Yellowstone & Business

At a recent One2One meeting with a long-time Convene member, Steve—a man with a great heart for God, family and business—shared about a recent vacation to Yellowstone National Park with his extended family (wife, 4 daughters with husbands, and grandchildren). He described the park as a sanctuary of geothermal activity, forests, mountains and wildlife in an ever-evolving landscape. Steve was evidently moved in spirit by this experience. Steve described Yellowstone in this way:

  • “The environment is constantly changing”
  • “Only the strong survive”
  • “God’s hand is so evident there”

My immediate reaction was to ask, “How is that like your business environment?”

For certain, in our information-deluged and technology-advancing world, the environment is constantly changing. How does your business keep up with the pace? Our Convene team has a saying, “What got you here, won’t take you there”.

For certain, in our still-precarious economic environment, the strong survive by great leadership and team building, innovation and operational efficiency. How do you hone your leadership skills?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”—Proverbs 27:17.

For certain, God’s hand is active in your business. How do you stay focused on God’s intent for your company and your stewardship thereof? Convene helps to impel your decisions through the filters of Kingdom Purpose, Vision and Values.

Could your business have a legacy like Yellowstone?

Let us not give up meeting together…but continue to encourage one another”. Hebrews 10:25

4 Domains of Strengths Based Leadership and Teams

Imagine dog sledding in Canada for the very first time. You're holding onto the back of your sled for dear life as you whip around steep curves at lightning speed. Up ahead of you is a sharp turn and you notice that your sled is teetering on the edge of the mountain. You are riding the thin line between falling off the mountain and creating momentum behind your dogs. This was my wife and my experience when we went to Canmore, Canada a few years ago. We had a dog sledding adventure—a first for both of us. (I highly recommend the experience.)

Dog sledding in Canada taught us so many things about leadership, teamwork, and strengths. On our trip, we met a young man named Jereme, who I call “the dog whisperer” because of his expert knowledge of his dogs and how to communicate with them. He was our guide and he took the time to teach my wife and I all about his team.

During our dog sledding adventure with Jereme, I couldn't help but think about the four domains of leadership, each containing a sampling of the thirty four talent themes as outlined in Gallup's Strengths Based Leadership book.

Lead Dogs – Executing - Work Harder

“Follow me, Brent.” He said commandingly and Rhonda and I did just that as Jereme led us to meet the first two dogs on the team.

“These are my lead dogs,” he explained to us, “Lead dogs are not necessarily the smartest, and they're not necessarily the fastest, but they're the best listeners, and they follow commands well.”

Jereme emphasized that it was important to know your lead dogs names so you could communicate with them frequently. After all, they are the leaders of their team. The other dogs respect them and follow them because of their leadership strength.

Lead dogs in dog sledding are not so different from what Gallup calls executing leaders. These domain of strengths are all about production and working harder.

A leader with Arranger – Achiever may work tirelessly to create the perfect configuration of systems.

Point Dogs – Strategic - Think Smarter 

Jereme pointed to the next two dogs directly behind the lead dogs. “These are the point dogs. They have vision and help navigate the direction of the team towards the destination.” These dogs apply just enough pressure to steer the lead dogs.

Point dogs, like those of us in positions of strategic leadership, are the thinkers, the heady intellectuals who tend to strategize and point us towards the future. They help the team to think smarter.

Leaders with Context – Strategic talents are exceptional at reviewing the past and finding the best route to grow their organization.

Swing Dogs – Influencing - Motivate Faster 

“It's very interesting,” Jereme said about the next two dogs. “You take an old dog and a young dog, pair them together, and you have swing dogs.” The older dogs have been around the mountains for many years, trekked endless trails, and accrued their share of bumps and bruises along the way. Of course, they have lost a bit of their zest, their energy, their pep.

But then you pair this older dog with a younger dog who has loads of enthusiasm, energy, and ability but lacks experience and wisdom and they influence and bring out the best in each other so that the team accomplishes its goal. This pair of dogs helps the team handle change and sharp turns.

The swing dogs fall into the influencing domain. These are the leaders who use their strengths to influence, sell and motivate others faster.

An influencing leader may shine with Communication – WOO drawing in new clients with likeable entertaining stories.

Wheel Dogs – Relationship - Care Better 

“These are the strongest dogs and biggest hearted dogs,” Jereme pointed, “and they're called wheel dogs.” The wheels dogs just want to please the driver. Easily the strongest dogs on the team, they love to pull, they love to work, and they love to do their job usually with very little recognition.

The wheel dogs have relationship strengths. They are the people adept at social - emotional intelligence, relating with others, and showing empathy and love. They help teams care better.

Leaders are like stars. The have unique edgy points that make them standout differently than anyone else. Teams need to be well rounded. Incorporating all types of talent and strengths for greater effectiveness.

Dominant relationship oriented leaders with Relator – Developer will build long term loyalty and mentorship.

Would you and your organization like to better understand your strengths based leadership styles?

Bring GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach and Convene Resource Specialist, Brent O’Bannon to your Forum Day or organization. Learn more at

The Need for Speed

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” –Deut. 31:7-9

When Jim Collins wrote his seminal work on what makes a good company great, he stumbled upon a key ingredient: having a Level 5 leader at the helm. He describes a Level 5 leader as someone who possesses both humility and professional will or courage. There was also a recent article in Harvard Business Review that said that great leaders have to be fast in their decision-making, particularly when they know the right thing to do.

So how do these two ideas connect?

One of the ways to increase speed is through demonstrated personal courage. What often slows decision-making down is a desire to not “ruffle any feathers” or to give “more grace” to people or more time to business units that are not performing. It’s being slow in making the decisions you know are the right ones, but delaying them because the consequences feel risky. The worst thing a leader can do is to hope that the wrong road, wrong strategy or wrong person will somehow lead to the right one. Confidence in the right road and strategy will allow clarity on tough decisions and therefore, can be made with less hesitation.

Why do you think Joshua was told to “be strong and courageous”? We read the passage above and gloss over the fact that Joshua was responsible for dividing the land among the tribes. It seems like this act would be fraught with conflict and tribal leaders jockeying for position to get the biggest and most fertile territories.

So how do we, as leaders, demonstrate personal courage in the face of a difficult decision or a potential conflict?

  1. Don’t allow lag time. Once you know something needs to be done, don’t allow unnecessary time between the decision and the action that needs to occur. Leaders often allow too much time between knowing and doing which does not benefit the people involved or the future of the organization.
  2. Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself: “Where are we headed, how are we going to get there and how does this decision affect that outcome?”
  3. Prepare for the conversation. Prior to discussion, reflect on how the decision was made, who was consulted, what process was used and what other options were considered
  4. Be direct, yet compassionate. Make sure that your non-verbal cues aren’t different from what you are saying. In addition, share the decision in a fact-based and clear manner so there is no confusion. Explain why the decision is in the best interest of the company while showing care and compassion for the impact it will have on those affected.
  5. Explain how the decision was made. It’s important to share the process that was followed, the people consulted and the steps taken to reach the final decision.
  6. Allow for feedback. Make sure people have an opportunity to share concerns and feelings, but also make it clear that the decision is not open to debate.
  7. Focus on the future. Reiterate how the decision will position the organization for greater health and growth moving forward.

Level 5 leaders resemble Joshua who knew the direction and strategy while having the conviction and courage to act quickly. Describe what holds you back from this kind of decision-making?

On the Reality of our Physicality

1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? ... So use every part of your body to give glory back to God..."  Where does physical health meet spiritual strength? Here’s the skinny!

In biblical times, I’m not sure if there was much room for physical atrophy or poor diet. You had to walk everywhere, work the land, and the only fast food around was when you accidentally inhaled a fly. The Bible doesn’t offer a great deal on the topic other than at the fall of man, our bodies began to deteriorate, that we should take care of our temples, and gluttony kills possibility and life… all wise to note.

Today in our fast-paced, fast food world of minimal physical activity, it’s not just prudent, but a responsibility to evaluate how our physical condition affects our spiritual capacity to serve God and others. There’s an old saying that “the world goes to the energetic,” and although not entirely true, I began to wonder what all the spiritual gifts, talents and callings fueled by limited physical energy were doing, how little they were doing, and frankly if they were doing anything at all. I thought about how all these abilities God could use for His glory were immobilized by mental lethargy, limited stamina and a tired commitment. Standing to lose a few pounds myself forced me to consider how much those in my life were missing while I droned around in a food coma much of the time. My wife, family, employees, clients, friends and ministry partners were all experiencing a groggy, inconsistent, moody, semi-alert, half-committed “me.” I was a mess. So I changed my diet, dropped 25 lbs and am grateful I took the steps… as are others, especially my wife. If we really took to heart the call that God has on our life and truly considered the needs of those around us, we would be serious about what we put into our body and how we treat it. For when God calls, “go ye therefore,” He wants us in great spiritual condition, and He wants us to have the physical strength for the journey ahead and go far if He calls for that.

Another part of health/spirituality stewardship shows up in duration of life. It is estimated that those who ignore their health shave between 5-25 years off their life. It’s a little known fact that on average, Christians hit the peak of their spiritual maturity and effectiveness between 58 and 62. For those with health issues it means when Kingdom impacting maturity is nearing maximum potential, death or debilitating disease may be just around the corner. It’s no stretch to say that for Christians who gamble with an unhealthy lifestyle, 10 years of high-impact Kingdom opportunities are taken away because of addictions to unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles. Add to that the incapacitating effects of premature illness and the burden multiplies, not just with us and those we serve; we pull others out of their game as well, as they must sideline their vision to care for our dwindling health. This is not a health epidemic; it is a clandestine pandemic of self-centeredness, gluttony, complacency and resignation. Tough words yes, but to couch them (pardon the pun) would be a disservice. Honestly, I would be regretful if I didn’t address it with the forthrightness the subject deserves. Lives depend on it, relationships depend on it… as does our service to God!

The Big Question: Am I stewarding over my health for maximum Kingdom impact, blessing and fullness of life or am I living in physical deficiency and coping with it by calling it normal?