Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday Burn

::: US Drops In Global Innovation Ranking

::: Facebook Invented a New Unit of Time

::: Mosquitos Could Remember You for Days

::: Visiting 6 Continents in Under 58 Hours

::: "A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Photo: Etna. July 2016.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Announcing Ember 2018 IG

The Ember Cast is thrilled to announce the Ember 2018 IG team for this coming summer. 2018 represents our third summer partnering with a long term team aligned to serve refugees in a port city in southern Italy. This team is one of the most entrepreneurial, creative, and innovative teams we know, and they embody phrases such as: 'make a way or find a way', 'faith is spelled r-i-s-k', and 'everything is an experiment and the Gospel is worth the risk'. Facilitating an experience where high school kids serve with people that have this kind of mindset is one of the unique ministry values, and joys, of The Ember Cast.

Our team will also swing by Greece on the way home to serve and work with a refugee team there, based in one of Greece's most strategic cities. Andrew Jones, a dear friend and one of the most potent global missions catalysts I know, is joining us for both Italy and Greece and helping facilitate this leg of the journey and more. If you know anything about the Tall Skinny Kiwi, you would give your left arm to have your high school kid hang with him for a few weeks.

Thanks in advance for your support for this team.
* Dates and destinations of travel are not posted on social media.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Notes - Powerful, Patti McCord

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, Patti McCord
Patti McCord helped create the Netflix Culture Guide, one of the most significant documents to come out of Silicon Valley. It's an incredible read on Netflix values and how that translates to employees. Lots of insights in building high performance teams. If you are in any position of leading people, it is well worth the read. The book is an even better deep dive if you have read the Culture Guide.
Here is my radical proposition: a business leader's job is to create great teams that do amazing work on time. That's it. That's the job of management.

The most important thing to understand about transforming a culture, whether that of a team or a whole company, is that it isn't a matter of simply professing a set of values and operating principles. It's a matter of identifying the behaviors that you would like to see become consistent practices and then instilling the discipline of actually doing them. We fully and consistently communicated to everyone at Netflix the behaviors we expected them to be disciplined about, and that started with the executive team and every manager. We were so intent that every single employee understand our philosophy and the behaviors we wanted them to execute on that Reed started writing a PowerPoint about them, which I and many other members of the management team also contributed to. It ultimately became known as the Netflix Culture Deck. You may have read it.

At new employee college, as we started the proceedings, we'd say to the participants, "You will take out of this day what you put into it. If you don't ask questions, you won't get answers." I look back now and realize that this was crucial early stage-setting for the success of the company. It gave people at all levels license to freely ask for clarification, whether about something they were expected to do or about a decision made by management. Not only did this mean they were better informed, but over time it instilled throughout the company a culture of curiosity.

One of the most important insights anyone in business can have is that it's not cruel to tell people the truth respectfully and honestly. To the contrary, being transparent and telling people what they need to hear is the only way to ensure they both trust you and understand you.
The conventional thinking is that if you allow people to be anonymous, they will be more truthful. In my experience, that's not the case. Truthful people are truthful in everything they do. And if you don't know who is giving you feedback, how can you put their comments into the context of the work they're doing, who their manager is, and what kind of employee they are? Perhaps the worst problem with anonymous surveys, though, is that they send the message that it's best to be most honest when people don't know who you are.
In my experience, one of the most important questions business leaders must regularly ask is "Are we limited by the team we have not being the team we should have?"

An essential question is, do you have enough capacity builders? By which I mean people who know how to build a great team.

One reason Reed and I started using the "team not family" metaphor was that as the company kept changing, we saw that nostalgia for the good old scrappy day was a powerful force of resistance.

People's happiness in their work is not about gourmet salads or sleeping pods or foosball tables. True and abiding happiness in work comes from being deeply engaged in solving a problem with talented people you know are also deeply engaged in solving it, and from knowing that the customer loves the product or service you all have worked so hard to make.

But certain fundamentals should be strictly enforced. I set an ironclad rule that if anyone saw a stranger sitting by themselves waiting for an interview, they should stop and say, "Hi, I'm ____. Who are you? Are you here for an interview? Who are you waiting for? Let's take a look at your schedule for today and I'll help you find the next person." I know the message was heard loud and clear because if I was ever late coming to meet with a candidate, and I said, "Sorry, I hope someone talked to you," they'd say, "Six people talked to me."

Our goal was for every single person who came in for an interview to walk away wanting the job, even if we hated them. We wanted them to think, Wow, that was an incredible experience. It was efficient, it was effective, it was on time, the questions were relevant, people were smart, and I was treated with dignity. I would tell people, "Even if this person isn't the right fit, we might love their next-door neighbor."

In my experience, if you focus intently on hiring the best people you can find and pay top dollar, you will almost always find that they make up much more in business growth than the difference in compensation.

One reason that sports team analogy is so helpful in managing people is that everyone readily understands that coaches are letting the rest of the team and the fans down if they don't replace players who aren't producing top performance. Winning games is the only measure of success for sports teams, which is why it's not just players but coaches too who are replace readily on top-performing teams.

In my experience, people sue their former employers because they think they've been treated unfairly. But that's not because they weren't put on an improvement plan. It's generally because they weren't told the truth when they should have been about their performance or their fit. I've found that generally if people are mad enough to sue, there was a point when somebody should have told them, "You know, you're being a jerk! You're making us crazy! We're not going to want you around anymore if you keep treating people like that."

The irony of the PIP being used as a means to avoid being sued is that it actually fans the flames of resentment, all because of the fear of being honest.

People often come up to me after a talk to ask for career guidance. I tell them, "You want to be a lifelong learner; you want to always be acquiring new skills and having new experiences; and that doesn't have to be at the same company. The fact is that sometimes you're hired by a company to do something, and then you do it and it's done. If I hire people to rebuild my garage, when they're done I don't need them to rebuild the back of my house."

I tell managers to use a simple rule when evaluating their teams, which I call an algorithm because engineers love the word, and I love engineers: is what this person loves to do, that they're extraordinarily good at doing, something we need someone to be great at?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Will Cape Town be the First City to Run out of Water?

::: The 5 Essential Practices Of Leaders Who Multiply Leaders

::: Left Brain Innovation
Innovation is the Latin translation of the Greek renew. The renewal of all things is the mission of the church (Colossians 1:20). In older church traditions, innovation was pictured as a virtuous cycle of two interconnected flywheels. On the right was social wellbeing. It turned the left wheel of economic prosperity. The right drove the left.

::: "The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see."-GK Chesterton

Photo: Rest in Peace, Bill Shipman. See you in Glory. July 2010.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ember January Staff Dinner

We have started a new experiment this year as part of some Ember staff development: a monthly staff dinner with special guests. The goal of this is to gather our staff to hear from some of the most creative, missionally imaginative and innovative people we know.

This month's special guest was Erin Preshoot. Erin and I first met when she was the high school admin at Grace Comm and I was helping run Grace's student missions teams. In 2007, Erin joined a team I was helping lead, running a kids program in Hungary for a global missions org during their annual leadership conference. These days, Erin serves as the director of Serve The City Baltimore, as well as the US director for Serve the City. She also splits time working for Communitas, in their training division, helping get new potential cross cultural workers off and running.

Part of this monthly dinner includes inviting previous guests. Conversations that are always fascinating:
Baltimore - very neighborhood centric and sometimes that means turf battles even among social services and nonprofits
STC Baltimore - get people volunteering, help communities and help volunteers
Big serve week - 2nd or 3rd week in July
How overseas missions prepares you for serving locally
Favorite Baltimore orgs:
Second Chance
Movable Feast
The Well
Paul's Place
Baltimore Station
Baltimore Rising - great documentary about the city and current issues.
STC core convictions:
Take care of volunteers
Paint a big picture
Decompression is important
Cities with STC in the US - Baltimore, Newport News, Chesapeake
Erin's advice for young people interested in missions:
1 - Keep asking questions
2 - If you are sure of God's call, then go for it.
Church in the southeast that has a pitch day for potential missional partners to come and pitch to them. Also, this church deemed it important enough that all their missional partners are connected to each other that they planned and funded an international trip for all them to go on and connect.

From left to right:
Erin Preshoot - Director of Serve the City Baltimore
Susan - The Samaritan Women
Hailey - student who just started hanging with Ember
Emily - Ember spawn
Meghan - Protoguide
Matt - Ember Board of Director
Bill - The Samaritan Women

Monday, January 15, 2018

Perspectives - Summit Grove

Most readers know that I teach for Perspectives a few times a year, a semester long class about global cultures and missions. It's always fun. Last Friday I taught at one of their intensive classes, meaning all 16 weeks crammed into 5 days. Summit Grove Camp hosted the week and they've been hosting this intensive in early January for at least the past few years. If you enjoy reading some of the stuff I write about on this blog, you would love the Perspectives class - it is one of the most powerful venues for helping people get involved in crossing cultures.

Some observations from last week:
+ The Summit Grove class seems to grow more spiritually potent every year - there is this interesting feeling to it.
+ This year's attendees included people from Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina, Connecticut, a student from Hong Kong studying in DC for the year and a man from Congo, with his two boys.
+ Also an interesting mix of people: church planter, couple in second career doing missionary care, mobilization rep for Serving in Mission, a good number involved in missions strategies with their local churches.
+ The class coordinator showed a great video before my lesson on unreached people groups and the 10/40 window but that also included references to immigrants, refugees and international students. Perspectives was very 10/40 window heavy a few years ago and I'm glad to see the subtle shift to include current global realities.

Registration is open for the Spring - can't recommend this class highly enough.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Dear Em,

Well, you've had quite the year for sure. Mommy and I are thrilled at who you are and are becoming and are so proud to see you become who the Lord meant you to be.

This year has been filled with lots of major milestones, including getting your drivers license, getting a part time job, managing everything that junior year has been, learning in the hospitality academy at school and being involved in some very cool service and leadership opportunities. All of that has been so fun for us to watch and although we've been nervous, you've handled it all with amazing confidence and poise.

Keep pushing into how the Lord is leading you and being in wonder of the great big world and the people in it. And plan to take that dog with you.

Love, DAD

Photo: The Grand Canyon, January 2017.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The App

For many years, I've kept a folder of what I call Better Practices [in missions] and a big portion of the content in there are Mission Trip Applications. There's also other stuff in there, like documents about strategy or promotional material or research reports. But I love reading a good missions trip application.

An application is two sided. Obviously, it is asking about us - the reader wants to get to know us. Past experience, passions, skills, maybe some questions about self awareness. All standard stuff. The best applications, the most thoughtful, intentional and unique ones - they tell you what is really important to the organization. What they value, what they are looking for, what people like us do. If you want to work for a quality organization, consider the types of questions they are really asking and why.

Applying for a job, a team, a leadership program, a trip? Consider what the application is really looking for. Like Vince Antonucci says, "Your assumptions create your crowd."

[We've just published our Ember 2018 application. Some of you might be filling this out pretty soon. It is intentionally the way it is.]

Photo: Prague, 2015.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Friday Burn

::: New Blockchain Project Gives Homeless New Yorkers a Digital Identity

::: The UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty Tours Poverty in America

::: The Studio D 2017 End of Year Report
Always inspiring.

::: We are what they grow beyond. - Yoda.

Photo: Worship, racquetball court. Sopron Hungary, August 2008.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Randoms With Katie

+ Polish Christmas Caroling in Fells Point, a family birthday tradition.
+ Her January term class is called "Children, Youth, and Sustainable Development of the World's Cities." Sounds like something Ember peeps would love. She'll spend a few days in India as part of the class. [See, Mommy and I knew you would enjoy college...]
+ Conversations have included topics like how class structure contributes to different economic infrastructure of countries, the tension between freedom and liberty versus a high quality of life, and how Emirati weddings are contexts for moms to find good grooms for their daughters.
+ Banking for someone like this can be challenging. She had a savings account with a little local bank since she was a little kid and they don't support global nomads very well. We opened an account with Citibank which seems like a good choice with their branches in global cities.
+ Her and Em made us dinner the other night and then made us watch Collateral Beauty.