Are we more racist than we’d like to admit

euI read with interest over the weekend stories in ‘good’ newspapers regarding the EU immigration laws. These reputable rags were getting slightly sensationalist about the ‘massive influx’ of Roma people, and the pressure they would put on benefits, public services, jobs etc. A closer look at some basic stats makes me question this whole thesis. Net migration is around 170k – that’s 0.3% – our population grows faster through reproduction than immigration. So the whole notion that immigration puts an unbearable strain on ‘the system’ seems like economic nonsense to me. Added to this is the fact that the overwhelming majority of immigrants get jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to a growing economy (the pie can grow!) and I start to wonder what really drives these media stories. Could it be, if we took a long hard look in the mirror, we would find that actually we’re all a little suspicious of the ‘other’ or ‘outsider’. We all naturally gravitate toward ‘people like us’ and struggle with those we perceive to be different. That’s true of class, so why not ethnicity. Ever since the Tower of Babel it seems that tribalism is one of the ways we seek security. It was only 40 years ago that Enoch Powell delivered his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which bought thousands onto the streets in vitriolic protest against immigrants. Has the human heart changed in that time? I think not. I think we all have to examine ourselves and be honest enough to admit that this is not a problem in our past – it’s a problem in our hearts. We’ve just become adept at masking it. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that there isn’t a healthy and robust debate to be had on economics and border control. I’m just saying we ought to have a hermeneutic of self-suspicion on the issue lest our ‘righteousness’ is a mask for sin.

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Speeches that shook the world

mlkA friend put me on to this excellent program on the beeb a couple of weeks ago entitled “Speeches that Shook the World.” The presenter walked through the elements of what makes for a great speech. There was stuff in there about logos, ethos, pathos (it’s all Greek to me), as well as a helpful concept called the ladder of abstraction. Anyways, this post is simply to point you to the link and warmly encourage you, if you’re a communicator, to go watch – it’ll be an hour well spent. It’s no longer on iPlayer but here’s the YouTube link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu3wHAt8ed0

A Word in Season

kempisI’ve been using Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ recently in the mornings just to get my heart and head in a better place before I do anything else. Here’s a section I read today which spoke to me personally, but also seemed a word as relevant today as when it was penned 600 years ago.

“This must be our chief concern – to conquer self, and by daily growing stronger than self, to advance in holiness . . . true learning is good in itself and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a holy life are always to be preferred. But because many are more eager to acquire much learning than to live well, they often go astray, and bear little or no fruit. If only such people were as diligent in the uprooting of vices and the planting of virtues as they are in the debating of problems, there would not be so many evils and scandals among the people, nor such laxity in communities. At the Day of Judgement, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.”

Three tools for change

grennyThis is the final installment of notes from the Global Leadership Summit I had the pleasure of attending just over a month ago. Joseph Grenny gave the second talk of the day on factors involved in motivating change. He gave a 2×3 table which across the top had ability and motivation, and up the side had personal, social, structural. He cited loads of research and it was genuinely interesting, insightful and helpful. I did come away however thinking it was all slightly over complicated. The thing I’m using off the back of his talk is the personal, social, and structural. All of these factors are important when trying to help people change. On the personal stuff people need to be skilled up to know what to do and how. On the social side we need the support of groups, friends, accountability partners etc. On the structural we need environmental things put in place to help us (making your membership or serving pathway easier for example).

This stuff also put me in mind of Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch which covers similar ground using the metaphor of an elephant (your emotional side), a rider (your rational side) and a pathway (your environment). The elephant and rider maps on to Grenny’s ‘personal’ stuff, and the social and structural maps on to the pathway. All these insights are useful reminders that when it comes to motivating change it’s not as simple as ‘changing the heart’ or beating the sheep. There are other factors at play and we can help people by taking this multi-perspectival approach.

Thomas A Kempis on Humility

kempisHere’s some quotes from his chapter “humility” in The Imitation of Christ. Written over 500 years ago still rings true:

“A humble countryman who serves God is more pleasing to Him than a conceited intellectual who know the course of the stars, but neglects his own soul.”

“Restrain an inordinate desire for knowledge, in which is found much anxiety and deception.”

“A spate of words does nothing to satisfy the soul, but a good life refreshes the mind, and clean conscience brings great confidence in God.”

“If you desire to know or learn anything to your advantage, then take delight in being unknown and unregarded.”

“We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself”

Multipliers and Diminishers

Liz Wiseman has written a book entitled Multipliers in which she describes the ways in which leaders enable their peeps to flourish or flounder. She delivered a talk at the recent Global Leadership Summit.
Here’s my notes:

Liz Wiseman – Multipliers

Diminishers and multipliers – some sap energy, enthusiasm, ability; some manage to multiply, magnify and amplify the talents of others.

Diminishers (the glass (of employees or volunteers) is half empty)

– empire builder – hoards resources, under utilises talent. Hire people beneath them.
– tyrant – suppressing, domineering
– know it all – directive, show off their knowledge
– decision maker – centralised
– micro manager – drives, controls

Multipliers (the glass is half full)

– talent magnet – attracts and utilises. Hire people better than themselves
– liberator – releases people, empowers
– challenger – stretches people and develops them
– debate makers – decisions made through debate and counsel
– investor – gives others ownership and invests in their success

This is a spectrum and many of us are accidental diminishers (eg. idea guy, high energy guy, rescue guy, pace-setter, rapid responder, optimist) – trying to be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent is a diminisher to others. Here’s how to help yourself…

– hire tens
– give people responsibility
– ask questions and let others find the answers
– stretch people
– regular praisings

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Leadership is like sailing

sailingI’ve just returned from the FIEC annual leaders conference.It was a great time being encouraged with great ministry and fellowship, but the highlight for me this year was FIEC Australia’s Andrew Heard. He leads a church in NSW of some 3000, and he had some brilliant material on leadership which I hope to share more fully in a subsequent post. Here’s a little nugget he shared over lunch. Leadership is like sailing. First you have to know clearly where you are and where you want to get to. Second, you have to plot a course to get there which may involve a bit of tacking etc. Third, once you’re on your way the wind and water may change things such that you have to make some course corrections as you go. That’s leadership in a nutshell – know where you are and where you want to be, plot a course, and make necessary corrections along the way. Hopefully that’ll whet your appetite for some fuller reflections in due course.

Job spoke to God

I was at the PhD conference in Inverness at the start of last month and my supervisor, Dr. Jamie Grant, was leading us through a devotion in Job. He picked up on Job 42:7 in which God commends Job for he has spoken rightly about God. Or did he? Jamie pointed out that the Hebrew word el is most often translated ‘to’ not ‘about’. In other words could it be that Job is commended not for speaking rightly about God, but for speaking to God which is right. That kinda changes the whole meaning of the book. Job isn’t righteous because he knows the right stuff about God, but because he knows God. It’s not what he says but what he does. It’s not clever philosophical answers to the problem of theodicy, but rather that, when the going got very tough indeed, Job talked to God, not just about God. Cool eh?