Switch

switchSwitch: How to change things when change is hard is the third book I’ve read by Chip and Dan Heath. These guys are so helpful in the observations they make about human thinking and behaviour. This book tackles the topic of change and why we so often fail to make the changes we know we need to make. As one who continually fails to make the changes that I know I need to make, I was drawn in from the outset. The Heath brothers describe an obstacle that’s built into our brains—the rational mind competing with the emotional mind. The rational mind wants to look good in swimmers come summer, but the emotional mind likes the comfort of another Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Given that I’m currently attempting to lose 17% of my body weight before Christmas—when I usually fail attempts like this—this news could prove very helpful!

Switch draws on the work of Jonathon Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis in describing the emotional side as an Elephant and the rational side as its Rider. The Rider holds the reins and would seem to be in control, but the reality is that a six-ton elephant will win every time they have a disagreement. Thus, the Krispy Kreme will trump the desire to look good in swimmers if the two get into a fight.

The strength of the Rider is normally in his longer-term thinking, whereas the Elephant seems focused on short-term gains. When change efforts fail, the Elephant is usually to blame. But this doesn’t mean that the Elephant is evil—the elephant can be associated with very positive emotions, and he is usually the one who gets things done. The Rider is often the blockage because he tends to overthink and over analyse things.

Change happens when the Rider and the Elephant cooperate. The Rider makes the plans and sets the direction, and the Elephant provides the energy needed to get there. Knowledge without emotion won’t get you anywhere. Emotions without thinking can take you anywhere. Synergy between the two is needed to complete the changes we desire.

When there is a tug of war between the two, the Rider will quickly tire and give up. Self-control is exhausting and can only sustain change efforts for a short period. This is often because we are attempting to change things that have become comfortable habits; things we do on automatic. Sometimes it seems that people don’t change because they are lazy, but the reality is often that they are exhausted from repeatedly failed attempts.

Sometimes change fails because the Rider doesn’t seem to know where he is headed. The Elephant is going in circles. It’s not resistance by the Elephant—it’s a lack of clarity by the Rider. If we want people to change then we need to provide clear direction.

This story shapes the authors’ three-part framework to guiding change efforts in any situation:

Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction.

Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative.

Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “Path”. When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant. (p17-18)

Direct the Rider

Find the bright spots
These are the best way to direct the Rider. Show him how to act, where to go, and how to get there by pointing out others who are already doing it well. Ask the question ‘What’s working and how can we do more of it?’ Often this question is ignored in favour of the question ‘What’s broken and how can we fix it?’ Focusing on the negative doesn’t help the Rider to have a solution focus.

Script the critical moves
Too many options can make it difficult to make decisions. It creates disruption, uncertainty and anxiety. Too many options and ambiguity can create decision paralysis. Both make it hard for the Rider to direct the Elephant. If there are many paths and the Rider is unclear about where to direct the Elephant, then the Elephant has a tendency take the most familiar and comfortable path. The most familiar path is invariably the status quo—so nothing ends up changing.

Some leaders focus only on the big picture and stay clear of the details. However, this doesn’t help the change process because the hardest part of change is in the details. Ambiguity leads to inertia and this must be overcome by scripting the most critical moves. Not all the details, just the most important for the change process. We need to explain the new way clearly—not assume it’s obvious.

Point to the destination
The tendency these days is to focus on SMART goals. The Heaths argue that such goals are good for steady-state situations because the assumption is that the goals are worthwhile. However, to persuade people and organisations to change requires people to be convinced of the new goals. This means addressing the emotion as well as the intellect. SMART goals rarely hit people in the guts emotionally. We need to generate a clear picture from the near-term future that will inspire people and show them what is possible.

Motivate the Elephant

Find the feeling
To achieve change we need to speak to the Elephant as well as the Rider. The Heath brothers quote John Kotter and Dan Cohen in The Heart of Change:

…the core of the matter is always about changing the behaviour of people, and behaviour change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings … in highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought. (p105)

Most people think that change happens via the route of analyse >think> change, whereas the reality is that it is normally see>feel>change. Things need to impact the emotions, not simply the thought processes. Lack of change may not be the result of a lack of understanding. Most smokers find it very difficult to give up. They know that smoking causes lung cancer and a list of other problems. More information isn’t the solution. The answer lies in impacting the emotions—motivating the Elephant.

Negative emotions can be powerful change agents, but they tend to have a narrowing effect—whereas positive emotions broaden and build our possibilities. They can stimulate hope, and joy, and creativity which are needed to sustain change.

Shrink the change
One way to stimulate change is to make people feel as though they are closer to the finish line than they thought. One study showed a car wash promotion with loyalty cards. Some people were given a card showing the eight washes earned a free wash. Others were given a car showing that ten washes earned a free wash. This group was given a head start with two washes already checked off. After a month or two, more of the ten-wash cards had earned free washes, illustrating that people found the head start worked as an incentive.

Focusing on small wins also shrinks the change. The small wins must be meaningful and within reach. It’s easier to cope with a long trip if it’s broken down into smaller sections. Instead of seeing the journey as a 3000km trip, you can mark off the destination in 300 km intervals, and celebrate each arrival. This makes it easier to achieve small successes and this means more celebrating. The celebrations of achievement build hope—and hope is Elephant fuel!

Grow your people
There are two basic models for motivating change: the consequences model and the identity model. The consequences model looks at the costs and benefits. It’s a rational, analytical model. The identity model involves us in essentially asking three questions: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation? (p153) Change efforts that violate people’s identity are destined for failure.

People will rise to match their identity in creating change. However, they will also fail. It’s important for people to have the expectation of failure. Not failure of the project or mission, but setbacks and disappointments en route. They should be challenged to keep growing through the struggles, so that they will succeed in the end. People should be encouraged to see falling down as learning and growing rather than failing.

The Rider needs direction, but the Elephant needs motivation. Motivation comes from feelings and from finding confidence. The Elephant needs to believe it is able to make the changes. Shrinking the change and growing the people work together to build confidence.

Shape the Path

Tweak the environment
If we want people to change, we can provide clear direction (Rider), increase their motivation (Elephant), or, alternatively, we can make the journey easier (Path).

Create a steep downhill slope and give them a push. Remove some friction from the trail. Scatter around lots of signs to tell them they’re getting close. (p181)

Tweaking the environment is about making it easier for people to choose the right behaviours and harder to choose the wrong behaviours. This is why supermarkets put the milk in the far corner—so you will spend more time in the shop. An example I can apply to my diet strategy is to shrink the size of my plate. This way I will eat less because I simply can’t fit as much on the plate.

Build habits
Our environment can reinforce or dissuade habits. Sometimes if we change the environment it becomes easier to change the habit. It would be unwise for a recovering alcoholic to visit a bar, because it has a strong association with drinking.

One strategy for motivating action and developing habits that motivate is to create action triggers. In a university study, students were given the opportunity to gain extra credit in class by writing a paper on how they spent Christmas Eve. But to get the credit, they had to submit the paper by the day after Christmas! Students were divided into two groups. One group was asked to set action triggers (noting in advance when and where they were going to write the report) and the other wasn’t. One third of the latter group managed to write the paper compared with three quarters of those who set action triggers. Action triggers preload the decision and make it easier to create an ‘instant habit’.

Rally the herd
When things are unfamiliar we tend to watch others to see how they do it. When we are leading an Elephant on an unfamiliar path, the odds are on it following the herd. Herds are powerful. Things become contagious. When one person is obese, the chances are that their friends will also be overweight. People tend to change their perceptions of acceptable body shape by looking at those around them. We consciously and unconsciously copy the behaviour of people close to us.

There are different ways to create a herd. One is to publicise examples of the type of behaviour we are looking for. Another is to get like-minded people together and influence through example the right behaviour. People will start to be influenced by others to go with the flow of right behaviour.

A few thoughts…

As a Christian following Jesus, I am pro-change. God is in the business of change—transforming lives. God is changing his children to become more like Jesus. So it makes me nervous about embracing a book on change that doesn’t mention God or discuss the transforming work of God’s Spirit. I’ve definitely got more work to do in analysing the transferability of a number of these ideas and strategies.

Having said this, Switch has reminded me again that God has made us as complex beings. We are rational and we are emotional. We are influenced by our circumstances and we can seek to shape and change our circumstances. The tendency of my Christian ‘tribe’ is to emphasise the rational and overlook the emotional. Some other tribes tend to put it the other way round. My tribe can tend towards emphasising God’s sovereign control over all things and forget our potential to make changes for the better. While not being a Christian book, Switch has reminded me of some of the complexity of people and our circumstances.

I remember many years ago, discussing with my pastor how I was planning to advertise a Christian conference I was organising. He told me that I needed to sell the sizzle, not just the sausage. I can now see that he was saying that I needed to motivate the Elephant as well as the Rider. If people were going to change their plans to come to the conference, then I needed to engage their emotions as well as their thinking. They needed to be excited about being there, not simply be told why it would be good for them. So we sought to excite people about going and persuade them that this would be the one event of the year that they wouldn’t want to miss. It doesn’t have to be manipulative or deceitful—simply addressing the whole person.

This particular conference occurred during the mid-year break at university. For some people this was the first break of the year and they wanted to go home or head off to the snow. Families would sometimes put pressure on people not to go. The costs were reasonably high. It was important for us to shape the Path for people, to make it easier for them to change plans and come. We would prepare people months ahead to make their mid-year plans, knowing that last minute pressure from families would often keep people away. We would help with payment plans, incentive payments, and sometimes covering people’s costs, knowing that finances would prevent some from attending. I even offered a money-back guarantee if people weren’t persuaded it was time well spent! We would assist people with travel arrangements to help them get there. We’d encourage friends who were already going to make it easier for their mates to come. We made it a lot easier for people to choose the conference.

I’ve observed that much Christian preaching is targeted toward the mind—as it should be—but doesn’t think much about people’s feelings or emotions. Aristotle described good communication as a blend of logos, ethos, and pathos. It’s not just words and arguments, but involves the character and life of the communicator, and their conviction and passion about what they’re communicating.

This book has also helped me to think about how we tend to get people doing new things in our churches and organisations. Sometimes people struggle—they just don’t seem to get it. Perhaps we haven’t made things clear enough. Maybe we’re expecting people to join the dots for themselves. I’ve come to think that we often need to do more to script the critical moves for people—to help them make the transitions and changes.

Switch isn’t the greatest book on change that I’ve ever read. That prize would go to the Bible—hands down. But it is an engaging and practical book for all who are seeking to see change in themselves, in others, and in organisations. There is much to be learned.

A sense of urgency

kotter_urgencyJohn Kotter is the organisational change guru. His book Leading Change continues to be one of most influential books on the topic. Many leaders and organisations implement Kotter’s eight step process for managing positive change. His more recent book, A Sense of Urgency, examines the factors that help or hinder change. He digs more deeply into what he believes to be the most significant factor in managing change – creating a sense of urgency.

At the beginning of any effort to make changes of any magnitude, if a sense of urgency is not high enough and complacency is not low enough, everything else becomes so much more difficult.  (ix)

It all starts with a sense of urgency

Complacency is a serious problem. When people are content to maintain the status quo, they fail to see the wonderful opportunities and dangerous threats before them. The best solution to the complacency problem is not to get frantically busy, but to create a true sense of urgency.

Urgency doesn’t mean frenetic activity. It’s not about getting faster or busier. It has to do with recognising things of ‘pressing importance’. It’s about acting on critical issues now, not when it’s convenient.

True urgency doesn’t build up stress levels, because it means sticking by priorities. It requires focus on the main game and not worrying about the trivia and irrelevant tasks that clog up our calendars.

Complacency and false urgency

The first step in creating a true sense of urgency is to deeply understand its opposites: complacency and false urgency.  (p19)

Complacency is very much a feeling and not simply a thought. It’s less about rational analysis and more about unconscious emotion. It’s possible to see problems and yet be complacent because you don’t feel that the problems require changes in your own behaviour.

False urgency is very different from complacency. Complacency leaves things the way they are, whereas false urgency adds more and more activity. While complacency is built on a feeling that everything is okay, false urgency is built on anxiety and anger. This can create activity without productivity. It can also be very destructive.

Increasing true urgency

Business cases tend to use analysis and logic to demonstrate that an issue is important and that a course of action should be taken. They try to reduce complacency by appealing to people’s minds. Yet, when it comes to affecting behaviour, feelings are more influential than thoughts. This is not a recipe for mindless emotional manipulation. The challenge is to fold a rational case directed toward the mind into an experience that is very much aimed at the heart. (p47)

Tactics that aim at the heart, and successfully increase urgency, all seem to have five key characteristics:

  1. They are thoughtfully created human experiences.
  2. Effective experiences work appropriately on all of our senses.
  3. The experiences make change-weary, cynical people believe in a positive future.
  4. The experiences rarely need explanation. The point is clear.
  5. The experiences almost inevitably lead us to raise our sights, to emotionally embrace goals beyond maintaining the status quo.

There are four tactics that get used to increase urgency with heart-head strategies:

Tactic one – bring the outside in

Tactic one is based on the observation that organisations tend to be too internally oriented. There is a disconnect between what insiders see, feel, and think and external opportunities. This reduces an organisation’s sense of urgency.

An inward-focused organisation often misses new opportunities and hazards coming from competitors, customers, and a changing environment. When these opportunities and hazards aren’t seen, the sense of urgency drops and complacency grows.

Organisations need to stay in touch with what’s happening around them. They need to take steps to find this out. When they discover they’re out of touch, this news needs to be shared widely. Sharing information can be a powerful way of increasing urgency. Leaders can increase urgency for change rather than retreating into damage control. Outsiders can be imported into the organisation to bring new perspective that enables people to see things afresh and develop a sense of urgency.

Tactic two – behave with urgency every day

People watch how quickly their leaders move on issues. Tone of voice, body language, and things like whether we start meetings on time, all send a message about urgency. We need to model urgency on a daily basis if we want our organisations to embrace it.

Lots of things hinder a leader’s ability to model urgency. Being too busy with dozens of different and often unrelated activities. Clutter and fatigue undermine true urgency.

We need to eliminate low priority items from our calendars and to do lists. Getting rid of clutter and freeing up space allows us to move faster. It enables us to focus on what’s really important.

Urgency is contagious, but only if it’s visible. Behaving urgently doesn’t mean constantly creating stress for others or getting frustrated when no one else completes every goal tomorrow. It requires ‘urgent patience’, acting every day with a sense of urgency, but having a realistic view of appropriate time frames.

Tactic three – find opportunity in crises

Some people view crises as bad because they can hurt people, disrupt plans, and can cripple organisations and communities. Others see crises as opportunities. They believe the greater danger is complacency, and a crisis may be required in order to confront it.

Turning a crisis to our advantage requires us to be looking for potential opportunities. The big challenge is almost always more a heart problem than a mind problem. We need to act with passion, conviction, optimism, and resolve.

Sometimes a crisis is needed to shake people from their complacency. We might even need to create a crisis. This needs to be done carefully without leading to an angry backlash because people feel manipulated. A crisis, whether natural or created, can be a powerful tool to reduce complacency, but it won’t happen automatically. We need to act wisely.

Tactic four – deal with NoNos

A NoNo is more than a skeptic. He’s always ready with ten reasons why the current situation is fine, why the problems and challenges others see don’t exist, or why you need more data before acting.  (p146)

NoNos are much more dangerous than we might believe, and that’s one of the reasons we make mistakes in dealing with them. People tend to either co-opt them or to isolate and ignore them. Neither strategy is effective. NoNos aren’t open-minded and are usually very intentional about delaying, hindering, or disrupting change. Ignored NoNos can create problems by stirring up trouble with others. They undercut the development of any sense of true urgency for change. A smart NoNo locates weak points in arguments and is expert at creating anxiety and undermining effort to take opportunities and avoid hazards.

There are three effective solutions for dealing with NoNos:

  1. Give them something important or meaningful to do that keeps them occupied but away from a place of influence.
  2. Remove them from the organisation.
  3. Expose their behaviour. Once people identify a person as a ‘NoNo’ their ability to exercise influence becomes extremely limited.

Sustaining urgency

Sustaining urgency over time requires that it not only be created, and created well, but that it be re-created again and again.  (p169)

Natural forces tend to push toward stability and contentment. The basic pattern is simple: urgency leads to success leads to complacency. For this reason, we need to build a culture of urgency, where people value the capacity to grab new opportunities, avoid new hazards, and continually find ways to succeed. We need to work at being constantly alert, focusing externally, moving fast, stopping low-value-added activities that absorb time and effort, and relentlessly pushing for change when it’s needed. Such a culture is rare, but worth seeking to create.

Creating urgent churches

A Sense of Urgency contains an urgent message for many churches. Things can move very slowly in some churches. ‘But we’ve always done it that way’ are too often the words of a dying church. Whether it’s fear of change or attachment to the status quo, many churches remain inert and unable to respond effectively to opportunities or threats.

Leaders need to build a sense of urgency. This shouldn’t be a false urgency that builds stress and over-commitment with everyone running around like headless chooks, achieving nothing of real value. We should seek to rally people to the good opportunities. This requires us to offer a compelling vision for change that captivates people’s hearts.

We also need to awaken people to the dangers of complacency. Too many churches that were once vibrant, energetic, growing, missional congregations, have long since become dormant museums to the glory days. They reminisce about how they used to be as they atrophy and die.

Churches have more reason than other organisations to behave with a healthy sense of urgency. We believe life is short and that people’s lives count. We understand that one day people will stand before God to give an account of their lives. We want people to hear the good news of salvation and to be reconciled to God. It concerns me how slowly we respond to the needs and opportunities around us. We spend too long discussing and often fail to get to doing. Church leaders would do well to read this book and think about how to increase the urgency of our church cultures. It begins with our own attitudes to what we do. Time is a valuable resource. Let’s not waste it.

What got you here won’t get you there

goldsmithWhat got you here won’t get you there: How successful people become even more successful by Marshall Goldsmith is a book that I’ve put off reading for some time. It was recommended by a friend in Christian ministry who I consider to be very successful. I could see how it would be relevant for him. He’s the kind of guy who keeps taking things to the next level. I figured that I needed the prequel – How to get here in the first place – if there was such a book! I was also put off by the emphasis on success in the title. Is this really going to be helpful to people working in the church who view success not in terms of competition and profits, but in terms of service and faithfulness? Now that I’ve read it, I can confess to being rather surprised. There is much to learn from this book.

This book is primarily about blind spots, the problems we have that we can’t see or don’t recognise. It’s our blind spots that often get in the way of our progress. If we’re going to keep moving forward, then it’s likely we’re going to need to understand the things about ourselves that stand in the way. We’ll need to work out how to see these foibles and this will most likely require the humility to let others, who know our failures only too well, tell us what we need to change.

Goldsmith believes that it’s successful people who most need to hear these things. Unsuccessful people are more likely to look at what’s not working, what needs fixing, and how they might be contributing to the problems. Successful people can rest on their previous successes and assume that what got them here will still get them there.

One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption “I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way!” The challenge is to make them see that sometimes they are successful in spite of this behaviour.”  (p21)

Successful people tend to be overly optimistic. They expect success and pursue opportunities with enthusiasm. They can find it hard to say ‘no’ to opportunities. The danger with this is it can lead to staff burnout, high turnover, and a weaker team. Overcommitment then becomes a serious barrier to success.

Successful people believe that they are doing what they choose to do, because they choose to do it. The more successful a person is, the more likely this is to be true. The problem is the more we believe that our behaviour is because of our own choices and commitments, the less likely we are to want to change our behaviour.

The upshot of this is that successful people are less likely to want to change, to see the need for or the desirability of change, or even to be able to make changes. When things get difficult, they are more likely to stay the course, rather than navigate a change. Sticking with what they know, rather than risking a disaster, is the irony of their thinking.

The second section of this book lists The twenty habits that hold you back from the top: in which we identify the most annoying interpersonal issues in the workplace and help you figure out which ones apply to you. (p33) Brace yourself and see whether you can recognise one or two – in you, not in others!

  1. Winning too much: winning at all costs, whether it really matters or not.
  2. Adding too much value: adding our two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgment: the need to rate others according to our standards.
  4. Making destructive comments: needless sarcasm or cutting remarks.
  5. Starting with ‘No,’ ‘But’ or ‘However’: overusing negative qualifiers.
  6. Telling the world how smart we are: boasting about our successes.
  7. Speaking when angry: usually results in saying something you regret later.
  8. Negativity, or ‘Let me explain why that won’t work’: even when we’re not being asked.
  9. Withholding information: in order to gain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: inability to praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit we don’t deserve: almost guarantees resentment from staff or coworkers.
  12. Making excuses: that justify our annoying behaviours forever.
  13. Clinging to the past
  14. Playing favorites
  15. Refusing to express regret: inability to apologise.
  16. Not listening: the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude
  18. Punishing the messenger: attacking those who are usually just trying to help.
  19. Passing the buck: blaming others for our mistakes or failures.
  20. An excessive need to be ‘me’. Exalting our faults as virtues, simply because they’re who we are.

If you recognise that any of the annoying habits belong to you, then you are doing well. Many of us need to ask the people around us to point them out, and this is what the authors suggest we do. They suggest a few approaches to identifying and changing our behavioural problems.

Firstly, seek feedback from the people around you about your annoying habits in the work place. (You could probably benefit from trying this at home with your wife/husband and kids too, if you’re brave enough!) The ideal question is ‘How can I do better?’ It might help if you give people the opportunity to provide confidential feedback.

Pure unadulterated issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to (a) solicit advice rather than criticism, (b) be directed towards the future rather than be obsessed with the negative past, and (c) be couched in a way that suggest you will act on it, that in fact you are trying to do better. (p122)

Goldsmith’s approach takes much much of the negativity and fear out of feedback and encourages the proactive positive contribution of others to helping you do a better job – which, in is exactly what is going to help them. When you get the feedback, treasure it as a gift. Don’t argue or debate it. Just thank people for it.

Secondly, apologise to all those affected by your failings. Do it promptly, clearly, and succinctly. Then everyone can get back to work!

Thirdly, let people know regularly that you are working on improving. It can often be harder to change people’s perceptions of your behaviour than it is to change your actual behaviour. It doesn’t hurt to ask people how you are doing. It will also model the importance of change to others.

Fourthly, listen to what people say without judging or debating it. Goldsmith believes that 80% of our success in learning from others is based on how well we listen. He identifies three things that all good listeners do: they think before they speak; they listen with respect; and they always temper their response by thinking about how it might make the other person feel.

Fifthly, thank people for their feedback and support. Only good will ever come of this.

The sixth step is follow-up. This is the most important step. Roughly once a month you should re-connect with the people who gave you feedback initially to get more input as you go. This helps to keep you focused and will keep your efforts in front of others. Ask ‘How am I doing?’

Lastly, Goldsmith says to pursue feedforward. Feedforward is simply asking people ‘How can I do better?’ Pick the one area you want to focus on and discuss this personally one on one with others. Ask them to help you work on the area. Feedforward helps turn your potential critics into allies who are invested in you making successful changes.

My thoughts

This book was not what I expected. It’s not a bunch of business speak. Nor is it a book that necessarily breeds selfishness. There is much to learn about relating well to others, and especially others we work with. Many of the ideas in this book will be of great value in the workplace, wherever you work. I think it also speaks to how we relate with our families in our homes. There is probably greater potential for blind spots at home than anywhere else.

Goldsmith aims this book at successful people, but I believe that unsuccessful people probably have just as many blind spots, if not more. It might be why they remain unsuccessful. I suggest that the problem is really one of pride, whether we are successful or not. We don’t like having to confront our weaknesses. Failing to acknowledge our weaknesses merely adds another weakness! We would do well to remember the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 and 2 Corinthians:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’  (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

But he (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

As a staff member on a ministry team, I can see the value in reviewing the things I do that might make it difficult for others. This is especially relevant at present, as my role has changed so much. I would do well to ask my colleagues to help me out here. I think our team, like many others, has a fear of feedback and feedforward that we need to overcome.

The idea of feedforward is especially helpful. I’ve used it for years in helping people prepare talks. It seems more helpful to get the talk right before you ‘go live’ than wish you’d changed it afterwards. However, I haven’t applied the ideas of this book to help me focus on changing particular things in my behaviour. I think this would be useful.

What are the areas I most need to change? I can see a few in the list above, but this book reminds me that it’s less what I think and more about what the people around me think. They see things that I can’t. Receiving their feedback will help me tune into my blind spots.