The Beatles, Christianity, and Culture

https://www.facebook.com/Yesterday/

I recently went to the movies with my daughter-in-law to see “Yesterday,” a tale of a struggling musician who, through some twist of fate, finds himself in some kind of alternate reality where he’s the only person who knows who the Beatles were. He proceeds to introduce the world to the music of the Fab Four as if it’s his own. Comedy and conflict ensue. We enjoyed the film; it’s a fresh premise in a summer of adaptations, sequels, TV-to-movie offerings, and no less than three live-action Disney remakes. Plus, I have spent the last couple of days getting reacquainted with the Beatles catalogue.

Which, for me, is to say, I found some albums on Spotify. You see, in one of those unusual quirks of my personal history, I own NO music by the Beatles. For someone whose life has been marked by the music on my various radio stations, turntables, tape decks, and CD players, it seems unthinkable that I would not have any Beatles in my possession.

Except, it’s not that unthinkable, when I delve into my early history. This whole re-immersion has caused me to ponder my upbringing and engagement with rock-n-roll. The “what if the Beatles didn’t exist” premise of the movie is closer to reality for my childhood. The Beatles may as well not have existed in my household. No Beatlemania there. My dad would scoff at those “long-hairs” as beneath him. No chance to catch the Ed Sullivan appearance that was so defining for many of my peers; no sir, we went to church on Sunday nights. When I purchased a couple of packs of Beatles trading cards, my mom let me know they were not welcome. And when John Lennon famously proclaimed that they were more popular than Jesus, well, if he’d announced that he was the Anti-Christ, it wouldn’t have been any more reprehensible.

This is not to say that my childhood was overly-repressive or joyless. I was, after all, saved by the aforementioned Jesus during one of those Sunday night services that caused me to miss the end of the 4:00 football games and the Ed Sullivan show. I suppose Beatlemania arrived in my life well before the more independent and rebellious times of my junior high and high school years. So, I was more or less obedient to my folks and never learned to like the Beatles.

Plus, my parents, though flawed as all are, were simply trying to live out their beliefs in a world that didn’t always embrace our Christian faith. I can’t fault them for that.

H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture identifies several ways that Christians have attempted to engage the authority of Christ when facing the culture around them. My folks were clearly in the “Christ against culture” camp. Things like drinking, smoking, and certainly rock-n-roll were vestiges of the secular city and were entities to be opposed as a Christian.

I’ve come to see Christ as the Transformer of Culture. There are certainly evil things in the world, but I’ve lost the “anything that is not Sacred is to be disregarded” mindset. In the common grace of God, John, George, Paul, and Ringo can produce something truly human that might just touch my soul in a way that can only be described as divine. So, I’m listening…and thinking.

Excuse me, Sgt. Pepper just ended. I need to “Get Back” to where I once belonged.

For a more complete discussion of Niebuhr’s book and the Christ and Culture debate, go here.

Some thoughts on personality assessments

I’ve come to enjoy seeing people discover more about their strengths and love coaching them in how their strengths make them a better leader if they would stop trying to fix their weaknesses and simply focus on what makes them great. To see people value their uniqueness where they once thought poorly of themselves is a fulfilling thing.

But, as a self-identified “assessment-junkie,” I need to express a few caveats.

One assessment doesn’t tell the whole story

There is value in submitting to multiple assessments. I have done this, and for the most part, they paint the same picture, albeit from different angles. But, trying to understand yourself through only one assessment is like assuming you “get” your spouse after one date.

Case in point – Two of the people with whom I work, along with me, have taken the “StandOut” test from Marcus Buckingham. We all three scored the same in our top two strength Roles – Equalizer/Creator. We all thought it was accurate in its descriptions. Yet, we couldn’t be more different in other ways. One is a “High-I” (DiSC) and talented in Influencer strengths in the Clifton. The other is a “Screaming-High-D” and an Executor. I’m a “High-C” and a Strategic Thinker.

So, it’s always best to carefully read the reports that normally accompany your results and make note of which descriptors fit you and which don’t. Not every Type 3 (Enneagram) is built the same.

Your type is not you

As I mentioned in the previous post, there can be a tendency to identify yourself by a category of an assessment. I did it myself just two paragraphs ago. But understand this. That’s just a shorthand way of speaking. It’s not you.

If you are prone to thinking, “I am a 5,” (in Enneagram terms) in the same way that you might say, “I am a redhead,” well, let’s just say it doesn’t work that way. Your “type,” regardless of which test we are talking about, is more of an adjective than a noun. Meaning, types are simply collections of descriptive character traits that you may display. It’s not some genetic trait. You are not imprisoned by your type.

In the Clifton Strengths, my dead last theme is Competition. This means that if you want to motivate me to produce more by staging a contest, it’s probably not going to move my needle much. However, there are times in my work where I’d better access a little competitive spirit. And though it’s not a strength, it’s not as though I am completely incapable of it. It’s just going to take more work.

So, we can’t use our strengths/weaknesses as an excuse for not doing our job or not doing it well. Your type is not you.

Every strength has a dark side

Any good character trait, if taken to the extreme, can become a force for evil. Well, maybe not evil, but certainly a force that is less than optimum in your leadership. My strategic thinking could paralyze me if I am unable to act.

This is why it’s important to partner with others whose strengths complement your own. A visionary “big picture” person needs to partner with a high-achiever. Your strengths, by themselves, can become weak when you don’t collaborate.

So, yes. Take some assessments. You’ll love the feeling that someone must have been reading your diary. Most importantly, you’ll come to value your unique self. Only be aware of the limitations of a test.

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

Know thyself: a survey of personality assessments, Part 3

I am concluding my survey of personality assessments. If you haven’t read Part 1 or 2 or a little of my story, you might want to do that first. Otherwise, here are the next two.

The Motivators Assessment

One factor that every leader should understand is what motivates people. A common mistake is to assume that what motivates you will also motivate others, and this is not the case. In fact, an appeal to a motivation that works for some can actually serve to demotivate others.

Nowhere is this more important than to understand what motivates yourself. If you can access and harness this, you are better able to tailor your job and boost your satisfaction in your work. This is the premise of the Motivators Assessment, as described in the book, What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.

This book, and the accompanying assessment, highlights 23 motivators which are then clustered into 5 “Identities” or motivational types. The 5 Identities are – The Achievers, The Builders, The Caregivers, The Reward-Driven, and the Thinkers. When I first purchased the book and glanced over it, my first thought at seeing these Identities was that I would probably rank high as a Builder. Sure enough, that was my strongest identity.

The book contains a great deal of practical advice for how you can take this self-knowledge and use it to sculpt your work life.

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is a popular tool that identifies 9 personality types (“enne” is “9” in Greek). Various friends of mine have taken an Enneagram and swear by it. As in, “it saved our marriage” kind of thing. There are many sources and books on the Enneagram; a great one is Ian Cron’s The Road Back to You.

Honestly, I am still in the process of becoming familiar with this assessment. But rather than put my ignorance on display for all to see, I’m going to defer to someone who knows her stuff.

Ms. Ron Tamir Nehr is a Life Coach and Personal Development Mentor who has written well on the Enneagram. Her excellent article is here, along with a free assessment.

One thing I have noticed among Enneagram adherents is a tendency to say, “I am a 6,” or something like that. As a cautionary statement about personality assessments in general, I find that if you get too locked into describing yourself by a certain type, as if it were some kind of personality ethnicity, you can inadvertently box yourself into thinking that you can’t help but be and do what your type is. The fact is, we are incredibly capable of all kinds of behavior, and not just those of our “type.” So, do be careful there.

It has been my hope through this series on that you will take the time to better understand yourself and thus become the best version of yourself that you can.

Question to ponder: What assessment has helped you the most to understand and value your unique skills, personality, and contributions?

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

A set of good books

After many years of wanting this set, I was finally able to pull together used hardcovers from Amazon. I can’t tell you how much of an influence Francis A. Schaeffer was/is to me. Perusing these texts affirms their relevance even today. So much of his vocabulary has entered my own. “the God who is there,” “infinite-personal God,” “the mannishness of man,” “upper-story,” “space-time Fall,” “abnormal world.” So many others. The first piece I read of his long ago was the little booklet, “Two Contents, Two Realities.” This awakened in me a love for philosophical thinking that hasn’t quit. A giant in the 2nd half of the 20th Century, most evangelical believers have little idea of the debt we owe to this saint.

Have you read Schaeffer? What are your favorite books? Which concepts influenced you?

Know thyself: a survey of personality assessments, Part 2

2019-04-22-22-55-10I’m continuing my survey of personality assessments. If you haven’t read Part 1 or a little of my story, you might want to do that first. Otherwise, here are the next two.

DISC (or DiSC, in some brandings)

DISC (stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness) has been around a long time, and you can find some simple, free tests online. Some are better than others and reveal more shadings and nuances. I test out as a “High C,” which corresponds pretty well with the “Strategic Thinking” themes of the Clifton.

DiSC_MK
©everythingDiSC

DISC can be very helpful in understanding and valuing yourself and others. It was a DISC-like assessment that saved my career all those years ago. Very valuable in accepting your unique qualities and contributions.

There is a DISC-like assessment called The Flag Page, from the “Laugh Your Way” marriage conference people. It’s fun (as you would expect) and identifies what “country” you are from and what your top 5 motivations are. The categories mirror the DISC, but the findings give you some shadings that don’t always show up in a DISC, like identifying “soft” and “hard” qualities.

Summary: simple (in a good way), available free in some places, gives you the vocabulary to give expression to your value.

Fascination Advantage

One of the more unique and interesting assessments I’ve encountered is Fascination Advantage, the creation of Sally Hogshead, a former successful ad writer, who has turned her research into the “science of fascination.” In a word, it helps you identify your highest value in communicating yourself and your personal brand. The system is fully explained in her book, How the World Sees You (@$18), which contains a code that you can use to take her assessment.

Archetype_MK
©howtofascinate.com

The test uses 7 “Advantages” in a unique way: rather than simply identifying your top 2, the appraisal combines your primary and secondary advantages into one of 49 “Archetypes” (see illustration). Thus, my TRUST combined with my POWER advantages synthesize into “The GRAVITAS,” and identify my top 3 adjectives of “dignified, stable, and hardworking.” My “Dormant” advantage (“PASSION”), the one that is the most exhausting for me, is also identified as the least likely to impress others.

Your personalized report prompts you to go on to create an “Anthem” for yourself, which is a 2-word phrase (adjective/noun) that can identify the value you bring to the table. You can use your Anthem on business materials, resumes, website, etc. An example for my archetype might be “Deliberate Certainty.”

Ms. Hogshead sprinkles her writing with some pithy thoughts that are pure gold if you are an assessment advocate like me. “If you don’t know your own value don’t expect anyone else to.” “To become successful, don’t change who you are. Become more of who you are.” And my personal favorite: “The world is not changed by people who sort of care.”

Her website has a ton of resources available, such as videos giving you more insight into your Advantages and Archetype. There’s also an avenue for you to explore the Archetypes within your team dynamics.

Summary: unique synthesis of character traits into Archetypes, plentiful resources for further study. Especially helpful if you are building a personal brand.

Coming next: The Motivators Assessment and the Enneagram

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

Know Thyself: a survey of personality assessments, Part 1

2019-04-22-22-55-10In my last blog post, I told my story of how a personality assessment saved my career. If you haven’t read it, please do. I’ve learned that I work and lead best when I’m being myself rather than trying to be someone else. Over the years, I’ve taken a number of different assessments, and each one has told me a little more about myself. Here’s a quick survey of some of them, along with some thoughts about the effectiveness of each.

Clifton Strengths (StrengthsFinder)

We use this test extensively with our leaders and other key people at the Chick-fil-A where I work. This appraisal is backed by the power Gallup, Inc., the famous survey people. They are able to synthesize the findings of 20+ million people who’ve taken the test. If you take the simple test ($20), you’ll identify your “Top 5” strengths (out of a possible 34 themes). This is helpful, but the real insight comes when you pay extra ($40 on sale) to reveal your entire list of 34. Note: it’s worth it.DNA

My top 5 strengths are Strategic, Responsibility, Learner, Input, and Relator. Further insight comes from the supplemental book, Strengths Based Leadership, by identifying the 4 Strengths Domains (also available within the app). I’ve learned that I am at my best in the Strategic Thinking domain, and I really need to collaborate with someone strong in the Influencer domain, where I struggle.

Summary: especially helpful when you get the full report, supportive website, extensive documentation. Get the e-book, Expanding Your Strengths.

StandOut

StandOut is the creation of Marcus Buckingham, who was connected with the Clifton Strengths assessment before launching out on his own. StandOut identifies and ranks 9 Strength Roles and classifies you with the top 2 (though you know your rank of all 9). The cost of the test is the price of the book or e-book (@$16-$19). The roles aren’t sliced as thin as the themes of the Clifton.

My assessment revealed that I am an Equalizer/Creator. The descriptions in the companion book and report are among the most insightful of any assessment. Interestingly enough, two of my colleagues tested the same, yet we are very different on other appraisals, especially the DISC. All this goes to show that no one rating can tell the whole story about who you are.

Summary: great advice and application to many venues (leadership, sales, management, client service). Lots of great take-aways. The “How to Describe Yourself in Interviews” sections are worth the price if you’re looking for a career move.

Question to consider: Have you taken either of these assessments, and how have they helped you?

Coming next: DISC, Fascination Advantage, The Motivators Assessment, and the Enneagram

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

How a personality assessment saved my career

thought-catalog-217861-unsplashMany years ago, early in my professional career, I started a job as an assistant manager with a Wendy’s franchisee. It was just the right job for me as a young man and leader. Two other young men started with me at or near the same time. One of those young men was Zane Gross.

Shortly after we started, there came a vacancy in the general manager position. Suddenly, Zane and I, along with the other fellow, were in competition for the GM position. Pretty heady stuff for a mid-20s new father like me. We all wanted it. Bad.

Zane was/is one of those guys with a “Let’s do it!” personality. Assertive, confident, outgoing. Me, not so much then. And I tried my best to be more like Zane as we vied for that position. Eventually, our supervisors made the decision to promote Zane, and he did a great job and had much success.*

Several years passed, and I’d moved on to a couple of different jobs. All during this time, I kept believing that if I were to be really successful as a leader, I needed to be more assertive, show greater initiative, move much quicker in decision-making. The traditional view of the up-and-coming, go-getter businessman. In short, I needed to be more like Zane.

It was in one of those jobs that I was sent to a workshop with some of the other leaders. During that workshop, we all took some sort of personality assessment. I don’t even remember which one it was – possibly a GREGORC or a DiSC. The only thing I remember is that there were 4 quadrants.

As the first quadrant was described (the Zane Quadrant), I remember thinking that that’s what I wanted to be, what I needed to be to succeed as a leader. But, no. My quadrant was in the opposite corner, pitiful and weak, with its deliberative planning and organization skills. Big whoop.

When the facilitator got to my corner, he said something that changed my life and saved my career: “Every organization needs this person.”

Every. Organization. Needs. This. Person. Every organization needs…ME!

That was the game-changer. Suddenly I knew that I didn’t need to be Zane; I needed to be Mark. If there were deficiencies in my leadership, it was because I wasn’t being the most effective version of myself, not because I wasn’t like someone else.

In the years that have followed, I have learned that my greatest leadership comes when I play from my strengths. As I continue to coach young leaders, I help them understand and value their unique strengths and talents. I tell them,

“Every organization needs a leader like you.”

Question to consider: What are your strengths, and how do you bring them to bear on your unique leadership style?

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

*Zane Gross now owns and operates a fleet of Wendy’s Restaurants in the Midwest. He is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team. He’s a successful family man and still, like me, a Browns fan.