Face the Facts; Keep the Faith

A long time ago, I read a book in which the author penned, “Great leaders can face the facts and keep hopeful expectation for the future” (Collins in Good to Great).  I’ve been challenged to do that even more recently. The fact is, there’s a lot that I can improve on as a leader and manager. I recently got some fantastic feedback based off a book called 42 Rules For Your New Leadership Role.

I asked a key leader in each area of Aroma along with two people I knew would give honest feedback beyond their role to give ratings to each of the 42 rules. It was tough feedback, but filled with clear, actionable data to move forward on. Here are four things I suck at and a brief preview of how I plan to improve them in the next quarter:

  1. Set your milestones. It’s hard to reach a goal if you’re not sure what the goal is. I often fail to be specific in setting goals. Another book offers a great way  to outline clear goals: “From X to Y by Date.” If I can be clearer with a goal that is a “WIN” (What’s important now), people are going to know more clearly how to focus their work. This is highly related to Boundaries for Leaders. What’s important right now? If I don’t clearly say what’s most important, I have no right to be frustrated when people aren’t making forward progress on that a particular issue. It’s time for focus and clarity.
  2. Tune up your team and Launch 1:1’s that actually drive performance (2 combined). I work with many amazing people. I’m excited to see them continue to grow. I put these two together, because they’re intimately connected. As one leader recently challenged me, “You have to be spending more time with your key people.” I often turn those times into sessions that are longer than they need to be. Again, being clear about expectations at the onset allows people to focus on what’s most important. Spending tim with each person on the team is highly valuable. It’s good for their health, mine, and their future growth both personally and for the organization.
  3. Run unmissable meetings. Sometimes, I don’t even want to go to the meetings I call. That has to change. Meetings need to be compelling because they have unmissable information, healthy debate, decisiveness, and a small dose of engaging humor.
  4. Model healthy paranoia. As a big-picture, idea guy, I sometimes get annoyed when people ask things like “How’s that actually going to happen.” Fortunately, these people haven’t given up just because I’ve been rebellious. I’m learning, through more than one source, that healthy paranoia is more than useful!

I actually got a rating a little higher than an F. The good news is I passed. The great news is I still have tons of room for growth. I’m looking forward to this next season.

I encourage you as a leader or manager to ferret out feedback (one of the 42 rules) from people that you work with. It’s one of the toughest, but most fruitful, ways to learn and grow personally and professionally. If you’d like to know more about the book, the test I created, or how you can grow as a leader and manager, please drop me a line. Here’s to your success!


One Breakthrough You Can Have Today

Embed from Getty Images

Our brains are much more powerful than we even know. Perhaps, Lucy wasn’t that far off. A blended thought I had recently came as a result of reading Boundaries for Leaders. In it, Henry Cloud outlines how chemicals in our brains interact based on how much hope we have.

Many of us struggle when something negative comes. We begin believing it’s personal (our fault), pervasive (we do it all the time), permanent (there’s nothing we can do about it). The truth is, many of these are untrue. But we end up hurting ourselves. Our brains actually release a fight or flight chemical that causes our brains to shut down. We get less creative and produce less results. Being aware of these negative thoughts, and taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) can help immensely.

Conversely, when we live in hope and optimism, our brains release chemicals that actually increase “executive functions” including creativity, goal selection, planning and organization, initiation and persistence, flexibility, execution and goal attainment, and self-regulation. As a believer, you are invited to be the most hopeful person on the planet (1 Corinthians 15).  I welcome you to allow Christ’s hope to come into you. It’s not wishful thinking.  It’s true hope rooted in the resurrection and reassured that God is going to do something, and He’s going to do it through you.

It’s science.

The Power of Positive Thinking is a short book (available in free online audio) that continues some of these thoughts while giving some really specific ways of walking this out in everyday life.

Is Your Org Chart Too Complicated?

What’s the easiest way for you to explain your organization’s vision and mission? What’s the most impactful thing you can do to help your people continually remember who they are and what they’re going after? How do you create clear delineations between employees in various departments, while also letting them see how they can work together and make the biggest impact in society? How can you help them remember what in the world it is that you’re trying to communicate everyday? At The Aroma, we are three separate organizations, rolled into one: a coffee shop, a church, and a missions center. How do we help these three areas stay focused on what’s important and create positive energy to achieve the mission and vision?

I’m addicted to coffee. I drink several cups a day and really enjoy sipping on a cup during each of my many conversations. Additionally, I recently started reading Visual Meetings and GameStorming. Put these two together and Bam; we’ve got a Sticky way to connect people to our vision and mission. I present to you, THE COFFEE CUP! Here’s a simple picture that literally creates the healthy Boundaries for Leaders necessary to help everyone achieve the goals we are after.  Our coffee shop is the cup, our church is the coffee, and our missions center, Envision, is the saucer.
Embed from Getty Images
The cup provides structure. As it’s strengthened or even multiplied, we are going to be able to hold more coffee. The coffee shop’s job is to help people smell The Aroma. Our goal is getting more people in the door in order to have the experience of “good coffee, great friends” that draws them closer to Jesus. The church is the coffee. It’s organic. It’s fluid. It’s focused on making the smell, or helping people to become The Aroma. It’s free to move about and given structure and support from the cup. As the coffee gets stronger, its smell goes up to God first (2 Corinthians 2:15) and then out to the rest of the world. We want our coffee to overflow (Psalm 23:5) out of the cup, over the edges and onto the saucer as a picture of God’s anointing and unity. Envision is the saucer. It’s here for support. It’s focus is on helping the cup and the coffee to get into and stay into the right place. This might even fix a logo issue we’ve been going through.

Each area has it’s own special way of helping people smell, become and spread The Aroma. If anyone asks me how our organization works, I’m going to point to my cup and say, “It’s just that simple.” We’re on the precipice of something great and so are you! What simple drawings could you use to represent your organization’s goals and departmental relationships? Try sitting down with a few simple shapes (like circles and lines) or items you use everyday in your organization. See if something you come up with could help add clarity to the mission, vision and work distribution of everyone.

Should You Kill Your Most Important Meeting? (We Just Did)


On June 12th, we started a renewal process at The Aroma. A group comprised of some of the leaders of the coffee shop, church and Envision are coming together for weekly times of prayer and discussion revolving around our intimacy with God, vision, values, teamwork, workflow, and learning and growth moving forward. Much of what I share throughout the coming weeks will be insights gained from this 90 day process.

Every organization has meetings and not everyone is always excited about them. But meetings should be purposeful and effective. ReWork has some great insights on why meetings stink and how to make them better.

For the past year, we’ve tried a new meeting called 30/90. It’s once-a-month chance to get leaders from all three parts of Aroma into the same room to celebrate what God has done the last 30 days and look forward to what God’s going to do the next 90 days. But many people are particularly un-excited about this one. In fact, a group of leaders from the coffee shop, church and Envision spent time talking about the purpose of the 30/90 meeting and whether we are actually fulfilling that purpose or not.

We talked about our personal views, community views and overall aroma views on the usefulness of the meeting and found that 62.5% of us voting believe that it is not useful for us personally, our community elements, or Aroma as a whole. We believe it’s because we aren’t communicating the information or how it relates to each group well. Because of that, people don’t care enough about the information, which means they aren’t actually engaging with it or praying about it during the rest of the month. Additionally, almost 50 hours of labor are spent preparing for and attending the meeting. That’s hugely wasteful!

Instead, we are going to 1) communicate the vision of Aroma, 2) share specific wins and losses, 3) make metrics more available, and 4) create spaces and times for us to pray together.

How about you? What’s something wasteful that’s missed it’s purpose? Can you repurpose it? If not, maybe you should kill it.

Talent: Discovered or Developed?

Embed from Getty Images

Talent hunters are everywhere. I just saw an article the other day about people going to other groups and companies and trying steal people from their company. Why? Because we want the best in our organizations. No one wants to have their child taught by the worst teacher in school. No one wants to go to a restaurant where they intentionally hire the worst chefs. And no one wants to be a part of something where sub-par talent is the highest expectation we can find.

In a similar fashion, talent developers are everywhere. Companies spend billions on trainings, retreats, reviews, and more. Why? Because we know that we haven’t reached our full potential yet.

As Aroma transitions into a totally new season of growth an expectation, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. I’ve also been getting a lot of feedback through onsite and offsite peers, consultants, mentors, fathers and leaders.

We left one 5 hour session asking ourselves this question: Are we discovered or developed?

As a company owner, church pastor, and missions site coordinator, I interact with a lot of people. We’ve constantly prided ourselves on giving people opportunity to grow. And yet some of the most explosive things that have happened come when someone from the outside comes in and offers just a little advice, or makes just the slightest change to a product, SOP or marketing tactic.

So, take a look at your life. Have you been discovered or developed? Do you want to be discovered or developed? Do you want to discover others or develop them? I’d like to take a brief survey of the benefits of both:


  • Discovering talent is costly. You have a lot more interviews. You need to spend time finding the right person. You need a backup plan for when that person leaves you for some place better.
  • Discovering talent is limiting. When you put all of your emphasis on discovering just the right person, you limit yourself to what they bring to the table. This includes their talents, but it also includes their culture, the sum of their beliefs, values and reactions in certain situations. Unfortunately, top talent often know they’re just that.
  • Discovering talent  is explosive. If you find the right person, the right culture match, the right time, etc. you have set yourself up for an explosive time of growth. The right talent discovered and injected can be just like a downed espresso shot. It burns immediately and gets you going quickly.


  • Developing talent is costly. They often underperform and you have to spend countless hours training, explaining, reviewing, and on and on and on. Taking into account the time value of money, you’ll probably lose more investing into that person than you’ll get out of them after they’re 100% ready. Not to mention the outright detrimental things they’ll do to you and your company in the mean time.
  • Developing talent is limiting. Until that person is everything you think they can be, they’re not. Let me repeat that. Until a person is everything you think they can be, they’re not. No matter how much you believe in someone, no matter how many resources you throw at someone, there’s still a journey.  You’re going to bottleneck your organization for a time.
  • Developing talent is explosive. Have you ever been supported? Felt believed in? I remember when my 9th grade band teacher, Mrs. Gallagher yelled at me in front of the whole class. She told me to grow up. After I sat in the corner crying for 20 minutes (literally), she took me into her office and explained how much she cared for me. She told me that there are plenty of students she saw every year who wouldn’t amount to much of anything. But she saw something more in me and wanted me to see it, too. Having someone take the time to invest in you. And being someone who invests you, can make all the difference. At all times in my life, I’ve had people investing in me, and it’s been great!

No matter which side you fall on, you’re still going to have to choose at times. I default to developing. Why? Because I’ve been developed. But, I also see the benefit of discovery. Why? Because I’ve been discovered.

The good news is that both of these are options. You don’t have to do just one. In fact, God has done both in us. In Ephesians 1:4, Paul says we were “chosen before the foundation of the world.” Sounds like a great discovery to me. Esther was chosen for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). There are countless stories, like David and Moses, of people who were discovered and elevated into a position of great opportunity. They nailed it.

Conversely, there are the people who are developed. Paul was definitely the worst, worst choice for a church plant. He was the most anti-Christian person available at the time (Acts 8:1), but then Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Ananias (Acts 9:10-12) were used to develop him into the author of 13 books of the New Testament.

Which is it: discovered or developed? I say both! God’s much bigger than limited you to one. Get out there and discover someone. Then develop them. Hold them accountable; that is, make them “account for their God-given ability” (Kris Valloton).

7 Words of Wisdom in Leadership

We’ve had the privilege of serving with Yinkon Her over the last six weeks.  He’s brought a fresh vibrance and perspective to The Aroma and we are super-grateful.  On one of our last bike rides together, we spent time sharing highlights and insights into the time we’ve spent together.  As we biked down the riverside and chatted, it became apparent to me that we are shaping the future of business, the church, and missions.  The things we say and do today, the attitudes and postures that we adopt, create what these pillars of society will look like years from now.  This is why it’s so important that we stay close to the Creator of all things and pursue more of what he has for us.

Here are some of the Words of Wisdom we left with each other:

  1. Never stop learning.  Books, articles, seminars, videos, conversations, no matter how you do it, never stop learning. It will be increasingly important that we synthesize information and concepts from a plethora of fields.  If you’re in business, read stuff about business.  But don’t stop there.  Read science.  Read medical. Read philosophy. Never stop learning.
  2. Spend more time in the prayer room. Your best and most important connection is to God.  Let Him be an abundant resource to you, a resource of strength, joy, passion, insight, and inspiration.
  3. Develop deeper relationships with those close to you. Invest as much as you can in the people around you and don’t let your emotions run to the point where it damages your relationship.  Invest in the people close to you.  Invest time.  Invest money. Invest your heart.  Invest your resources.  Invest your connections.  Invest everything you have.  The better they are, the better off you will be.
  4. Keep your cool.  When the situation gets tough, don’t settle for short-sided emotional outbursts or depressed thinking.  Especially in leadership, many people follow your lead on emotions.  If you allow yourself to be overwhelmed with a situation, others will do the same.  Conversely, if you keep your cool in tough situations, realizing that the worst case scenario usually isn’t that bad, you’ll end up avoiding a lot of tough situations and you want have to apologize as much (because you don’t make the stupid remarks that get you in trouble in the first place).
  5. Balance work and family time. “Religiously” adhere to time devoted to your family.  Make sure you’re there when you’re there.  Don’t let work or ministry or other things distract you from the incredible opportunity you have with your family.  God will bless you for setting time aside to be with them.
  6. Find a mentor (bull pen). Gather people around you from all areas of life who can speak into your situation.  Get doctors for medical stuff, business people for strategies and insight, pastors for people care, etc.  Spend time with these people when you can.  Skype them more often than that.  Don’t limit yourself to a certain geographical location.  Rather, gather the best of the best around you and allow them to challenge you.
  7. Focus. Whatever you’re setting out to do, focus on it.  Say no to the things that distract you from bringing this about.  Be disciplined.  Don’t give in to lesser things.  Set big goals and go after them.
  8. Drink a salt coffee every Monday. Get some fun habits in your life that you can share with people you care about.  Even do some things that are beyond your natural sense of desires.

Thank you, Yinkon. You have forever left a mark on Aroma and we can’t wait to see you back here again.

How about you? What’s your word of wisdom for leadership?

Embed from Getty Images