You Aren’t Convincing Me.

I remember the last time that I talked all of my friends into going to the movies with me. I say “last time” because it didn’t go well. It was the Summer of 1995, July 29th to be exact. I was 21 and I’d never seen a bad movie… not that I was aware of anyway.

I had no idea that I had spent my teens developing “taste” and was about to realize this at a movie that was a smorgasbord of garbage.

I had been bragging to my friends that “Waterworld” was going to be the blockbuster of the summer. How could it not be? In one of the greatest trailers of all time, Oscar winner Kevin Costner played a fish man, who sailed a futuristic catamaran, that launched Jet Skis into a post apocalyptic future, filled with bungee jumps. It was more 90’s than the 90’s.

It was also the biggest bust in the history of movies.

I had convinced a half-dozen college students that spending $6.50 on something that wasn’t food would be worthwhile. We watched Kevin Costner drink his own urine while drawling his way through an undercooked but overblown rip-off of the “Road Warrior”. I got teased about it for years. No one who was there will let me forget it.

The movies that get remembered are the ones so good you want to see them again, or so bad you need to see them again with a friend. The rest are enjoyed to a degree and then lost to history which is sad, because many agreeable films are never seen by a large audience.

One of these is the 1996 period/dramedy “That Thing You Do.” Set in the “Mid Beatles” 1960’s, Tom Hanks directorial debut features a great story, a good ensemble cast, and a tone that is cheeky without losing its innocence.

There’s a classic moment where Jimmy, the overly focused artist, tries to convince Lenny, the good time guitarist, that their band name, “The Wonders”, should be spelled “The Oneders”.

Lenny’s response is, “Looks like the Ohneeders.” Jimmy clarifies by explaining that the word “One” could be the wordplay to “One-ders” as “Beat” is to “The Beatles”.

Lenny’s response? “Got it… looks like Ohneeders.”

The scene works because while Jimmy is assuming that Lenny doesn’t get the wordplay, it’s actually Jimmy who’s missing the point. Jimmy’s successful lobbying for the pun mean’s that the band plays a lot of pizza joints where everyone’s come to see “The Ohneeders.”

I’ve found that when it comes to making decisions, leadership is actually a lot more like Jimmy than we want to believe.

I’ve spent a lot of time going from person to person, then meeting to meeting, believing that if I just explained my idea well enough, people would want to get on board with it.

The truth is that sometimes people just don’t want to do something, and no amount of explaining, or making people listen, will convince them to change their mind on the matter.


Worse than this is that sometimes I actually convince people to follow my lead into something that doesn’t work, and now they’re walking out of “Waterworld” doubting my ability to lead them to anything good.

I’ve wasted everyone’s time and my reputation in the process.

Recently my friend Joel recommended the book, Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. It’s excellent. In the book Larry makes it clear that lobbying people isn’t leading and it usually fails just like the situations I’ve previously described.

Instead of working to find unilateral alignment or agreement, which can be especially difficult in large churches and organizations, Larry recommends getting permission to do something from the leadership team, and then letting the success or failure of the venture bring alignment.

“Permission, on the other hand, is relatively easy to acquire, even from those who think your idea is loony and bound to fail. That’s because permission simply means, “I’ll let you try it,” as opposed to, “I’ll back your play.” –Sticky Teams P.78

If your idea is succesful, people get excited in a way that makes them want to join in. You also didn’t waste hours trying to convince people who may or may not be interested, to want to try something.

The more success your ideas meet, the more quickly you will get permission from a board, or management team, in the future.

This means that we must be well prepared in advance of our asking for permission. Researching and testing our ideas in smaller settings becomes essential because instead of convincing others, we’re convincing ourselves… before we open our mouths.

Of course you don’t have to do this. You can prove your reckless individualism by doing what you want, when you want; asking for forgiveness afterwards, or you can keep getting sidetracked by trying to convince everyone to back your idea. Sooner or later though you’ll realize that as a leader, there are a lot of options before you and the majority of them are more “Waterworld” than “That Thing You Do.” Getting permission to try your ideas can save you time and embarrassment.

In ministry, you’d rather lead people well and then be forgotten than remembered for leading everybody into a miserable failure… trust me on this.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. -Hebrews 13:7

4 Responses to “You Aren’t Convincing Me.”

  1. Jeff Patterson May 12, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Remember somehow avoiding “Waterworld,” and reading that chapter in Sticky Teams. Remembering one will get us all laughing about it (or, in your case, your friends chuckle at …), while coming back to Osborne’s point on asking permission is money. So simple but counter-intuitive for those of us who want to prove we’ve thought of every contingency plan, as the selling point of our great idea.

    Takes courage and patience. And credibility.

    I will still let you recommend a movie anytime.

    • Jon May 12, 2011 at 10:01 am #

      We should go see Thor… that movie cant be bad!

  2. Hannah May 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Omg. Someone else who has seen That Thing You Do. Favorite movie ever.

    • Jon May 15, 2011 at 10:10 am #

      A man in a really nice camper….

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