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The Journal Gazette

  • Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette Andy Stanley talks about organizational cultures that help develop uniquely better products or processes during the Global Leadership Summit, broadcast locally at Memorial Coliseum Aug. 10-11.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Lisa Green 

Saturday, August 26, 2017 6:00 pm

Getting to unique is a strategic process, summit speaker says

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Perform an autopsy on your successes. You might learn to avoid failure.

If you don't know why something is working when it's working, it will be more difficult to fix it when it breaks.

Those insights – gleaned during 20 years in leadership – are part of what author and pastor Andy Stanley shared during this year’s two-day Global Leadership Summit, hosted by Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago.

More than 4,200 attended the satellite Fort Wayne site at Memorial Coliseum to hear from a range of speakers, ranging from corporate executives to non-profit leaders.

Stanley founded North Point Ministries more than 20 years ago. Today, it consists of six Atlanta area churches and a network of 30 churches globally, serving nearly 70,000 people weekly.

“Uniquely Better” was the topic for Stanley’s summit talk.

Being unique isn’t easy, he said, because “somebody somewhere is messing with the prevailing model,” always hoping to pioneer new approaches.

The best hope is to create organizational cultures “designed to recognize rather than to resist uniquely better,” said Stanley, who was recently named one of the “Top 10 Most Influential Pastors in America” by Outreach Magazine.

Strategies to shift the culture include:

- Be a student, not a critic. Stanley said he learned to never criticize something he doesn’t understand.

"We naturally resist things that we don't understand or that we can't control,” he said. “The moment you start criticizing you stop learning, and the moment you stop leaning, you stop leading."

- Keep your eyes and mind “wide open.” Embrace the thoughts of others. Outsiders aren’t bound by assumptions; their “ignorance may be the ticket to the next best thing.”

Stanley also offered three key questions to assess culture:

- How do you respond to staff when they make suggestions based on what they've observed in other organizations?

- When is the last time your organization embraced a big idea that wasn't your idea?

- When is the last time you weren't sure about an initiative, but gave the go ahead anyway?

When leaders say “wow” to ideas from staff, rather than “how,” they can help ensure the creative juices keep flowing. You lose nothing by saying “wow,” Stanley said, but you may lose the next generation idea by saying “how,” which suggests a skepticism and could deter staff from sharing other brainstorms.

Leaders should “recognize rather than resist,” Stanley said. “Nothing is gained by not knowing what your people are dreaming about."

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears as a column in The Journal Gazette's Sunday Business section.