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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.

Why I like the worship music of CityAlight

A recent output of fresh worship music has been recorded by an Australian group called CityAlight. Their repertoire may or may not have shown up in your church, but if not, it should. Their three recordings – Yours Alone(2014), Only a Holy God (2016), and Yet Not I (2018) – are full of rich, singer-friendly, congregational songs. Here’s 5 reasons why I like CityAlight:

  • Rich, gospel-centered lyrics. I value lyrics above all when it comes to music that is intended to be sung to God in worship. Unfortunately, the over-stereotyped, but sometimes-accurate description of modern worship is simple lyrics, repeated often. I must confess I’ve been guilty sometimes of promoting this. But with song writers like the Gettys and now CityAlight, we can sing lyrics like these:
Who else could rescue me
from my failing
Who else would offer His only Son
Who else invites me to call Him Father
Only a Holy God
Only my Holy God!
Come and behold Him
The One and the Only
Cry out, sing holy
Forever a Holy God
Come and worship the Holy God

Maybe it’s their Anglican roots, but there’s a hymn-like richness there. In an interview with Tim Challies, representatives of the band said, “The vision of CityAlight is to write songs with biblically rich lyrics and simple melodies for the Christian church to sing.”

  • Songs in singable keys. I wish more worship leaders would understand that we don’t all have the range of a Chris Tomlin. With the exception of a couple of songs on the first album, 90% of CityAlight’s songs are in vocal ranges that are comfortable for the average person to sing.
  • Vocals that don’t draw attention. Don’t get me wrong; the singers in CityAlight are great. But you don’t go away from listening with the thought that the vocals are the center. No vocal embellishment (that honestly, sometimes seems like showing off), but simply sticking to the melody for the most part. With CityAlight, the mix is such that you get a good exposure of the crowd singing along. It comes across as singing with the church, not for the church.
  • Speaking of melody, catchy tunes! It’s much easier to learn and sing along when the tune has some character to it, with changes in pitch that match the flow of thought. It’s because of this that these recordings are sing-along-able!
  • Variety of music. There are up-tempo hand-clappers, thoughtful and meditative ballads, soaring and anthemic hymns. The variety keeps me coming back again and again to supplement my personal times of worship.

The irony is that for the explosion of worship music available, there’s been less actual worship. To enhance your worship, I invite you to check out CityAlight (available wherever music is bought or streamed). If you’re a worship leader, you would do well to emulate their practices.

Question to consider: What practices help you the most in your worship of our Holy God?

What this blog is about

gaelle-marcel-8992-unsplash.jpgI loved my time in college. Even now, my wife says that if I could get paid to go to school, I’d be all over it. And she’s right; I’m a naturally curious learner. To some degree, all of us are; some people feed that desire more than others, while others suppress it or let it atrophy, or only learn new things when required by the job.

Psychologists differentiate between a static mindset and a growth mindset. More and more, we’re recognizing the necessity of continuous improvement in our learning. Cecelia Meis writes,

“A growing body of research shows that neurologically, growth mindsets stabilize existing neural pathways and even construct new ones, allowing connections between information and response to happen faster and more reliably.” (Success Magazine, Spring 2019, p. 23)

So, it behooves us to develop and nurture our minds whether it’s actually necessary for our jobs or not.

This brings us to the purpose of this blog. As I think and grow and learn, I want to share some of that to benefit others. To that end, the theme of this blog is “supporting life-long learners.” To do that, I plan to target my writing around four main topics that I hope will be helpful:

  • PRODUCTIVITY – organization, goal-setting, personal assessment such as DiSC or CliftonStrengths
  • LEADERSHIP – including educational effectiveness through classroom management
  • CHRISTIAN THOUGHT – theology, philosophy, biblical literacy, cultural observation and critique
  • CHURCH LIFE – especially in the areas of preaching and worship

…all from a biblically-informed world-view.

So I invite you to join me in this journey. Let’s set up shop here and discuss the world as we see it. Meis goes on to say, “Remember that learning new things isn’t always about getting a raise or earning a promotion. Learning in all forms is inherently beneficial.” (Ibid, p. 24) Let’s discover the joys of life-time learning and how we can help one another on the way. Please follow me; I hope to post 3 times per week. Share this with your friends, and by all means, please join the conversation and comment. I’ll do my best to reply.

Question to discuss: What subject (topic, skill) do you most like to learn about just for the fun of it, and why?

Why are new Calvinists so…enthusiastic?

 

cage-stage1
Comic by Adam Ford. Used by permission

Calvinism has been on the ascendance in the last couple of decades of American Christianity. More and more young pastors are part of a group of “new Calvinists.” Reformed theology has taken hold of more and more evangelical seminaries as professors have taught the “doctrines of grace.” Almost 10 years ago, even Time Magazine took notice.

One of the anecdotal results of this has been the rise of the sometimes-tongue-in-cheek identification and designation of a “Cage Stage Calvinist.” This is supposedly the phenomenon of a believer who has come to grips for the first time with the ideas of human depravity, God’s sovereign choice, and Christ’s atoning work for his people. Enamored with these new-found discoveries, and arrayed in his favorite Depraved Wretch t-shirt, he proceeds to badger every poor believer he encounters to proselytize them into affirming these once-hidden, now-obvious truths. And since his understanding is not nuanced at all, he comes across like a sledgehammer. Older, wiser Calvinists roll their eyes and quietly wish they could assign him to a cage for a couple years until he settles down.depraved

There is something that happens during this learning process that excites the mind and causes one to want to share this knowledge with others. What is it?

I was Reformed before Reformed was cool, and I don’t recall any cage stage in my life. But I do remember the growth in knowledge as I studied the Scriptures in my journey toward the doctrines of grace.  Over the years I’ve come to realize in a meta-cognitive way what these truths have meant to my understanding. My theology was deepened in 3 significant ways.

God

 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

Perhaps most foundational to my thinking was the emphasis on God being God. I suppose to some degree I related to God as if he and I were in some sort of partnership in my life and salvation. Encountering God as sovereign lifted my understanding of him to heights previously unknown. “Let God be God” has become my mantra as I promote the doctrines of grace.

Myself

 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10-11

When one realizes the radical nature of sin that has affected everyone, there’s no room for pride and ability – ever. Where my testimony might have once hinged on “my decision” to follow Jesus, it now glorifies the God who saved me not only when I couldn’t save myself but when I couldn’t even know I needed saving, and wouldn’t want it if I did.

Grace and Christ’s work on the cross

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

I memorized that verse as a child, long before embracing the doctrines of grace. But “it is the gift of God” took on a much deeper meaning as I realized that I was incapable of generating my own faith apart from his definitive work for me as a chosen child of God. If there is to be any salvation for me, it must be because of his gracious gift.

Obviously, these are things to get excited about. And when one’s doctrine causes a deeper understanding and appreciation of these truths, it’s bound to result in some enthusiastic bubbling over. So, forgive the Cage Stage Calvinist; just hand him a Charles Spurgeon bobblehead and tell him to sit in the corner. He’ll calm down after a while.

An open letter to a skeptic friend who once professed belief…

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Dear Z___,

It was good seeing you the other day and nice to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. I’d still like for Carolyn and me to get together with you and Y___.

Understandably, it saddened me to hear that you no longer profess faith in Christ and that you believe the biblical account to be fable – a “good fable, but a fable.” You now claim to believe that there is no God. You attribute this to your treatment by X___, saying that if that’s how Christians act, then you want nothing more to do with it.

I certainly understand the hurt you feel and the sense of betrayal you experienced. It’s difficult to have given of yourself for so long in that situation only to have your character called into question and to be accused of things you deny. I can’t speak to the validity of the claims, but the fact is, you’ve had real feelings of being treated wrongly, and you say this has led you to abandon the faith you once affirmed.

If I may, I’d like to speak to your abandonment of the faith.

Do you realize that you’ve engaged in a massive argument of circularity in declaring that the Bible and the story of Jesus is a fable and not in the least true?

You claim that if the behavior of X___ is indicative of Christianity, then this invalidates the truth of Christianity. The circularity comes because you need God, whom you now deny, to make this argument. You have invoked a “God-standard” (how Christians ought to act), observed a Christian who does not act according to that standard, and inferred from that that the standard is thus, not true.

Let’s approach this a different way. If you claim that God does not exist and the Bible is not true, then it logically proceeds that you have no basis to judge behavior; you have no foundation to call any of X‘s (or anyone else’s) actions wrong or unjust. In fact, there would be no reason for him not to treat you that way or worse.

“But,” you say, “I’m only calling into question his behavior because it is inconsistent with how he claims to live and the standards of the faith that he affirms.” Fair enough.

You professed faith in Christ and attended church long enough to know that no Christian claims to be perfect in this life. In fact, the claims of Christianity assert that only one Person ever lived in perfection – Jesus Christ. Even the redeemed people of God continue to commit sins and live lives inconsistent with commands of Scripture.

Furthermore, your treatment at the hands of X___ pales in comparison with the actions of many Christians in the course of history. Sometimes professing Christians have done far worse. Sometimes in the name of Christ great atrocities have been committed.

You, as well, when you were professing faith in Christ, never claimed to be perfect. You understood yourself to be forgiven and a work in progress who was not yet perfect. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it may own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own,” Paul says (Philippians 3:12). You once affirmed this of yourself.

You know all this. The difference is that now, it is personal. It was how you personally were treated by a believer. And this has led you, so you say, to abandon the faith you once claimed.

Whenever unbelievers experience the transformative power of the gospel, their lives are changed. But the changes are never complete until we reach heaven. There will always be a degree of disconnect between faith claims and real life.

The fact is, the behavior of believers can either enhance or belie the faith they claim, but their actions can never ultimately determine the objective truth or falsity of the faith. You yourself once lived with the inconsistency of X’s life, my life, and even your own life to affirm the truth of Christianity. How could further inconsistency now erode that truth?

I’d urge you to be honest in your skepticism. X‘s actions can be inconsistent with the faith he professes, but they do not have the power to invalidate the objective truth of Christianity. So, what is the real reason behind your abandonment?

I pray for you, that you return to Christ in repentance and faith. I pray that you will be able to get past your mistreatment that has blinded you, and that you will come again to a place of faith and trust in Christ, who is our only hope and Savior.

With love,

Mark