CoachQuick question:  What do Tiger Woods, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Rafael Nadal all have in common?

Quick answer: Other than being in the top tier of their games, they all have a coach. Back in the day, it was often said, “Even Michael Jordan has a coach.”

How about you?  Do you need a coach? Do you have one?

The short answers are yes, and yes.  Everybody needs coaches and you have them, whether you realize it or not. You may not be utilizing your coaches to their maximum potential, but you’re most likely following somebody’s guidance. And in just a minute I’ll show you how to recognize who you turn to for coaching, at least on an informal level.

But first, a word from the Lone Ranger… [click to continue…]


list 3Recently I was on the campus of a school where I teach as an adjunct professor. I was walking through the student center and saw this – a massive list of that university’s graduates for this year.

It was really gratifying to see the names of people I recognized.  To a random stranger these were just 470 some-odd names on a really big page. To me they were much more.

The List wasn’t able to capture the sleepless hours, the frustrations and insecurities, and the enormous energy invested.  And that’s just the professors! (Just kidding.)

It couldn’t detail the hours of work, the sacrifices and support of families, or the poignant life stories behind each of those names. Behind every name is a story worth telling and a future worth finding. (That, friends, is why they call it “commencement” when people graduate.)

My joy was in knowing I had planted some things in some of those students and they had nourished it to a point of fruitfulness.  And what was I doing when they were celebrating this big accomplishment?

Planting some more in a future crop of leaders. And grateful for the privilege.

There are lessons in The List. For you. For me… [click to continue…]

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Exhausted AthleteHey.

I’m gonna make this quick.  Not because it’s not important, but because this is just a time-out, not halftime.  I have to make a mad dash to the bank (more on that later),  and you have to hurry up and do whatever it is you do when you’re in a hurry or somebody’s hurrying you.

Look.  I know you’re tired.  I know you’re facing a little resistance.

Okay, a lot of resistance.

I know that things are taking longer than you anticipated

I understand that you’ve had some disappointments or setbacks.

I realize that light you saw at the end of the tunnel hasn’t gotten any bigger lately.

I get it.

But you’re not gonna quit.  You’re not gonna give up.  You’re going to see this through.  Know how I know?  Three reasons. [click to continue…]

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Enjoy the video, then let’s visit.

In a perfect world motivation by leaders would be unnecessary.  Everybody would carry their own motivational weight, and the leaders would become traffic cops.

In an almost-perfect world, motivation would be the stuff of crock pots.  Slow.  Simmering. Relational.  A view toward the long haul.

But there come those times when you as a leader (and everybody leads somebody) don’t have the luxury of icebreakers, quiet talks by the seashore, or weekend group retreats laden with teambuilding exercises.  You need action.  Now!

Nothing can create a sense of desperation faster than staring at a date with destiny with an unprepared or unmotivated team or organization.  Nothing can make you throw a shoe or howl at the moon quicker than a group of constituents that just don’t seem to get it.  Pick your metaphor – the ship’s going down, the iron is hot, the Egyptians are coming, the boat’s leaving the dock – when the people we lead have to take massive action quickly, this is no time for a support group or a policy discussion.

Guess what?  Somebody in the Bible totally got it.  [click to continue…]


Quick Question:  What do the people you lead (and you do lead somebody) do when trouble shows up?

Quick Answer:  They do what you lead them to do.

More Thoughtful Question:  Do the people you lead (and you do lead somebody) run for the hills or cower in fear at the first sign of trouble, or do they courageously rise up to the challenge?

More Thoughtful Answer:  They do what you lead them to do.  Not necessarily what tell them to do or manipulate them to do.  What you lead them to do.

That reminds me of a story.  True story.  About a guy named Eli.  Now Eli was a soldier, and being a soldier, he had a Commander-in-Chief.  And the reason Eli’s Commander-in-Chief was the Commander-in-Chief was because he was the biggest dude in all the land.

You know what the problem is with making the biggest dude in all the land the Commander-in-Chief?  Sooner or later he’s gonna run into a bigger dude.  And that’s what happened.  Eli’s boss went quaking in his boots to the rear of the line because he was staring down the barrel of an overwhelming challenge.

So you know what Eli did?  He quaked in his boots too.  I’m talking, Give up now.  Better fled than dead.

One day later – one day! – that’s Eli with his shield up, his sword drawn, charging headlong into the enemy’s camp and taking no prisoners.  What made the difference? [click to continue…]


(From the forthcoming book, Coach Lightning)

Mention Morris Brown’s name around Jones County, Mississippi to anybody who knew him, and they’ll probably reply, “Oh, you mean Coach?”  Not much chance of somebody piping up and saying, “He was my Social Studies teacher!”

But don’t let the labels fool you.  Coach was always a teacher at heart.  And while a football field or basketball court may have been his favorite classrooms, they certainly weren’t his only ones.  There were precious few, if any, specialists in rural education in the 1950s.  But that was fine with Coach Brown.  He willingly embraced teachable moments wherever the situation called for it.

Just ask Dale Holifield, who grew up on a small farm in Jones County.  At age 11, Dale was so shy he could have been considered antisocial.  Outside of farming, he participated in very few activities.  Even when he went hunting and fishing, he usually did it alone.  All of that changed one summer day at the W. C. Houston grocery store, across from Shady Grove School.  Dale was getting a cold RC cola to drink and chatting with Bubba Houston, the store owner’s son.  The time came for Bubba to go to baseball practice, and he invited Dale to come along.  Dale reluctantly accepted, and joined Bubba at the small practice field behind Bubba’s house.  Hoping not to be noticed, Dale took a seat on the ground under a shade tree to watch the practice.

He didn’t sit very long. [click to continue…]

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The boys of summer are back.  You’ll find them hanging out in Florida and Arizona ballparks, getting those winter cobwebs cleared out, and setting out to prove they’re worth all that money (or should be paid all that money). 

But while it still has to be worked out on the field, and the first word to start the proceedings is still, “Play,” make no mistake about it.  The 2010 version of this game got started as soon as Mark Teixeira caught the last out of the ’09 World Series.  And it was all business.  That game is played by General Managers on telephones and at conference hotels and in corporate offices throughout North America and, in some cases, in island Caribbean nations or the Pacific Rim.

They were about the business of building a team.  And not just for 2010.

Your payroll may be slightly less and your personnel decision may not involve as many people.  But wherever you connect with others to get things done, you or somebody is building a team.  And the decisions you make today can affect the quality of your team(s) for years to come.

Just ask Bobby Cox, who is retiring this year after 50 years in the game.  Cox has the distinction of hiring his own boss as the GM of the Atlanta Braves and “demoting” himself back to the field manager in 1991.  Between him and John Schuerholz, the Braves reeled off 14 consecutive division titles – a feat unmatched in professional sports anywhere.

So what can we learn from the likes of Cox/Schuerholz, or the New York Yankees, who won their 27th World Series title last year? [click to continue…]

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JumpOK, so there’s this guy who’s asking his brother-in-law for a major favor.  This isn’t like lending a wheelbarrow or babysitting the kids for a weekend.  This order’s pretty tall.  As in,

Could you leave your family?

Oh, and your country, too?

And help me babysit my family of three million?

Hey, what’s a family for?

And get this – all indications are that that the brother-in-law did it. 

Curious yet?  I sure would be, for several reasons: [click to continue…]


(A spiritual leadership fable.)

Hi, I’m Josh.  Pleased to meet you.

Hi, Josh.  I’m Andy.  So tell me about yourself.

I’m a poker.

A what?

A poker.

You mean, like a poker player?

No.  I mean, like a poker in your fireplace.

You’re a poker?

Yep.  Poker.

Okay, I’m steppin’ out a little here, Josh.  What does a poker do?


(Should’ve seen that coming.)  Okaaay.  Pokes what?

I poke people.



You just walk up to them and poke them with your finger?

Naw, not like that.  That’s creepy.

Ya think?

I do for people what a poker does for your fireplace. [click to continue…]


Leading Broken People

by Andy Wood on September 8, 2008

in Esteem, Leadership, Life Currency, Love, Words

A couple of weeks ago David Hayward, a pastor and gifted artist/cartoonist, posted this picture on his blog site, in a post titled “How I’m feeling about the church lately.”

(Used by permission)

(Used by permission)

I can relate.  For more than 30 years, it has been my privilege, my headache, my joy, and my nightmare to work with broken people or broken churches.  Prior to launching Turning Point Community Church in 2003, three of the four churches where I was senior pastor had experienced major divisions, open conflicts, forced termination of my predecessor, or some other kind of grief or pain.  Some had lived with the crud for so long, they’d arrived at the conclusion that this was somehow supposed to be normal.  “I’m sure it’s like this everywhere,” they’d intone.  “Oh, no it isn’t!” I’d scream inside, all the while smiling on the outside.

The brokenness isn’t limited to the organization.  David’s cartoon reminded me of something we used to proclaim loudly here.  Underneath the doorway leading into our rented facility, our church used to hang a banner that represented a passion and sense of calling for us.  Every Sunday, every worshipper at Turning Point walked under its message:

A Place to Begin Again.

I roughly estimated that for a long season, 80 percent of the people who arrived at Turning Point for the first time came here to heal.  Some came from broken marriages; others from broken lives of addictions or economic messes.  Many came bleeding from the most insidious wound of all – the church wound. [click to continue…]