In the second half of this interview, Kem Meyer discusses her book, Less Clutter. Less Noise. and why effective communication is so essential to effective churches and successful leaders.
“Treat people as if they’re smart,” says Kem. Sometimes even communication with the best intentions becomes noise…and gets ignored. “As a professional communicator, at the end of the day I have done my job well if I have learned something new.” To be an effective communicator, or an effective leader, you have to be a constant student of people.
I find Steven Johnson interesting. He looks at science, culture, and history from a particular perspective, wanting to figure out how really great ideas develop. (This is not a spiritual or religious perspective.) He’s been talking recently about how the connectedness we have today through new forms of communication is a great opportunity for partial ideas, or hunches, to find each other. This chalk talk explains it.
A few years back I really got into listening to audio books, and I still love it. Audible.com has a vast library of books of all sorts. I’ve been in their “Premium Listener” program for more than five years whereby you pay one flat fee per month, and get to download any two books of your choice. Some of my favorites have been John Adams by David McCullough, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (on the battle of Gettysburg), every new book by Malcolm Gladwell, and Scripture. Right now I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way and Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. I’ve got almost 300 books in my audio library now, and I can download a fresh copy off my Audible account whenever I want.
If you haven’t ever tried listening to an audio book, I recommend giving it a try. It takes a little getting used to, and there may only be some kinds of books you like to listen to. I’ve found that I have a tough time listening to fiction, but non-fiction goes quite well.
Last night the President of the United States gave the annual State of the Union address. What do you do when you have to give a speech that is a prime opportunity to unite and motivate? The State of the Union address is always an interesting speech to analyze.
What an opportunity–to address the whole congress, and the members of the Supreme Court, the military leadership, and the nation. (This tradition, by the way, only goes back to 1912. Presidents prior to Woodrow Wilson contented themselves to fulfill the constitutional requirement to report to Congress by filing an annual written report.)
It is a mystery how mere words can unite and motivate people. The State of the Union speech is a report, but also an attempt to unite–and year by year the speech gets widely divergent responses.
Some of the speeches that shaped history were brief, memorable, prophetic, visionary. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Washington’s Inaugural Address, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Churchill’s wartime addresses over the crackling radio channels.
Just a few times in my life I’ve heard a speech or sermon that stuck like an arrow. I know that it stuck because I didn’t try to remember it. It just stuck. It stuck whether or not I wanted it to stick.
It was a lot of fun yesterday watching the Green Bay Packers defeat the Chicago Bears and qualify for a trip to the Super Bowl (especially because I was born in Chicago but grew up in Green Bay, one mile from Lambeau Field.)
On a rare occasion in the past I would break into a sermon series to bring a special message because of something extraordinary happening in our community or in the world. Such was the case on the weekend after 9/11, or the eve of the war with Iraq. It just makes no sense to ignore something that has captivated the attention of everyone in your community. Back in January of 1997 when the Green Bay Packers were to play the championship Super Bowl game, I preached a one-off sermon on the topic “How to Have a Super Life.” I was really taken with the image of the joyful assembly in Hebrews 12. Continue Reading…
[It has just been announced that Steve Jobs has died. This post was written earlier this year.]
It’s sad to hear that the ugly disease of cancer (or its after-effects) has forced Apple CEO Steve Jobs into a medical leave. He’s only 55 years old (I say “only” because that’s how old I am) and still cranking out culture-transforming technological revolutions.
While other leaders preserved the status quo, Jobs’ obsession has always been: we can make that better. And so much of it has to do with communication. When our digital tools work well–whether phones, televisions, computers, media players–they help us communicate. And when we communicate matters of real substance with each other (rather than just noise), then we experience the shared life. There is one driving value behind the innovation Jobs has led, which is the subject of this post a few months back.
Over the years I’ve talked to many leaders about their experiences in the area of communication. I’ve asked, “What has worked for you?” Or, “What’s your solution to the issue of communication?” More often than not, leaders say that they are unsatisfied with their efforts or their results in communication. They often describe poor communication as one of their biggest problems.
So what does that tell us? That good communication is a very difficult thing to achieve? Or that people expect too much of communicators? Or that we keep making the same mistakes?
Before looking at communication solutions, it is important that we ask ourselves what we think communication is in the first place.
Bible translators are still hard at work producing new English versions, as will be illustrated next year when an update of the New International Version appears (NIV 2011). There are many reasons why fresh translations and updates are helpful, one of them being changes in the English language. The way we use words is always changing, and so the best Bible translations seek to be faithful to the historic texts of the Old Testament and New Testament, while rendering the meaning in as accurate a way in the receptor language. Ben Witherington in this article unpacks the interesting history of gender language and Bible translation.
Steven Berlin Johnson (author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, due out tomorrow) recently gave a talk at TED on the amazing power of networks. His thesis is that most of the great breakthrough ideas in history were not instances of individuals having epiphanies, but of those people being well-connected with lots of other people, so when the germ of an idea arose in their minds, a natural process of influence and collaboration eventually led to the breakthrough. (See article and video link.) Johnson says that an important idea is a network in itself.
This insight should punctuate for Christian leaders the importance of being well-networked with other leaders so that when someone has a simple idea, there is immediate opportunity for development, amplification, and maturing of the idea–perhaps into a transforming experience.
A quote from M. Craig Barnes (author of The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life):
“The best preacher is always the local pastor. He or she is the one who is skilled not only in the exegesis of the Bible, but also in the exegesis of the congregation. This is what permits the preacher to proclaim the Word of God to these particular people. Only the pastor who buries the dead, consoles the bereaved, counsels the despairing, rushes to the emergency room in the middle of the night, slugs through boring committee meetings, and who has also spent all week excavating the biblical text has the authority to climb into a pulpit and say, ‘Hear the Word of the Lord.’ The pastor’s soul is the crucible in which the holy words form the Bible get ground into the ordinary words that are collected in the course of another week in the parish. It is out of this sacred mix that the pastor then finds some spectacular minor poetry for Sunday morning.” (from Hungry Hearts: A Quarterly Journal of Reformed Spirituality; Summer 2010, p. 14)
To what degree should leaders either show or overtly use emotion as part of their leadership? This very point is being debated widely (and emotionally!) in the media today over President Obama’s personal response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One side pleads for an emotional front face on the crisis, the other side arguing that Continue Reading…