Musings of Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit 2011 Day 1

Posted: September 29, 2011 by Ty in Spirituality
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Willow Creek 2011 Global Leadership Summit

Day 1 Musings


            I will freely admit I did not know what to expect when my director asked if I would like to attend this conference.  But it is in 80 countries with 150-180,000 participants, it brings together leaders from the Evangelical Christian world, politics and business. The Calgary venue was First Alliance Church.

            There was one low point midway through to explain why the Starbuck’s CEO was not there, Pastor Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) sent out an address of rhetoric homophobia about the church and a petition that stated a boycott if he spoke.  Why was it rhetoric? Simple, Hybels just found more PC language for the same statement about non-inclusion the church has made for centuries.  Move on, it was a simple act of politicking at its worse that detracted from an otherwise good Day one of Conference (due to being at the University of Calgary tomorrow I will not be in attendance for Day 2).

            But how Hybels opened the conference with a five-point talk on how to work in making a healthy organization. The first four questions were good exercises, and yes even the fifth was good (but definitely was a veiled altar call for the secular business man).

The 5 Questions:

1)      What is your current leadership challenge level at work?

a.      Dangerously over challenged? Appropriately Challenged? Under Challenged?

b.      The point being underchallenged people go where they can thrive and those that exist in the D.O.C. constantly will blow and leave. It is a vertical line test to place you and your team on to determine health and what is causing that level of health.

2)      What is your plan for dealing with Challenging people?

a.      Another line exercise (this one horizontal) based around the question of who would you keep on your team if you saw a 50% drop in revenue. Writing from left to right on the line the names of your direct reports, from most needed to least.

b.      The simple choices are the perpetual under performers or the toxic individuals, but then you have those decent performers though that no longer have the capacity for the role they are filling.

c.      The challenge is to determine how long each of those not pulling their weight should be held onto before it has become severely detrimental to the organization.

d.      Key point: Your organization’s future is tied to the quality of people you will attract, retain and develop. As well as the ability to deal with people when they are no longer quality.

3)      Are you naming, facing and resolving the problems?

a.      This was another quadrant diagram that gave a leader a tool to rate where all their programs were in which phase: accelerating, booming, decelerating, or tanking. By being able to use this visual honestly it can then percolate change to get the programs back on track before they tank or have their life cycle come to an end in a healthy way.

4)      What is the core about what your organization is all about?

a.      Hybel’s example was describe Christianity in 5 words. But can you describe your core values in just five words?


5)      When was the last time you had your leadership bell rung?

That is simply, when have you been challenged into an aha moment of great change/learning that has aided growth of some kind.

The next speaker of the day was Dr. Henry Cloud (best known as co-author of Boundaries) but who has written over 20 books, is a clinical psychologist and leadership coach.

            The key quote for the leader he brought was “wherever you are, God has called you to be a steward of vision”. This segued into explaining how the 3 types of people (and yes all 3 types exist in all of us) and that it comes down to view points and reactions to reality and truth. The three types, Cloud went with are the biblical archetypes of : Wise, Fools, and Evil.

            For the wise person when light is shone on them they adjust themselves to match the light, essentially when they hear truth they adjust themselves to match reality and are happy for the feedback and thankful. For the leader they need to be resourced and to be kept challenged and in the right match.

            The fool responds to the light being shone on them by adjusting the light. They respond to truth, usually by externalizing with excuses or shooting the messenger type of mentality. Essentially they are not thankful for feedback and always find a rational for the behaviour.  For a leader the pattern of behaviour needs to be confronted, limits need to be set and ask two questions: how do I talk to you? What consequences should be in place if this doesn’t work?

            Final type is Evil. Very rare, but their goal is destruction of the heart because they essentially want to inflict pain.

            The 3rd speaker was Hon. Cory A. Booker the Mayor of Newark, NJ. Possibly the weakest speaker of the day, but quite entertaining as he shared his story of why he chose to pursue a life in politics. Essentially as a matriarchal mentor told him “do somethin’”.

            But there was some gems:

  • Every person has the ability to gift to you
  • You are the result of a grand conspiracy of love
  • Every one is born an original, most die a copy (Abraham Lincoln)
  • You can always go 3” more
  • We are a result of the people that did not see the world as it was, but how it could be.
  • The world you see outside of you is a reflection of what is inside of you.

Seth Godin was up next (yes there was a lot packed into this day). There was good stuff that arose in this to challenge some thinking, but after lunch I will admit to struggling to keep focused…but the core message is tribe- a group of people that share a common goal. This is for me a quintessential truth that teams and organizations need to be built around.

            Lastly I heard, Michelle Rhee interviewed, she spent 3.5 years as the Superintendent of Schools for Washington, D.C.. For her story I refer the reader to the film “Waiting for Superman”. The goal she was given by the Mayor who was willing to risk all, was to bring their schools up to par.

            What happened? She moved quickly, she had clear ideas and definitions of the competency of staff she was looking for, she was not willing to settle for anything less, and knew that she had to find ways to off load those that were not performing. The bench mark for service she set were simple: to give the kids best possible education. Evaluations of teachers were based on where students were in September based at school year end and if growth was seen in their skills and understanding. She challenged cultural norms, and myths and worked to shift the culture.

            I did not know going in if the GLS was for me, or for anyone outside of Evangelical Christianity. After having experienced a day of it, I would say it is well worth attendance.


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