Feel More Like a Target Than a Leader?

target claysThe clay pigeon believes it was created to soar, lofting high above the trees, soaking up the sun. The bullet that shatters it is always an abrupt surprise. The many pieces scatter and fall with no rhythm or purpose. If the pigeon knew it’s future, it would focus all it’s power clinging to it’s stack rather than hoping to one day fly.

We live in a Skeet culture.

“Skeet shooting is a recreational and competitive activity where participants, using shotguns, attempt to break clay disks mechanically flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed from a variety of angles.” — Wikipedia

Ever thrown up an idea lately? People from various angles take aim and shoot without any concern that your idea was meant to soar high above the trees and soak up the sun.

Have you been thrust into leadership lately? I’m not sure our culture has seen a leader lately it has been unable to despise.

Don’t misunderstand the gunners, they don’t have a better idea, and they certainly don’t want to lead. They defend the status quo and even defend the descent into chaos. “Who do you like for President in this next election?” you might ask them. When forced to examine who they might support, the gunner might just prefer leaving the position open for four years and see what happens. If you suggest a restaurant, they’d rather eat week old roadkill. What would they suggest? Anywhere is fine.

A coaching culture doesn’t shoot Skeet. A coaching culture takes the task of getting from here to there with an optimistic seriousness. A coaching culture first examines the desired destination from all angles. Then it develops a tentative plan. As obstacles rise into view, a coaching culture takes a careful review, learns from everyone involved, and often after a vigorous debate, chooses and acts on the best course, never forgetting the destination desired in the first place.

A coaching culture refuses to blame, refuses to quit, and refuses to wait. A coaching culture is quick to learn, quick to adjust, and quick to lean into the strengths that present themselves. A coaching culture is carefully built, championed from the top, and proven by great results.

Ask yourself:

Do we have a coaching culture?

What needs to change so we can do a better job reaching our destination?

What would be the next step in developing a coaching culture in your organization?

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How I Bravely Faced My Wife’s Fear

Frowning Woman Looking at ManI woke up early and afraid. Some how I was working around in my head what to do if the world fell into utter chaos. Where would I go? Who would take me in? What value would I bring to a community of survivors? It was grim.

Most people, most days, are afraid. I recently listened to Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Work Week. It isn’t for the faint of heart. He isn’t a Christian, and his language is foul. About half of what he says is brilliant. You just have to wade through it all to get the good half.

Ferris, in a part that I thought was brilliant, encouraged his listeners to do one thing every day that they are afraid to do. I remember when I was a kid, hearing stories about G Gordon Liddy tying himself to a tree in a horrible thunderstorm to get over being afraid of lightning. This isn’t what I’m talking about.

I was eating lunch out with my wife at Buffalo Wild Wings, and she told me that a woman across the room was probably her roommate at All-state band or some other such high school get-away conference. They were both the only girls from their schools so they roomed them together. I said, all pumped up with Ferris’ confidence, “Let’s go ask her!”

“No,” my wife insisted all four times I suggested it. I feigned walking toward her as we left the restaurant. It was so easy for me to face my wife’s fear, but what about my own?

Fear stops us from talking to people, stops us from asking questions, stops us from taking action. Fear paralyzes us. Fear isn’t reasonable or helpful or anything.

What is one thing you are afraid to do today? It doesn’t have to be bungee jumping or sky diving (both things I’m afraid of doing). It could be making a phone call. Do it. Stop reading this post, and take some action. Cross the line of fear and give it a shot.

Ask for the raise. Apply for a new job. Ask the girl for her number. Write the first chapter of the novel. Run outside for 50 feet and then walk the rest of the mile. Wear a colorful dress. Get the fancy haircut.

You can’t imagine how far you will get today if you press through this fear that has been holding you back. Be brave.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.– Isaiah 41:10

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A Coach Approach to Preaching

Preaching evPriest handcuffedery week for 20 years is hard. Oh, some preacher will tell you, “It’s not that difficult,” but for the rest of us mere humans. It is hard. Maybe I try too hard. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself. But I feel like I’m supposed to come up with something new and interesting every week. Most of the experts out there agree. Andy Stanley says not to preach one theme more than a month. Andy Stanley would be disappointed in me.

I would pay someone to coach my preaching every week. Honestly it wouldn’t need to be every week. It could probably be once a month. How would a Coach Approach to preaching look?

This may be heresy, but here it goes. I’d start with the preacher rather than with the sermon. Coaching encourages the client to lean into his or her strengths. I can’t think of one preaching book that starts with the preacher and natural strengths. Billy Graham certainly has Woo. In fact, Billy Graham’s top five strengths are all Woo. Woo is not in my top five. I’ve wondered where it might be but not so much that I’m ready to pay $79 to find out. Gallup charges you $10 to find out your top five strengths, but then charges $79 to find out what you’re not good at.

If you look at my top 4 strengths, they are all strategic. I am a thinker. I can influence, and I can think, but my natural tendency is to make a well founded argument. When I am at my best in preaching, I don’t just make the argument, I invite people into my thinking. This is how I influence people. I help them think. I encourage them to think and come to their own well founded conclusion. I always short change the congregation when I land on a conclusion for them. This may not be true for you.

When I am best in my preaching, I am funny, usually sarcastic. The funny comes best off the cuff, and so I need to leave room in my preaching for the funny to come out. I also often need to explain why I’m being sarcastic. It doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes people think I’m just being rude. I don’t need to stop being sarcastic. I need to craft my sarcastic remarks to have better effect. It is my strength.

That’s who I am. That’s what I got. That’s what works best for me. So when someone says to me I need to “Drop the hammer,” I can often see their point, but that is not my strength. My worst sermons are when I lean into my weaknesses.

If you preach, what is YOUR strength? What strength were you working out of when you preached your most memorable sermon? You might want to ask people. You are probably afraid to ask people what your most memorable sermon has been because you are afraid they won’t remember even one. Not even last week. Truthfully I have trouble remembering what I preached last week. But I’m safe. One of my strengths is Future Thinking. I don’t live in the past. Whew.

Are you an influencer? A relater? Is communication your strength or do you actually use something else in your preaching to make your point? I’ve seen poor communicators preach very well.

A good coach would encourage you to know your strengths and lean into them. I’m not Billy Graham or Martin Luther King or Andy Stanley. I could wish I was, but that would be disrespectful to God who made me Brian Miller.

Find a coach and have them coach your preaching for a few weeks. They aren’t so hard to find. We’ve trained almost 100 in our denomination alone.

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What Will Replace Sunday School?

lonely tv man cup of teaI received this email from Lezlie Shipman this week:

We are so excited about this revolutionary new way to access thousands of resources for everyone in your church.  As I mentioned in our call, RightNow Media is like the Netflix of video Bible studies.

The main reason I read this email is because I’m familiar with RightNow and have been to a few of their annual conferences. They attempt to focus more on missional impact than other national conferences. They didn’t hit a homerun with their focus but I definitely appreciated their attempt.

The key word in Lezlie’s paragraph is “revolutionary.” It is revolutionary. This wasn’t available before. In the 80’s, I was lucky enough to have about a dozen cassette tapes with great messages I had heard at an Urbana Conference.

My first thought with Netflix was binge watching. I have Netflix. It is easy to watch a whole season of shows in a day. Of course, that is all that you would do that day.

I began to connect the idea of binge watching Netflix to RightNow Media and thought that is the last thing we need.

In conversation with my Sophomore High School son, he was thinking ahead to his Junior year, where he is scheduled to have both an early bird class and and overload class. This led to a conversation (ok, maybe a lecture) on education.

Our current education system says that the way to learn is to listen to a teacher lecture for 30 to 45 minutes and then regurgitate the information on the test. This is a terrible idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which, our College Sophomore daughter has a Calculus class with a teacher who doesn’t know the word for million. He says a thousand thousand. Understand?

The church has to change. I’ve lately had a few people tell me how bad they want Sunday School to make a strong return. It’s not going to happen. Why? Netflix. RightNow Media.

Some schools are experimenting with the Reverse Classroom. In the Reverse Classroom, the student watches the lecture at home on the internet. Then the student comes to school to do the homework with the help of the teacher.

This teaches the kid that learning is on them and that they can learn in any situation, even with a teacher who doesn’t know the word for a million. Why don’t teachers move to this model more quickly?

Then I thought about applying it to our church. This would mean I would no longer preach. Congregants would listen to Francis Chan or Andy Stanley on Saturday night and then come to church to work it out in their own life, with maybe a little help from the pastor.

But I like to preach. Listen church. Revolution is hard.

RightNow Media isn’t the Netflix of Video Bible Studies. It is the Khan Academy of Bible Studies. Or at least it should be. It could be.

This is why coaching is so important. Coaching helps you navigate the revolution. The minister becomes the coach not the content creator.

Coaching Clarity: A stabilizing presence in an ever-changing landscape.

 

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Build a Big Brain Team

A few years ago, as I spoke to bride and groom, I said, “Lisa, Nathaniel will take you on adventures you never dreamed of taking. Nathaniel, because Lisa is with you, you will always have a toothbrush.”

Nathaniel is a dreamer. Lisa is an organizer. Nathaniel without Lisa is frustrated. Lisa without Nathaniel is bored.

The front part of the brain asks, “What if?” The back part of the brain asks, “What is?” We all have a natural tendency to default to the front or the back. I default to the front. My wife defaults to the back.

In coaching, pay attention what part of the brain the client is using. If they are looking for a new discovery, change the conversation to move their thinking into another part of the brain.

For example, if the client is stuck in the here and now, ask:

“What will this look like in 5 years?”

“If you could pick anybody to be on your team, who would you pick?”

If the client is a big picture person and can’t see the details, ask:

“What is the very first step in moving toward your vision?”

“Who are three key people who could help you take the first few steps?”

You aren’t going to change a back-brained person into a front-brain person or vice-versa no matter how hard you try. You may have the wrong person in the wrong position. Or more likely, you need to create a more diverse brain team. I have definitely found I am much more productive when I have a partner who is more detailed.

Are you front-brain or back-brain?

Do you have a diverse team of thinkers around you?

Who should you ask to be on your team?

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Failure Is Not Trying

You should immediately add this question to your year-end review:

When did you utterly fail this past year?

And the one being reviewed should be penalized if they have no answer. If you aren’t trying, you’re dying.

I was coaching a man who’s actions were paralyzed. As we coached through it, the obstacle was the fear of disappointing people he respected. So in order to not disappoint anyone with a failed attempt, he didn’t do anything.

He needed a new perspective. How would these people you respect respond if they knew you were taking no action because of them? Answer: They would be disappointed. Ouch.

You don’t want to be reckless. You don’t want to work without a net. And if you have a good coach, you can create a plan to move forward that is well thought out and that will give you confidence to move ahead.

But if there is no risk of failure, it probably isn’t worth doing.

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A Stablizing Presence in an Ever-Changing Landscape

9efa713d-944c-4c02-80cc-746a70115c82I’m currently working with the leaders of a church who are frustrated with how to move forward. A commonly asked question in these situations is “How do we revitalize our Sunday School?”
Old methods don’t seem as effective today. So what methods should we use today? Author Simon Sinek says we should Start With Why.
If memory serves me correctly, Sunday Schools were initially started with the hope of raising the levels of community literacy. The church hoped to teach children (and adults) how to read. Imagine the impact on a person  between the difference of not being able to read and being able to read. Today, the impact would be similar to Jesus healing a man from blindness.
This was the church’s why: Giving children an opportunity that they otherwise would never receive.
I don’t think I’m being cynical when I say Sunday School today is designed so that our children will believe what we believe. That is clearly not the same why. And interestingly enough, it isn’t working well anymore, even for kids who go through the entire program.
Children believe in Jesus when they see their parents (or other respected adults) sacrificing in the name of Jesus to give others an opportunity with no personal gain. Kids need to see transformed adults. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach kids Bible stories. Transformed adults come from an encounter with Jesus and His Word. We should teach about Jesus as we go along impacting our community.
As I coach this church, which is beautifully starting from scratch, I have two main goals:
1. Get them to define why for their church.
2. Develop their leaders to take responsibility for the how that is defined by their why.
 
Has your church gotten away from it’s original why?
How would you define your current why?
If you analyze your ministry based on the church’s original why, what would immediately need to change?
Does your church need a coach to help you define your why?
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The Shocking Truth About Regrets

heavy weightI asked my dad the other day if he had any regrets. What would he change if he was given the chance? My dad strikes me as a “very content in any circumstance” guy, but he was quick to express one change. He would not have spent 40 years farming. He never enjoyed farming. Instead he would have worked full-time as a carpenter. Wow, that would have made my mom a much happier camper!

My dad began farming for one simple reason – he thought it was his best opportunity.

The truth is that he had fewer opportunities than you or I do. Often though, we choose our opportunities for the wrong reasons.

How do you start?

There is a difference between what you are good at and what you are passionate about.

Dad was good at farming, but he had no passion for it. He was passionate about building things. He was an excellent carpenter. You can have more success rooted in passion than rooted in skill.

What were you passionate about as a kid?

My 12 year-old son and I were talking about what he might do when he grows up.

He asked me, “What was the first thing you wanted to be?” Great question!

I said, “It’s hard to remember for sure, but the first thing I can remember right now is I wanted to be a lawyer, then later, a computer engineer.”

He said, “And you became a computer engineer.”

“I did.”

“Then God called you to be a pastor.”

“Yes He did.”

So where did Lawyer come from?

Why was Lawyer the first job that made sense to me? Did I miss my calling?

I was probably in fifth or sixth grade when I wanted to be a Lawyer. That is the age I became good at arguing with teachers. To be honest, I enjoyed the argument (I still do), but if I go a little deeper, I remember coming to the defense of my friends. I would defend their answer on a test. I would argue the stated parameters of the assignment. I was obnoxious. I got more encouragement from teachers for my math skills than my arguing skills. They encouraged my skill rather than my passion. They encouraged what was less annoying.

Using Will Mancini’s Clarity Spiral, here was my fifth grade identity:

I existed to honor God and help people by arguing disputed issues.

It is much easier to look back, but lawyer was a strong clue about my God-given passion. I love to help people. Computer Engineering simply tapped into a strong skill. I’m not sure lawyer was the right fit, but it was closer to my in-born passion.

So far I have no regrets. I’m not lamenting the early path of engineering. I made a choice to follow my passion early enough in life.

What is your God-given passion? It is not too late to look for clues. Your passion leads you to your identity.

How would you write out the earliest identity you can remember?

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Who Do I Talk To About Quitting?

QuitterWhen I was 10 or 11 years old, I went out for Little League Football. I’m sure my older brothers played football, but they were much older and weren’t playing when my turn came. My dad was never over involved in my sports so that left mom to prepare me for football.

It was my introduction to the jock strap. I remember asking mom which way it went. Something was going to be hanging out either way. Awkward. Especially having to figure this out with your mom. Then we figured out the shoulder pads. Nobody told me I should wear a T-shirt underneath the pads so that they wouldn’t rub me raw. Mom didn’t know that.

At that first (and last) practice, the only thing I remember is lining up and hitting each other. Since I was the biggest fifth grader, they lined me up against the biggest sixth grader, Byron. Byron was big. Byron had a wicked smile on his face as he lined up against me. Hike! Boom! I have no idea whether I was on offense or defense. It didn’t matter. Byron ran over me either way.

When I got home, my underarms were raw from the shoulder pad straps rubbing me raw. My body was sore from Byron rolling over me several times. I didn’t want to go back the next day for anything. I told my mom I wanted to quit. She said I had to talk to dad. Weird that I didn’t have to talk dad about the jock strap, but I had to talk to dad about quitting.

Dad was changing the oil in the combine (we were farmers) or something equally ambitious. I found him and said, “I want to quit football. Mom said I had to ask you.” He stopped what he was doing and told me this:

“You can quit football, but don’t ever quit anything else ever again.”

Dad told me to never quit. A few weeks ago, I was reading Matthew 19. Jesus gives a successful young man the exact opposite advice.

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Jesus is very specific in what the man is supposed to quit and very vague about what he is to do. Jesus also doesn’t appear to build any steps into the transition. The successful man could hear his dad’s words in his head, “Don’t ever quit anything else ever again.” He wasn’t a quitter.

Why is it so hard to know when and what to quit?

Jesus doesn’t call the man to quit because it’s too hard. Jesus calls the man to quit because it’s too easy.

Peter soon asks Jesus,

“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Peter had quit his job. Now life was hard. He had no idea what to expect day to day. Jesus encouraged Peter to persevere. “It will all be worth it, and sooner than you think.” Don’t quit.

Coaching is a powerful tool to help people think through when and how they should quit. What are some powerful questions that you would ask someone who is considering whether they should quit or not?

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Six Surprising Steps to Hiring a Coach

SurpriseIf you’ve concluded hiring a coach would benefit you, let me give you six steps to make this happen.

  1. Write down the One Big Thing you what you want to accomplish in the next year. No details. 40,000 foot view.
    • “Quit spinning my wheels”
    • “Fire up my leaders”
    • “Get clear on a vision”
    • “Start a discipleship program”
    • “Finish well”
    • “Set clear goals”
    • “Build a relationship with my teenager”
    • “Invest in my staff”

 

  1. List the Benefits of Coaching. Here are the top 7 benefits I’ve experienced. I also recorded a podcast on the subject. Listen to Five Boosts I Received from Mentor Coaching.
    • Your brain on steroids. You will be able to think clearer and broader.
    • A second dose of confidence.
    • A safe place to discuss delicate issues.
    • A 24/7 attitude of intentionality.
    • Spectacular clarity about your current situation and your future.
    • Double your number of current options.
    • Leverage your strengths.

 

  1. Identity the Most Important Person (MIP) in your organization or Sphere of Influence. This may be the most important factor for you to know – you are not alone. There are others who care that you do your best work. They need an opportunity to invest in you.
    • Your boss
    • Chairperson of the board
    • Your spouse
    • Jerry
    • Dad

 

  1. Share your One Big Thing and the Benefits of Coaching with the Most Influential Person (MIP). Discuss this question with your MIP: If coaching delivers what it promises, would it be worth the cost? You need to be in the habit sharing important issues with influential people. Others in your sphere of influence need to take some ownership for your success.
    • Don’t write people off too quick.
    • Talk to them more than once.
    • Give them some time to process.
    • Ask them questions to deepen your own understanding.

 

  1. Share these recommendations of coaching with your MIP.

Enlisting Brian Miller as a coach is one of the smartest things I’ve done in ministry. His careful listening and discerning questions help me put ideas into action. Brian’s pastoral depth and coaching skill have blessed me and my organization. – Jay Kieve, Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina

Brian Miller’s coaching brings an amazing light of understanding in life’s journeys such as work, career decisions, and thought processing, in order to maximize your full potential in all areas. – Kathy Graven, Director of Children’s Ministries, New Beginnings Church of God, Decatur, IL

Two things held me back from hiring a coach: pride and busyness. I over came the first when I realized I needed someone to help me think things through, and the second when I recognized that my frenetic activity was neither strategic nor productive. Frankly, I didn’t realize how much I needed a coach until I hired Brian. – Ed Rosenberry, Executive Director, Churches of God General Conference

Brian Miller coaches from the trenches and with the understanding and compassion that only years of ministry and the scars that come with them can produce.  He sees into the heart of your situation and helps you face it in a way that you can gain a positive perspective and direction for success. He helped me to see that the dark spot I thought I was stuck in was only a few steps away from where God wanted me to be. – Vince Wilczynski, Pastor, Mount Carroll Church of God, Mount Carroll, IL

 

  1. Ask the MIP for a financial commitment of one year of coaching.

You have to ask. Do not get in the habit of taking “No” for an answer before you ask. People will rarely commit to you financially without a specific request. Don’t expect your MIP to figure out that they need to put coaching in the budget. If you want it, ask for it.

What is your One Big Thing? When will you talk to the MIP?

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