Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni by Chaplain Greg Slate

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni

5 hours reading time

 by Chaplain Greg Slate

 In this book, Lencioni uses a method of presentation that actually reads more like a novel.  He presents the fictional story of a Silicon Valley tech start up that began with great traction, growing quickly under the leadership of the founder.  However, in just a few short years, the Board of Directors asks him to step down into a lesser leadership role because the company had lost momentum and was now a place in which the senior leadership was not working together on shared goals and while the company was beginning to lose market share to competitors.

 The Chairman of the Board brings in a new leader that at first glance, does not seem to fit the role.  She is a seasoned executive leader, but in an industry that is very different from the tech industry the company was operating in.  She was also significantly older than a typical tech executive.  For these superficial reasons, the existing executive team looked at her with great skepticism.

 What was helpful to me in this book is that the author uses the narrative of the story to illustrate the various unhealthy operating methods of those in leadership.  One example is that each executive had grown to only protect their individual areas of responsibility with little concern for how their process might mesh with the other areas of the company.

 In the story, the leader, Kathryn, immediately implements several new processes designed to highlight the dysfunctional aspects of the current leadership model.  Her method also included the expectation that some, or all of the current executives may not remain with the company.  While this created some anxiety for her, she knew what needed to be done and did not shy away from leading them where she knew they needed to go.  That place would be one in which each department would work in concert with the others so that they may pull together in a common effort to enhance to company position in the marketplace, rather than working on their own smaller goals that may be helpful only the leader personally, or to the department.

 The story shows clearly that leading an organization into this type of culture change is particularly challenging and can leave the leader with some scars to show for the effort.  One thing that I appreciated is that the principles shared by the author are applicable in any number of settings, not just a business environment.

 As flawed creatures, all of us are capable of losing sight of the common goal and becoming focused on protecting our own smaller area of responsibility.  I am encouraged that despite our sometimes limited viewpoint, the right leadership can model a healthy way forward that can set the tone for a more selfless way of operating so that all can feel a part of the success of the organization and appreciate the benefits, both emotionally and professionally.

Book Review: Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, Sarah C. Williams by Chaplain Greg Slate

Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, Sarah C. Williams

10 hours reading

 Review by Chaplain Greg Slate

 The hospital in which I work has a very large labor and delivery program.  In fact, more babies are delivered at Saint Joseph Hospital than anywhere else in Colorado.  Sadly, due to the large volume of deliveries, we also have a larger than average number of what used to be called miscarriages, now routinely referred to in clinical settings as a fetal demise. 

 As chaplains we are often called to provide comfort to grieving parents as well as completing necessary paperwork for the disposition of the remains of the fetus. 

 When I came across this book, my attention was grabbed initially by the title at first, because of the baby’s name, Cerian.  It is Welsh, meaning fair or blessed.  It is a name usually used for girls.  When I dug a little deeper, I realized that it is the story of parents that despite receiving a diagnosis that assured the baby would not live, they chose to carry the child to full term.  This flew in the face of the recommendations of her medical team to terminate the pregnancy.  It was interesting to read about the reactions of the team members, ranging from confusion and frustration to others that were very emotional about the decision, feeling it was one of courage.

 The author details many events and emotions that she encountered throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.  This included sharing with the other children in the home and including them in the journey, helping them to feel that the entire family was on the journey together.  She also details her own physical suffering throughout, which included extended nausea and weakness. 

 Also included is the sharing of emotions surrounding a very close friend that was also pregnant and delivered a healthy baby.  The way the two women navigated the combination of joy and sorrow and being a support and encouragement for one another is very touching.

 I am certain that stories like this are not extremely rare but they are rarely told.  It is gratifying to read about a family that made a decision that was informed by their faith but also from a deep desire to give this child everything they could until they were not in a position to do so any longer.  So many are unwilling to think of children prior to birth as fully human, often dismissing them as only “a blob of tissue”.  I am happy to read about one family that felt that their terminally ill pre-born child was a person, deserving of care and love even though they would not live long enough to experience this in the normal way.

 In the end, Cerian was born and breathed a few moments before dying, just as the medical professionals had predicted.  They were certain of the outcome but they had no idea of the depth of love this child was given prior to that day. 

  

Book Review: Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin Friedman by Chaplain Greg Slate

Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin Friedman

8 hours reading time

 by Chaplain Greg Slate, BCC

I am always seeking to find the newest thinking on the topic of leadership.  This book was suggested to me by a colleague with whom I worked at Denver Seminary. 

Interestingly, I had not heard of Edwin Friedman at the time.  This was difficult to understand as I began reading this book, realizing only then that Friedman was well known in many circles of power for his insights into the human condition. 

Usually, I find authors that are willing to share their wisdom learned from personal experience especially helpful.  Friedman did this very well, telling stories from his experience with leaders that came to him for counseling.  Often, these were leaders, many of whom were serving in governmental posts in Washington, D.C., were struggling to cope with very complex situations in which their normal way of operating was no longer providing the type of results they had come to expect.

Friedman was clearly someone who had gleaned a tremendous amount of wisdom by working within systems and understanding how to operate in a more healthy way than he often observed.

His premise in the book seems to be that many in leadership don’t really understand the systems they are working within or are trying to lead.  In many cases, the ability or the desire to push against the status quo in order to effect change has been lost.  Friedman makes the case that often, a leader must be willing to in some ways go out on a limb, to be courageous in suggesting to others a new way forward.  However, this would seem to be rare because many are unwilling to take that type of risk, concerned about the way they may be perceived if they potentially fail in the effort.  Friedman makes the case that failure often provides learning that will inform future decision making and will set an example for others that the organization values creativity and a willingness to take acceptable risks in order to remain nimble and vibrant rather than always taking what is perceived to be the safe route ahead.  It helps to create a culture in which failure is not to be criticized but in fact is part of the creative process and is in some ways celebrated.

I thought it was very interesting that this particular book was never finished being written by the author before his death.  Those that knew him well took up the responsibility to look at notes left behind to complete the writing in his honor.  This says a great deal about the impact that he had on his colleagues and in his family.  I would definitely recommend this as a must read for all of those seeking a fresh way to engage mantel of leadership.

New Book Recommendation: Pastoral Care and Counseling: Care for Stories, Systems and Selves

In our search for ever increasing education in our field of Pastoral Care we want to make you aware of Dr. Philip Helsel’s newest book, “Pastoral Care and Counseling: Care for Stories, Systems and Selves” published through Paulist Press. Click below for more details!

http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/5390-9/pastoral-care-and-counselingbran-introduction.aspx

Words Have Consequences...a letter from FASPE

Words Have Consequences
A Failure of Ethical Leadership

Friends of FASPE:

How does an organization whose mission focuses on professional ethics and ethical leadership respond to the events of the past week? How does an organization that studies the perpetrators in the professions in Nazi Germany respond to the events of the past week?

The murders that took place in Pittsburgh and in Louisville, and the delivery of bombs to individuals and institutions, are not random, inexplicable, unpredictable acts of depraved individuals. We must now acknowledge that these unspeakable acts are part of a progression that began with a conscious rejection of the pluralistic and democratic norms that govern our daily lives and that define the way that we interact with each other.

Hate speech is unacceptable. And speech that promotes hate is dangerous. Yes, perhaps only depraved people actually convert that hate into murderous acts. But, we cannot ignore the reality that promoting hate has the consequence (intended or not) of hateful acts. One leads inexorably to the other.

We expect, we demand, that our leaders practice ethical leadership. They set the tone for our great country. They are our voice, our conscience and our clarion. Words and actions that promote hate reflect the absence of ethical leadership. This is not a partisan statement. We are permitted, even encouraged, to disagree (and argue) about the regulation of weapons, about abortion, about capital punishment, about immigration policy – that is the beauty of a democratic society. If the majority wants tax relief, we have tax relief. If a majority wants weapons regulations, we have weapons regulations.

However, we do not vilify the opposition. We do not criminalize the opposition. We do not intentionally make up facts, i.e. lie, in order to promote our political positions. We do not encourage violence against the opposition. That is unethical leadership.

Back to professional ethics and ethical leadership. Back to the professionals in Nazi Germany. FASPE does not seek analogies to Nazi Germany. To analogize or even to suggest a path of analogies can be destructive and unacceptable. It risks engaging in the demagoguery and hate that has become too much part of the discourse in America.

Instead, FASPE studies the perpetrators in Nazi Germany in order to display the role that our leaders, the professionals, must play in a civil society. The professional class in Nazi Germany did not object, they did not stand in the way. They enabled even by their silence. Staying quiet in the face of unethical behavior, large or small, is unacceptable.

FASPE asks that as a responsibility of professional ethics and ethical leadership, we, as leaders in our respective communities, speak out against the hatred that is clearly being condoned and encouraged. There is a direct line between speech that promotes hate and hateful actions. We must be clear and unequivocal in our non-partisan objection to this behavior. That is the lesson of history: the absolute requirement that the leaders and influencers in our communities, our clergy, doctors, teachers, journalists, lawyers, business executives – those and more – speak out against hatred. We must demand ethical behavior with our own voices and from our own pulpits, bully or otherwise.

We do not have to ask why anyone feels compelled to spew such hate. However, we can ask that we learn from history and demand a return to civility, to the rule of law, to the norms that we expect from our leaders.

David Goldman
Founder and Chairman, FASPE

F.A.S.P.E.'s Seminary

Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) provides a unique historical lens to study contemporary ethics in the professions.

FASPE Seminary examines the role played by German and international clergy during the period of 1933-1945, underscoring the reality that moral codes governing clergy of all religions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. Having demonstrated the power held by religious leaders, FASPE addresses ethical issues now facing individual members of the clergy and religious institutions at large. With the historical background in mind, the FASPE Seminary Fellows are more committed and better positioned to confront contemporary issues.

Each year, FASPE chooses 12 to 18 Seminary Fellows from divinity schools and seminaries, as well as early-career religious leaders, to spend two weeks in Berlin and Poland where they visit key historical sites and participate in daily seminars led by specialized faculty. The Seminary Fellows travel with the Medical Fellows, having the opportunity to exchange views over shared meals and in several interdisciplinary seminars. For more information, click here: http://www.faspe-ethics.org/seminary/

Holy Week Scripture Readings & Reflections

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to believe that Holy Week begins in almost a few days! For Christians around the world this is indeed the most Holiest of weeks on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. See below the meaning of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday:

Passion/Palm Sunday

Recounted in all four Gospels, Jesus (the Christ) road on a young colt through Jerusalem known as the enactment of the royal processional and prophecy found in Zechariah 9: 9-10 (“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal on a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”) The Gospel according Luke 19:28-40 recounts Jesus riding down through Jerusalem—“people kept spreading their cloaks [and palm branches] on the road. As he was approaching the path down from Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice . . . saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”  

Maundy (Commandment) Thursday

“Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ (Luke 22:8) ‘When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘this cup is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood . . . (a short while after the Lord’s Supper, “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But [Jesus] said to them, ‘The kings of Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.’” Luke 22:14-20, 24-27

Good Friday

“Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, ‘you brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him . . . Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us! Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!” A third time Pilate went to the people, but their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted . . . and he handed Jesus over as they wished.’” Luke 23:13-25

“Two others also, who were criminals were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘he saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ One of the criminals said to Jesus, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ [Jesus] replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” Luke 23:32-43

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’” Luke 23:44-48

Easter Sunday

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” Luke 24:1-9

Peace to you my friends,

Chaplain Paul

Continuing Education Opportunity: From Barriers to Belonging @ Baylor University

FROM BARRIERS TO BELONGING: THE CHURCH AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Public Lecture
10-11 a.m.
March 28, 2018
Miller Chapel @ Baylor University
Dr. Eric Carter is Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Dept. of Education, Vanderbilt University. Lecture sponsored by Baylor Dept. of Religion, Dept. of Psychology and Neuroscience, School of Education, and the Disability, Faith, and Flourishing Initiative.