Archive for November, 2011



Are You Really Making a Difference?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m making a difference for my clients. Then there are days like yesterday. Recently I connected with a pastor I had done some strategic work several years ago. I remember our first meeting and how much work I knew it would take for his church to become an outwardly-focused, evangelistic congregation. This was not just cosmetic changes, but a fundamental shift in the way he did ministry. It was going to be costly, in terms of losing core people who liked the circle-up-the-wagons approach to ministry they had,  and costly in the terms of all the dollars that would walk out of the door along with those people. As we reconnected and he shared what God has done in his congregation since those days, I was blown away. I was right. It was a painful transition, and they did lose a lot of people, but I’m…

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Are We Working too Hard?

“If you work too much you make yourself and your boss look bad.” That is certain not the American way! Recently I spoke with a friend whom works for an European-owned publishing company. It has taken him a while to acclimate to their working environment where more work hours doesn’t mean more credit from your supervisors. My friend was gently reminded that he was working too much, and, therefore, making his boss look bad. What?! Yes. According to the company’s thinking, if you’re working past 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m., you’re not being effective and not managing your time well. If you work too much your productivity drops and your work quality suffers. According to the French, you make yourself and your supervisor look bad–effectiveness before busy work. And, by the way, they close their offices from December 23 until January 2nd and that’s doesn’t count toward the month’s…

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The Business Generosity Principle

“Why are you being so generous with a total stranger?” asked the young entrepreneur sitting next to me on a recent flight. Once he found out I owned a similar business, his questions became very strategic and somewhat personal. After spending the best part of two hours giving him an “MBA” crash course, as the business man on the other side labeled our exchange, I gave him my information in case he had more questions. He was bewildered with my apparent generosity in sharing some of my businesses practices and lessons. The big question was still looming: why would I share business practices with a potential competitor? My response was simple but not simplistic. In all my years, I always receive more in return than I give away. It doesn’t mean I’m ready to give valuable consulting for free or undercharge for my company’s services. But every time I have…

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Why Your Social Media Strategy Might Fail

I have lived with an assumption for quite some time that I’m currently questioning. In my mind, digital natives (those who grew up with the internet, mp3 players and smart phones) as opposed to digital immigrants (those of us who had to learn to use such technology) were some of the best candidates to head an organization’s social media strategy. Maybe that’s not so. In the past week I’ve had three different encounters with young professionals who were having a difficult time incorporating social  media into their organization’s marketing strategy. And to make things even more interesting, all three of them were Facebook and Twitter users. I was perplexed by their lack of confidence in the media they seemingly knew so well. What I quickly realized from my conversation with my young friends is that while they  have been using Facebook, Twitter and even blogging as a personal and social…

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Churches Often Miss the New Year’s Opportunity

In our culture, a new year still means a new opportunity for change, a new opportunity for new beginnings, new relationships, and a new search for a faith community. Unfortunately, most churches miss out on the first-of-the-year window because they are not prepared for the new people who will show up in the first few weeks of the year. Typically, churches put on their big Christmas musical by the second week in December and they shut down all but life support systems until after the holidays. So as new guests begin to arrive, they are met with less-than-well-put-together services, often scaled-down music programs and, most unfortunately, a three-week stewardship series. Every church needs to teach stewardship, but we must be sensitive to the growth patterns in our culture. The first of the year is one of the top windows to reach to those outside the faith. Think Ahead Let me…

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You Can Buy Happiness

Money can buy happiness. It’s not a typo. Unlike popular belief, money does buy happiness. Studies have proven it.  And that’s a great vindication for power shoppers just in time for black Friday (for those who read my blog from other countries, black Friday is the busiest shopping day in America.).  After all people are already sleeping in tents outside Best Buy stores so they can get their new flat screen TV for a bargain. While some of us chase the deal, others chase the emotional high they get out of a purchase, we all ultimately seek the happiness that owning stuff brings. Hold on. Not so fast That’s not how money buy happiness, however. According to author Robert Frank, in his book Luxury Fever, the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting. Spending money on experiences, especially ones with other people, produces positive emotions that are…

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A New Beginning Might Be What You Need

Starting a new chapter in life is one of the most exciting things to me; it presents new professional possibilities, new friendships and a way to a fresh start. Too often some of our past broken relationships and mistakes have a way of following us around like the proverbial dead albatross on our necks. A new beginning allows us to take the lessons we’ve learned with us and leave the dead albatross behind. While most of us are not likely to relocate and start a new life anytime soon, we’ll probably meet and engage someone today for the first time. That can be just the new beginning you and I need. The longer I live the more I’m convinced that the most important assets I have are relationships. As I look in my life, the most rewarding days have been the ones shared with those whom I love. We don’t…

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Beating the Start Up Odds: The A Group Turns 10

According to the statistics from the Department of Labor and Commerce my business was not supposed to last this long. This month, The A Group turns 10 years old. Only 29 out of 100 new businesses that started 10 years ago are still in business today. Not only we are still open for business, we are having our best year yet both in revenues as well as in the quality of work we produce. While there’s no miracle formula, there are a few things we got right from the beginning that allowed us to still be here today. While I credit God with all that’s good in my life, including my business, I also know that God often gets blamed for poor decisions and misguided business practices of businesses that fail. There are a lot of factors that dictate the success or failure of any given business, some of them…

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What Not to Wear. A Fashion Guide for Guys Everywhere.

Whether you’re a CEO looking at your wardrobe choices, a hipster wannabe pastor in search of cool threads, or a professional considering a look update, choosing what to wear can be daunting and, yes, even dangerous. I often get the question “what type of clothing should I buy, or what should I avoid?”  But while my teenage son might disagree with my fashion-forward mindset, I have learned some universal dos and don’ts when it comes to men’s fashion. Here’s my best attempt at helping guys avoid looking like dorks.   If you keep the following rules, you should be OK. Break them, and you’re on your own. The Do-I-look-Stupid? Rule. If you have to ask it, don’t buy it and by all means don’t wear it. Don’t ever decide to wear something because you think that it will make you more relevant or “hip.” That usually backfires. I have seen…

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The Question that Can Take You to the Next Level

Recently I’ve spent time with two great communicators: one has sold over 37 million books and the other is a leader of one of the nation’s largest churches and an amazing teacher. For all practical purposes these men are “on top of their game,” after all they have achieved the kind of professional success most people only dream of achieving. Interestingly, each of them independently of one another asked me the same question: How can I get better at what I do?      I’m sure the very reason for their success is, what I call, “the life-long learner syndrome.” I was first introduced to it but an 83 year-old camp cook in South America when I was only 15. She called me in the kitchen and ask me to show her how to make Brazilian Stroganoff. She had been cooking five times longer than I had been alive, and…

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