Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

The name Genghis Khan brings to mind thundering hordes of Mongol horsemen, slashing and burning their way through civilized nations.  Most of us know little about the Mongol ruler.  In 1956, Howard Hughes made a movie about Genghis Khan called “The Conqueror” with John Wayne in the title role which was less than historical and is best forgotten.

In Genghis Khan andthe Making of the Modern World, author Jack Weatherford illuminates the rather obscure origins of this 12th and 13th century leader.  According to Weatherford, “Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan was the most successful conqueror in world history, and he redrew the boundaries of the world.”

 Genghis Khan or Temujin, his original name, does have a bloody back story.  He murdered his own brother to allow himself to become leader of the family clan and did not hesitate to dispatch by the sword long time friends and family members who opposed him.  Despite this violent beginning, Weatherford argues that the Mongol leader became a gifted leader whose innovative military tactics and creative methods of governance transformed the world and laid the foundation for trade routes, customs, and nations that survive until today.

This ruler who came from humble origins not only valued the education and skills of those he conquered, but he sought to incorporate loyal and talented individuals—no matter their race or religion—into the governance of his empire.  Although he was a follower of “the Eternal Blue Sky,” a tribal religion based in the mountains of his homeland, he promoted religious tolerance for all faiths and included Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists among his advisors.   When representatives from the Pope tried to proselytize and make exclusive claims about the Christian faith, however, they were ejected from the court.

Weatherford writes, “At a time when most rulers considered themselves to be above the law, Genghis Khan insisted on laws holding rulers as equally accountable as the lowest herder. He granted religious freedom within his realms, though he demanded total loyalty from conquered subjects of all religions.” At a time when Western Europe lived in squalor and fear, Genghis Khan was building an empire that promised peace and prosperity for all its citizens, not matter their social or racial status.

Weatherford’s book provides an informative background to modern culture and civilization.  As we seek ways to bring people of different cultures together today, we need to understand how we got to where we are.  Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World helps to provide this background.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ask, Seek, Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”—Matthew 7:7, NIV

Children are good at asking questions:  “Where is God?”  “Why are peaches fuzzy?”  “What are those green things on the bread?”  We are born with an innate desire to understand our world.  Properly focused, good questions provide new information and ideas and assure continuing growth.  Conversely, failing to ask questions stifles one’s growth.

In Disciple Development Coaching©, the first step in the process is “Ask.”  The coach does the asking, but only as a surrogate for the client—the person being coached.  The asking that the coach does is not for his or her own acquisition of knowledge, but to encourage the client to reflect upon and understand personal strengths, values, and goals.  The coach wants the person being coached to have a conversation with himself or herself, perhaps putting into words some things that the client has never considered before.  As one client said to me, “Once I put that (her career dream) into words, it suddenly became real and now I have to deal with it.”

The coach is not asking questions out of simple curiosity to advance his or her knowledge.  The coach asks questions for the sake of the person being coached.  As the client responds, new doors are opened. 
These may be doors of service, spiritual growth, or professional development. 

A good coach encourages the client to ask, seek, and knock by modeling those practices.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

SMART Goals and CLEAR Goals

This summer I am facilitating an online “Coaching Practicum” class of very sharp, involved students.  We are doing much of the class in a participative, seminar-type approach with the students taking responsibility for certain topics.  They bring new and refreshing insights to the course and expand my knowledge in the process. 

One student was assigned to present on SMART Goals last week.  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  We used this approach in Disciple Development Coaching© and the student had been using such goals since her college days including a time in a professional training setting.  In her research, however, she came up with an alternative called CLEAR Goals.  CLEAR stands for the following:
  •  Collaborative—Does the goal encourage the person to work with others in order to accomplish the goal?
  • Limited—Is the goal clearly limited in both scope and time?
  • Emotional—Does the goal tap into the individuals’ energy and passion?  Is there emotional engagement?
  • Appreciable—Can the goal be broken down into smaller goals that can be achieved more quickly and easily, providing an early sense of accomplishment?
  • Refinable—Is there freedom to revisit the goal as circumstances change or new information surfaces so that the goal remains relevant?
This approach is very attractive for me because it incorporates some key behavioral insights that make coaching effective.  First, we work more effectively to achieve goals in a community of accountability.  Second, we must formulate goals that stretch us but are achievable with the resources at our disposal.  Third, we will work to achieve those things about which we are passionate—the things that give us energy.  Fourth, early success—grasping “low hanging fruit”—motivates us for the long haul of change.  Fifth, we must be agile in order to address the rapidly changing environment in which we find ourselves.

Good coaching involves clarity of purpose and direction but also appropriate incentives and motivation.  The CLEAR Goal idea is a great tool to incorporate all of these into a culture of growth and achievement.

If you are interesting in learning more, Peter Economy and Tori Reid have online articles fleshing out this concept.  Thanks to Kristin Wooldridge for sharing this idea with the “Coaching Practicum” class.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Count the Cost

 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”—Joshua 24:15, NIV

Pinnacle Leadership Associates has a model for coaching called Disciple Development Coaching©.  There are six steps in the process:  Ask, Listen, Explore, Design, Commit, and Support.  There were not always six steps in the process.  When Mark Tidsworth asked me to partner with him on teaching DDC, we simplified the model a bit.  In our discussions, I argued against including the Commit step.  I felt that it was redundant.  When we were doing the training one time, I was supposed to lead the discussion of that step, but I abdicated to Mark at the last minute.

As I have continued to train people in the model, however, I have come to see the importance of the Commit step.  Someone can go through the first four steps and have a very workable plan, but for one reason or another, they are not ready to commit to the hard work of pursuing their goal.  Perhaps the goal no longer engages their passion, things are changed in their life and it is no longer a priority, or maybe it just looks like too much work.  The Commit step is the time to stop and count the cost of pursuing the goal.

When Joshua challenged the people of Israel and asked for their commitment to follow God, he did not let them off easily.  After their declaration of their allegiance to God, Joshua comes back and says, 

“Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.  If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.’” (vv. 19-20)

Joshua warns them to count the cost of what they are committing to do.  He reminds them that it won’t be easy and God will not be forgiving of their failures.  The commitment will not be without sacrifice.  When I am coaching someone and we come to the Commit step, I often ask, “How much time are you willing to give to this goal each week?”  The client will sometimes be confused and suddenly realize that if he or she agrees to do this, it will take time, energy, and hard work.

Joshua was calling the people to a covenant commitment, one which should not be taken lightly.  He said, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” (v. 22).  What you have pledged before God, you will be expected to do.

In a coaching relationship, the choice of the client does not determine the future of a race, but the Commit step reminds a person that commitments are not to be entered into lightly.  Whether the commitment is to God, oneself, or a neighbor, it must be taken seriously. When we commit, we need to count the cost involved.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Review: Machiavellian Ministry: What Faith Filled Leaders Can Learn from a Faithless Politician


When one hears the word “Machiavellian,” the usual response is negative.  The work of 16th century writer Niccolo Machiavelli is often dismissed as being grounded in self-interest and achievement of success at any cost.  In Machiavellian Ministry: What Faith Filled Leaders Can Learn from a Faithless Politician, Terrell Carter attempts to redeem the work of Machiavelli and apply it to 21st century leadership, particularly for leaders in the church. Carter also draws on the insights of modern management to interpret and apply the Italian philosopher’s writings to the challenges of contemporary leadership.

The key idea is, “How does a leader deal with change?”  The author shows great wisdom in challenging leaders to address “what is” rather than “what ought to be.”  This is especially relevant in a social and cultural climate that continues to shift around us.

Carter identifies three positive points of Machiavelli’s advice to a new Medici prince and then rephrases them for contemporary leaders:
  • Be willing to learn from the experiences of others;
  • Prepare for challenges that come from implementing change; and
  • Surround yourself with a diverse, capable staff, and let them utilize their gifts.
 The author concludes with identifying three specific issues on which church leaders can bring these skills to bear:  social justice, police-community relations, and diversity in leadership.  All of these are areas in which Carter has been involved, so he is able to move from the abstract to the concrete in showing how the leadership skills identified can make a difference in a contemporary setting.

Carter has an informative, readable style.  The only critique I have of the book is the lack of citations of the works referenced although there is an extensive bibliography.

I encourage you to read Carter’s book for its fresh and relevant perspective.