A White Man’s Thoughts on Ferguson, Missouri

I’m interrupting my Global Leadership posts to jot down thoughts as I try to make sense (if any is to be made at all) of the events happening in Ferguson, Missouri this past week. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. While I believe it is possible to see past color, it is impossible to start anywhere else other than where you are. And where I am is a middle-aged white man.

I do have a dual citizenship of sorts. I spent half my life in the poorer sections of Denver, Colorado and the other half in Alabama. A benefit of growing up in a divorced family.

Can you see where this is going?

I spent my school years playing basketball and playing in the neighborhood with Hispanics, Koreans, Chinese, blacks, whites, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, and Protestants. (One of my best friends was Polish. We heard a lot of Polish jokes.) My summers was surrounded by middle to upper-middle class white people who meant well but let’s be honest – there’s a reason they were members of the country club and sent their kids to private school.

To my parents credit – both sides and step-parents – I NEVER heard any of them ever say anything remotely racist. Ever. And it was NEVER acceptable in either of their homes.

All of my family was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I was born there as well. Some of them were blocks away when the hoses and dogs were turned loose. Some of them were actually on the hoses. I love my grandparents to pieces but while they served a black man dinner in their home – shocking behavior for their generation – they threw away the plate he ate on after he left.

Two steps forward, one step back. The history of race relations in the United States. It sounds smart to say something along the lines that race relations are complicated and while the events this past week are tragic, we are better than what we were 20 years ago.

But some of our closest friends are black and I gotta tell you – it’s not that complicated. We hang out. We eat meals together. We tease each other. We pray for each other. We worship together. We disagree. We laugh.

Does that sound complicated to you? Treating another person with respect and dignity? Getting to know them and their story and in the process perhaps becoming friends?

I wonder if part of the deeper problem in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida is about the growing gap between our civic leaders and the people they are supposed to represent and serve. The tension point is between the police and the community – not between whites and blacks in the community. And it’s apparent that this police force has a major perception problem in St. Louis. It’s like our government leaders have no idea how regular, common folks live. And instead of trying to bridge that gap – they react out of power or fear with results that are deadly.

I get that our police forces are taking fewer chances with suspects. How many shootings of kids and police officers does it take to push a police force to the edge? We had two police officers shot in Topeka in a grocery store parking lot on a bad check stop. So I do understand why police are little less patient when it comes to suspects. But I don’t understand how an unarmed person gets shot multiple times in the chest. None of that adds up.

And I get how a people who continues to not be heard will move to protest and boycott and media. But I don’t understand the looting that only hurts their neighbors.

I’ll let those closer to the situation offer specific solutions and insight. For now I come back to something Bill Hybels says all the time.

The local church is the only hope of the world. Christ’s love being fleshed out is the only hope and that is the mission of the local church.

So it’s on us to figure this out and model it to our community.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Joseph Grenny

There are moments of disproportionate influence, moments of opportunity.

Three dimensions of crucial conversations: strong emotions, opposing opinions, and high stakes.

Any time you find yourself stuck, ask yourself what crucial conversation are we not holding or not holding well?

Two options when crucial conversation moments happen. Talk it out or act it out.

The myth is you either have to tell the truth or keep your friends. Progress will begin when you breakdown this myth inside your organization.

Three crucial conversations for church work.

1. Performance problems of staff and key volunteers.
2. Members who struggle with sin.
3. Concerns with pastor.

The vital behavior of having crucial conversation is candor.

7 Skills of Crucial Conversations
Start with the heart.
Learn to look.
Make it safe.
Master your story.
State your path.
Explore others’ path.
Move to action.

Before you engage in a crucial conversation:

1. Help the other know you care about their goals. Mutual purpose.

2. Help the other know you really care about them. Mutual respect.

It’s the intent that offends, not the content.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Bryan Loritts

Bryan is a gifted story-teller armed with not just a keen insight into the Scriptures but also a wonderful sense of history and humor.

There are over 2,350 references in the Scriptures on the care of widows, orphans, poor, and the alien.

How much is enough? When is it enough?

Live with margin so that you can give away the rest. Family and organizational.

The evidence of our faith is what we have done with the least of these.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Patrick Lencioni

The Most Dangerous Mistakes Leaders Make

Lencioni is my favorite speaker of all time at the Summit. I love his books, I love his wit, I love his humility. I don’t know how in the world he spoke after the video and special that was performed by the Special Friends of Willow Creek…but he did.

3 Mistakes

1. Becoming a leader for the wrong reason.
It hurts you and it hurts others. Fame, power, money, achievement aren’t good enough. Some people shouldn’t be leaders because of this reason. If there isn’t any deeper reasons for leadership, they won’t sacrifice and eventually they will quit caring for the people around them.

If the return on investment has been calculated, it’s economics, not leadership.

Real leaders sacrifice themselves for the goals of others even if there is no return of the investment. Isn’t that servant leadership? Is there any other kind of leadership? Tired of focus on servant leadership…it’s the only kind of real leadership.

2. Failing to embrace vulnerability.
It’s impossible to be too vulnerable. Let people see you sweat, they are already know you are sweating. We don’t need brown-nosers or activists. Get ‘buck-naked’ with your people and they will run through walls for you.

As a pastor – you have to be extra-vulnerable because the cost of them not believing you is so much greater than the bottom-line.

3. Making leadership too important.
If your identity gets wrapped up in work, huge loss. Lose your identity as child of God, husband, wife, father, mother. Ask your family – do you think that I think my job is more important than you?

Why would anyone do this? Because the people at your work agree with you and praise you more than your kids do.

Common core to all 3 mistakes? Pride.

Solution? Humility. Jesus invented humility. Therefore, Jesus invented leadership.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Jeffrey Immelt

Jeffrey Immelt exuded a warm humility in his interview with Bill Hybels. Who knows if he is really like this in ‘real life’ but in the short 30 minute interview, I found myself thinking – “I’d follow this guy. I’d hang out with this guy.” There weren’t a lot of cliché’s or canned leadership nuggets in the interview – which I loved and endeared me even more to Jeffrey.

At the end of the day, everyone at GE is a worker. No job is beneath the CEO.

Do your best and keep always in your mind the kind of person you want to be.

It was always about the work – not the career. Your peers decided how far you will go in an organization. You have to earn that.

We live in a volatile time and we are not ever going to have the opportunity to go back. Ever. Leaders must go forward.

4 Ways to make life simpler.

1. Less management. Have a lean decision-making process. Put your decision makers closer to the work so their insight and information is accurate.

2. The market rules – not the internal. Keep an external focus for your organization, keep who you serve in the front.

3. Get it on the clock. Get projects moving and out. Don’t have to be perfect but you have to produce.

4. Network you service. Which means keeping your organization transparent. Keep stuff transparent. Authenticity.

Leaders have to be self-starters, self-motivating and learn how to renew themselves in a short amount of time.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Susan Cain

Challenging the Extrovert Ideal

If you’ve seen Susan’s TED talk, you’ve seen this talk. I found her book fascinating and outstanding for ministry application.

Stop the madness of group work. Force people to get alone and process uninterrupted before putting ideas on the table. Start alone, then come together. Gives your introverts opportunities.

Forget networking, focus on service. Networking is about extroverts connecting with each other. Service is about the end product.

Find your compliment. Need both introverts and extroverts.