Not “How?” but “Wow!”

By Dick Koehneke

This is the second in a series of four articles on speakers at the August 10-11 Global Leadership Summit organized by the Willow Creek Association, broadcast from Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago.  This one is about Rev. Andy Stanley. 

Andy Stanley founded North Point Ministries in Atlanta more than 20 years ago.  Today, North Point Ministries is comprised of six churches in the Atlanta area and a worldwide network of 30 churches serving nearly 70,000 people every week.  The title of his presentation was “Uniquely Better.” 

Here are some of his comments that struck me as being especially helpful.  [I’ve added my comments in brackets.] 

  • “If you don’t know why something works, you won’t be able to fix it when it breaks.” [And you won’t know how to maintain it at peak performance and keep it from falling apart.]
  • “You may not develop the new ‘uniquely better’ but you can recognize it when you see it.” [Not every good idea has to be my idea. People shouldn’t have to convince me that it’s something I thought of.]
  • “The ‘uniquely better’ can be so unique that established, successful churches cannot believe it’s better.” [Success can be the enemy of innovation and improvement.  Every failure contains the seeds of the next success, someone has said.  It’s also true that every success contains the seeds of the next failure.]
  • “Our hope and duty as leaders is to create organizational cultures that recognize ‘uniquely better’ rather than resist it.” [There is sometimes a tendency to be inappropriately suspicious of other people’s ideas while being completely accepting of one’s own.  I believe it’s Ken Blanchard who said, “Don’t let your ego eat your brains.”]   
  • “Be a student before you are a critic. I will not criticize something I do not understand.  The more you are criticizing, the less you are learning.”  [Hmmm . . . How do you think you might apply those comments to yourself?  I know they apply to me.  It’s fairly easy to criticize something you don’t understand.  It’s also lazy and irresponsible.]
  • “Keep your eyes and your mind wide open. Listen to outsiders.  They are not bound by our assumptions.  Closed-minded leaders close minds.”  [I sometimes like to attend conferences and events that are not LCMS-sponsored (things like the Global Leadership Summit) because I meet different people and hear things said in fresh and challenging ways.  It feels like the windows are being thrown open and fresh air is coming into my lungs.  Not that “our beloved Synod” is stale, of course!] 
  • “Replace ‘How?’ with ‘Wow!’ Don’t HOW ideas to death; WOW them to life!”  [Encourage before you analyze.  If you feel yourself starting to analyze inside your head, encourage the other person some more.  Encouragement generates excitement, and excitement generates creative energy.  There will be plenty of time for analysis later.]

I hope Andy Stanley’s words will be challenging and encouraging to you, as they are to me.