Issue No. 330 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting highlights three approaches that CEOs have used to tell their organization’s stories. Plus…you MUST read the “chalk circle” story noted in Paul Fleischmann’s book. Whew! And this reminder: subscribe here for Drucker Mondays, as 52 guest writers share their favorite quotes and commentary from the new book, A Year With Peter Drucker.
3 CEOs--3 Ways to Tell Your Story
Here’s your assignment today: inspire your CEO to write a compelling, interesting, no-bull book about your organization. Five rules:
• No self-congratulatory hype.
• No misplaced modesty.
• No self-editing. (An uninterested, unimpressed third party with sharp scissors must edit the masterpiece.)
• No endorsements from colleagues who haven’t read the manuscript.
• No buying your way onto the New York Times bestseller list (or any list).
I’ve read my fair share of books by CEOs. These titles are all fictitious, but common:
• Here’s How We Did It: Ain’t We Great?
• I Made Tons of Money in the Marketplace—And Now I’m Working for Jesus in a Nonprofit: Ain’t I Great?
• If Only You Had Passion for Our Cause—We Could Eradicate (…list cause here) in Just Five Years!
Good news! There are many books by CEOs that are fair and balanced, thoughtful, innovative—and get this—really, really interesting. Many will touch your heart and your head. So today I’m spotlighting three pretty good examples:
• Rags to Riches
• Riches to Rags
• Rags to Flags
#1. RAGS TO RICHES. John Ashmen, president and CEO of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), has just rolled out the second printing of a very unique approach for telling his organization’s story. Imagine if it was your task and passion to inspire North American Christians to care about the poor. What would work?
• Profiles of AGRM’s Top-10 rescue missions? Probably not.
• Interview Hollywood celebrities who love Jesus? Nope.
• A theological treatise on the gazillion Bible verses about poverty? No way.
Here’s what I said in my review of Invisible Neighbors: If You Don’t See Them, You’re Not Looking:
Author John Ashmen has delivered a road map for Christ followers who know all the Bible verses about the poor—but don’t know the poor. “If you don’t see them, you’re not looking,” says Ashmen in his 100-page gift. Serving in soup lines during the holidays is OK, he says, but he has more ideas for you. A spiffy website supplements this book/group study/journey on making poverty personal.
Rather than highlighting his organization (a common sin in puff books), Ashmen highlights the poor—and delivers practical ways for anyone to engage with them. If that happens, he figures, his 300 member agencies will all benefit. The book includes 12 ways to help your invisible neighbors and eight options when you encounter a homeless person. Brilliant.
#2. RICHES TO RAGS. At first glance, Bruce Strom is a candidate for that company CEO-type that made it all, then left it all, and now raises money for his nonprofit over golf at the country club. Not!
True—he did leave his private law practice in Chicago to become a leading advocate for gospel justice for the poor. True—he is the founder of two organizations, Administer Justice and Gospel Justice Initiative.
And true, Strom thinks every person with a pulse ought to care about justice for the poor, or as he labels it, gospel justice for the poor. I would hate to face Strom in a courtroom! He is very, very convincing. And convicting.
Strom weaves his personal story, his organization’s story, and the poignant stories of the poor into a fast-reading—but deep dive—10-chapter narrative on the Good Samaritan—sprinkled with stories of heartbreak and hope. I dog-eared and underlined memorable sections on dozens and dozens of pages, including this humor from Chapter 9, “Lessons from the Lawyer.”
The boy held his father’s hand as they walked across the cemetery lawn strewn with autumn leaves. He stopped and pulled on his father’s arm.
“Why are there two men buried in this grave?”
The man looked and grinned. The epitaph read, “Here lies a lawyer and a Christian.”
Strom masterfully tells the God stories of Administer Justice (and the Gospel Justice Initiative) without apology. The name came from a Christmas present his wife made for him: “a daily calendar containing Scripture verses about justice. One verse leaped from the calendar and grabbed my attention. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another…”’ (Zechariah 7).
He notes: “Mother Teresa was once asked, ‘How did you receive your call to serve the poor?’ She answered, ‘My call is not to serve the poor. My call is to follow Jesus. I have followed Him to the poor.’”
And he quotes Richard Stearns: “In a sweeping simplification of thousands of years of Jewish teaching, Jesus summed up God’s law in a way that anyone could understand…Love God. Love your neighbor. That’s it. That’s the ‘Bible for Dummies.’”
Gospel Justice: Joining Together to Provide Help & Hope for Those Oppressed by Legal Injustice met the high standards of Moody Publishers—a rare acknowledgement that an organization’s story can be told and sold to a general audience. Nicely done!
#3. RAGS TO FLAGS. Let me explain.
National Network of Youth Ministries (NNYM) is the brains and the heart behind “See You at the Pole,” the annual prayer event around school and community flag poles attended by over a million youth each year. The 2015 event will be Sept. 23, Wednesday 7:00 a.m. (your local time).
That’s certainly a story worth telling—but how do you inspire youth workers to read a book on the history of the wider movement? (And…do youth ministers even read books anymore?)
Today, NNYM (“The Network”) inspires 150 youth ministries, representing 250,000 youth workers, 100,000 churches, and three million youth, to partner together. Not an easy task!
Paul Fleischmann, president emeritus and a founder of NNYM, led the Network for 28 years. He had a very tough assignment: write a compelling history—but good luck. Tell it in less than 150 pages, cover the bases (honor the old guys and inspire the men and women now taking the baton), honor God, analyze the successes, and share some principles on unity and collaboration. He did it!
Better Together: Discovering the Dynamic Results of Cooperation doesn’t pull any punches on the foundational building blocks of a movement:
“Gypsy Smith was a well-known British evangelist in the nineteenth-century. A delegation once came to him to ask how they might experience personal and corporate revival as he had. Without hesitating, he said, ‘Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk, draw a circle round yourself. There on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle. And don’t leave that circle until God has answered your prayer.’”
Whew. There’s a lot more—if you dare read this. Fleischmann discusses the core values that prompted youth leaders to work together. The first line of “Humble Leaders,” chapter four: “Let’s leave our logos and egos at the door.”
He adds, “If there is a ‘secret sauce’ for the networking recipe, mutual trust is undoubtedly the main ingredient.” The “Partnering Continuum” chart on page 55 is a keeper with four categories:
• Connecting (Low Intensity)
• Cooperating (Mild Intensity)
• Coordinating (Medium Intensity)
• Collaborating (High Intensity)
I’m always grateful when authors pack the appendix with useful stuff—and the bibliography is very helpful, including Phill Butler’s classic book on partnerships and networks, Well Connected: Releasing Power, Restoring Hope Through Kingdom Partnerships.
These three books have many commonalities. Let me emphasize one: launching and sustaining a nonprofit organization, association, or network is just plain hard, hard work. Fleischmann, Ashmen and Strom describe the tough slogging, the challenging fundraising, and the administrative mountains.
Millennials, who are very cause-driven, are starting nonprofits every day. Will they succeed? (My opinion: only if they are astute students of history—and take time to read these narratives.)
As one former nonprofit CEO confided to me, wincing at all the changes made by his successor, “Robert Frost said, ‘Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.’”
Interestingly, NNYM’s historic “Network Covenant” (1981) was replaced in February of this year with four core values. (Note to Millennials: the people that follow you will edit your sacred stuff too.)
YOUR STORY. So…what’s your story? And how will you tell it—book, e-book, around the flag pole or the campfire, or in a gone-viral, God-blessed YouTube moment? Study these three books—and fashion your own path.
To order these books, click on the links:
[ ] Invisible Neighbors: If You Don’t See Them, You’re Not Looking, by John Ashmen
[ ] Gospel Justice: Joining Together to Provide Help & Hope for Those Oppressed by Legal Injustice, by Bruce D. Strom
[ ] Better Together: Discovering the Dynamic Results of Cooperation, by Paul Fleischmann
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) In NNYM’s “Partnering Continuum” process, the “Connecting” level is characterized by “no commitment, risk or structure,” while the highest level, “Collaborating” includes a “high commitment and structure.” On a scale of 1 to 4 (4 is high), what level are most of your current partnerships?
2) Ten-Minute Drill: In groups of three, discuss and then recommend a unique slant for a CEO-written book about our organization. Who’s the audience—and what would approach would interest them?
6 Customer Segments - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
As we cycle through the 20 buckets, here is an insight from Chapter 2, The Customer Bucket, in Mastering the Management Buckets.
“Move Customers from Ignorance to Purchase: Use the right tools for the right people at the right time.” If your CEO were to write a book, which customer segment would you target?
• Level 1: Ignorance
• Level 2: Awareness
• Level 3: Interest
• Level 4: Trial or Consideration
• Level 5: Preference
• Level 6: Purchase
For more insights and resources, visit the Customer Bucket webpage.
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