Category Archives: leadership

When the obvious leadership call is the wrong one.

“Management rounded on the nurses and saw they were all tired looking. Their response? Cut the over time rate. “

I had no idea what that last sentence meant when I heard it the first time too…

I was sitting with a friend who told me about his wife’s working situation at a hospital.

“What do you mean?”

For the last few months, management had put in a special overtime rate for the nurses at their hospital. When they walked around the building, they found that the nurses looked tired. Discerning eyes decided that they couldn’t have tired nurses because of patient safety. The added pay for overtime was then canceled.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Great leadership decision, right?

Except, maybe not. Here’s why.

Maybe the nurses are tired from working too much overtime because they aren’t making enough.

Maybe your base salary isn’t sufficient to meet their needs.

Maybe by cancelling the overtime bonus, nurses will actually work more hours, not less.

Leadership isn’t about solving obvious problems. Leadership is about big picture perspective to get to the root of a problem.

So the next time you see an obvious problem with a quick solution, so what my boss used to tell us.

“Measure Twice, Saw once.” That’s what a leader does.

The only person you can change is you… another pop psychology lie

The only person you can change is you..

If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it once. I may even have said something similar a time or two.

Then it dawned on me. That’s stupid and not true.

People change me every day.

They make me happy. They make me sad. Oh, I know my mood should never be affected by others. However, I suffer with this condition called “Being human.” Don’t think you can change someone else? Check out this video of a random guy at a bus stop laughing. He changed the people around them, just a little bit and maybe only for a moment, but he did change them.

The truth is that we are indeed responsible for ourselves.   We have en enormous amount of choice given to us by our creator.

We can not though use that freedom to ignore that our daily interactions matter. Again, I challenge you to walk to work wearing a clown nose. You will leave a trail of positive endorphins behind you with the simple trail of smiles you leave behind.

A speech by Sir Winston Churchhill galvanized a nation to stand against the Nazi air raid.

More recently. a video sparked outrage all over police tactics in New York City. (Sorry, not going to provide a link.)

You can and do change the people around you. The choice becomes, what change will you make?

Leave a comment about someone who made a positive difference in your life.

Check out the new book on Amazon. Click the image to go to the kindle version.

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5 gifts every father can afford and can’t afford to not give his children

note: First delivered as part 5 in a Series of lectures at the Ocean International Community Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

#Blackfriday came and went and I purchased nothing. Ziltch. Nada. I had the commercial pressure to define us by our stuff. Having been broke many times, what are gifts that I could give me children, even if we don’t have cash in the bank?

Christmas at the Porter house growing up, at many houses growing up, revolved around a number of small gifts under our Christmas tree, but there was usually 1 large gift for each child. Something that cost a lot. Here are 5 gifts that every father, regardless of financial status, can afford to give his kids.

Fathers gift


Gift 1: Proclamation:

In the ancient Hebrew world, there was a custom called “The blessing.” A Father, sometime later in life, would call his children to him. It was often near the time of a Father’s death, but as we see in the life of Isaac, not necessarily so. The Father would do a number of things. First, he would give gifts. There was a birthright. That came from birth order. Then there was a blessing. A blessing was words. Simply that. A Father would speak into reality, almost in a prophetic act, the future that he felt that child would have. We see this in Isaac’s case, and we see this in Jacob’s case.

They believed that their words had power to imput identity into the child. I believe every father needs to speak praise and destiny into the life of their child.

Now, let’s clarify something here. There is a self- help, positive feeling, wishy washy mushy psychology out there that many of our children are falling victim to today.

That is simply lazy parenting and lying to your kids. I’m in my middle to late 30ies, and there are things I haven’t been able to do, even though I worked really really hard at them. There is a tribe in southern Tanzania, that have some sounds in their language that unless you learn them as a child, you can not learn them. Period. You just can’t do it.

What I am talking about here is speaking value into a child’s life. Speak purpose. Not the lie that…

“You can be anything you want to be if you try hard enough.” That’s simply not true. But…

“You are unique. God has a unique destiny and purpose for your life.” Affirm Character: You are strong. You are gentle. I respect the way you treat other people. You are courageous.

Every night before going to bed, I ask my son Joshua “what are you?” I’m strong, I’m brave, I trust Jesus. I am reaffirming God’s identity in him. Proclamation.

Gift #2: Preparation:

Father’s, your job is to prepare your children for life. There was a time when a man took his sons to work with him, and mother’s took their daughters with them. Today, parents feel their job is to provide an academic education for their children. But Dar es Salaam (and the larger world) is full of unemployed, lazy, incompetent college graduates. That alone is proof that academics is only a fraction of what education is really all about.

Father’s, how do you prepare your children for life?

The answer is Discipline. Yes I know, but teach them they can’t always get their way. Don’t break them, but don’t give in to their every whim either. Because life won’t always baby them. Prepare them by discipline. Spare the rod, spoil the child, the scriptures say. It doesn’t say beat them to a pulp. It doesn’t say hurt your child. That scripture says correct bad behavior early, and you won’t have to correct it later. Fathers, the toughest time to parent your kids I believe is when they are below 5 years of age. And I see a ton of Dads that are basically like

“Here. Take it, feed it, clean it, teach it to talk, and when we can play football together, bring it back.”

By that time, it may be too late.

Preparation:later, teach them to manage money. Time. To make good decisions. To choose their friends wisely. And if they aren’t choosing wisely, be their Father. Remove them from the situation. Ban that boy from being in your house. Have the uncomfortable conversations. They will hate you now, and love you later. You are the Father. Your God given responsibility is prepare your kids for life. Bring them to church. Make them be part family devotions.

Gift # 3: Provision:

Your job is to provide for you family. Now, I want to be careful here, because there are times when dad’s loose their jobs. When money comes from mom, not dad. But money is not all there is. Making provision for your kids is planning for their future. In good times, you are looking ahead. Guess what? You have to pay school fees every year. For every one of your kids.

Provision: The biggest thing you can provide your kids, or one of them, is a good model to follow. Give them a good example.

Gift #4: Protection:

Fathers, this is your job. Protect those kids. The funny thing here is often you have to protect them from themselves. My little ones would always head to electrical sockets. We are not born knowing how to make good decisions. We simply aren’t. We have to be taught. Dads, protect your girls from the boys. And these days, protect your boys from the predatory girls. We joke a lot about in the states about getting a shotgun to run off the boys. We should be more serious I think. With the amount of date rape, of sexual abuse by teachers, we need some men to stand up and protect their little boys and girls. Protect them from themselves. I don’t care. Turn off the stupid TV for a while. Make them do their homework. Trust me, they won’t break.

Protect them from manipulators, from people who would make them feel inferior because of money, or status in society, or any other reason.Take control of their online life. Cyber-stalk them. You won’t regret it, but you might regret not doing it.  Stand and fight for your family.

And Finally, the biggest gift you can give your kids, bar none.


A Dad in the home. In their lives. Some of you dads work so long, you leave before the kids get up, you come home after they are in bed. You are the law enforcer, you are the policeman. When you have a rare day off, you wonder why none of your family wants to spend time with you. Who wants to spend time with a stranger?

You don’t understand Charles. My job…. My schedule. Whatever. Love is spelled TIME. And there are people who say that you can make up for quantity by quality. Just spend quality time with your kids. Quality comes when there is lots of quantity. You need lots of time, lots of trust, so that when the moment comes where your kid is ready to open up to you, you are there. If you had to make half the money, move to mbeya, farm, and you could keep your family together, its worth it.

And let me say this. I’ve heard this before. Marriages in trouble, and the parents split up and divorce. And they say “its better for everyone involved. Especially the kids.” The only time its better for the kids is if there is physical or abuse danger to one of the people in the home. But men, be honest. If you don’t want your wife there anymore, it’s not better for her. It’s not better for the kids. It’s better for you. A child’s worst nightmare is their parent’s divorcing. Fighting parents are frightening to children.

You have to be there.

I want to finish  by return to Luke 15. I want to reread the story of the Father, and I want you to notice how in this story, the Father longs to give every one of these to his sons.

Proclaim: THIS IS MY SON



PRESENCE: He was there with him. Remember week whatever, when we talked about King David and how lousy a dad he was. When he was estranged from Absalom, he brought him back, but he refused to be in his presence with him. That must have been insanely painful for Absalom. My dad won’t let me be in his presence.

Here is the bible story.

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger

and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

This morning, I want to take one last stab at this. To show you that your heavenly Father is not like your Fallen Images. Your heavenly Father is ready to give you all 5 gifts this morning.


Here is what God says

John 1:12 I am a child of God (Romans 8:16).

John 15:15 I am Christ’s friend.

John 15:16 I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit.

Romans 3:24 I have been justified and redeemed.

Romans 5:1 I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God.

Romans 6:7 I have been freed from sin’s power over me.

Romans 8:1 I am forever free from condemnation.

Romans 8:14,15 I am a son of God (God is literally my “Papa”) (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).

Romans 8:17 I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ.

Romans 11:16 I am holy.

Romans 15:7 Christ has accepted me.

1 Corinthians 1:2 I have been sanctified.

1 Corinthians 2:16 I have been given the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His life) dwells in me.

1 Corinthians 6:17 I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:19,20 I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God.

2 Corinthians 2:14 He always leads me in His triumph in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 I am a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:18,19 I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:21 I am the righteousness of God in Christ.

Galatians 2:4 I have liberty in Christ Jesus.


Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

2 Timothy 2:21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Provision: Matthew 6

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field

grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Psalm 59

8 But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.

9 You are my strength, I watch for you;

you, God, are my fortress, 10 my God on whom I can rely.

Presence Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your presence? The highest of heights to the depths of the seas. He is there. Nothing like the presence of your Father.

Always available. Always reachable. Always emotionally connected. Always forgiving, accepting, loving, caring.

Father’s covenant:

Men, stand up. Before God and the community, before our children, our wives, and our families, charge you to be

Proclaim. Provide. Protection. Prepare. And Be present.

Finally, forgive our Fathers for not being what they can not be. Father God.

Leaders Fail before they fall

Three scriptures where Christian leaders fail to follow before they fall.


1. Let your gentleness be evident to all.
2. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life
3. He called “some”
I’ve never met someone who wakes up one morning and says
“Today, I want to ruin my life, my reputation, my family, my relationships, my personal finances, my ministry, and tarnish the reputation of the church and of Jesus.”
Yet that is exactly what happened when a minister, pastor, preacher, or Christian leader falls. By a “fall,” I mean a moral failure that results in any of the outcomes listed above. History is unfortunately plagued with men and women who fit into this category. I don’t need to go into mud slinging here. Just add your list of names.

Before the fall though, there are failures.

Failures we all experience. Failure I see frequently in the mirror during my morning shave. Most of these failures are not a fall. Here are three scriptures that are not often taught in leadership circles that I believe could help protect us if we made them our aspiration as leaders.

1. Let your gentleness to known to all (Phil 4:5)

a. The world loves to lord it over one another. Power is indeed a magnet for men and women. But when a leader starts to become harder and more dogged, they are moving away from the Fruit of the Spirit. Gentleness, not doggedness, marks the life of a maturing leader. Look at the Apostle of Love, who began as a Son of Thunder. Will you be remembered for your accomplishments or for your character? Will you “make you mark on the world” or will you “mark lives?”

2. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. (1 Thes 4:11-12)

When was the last time you heard a sermon on this one? Like, never, right? The world is about more, bigger, better, stronger. You’ll hear worlds like success, dominion, power, more, more, more.  Leaders who are moving towards Jesus may have a spotlight but they don’t seek it.
c. I am a performer, I know it. I enjoy the stage. There is a place for people like me in ministry. But we must be careful about our ambitions. An aspiration for a quiet life is a commandment of scripture. Our ambitions must be made to line up with scripture. God will not share his glory with anyone. Its not easy to live.

3. He called “some,” not all. (Ephesians 4:11)

No leader wants to hear that someone else is more capable, more gifted. But the reality is that Jesus told us that some would have 5 talents, another 3, another one, each according to his ability.
When a leader begins to believe that he/she the only one who can do their ministry, hear from God, or many other scenarios, then that leader is failing if they haven’t yet fallen.

The good news is that none of these are fatal. There is grace. I’m writing this more as a reminder to myself than any judgment on another ministry. May my life be more gentle, seasoned with grace, desiring the quiet life, and understanding that Jesus carries the world on his shoulders, I don’t have to.

What are your thoughts?

We are all Ray Rice, Andrian Peterson. 3 steps to take to not go there.

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, the issue of domestic abuse and child abuse have been forced to the front of everyone’s collective awareness by two ongoing and separate cases involving athletes from America’s favorite sport to watch: Football.


Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, knocked out a woman with a blow to the head. Forget who she was or became.

He assaulted a woman who made him angry and knocked her out. Andrian Peterson switched his kid. Excessively. Whatever you think of switching. Or spanking. And though the 2 issues should be kept separate, they are now deeply intertwined in our social narrative. The story we like to tell about ourselves. How we are a moral society. How we treat each other with respect and dignity.

What we aren’t willing to admit is that the truth is that we all could be Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson.

Continue reading We are all Ray Rice, Andrian Peterson. 3 steps to take to not go there.

3 Conversations to have to save your marriage while on your honeymoon

Honeymoon conversations

Honeymoon Couple
Its your honeymoon. Your perfect day just finished. The cake was great, the best man didn’t drop the ring, and you are now on the beach, after the perfect first night. Suddenly you realize. The wedding is over, now we have to be married? How do we do this?

note: If you aren’t married, file this one away for the week after the honeymoon.

I’ve been married 17 years now. It was NOT only yesterday that Tahnya and I said our hopeful “I dos.” Though marriage is not nearly in as much danger as the forecasters have said (the divorce rate is much lower than forecast), broken wedding vows are everywhere.

I can’t turn off selfishness with a post, though I’ve tried.
I can’t heal broken history, thought I’ve tried.

But here are 3 conversations that I wish Tahnya and I had learned to have, and had repeatedly through the years. These are based on my own experience and some small input from friends. Continue reading 3 Conversations to have to save your marriage while on your honeymoon

What’s really wrong with modern worship.

Recently, a number of articles have gone around, speaking of the decline of “worship” and the loss of so much congregational singing. link link

I think I’ve got a reputation. Not sure, but I’d bet that lots of people think that I’m anti-worship.
They are right.

If by anti-worship, you mean singing, that is. Singing, I’m all for it. You mean prayers put to music. If you mean songs that honor and glorify God through the medium of music and verbal confessions of humans on all ends of the spectrum when it comes to pitch IQ. I’m all for it.

Growing up in a small church, my mom sang and led beautifully. But on the occasions when a certain wanna-be opera singer showed up, “worship” was more like torture. Pain.

Words have meaning. We learned that from Bill Clinton, and the Mormon church. It’s possible to use the same words, and they not have the same meaning. I’ve met men whose names were actually horrible swear words in English. But the sound that comes out of their mouth actually has a different meaning in their language. No one is a “Christian” anymore. We’re “Followers of Christ” because the word has lost the original meaning, so in an effort to recapture communication, we had to start over.

Our church, the Ocean, has wonderful women and men who lead us in singing prayers and praise to God on a weekly basis. They lead us in new songs, to places we haven’t been before. But it’s not biblically worship. When they show up at practice, when they carry musical instruments, miss sleep, spend time seeking God and praying for us to encounter God during out time of singing, they are worshipping.
We are committed to the Bible as our source for belief and conduct. (Non Negotiable #2) Interesting.

Lets look in the Old Testament for the word worship. One of the closest you can come is sheddah.
“In our modern western culture worship is an action directed toward God and God alone. But this is not the case in the Hebrew Bible. The word shehhah is a common Hebrew word meaning to prostrate oneself before another in respect. We see Moses doing this to his father in law in Exodus 18:7. When the translators translate the word shehhah they will use the word “worship” when the bowing down is directed toward God but as “obeisance” or other equivalent word when directed toward another man. There is no Hebrew word meaning worship in the sense that we are used to using it in our culture today. From an Hebraic perspective worship, or shehhah is the act of getting down on ones knees and placing the face down on the ground before another worthy of respect.” (

Worship is prostration, obedience and an act of humility. Don’t believe me? Read this guy, he’s smarter than me, he’ll give you the Greek and the Hebrew.

Worship, in the bible, is either servanthood, giving, or sacrifice. Never singing.
So should we not have professional musicians “worship leaders?” Actually, we should. David hired men to conduct music and sing in the temple. Asaph was a professional song writer. He was Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture, and the whole music industry all rolled into one. Elisha called for a musician and when the music played, it opened up his spirit to hearing from the voice of God. Men and women gifted by God in leading in this area are worthy of every penny. The church would be a poorer place without them.

Our times of praise draw us in. God delights in the praise of his people.
So what Charles? Aren’t you arguing semantics? Does it really matter?

Yes, and here’s why. Because true worship is available to every believer, is the responsibility of every believer. Even those who don’t like to sing, or who sing horribly. The contemplative. Or even more beautiful to God, the man or woman in the nursery every week holding babies as their act of servanthood so that others can have their spirits opened to an encounter with God. That’s worship. The man who comes and cleans the building and prays over every chair. The mother who readies her 3 kids all by herself and gets them to their class where they hear about Jesus. That’s worship. The person who faithfully gives financially and time to their local community of faith, regardless of their financial situation.
Calling yourself a band leader, music director, fine arts person doesn’t diminish you. It’s an act of rebellion that might actually be worship.

Much like everyone went from being pastor to being prophet and now the buzzword is Apostle, so too our current music movement has been driven by our desire for value. Recognition.

The true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth. It’s a heart action, not a vocalization.
Every time someone minimizes the powerful spiritual leadership you exert in our community because we don’t use the right words, you are worshippers. Every time you get criticized for the new songs, for following your pastor’s directives of nothing older than 5 years, you are worshippers. You lead us in prayer, you usher us into the presence of Jesus, where you have been yourself. To those who serve us coffee with your teams, you are worshippers. To all those who don’t get “fed” so our children can learn of Jesus, you are worshippers. Even when you aren’t singing. Especially when you aren’t.

This is a repost from my family blog.

6 Suggestions for dealing with bullies in the workplace

“Why you #$#*##, if you pull this #$^&% again, I’ll *&*&^”

I couldn’t believe it. Here was a man I went to church with, giving me a good old fashion cussing out. At work. In public. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time it had happened. My first year of marriage was miserable, and not because of my beautiful bride, but because of the workplace environment.

That was 20 years ago now, and I still feel the sting a little. From what I understand, not much as changed in many places. I had a conversation with a friend about an ongoing conflict at his workplace 2 days ago. The employee in person when called on an issue, started yelling and screaming and otherwise trying to verbally demolish the supervisor. He then proceeded to use other events to bully another employee. Everyone is now afraid of this nut. Mission accomplished. Power.

Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins accused his teammates of workplace bullying and it made national news in the US.

On the playground, we tell kids to stand up to bullies. I remember being the new kid, the foreign kid, the weirdo in 11th grade during a 1 year furlough back in the US for my parents from an overseas assignment. picked on, hit, pushed, the list went on. Till one day in basketball practice, I had had enough. I took a basketball and pegged my tormentor in the kidneys after one such incident. It never happened again.

But at work, in an adult environment, physical violence, punching the bully if you will, is not usually going to make things better. Such people are often master manipulators and can even use the law to their advantage. What to do then?

Here are some suggestions, and then I’d like to hear yours.

1. Quit .The day my boss cussed me out in public, I went back to my office, got my keys and left. Before I was home, I had three apology calls. Not everyone will back down, but in today litigious society, just walk out. I never got cussed out again.

2. Keep a detailed record. Even a voice recording if you have a phone that is able. You need documentation. Each incident, each text.

3. Invite a 3rd party. Bully’s hate 3rd parties because each person you add increases the level of exposure. And if there is anything a bully hates, its being exposed.

4. Refuse to rise to the bait. Bullies of all ages thrive on the bait and switch game, and trust me, they are masters at this. Don’t play the game. Swallow hard, and walk away.

5. Report physical confrontations to the police immediately. Usually the first person to report is the one who gets the most trust, since you aren’t on the defensive.

6. Pity their wives, husbands, and kids. Realize that this person has a whole social network that has to live with them. You get their venom a few minutes a day, these family members get it all the time. Pity them. Imagine going through life with the weight of this kind of garbage on you. In your mind, you will make a switch from being the victim to seeing them as the one to pity.

There are few things as damaging as an adult bully. What strategies do you use in coping with people like this?

Give us your thoughts on FB.

If you liked this, you might like “why no isn’t just for 2 year olds”

Why I don’t believe in Mission and Vision statements

Quick. Recite me your organization’s vision statement! Now the mission statement.

What is McDonald’s? IBM’s?

The whole vision/mission craze started years ago, with the growth of leadership training. Now, not having a vision or a mission statement seems like serious sin.  Yet most people can not recite from memory their own, much less make day to day operational and personal choices based upon what is supposedly their reason for doing what they do.

The problem (in my opinion, which makes it somewhat suspect, I know), is that most vision and missions statements don’t empower or refine decision making processes.

Simon Synek became an internet phenomenon when he introduced the concept of “Why first, not what.”(f you haven’t watched this, you should)

I’d like to argue a step before that. Start with who.

Taking that into organizational culture, what if we did away with the mission and vision statement, and began with an identity statement. This is “Who we will be.” What if we started with our legacy in mind and built backwards?

Recently, I hit the 40 years old mark. Depending on your stage in life, I am either old as grandma (my 4 year old’s perspective), old, (my 10 year old’s perspective), Middle Aged (my 20-30 year old friend’s perspective), still a young man (my parent’s view) or a wiper-snaper(  those over 80.) Still not sure what a wiper-snapper is but old people use that sometimes. But the age change certainly has cause me to become more reflective.

What do I actually believe in? How do I make decisions?

I’ve come to believe in an Identity Statement and a set of common core values. That’s it. But here’s the kick. You have to have a decision making tree? What’s a decision making tree you ask? Good question. Go to the front of the class.

My Uncle after whom I’m named is a pretty good drag racer. Growing up, I went to lots of races. I learned that the lights that go down and release the cars is called a tree, short for Christmas tree I think. But the order always remains the same. Top light, then moving downwards to the greenlight. Greenlight meant go.

When I founded The Ocean, we had a mandate. “Make it different”. We had some parameters set up by leadership. English only. Try to be in a certain part of town. Target this demographic.

The whole concept actually developed accidentally. We made some up front decisions. We knew that being different we could be criticized and that creativity can get off the rails quickly. So our identity needed to be established. We are Christ Centered. Then Culture Creating. Then a Community. From there we chose 8 non-negotiables. These formed our decision making tree to getting to green. Our choices began with who we were, then flowed into more explanation of what the kind of people we wanted to be.

Decisions would flow down the tree. If, at any point, the decision got a red light, it was a clear stop, don’t go forward. Once leaders figured out this tree, making decisions became much easier.

A mission statement will get you into all sorts of things you shouldn’t be. A vision statement will take you areas outside your core skills. Which maybe is good, maybe isn’t. But an identity statement, and a decision making tree, those will hold you through a myriad of change.

Or not. I’ve girded up my loins, put on my big boy pants. Fire your canons!