Categories: Business, Church, Seven Mountains

TRANSFORMATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Creating Cultures of Honor at Home and Work

Joseph L. Umidi,


Transformation is another word that is on the best-seller list but has come to mean just about anything. It differs from transaction for it is not primarily about the exchange of information, but a marriage of that information with the power of sustainable motivation. More than an experience that could be described as common inspiration, transformation, like the caterpillar to the butterfly, is closer to illumination. It is an inner awakening that happens from the inside out, not the outside in.

At Lifeforming Leadership Coaching, we have been watching real transformation happen through our training and coaching process around the world over the last fourteen years in most every possible scenario. These include the poor, rich, male, female, youth, elderly, literate, illiterate, Asian, Latin, African, European, Caribbean, and more. We have hundreds of stories from thousands of fulfilled coaches, clients, and organizations. This book is a key to why such phenomena may become a movement. More importantly, it may be the breakthrough for you, as you desire to see your dreams fulfilled at home and work.

A key reason for this possibility is the fundamental philosophy of the extravagant worth of every individual that is rooted in a healthy theology of the authentic, relational, and organic Christian message. This message and motivation are that God is for us, not against us, and we have an opportunity and mandate to fulfill our unique design and destiny. Part of that purpose is to be modeled in the home and workplace environments, the places where real transformation meets the real world. This book does that without being religious. Like God, it is for you, not for its own agenda.

Whether you are a burning flame of faith or a burned-out statistic of faithless religion, this book can revive you and the organization where you are spending the best hours of your day serving. It is a book that moves transformation beyond a personal experience to a culture shift. It does so intentionally and with intensity by taking your intelligence more seriously than has probably been the case at this point in your life and calling. Its success will be measured by those who live and work with you regularly.

It is our goal that you experience validation in the reading and application of these chapters. We envision schools, businesses, organizations, and churches using this for staff and personnel in ways that will make these entities go from good to great. Those of us who have labored with little remuneration over the years to serve the global community with these principles are audacious enough to believe that this book can even impact a nation by the systematic application of these truths to the key vocations which shape the culture of that nation. Only time will tell. Our first hope is that the time you take to reflect and apply the following chapters will alter your life just enough to make the daily difference where it counts: at Home and Work.

Dr. Joseph Umidi.



Culture Shift

Culture[1] affects everyone, everywhere, every day. Some of it is in our face like the world-wide news coverage of movie stars and their personal lives. Most of it is subtle and soothing, like the background noise of the waves as we doze off on the beach. All of it counts for who we are and what we become. The purpose of this chapter is to lay a foundation to transform whatever culture we are facing and shift it into a culture that honors people and purposes, especially those that are near and dear to us, and to our future.

All cultures contain positive and negative aspects, and it is incumbent upon all of us to not limit ourselves to the acceptable “dumb-down” standard of tolerance today: meaning we accept everything from another culture simply because it is another culture. The pendulum swing from a mono-cultural to a multi-cultural focus over the past decades, in which we have become so enamored by any other different culture, has missed the point. Our real call is to create culture,1 not simply to worship culture or become a creature of culture. Every family, company, church, and community group are a candidate to model a creative approach to culture that maximizes the best in people and the potential of the culture to contribute to the uplifting of the community and city. That maximization will require an intentional focus in our approach to transform the role of culture in our lives.

My wife has spent the last twenty years researching the cultures of people groups in remote parts of the globe in order to understand their oral traditions and how they communicate their values through “non-printed” methods such as story, dance, and music. This has taken her to remote locations in Nepal, Thailand, Siberia, India, Indonesia, and other countries to discover how to serve them in creating culture for themselves that will enable their children to avoid the contagion of HIV-Aids virus, sex slave trade industry, and rites that marginalize women or the handicapped. Her goal, and my goal in this chapter, is to encourage you to create a

Culture of Honor in the cultures that most shape our lives and future: the home and workplace.

Key to this culture shift is the role of values that are the foundation of cultures. The premise of this book is that we can upgrade our values[2] to promote honor at the top of the list and become intentional as to how to implement it at home and work.  Relationships are at the core of any culture and the way we honor others in those relationships is critical to the depth and meaning of those relationships in family, community, and workplace. Whether it is the Gobi Desert in Mongolia or the suburbs of Arizona, the gift of honor[3] can transform a relationship and those relationships can shift a culture to be an environment that brings out the best in us and through us.

Gifts of Honor

When was the last time your family honored one another? Was it the culturally accepted version only of birthday, anniversary, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and, of course, Christmas? How does your work environment show honor? Is it only the twenty-year gold watch, employee of the month gift certificate, and the long-lost bonus? These are the minimums to be part of the culture, but they do not motivate the maximums that can transform the culture. We need an upgrade of relational honor, a download of transformational behaviors that will result in significance, productivity, loyalty, camaraderie, unity, identity, courage, and tenacity at home and work. In short, we need our home and work environments to become cultures of honor.[4]

So, what is this honor we are describing? Honor is a relational or social term that identifies how people in any society evaluate one another. How we evaluate one’s worth affects our attitude and behavior towards that person. That is why at the root of most cultures there is an expression of giving honor to God through ways that represent worth. The Hebrew word “kabod” means “weighty”[5] or to give weight to someone. It is a word that grants respect, value, importance, and even authority in our lives. It is translated “glory” in English and is the primary call to give God glory or honor as the first priority in our lives that enable us to then have a lifestyle of giving honor to others throughout our lives.

John was at a yard sale and saw a tarp over what looked like a bike. He pulled back the tarp and underneath was a beat-up old Harley Davison motorcycle. The tires were flat, and the metal was all rusted out. John asked if the bike was for sale and the owner said, “Make me an offer.” John said, “How about $35.00?” He heard the quick reply, “Get it out of here, it is yours!”

A few weeks later John decided to see if he could still get some parts that were missing on the bike. When he called the Harley Davison Company the service rep said, “I’ll need the serial number,” so he scraped off the rust to find it and repeated it to him. The service rep replied, “Can you give me that number again?” When John repeated it, there was a long pause on the other side of the phone before the rep finally told him he will have to call him back.  An hour later the owner called and said, “Sight unseen I’ll give you $100,000 for the bike. It was specially made for Elvis and we have been looking for that bike for a long time.”[6]

The worth of the bike was determined by who it was made for. You, your family members, and work associates are made for the honor and glory of God. With that corner stone in place we can build a foundation for a culture of honor at home and work.

Value, respect, esteem, regard, worth, and significance flow out of the refreshing fountain of honor. Yet what leaks out from the septic tank of dishonor is disgrace, shame, humiliation, scorn, and contempt. It de-values someone to the point that dictionaries even refer to dishonor as “rape”. One of the most common ways we dishonor is to disregard God or people. Treating another as only part of a blurred landscape of our lives, ordinary, common, unimportant, even taken for granted, is to discount them and their unique purpose. Honor requires celebration and validation, not comfort zone toleration.

Sounds of Honor

Have you ever felt like saying, “Are you even listening to me?” That anger you feel inside comes from a sense of not being valued as a person, what you have to say is not relevant, and your needs are not seen as important. It is basic to human dignity that we are listened to and someone pays attention to us. There is a “sound” of dishonor that could be the sound of silence when we don’t speak up for another or the sound of emptiness when we do not seize the opportunity to validate another. Sometimes the sound of dishonor is in criticism, judgment, tone of voice, or body language.[7]

I will never forget the conflict intervention I attempted early in my career without knowing how to set ground rules for a successful interaction. With a high-profile leader and a mid-level staffer sitting in front of me, I attempted to have them work out their issues. Somewhere in the heat of the exchange the leader just got up and left the room; too busy and too preoccupied to spend anymore of her valuable time with such a subordinate’s issues. The devastation and demoralization was profound and reinforced the hierarchical culture of dishonor that had been ingrained in the organization for years. It made me determined, on my watch, to find a more excellent way to shift the work culture and has culminated in the following chapters that address these kinds of toxic scenarios.

The sounds of honor are much different. They are words of high value and words of a hopeful future. They edify or build people up and make them feel singularly prized and special. They impart strength and courage and enable people to get to the finish line through tough projects, circumstance beyond their control, suffering, and setbacks. In business culture it is sometimes referred to as the power of gratitude or affirmation.[8]  In the family culture it has been known as the power of the “blessing.”[9]

Something amazing happens when parents intentionally look for opportunities through the week to speak positive and powerful word pictures that capture the imagination of their children and help them to see themselves as they really are, and what they can fully become. Words at the dinner table, tender moment words at “tuck in time”, and well-chosen words at key teachable moments create a culture of honor that is actually the gift of honor to our children and grandchildren.  In this atmosphere children learn to honor their parents and parents to honor their children and treat them with care and consideration. Marriage is sustained as much by mutual respect and honor as by physical intimacy and affection. Women are to be honored, not abused and employees are to be treated with dignity and compassion.

Stories of Honor

Rural Canada

I worked for seven years in a small Canadian city with an honor deficit in the stories that gave meaning to their culture. From the very foundation of their town there was a major injustice that created a culture of dishonor and was still affecting two people groups hundreds of years later. Two cultures and language groups occupied this city in almost a 50/50 ratio, but the stories of non-cooperation, distrust, prejudice, and stereotypes were deeply ingrained in the psyche of the people. It was evident to an outsider that they had come to accept living in this murky fish tank as if it was normal and it is all they could ever expect.

After being captivated by the stories in Alex Halley’s classic “Roots”, I teamed up with some leaders to determine how we could shift the culture to one of more honor. We invited all the elderly who had been in the community, with their own roots for generations, to find some of the oldest pictures and artifacts from their family and come to a community hall we rented for a Saturday “Roots Day”. With almost two hundred card tables set up with fine linen, they see each of them the items that told the stories of the past as we filled the hall with the lineage of the community’s “pioneers”. In addition, we marketed to the entire community to come and visit them on this day and hear the stories of the people who had dreamed and sacrificed to make this community viable.

Something transformational and sustainable happened that day. The elderly received the gift of honor by us and more importantly, by the community residents who had no idea of the past and how it always affects the present. Conversations went to a meaningful level, talking of dreams realized and yet to be fulfilled. In this multi-generational and multicultural moment in time, something shifted in the way people viewed each other; moving towards a visible respect and reverence. From that moment on we gained a momentum that enabled us to build a model of community transformation that included the businesses and local government for years to come.

Washington, D.C.

More recently, I had the privilege of meeting an ambassador from Israel at a public lecture attended by VIP’s from various backgrounds. I was there to escort my wife who sang and to carry her heavy keyboard. Because I was her transportation I was invited back to the VIP after the event that was attended by invitation only. Somehow the ambassador singled me out and engaged me in an eight-minute conversation that was extraordinary. Though we were not totally in agreement on his points, it was a powerful conversation that I remember to this day. It seemed as if I was the honored guest and my perspective was sought after and taken as seriously as if I were his boss, the Prime Minister.

I asked my wife on the way home, “What school does an ambassador go to? I think I need to go there and get what he has.”

Four years later my wife was asked to sing again at an event in the capitol of our nation that was the good-bye celebration for this gentleman as he was to return home to a new government post. This time I was to both wear a tuxedo and carry the keyboard. I tried to find a way to be excused because I did not want to attend a politically charged meeting, attended by the former Republican leader of the House of Representatives and the present Democratic leader in charge; along with the five hundred guests from all the religious, cultural, and political differences you could gather in one room. I was prepared for the political spin, hype, and posturing that could make for a long evening in a less than comfortable attire.

Sometime during the event, I realized that this was not at all what I expected. The atmosphere was drenched with humility, honor, celebration, and even a sense of family unity around this couple’s four-year tenure representing his country to us. As I conversed with the guests at our table, I discovered the key reason. Each of the guests at my table had an extraordinary conversation with the ambassador that had impacted them, similar to what I had experienced, even if it was only a brief exchange. The final confirmation came when I heard the stories from

the platform personalities that basically repeated my experience to the letter. Over five hundred people from every walk of life had been transformed by a conversation with the ambassador. Now they were able to shift the culture of the most politically polarizing part of our country in a meeting, and in their lives, because someone had given them the gift of honor in a relational exchange that was transformational.

A key to both of these stories is a return to a child-like curiosity about life and people that genuinely wants to know and discover without having an agenda. A transformational coaching approach that is a vehicle for this curiosity is first, to discover how someone is a uniquely designed individual according to his or her personality and temperament. There are many effective assessments that explore such design. Second, there are also the unique desires that drive people with energy and passion, mostly discovered in clarifying core values. Third, is to understand the unique dreams that have captured someone’s imagination over the years. All of this can help uncover one’s unique destiny, the fourth emphasis that gives them their tailor-made mission and results in their unique legacy. In family and working relationships that honor these in attitudes, behaviors, and conversations, we will create cultures that honor and have a distinctiveness about them that brings out the best in people and organizations.

Each of us is a story that is being told about family, work, health, friends, and happiness.

Each of us contributes to the story being told by the organizations where we invest both our time and talents.[10] The challenge for many of us is that we may not be living our own story but the indoctrinated story of our culture that has held us captive to its own voice and values. This book is an attempt to help you get in touch with your “tailor-made” story. It honors you by having faith in you for the spiritual integrity that only you can steward to re-script your future to become a person of honor. Your story of honor is what you can do with the following materials applied personally. Your legacy is what you do with the culture of honor you shift and create by influencing others through the seven categories of transformational intelligences.

[1] Culture is “a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <southern culture> c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line> d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic” (Merriam Webster on-line dictionary, 2009).

[2] There are various tools to Prioritize Life Values that effective coaches use to help people move from aspirational to actual value-based living. Contact

[3] See the foundational work on this topic, The Gift of Honor, by Gary Smally and John Trent.

[4] The author first heard this term at Bethel Church in Redding, California in its unique role in training men and women to create less religious and more authentic and dynamic Kingdom of God cultures in their communities. The application of that here is to the home and workplace.

[5] Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Regency, 1985), 310.

[6] Seminar presentation by Brent Lucy, New Life Western, June 2009

[7] See Real Talk Training seminar materials described in

[8] See the excellent business books by Ken Blanchard, The One Minute Manager and Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service

[9] The Blessing by Gary Smally and John Trent emphasize the home being a place of “meaningful touch, spoken messages, attaching high value, picturing a special future, and activating a regular commitment” to our

[10] See chapters one and four of the excellent book, The Power of Story by Jim Loehr