Finding Mastery

Finding_Mastery_Podcast_logo_FINAL2I can’t do justice to how much I like the Finding Mastery podcast. I don’t even know how I found it. But after trying a long list of podcasts that were either thinly veiled self promotion, way too out there, and/or just silly, this one feels like striking gold.

Right now I’m listening to the interview with U.S. Swim coach Sean Hutchinson. So much thought-provoking wisdom there. I especially like how he describes his realization that he didn’t care about swimming – he cared about helping people achieve things they thought were impossible. This changed his approach to coaching and the whole culture of his team.

On the spiritual front, the host, Michael Gervais, comes from a rather Buddhist perspective. This would normally drive me bonkers (Buddhism is a faith that has never worked for me) But it’s a credit to him that he can share what he believes without it becoming distracting when interviewees have other beliefs. He “holds the space” for a variety of world views in a professional way that has taught me a lot.

I appreciate what he’s creating here, and I think you will, too.

Psychological Safety & High Performance

group-exercise-performance_hThis article stopped me cold. It explains so much about the different teams I’ve been on (sports, professional, faith-based) and why some worked, others didn’t, and some fell apart mid-course.

Ignore the whole lead it part about the athlete & coach falling in love. That’s neither here nor there. Instead, consider what it says about the high performance atmosphere this coach created:

“Psychologically-safe groups are characterized by deep trust and mutual respect. Risk-taking is encouraged and fear of failure, judgment, and alienation is minimal or absent altogether….

This does not mean that competition is lacking. But…in teams with psychological safety, tension between members is often positive, prompting individual members to push themselves in a productive manner. The competition is healthy and doesn’t spill over into defensiveness or become self or mutually destructive.   

Put differently, in psychologically-safe environments, competition raises everyone up. But when psychological safety is lacking, competition often breaks people down. In a sense, psychologically-safe teams function similarly to many families: Individual members may push each other and not always get along, but at the end of the day, they are united by trust and respect. They are in it together.”

I would highlight every part of this if I could, because I suspect that the predominant force in most faith-based groups is not psychological safety, but fear: Fear of offending, fear of making God look bad, fear of angering a friend or leader and being denied opportunity or some other sort of blessing. It’s a rare church where you can REALLY be yourself (and by this I mean your personality – thoughts, hopes, feelings, manner of expression, etc. – rather than you identity, which is a different conversation.) When you’re in this fear long enough it feels normal, almost holy. But it’s not.

Reading this article reminded me of experiences I’ve had with psychologically safe groups–one in grad school studying political science, another in a Unitarian Universalist Church in DC where I was trying to figure out why no one talked all that much about God. I THRIVED in these places. They were healing, motivating, and inspired me to new levels both professionally (as I left the PhD program to work for a mentor) and spiritually (and left the UU faith for a more Jesus-centered Christianity.)

Maybe a chief sign of psychologically safe groups is they help you grow enough to leave? Not in a bad way, but because you’re ready to take on new risks and challenges because of your time in this safe place. Interesting to think about in the church context, as the goal there is usually to keep people in one place over the long haul.

I went to the website for my local library to order the Duhigg book, Smarter, Faster, Better referenced in the article, only to see that I’d requested it two weeks ago. I suspect God might be telling me something here.

No more false urgency

UnknownI wanted to cheer when I read this article: Don’t Create A Sense of Urgency; Foster A Sense of Purpose. I’ve spent a good chunk of time in sales, and the urgency is endless. Sometimes it was genuine: When I sold collector’s limited edition handmade sweaters, there really might only be one medium “Equestrian’s Delight” left anywhere in the country, so if a customer wanted it, she’d better buy it right away. (Of course this begs the question of whether purchasing a $500 sweater is ever urgent, but whatever…we live in a world of personal priorities.)  But mostly, the urgency was imaginary: trying to push people to act when their instincts (all our instincts, usually) was to maintain the status quo.

I appreciate the distinction Lockhart draws between urgency as a motivation and purpose. Because wow, knowing WHY I’m doing something is an entirely different story in terms of moving me out of the quicksand of inertia.

Phil Vischer: serious hilarity

cover170x170A friend turned me on to the Phil Vischer podcast, and I’m a fan. He co-hosts with author Skye Jethani, and they strike an amazing balance between serious conversation and humor. I’m listening to episode 195 as I write this, and so far they’ve covered Skye’s trip to Disneyland (where he was racially profiled by security multiple times and somehow made me laugh out loud with his take on it), an April Fool’s joke with a faux press release from the makers of Christian movies repenting for their schlocky products and promising to use real actors and scripts written by professional writers in the future, and the question of whether atheism is a religion. Their guest is “The Friendly Atheist” Hemat Mehta, and the good natured tone of the entire conversation is fantastic. If  you’re looking for entertaining & thought provoking input for your commute (or to take the tedium out of some other aspect of daily life) this is a delight.

The Art of Self Leadership


Image from Christianity Today

Christianity Today is doing a series of their Top 40 Leadership articles from the past 36 years, and this one from Bill Hybels is wise & thought provoking. I appreciate how candid he is about his own failures, and the questions he suggests for self assessment are gold:

  1. Is my calling sure?
  2. Is my vision clear?
  3. Is my passion hot?
  4. Is my character submitted to Christ?
  5. Is my pride subdued?
  6. Are my fears at bay?
  7. Are interior issues undermining my leadership?
  8. Are my ears open to the Holy Spirit?
  9. Is my pace sustainable?
  10. Are my gifts developing?
  11. Is my heart for God increasing?
  12. Is my capacity for love deepening?

Great stuff for anyone who feels burnout coming on.