Think Before You Speak: The Power of the Pause [Guest Post]

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had 60 minutes to solve an important problem, I would spend 55 minutes on defining the problem and five minutes on the solution.” When it’s time to step up and lead, you can build the skills of self-awareness concerning your leadership style and mindset. When you know and understand the impact your leadership has on the situation and the people involved your likelihood of success rises significantly.

Our proposal is simple: Before you engage, you should literally pause and indulge in some structured thinking. This methodology will allow you to set yourself up for a qualitatively different experience. Instead of jumping right in and acting on instinct, reflect and ask yourself:

  • Who am I in this circumstance?
  • What is my role?
  • What outcomes are we seeking?
  • Is there anything I need to do to prepare myself to engage in this conversation powerfully?

This self-questioning can be a lot harder than it sounds. We’ve worked with countless business leaders over the years who say they understand the importance of the pause, but, when we really drill down and examine how well they use it, they actually score very poorly. We stress that it’s crucial that leaders get this step right because, without it, they’ll always be leading from behind. All too often they aren’t able to prepare themselves in the most effective way and they aren’t able to orchestrate productive interactions among colleagues and team members.

One of the reasons leaders find this process so difficult is because they’re dealing with today’s perceived speed of business, with endless to-do lists and the moment-to-moment demands that are placed on people in organizations. So many of us get caught up in that adrenaline rush to go, go, go – do, do, do. When that happens, we walk into meetings with no plan for the desired outcome. Because of the pressure for speed, we enter into conversations without an inquiring mindset that allows for fresh and relevant outcomes.

Despite these pressures, you need to think about the context and the circumstances from the outset. You want to ask yourself where this particular situation needs to conclude. Starting with the end in mind gives you clarity. A little simple preparation allows you to construct the right questions and to adapt to the right attitude in order to encourage an exchange of new ideas, innovation, and creative thinking,

Failure to plan makes you prone to what we call “triggering situations.” When people are triggered, they’re in what we call a “nowhere mindset,” and they can actually sabotage the environment with anger or other emotions. Instead of being ripe for “Possibility thinking,” the environment becomes one of blame, defensiveness, and finger pointing. Obviously, that system is not a winning model; we encourage you to stop and reflect before engaging in any meaningful engagement with colleagues, customers, suppliers, etc.

If you can take a moment to pause purposefully and formulate a plan before engaging in active questions, you augment your chances of being successful. This approach allows you to not only design a strategy to win, but also to recognize and reinforce the mindset you need have in order to foster that collaborative, one-plus-one-equals-three atmosphere.

How often do you take the time to pause and reflect in your daily activity as opposed to keeping your foot pinned to the gas pedal?

This post is an excerpt from chapter 2 of Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win.


Guy Parsons is the Founder and Managing Principal of Value Stream Solutions (VSS).  Allan Milham’s work as a professional leadership and performance coach over the past 16 years has centered on using powerful questions. For Guy, 20+ years of delights and frustrations consulting with firms attempting to make operational and cultural transformations sparked an evolution in his relationship with his professional coach, Allan, and was the inspiration for Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win. Their book has sparked a new mindset and a practical approach to thriving in the competitive and evolving landscape that today’s leaders face.





God’s Beautiful, Eternal Purpose

Growing up my dad taught me that the Bible was God’s love letter to creation. As I matured and encountered love in all its various forms, like friendship, compassion, the family unit, I began to realize just how true my dad’s description of the Bible is. Like many children who were raised in the church, one of the first verses I was taught to memorize was John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”

Frank Viola’s work From Eternity to Here presents a theology of the biblical narrative that reiterates God’s Love described in John 3:16 and His “eternal purpose” for creation, that is as divinely beautiful and romantic as it is mysterious (cf. Eph. 3:11).

God so loved the world that he has forever sought a Bride, a House, a Body, and a Family. The Church is God’s love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Viola illuminates these four descriptions of the Church, a Bride, House, Body and Family, against the backdrop of God’s redeeming purpose found in Scripture. Viola shows that the Church is a new spiritual species, not formed from humanity’s reproduction, or fallen in the Garden of Eden, but birthed out of the womb of Christ’s pierced side.

I pray the Lord uses From Eternity to Here to share how the Bible is God’s love letter in this generation, the way my earthly dad shared God’s love with me through His Word. Understanding God’s eternal purpose has a profound effect on how believers live their faith in this world, here and now… and also into eternity.

*Author’s Note: This short blurb was originally written on May 18th, 2012, with minor edits by the author on January 25th, 2016.



Practical Discipleship and Biblical Theology

Building a Discipling Culture, by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram is by far one of the landmark books on practical discipleship. The lessons in this work are so precious because they are the result of 30 plus years of life on life discipleship. Instead of focusing on the “ABC’s” of church measurement: attendance, buildings, and cash, Breen and Cockram argue that we should focus on the only thing that Jesus counts- making disciples.

Christ’s words in the Great Commission, command believers to “go” and “make” disciples. There has to be an intentional, missional, and incarnational approach to going into the world and looking for the person of peace, and other future leaders for whom we can make as disciples. The authors advocate a three form learning method that incorporates information, an apprenticeship type access to the teacher, known as imitation, and an immersion experience in doing ministry, where innovation takes place.

The teachings on Lifeshapes and the fivefold ministry are essential to learn how make disciples in this new generation and all their principles are strongly based on biblical theology. Accountability and community are the two driving themes behind making disciples and Building a Discipling Culture.

*Author’s Note: This short blurb was originally written on May 28th, 2012 as a personal reflection on the initial 3dm material. Slight edits were made on January 25th, 2016.

Find Your “Sweet Spot” in Life

For nearly five years I was actively involved in young adult ministry: two years as a discipleship trainer in a missional program designed to equip the millennial generation as modern-day missionaries, and almost three years as the College and Young Adult pastor at an evangelical megachurch. In both these ministries I would speak at conferences, educating pastors and other leaders from the older generations on the similarities and differences of Gen. Y.

At a total North American population of close to 80 million, the “Millennials” are still very misunderstood, much like the “Yuppies”, “Hippies”, and “Flappers” of generations past. But Millennials, Gen. Y., young adults or simply “twenty-somethings” as some call them, represent a unique opportunity not only for ministry, but also in fields like medicine, science, and innovations in technology. They represent a new generation of global leaders in every sector of society.

By far the most common questions I encountered while counseling college students were questions of calling, purpose, and finding meaning in life. While there are a number of great resources that address these topics from a general stance, Quarter-Life Calling by my good friend Paul Sohn is the first book that I am aware of, to tackle the big questions of life, from the perspective of a young adult, head on.

I have known Paul for the better part of six years. We have had many great conversations and mastermind discussions about life, faith, and leadership since we first met while interacting on a blog post about Christian leadership. He is truly a dear brother in the Lord and is one of the most authoritative voices I know on discovering calling. If I had to describe Paul in one word, it would be intentional. He is intentional about adding value to others, about being salt and light, and about helping people discover their true identity in Christ. It’s no wonder that Christianity Today named his blog one of the “Top 33 Under 33 Millennials to follow”.

At a time when the Western church is at a hinge point in history. The largest generation America has ever seen is also largely missing from many church gatherings. One of the most significant findings during my immersive study into this transient generation, is that those in the Generation Y demographic are genuinely interested in spiritual matters and are searching for meaning in their life. As the research has shown, Millennials want to have an impact on the world.  That should be very encouraging for pastors and ministry leaders. Young adults are open to hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and now with Quarter-Life Calling 

they now have a discipleship tool to help them understand how to make a life, not just a living; how to work as worship, not as a curse; and how to make the biggest impact on others with the small dash between the numbers on their gravestones.

Let my good friend Paul Sohn speak into your life and share from his vast experiences and wisdom beyond his years. Quarter-Life Calling will help you demystify the concept of vocation, or calling, teach you how to think with your legacy in mind, and how to use your passions to serve a hurting world.

I highly recommend this amazing book, and if you are in your twenties, encourage you to read it and find your “sweet spot”.



Complexity [Guest Post] The Resilient Investor

For those who follow the KISS approach to life (Keep It Simple Stupid), the word complexity can be a bit of a turn-off. Indeed, systems scientists have produced a vast trove of research and equations that inform various institutes and graduate programs. We don’t want to over-simplify complexity, but there is a growing body of accessible literature and online discussions that can help anyone gain a more complete understanding of the times we are living in.

As a starting place, we can easily see that as humans developed from clans to countries and corporations, and as we harnessed the earth’s abundant resources, we’ve created increasingly complex systems. Hunter-gatherer societies were comprised of groups of around 40 individuals. With the invention of the digging stick, horticultural societies grew to populations of 1,500. Cities in agrarian cultures reached 100,000, while the Industrial Age made it possible for mega-cities to exceed 10 million people.

Now we are on the precipice of achieving a single, interconnected society of 7 billion. Mobile and smart phones are quickly penetrating global markets—in 2012 there were 4.5 billion mobile subscribers, with 73% of those in developing countries.

As societies get larger, there is exponentially more potential to divide basic functions into ever greater specializations. A look at any of the structures of society reveals that complexity is everywhere. The financial system makes a fine illustration. Trading among nomadic tribes was limited and relatively straightforward. Today it is largely performed by ultra-high speed computers, and by some measurements, the market value of complex derivatives that sell and resell risk dwarfs the value of actual stocks in real companies, as well as the GDP of the world as a whole.

Contemplating just how complex our civilization is can lead some to conclude that the whole house of cards could collapse at any moment.

The potential for consequences severe enough to derail our civilization is perhaps reason enough that each of us should get familiar with the lessons of complexity. But as resilient investors, we are looking for actionable guidance; if we’re all doomed then we might as well just throw a big party, or head off into the woods (as some have done) waiting for the lights to go out.

So, given all that, how are we to make decisions that will serve us in this uncertain future? Obviously it’s important to remember that we can’t rely on anyone’s future forecasts and formulaic solutions (especially those pants-less pundits that the media loves to parade onscreen)–no one can make predictions with any reliability.

Rather, if you want to do what our book’s tagline suggests, to “thrive in turbulent times”, we suggest that you need to have a highly flexible strategy that prepares you to proactively respond to any possible future… in other words, you need to increase your resilience.

Christopher Peck, Michael Kramer, and Hal Brill are co-authors of The Resilient Investor. Christopher lives in Sonoma County, California, on a developing homestead within biking distance of a lovely downtown. He’s a long-term sustainability entrepreneur and holistic financial planner and has taught sustainable finance for many years, including in a green MBA program, and a popular course on business planning. Michael lives in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’I and serves on the national policy committee of USSIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. He is a strong advocate of innovative local economy strategies and corporate and regulatory reform. Hal is the co-author of Investing with Your Values: Making Money and Making a Difference and co-founder of Natural Investments. He lives in a sustainable neighborhood that he developed on the edge of Paonia, Colorado.

Why Do We See Things the Way We Do? [Guest Post] by Hyrum Smith

Have you ever wondered how it is possible that two reasonable, intelligent, caring people can see the same set of circumstances and come to completely different opinions about it?  In politics, it happens all the time.  People who are otherwise very much alike in their feelings about people, in their concern for their community, and in their desire to make a difference, can be diametrically opposed politically.  They may even end up shouting at each other, trying to get through the other person’s “thick skull.”

There is a simple explanation for the problem, but not necessarily an easy solution.  The fact is that from the time we enter the world, until the time we leave it, we have experiences, read things, hear things, and feel things that imprint in our minds a view of how the world works.  We create a set of guidelines on how to behave based on what we believe we have seen.

To take a simplistic example, watch the way people behave around pets.  If a person was raised in a home that had a playful, loving dog as a pet, that person probably enjoys dogs and will pet and even talk to one, given the opportunity.  Another person may have been attacked and bitten by a dog early in life and carries an understandable fear of the animal.  That person is not likely to be the first to walk up to see if a dog is friendly or not.

How we feel about dogs probably won’t have a significant impact on our lives (unless we marry someone with exactly the opposite view on the subject).  However, our views on many other things can and will have a significant impact on our lives.  If we believe that children should be seen and not heard, but are then blessed with children who are vociferous and opinionated, there is likely to be a problem in the home.  How we deal with that depends on how clearly we understand how our own beliefs are impacting our life.

There are not many things in our daily lives that are based on absolute, scientific fact.  Almost everything we encounter is colored by our belief about it.  If there is pain, dissatisfaction, unrest, or dysfunction in our lives, it is often a result of what we believe about something.  Our beliefs lead us to act in certain ways.  When those actions don’t bring us happiness and peace, it is more likely than not that the problem lies in what we believe about life.  Remember, almost all beliefs are “choices” we make, not hard and fast facts.

In the book, The 3 Gaps, this concept is explored in more depth.  The connection between beliefs, actions, and happiness and peace is pretty straightforward.  The trick is knowing that this is happening to all of us, and then knowing how to recognize and overcome things that cause us pain.  The first step is believing that you can have a happy life, no matter what your circumstances.  The people who tell their stories in the book will amaze you.  I guarantee they will also inspire you.


Hyrum Smith is a distinguished author, speaker, and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of FranklinCovey®. For three decades, he has empowered people to effectively govern their personal and professional lives. Hyrum’s books and presentations have been acclaimed by American and international audiences. He combines wit and enthusiasm with a gift for communicating compelling principles that incite lasting personal change. You can visit him on the web at