Focusing on the Focus Question

Sheila was becoming more displeased everyday with her job. It seemed to her that the company she worked for did not care about its employees. Sheila, like several other employees, spent most of her time talking about what was wrong, talking with a few co-workers, her family, friends, anyone who would listen. Most of her talk was complaining. Sheila’s focus was on the symptom of her own displeasure.

Tom, pastor of a medium sized congregation, fretted and talked down the deacons and elders of his church. He would talk to church members (sympathizers), other pastors, but mainly to his wife. They would not get on board, they would not follow and would not let him do what he wanted. Tom’s focus was on symptoms.

Organizational focus as well as our own individual focus is often on symptoms, not the cause, as we have discussed in the two previous posts. One might think changing the focus would then be simple, once this fact is realized. Unfortunately, it is not simple. We are prone to fall back to focusing on symptoms. Therefore, it is important o continually asking the right probing questions to focus on the cause not the symptoms. Focusing on the cause alone will lead to the resolve.

In our normal pattern of thinking it is easy and even second nature to default to symptom thinking. Symptom focus leads to a lot of indecisive discussion and complaining, but seldom to genuine, fruitful resolve. Focus often requires the individual, team, or organization to take responsibility.

Reading of Sheila and Tom’s stories above, one might have difficulty accepting their worries as symptoms. The reason we have this difficulty is we have lived with the default of symptom thinking for so long, that we default to it. Default thinking is default focus. As individuals or an organization to focus on a cause (for resolve) often requires us to focus on strengthening something within ourselves (organization). Even in the type situations cited above, where the focus is other people, we must look beyond people, identify the issue – not person(s) but issues, and explore the possibilities of rectification.

If we desire people to move in a productive direction, be it individuals or an organization, we must ask questions that probe resolve and forward movement.

Here are a few more examples:

What would the ideal outcome look like in your opinion? – The response to this question would then require a follow up question as, “Would you expand on that answer for me?” The following conversation and activity would then be focused around “What will it take for us to get to that outcome?”

What is within your grasp to change the situation? The focus here is not on how to “make” other people change, but what can I do to improve the situation. What is within my power?

How do you envision a prosperous future? Once the prosperous future is described, the questions to ask will relate to the particular steps this person or organization will need to take in moving toward reaching this goal.

Study and practice using focus questions, in your own life as well as the individuals and organizations you lead. You will see a more effective and abounding after-effect.

Find out more in Coaching: A Way of Leadership, A Way of Life and Reaching the Summit. Or contact George Yates directly.

Focus: Understanding & Developing the Right Question

In front of the room, a large sheet of paper hung on the wall with four topics listed. A discussion carried on for several minutes as the team narrowed the list to one. The discussion beginning to focus on this one item, all team members seemed to agree, this truly was the most important factor of focus for the coming year. For ten minutes the team began to unwrap the potential of this point of focus.

Just then a gentleman seated at one end of the table, silent until this moment, interrupts with a question. This gentleman is a professional coach. His job is to listen and guide conversations, leading teams to the right decisions.

In the team’s conversation, the coach had heard something that raised a question in his mind. Knowing the team’s objective for the discussion and their business values caused his interruption. The question he asked immediately caught the attention of every person in the room. It was obvious the question invigorated the higher-level thought processes of each team member. Instantly, with excitement, ideas, thoughts, and analysis began popping out from around the table. Later, the team admitted, “If you (the coach) had not stopped us and asked that one question, we would have been chasing the wrong focus this entire retreat. And we would have led the organization in the wrong direction all year long.”

Every coaching situation requires a focus question. It is not the first question, but will be required to move the conversation toward a desired decision – the right decision. The key is to learn to develop the right focus question. Many can ask questions. However, to develop and ask the right focus question, oftentimes takes a keen, trained ear and mind, a coach with experience.

Are there pointers you can learn to use in developing good focus questions? Certainly!

A focus question is one that narrows a point of discussion with a clearly defined effort for attention. Any individual or organization can assess multiple focus questions. To develop the best focus question, one must listen to and know the intent of the discussion, and listen to what is not being said, as well as what is. If the focus is on symptoms and not resolve, it is not likely that effective, sustainable results can be achieved (see last week’s post).

Many organizations, having lost a large portion of its customer base, focus on getting the customer base back. The issue here is, loss of customer base, is a symptom. The right approach would be to unearth and address the cause.

Example: Symptom focus; “How can we get our customer base back?”

Cause focus; “If we as an organization could focus on only one thing, this next year, to improve our image, what is that one thing?”

This question focuses on the cause – within the organization – not the symptom (loss of customers). Once this one thing is identified through objective discussion, a series of questions can guide the discussion to the right decisions. Questions as; “What would this one thing look like in our organization?” “Who do we need to assist us in developing the implementation process?” “How do we implement the first steps?”

Asking the right focus question creates the transformation from a “in the box” possibility to an out of the box, fruitful experience.

Find out more in Coaching: A Way of Leadership, A Way of Life and Reaching the Summit. Or contact George Yates directly.


Finding the Right Focus

Richard could not seem to get his team to focus on the situation at hand. Or, at least, he could not get them to focus on how to move beyond the difficulty of the situation. We met to discuss Richard’s dilemma over coffee. Well, he had some type of coffee (latte or something) and I had an iced green tea. Though Richard never used the word in our conversation, it did not take long to realize the main ingredient missing from Richard’s team was focus. If there was any focus at all, the team was focused on the circumstances and fallout from the situation.

Many teams and organizations operate under the same guise of focus. Focusing on the symptoms will never bring resolve and healing or reversing of the trends causing the situation. A drop in attendance or loss of customer base is never the cause. Rather, it is always a symptom. Sneezing is not the cause of a cold. It is a symptom. While we tend to focus on symptoms, our focus should be to discover the cause and uproot the undesirable virus that brought about the disruption in our organization.

If the furnace in your house is running continuously, yet the house is not warming up, you will look for open windows and doors. Then you will seek out other air leaks. The continually running furnace is not a cause, but a symptom of something. If you find no air leaks or open windows, you may call a furnace specialist to find and treat the cause. You cannot treat the cause, until you first determine the cause. To do this you must narrow your focus.

The same is true in business, church, and any walk of life. The answer to life’s situations can be found when we bring into focus the elements surrounding the situation. It is easy place our focus on the symptoms instead of the resolve as Richard’s team was doing. Churches, schools, businesses and organizations fail (at least at first) to recognize the importance of focusing on the resolve. Days, weeks, even months are wasted focusing on the symptoms of a situation, rather than on resolve by determining the root cause.

Using events, gimmicks, and other tricks attempting to bring people in will not resolve your issue. These are not resolves but rather, treating a single symptom. Treating symptoms will never resolve the real issue. In next week’s blog we’ll demonstrate how to develop the right focus question for your situation in your church, personal life, business, or other organization.


George Yates is a coach and organizational health strategist, assisting individuals and organizations in fulfilling their God-given purpose.

Realizing Your Value

In life we each purchase items for our homes and our personal pleasure. Some items are small and inexpensive. Others can be large and costly.

You can judge the value of each item by the price you pay for it. Likewise, we can judge our value by the price God, through Jesus, paid for us. Think of the depths into which Jesus had to reach in order to redeem you and me.

Imagine being taken from your nice comfortable home, with all your conveniences and pleasures, to a tin make-shift shelter with a dirt (mud) floor, to live for 33 years. This is similar (a rough comparison) to what Jesus did. He left a place of perfection to come to a messed up world. And He did it to redeem you and me. We can judge our value by the price God, through Jesus, paid for us.

You and I were born into a fleshly body. The flesh is sinful. Therefore, we live a life riddled with sin. Have you ever been around someone who sprayed themselves down with extra cologne or perfume, trying to mask body odor, because he/she did not take time to bathe properly? (Not a pleasant thought, is it?) The body odor comes through and the perfume only makes the stench worse. You cannot mask that body odor or hide it.

The same is true with our sin. We cannot hide or mask our sin with church attendance or good deeds. Sin is sin and it will not wash off with man’s solutions.

As the hymn says, Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” Only through the shed blood of Jesus, will God redeem.

We have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. God is a gracious God and is truly greatly to be praised. You are valuable to God. Read the Gospel of John in your copy of God’s Word, The Holy Bible, to learn more about what He paid for your redemption.

No matter your status in life, you can judge your value by the price God, through Jesus, paid for your redemption.

Iceberg Characters

The Titanic received 6 iceberg warnings on its maiden voyage before it went down. When the sixth message came in the early morning hours, “Look out for icebergs” the operator wired back, “Shut up, I’m busy.” Thirty minutes later the great vessel, whose Captain said, “Even God couldn’t sink this ship.” was sinking fast. What happened? They forgot the truth about icebergs. What they saw above the water could not have sunk the great ship. But, they forgot that 90% of an iceberg is below the waters surface.

Your life is much like an iceberg. The 10% above the water represents your reputation. The 90% below the surface represents your character. And it is what is below the surface that will sink your ship.

The 10% above water is only what people see when you are putting on your best behavior. Anyone can get dressed up and attend church services on Sunday morning. Anyone can put on a smile and pretend to like her surroundings. But our actions when we are tested exposes much more of who we are. It is then that our true character is revealed.

Whatever is happening on the outside of your life today comes from what is happening on the inside. God places “being” before “doing.” He prioritizes taking care of the inside (your heart) because that will determine what takes place on the outside (your behavior). Your behavior is the outward manifestation of your character.

How is your character as perceived by others – by the strangers you meet each day?

Is your character like an iceberg that cripples and sinks ships?

What do people see as your character? Is it God-like? What does God see? Nothing is hidden from Him.

The founder of SonC.A.R.E. Ministries, George Yates is a coach and organizational health strategist, assisting individuals and organizations in fulfilling their God-given purpose.


A True 2017 Prodigal

A young man entered the worship service one Sunday morning. Even before I turned to see him, my peripheral vision told me he was someone I had not seen before. Yet he came in and sat down near the front on the opposite side from where I was sitting. His actions that morning were a little – different, but he was attentive and not intimidated. After the offering plate was passed and the plates placed on the communion table at the front, this young man stood up walked to the front and dropped something in.

I later would learn this young man’s grandparents had been stalwart members of this congregation for many years. This young man had spent many days with his Godly grandparents and many Sundays with them at this church. But in his late teens and early adult years, he had slipped away. His grandparents had passed on to the afterlife, and this young man had slipped further into the depth of this dark world and its temptations and pitfalls.

Yet, here he was on this particular Sunday morning, in church. The very church that meant so much to his grandparents. The church where they labored and served for more than fifty years. Several of those years bringing this young man along to learn of the goodness of God. As people in the congregation introduced themselves to him, they recognized who he was and joyously welcomed him with hugs and handshakes and stories of his grandparents.

This young man had just started a new job the same week and did not have any money to give yet. So, what did he place in the offering plates this morning? A man on the finance team at the church shared with me what the young man had placed in the offering plate. He had pulled two mission offering envelopes from the pew rack in front of him and wrote on them before standing and walking in front of everyone and dropping them in the offering plate. He was not trying to draw attention to himself, only giving what he had that morning, in the most sincere way he knew.

On each envelope were three lines: Amount $, Name, Church.

On each envelope he wrote the name of this church; on the Name line he wrote his grandmother’s name on one envelope and his grandfather’s name on the other. For the amount on each envelope he wrote “Everything”.

I don’t know about you, but to me this was priceless. Having returned from the darkside, this young man realizes where the good in life comes from. And he realizes to whom he owes a great debt for teaching him. He could not have waxed eloquent with speech and made a statement so clear.

His grandparents taught him by living in front of him a Godly life; teaching him, training him, and taking him to church to learn from others and to be around people who would welcome him with love and open arms when he returned years later.

Will anyone ever honor your life this way? Will even one person remember you in such a manner? Let me encourage you to live your life to influence not one, but many in a way that leads them to the Lord, Savior, and Creator of the universe.

What A Passing Gift Can Do

Two years ago, I was passing through a city slum when I saw a 7-year-old boy picking some fruit from the wet-market stand. He was a skinny, pale boy, with big grey eyes and shaggy black hair that looked like it hadn’t been cut in months. His clothes were strangely clean and he wore a backpack on one shoulder.

“Don’t steal the food,” I told him, pulling him aside. “Earn it instead.”

“Can’t,” he told me sullenly. “None of the people want to hire me.”

“Well then, set up your own business. What are you good at?”

“Crafts and music, mostly.”

“What kind of crafts?” He shrugged and said, “Whittling, carving, painting, a little clay modeling. Not really much.”

“Here.” I gave him a twenty-dollar bill. “Buy what you need, and sell what you make. You can probably get your supplies from a dollar store I know just a few blocks from here.” I pointed it out to him and he went it.

Yesterday I went again through that slum, visiting a friend who lived on the other side of it. Near the same spot I found him, I saw a charming 9-year-old playing ‘Fur Elise’ on a worn-out keyboard with a stand behind him, filled with beautiful carvings, wood models, and clay knickknacks. He had an audience that was tossing him a few pennies, and I recognized the friend I was visiting. “Hey!” I said. She looked at me and smiled, pointing at the boy. “The music he plays is wonderful. He says the keyboard was salvaged from his house, and a stranger gave him a twenty once.”

The boy noticed me, and called everyone’s attention. “That’s the guy who gave me twenty dollars and priceless advice two years ago. Without him, I’d be sticking to picking pockets and hating myself for it.” He shook my hand and said to me, “By the way, my name’s Zachary. Thank you.”

I almost cried right then and there.

You never know whom you can touch and what a passing kindness can do in someone’s life. As you walk through life, be watchful for God’s opportunities to touch the life of another. Then show a little kindness. Perhaps, the result of your kindness will one day bring a tear to your own eyes.

The story sited above is from an anonymous source.


Planning that Brings Effective Results

Fall is here. I love being outside. Each season has a special quality and distinguishing characteristics. I love to hunt, so fall is a special time. But, I love to be out in the woods and pastures even on a rainy day, not only for the hunt. I love being outdoors with the creator, enjoying the beauty of his creation.

Fall is also a time when churches and other organizations are looking ahead to the future, making plans for the next year. Unfortunately, it is this planning that often falls short and causes organizations to not reach its effectiveness. Churches (and organizations) plan, but few know how to strategically plan for greater effectiveness. Greater than previous years.

The belief in many churches and organizations is if we plan and carry out those plans we have accomplished some “great thing.” However, accomplishing what you set out to may not be the best course of action. Many organizations (churches) flounder year after year seeing less results than previously. Yet, we accept these results and pass the blame on the economy, or other factors of which we have no control over.

Our planning should include accepting responsibility for what we can control and strategically plan to be the absolute best using every God-given gift at our disposal. Too often we stay in our own little box, even during extreme planning retreats.

Working with church leaders in one such retreat last fall, the team had listed four areas that could be their “one focus” for 2017. Out of the four they settled on one. Following this decision they had a healthy 20 minute discussion and were seemingly pleased with the direction they were headed. As a coach, I had heard something in their conversation and posed one question to the group. Each face around the table showed concern and quizzical attraction to the question.

This led to another 20 minute discussion – in a different direction. The team’s discussion led them to an entirely different focal topic for the year. At the end of that discussion and ensuing sessions, team members realized and announced, “If you (George) had not asked that one question, we would have been on the wrong track in every session. We would have left here and gone back and led our church in an irrelevant course all year.”

I am called upon each year to assist leadership teams in a vision planning retreat. These retreats are designed to guide the leadership team of an organization (church) to dig deeper than they might on their own. Digging deeper to find the one best focus for their particular organization for one year.

Not only do we find the focus, we lay out a road map for the journey, building in check points and driving gauges that can be reviewed anytime along the journey to see progress and make needed adjustments. The team identifies destination indicators and possible distractions to assist the organization in achieving its goals and effective performance.

The church mentioned above laid out their plan, implemented it and by the third week of January, they were seeing results and “It has become the talk of the church!”

To find out more about this type of vision planning and retreat contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

The steps to this type of vision planning are laid out in the book Turnaround Journey.

A Leader Willing to Get His Hands Dirty

In the early years of our nation, a man in civilian clothes rode past a small group of tired and battled weary soldiers. They were digging what appeared to be an important defensive position. The leader of the group wasn’t making any effort to help. He just shouted orders and threatened to punish the group if the work wasn’t completed within the hour.

“Why aren’t you helping?} the stranger asked on horseback.

I’m in charge! The men do as I tell them,” said the leader. He added “Help them yourself if you feel so strongly about it.”

To the unkind leader’s surprise the stranger got off his horse and helped the men until the job was finished.

Before he left the stranger congratulated the men for their work, and approached the confused leader. “You should notify top command next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men and I will provide a more permanent solution,” the stranger said.

It was at this moment that the, now humbled leader recognized the stranger as General George Washington. This so-called leader learned a lesson he would never forget!

Truly effective leaders dig with the troops. Those who only desire to bark orders without getting his hands dirty, is not a leader, but a phony wanna be. People working for such a leader know and never forget. Likewise, those who have had the experience of working for a leader like George Washington, never forget their experience either.

Jesus Christ lived the greatest leadership example nearly 2,000. God in the flesh, yet He chose to get his hands dirty. He met daily with the unclean, the run of the mill citizen, the blind, lame, and outcasts of society. His pupils were fisherman, tax collectors, and common men of Galilee. These were not Harvard and Oxford grads.  His leadership caught the attention of government officials and religious leaders as well as people from many nations. His leadership also turned the world upside down and continues to influence many today.

Have you had a leader who was not afraid to get his/her hands dirty. Always jumping in to help move the organization forward? What do you remember about him/her? What’s your leadership story?

It’s not about what you think of yourself, it is, What type of leader do others say you are?


Camel Conversation

A mother and a baby camel were lying around under a tree.

Then the baby camel asked, “Mom, Why do camels have humps?”

The mother camel considered this and said, “We are desert animals so we have the humps to store water so we can survive with very little water.”

The baby camel thought for a moment then said, “Okay, why are our legs long and our feet rounded?”

The mama replied, “They are meant for walking in the desert.”

The baby paused, then asked, “Why are our eyelashes long? Sometimes they get in my way.”

The mama responded, “Those long thick eyelashes protect your eyes from the desert sand when it blows in the wind.”

The baby thought and thought. Then he said, “I see. So the hump is to store water when we are in the desert, the legs are for walking through the desert and these eye lashes protect my eyes from the desert sand. “Then why are we in the Zoo?”

God has given us all special skills and abilities. These special gifts that God has given us is to bring about the satisfaction we all desire. That satisfaction comes in helping others.

When we use our skills and abilities for selfish reasons, it is like not using them at all. It is as a camel in a zoo. What are you doing to develop and use your skills and abilities?

Skills and abilities are only useful if you are using them for your God-given purpose. Otherwise they go to waste. Don’t sit around in a zoo. Put your gifts and talents to use helping others. You’ll be glad you did.