Good Leader/Bad Leader

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A good product manager knows the context going in (the company, our revenue funding, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).

Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has ten times as many engineers working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. Our CEO doesn’t make these kinds of excuses and neither should the CEO of a product.

Good product managers don’t get all of their time sucked up by the various organizations that must work together to deliver the right product at the right time. They don’t take all the product team minutes; they don’t project manage the various functions; they are not gofers for engineering. They are not part of the product team; they manage the product team. Engineering teams don’t consider good product managers a “marketing resource.” Good product managers are the marketing counterparts to the engineering manager.

Good product managers crisply define the target, the “what” (as opposed to the “how”), and manage the delivery of the “what.” Bad product managers feel best about themselves when they figure out “how.” Good product managers communicate crisply to engineering in writing as well as verbally. Good product managers don’t give direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.

Good product managers create collateral, FAQs, presentations, and white papers that can be leveraged by salespeople, marketing people, and executives. Bad product managers complain that they spend all day answering questions for the sales force and are swamped. Good product managers anticipate the serious product flaws and build real solutions. Bad product managers put out fires all day.

Good product managers take written positions on important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, tough product decisions, and markets to attack or yield). Bad product managers voice their opinions verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen. Once bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted they would fail.

Good product managers focus the team on revenue and customers. Bad product managers focus the team on how many features competitors are building. Good product managers define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Bad product managers define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (that is, solve the hardest problem).

Good product managers think in terms of delivering superior value to the marketplace during product planning and achieving market share and revenue goals during the go-to-market phase. Bad product managers get very confused about the differences among delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity. Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine all problems into one.

Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press. Bad product managers think about covering every feature and being absolutely technically accurate with the press. Good product managers ask the press questions. Bad product managers answer any press question. Good product managers assume members of the press and the analyst community are really smart. Bad product managers assume that journalists and analysts are dumb because they don’t understand the subtle nuances of their particular technology.

Good product managers err on the side of clarity. Bad product managers never even explain the obvious. Good product managers define their job and their success. Bad product managers constantly want to be told what to do.

Good product managers send their status reports in on time every week, because they are disciplined. Bad product managers forget to send in their status reports on time, because they don’t value discipline.

-Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Jared Wilson on Why Easter giveaways are unwise.

Every year some churches seek to outdo themselves — and their local competition — by luring unbelievers (and I suppose interested believers) to their Easter service(s) with the promise of big shows and in some cases big giveaways. One guy in Texas made national news for giving away new cars. Another church has dropped prize-filled Easter eggs out of helicopters to gathered crowds below. Local churches with more modest budgets sometimes promise door prizes like iPods or iPads or gift certificates to local restaurants.

Thom Rainer on What attracts millenials to church.

Millennial Christians, and a good number of seekers among their generation, are gravitating to churches where the teaching and preaching is given a high priority. They are attracted to churches whose focus is not only on the members, but on the community and the world. Inwardly focused congregations will not see many Millennials in their churches.

Sam Rainer on When Vision Stops.

If you pastor for any length of time, you’ll undoubtedly face an issue when something “unforeseen grinds the church to a halt.” Sam shares how to lead in the wake of those events.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Jason Johnson on 5 things Christians should stop staying.

We mean well, don’t we? But sometimes our attempts to say something spiritual actually come out unbiblical, or at a minimum, not very helpful. Here’s the 5 I hear the most…

David Romano on God, gays and advice.

As a Christian walking away from the homosexual lifestyle, I have some do’s and don’ts I’d like you to keep in mind when addressing this issue.

Tim Challies on Mobility, Pornography and Privacy.

Did you buy your children an iPod or iPhone or other mobile device for Christmas? You just bought them the major porn-consumption device. So what are you going to do to protect them from it? One of the most popular articles I wrote in 2013 concerned The Porn-Free Family. I will be returning to the subject in the new year, but for now, I want to point out an important fact: Most of our attempts to block pornography and to use accountability software are effective only or primarily on desktop devices.

5 ways to relax on your Christmas break.

So you’re off for Christmas, but some of you for sure are going to have a hard time winding down. I know I do. Being a driven kind of person, the idea of doing nothing but resting is unsettling for me. But rather than secretly doing email while your family isn’t looking, pacing the house because you can’t sit still or being agitated most of the time, there is an alternative.

Brian Howard on How to remember 2013 and set goals for 2014.

Welcome to the day after Christmas! Each year between Christmas and New Years I walk through a simple exercise to help me think through the past year and plan for the coming year.  I originally learned this exercise from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, and have customized it over the years. My wife and I both walk through it, and I use it with those I coach as well. Allocating an hour or two over the next week to walk through this exercise will help you to start the new year well.

Jon Acuff on The empty shelf challenge.

Empty a shelf in your house somewhere. Every book you read from now until December 31, 2014 goes on the shelf. (Waiting until January 1st to do something awesome is stupid and fake.) At the end of the year, I guarantee you will have read more than you did in 2013. Best of all, you’re scientifically more likely to accomplish something when you have people working on it with you.

Justin Taylor on How to read the whole bible in 2014.

Do you want to read the whole Bible? The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

How to Make Christmas Special with Your Kids

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The holidays are special. Things are busy. There are parties, gifts to buy, cards to send, food to make and eat, and memories to be made. Kids will be off of school, parents will be off from work, Christmas specials will be on TV. There is a lot that is different in the month of December.

And, if you plan ahead as a parent, you can make December a special month. Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to Christmas Music. I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. If you know me, this isn’t news. However, starting at Thanksgiving, we listen to it almost non-stop until Christmas. Why? It is a good tradition. The songs are about Jesus and my kids love music. I look for Christmas music we like and create a playlist that I load onto all our iPod’s and iPad’s so we can listen to it wherever we are. The kids listen to Christmas music as they go to sleep. This helps to change the mood of the month and communicates, this time of year is different. It has its own music. Here are some of the suggestions from our family.
  • Take your kids on a special daddy date. Every week I take one of our kids on a daddy date. We go to a park, go to Starbucks to get a treat and play a game or whatever they decide (within reason). In December, I like to do something special. Usually on that daddy date, I’ll take them to the store to pick out a present for their siblings. My hope is they will learn generosity and thinking of others as we talk about why we give gifts to others. This year, Katie is taking our daughter to see The Nutcracker Ballet as an example.
  • Record Christmas specials and watch them together. Kids love Christmas specials. At least my kids do. So, record them and watch them together. Here is a list of what is on ABC Family this year and when it is on.
  • The tree. Whether you go out and cut your tree down, buy one or have a fake one (like we do here in AZ), make putting up the tree special. Build it up, plan it, make your own ornaments, tell stories about the ornaments you are putting up. And, listen to Christmas music while doing it.
  • Do a special outing as a family. Some families go caroling, sledding. Some shop on black friday together. One thing we love to do is go to Winterhaven to see the lights on Christmas night. After a long Christmas day, it is great to get out of the house to walk around and look at lights.
  • Eat special (and bad for you) food. I’m a health nut about what I eat. At the holidays, I ease off the gas pedal on that. Eat an extra dessert. Have the same thing each year to create a tradition. At our house on Christmas Eve, we make Cream of Crab soup and have chocolate fondue for dessert. We don’t make it any other time so it is extra special.
  • Read a special book together. This year, we are working our way through The Chronicle of Narnia. We are taking extra time this month to read through it and it is sparking some great discussions about who God is, who Jesus is, what humans are like and why we need Jesus, and who we are like in story. Communicating the gospel to our kids doesn’t have to be difficult and we can use books and movies to do so.
  • Make hot chocolate. You don’t make hot chocolate a whole lot any other time of the year. This is when you do it and it feels extra special because of that. Load it up with marshmallows, whipped cream.
  • Celebrate Advent. As a church, we are celebrating Advent every week in our gatherings. In Planet Rev Sunday, we handed out a booklet for families to use with their kids. This year, our family is using a daily devotional Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. So far it is great.
  • Give your wife a break. Revolution Church closes its offices between Christmas and New Years so our staff slows down and has a break. During this time, I am able to give Katie some downtime, get out without the kids, take an extra coffee date with a girlfriend, take a nap. This is a great time for you to serve your spouse.
  • Slow down and be together. Years from now, your kids will remember very little about life as a child. They will remember however if you were there. So will you. Don’t miss it. Work isn’t that important. That party isn’t that important. Shopping for one more thing isn’t that important if it keeps you from being with those you love. I’ve been reminded recently by the illnesses of close friends of the brevity of life. If your kids ask you to snuggle or lay down with them, do it. One day they won’t ask.

What do you do as a family to make Christmas special?

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A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

bookI have had Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (kindle version) on my iPad for a couple of years. I heard about how great it was from other pastors. Katie read it and it changed how she prayed and connected with God dramatically. Yet, I never got around to reading it. I felt like my prayer life wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible, so I put it off.

Then, as I was preaching through the book of John at Revolution Church, I got to John 17 and decided that as I was preparing those sermons and looking at how Jesus prayed, I needed to up my game in a big way. So, I finally read A Praying Life. 

I’m really sad I waited this long to read it.

What I appreciated most about this book was how easy to read it was and how helpful it was. Most books on prayer simply make you feel bad because you don’t pray enough or correctly. I don’t need to be reminded of that. That’s why I’m reading a book on prayer. I never got that feeling from Miller in this book.

A big part of this book is understanding what it means to ask God for things as a child would a parent. That a child asks relentlessly, they have no filter, anything is possible and they ask til they see movement. As adults, we don’t ask God in prayer for things like this. This is one reason we miss the relationship with God we were created to have.

Miller says:

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him. You enjoy him. He is, after all, a person.

Almost every book on prayer is based on some kind of “system” or way of praying. This book is no different.

Miller challenges the reader to use prayer cards instead of a list.

I got some three-by-five cards, and on each one wrote the name of a family member, along with a Scripture that I could use to shape my prayers for that person. I began developing a stack of prayer cards that allowed me to pray through my life—for loved ones and friends, for non-Christians I’m building relationships with, for my church and its leaders, for missionaries, for my work and my co-workers, for character change in my own life, and for my dreams. Here are the overall guidelines I use when creating a prayer card.

  1. The card functions like a prayer snapshot of a person’s life, so I use short phrases to describe what I want.
  2. When praying, I usually don’t linger over a card for more than a few seconds. I just pick out one or two key areas and pray for them.
  3. I put the Word to work by writing a Scripture verse on the card that expresses my desire for that particular person or situation.
  4. The card doesn’t change much. Maybe once a year I will add another line. These are just the ongoing areas in a person’s life that I am praying for.
  5. I usually don’t write down answers. They are obvious to me since I see the card almost every day.
  6. I will sometimes date a prayer request by putting the month/ year as in 8/07.

Why use a card over a list? Miller answers:

A prayer card has several advantages over a list. A list is often a series of scattered prayer requests, while a prayer card focuses on one person or area of your life. It allows you to look at the person or situation from multiple perspectives. Over time, it helps you reflect on what God does in response to your prayers. You begin to see patterns, and slowly a story unfolds that you find yourself drawn into. A list tends to be more mechanical. We can get overwhelmed with the number of things to pray for. Because items on a list are so disconnected, it is hard to maintain the discipline to pray. When I pray, I have only one card in front of me at a time, which helps me concentrate on that person or need.

This may not work for everyone, but it has been working in our family and life and I found this book to be extremely helpful and winsome when it comes to prayer and connecting with God.

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Josh Watt on The technology question every parent must answer.

A lot of parents are hesitant to be proactive in their children’s life of technology, because they just can’t keep up with the speed at which it’s changing. Other parents are hesitant, because they haven’t seen good parenting modeled in this area. The other reality is parents are on the front end of parenting the digital generation and frankly we are all learning as we go. Yet there is another hindrance to parents being proactive in their children’s online lives, and it is this inner struggle we all have to varying degrees: “Don’t my kids have the right to some privacy?”

What you need to know as a pastor about the new ruling from the Wisconsin judge concerning housing allowance.

The clergy housing allowance isn’t a government establishment of religion, but just the reverse. The allowance is neutral to all religions. Without it, clergy in small congregations of all sorts would be penalized and harmed.

Andrew Walker on Jesus and the same-sex marriage debate.

If Christians are to support same-sex marriage, they should do so by way of intellectual honesty and acknowledge their abandonment of biblical authority, for there is no reasonable way to deduce from Scripture an exegetical case for same-sex marriage.

Mike Niebauer on Is it actually harder to be a pastor than doing another job?

As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult. Yes, we face many challenges—ministry may involve times of high emotional and spiritual duress—but I don’t think these difficulties merit special recognition with regard to other vocations. After all, being a pastor involves almost no manual labor, which makes it physically easier than most other occupations in history. It doesn’t require a 60- to 80-hour work week, unless you somehow equate longer working hours with more of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And although the emotional and spiritual challenges faced are difficult, teachers and social workers—to take just two examples—face similar or greater obstacles.

Aaron Armstrong on She’s done the impossible.

This weekend, Mark Driscoll broke the Internet in half. Again.

Ron Edmondson on 5 ways for an introvert to survive the holidays.

It’s the holiday season again. I love the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I really do. But, for us introverts, it can also be a very difficult season. We are far more likely to be placed in awkward, uncomfortable situations.

Tim Challies on 10 steps to preach from an iPad.

There are many ways to go about it, but I will tell you about the system I have been using for the past year or so. I have found that it works very well. You need only two programs to do this: Pages and GoodReader (or Word and GoodReader if you use a PC). While I continue to use a full-size iPad, this system will work just as well with the Mini.

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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  1. 13 tips for giving a killer presentation.
  2. Thom Rainer on The #1 reason for church decline and what to do about it.
  3. A warning to wandering Christians.
  4. Matthew Barrett on Pastor, bring your bible to church. I agree with this and bring my iPad and my Bible when I preach.
  5. Kevin DeYoung on 5 commitments to those struggling with same sex attraction.
  6. Why everyone should see The ButlerI’m definitely intrigued by this film.
  7. Russell Moore on The moral majority to the prophetic minority.
  8. Confessions of a broken pastor’s wife. This is heartbreaking to read.

Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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  1. Gary MacIntosh on Six ways to prevent church member dropout.
  2. 5 counter-intuitive ways to lead a team member.
  3. Thom Rainer on the 8 most frequent preaching distractions.
  4. Shai Lynne puts Joel Osteen, Paula White and other False Teachers on blast. Then, Paula White Ministries responds to his accusations. Then, Shai Lynne explains his motives behind the song.
  5. 9 things you should know about female body issues.

iPhone Marimba Ringer gets a Creative Reworking

Links of the Week

  1. Lecrae’s story.
  2. 7 frequently asked questions on missional communities. This is a great resource, especially as we’re transitioning to missional communities.
  3. The reinvention of Switchfoot.
  4. Jen Wilkin on Worship together as a family and How to transition kids into big church.
  5. Amazon Fire takes on the iPad.
  6. Tony Morgan on 7 roles the senior leadership can’t delegate.
  7. SPIN Magazine’s 26 album’s that matter the most this fall.
  8. Sam Luce on 7 tips to keep your kids on mobile devices.
  9. Pat Robertson responds and it gets worse.

Links of the Week

  1. Luke Simmons on the Sermon starts in the parking lot. Great reminder on how everything we do as Christians and a church matters.
  2. How do you overcome the “morning after preaching hangover.” Helpful for pastors.
  3. Dustin Neeley on Using an iPad in ministry:  Should I use my laptop or iPad? and How I use my iPad in ministry.
  4. Bob Franquiz on The power of one good idea.
  5. Dave Bruskas on How to preach on hell.
  6. 5 ways to make sure your kids hate church.
  7. Ron Edmondson on 10 myths people have about the church.
  8. Teenagers and sexting.
  9. A theological conversation worth having.
  10. Perry Noble on How to stay passionate.
  11. Scott Thomas on the 4 phases of raising boys.
  12. Dave Bruskas on Parenting daughters.