My new book Money: God or Gift (revised and expanded) is officially available today—in print, digital, or bulk.


Money. Cash. Coin. Bling. Scrilla. Cheddar. Dough.

Whatever you call it, the god of gold promises security, peace of mind, comfort, status, freedom, and all of our wildest dreams come true. From the Bible to the Beatles, however, our culture is filled with reminders that money can’t buy what actually matters in life.

And yet money still keeps us up at night. People worry about it, live for it, die for it, and even kill for it. There is a better way.

Back and better than ever

A few years ago, I wrote a book about personal finance called Money: God or Gift to help people learn how to use money as a gift instead of worshiping it as a god.

This practical overview of faith and stewardship was well received, but I knew it could be better: more comprehensive, more readable, and more useful for study. For a long time, I’ve wanted to update the material and republish the book.

That day has finally arrived.

The revised and expanded edition of Money: God or Gift, is now available on Amazon.com and theMoneyMission.com.

What’s different?

The new Money: God or Gift includes much of the same content found in previous editions, with some major upgrades:

  • Totally reorganized structure for a smoother, more memorable read.
  • Brand new material, including a chapter on how to make money in a way that honors God.
  • A five-week study guide, applicable to churches and small groups in just about any context.
  • A foreword by Darrin Patrick.
  • The book is available in print for the first time in years!

What hasn’t change is my hope that Money: God or Gift will help people see money differently: enjoy it more, give it freely, and stress it less.

Tell me what you think

If you get a chance to read the book, I’d love to know what you think. Give me a shout on Twitter, post a review on Amazon, or email info@jamiemunson.com.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Spread the word for a chance to win $500 towards your credit card bill! #theMoneyMission

The Key To Making Big Decisions

September 30, 2014

Making decisions is what leaders do, right? Then why is it when we’re faced with making our own career decisions we all of a sudden become terrible and overwhelmed decision makers?

If you’re like me, when faced with making big decisions, you can feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down and before long you’ve spun and flipped so many times you’re not sure which way is straight. I’ve received and given lots of cliche advice, “You’ll know when its time.” “The right door will open up.” “It will all work out in the end.” I appreciate these hope filled statements but at the same time they don’t offer much concrete help. When you’ve been on the roller coaster ride, what you need is a clear path forward and more importantly a clear process to understand how and why to choose the right path.

When I was leaving my last role as an executive in a start up retail coffee company, I was torn. I enjoyed what I was doing but I felt like something was missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. One day it clicked, I need to prioritize what I’m looking for in my career to help me make the decision of whether I should go or stay. If you’ve read my blog long enough you’ve started to notice that I love to prioritize. It’s the single most helpful thing I’ve found to more effectively manage my life and leadership. It’s a process that can be applied to anything, including how to make a really big career decision. Beyond myself, I love helping clients walk through this process; clarity is a powerful tool.

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There are so many factors that go in to making a big career decision. It’s easy to worry about making sure you’re doing the right thing and plagued by the thought of what if I made the wrong decision. The last time around I took myself through an exercise that I felt was very valuable and worth sharing. This exercise forced me to prioritize 10 important factors that go into any big career decision. The key is that you have to prioritize these factors for yourself. What’s most important to you will drive the big decision.

The 10 Career Factors

  1. Control – How important is the ability to envision the future and make decisions to build towards that future? Are you comfortable with implementing someone else’s vision or do you need it to be your vision? Do you need an environment with more freedom?
  2. Schedule – Do you have the desire to chart your own course and dictate the schedule? Want to work 3, 15 hour days, and golf the rest of the week? Are you good with constantly changing hours? The nine to five grind works for many people but others need more flexibility.
  3. Faithfulness – Do you enjoy using and maximizing your talents to better those around you? Do your gifts align with the work before you? Some careers more than others will use what you have to bless, encourage, and make the world around you a better place.
  4. Money – What kind of salary/wage/future do you want to create? What kind of financial margin are you hoping to build? How important is the right salary to your next career move? It’s not always about the money and its priority changes in different life stages.
  5. Passion – How important is that your work align with your passions? Are you ok finding your passion after you leave the office? Or, if you’re not carrying out your deep convictions on a daily basis, do you wither? If you can’t quit thinking about it positively, that’s a good sign it’s important to you.
  6. Happiness – Are you looking to your career as your main source of happiness? Is it possible to have a job you aren’t happy in but you can live with it? For some if they don’t come home smiling about the day then it’s devastating.
  7. Fulfilling – When you wrap up your day how important is it that you feel personally fulfilled? How critical is it that your desire, expectations and reality are aligned? Nothing is perfect but you go to bed with a full heart, a good day is a meaningful day.
  8. Family – Do you love to have your family involved with your work? Does the thought of working with family make you cringe?  How important is it that your family is intimately involved and engaged in the work? Not prioritizing this high isn’t a statement of your lack of love your family, it just means you and they don’t benefit from working together.
  9. Team – Do you like to fly solo or do you need the collaboration of a good team to survive?  How important is the team around you? The people around you matters more to some than others.
  10. Community – How important is it to be connected to a larger group of like-minded people? Are you particular about your neighborhood or the type of people you want to rub shoulders with outside of the office? Or, are you so adaptable you can make it anywhere? For some it’s all about location, location, location.

No job is perfect. No career is executed flawlessly. No relationships are absent of strife. The goal here is not to remove every difficult situation from your life. The goal IS to understand how you’re made and how you thrive so that when making a difficult decision you have a prioritized rudder. For some, making a big salary is overrated so that slips down the list while being happy is a the top. For others it’s all about the team and they could care less about the long hours or lack of personal control. Still others find themselves withering away if they aren’t living in their passion every minute of their life.

There is no cookie cutter answer for everyone but there is a better answer for you. Rank these 1-10 and then evaluate your current career and future opportunities in light of them. One of my priorities is to help you and other leaders get clear on the most important things. Clarity is never overrated.

 

I like deadlines. They clarify the objective and that motivates me. When I’ve got my back against the wall, and the clock is ticking, something comes over me. I hunker down and focus and know exactly what to prioritize.

Some deadlines are fixed by people outside our jurisdiction, (ahhh clients) – we have little control over them, and we have to rework our schedules to make sure we meet the deadline. Other deadlines are created by ourselves. When we have control of the deadline, we can self-impose urgency to ensure that we’re productive and keep a lengthy project on target.

Here’s The Problem

A false deadline –that is, an arbitrary deadline we’ve created for ourselves – can quickly lead to mediocre production. For all the good intentions behind creating deadlines for ourselves, we can unwittingly get hasty, missing strategic opportunities. In the rush to meet a deadline, we can make tactical mistakes that should never have been made.

When a deadline is fixed outside of our control, we can excuse some degree of error in the act of prioritizing for the deadline. You’ve seen it happen: your colleagues look you in the eye and say, “It is what it is. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got. There’s no time to go back and make it perfect.” It’s all well and good in those circumstances, and in the best organizations, those kinds of intense decision points can actually save you from a heck of a lot of unnecessary debate that  slows down the project.

The real problem is that when we set our own false deadlines, we can take those “it-is-what-it-is” moments and live with them as though we don’t have the option of moving a deadline. When you fix a false deadline, it’s easy to sacrifice quality for the sake of production. And that can be detrimental to your organization.

You have to ask yourself: Is this deadline moveable? Are we going to rush in a way that could hurt us? What would happen if we take our time, and move the deadline an hour, a day, even a week? Could we add value to the project that outweighs the delay? Knowing when to ship the project and when to pause the ship is an important skill to hone.

 

Everyone in their life has guiding principles that shape how they live. Sometimes they’re all neat and tidily written down somewhere and sometimes the only place they live is deep down in your gut. Throughout the course of life, amazing opportunities arise and profound challenges lurk. Regardless, it’s these principles that guide your thoughts and actions. Here are some of mine, in case you’re interested.

You’re Not Me And I’m Not You - It’s first on the list for a reason. I don’t expect you to adopt my principles as your own. We’re different people and that’s the beauty of humanity. Each of us unique. I’m not always right and, well, neither are you. Lets keep that in mind as we live out this short life we have. Empathy goes a long way.

Choose Your Battles - There is a lot to argue about in life, a million things you could spend your time fighting for and bantering about. Endless blogs on both sides of an issue and Facebook comments that never end. At the end of the day the battles I want to fight are for forgiveness, family and friendships.
 
Don’t Burn Bridges - There are few things in life worth burning a bridge over and it probably centers around the battles you choose. When I move on from something it is always my goal to keep the bridge in tact. You never know when it might be a lifeline to someone or even your own lifeline back. Relationships should outlast your vocation.
 
You Can’t Control How Others Respond - It’s easy to live in fear of what other people are going to think about you and decisions you make. However, when we’re so worried about making everyone else happy, we avoid the hard but necessary decisions. Be true to who you are and what you need to do.

Give Grace More Than You Criticize - The concept of grace is that we lead with understanding and forgiveness regardless of someone else’s behavior or merit. It’s how we want others to treat us, why don’t we take the lead as often as we should?I hope to get better and better at this in my life as I grow older. Grace is a powerful addition to every situation.

 
Friends, your life is more about who you bless than it is being right or getting your way all the time. It’s easy to speculate and infer motives from afar but in the end that rarely takes us anywhere good. Rather, lets be people that empathize with others, choose our battles wisely, don’t burn bridges, live in freedom and give lots of grace.

 

Is a great product able to survive poor customer service? Can great customer service redeem a poor product?

You need both to survive and build a healthy long term company. Check out this chart, the next installment in my Maintaining the Balance series.

Product Quality vs. Customer Service

Munson_Clarity_Morale_Chart.001

Any company that has poor customer service and a low-quality product is soon to fail. No ifs, ands, or buts.

If your company has a poor product and great customer service however, your customers will become sympathetic. They will feel bad for you. They will not recommend you to their friends…if only out of pity. Your organization will most likely never achieve significant traction.

But if you have an amazing product and terrible customer service, you will have a high customer turnover rate. They will come, but they will leave once they have come in contact with rude or unresponsive service.

A successful company has excellent customer service to complement a great product. Your buyers will appreciate the lengths you go to in offering a comprehensively thoughtful experience.

Is your organization lacking a great product or great customer service? Or, if everything is peachy-keen, how did you get there?

 

I’m a casual poker player.

Say what you will about poker, the game itself can be a very useful allegory for life in the business world. When you play a game like poker, you have a set of cards that are dealt to you. Every move in the game is about evaluating and measuring risk. In fact, on the card table, gambling can be seen as an investment in your available resources and the longevity they may have against the other potential hands at the table. As you weigh the strength of your hand, you will inevitably (or should inevitably) reach a point where a hand you’ve been dealt is incapable of competing, and you will have to fold your hand.

The same dynamic can be true for leaders. At some point, every leader has to face the reality of an underperforming facet of the organization, and sometimes after weighing the risks and the benefits, a cut is necessary. There’s a very good reason why we call it “cutting your losses”: it’s painful. It can feel personal. It’s never easy.

Knowing when to cut your losses is the real challenge. Whether it’s an unsuccessful product launch, an obsolete department within your organization, or even an otherwise productive employee who has developed a toxic attitude – often, we will “stay the course” assuming that if we keep our hand to the plow, we’ll be able to navigate through the situation. As we consider the investment we’ve put into these things, it seems better to push through rather than to take a loss. This could be your downfall.

Two kinds of mindsets when facing a major loss

How we think about the situation has a lot to do with how we come up with a solution. Psychologists identify two kinds of mindsets when facing a major loss:

  • Prevention Focus – concerned with what is lost if we don’t succeed.
  • Promotion Focus – think of goals in terms of new potential gains.

If you adopt a prevention focus, you’re more likely to see all the investments you’ve committed to getting where you are today, making it difficult to cut your losses. If you adopt a promotion focus, you’ll be much more likely to see the cuts as an opportunity to reinvest.

While both positions have merit, studies show that people will more often instinctively take a prevention focus because the effort they’ve invested is a tangible factor in the decision. In other words, they’ve shelled out the money, time, and effort, and they hate to watch it go down the tubes.

Often the promotion focus is the less obvious, but much more fruitful, position. The person sees that there is still money, time, and effort that are yet unspent, and those resources would be better allocated to other investments, rather than continuing to send them down the drain. This is the focus of the visionary.

Knowing when to fold your hand and cut your losses is a great challenge that can’t be taken lightly. Often, the decision to keep going can have as big an impact on your life or your business as the decision to cut. When you face the question of cutting your losses, step back and know your focus: prevention or promotion. It can make all the difference.

 

Own It and Move On

July 11, 2014

Are you a dweller? You make a mistake and it haunts you. Or, someone else made a mistake and you obsess over what they should have done differently. You think of everything you never had the courage to act on or actually voice. Why, why, why? What if? Only if I had…

Basketball-Court

My son Orin just started playing basketball this year; he’s got some good talent but is still learning the basics. I noticed him being overly hard on himself and it occurred to me he just couldn’t get past his mistakes…or at the minimum they would bother him for too many plays. I gave him two little phrases: “Own it and move on.” and “My bad.”  “My bad.”, is a humble recognition that he screwed up; a powerful admission that can put his mind and his teammates’ minds at ease. They don’t need to fear he didn’t see where he fell short, and he doesn’t need to make an excuse for it.  I’ve seen and lived the opposite and know that as soon as you start to dwell, you take yourself out of the moment and the mistakes compound. You forget to live (or play hard) because you’re afraid.  At least I have.

Navel gazing isn’t the answer 

Our decisions have repercussions and “owning” it may take time to repair certain relational, financial or emotional damage.   But navel gazing and working around/ignoring our mistakes takes time too.  The difference is that one is time spent moving forward and experiencing personal growth, and the other leaves you stuck in defeat and discouragement.  

Own it and move on. Whether it be with your spouse, business partner, kids or your teammates. Is there something you’re dwelling on today? It might be time to humble yourself, apologize if necessary, and get back in the game.

 

Disconnected.

You know that feeling?

Something is off. You aren’t in sync with your boss. Your team seems fragmented. Time and energy feels wasted. There might be a major defining moment that is at fault or it could be incremental deterioration. Regardless of the source, it’s not ideal and a sustained disconnect undermines you, your company and any healthy forward progress.

What’s the culprit? And more importantly, how do you fix it? Life would be easy if the blame game was black and white. In my experience it’s never been that easy though. Broken relationships and fragmented teams are often the result of many factors. It’s always the leaders responsibility to deal with but not always their fault.

[Tweet “Broken teams aren’t always the leaders fault but they’re always the leaders responsibility to fix.”]

Diagnosing the broken connection

The team doesn’t know the vision. When your team doesn’t understand or know their personal connection to the vision you create a disconnect. Instead of rallying behind THE vision they start to create their own to fill in the gaps. Is this your story? If so, don’t settle. Fight (respectfully) for a clear vision and if you’re the leader, listen, so that you can provide the clarity your team needs.

Everyone is in it for themselves. This could be the leader that overlooks the needs of the team or it could be a rogue team member that doesn’t lift a finger beyond their job description to help out.

Reality is ignored. The very nature of a vision is that it lives in the future. It’s something to be achieved and navigated towards that is different then the present reality. BUT…it doesn’t mean we get to ignore the present reality. Leaders need to be honest about the present situation or they’ll loose their team. Painting a false sense of utopian reality doesn’t help anyone. We need to be honest about the present struggles as we paint a picture of a better future.

Company values are all talk. Knowing and living your company values should be a no-brainer. You have them for a reason, right? However, if your company values are nothing more than words on a paper or platitudes dished out in a meeting then you’ve got a case of hypocrisy. Your true values are what you do day in and day out. When they’re aligned, watch out world. When they’re not, a credibility storm is brewing.

My way or the highway. Humility might be the most powerful way to unite a team. When established leaders are out of touch or new leaders are arrogant you build a culture of isolated superheroes. A team where everyone wants to lead as long as it is their idea, isn’t really a team.

Feeling disconnected is an awful spot for everyone. No one wins. How can you fight for clarity and lead your team to be more connected?

 

How do you measure clarity in your organization? Is it as simple as asking everyone to regurgitate the company mission statement? Providing clarity is the hardest yet most necessary work of any leader. We usually don’t like to ask the questions because we don’t really want the answers. It takes time and might make more work in the short term. Here are twenty-one questions I dare you to ask your team this week. Allow for anonymous answers if you think that will give you the most helpful and unbiased information. Then schedule at least a half-day out of the office on your own to study and organize the answers. It might be painful, it might be encouraging, but regardless it will be insightful into the clarity your team has and where you might need to emphasize your leadership attention over the coming months.

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Image © Nate Smidt

Mission Clarity (WHY?)

  • Why does our organization exist?
  • What is the single most important thing we do in the world?
  • How would you articulate the company mission in your own words?
  • How do you personally connect with the mission? 

Vision Clarity (WHERE?)

  • Where is our company headed?
  • What should the organization look like in three years?
  • What are the top three objectives of the company over the next year?
  • How does the vision of the company inspire you on a regular basis?

Leadership Clarity (WHO?)

  • How would you define the leadership culture of our company?
  • How many bosses do you have and do you know who they are?
  • On an average day, how many people are delegating tasks to you?
  • Do you have a defined path for personal growth and leadership development?
  • How is your supervisor developing you for future responsibility?  

Strategy Clarity (HOW?)

  • What are our three most important strategic initiatives right now?
  • How are we going to accomplish these initiatives?
  • What are we doing that we should not be doing as a company?
  • How do our day-to-day tactics align with the vision of the company? 

Numbers Clarity (WHAT?)

  • What are the most important numerical metrics we measure?
  • Do you have good information and data regarding the metrics?
  • How do you define success in your job?
  • Do you know the financial goals of the company?

[Tweet “21 Leadership Questions You Can’t Afford To Avoid”] 

Are you willing to take the risk? The more dead honest you and your team are, the more helpful it will be to your future. If I can be of any help with a Clarity Session please let me know. Go for it.

 

How do you feel about confusion? If you’re at all like me, you hate it. It’s disorienting, frustrating and down right troubling. I’m a bottom line guy, I like to get to the point and understand how my efforts are directly contributing to the benefit and success of whatever I’m involved in. Unfortunately we’re wasting a lot of our time at work confused. Lost leaders and a clarity crisis are driving up the cost of confusion for organizations everywhere.

Have you ever spent a bunch of hours on a project only to realize it was never going to see the light of day? Sometimes we can justify this in the name of R&D, but more often than not it’s just wasted energy, time, effort, brain power and ultimately dollars that could have been more effectively put to use elsewhere. This and other confusion riddled events are costing human and financial capital every single day.

6 Ways Confusion Is Costing Your Company 

1. The elephants in the room are being ignored. Everyone knows the problem but no one is willing to talk about it. It could be an incompetent leader or a highly critical team member, an unwise strategy or unrealistic budget. The elephant lingers and confusion rises as no one steps up to deal with it. Time and effort are wasted side-stepping and working around something that needs to be dealt with.  

2. Decision paralysis is stalling out the initiative. Who makes the call? Why aren’t they making a call? Are they afraid? Have bad information? Not sure what the priorities are? A lot of factors can go into creating a paralyzed decision maker, but nonetheless it creates confusion as time drags on and critical decisions are punted down the field.

3. There are too many cooks in the kitchen. Do you have three or four bosses and not quite sure who the buck stops with? The amount of time and emotional energy spent navigating an overly complicated org chart is exhausting. Few things create more confusion than bureaucratic lines of authority and communication.

[Tweet “Few things create more confusion than bureaucratic lines of authority and communication.”]

4. Conflict isn’t confronted and resolved. Avoiding conflict and tip-toeing around co-workers creates inefficiencies like none other. All of your strategic energy gets spent figuring out how to avoid, ignore or passive-agressively run over other team members–the very people hired to help make things more efficient and helpful.  

5. No one owns their mistakes. We usually know when we screw up and the quickest way to deal with it is a simple ‘I’m Sorry.’ By taking responsibility you save people from the speculation and wasted time of gossiping and blame shifting. Few things are more powerful than a leader who sees their faults and is willing to own them.

6. There is a feedback vacuum. Feedback is essential, be it good or bad. People want (and need) to know where they stand. If they’re doing a good job, let them know. If they’re falling down, let them know. People are resilient and can handle the truth. Without it you wake up and go to bed demotivated because you’re never quite sure if you’re doing a good job. 

[Tweet “As leaders we either foster confusion or clarity. Which one are you creating?”]

As leaders we either foster confusion or clarity. Which one are you creating? Which of these six categories can you focus on today and work towards leading with more clarity?