Expedition Behavior

sherpaAre you trying to take new ground? Attempting something that’s never been done before? Move your team?  Solve a vexing problem?  Create new options?  Read on.

In his terrific book “Give and Take:  Why Helping Others Drives Our Success,” author Adam Grant contrasts the collaboration styles of Frank Lloyd Wright (of architectural fame) and George Meyer (writer for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons).

Grant’s portrayal of Wright and Meyer is a study in collaboration and interdependence.  In unpacking their stories, he finds that creativity and achievement best flourish in an “otherish” culture.  This creative advantage is referred to as expedition behavior.

Expedition behavior:  putting the group’s goals and mission first, and showing the same amount of concern for others as you do for yourself.

The concept of expedition behavior immediately resonated with me when I first read Grant’s book in the spring of 2015.  Having climbed 20 of Colorado’s “14’ers” with a great group of friends, I’ve seen how it plays out in the wilderness.  There are many parallels for leaders of organizations:

  • The summit is out there, but the view is often obscured along the way.  Successful route finding is a collaboration among group members.
  • There are often “false” summits on the path to the peak.  Others can help you keep your head up when weariness sets in.
  • Pace is important. A planned approach among informed friends and colleagues yields the best chance for success.
  • A “sherpa” is a most welcome asset.  Some days you just need someone else to carry the load for you.  You simply can’t carry everything you need alone.  A shared burden is a lighter burden.
  • Successful decision making when the trail fades requires humility.  Your line of sight is often limited by skill, experience, health or other factors.  Knowing when to turn back and regroup can be a lifesaving skill.
  • Exposure (risk) is always part of the equation.  It’s part of the fun.  But minimizing your exposure enhances your chances of success, and it’s takes others to make well-informed decisions.

Carry each other’s burdens – Galatians 6:2

Q:  How can reframing your challenges as an expedition improve your chances of success?

The Sights Along I-69

I69This week I found myself driving along I-69 in Indiana with my friend and CIM colleague Aaron Pendleton.  In the hour+ drive between Gas City (not kidding – look it up) and Indy we started discussing the nature of goal setting.

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a season & time for everything.  Goals change, evolve, and adapt to our various seasons of life.  They often revolve around family, career, health, money, education, giving back, etc.  Our goals are necessarily grounded in current realities and seasons of life. They seasonally adjust.

But it seems to us that our goals are generally too small.  Too limiting.  What if there’s a missing link in the way we think about purpose.  Perhaps – in the absence of a grander vision for life – we look back and see that we have been adrift.  We’ve been defined by circumstances.  We’ve been led rather than led.

What would it look like if we were to set our sights higher?  Longer?  Deeper?  What if we exchange the low hanging fruit for the cookies on the top shelf?  What if we were to pursue a transcendent and grander vision?

Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.  – Habakkuk 2

Q:  What’s beyond your reach?  Look there.  


DNAGenesis:  In the beginning, God created.   We know from the first pages of Scripture that God creates.

Revelation:  Behold, I am making all things new.  We know from the last pages of Scripture that God is still creating.

As His creative process progressed through time & space, He created us.  In His own image (Genesis 1:27).  We are image bearers.  We’re imprinted with a spark of the divine. Somewhere within our hard wiring, we are coded to create.

As leaders, we take up these ancient truths.  In leading, we tap into our God designed DNA. as Christ followers, we replicate His nature in our organizations and fields of endeavor.   We envision. We realign.  We develop.  Do R & D.  Seek opportunities.  Grow teams. Open markets.  Budget.  Make a profit.  Market.  We’re missional.  We know that better exists.  We create.  We make things new.

Our calling is to create a new normal.  A redeemed normal.  Our example is Christ.  He never seems to have much affinity for the status quo.  He’s always making, molding, calling, healing, creating.

Carpe deim.  Never stop looking to create a God inspired, grace infused future for your people and those you serve.

Q:  What’s in your DNA that just won’t let you go?  Where can that take your team and those you serve?

The Tempest


Every leader knows the tempest.

“They were merchants on the mighty waters…A tempest lifted the waves….In peril, their courage melted away….they reeled and staggered….they were at their wit’s end.” 

It’s what a leader does next – what happens in the tempest – that reveals character.  The leader is defined in and by the crucible.

“They cried out to the Lord in their trouble….He brought them out of their distress….He stilled the storm….He guided them to their desired haven.”

Resist the temptation to abandon ship.  This is a holy moment.  Your moment.  Rely upon Him.  Ask for skill. Ask for resolve.  Ask for wisdom.  Carry the vision.  Make port.

He molds us at the helm, not in the hold. Psalm 107.

Q:  What moment will mold you today? 

About 40

4040 is a free-form white space designed to record my (usually unedited) thoughts from Scripture.  This space is meant to capture thoughts, what-if’s and actionable items that flow from my various Bible readings.

Posts are usually about 40 words in length.  40 is my favorite Psalm and is also my favorite U2 song.  Most of the posts found here center around themes found in this Psalm.

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Q:  Do you journal or have a space to record your thoughts about your faith journey?

MY Top 5 Books For Leaders & Influencers

Stack Of BooksI’ve read around 100 books since 2011 (you can see my overall list by visiting my Goodreads site). Many have been for pleasure or personal interest, but about half of them have been selected with the goal of honing my efforts as a leader and influencer within our organization. Here are my top 5 that I’d recommend to those trying to:

  • refresh & invigorate an organization
  • initiate personal growth
  • influence culture
  • be salt, or
  • lead people, teams or causes.

These books tend to have a business edge and I approach them from a faith-based perspective (that’s what I do – you can see more about my specific role by visiting my About page).  Few are within the mainstream of Christian readership.  You’ll also see that math may not have been my strongest subject.

Surfing The Edge Of Chaos: The Laws Of Nature And The New Laws Of Business.  Great clues for how & where to look for what is emerging within an organization, system or culture.  And, more importantly, how to embrace it.  I first reviewed this book here in 2009. By Richard Pascale, Mark Milleman and Linda Gioja

Humilitas: A Lost Key To Life, Love And Leadership.  The most compelling, agreeable and influential book I’ve read on infusing the Christian virtue of humility in ANY organizational culture.  Love, LOVE this book, and I reviewed it here in 2013.  I also did a follow-up post called Further Thoughts On Humility that goes a bit deeper into the thinking.  By John Dickson.

Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential.  This is a disturbing book.  It will make you angry.  Most of my Christian friends will not make it past the initial chapters.  But, if you look deeper into the book, and especially pay attention to the research/footnotes provided, you’ll see a candid and sobering description of the forces allied against non-profits these days (with application to churches as well).  Among many other things, I especially appreciate his focus on mission effectiveness (as opposed to mission efficiency) and his insight into watchdog organizations such as Charity Navigator. And I’ve actually warmed to his idea about a non-profit exchange. Guessing I’ll get significant pushback on this one….  By Dan Pallotta.

Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere.  I first encountered Vijay Govindarajan at the 2013 Global Leadership Summit. While there is little that would have initially recommended his thinking to me, I became fascinated when picking up his book. His main argument has to do with sustainable innovation within cultures that have few or no resources. At some point I realized that this is the EXACT paradigm many non-profits face, and that his methodology is highly adaptable for anyone trying to innovate within a non-profit culture (especially given the restraints outlined in Uncharitable, described above).  By Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble.

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. Christian’s everywhere will pray the “cattle on a thousand hills” prayer, acknowledging God’s limitless provision for His people. And then they whine continually and forever about lack of resources. So is this a God problem, or a people problem?  Before answering that, I’d suggest reading this book.  Pay special attention to the exponential technologies outlined in the book.  Those Christians with a STEM background may find this book particularly encouraging as they look to leverage their skills and talents for the Kingdom. By the way – it’s mostly a people problem in my opinion.  By Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Simply put, the best book I’ve read in years.  My Christian friends will easily recognize the lizard for what it is.  And we all will benefit by nuking the old rules of work.  My highest recommendation.  A book that should be read by anyone that has ever worked a day in their lives. Read this first if you read any of these at all.  By Seth Godin.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business. I have rad the entire Lencioni library.  Every.  Single.  Book.  They are all gems.  I’ve heard him speak several times.  Outstanding stuff.  Healing stuff that will restore your faith in the world of work and organizations.  The Advantage pulls it all together.  We adopted his methodology at our organization a few years ago.  I can’t recommend Patrick’s thinking or his methodology more highly.  Please, for the live of God, for the love of people, transform your workplace.  Here is the blueprint.  By Patrick Lencioni.

A More Beautiful Question: The Power Of Inquiry To Spark Breakthrough Ideas.  Right behind Linchpin for top billing as the best book you can probably read.  Absolutely and simply transformative (is that a word?).  We reward “experts” that have all the right answers.  But what if an expert is one that asks the right questions  and adopts a learning orientation?  I’m just enthralled by this book and its implications.  We’ve already used some of the learnings to reshape our employee evaluation process.  I’m thrilled by the new track we are following.  By Warren Berger.

Q:  What books are on you list?