’t achieve and do great things. What I am saying is there’s more to being human and healthy and sanity.
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