Leadership Lessons from Toy Story; Communicate Change Openly and Directly

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One of my favourite scenes from the original Toy Story movie is when Woody assembles the toys for a “staff meeting”, where he intends to inform them that their owner, Andy, has had the date for his birthday party changed.

Knowing that this news is likely to evoke a strong reaction, Woody starts by bringing them a couple of fairly innocuous pieces of information (eg, “Does everyone have a moving buddy?”) before delivering the real news.

Almost under his breath, Woody nonchalantly looks on the second page of his agenda and mumbles, “Oh, and one minor note, the date for Andy’s birthday party has changed…to today.”

Watching Mr. Potatohead, Rex, Ham and the others totally freaking out is pretty hilarious.

The leadership lesson for Woody? How you deliver this kind of news is as important as what the news itself actually is. In this case, news of this importance required clear, open, up-front communication.

Similarly, at the close of this year’s Global Leadership Summit we delivered some fairly significant news; that starting in 2011 the Canadian Summit is moving to the end of September. And while we had no reactions nearly as intense as those of Woody’s friends, this news is worthy of open discussion.

Here then, is the background to this move.

At the start of June we met with our Summit host pastors, along with Bill Hybels, and asked them how we could extend the impact of the Summit. I was surprised to hear them say that we should move the dates.

After getting feedback from church leaders across Canada, two vital themes emerged. The first was that the single greatest factor which limits the impact of the Summit is the time of year.

Secondly, Canadian church leaders want the Summit to more fully reflect our own country’s leadership issues. This move will allow us to not only capture the entire U.S. Summit experience, but also enhance it with new content.

Moving forward there’s another Toy Story leadership lesson to be gleaned. Woody made the mistake of simply announcing this change and then moving on. We want to engage in dialogue. So here are a couple of questions I’d love to get your input on:

  • How can we leverage the Summit to impact more church leaders in Canada?
  • What are the most pressing leadership issues facing the Canadian church that could be addressed in the Summit?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. 1. Invite speakers from churches that reflect the make-up of the majority of Summit attendees. The Pastors who spoke this year were all from churches ranging from 3000 to 30,000 members. That’s “impressive” I suppose, but let’s hear from someone like Eugene Peterson who laboured faithfully for decades in a smaller church.

    2. More genuine Canadian content. That McManus presentation certainly didn’t qualify. I am a fan of McManus, but I want to hear him speak. I don’t want to see a 30-minute promo for his latest documentary.

  2. Michael; GREAT input. Your feedback will help inform next year’s event.

    I look forward to hearing from others on this too.

  3. I support the date change … middle of summer is vacation time … hard to disrupt the family vocation to take in the summit.

    Pressing issues to be tackled.
    – Economic crisis (we are in second great depression … why we got into this mess and how to get out of it.)
    – Demographic crisis (our population is now not replacing itself, this going to have huge cultural, financial, political, and religious implications.) We need to get our christian youth breeding like rabbits.
    – Environmental crisis ( oceans and atmosphere is in trouble) … our very survival depends on our ability to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, grow our own food, and protect nature, particularly the ocean. We need some great international leadership efforts.

  4. Scott,

    For the most part, I found the content of the 2010 Summit completely applicable. I loved that you had speakers that most cannot afford to bring to their conferences/gatherings.

    Canadian demographer David Foot might be an interesting speaker.

    The other area that I think many urban centres are grappling with is doing a good job of reaching out inter-culturally. We are so diverse in Canada.

  5. Clifford and Heather have both identified issues worth exploring! Each of these will be included in our planning discussions for 2011.

    Other ideas?

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