Monday, November 11, 2013

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

My most recent read is The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni. I picked this book up at the library book sale, and after completing my bookshelves I sat down to read this. As with his other books, Lencioni writes a parable that illustrates the business principle he is trying to communicate.

The three signs of a miserable job are:

(1) Anonymity: Managers need to know their employees, know who they are and what their lives are about.

(2) Irrelevance: Do your employees know who their work impacts and how?

(3) Immeasurement: Managers need to create clear expectation and measurable goals for employees.

The book does an excellent job of unpacking these through story telling, and the principles are clear and, IMHO, correct. For my role the biggest challenge to me is how to create measurable goals without removing the Holy Spirit from the role of a pastor. This is a serious challenge, but one I am putting thought into as I seek to become a better XP.

Well worth the read.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Of new jobs, new homes, and abandoned blogs...

After a LOT of work, my library shelves are all built, my books are unpacked, and I finally have a place to read again. I read a book the first night this was all completed, and I'm anxious to review it, but it made me realize just how neglected my blog has been...

Thoughts on my new role:

   - It's interesting how different it is being a technically minded executive pastor vs. leading the IT department as a direct part of my role. Although I am involved in setting direction for the IT work at LEFC, I necessarily have to allow my staff to make decisions and choices that I would not make. Leadership from this level looks very different than direct IT leadership.

   - I love to lead, it is what I was built to do, but it means having to make hard decisions, and those are... hard. Profound, I know. :-)

   - Staying connected to God is more important than ever.

A few comments on life:

   - It took a lot longer to get settled than I expected.

   - Building my own furniture is cool, but exhausting. I don't love the process of building as much as I love the final product of something built exactly the way I want it.

   - We need people. I could not have done this project without the help of my dad, his missionary friend from Germany, and one of our elders who has the skills necessary to mount the cabinet doors perfect on the first try...

   - I love Pennsylvania, and I love serving at LEFC.

I don't know what format this blog will take long term, but I expect to start putting book reviews here again shortly. I use them not only as reviews, but as my own reading journal...


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

The hardest part of moving is getting your rhythms back (for example, I update this blog once every few months whether it needs it or not...). I used to read a lot, but after moving I've found it quite difficult. I am looking forward to getting fully moved in to our home (all our stuff is there, but there are boxes everywhere) and being able to create a space to read again.

Last night I got a chance to read a book that a friend of mine handed me: The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable. The book tells a story of two companies who are competitors in the same industry. It's an easy read, and a compelling one. The fable is designed to illustrate the four obsessions and how they make a company effective:

   - Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
   - Create organizational clarity
   - Over-communicate organizational clarity
   - Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems

This book was a great read for several reasons. First, it kicked me in the butt a bit as a leader, reminding me that I need to focus on the important things, the big things. It's easy to get bogged down by the little stuff, the stuff that doesn't matter long term. For me, this motivated me to re-engage some of the organizational techniques I used after reading Making Ideas Happen. Without a clear strategy to remain focused, it is incredibly difficult to keep the right things at the top of the pile.

The most gratifying thing about reading this book is that the tasks I've devoted the most time to since arriving are building and maintaining a cohesive leadership team, and creating organizational clarity. It's reassuring to know that we are on the right track, and I'm looking forward to reaching the point where we can add points three and four to the mix...

I found the fable more interesting and enlightening than the "business book text" style sections afterwards that tried to unpack the fable. Quite frankly these chapters seemed unnecessary, and were probably suggested by an editor who doesn't get the idea of letting people think for themselves.

Still, a worthwhile read.


Thursday, October 4, 2012


Siri is one of those things that you either use a lot or not at all. I am on the new phone cycle for Apple, meaning I had a 4 before upgrading to a 5, and am a year late to the Siri party because I didn't own a 4S. I started using the 5 this week, but have been extremely busy and have spent almost no time just playing with the phone.

Yesterday Patty and I were driving around, and we needed to pickup a replacement headlight bulb for our van. The one auto parts store in Lititz had moved to a neighboring town, so we were driving a bit aimlessly looking for something else when Patty said "why don't you use Siri?"

So I hit the button and said "I need an auto parts store" to which Siri replied with 17 nearby options. Yes, there was superfluous information in there, but she did identify a Pep Boys not too far from us. Because of where we were, I asked Siri where a Honda dealer was, and she identified Jones Honda about a mile away. Rather than just drive down there, I said "Call Jones Honda" which she did, and I was able to confirm that the parts counter was closed for the day.

After finishing that I realized that what I had just done was the stuff of science fiction just ten years ago, and inconceivable twenty years ago. Sure, twenty years ago I would have had to dig through the yellow pages to find something, but consider what I would have done without Siri:

(1) I couldn't have done this (safely) while driving
(2) I would have used google maps to search for an auto parts store.
(3) After filtering through the chaff, I would have clicked on one of the dots to find the phone number.
(4) I would click on the phone number and called them.
(5) Repeat the whole process for the Honda dealer.

I did all of that without having to type anything, no need to lookup the phone number and no need to figure out what was closest to me, Siri had already sorted by distance.

The biggest point was that I didn't even think about doing it in the first place. It took my wife, who had seen the commercials, to suggest it. Of course now that I've actually seen how awesome it is, I will do it again. I also had a lengthy text conversation with someone while were driving, entirely by dictation (and having her read the replies). That was pretty cool as well.

Siri may be misunderstood, but when you actually use it, it's pretty amazing.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Facetime & elevating baptism

I've been quiet for the last few months. Starting a new job tends to take up a lot of time, making things like blogging take a back seat for a while. And being an executive pastor means I'm not as immersed in technology as I was at HDC, but it doesn't mean I've stopped caring or paying attention to what is going on in the tech world.

LEFC does not own a baptisty. Instead of doing baptisms in the auditorium, they are done across the street in the stream. Everyone I've talked to thinks that is "really cool" but there is a big downside: We can only put about 100 or so people on the bank of the stream, and there are around 1000 adults that go to this church.

Baptism is one of the most exciting things in ministry. In baptism we see and hear the testimonies of those whose lives have been changed by Christ! To "hide" this away for only a hundred or so people just seemed wrong, but at the same time, nobody really wants to go away from doing it in the stream because, and I quote, it's "really cool."

For this past weekend's baptism, we decided to try something to bridge the two issues. We did the baptisms in the stream during our service, and then used Apple's FaceTime and two iPads to bring a live feed of the baptisms into the auditorium. The setup went like this:

Sound System for Baptisms by the stream connected via a cable to the iPad's headphone jack (which can also accept audio-in, giving us a direct feed from microphone to sound board to iPad).

iPad 3 mounted to tripod with Fat Gecko mount from B&H.

A second iPad located in our auditorium, connected via a VGA cable & a 1/8inch audio cable to our sound and projection system.

FaceTime to connect the two.

We used FaceTime rather than Skype because the video quality is better, and we needed all the quality we could get.

To get our wireless signal all the way to the stream we used a 200 foot ethernet cable and a similar length extension cord for power to put a wireless switch directly across the street from where we were filming. We ran tests and were getting about 2.5mbps from where we were filming, so we could get decent quality.

At the end of the day it wasn't perfect, but it did the job of putting baptism in front of everyone, rather than just those who are willing to stand at the side of the stream after church. In a weird twist of scheduling, I was out of town, so although I helped design and test the solution, it was setup and run entirely by Kathy (our IT staff) and a few volunteers.

Since we already had the iPads and wireless equipment, our total cost was about $60 for the audio cable and iPad mount, and the marginal cost of a 200 foot ethernet cable. This was a huge win for a very little amount of money. Woohoo!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stress is deadly

Recently we packed up our life, got in our van, and moved to Lititz Pennsylvania where I have taken the role of Executive Pastor at the Lancaster Evangelical Free Church. Generally I am a guy who does not "stress out" and is, in fact, pretty good at knowing when to shut down and blow off stress to keep my life balanced.

A quick google search of the top five causes of stress led me to this article which identifies five points. Lets go over them:

1. Financial Problems - We are doing ok, but having a house in California that has not sold yet while needing to add the cost of living in Pennsylvania plus having a lower salary than before, well, lets just say that there might be a TINY LITTLE BIT of stress here.

2. Workplace Stress - I believe that I finished well, very well, at HDC. I didn't coast to the finish line, I collapsed over it. That's great for my work ethic, but not so good for the stress-o-meter. Add to that the stress of starting a new job, which is huge, and well, I think we are two for two so far.

3. Personal Relationships - Move 2600 miles away from all your friends and see if this doesn't mess with your personal relationships a bit. Add to that the fact that my kids are stressed about the same thing...

4. Health - Had some personal issues crop up here as a result of all the stress of working, packing, moving, trying to sell the house, trying to find a house to buy, learning a new area etc. Add to that some issues with my children (which is MORE stressful to me because I worry about them far more than me) and I think we are 4 for 4 so far.

5. Irritants - The article defines these as the little things that add up. For me this is the fact that we are in a furnished rental with all of our stuff in a storage unit. HUGELY stressful and we really can't' relax in the rental because it doesn't feel like home. It's like staying in someone else's place where you can't change anything or resolve any issues that are bothering you. 5 for 5, plus a bonus for getting all the questions wrong...

So, after glancing at this article, I guess you could say that Joel's stress-meter has been pegged for a while now. The result? Wow. I had no idea what this could do to me. My body has been in revolt.

So what am I doing about it? Yesterday I came to a realization that I really needed to laugh. To just laugh. And not do anything that would let me be distracted from laughing. So I went into my room, turned off the lights, and turned on pandora and listened to stand up comedy. Never done that on Pandora before, but I laughed out loud frequently and by the time I turned it off, I felt a LOT better.

I then spent some time in prayer (probably always a good idea after listening to an hour or so of standup comedy...) and went to sleep. I woke up today with a regular temperature for the first time in almost five days. Finding ways to de-stress just became a lot higher on my priority list.

How's your stress meter?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Why does baseball hate it's fans?

First it was the DH

Then 7 game league championship series

Then interleague play

Now more playoff games to add to an already overcrowded off season

The latest apostasy is even more interleague games??? What is the commissioner's office smoking?

Bring back baseball!

We want an end to the half-a-skillset DH.

We want playoffs that end before thanksgiving.

We want an end to the expansion of the playoffs. Four teams per league. Period. We don't want to be basketball where the regular season is pointless and irrelevant.

We want an END to interleague play. Keep the leagues separate and preserve the awesomeness of the all star game and the world series.

We hate to admit it, but the wildcard is good for baseball.

Bring back the real game of baseball!