[management by God] interview: nancy ortberg

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

November 1, 2010

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Nancy Orberg’s latest book called unleashing the POWER of rubber bands: lessons in non-linear leadership. It’s a fantastic book that I recommend for anyone that wants to live out God’s will for their life as a leader in the workplace (or in ministry). I’ve also recently had the pleasure of picking Nancy’s brain about the book, and here’s the result of that interview…

mbG: Why did you write unleashing the POWER of rubber bands?

Ortberg: Quite simply because I am passionate about the belief that great leadership transforms both individuals and organizations. And most people (myself included) and most organizations need transformation.

For lack of a better contrast, there is a difference between ‘successful’ leadership and ‘extraordinary’ leadership. I would do anything I could to help more of us fall into the latter category.

I also think there are many things that you can do right now, to create momentum as a leader; and much of that has to do with being collaborative, stretching people, fostering a culture of innovation and living well in tensions.

mbG: In the book not only do you display your storytelling ability, but you also talk about the importance of storytelling. What tips would you give to leaders on how to be an effective storyteller?

Ortberg: Few things are as powerful, as envisioning and as memorable and compelling as the learning that comes through stories. Jesus captured people’s attention, stirred their hearts and created the kind of dissonance that often leads to change, frequently through stories.

He painted pictures for people to hear and to walk away thinking about, creating either a ‘rhetorical crisis’ or an evocative image that caused them to think about God differently and rightly.

I remember being seven years old, in church with my grandmother, and thinking “doesn’t the pastor get it? When he tells stories, you could hear a pin drop in the room. He should do more of that.”

In a sense, stories teach, but they also create space. Rather than directly ‘telling’ (which is also a powerful way to teach), they leave room for people to think, ponder and respond in their own time. That honors the free will that God has given as a gift. It is also a requirement for choice.

How to be an effective storyteller? Listen to people who are. Really pay attention and ask yourself what makes their storytelling so great?

Think through the deep thoughts and deep feelings that the story contains and use them well. Do not try to manipulate with your story, but rather try to be authentic and let the story speak for itself.

Give some of the ‘color and details’ that make the story move from average to unforgettable. What color was the desk, what sound did the car make, what was the weather like. Don’t overdo it, and dilute the point, but make it a story.

Talk about your own vulnerability and brokenness. Don’t just tell stories that make you look good. And talk about how God broke through, that’s where the power is.

mbG: What has God been teaching you lately?

Ortberg: How good he is. More than holy, more than omnipotent, I think I continue to learn that what sits at his center, is his ridiculous goodness. All the other stuff flows from that.

And that time can be one of the most growth-producing elements, if you use it well. How important deep, soul-touching friendships are. And that passion about what you do doesn’t fade as you grow older.

mbG: Where are you headed next?

Ortberg: Well, for a quite literal answer, it’s Sunday morning, and in just a bit, I am headed to church. I love the anticipation I feel on Sunday mornings, to go to church.

In the larger answer, I’d say to continue my call to leadership, change and community. I love the work I do with teams (both in a corporate and a non-profit/church setting) to live at the intersection of work and relationships, and to grow high-performing, cohesive leadership teams that impact the world.

mbG: In your own opinion, why should people read this book?

Ortberg: Here’s my very simple answer…in order to be an extraordinary leader, you will need lots of resources, inspiration and ideas. My hope is that this book will be one of those…

mbG: Mission accomplished! Get the book!

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[management by God] interview: nancy ortberg

by Dan King time to read: 4 min