HGL Book Review, by Greg Wiens
Rework  by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson goodreads

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is probably not at the top of your reading lists if it is on it at all. After reading this little gut-puncher of a book, may I suggest that it should be. If you want to understand the mentality of the young adults in your congregation, if you want to find out what motivates entrepreneurs, or if you simply want lead a dynamic and flexible organization—which will be the key to growing a healthy business over the next decade—then you should read Rework. As our culture continues to change rapidly around us, what we learn to use today, will have a very short shelf life.


Rework author Jason Fried is also the founder of the web design company, 37Signals. Co-author and business partner, David Heinemeier Hansson built success by listening to customers, speaking plainly and – here’s the revolutionary part—sticking to their word. To get an idea of their mindset, here are a few of 37Signals guiding principles:

Useful is forever: Bells and whistles wear off, but usefulness never does. We build useful software that does just what you need and nothing you don’t.

Clarity is king: Buzzwords, lingo, and sensationalized sales-and-marketing-speak have no place at 37signals. We communicate clearly and honestly.

Long-term contracts are obscene: No one likes being locked into something they don’t want anymore. Our customers can cancel at any time, no questions asked. No setup/termination fees either.

I work with a lot of organizations that espouse lofty values that they do not actually carry out. Fried and Hansson saw this same scenario played out across the marketplace and decided that they were going to do things differently. Rework is not about the values themselves, but about creating a leadership culture that upholds the values. Many principles shared in the book fly directly in the face of what is taught in MBA programs and management courses.

The book covers about 70 subjects including Progress, Productivity, Competitors, Hiring, Damage Control, and Culture. No more than three pages are dedicated to each subject, and the writing is pithy and humorous. The language is surely not redeemed, but their insight is. I found myself laughing and crying as they expose so many truths about the business management world that were contrary to what I had previously believed.


When reading the book you must intentionally suspend any preconceived notions you have based on what you have been taught or experienced in business. As I let this book inform what I learned in my MBA and leadership study, it felt like the ground under me was shaking. Fried and Hansson are quick to support their “heretical” leadership positions with research or real-life proof, but they can still be hard to accept. Upon contemplation and application, however, I began to feel liberated from much of the rigid, arbitrary principles that govern the organizations I have led.

Take, for instance, the standing meeting. Almost every company has one: the weekly staff meeting, the monthly management meeting, you name it. Fried and Hansson say that you should cancel every standing meeting on your calendar, and only schedule meetings to deal with a specific problem or need, and only invite the parties relevant to that need. I decided to take their advice and cancel our staff meetings, which had been a struggle for years: Someone always felt left out, bored or otherwise unproductive. I had never admitted to myself or others that the meetings were ineffective, but in my gut, I felt it.

Life without the weekly staff meetings has been wonderful. We still have meetings, but they are on an ad hoc basis, and only the people who need to know are in attendance. Even when we just need to catch up, I will call everyone into the conference room for 15 minutes or so for some connection time. This method is so much more efficient and freeing, but is so contrary to current business practices.


Here are some more of the principles outlined in Rework that challenge the status quo.

  • Failure doesn’t teach you how to succeed. It only teaches you how to fail. Success teaches you how to succeed.
  • Build what you need, not what you think others want.
  • If you want it bad enough, you will make time for it regardless of how busy you are.
  • Make everything as simple as you can. Don’t add too many details. Details can be added later if they are needed (and often they won’t be).
  • Shorter is better. (The 57,000-word Rework manuscript was reduced to 27,000 words!)
  • Interruption is the enemy of productivity. If you are staying late and working long hours, it isn’t because you have too much to do, it is because you are allowing interruptions to keep your productivity low.
  • Creativity is the first thing to go when you lose sleep.
  • Make small to-do lists, and keep them small.
  • It is much better for people to be happy using someone else’s services or product than being disgruntled using yours.
  • Be happy with obscurity, you can take risks without anyone noticing.
  • Don’t be afraid to show your flaws, no one likes plastic flowers.
  • Here are the questions that you should continue to ask yourself:
    • What are you doing?
    • What problem are you solving?
    • Is it useful?
    • Are you adding value?
    • Will this change behavior?
    • Is there an easier way?
    • What could you be doing instead?
    • Is it really worth it?


As you can see, these principles apply directly to any business, but most importantly, their leadership. If you lead a smaller organization, highlight the advantages of your size instead of trying to act like a big business. There are plenty of others out there who feel much more at home among a smaller setting instead of being just a face in the crowd.

Very few books have made as big a difference in the way I view leadership as Rework. My staff meetings are a thing of the past, my to-do lists are shorter, and I am a much different, hopefully, more effective leader today than I was a year ago when I read this book. Read it and see how it changes you.

Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality

HGL Book Review, by Greg Wiens
Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud goodreads

We all know people of integrity. We know it when we see it, but it’s not so easy to define. In his book Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, Henry Cloud brings a breadth and a depth to the subject that few could. The book is as appropriate for a CEO of a Fortune 100 Company as it is for a small group in a local church. Cloud thoughtfully examines integrity and how to develop it.

In the book, Cloud identifies six abilities that create integrity. People with integrity have the ability to:

  1. Connect authentically (leads to trust)
  2. Be oriented toward the truth (leads to finding and operating in reality)
  3. Get results and finish well (leads to reaching goals, profits, or the mission)
  4. Embrace and deal with the negative (leads to ending, resolving, or transforming problems)
  5. Be oriented toward growth (which leads to increase)
  6. Be transcendent (which leads to enlargement of the bigger picture and oneself)

Cloud helps navigate the difficult waters of personality differences as he analyzes integrity. Some leaders are not naturally people-oriented and they resort to bullying their people to accomplish tasks. Other leaders are so people-oriented that they never get anything done, but everyone loves them!  Leaders today typically capitalize on their strengths while ignoring their weaknesses. Although building on your strengths is important, leaders should realize that some perceived weaknesses are often contributors to integrity.

Behaviors like follow-through (the third ability listed above) are sometimes identified as a weakness. Cloud appropriately identifies the difference between weakness and a lack of integrity. Each leader will work more on certain areas of integrity than others, but all six must be developed.  If a person never follows through to complete their goals (#3), this is an issue of integrity, not simply a weakness. The same can be said of denying reality, which some would call faith (#2). You surely must have faith (#6), but if it keeps you from seeing the truth it is not integrity.

Cloud helpfully illustrates how each of these components must work in concert with each other. Integrity can only be called integrity when all six of these abilities are integrated into one whole. This cannot be done mechanistically, but rather dynamically.  Most older leaders have had to learn the consequences of failing to effectively develop in the leadership role. We all know someone who has been “dethroned” because they failed to develop in one or more of the six areas outlined in the book.

This book has the potential to accelerate the development of a leader’s integrity by identifying which areas he or she lacks. The book allows for an intentional process rather than a random approach to developing integrity in our lives.

What This Book Means To Me

I find this book so refreshing because Cloud’s words challenge me, both personally and professionally. He leaves no part of my life untouched. I first read the book several years ago. I took my team through the book and we spoke into each other’s lives as we reviewed the chapters. It was one of the most humbling, yet growing experiences that I have encountered in team development.

In rereading it for this review I was reminded of the power of the principles to transform a mediocre leader into a truly impactful one simply by building integrity into their life. I was also reminded of my need to go through it again with some trusted friends. I recommend doing so for yourself and with those around you.

A Failure of Nerve

HGL Book Review, by Greg Wiens
A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix  by Edwin H. Friedman, Edward W. Beal (Editor), Margaret M. Treadwell (Editor) goodreads

There are few books that literally change the way I view my whole life outside of the Bible, but I have just read one: A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman. Maybe it’s the content, maybe it’s the time in my life during which I came across it, or maybe it’s the point that our culture has reached–this book pinpoints why we see anemic leaders throughout our society. Although Friedman died before he could finish writing this book, it is complete enough to challenge much about what you believe about yourself, your family, and the organization you call “work.”

Friedman’s background allowed him to write the book toward the end of his rich, full life of working with all types of people from the President of our nation, to congressmen, to Fortune 100 company presidents, to pastors and rabbis as well as parents and children. His work taught him that if you can’t have a healthy relationship in the home you are not going to have them in the church or on the job. We are all called to be leaders in our homes, our churches and in our society. He believes that it is the same principles at work in one venue as another. This flies in the face of current beliefs and is especially relevant today as leader after a respected leader allows personal immorality to cloud professional credibility.

Additionally, in our current culture (and most homes) a system has developed which inhibits good leadership and will literally rebel against a good leader should she or he decide to step up and drive change. Only truly self-differentiated leaders will be able to lead in these emotionally regressive cultures, and even then, some have a failure of nerve and pull back.

Friedman was a student of history. He saw many parallels in our current leadership culture to those faced in the Dark Ages. He posits that the type of leadership needed to bring us through our anxiety-ridden and leadership fearing current culture was exactly the same leadership needed to bring the world out of the Dark Ages. He sees many similarities between the emotional anxiety that kept the world in the dark and what is keeping our world from making progress toward health.

At the time of his death, Friedman identified an emotional cultural trend in which leadership becomes more and more anxious and afraid to attempt what is necessary to improve the health of the nation. For instance, we are more concerned about showing empathy to emotionally dysfunctional people than we are to helping them improve their pathology. We, therefore, refuse to require responsibility of people. We dumb down our organizations to accommodate the lowest common denominator or the most dysfunctional person.

If someone desires to lead in a healthy manner they will often find followers sabotaging them in a manner that emasculates the leader. This is where the title of the book originates; under this pressure, most leaders suffer “a failure of nerve” and capitulate to the sickest member of the organization due to fear. There are real fears of lawsuits, lack of promotions or accusations of being insensitive, arrogant or simply uncaring. Friedman admits that to lead as needed today, one will not be politically correct. So, if a leader’s desire is to have a sick society applaud his or her efforts, they will never be able to lead effectively.

Friedman’s historical analysis shows that this current condition is very similar to the culture that Columbus faced during the late 15th Century. At that time, the Greeks had known the earth was round for more than 2,000 years, but leaders were still unwilling to stake their fortunes and very lives on it for fear of persecution and ridicule. It was Columbus who was willing to be called a fool and sail in the face of the contrary opinion. Had Columbus (among others) not been willing to demonstrate self-regulated leadership, Friedman was convinced that the Dark Ages would have continued for potentially centuries longer.

Friedman elaborates upon five characteristics that Columbus and other world explorers possessed that led to an entirely new civilization in the New World. What we inherited here in America as far as our view of leadership is a direct result of the foundation laid by those explorers starting with Columbus and continuing on through the establishment of our nation, as we know it today. It is these same five factors that must be demonstrated by leaders in any socio-emotional system that needs a renaissance.

The five characteristics are:

1. A capacity to get outside the emotional climate of the day.

There is so much written today about vision. But for Friedman, vision is not a cerebral exercise. The ability to see things that don’t exist now generally is an emotional phenomenon. It requires you to be emotionally free enough to not conform to existing patterns of knowing and relating and breaking free of others’ expectations. It is knowing where you as a leader begin and end and knowing the same with everyone else in your life. This is emotional, not cognitive! Very few leaders have the emotional resilience to get outside of their current climate.

2. A willingness to be exposed and vulnerable.

As long as a leader is afraid of criticism or failing in front of others they will never be able to lead others out a state of anxiety. When a leader must take total responsibility for their own response to their environment they are very exposed. There must not be a fear of standing where no one else will stand with them; this is where true leadership begins. So many leaders will lead until they are left exposed and alone, and then they have a failure of nerve.

3. Persistence in the face of resistance and downright rejection.

To lead in a new direction (out of the state of anxious culture) requires the kind of drive and motivation that appears to others to be out of balance. In this usage, “balance” is an epithet for the unwillingness to take the risk of stopping the emotional entropy that keeps the culture slipping into the quicksand of anxiety.

As Friedman states

…no one has gone from slavery to freedom with the slaveholders cheering them on, nor contributed significantly to the evolution of our species by working a 40-hour week, nor achieved any significant accomplishment by taking refuge in cynicism.” The resistance not only comes from the outside, it often comes from inside the leader as thoughts like “How can you have it right and everyone else be crazy?

4. Stamina in the face of sabotage along the way.

The key here is that there will be saboteurs who seek to undermine the efforts of the leader. Most leaders are aware and prepared for this. However, often this becomes an impediment when those who start out on the same team with the same passion and ownership of the vision as the leader eventually lose their nerve and mutiny. For every 10 leaders that can handle sabotage from enemies, only one will survive the sabotage of a friend or teammate without experiencing a failure of nerve.

5. Being headstrong and ruthless at least in the eyes of others.

Each of the explorers in the new world did not allow their relationships get in the way of the vision to which they were consumed. Friedman points out that these leaders did not manipulate or use others, but they were very clear in the priority in vision over relationship. In other words, when forced to choose between maintaining a relationship or completing the vision, each explorer stayed with his or her goals. They didn’t rationalize not accomplishing their goals for the sake of “team-building” or “not leaving anyone behind.”

Friedman gives an example from the life of Columbus, which personifies all five of these qualities. On the way to the Canaries, the Pinta’s rudder broke and the crew struggled to fix it. After waiting several days, Columbus felt that this whole incident was an attempt to sabotage his efforts. He sensed his colleagues’ will waning. He finally signaled that he was going on to the Canaries by himself and would wait for them there. He was prepared to go on alone, yet two days later, the Pinta arrived. Columbus was so focused on his goal that whether or not the ships could make a return trip was an afterthought. The objective was reaching his destination, no matter what.

Leadership is never easy and it is never finished. It is like a muscle that requires continual exercise to remain strong. My hope is to see more leaders who are willing to develop, maintain, and use this kind of strength to improve themselves and their organizations.

Rock RMS RX2018

We’re excited to be a part of the Rock Experience 2018! 


Our unique approach to developing assessment instruments comes from years of experience with thousands of individuals and organizations.

There are no cookie cutters in use here! We are tenacious in our approach to create assessments that fit the well-differentiated, yet unique attributes you bring to your role. We look at a variety of factors before recommending a battery of instruments to measure the indicators required.

TrueWiring©We created five psychometrically valid and reliable assessment instruments to paint a robust image of your unique wiring. This suite of instruments is interrelated and when properly reviewed provides incredible insight into your unique TrueWiring©.

DISC—An assessment of your behavioral needs as identified in four Scales: Direct, Influence, Stable, and Careful.  These four factors dramatically influence the way you will act in the context of a team to accomplish a task.

Spiritual Gifts (SG)—An assessment of your unique abilities given to you by the Holy Spirit at conversion for expanding the Kingdom by building up the Body of Christ.

Emotional Intelligence Inventory (EI2)—An assessment of your developed skills in two domains: understanding your own emotions and those of others. This instrument identifies your ability to appropriately express your emotions while encouraging others to do the same.

Conflict Profile (CP)—An assessment of your learned skills in dealing with conflict. Jesus approached conflict in a variety of ways and so must we. This instrument identifies your preferred and supporting methods for addressing conflict.

Motivators Inventory (MI)—An assessment of the internal drivers which cause you to value one way of viewing conditions over another. Motivators dramatically influence the way you construe a situation and therefore will influence how you see your options in any context.

We are all uniquely wired. Each of these lenses significantly impacts the other. No one lens is sufficient in understanding how we are “fearfully and wonderfully” made.

Take a look at more details at our site dedicated to TrueWiring©

Creative Assessment Architects

Our unique approach to developing assessment instruments comes from years of experience with thousands of individuals and organizations.

There are no cookie cutters in use here! We are tenacious in our approach to create assessments that fit the well-differentiated, yet unique attributes you bring to your role. We look at a variety of factors before recommending a battery of instruments to measure the indicators required.  We offer packages comprised of different instruments.

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

Intentional reflection is helpful for individuals or groups to change. Through the use of our tools and methods, both strengths and weaknesses are exposed in an effort to guide you to your desired outcome. This catalytic process can be difficult but is always insightful. The effort allows individuals to understand their unique hard wiring but also identifies how their software augments their strengths and corresponding weaknesses. We all have individual profiles which position us to fulfill our calling. In assessing individuals we help find that place where their wiring matches the role. The insight results in recommendations for focused improvement.

Improve Your Team’s Productivity

Teams require people in a variety of positions doing their part at the right time and in the right place. Our assessment process is designed to help you evaluate your team’s composition at any given time. Our football metaphor is appropriate here: you wouldn’t want a team full of quarterbacks any more than twenty-two defensive ends. Each position has its need for corresponding attributes. Our outside perspective helps you determine where changes will produce a significant impact. As you implement these changes, the synergistic effect can be exponential.

Increase Impact

When you are able to see the strategies above begin to take shape, we are confident you will see a significant increase in impact on your team and in your sector. This might occur naturally if your team leaders have excellent discernment and are able to maintain fluid objectivity. Our experience suggests this is often too much to ask while you’re delivering goods and services.

We are called to serve organizations like yours as creative assessment architects who help you catalyze your strengths and weaknesses, improve your team’s synergy, and increase impact.

Rocky Mountain Church Network

Thanks for letting me address your group today. It’s my sincere desire to serve you as you work through challenges in creating, refining, and shaping your ministry teams, both paid staff, and volunteer leaders.

We covered these topics during my talk:

  • What are the top mistakes most often made in hiring?
  • Why teams break down?
  • How to use assessments effectively?
  • When and what assessments are best?
  • How do you let staff go with grace?

Click here for the notes:

Notes for the Rocky Mountain Group

Contact Us!

Please let me know how we can serve you further through this contact form or email us directly at

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Assessment Approach

We Don’t Just Ask: “What Are You Good At?”  We Ask: “What Are You Doing?”

Will he be a good football player? That question is impossible to answer until we know if he will be a quarterback or a defensive lineman. This is why HGL always assesses toward a target.

Our assessment approach is characterized by:

  • Awareness of what’s happening in certain areas, such as behavior, motivation, skills, etc.
  • Insight into who you are and how you operate.
  • Assessing to Discover Direction

Every leader has a venue for their leadership to extend the Kingdom. It is simply understanding how you are uniquely created and then being willing to work on the knowledge and skills to capitalize upon the way we were wonderfully and fearfully made.

HGL uses different assessments individually and in combination to help leaders gain understanding:

  • Behavior Styles (DISC)
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Competency Report (16 PF)
  • Values & Motivators
  • Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Awareness (TKA)

Beyond the individual instruments, we provide a debrief session and a written report for each person being assessed.

Live By Listening

I do much of my coaching in my home office where my wife occasionally overhears my coaching conversations. She has learned to tell the difference between the levels of listening I use with clients. Like all of us, she wants me to really listen to her. She’s learned to know the difference and is no longer content when I am not listening deeply enough. If I don’t listen or jump to solutions too quickly, she gets frustrated and wonders why I can’t treat her like I do my clients. And if I apply listening skills that are too deep, she will tell me, “Don’t coach me, Dave.”

One of the best explanations of listening skills that I have encountered in my Coaching practice is the book Co-Active Coaching by Kimsey-House. Over the past year, the HGL coaches have been reading and discussing the key elements of coaching addressed in the book. I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned about listening:

Basic Listening

Listening at the most basic level, Level 1, is hearing through the filter of the listener’s own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. As they listen, the listener is preparing their response in a way that conveys how what they hear means to them, sometimes with a story of their own experience or a quick solution based upon that experience.

At this level, we hear what we want to hear and can often misjudge the speaker’s intent. This is the level where most people listen. We can all relate to conversations with our spouse or others we know well which have led to misunderstanding or an accusation of “Why don’t you listen to me?”  At this level, the speaker can feel frustrated and disconnected with the listener.

Speaker-Focused Listening

Level 2 listening is much more focused on the speaker, and the listener suspends his or her own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. The listener is not only hearing the words, but also the tone, pace, and feelings expressed. This type of listening generates empathy and collaboration.

Questions are asked by the listener to deepen awareness and connection with the speaker. Active listening techniques are used such as: paraphrase/telling back with statements like: “What I heard you say was …” and checking perceptions and reflecting back with statements like: “It sounds like you’re feeling …”.  At this level people feel really listened to and emotionally connected to the listener.

Intuitive Listening

Level 3 listening is using your intuition to discern more than the information gained through your senses. This is a level of listening that captures an awareness of the entire environment of the speaker, beyond just the words, tone, pace or even the feeling being expressed. It includes the energy that is being expressed and leverages intuition to combine information received through the listener’s senses. Through powerful questions, such as “What’s really important to you?” or “What’s motivating you?” the listener can tap into this deepest level of listening.

Coaches endeavor to spend their coaching time engaged in Level 2 and Level 3 listening. It’s on these levels where transformation can occur. When people feel really listened to, they see themselves more objectively and are able to step outside of themselves and the situation they are in to achieve breakthroughs in challenges they are facing.

In relationships that really matter, such as spouses, friends, clients, and significant others, listening skills can make or break the relationship.

Some people love coaching because it’s the only time they feel someone really listens to them. Do you have someone listening to you? Are you listening to others?

Post contributed by Dave Vogelpohl, HGL Coaching Catalyst.

Basic Training

Last week in our staff meeting, Rachel called attention to the marker board. John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” were on there. I had used them in a teaching session I did that past week with our Young Adult ministry leader. About half of the group said they had never seen it before. I was stunned. I walked up to the board and proceeded to teach them through those basic principles. About 15 minutes into it, my tech guy says, “Gosh, I wish I was taping this!” They were all fully engaged and wonderfully excited. I was amazed that something so basic was so exhilarating for them. It’s a common leadership oversight.

The “curse of knowledge” is the illusion that things that are so familiar to us are familiar to everyone. I’ve taught the Levels of Leadership concept dozens of times. I refer to it often in conversations with leaders. I’ve taught it to my staff. Just not THIS staff! As I reflected on this experience, I realized there are some things that are too important to NOT teach. There are some concepts, ideas or training EVERY team needs to have. It’s basic training stuff. And it’s sometimes the stuff that we’re so familiar with we don’t realize they don’t really know it! Here are a few key pieces I don’t think we can leave to chance:

Leadership 101 – When’s the last time your team went through the Levels of Leadership? When’s the last time you covered basic concepts such as Taking Responsibility, Recruiting, Delegating, or Working By Priority rather than urgency? It’s stuff many of us do now by habit, but I’ll bet some of your team doesn’t!

Emotional Intelligence – If you’re a leader who is a high “I” on the DISC then relationships come easy for you. But what about your team? When is the last time you taught them skills like “Emotional Responding” or “Active Listening” or “The Power of Appreciation?” My guess is most of your organizational problems are relational in nature, yet we often forget to equip our team to manage those relationships.

Teamwork – We expect our crew to work together as a team, but we forget to tell them what that looks like. When’s the last time your group reviewed “The Five Dysfunctions of A Team” or talked openly about how things are going among you as a group? Sometimes we get stuck because we slip into dysfunctional ways of operating, and we don’t even realize it.

Vision – Vision leaks. Every good leader knows that. But even good leaders sometimes forget that it leaks faster the further down the ladder you go! When’s the last time you reviewed your vision in detail and asked each department to share how they were doing with fulfilling the vision by citing specific examples? I’ll bet you’d be surprised how some are doing. Or not doing!

Great leaders don’t forget that EVERYONE needs to know these things…and be REMINDED of them from time to time.

The lesson for me that day was that these are things I can’t leave to chance. It may be Basic Training stuff, but it’s also MISSION CRITICAL stuff! Great leaders don’t forget that EVERYONE needs to know these things…and be REMINDED of them from time to time. Vince Lombardi, the great former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, used to start every season by calling his players together and saying, “Gentlemen, THIS is a football.” For you and your staff, what is your football?