Book Review: Great by Choice by Jim Collins

I have read his other books (Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall), so I knew what to expect. It did not disappoint. It was as before, a well researched, well thought out, well presented investigation of the practices demonstrated by successful leaders and their businesses.

The beauty is that the principles outlined are not really that complicated, the key is sticking with them. That was the difference maker. Most of us can manage to stick at something until something happens, something that knocks us off track and then we let go of what we considered non-negotiable. The beauty of reading such a book is that it reminds you that being great is not a chance event, it is achieved by choices, and then maintained by sticking to those choices.

As a Church leader I am reading and thinking about how these principles could work for us. We want to excel, to achieve success in what we do. I have no desire to be mediocre, so I read books like this one to learn from great business leaders, take what I can and put in to practice the elements that fit. To be honest – all of it fits.

‘The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.’ ‘Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.’ The many concepts discussed all work towards these quotes.

The challenges for me:

1. The 20 Mile March. This is all about consistency. Those performance markers for the journey. It’s not a case of running fast when things are good and doing nothing when times are tougher. It’s about completing the 20 mile march, every day. Q: what do we need to do consistently to continue to make progress?

2. Firing bullets, before firing canonballs. Discover what might work for you without going for broke first time. A bullet causes less damage but provides evidence to the potential of an idea. To be great is about making decisions based not only on creativity but also on the empirical data. Q: what can we learn from what we try?

3. Zoom out, then zoom in. It’s not so much about should we change things but about being vigilant to sense changing conditions. Great leaders can do this as fast or as slow as is necessary due to the fact they have a handle on conditions. Q: do we have a sense of the conditions, the times that we are in?

4. The SMaC idea. Specific, Methodical and Consistent. They are the ‘operating code for turning strategic concepts into reality, practices more enduring than mere tactics’. It’s those things that we work hard to never change, or rarely if we must. The values that underpin what we do. Q: what are the key aspects of what we do that will never change? The expression of them might change but as a value they will not.

I would recommend this book as an excellent read for any leader. The overriding theme – do we abandon our values the moment good times or bad times come our way? If the answer is yes, then we are less likely to become great. ‘It’s not just about what happens to us but what we create, what we do and how well we do it’. Don’t know about you but I want to learn from wherever I can to be better equipped to lead God’s church – this book will do that. Get your copy here

[If you have read it, share your thoughts]

What I’ve Been Reading…

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. Really enjoyed Sticky Church so had high expectations for this. It is with regret that I was somewhat disappointed. That’s not to say that what is spoken of in the book isn’t helpful & instructive.

Two things which I will remember:
When it comes to leadership – insist on spiritual maturity. Sometimes we can be so desperate for new teams that we forget to look for the qualities spoken of in the Bible. On reflection, maybe we choose the line of least resistance rather than asking the difficult questions.

Secondly, I loved the letter that Larry ‘maybe’ sent to someone about giving. Priceless. And definitely the way many Pastors and Leaders would love to speak. Interesting though how we often react to people incorrectly without gathering all the facts first. Extremely useful practices to remember.

Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll. This was another book that I had high expectations for, because Vintage Jesus has become such a useful resource for me. Thankfully, the book did not let me down.
Let’s be honest – who am I to critique Mark Driscoll who is after all the ‘ultimate’ teacher.

The simplest thing to say is – great questions and great answers. I know that I will use this resource over and over again.

A definite addition to any church leaders bookshelf.

59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman. Absolutely loved this book. Full of useful tools that can help you understand yourself, others and how to get the most from life. Plus they only take 59 seconds.

We enjoyed measuring our fingers to discover the masculine/feminine traits that may mean we display.
We learnt that having a plant pot in the office boosts creativity.
We discovered that you should close your eyes when asking questions of people to fins out if they are liars.

I even learnt about something called the pratfall effect. This was a fun and informative read. Definitely worth a look.

Your Secret Name by Kary Oberbrunner. I won this from a twitter contest. The title intrigued me.

I enjoyed the journey that Kary took me on and how he entwined his journey with that of Jacob. The struggles and pains. The way God is always there leading us to the point of discovery, to the Secret Name that only He can speak over you. An easy read, very honest, and because of that, extremely encouraging.

[What have you been reading lately?]

Book Review: How Good is Good Enough by Andy Stanley

51uXnmdqVNL._SL75_ Part of my October reads…

Good people go to heaven…at least that’s what some people say. But how good is good enough? Who decides what good is? What measure should we use? What is good to me may not be good to you? Some think blowing people up is good but I’m not sure I would agree with that.

The argument is presented excellently by Andy Stanley. I would expect nothing less. For anyone in your world who thinks like this I reckon this little book would be a great read. It would not offend them but it would certainly make them think about their own way of thinking. The alternative of the Gospel of Jesus looks great in comparison because ‘good enough’ doesn’t even come into the equation.

Buy a copy, read it and tell me what you think.

[More reviews to follow plus check out what I am reading now]

Book Review: How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins

Recently finished reading this book. Absolutely loved it. In fact I was happy just with Appendix 5, I think there is enough in there to keep us discussing for a long time.

The beauty of a Jim Collins book. It’s thought provoking. It’s easy to read. There is a journey to it. The comparison between how some companies fall while others rescue themselves – that insight is priceless. You can put yourself, your organisation, your team, the Church for me as a Pastor, in to the scenario and determine how you are doing.

The 5 stages of decline become clearer as you read the evidence. Very obvious at times, it makes you wonder how the leaders in the companies didn’t notice. I guess when you are in it you don’t always see it.

Some thoughts from the various stages that show leadership succcess:
‘Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers’. [That’s a kick of a reminder]

‘The greatest leaders do seek growth – growth in performance, growth in distinctive impact, growth in creativity, growth in people – but they do not succumb to growth that undermines long-term value’.

‘They do not confuse growth with excellence’.

‘Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big’.

‘Taking action inconsistent with your core values is undisciplined’.

‘To compromise your values or lose-sight of your core purpose in pursuit of growth and expansion is undisciplined’.

‘When bureaucratic rules erode an ethic of freedom and responsibility within a framework of core values and demanding standards, you’ve become infected with the disease of mediocrity’.

‘The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency’. [Ouch]

‘If you want to reverse decline, be rigorous about what not to do’. That’s when you need to…‘Breathe. Calm yourself. Think. Focus. Aim. Take one shot at a time’.

‘The right leaders feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad, whether facing threat or opportunity, no matter what. They’re obsessed, afflicted with a creative compulsion and inner drive for progress’.

‘Circumstances alone do not determine outcomes’.

‘Never give in. Be willing to change tactics, but never give up your core purpose’.

‘Success is falling down, and getting up one more time, without end’.

So many great thoughts. Recommended read for leaders. Get it here.

Living in the Impossible

41kvsoXncfL._SL125_Jesus tells us that if we want to come after him we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. The way to find yourself is to lose yourself. This is the IMPOSSIBLE call of the Christian faith.

Culture almost dictates to us that we should find out who we are, that ‘I’ am the most important person in my world, that everything I have, want and desire is okay because ‘I’ feel better, ‘I’ am made complete if I have them.

Culture teaches us to be self-aware, to be self-taught, to enjoy self-discovery, to learn self-help, to become self-absorbed even, to see God in all that you do and that YOU have all you need within you to live a successful life. Rather than challenge this thinking, maybe the Church has at times encouraged this.

Then you read the words of Jesus. ‘Lay down your life’. ‘Lose yourself’. ‘Die to yourself’. ‘Pick up your cross’. ‘Follow me.’ Is it any wonder that many choose not to. This is a tough call. Not just difficult – IMPOSSIBLE. In his book, Simply Christian, Tom Wright states that ‘the only way for us to live this life is to draw strength from beyond ourselves, the strength of God’s Spirit’.

This was the crescendo for me as I read Simply Christian. Slow at first but then increasing in momentum has the challenge to ‘reflect the image’ was laid out, thoughtfully but with enough of a push to make you feel uncomfortable about how you walk with God.

Loved the image of living in the overlap, the place where heaven and earth interlock. Every time we pray, take communion, worship, read the Bible, bringing all that God has done for us into the present. Walking in this reality makes us effective for God I’m sure, led by the Spirit not by culture or self.

The last page lays it out so convincingly:
‘We are called to be part of God’s new creation, called to be agents of that new creation here and now. We are called to model and display that new creation in symphonies and family life, in restorative justice and poetry, in holiness and service to the poor, in politics and painting’.

To take a phrase that we have used recently at Xcel Church – living in the impossible, by the strength God provides, help us to repaint the landscape of Christianity in our worlds, in this region, in our town.

Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamour for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment.’

It’s time to grow up. Time to grasp a hold of it. To leave behind the brokenness and incompleteness that this world offers and take up our proper role.

This is a recommended read, if you like more to think about, more depth to your knowledge but to still be challenged enough to change how you live the Christian life. Take your time in the reading and you won’t be disappointed. Get your copy here.

Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

51mTG68Tj7L._SL160_AA115_ Reading a book by Seth Godin always challenges the thinking process. I am definitely challenged. For as much as the author says some may not like the book, the way it is written – I love the style. It’s somewhat like a bunch of random thoughts on a subject, simple thoughts but extremely profound.

When I read I am always looking at how it can help. I am looking for some nuggets that open up new opportunities, new thoughts for bringing change. This book has certainly done that. So:thinking Church for a moment: the ‘tribe’ that I Pastor as part of Xcel Church and the movement we have the potential to’s what made me think…

The Anatomy of a Movement: motivate, connect, leverage. [Don’t just do the third]
What is the ‘status quo’ when it comes to Church? How can we change that? [That gives us the chance to be remarkable]
If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader. It’s the discomfort that creates the leverage that makes leadership worthwhile.
‘Lean in, back off BUT don’t do nothing. Leaders choose to not do nothing. [This has pushed me already. What do I do? I must ‘lean in’ to it more]
The art of leadership is understanding what you CAN’T compromise on.

The book has made me question: what is the vacuum that we could fill?
It will take INITIATIVE.
It will take STANDING AGAINST THE RESISTANCE that those who love the STATUS QUO will bring.
It means doing things that others are NOT DOING.
It often takes a SUBTLE TWIST on an old-favourite.
It takes BRAVERY.

I hope I’m not wrong in my understanding of the theme of this book:
anyone can lead. everyone should lead. anyone can bring change. few do though because of the fear & resistance. playing it safe is just as risky, if not moreso than taking a risk.

For Xcel Darlo: Come on – we cannot afford to play it safe.
[What can we do? Where can we go? Who can we reach?]

Leaders: you should read this book. Get your copy here.

I’m no expert reviewer but here are my thoughts on other Seth Godin books
The Dip
Meatball Sundae

What Are You Reading At The Moment?

Went to Borders the other day. Love going there. Never really get to fully appreciate it when the girls are with me but I did get the opportunity to browse and checked out a few books that look interesting even alllowing for the pile I still have left over from last year!

Leaders are readers. You want to gain some knowledge then you need to be reading and I don’t mean just general fiction. You need to read stuff that will challenge you, inspire you, stretch you, teach you something. Start small. Don’t be intimidated by how much others read – have your own plan, set your own goal and go for it!

This is the last 10 books I have read – what do you think?
Vintage Jesus
Turning Points
Starving Jesus
Wake Up Dead Man
Sticky Church
Moving in the Spirit
Meatball Sundae
Holy Discontent

After any good recommendations. Come July I will be switching my emphasis from reading my Bible in BIG CHUNKS to reading from an ever increasing pile of books.


Book Review: Moving in the Spirit by Phil Pringle

This book was a timely read for me. It’s easy to get distracted by the stuff of life and be led by what you want, rather than by being led by the Spirit. Having had ‘one of those weeks’ picking up this book and catching hold of what Phil Pringle was saying was exactly what I needed to hear. (Having said that, I have tried a few times to read this without success – it took some determination to get my teeth in to it).

Reminders for me…

‘There is simply no substitute for waiting upon God’

Chapter 9 – all about the anointing. I need more of it!
‘Our journey into greater measures of the anointing always involves greater development of our character’

Four keys to receiving the anointing…
Hunger for God
Coming to the minister of God
Expecting the power of God
Being open to whatever the Holy Spirit might do

I know that this will be a great toolkit for me and I would recommend it as a read for any Pastor and christian leader. Buy your copy here.