Nehemiah Answers Simon Sinek (part 2 of 2)

2016-08-august-16-16

In part one, I recapped an excellent Ted Talk by Simon Sinek. (please stop now and watch it to more fully understand this post).

 

Nehemiah is a quintessential Old Testament leader. Upon hearing of the status of the protective walls and gates of Jerusalem, Nehemiah got his boss, the king of Persia, to let him go to his ancestral homeland and rebuild everything. His leadership skills are not questioned – he found solutions for every problem as they arose, he dealt with people justly, and he confronted his cynics directly. He accomplished what needed to be done and what others said couldn’t be done. He did it. And his work subsequently protected Jerusalem for several centuries.

 

This is what Nehemiah did:

  • In chapter one,
    • Nehemiah hears about a situation which breaks his heart
    • He prays fervently about what he should do and he listens to God
  • In chapter 2, Nehemiah answers Simon Sinek
    • Verse 2: the king asks, “Why does your face look so sad…?” Nehemiah’s reply is an emotional appeal: his homeland is in ruins.
    • Verse 4: the king asks “What is it you want?” Nehemiah has a short reply – let me go to my homeland and rebuild the city
    • Verse 6: the king asks, “How long will your journey take?” and Nehemiah responds with lots of specifics about his needs
  • In the rest of the book: Nehemiah gets the job done. He leads the people, fends off critics, and reports back to the king.

 

When the book begins, Nehemiah had no power and very little influence. But he did have a God-inspired vision and he was articulate. By the end of the book, Nehemiah is an inspirational leader. Even 2,500 years ago, Nehemiah was ready for Simon Sinek!

 

Nehemiah 2:1-9

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

 

I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

 

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

 

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

 

Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

 

I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

 

Nehemiah was an inspirational leader. In only 52 days he did what others said couldn’t be done. He had a clear “Why” and could get people to believe what he believed. Even the king, who paid for everything, was able to buy into what Nehemiah wanted to do. Nehemiah’s “Why” was compelling to the soul of his listeners.

 

Lead On

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org has a complete set of very affordable church manuals as templates in Word plus lots of free Word and Excel docs to help church administration.

Nehemiah Answers Simon Sinek (part 1 of 2)

2016-05-may-5

In September 2009, Simon Sinek recorded the third most watched Ted Talk (you should have Ted Talks in your podcast list). It is only 18 minutes long. It is impactful. It points to a different kind of leader, an inspirational leader.

 

The first few minutes are spent explaining The Golden Circle. Sinek draws three circles and writes “Why” in the centermost circle, “How” in the middle circle, and “What” in the outermost circle. He provides the advertising example of Apple who tells you why you should buy from them, not how they make computers or even what they manufacture. “Why” is an emotional connection.

 

Sinek continues by explaining what we know about the development of the human brain. The centermost part of the brain, the limbic system, focuses on our feelings, behavior, and decision-making. This part of the brain is the oldest to develop. It does not have the capacity for language. That is for the outer parts of the brain developed more recently and it determines the “what” of how we use our brain.

 

For leaders to reach the core of a person, inspirational leaders must focus on connecting with the “Why” of the listeners – that innermost core of a person’s brain. Sinek states that you must find “people who believe what you believe.” Another memorable quote is, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Leaders speak initially to a person’s soul, not to their practical side. The “how” and “what” will come soon enough but if you don’t hook someone with “why” then you’ll have a much harder time getting that person to join your mission.

 

Sinek ends with the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. When he spoke at the National Mall in August 1963, a quarter million people showed up because they wanted to be there. The “I have a dream” speech they heard is deemed the most memorable US speech given in the 20th Century. Inspirational leaders must speak to the emotional core of their followers so they will absorb “why” they should follow.

 

Lead On

Steve Law

www.churchbestpractices.org has a complete set of very affordable church manuals as templates in Word plus lots of free Word and Excel docs to help church administration.

 

Walking Away from Tense Situations

2016 03-March 22 (13)

Church staff face uncomfortable personal encounters frequently. These meetings may be with guests, members, and other staff members. Some of these meetings may get heated – emotions may run high and the tension escalates. It is at this point there is no “win” to this situation. Everyone, especially the church, looses.

 

Church staff must be empowered and encouraged to step out of the circumstances. They should be instructed that walking away from the meeting (even without saying a word) is a useful tactic to calm down the emotions on both sides. The staff person may need to leave his or her own office and walk outside. I have instructed staff that if the situation is particularly tense, they are permitted to get in their car and leave the church (to go home, to go to a café, etc.). After they have left the church, they are to call their supervisor to explain why they left.

 

Calming down one’s emotions can be tricky especially when someone has pushed all your buttons and set you off. In many cases, the only or perhaps the best way to ratchet things down is to leave. Leaving is not a sign of defeat. It is actually a sign of maturity – that you’re not willing for the situation to get out of hand and you’re willing to take the first step to calm things down.

 

Lead On!

Steve

Staff Members’ Meeting on the Church’s Nickel

I received the following question: “Our church budgets $100 per month for meals for ministers. Is it allowable for our pastor and worship director go out to lunch each week for a planning session and have the church pay for both meals every week?”

My reply:
There are two components to this question

  1. Legal
    1. The IRS does not permit an excessive benefit to the staff in a non-profit. A lunch every week is not an excessive benefit if the meal is typical $8-$15 meal.
    2. The IRS does encourage an accountable reimbursement plan. That means that for every expense, there must be a receipt and documentation about who was there and how it related to the church. It can be as simple as “Prospective member lunch with the Smiths” – there is NO need to write a paragraph. If you don’t have the proper receipts, then reimbursements might be considered income for IRS purposes. Documentation is not only good but absolutely necessary.
  2. Church Policy
    1. The church SHOULD care if staff are good stewards or not. My professional opinion is that staff members work alongside each other all day and can meet with each other at any point during the work day and work week. If they want to go out to lunch, then that is NOT a professional expense because they could have had that meeting any other time during that day.

To me this is not a financial matter, it is a personnel matter. I suggest that the personnel manual (and finance manual if you have one) make a statement that “meetings between staff members which have expenses (meal, coffee, etc.) are not reimbursable expenses because staff could have met at the church without incurring an expense” or words to that effect.

I do not know the relationship you have with the pastor

  1. If your relationship is strong and he isn’t threatened, then you can approach him and help him understand that if all staff were to do this it would cost the church tens of thousands a year which could be used for other things.
  2. If the pastor might be threatened by you and this subject, then you have to be willing to leave. You can either approach the pastor with this matter OR you can talk with the personnel and/or financechairleader and ask him/her to address this and to keep your name confidential. If the personnel or finance committeechairleader doesn’t think it is a problem, then drop it. That just means you have higher standards than they do.What they are doing is not illegal or immoral but it does stray into the ethical gray area for churches. And one of my sayings is, “Stay Out of the Gray!”

Lead On!

Steve

How to Use a Cab – for the Ride of Your Life (part 3 of 3)

 

Be nice to the cab driver

Wherever you find yourself, always, always, always look for ways to help people. No one will ever condemn you for being nice (and if they do, it says more about them than about you).

Speak kind words – thank you, please, yes ma’am, and yes sir. People appreciate politeness and it often deflates someone’s anger before they wail on you.

Often how you treat people becomes the way you are treated by the person with whom you’re dealing.

Respect the cabbie, anyone else in the cab with you, and anyone else whose waiting alongside you. Respect people.

If you give the cab driver the wrong address, don’t blame the drive

Everyone makes mistakes in life; everyone makes LOTS of mistakes. Learn how to handle them:

  • Don’t blame others for what YOU did or didn’t do
  • Analyze what went wrong and what you need to do next time
  • Handle the error with grace and aplomb – people will observe you how you deal with pressure and messy situations, especially ones that you created

Enjoy the ride and watch the scenery but watch the meter and other details

Take in the big picture of life as you travel. It can be as grand and glorious as you want it to be (if you take a few chances along the way). But also learn to observe the details that can make the experience of life that much more full of color. A field of flowers is beautiful; but each flower is amazing in itself.

Change cabs if your current cab can’t take you all the way

Be willing to adapt to the current situation and you absolutely must be willing to change as life changes. Flow is the best answer to flux. So, FLOW.

You’ll need to fight upstream a few times when injustice requires it. Thump bullies on the nose – they deserve it and it will teach them a lesson, but only do it if the cause is noble.

Other times you’ll need to jump and you’ll get some bruises and even broken bones. Leaping from the safety of your current ride is really scary but sometimes necessary.

Be ready for your destination

Look ahead to see what’s coming. Always be prepared. Know when the end of the current ride is drawing near and gather your stuff you’ve accumulated on that ride so you can leave properly. You can glance back to see where you came from but don’t linger – you need to be already looking for your next ride.

Get out when you arrive and don’t be pushed out the door

Sometimes the cab is ready for you to leave when you aren’t. Be intuitive enough to know that this period is over and you need to leave. Leave graciously – it speaks to your character. You’ll probably never take that same cab again, but word of who you are will travel quickly and affect what taxi you catch next.

 

And remember, have fun on the ride of your life!

 

Lead On!

Steve

How to Use a Cab – for the Ride of Your Life (part 2 of 3)

Some cabs are going in the same direction as you

The sign of a good leader is when some people are following you and some are chasing you. Know the difference and know the motivation behind how each person is acting – motives reveal all.

Just because someone is going the same direction as you doesn’t mean they agree with everything you say and do and just because someone is going the other way doesn’t mean they wish you ill. But the same is true for you, too. You don’t have to agree with everyone going in your direction or loathe people going the opposite direction. Observe what others are doing and attempt to learn from them – that is wisdom, a hallmark of a great leader.

Know if you want to go with others or take a ride solo

Life’s ride is short and long. Sometimes you want to go alone through some passages while other times the ride is better together. You have to know both your own personality and the passage you’re going through to decide if you want to go through that time alone or not. Making the wrong decision can be painful, but it is never fatal.

You may need to rest a while between rides. Take time. Think about whether you want or need to go solo or with friends. Sometimes it is good to process the knowledge and info you’ve received. Be intentional about setting aside time to think.

Don’t ride with all your baggage; put it in the trunk, out of sight

Some bags are bulkier than others. Learn to empty your bags of garbage so that you don’t carry your trash around. It won’t help anyone and just stinks up the place. Some luggage needs to be left behind once and for all. Some bags need to be given to others through talking with a counselor who can ride with you for a few minutes. Never be encumbered by your last few rides – always build one experience on another for a richer life.

Talk to the cabbie and/or anyone else in the cab

Introverts and extroverts will view this differently. I’m an introvert. I do fine sitting in silence for long periods. But sometimes I just want to ask a question or share an experience with someone. And I’ve learned that getting (well-reasoned) opinions of others can make the ride more fun. Of course, I’ve also had to listen to a few crackpots – just enjoy them for their idiosyncrasies!

Lead On!

Steve

How to Use a Cab – for the Ride of Your Life (part 1 of 3)

If I had to give a graduation speech – which I’ve never done – what would I say? Something like this:

Know where you are and be conscious of why you want to leave

You need to know why you want to leave before you decide you should leave. You need to have a compelling reason to leave. If you don’t know where you are and why you want to leave, you’ll end up nowhere. Take stock of your home and what it offers before you leave – you can appreciate where you’re going more if you know what you’re leaving behind.

Know where you want to go (or at least the neighborhood where you want to end up)

Have some goals in mind. They don’t need to be your final goals but establish a general direction. Birds don’t know their exact landing spot; they start moving in the direction they want to go and decide where to land when they near their destination. You can be pretty general about this and always be willing to change as you progress in your life, but you need to have a general direction to start.

Know which direction you need to go first

You’ll probably change careers seven to ten times in your life. You don’t need to know every step of the way, just the immediate next step. Don’t worry about every step, just plan on the next one. Then, start. You’re not going to have everything planned out so don’t get “analysis paralysis” – just get started.

Stand out from the rest so that a cabbie will see you and stop

There’s a lot of competition out there. Learn early on how to stand out from the rest. That usually means becoming the best of who YOU really are. Always be honest with yourself – it makes living with you easier. Be unique. Don’t try to be like everyone or anyone else – be who God made you.

Know if the cab is going in the wrong direction or taking the long way around

You’re going to meet some people in life who just want to take you for a ride. Don’t be taken in by those who con your emotions for their own gain. Always be willing to speak up for yourself – people are impressed by that. Often, those who speak up for themselves and others are called leaders. Be that.

Lead On!

Steve

How do you define loyalty?

“A strong feeling of support or allegiance” is the dictionary definition.

Many people feel that loyalty is when a person adheres unquestioningly to something or someone. In church work I’ve seen this exemplified when staff and members look to their leader(s) and express support for whatever he or she wants to do. And in return, the leaders expect their staff and most members, to follow whatever they say regardless of what it is. That is loyalty to some, but not to me. To me, that can even be a betrayal of trust, the opposite of loyalty.

Loyalty is when a person supports and has allegiance to a person or principle, but is willing to ask hard questions and not be satisfied with simplistic answers. Loyalty is challenging a leader privately on his statements before (and after) he goes public. Loyalty is being willing to speak truth to power knowing it may cost you your job and career. Loyalty is being constructively critical for the benefit of the leader and of the entire organization.

That kind of loyalty helps your leader be a better leader. A leader may not like this kind of feedback but in the long run it will help him or her. After all, it is better for a leader to hear criticism from members of his own team who want the organization to succeed just as much as the leader. I challenge leaders to invite constructive feedback, not just accolades. Constant praise or at least non-criticism does not help a leader grow.

Be loyal by helping the leader be better to help the church be better through appropriate and constructive private criticism and public support.

 

Lead On!

Steve