About Dr. John Townsend
Dr. John Townsend is a business consultant, leadership coach and psychologist. He has written or co-written 27 books, selling 8 million copies, including the New York times best-seller Boundaries series, Leadership Beyond Reason, and Handling Difficult People.
For more than twenty years Dr. Townsend has engaged with leaders, organizations and individuals around the globe, offering them life-changing solutions to their problems. He is a co-host of the nationally-syndicated talk show “New Life Live” which is heard in 180 markets with 3 million listeners.
What Boundaries Does God Give Us?
“Well, God has a design for human relationships and growth and all that. Basically so much of life under His domain is relationships. This means, relationship with Him and with each other and ourselves. God takes responsibility for the universe, and we have these little areas of responsibility like our lives, choices, and what we do with our time/money/energy/passions.
And we’re supposed to set little boundaries around those things. When you guard your heart by saying, my choices are my choices and my time is my time, and I want to do good things with those things, but I can’t give those choices to anybody else, you have set a boundary.”
Where John Townsend Sees The Need For Boundaries
“It’s just the human condition that ever since the fall, we’re all control freaks. We all want to have it our own way and sanctify the other person and all that. So marriage being the most intimate relationship that God designed, we’re always having power struggles with somebody, fixing somebody, somebody controlling somebody.
We talk about it in the book that there are several main problems in marriage. First is when somebody’s controlling someone else. Second is when someone abandons someone else by saying, ‘I’m going to distance myself from you in this marriage because I don’t like the way you’re playing.’ Third is when someone manipulates someone by guilt. Fourth is when someone shuts down. There are all kinds of ways that we violate each other’s boundaries.”
The Kindness in Drawing Clear Boundaries
“People often look at having a gracious approach with someone and having boundaries as polar opposites. It’s sort of like they’re a zero sum game, that you can be harsh and unloving or you can be gracious and totally codependent and let somebody run all over you. But it’s not a zero sum game, Biblically speaking. God is very kind and gentle and loves us, but He has some really strict rules at the same time. So the goal is to be both gentle and very firm. I always say, be soft on the person and be hard on the issue; that’s when you get things done.”
Leadership Beyond Reason by John Townsend
“Well, I’ve been doing work with corporations and organizations and leaders now for about 20 years. I observe how rock stars operate and multi-billion dollar companies, large churches, where they’re bearing good fruit in order to see the secret sauce, because people want to know that.
And one thing I found out is that really good leaders work with both sides of their brain. I study neuroscience, and one of the things you find out in neuroscience is the classic left brain, right brain is really true. The left brain is highly linear and logical and rational, and the right brain is creative and emotional, intuitive based on relationships.
And historically leadership training has been all left brain. You know, ‘Get the goal, get the mission, drive toward the goal, and get your metrics, get your KPIs’. But about 20 years ago, a guy named Daniel Goldman came up with the idea called eq or Emotional Intelligence.
He flipped leadership training upside down. He said that leaders who are very direct and goal-oriented, but don’t have that intuitive feel for themselves and their own feelings don’t perform well. In fact, what we’re finding out is that if you have an organization that is in touch with relationships and high performance, they do well.”
How John Townsend Has Seen Leadership Change
“We’re finding out that the model is changing to be that if the only way you can get people to do what you want is because of the comp package or the fear, they’ll be fired. Basically, your rock stars will leave because they can get a job anywhere if somebody would be nice to them.
So the companies that keep the rock stars and go scalable are the ones that understand how to work with teams, how to motivate people from the inside, and how to read them well. The model has become much more about character and relationships while not giving up or compromising on performance demands.”
Handling Difficult People by John Townsend
“I wrote this because I had so many people in the companies I was working with say, ‘Things are going well, but I have this one person who sort of drives everybody crazy. And nobody knows what to do with them. They’re very talented and they’ve got great skills, but they’re sort of knuckleheads.’ So I wrote a book for people who have those relationships that you really can’t walk from, that you don’t want to walk from because there’s a lot of good things happening. But how do you have helpful conversations to help them straighten out?”
Tips For Handling Difficult People
“You need a certain amount of empathy and compassion for somebody that’s driving you crazy, which is a real mark of spiritual maturity. But if you don’t have compassion and empathy, you won’t understand how they tick and where they’re broken. So you have to spend some time understanding them, even if they’re just kind of a lunatic. Having said that, there are also conversations that you can have that will encourage them to look at their impact on people, which can help them develop.”
Where Does Our Entitlement Come From?
“It’s really easy to put the word entitlement and millennial together. And I take another side of that. This is not a millennial problem, nor my book a millennial bashing book. I have seen 20 year olds who are the coolest people in the world to relate to. They are hardworking and have great values. I’ve also seen some 80 year olds who are absolute nightmares to hang around.
So I look at it as a human problem, not a generational problem. Having said that, we have seen in the last 30 years an increase in the entitled attitude. I define this in my book as two things. The first is, I’m not responsible for my life, or my impact on others. The second is that I deserve special treatment; I don’t have to get in the back of the line like other people. That’s the core of it. And I think there’s been multiple sets of variables that contributed to our culture moving that way. This includes the influence of the media and the breakdown of the family structure.
So now we have a lot of people who make it all about them. And, since I work in business and leadership so much, we’re finding that American businesses are spending billions of dollars having to deal with a work ethic of doing the minimum and needing the maximum for it. They’re having to retool everything to deal with it. That’s why I wanted to write the book.”
Shifting The Perspective of Entitlement
“We raised our kids in Southern California in a nice, affluent area. But, trying to raise healthy Christians in an area like that is hard. The kids started coming home saying, ‘I deserve this phone because Billy has this.’
Finally, I sat down and I said, ‘Hey guys, let’s have a whole family meeting. You guys need a lot of stuff and that’s good. God gave us to you to help you meet your needs. You need love and you need God, and you need great times and vacations and training and education and all kinds of cool stuff because we want to get you ready to leave and cleave and go out and make the world.
So you need a lot of stuff, but you don’t deserve anything.We have to get that word deserve out.’ I got called to speak at a Christian private school in Dallas, Texas, and they said, ‘oh, we got these nightmares here where the kids are saying, I need to have a BMW at 16 and a phone. Can you help us with the entitlement? We know that you studied that.’ I called my son and asked him to come down to represent the end product of our parenting.
So I spoke and I mentioned that we raised our kids to know that they don’t deserve anything. When I was about to finish, my son walked in the room. I said, ‘Come on up here. Give these people five minutes on what a kid who was parented with these issues is like.’ He said, ‘Hi, I’m Ricky. I’m a junior in college studying business. The one thing I can remember about growing up is that my dad used to say all the time, you don’t deserve anything.”
Passion Versus Work Ethic
“You can’t make a career on passion alone. I love passionate people. I always ask people, ‘well, are you a Bible guy?’ And the Christians say yes. I say, ‘Let’s look up the Bible. Let’s read Isaiah 50:7, which says, ‘For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have made My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.’
That’s the pre-incarnate Jesus getting ready to talk about the intense suffering He was going to endure for our benefit. There’s no passion in that. There is resoluteness, there’s conviction, there’s determination, there’s value, there’s suffering. Some things are passion driven and some things are more about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.”
John Townsend’s Assessment of Christianity in America Today
“There are a lot of problems, but I think I have a good objective reason to be encouraged. What I see is that the faith is still alive and well. Jesus is proclaimed, the Bible is seen as God’s infallible rule book of life. I’ve seen the church have a good balance of being a training ground for discipleship and evangelism and finding your mission, but also a hospital for our brokenness.”
Insights Into Neuroscience
“I can tell you two things that are just mind blowing in a very positive way. The first is that neuroscience supports that God is right. God designed our brains to be relationally based and we’ve got to have the cognitive plus the experience. All that just proves what the Bible says about human growth and functioning is true.
The second thing we’re finding out is that apps can really change the operating system of our brain, which we’d never known. We always thought the brain was going to work the way it always works. You’ll always be an introvert or an extrovert, or you’ll always be high energy or low energy. Now we find out when a person has corrective relational experiences, it actually changes how the cells, the neurotic pathways, talk to each other. So all the stuff the Bible says about love and belonging and comfort and attachment is true. Relationships change everything.”
What Gives John Townsend Hope?
“God will always win. I know it’s hard right now, but He ends up winning and we want to be on the winning team. I think my hope is still in the church, honestly. I know all the problems are out there, but in Matthew 5 Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ There are people who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. They want to grow and change. They want to exercise their gifts.”
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