Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

When God Says Wait!

I was twenty-nine years old and married with two (soon it would be three) children when I left a career in veterinary medicine to pursue a calling to world missions.  I was anxious to get on with the plan for our lives, for God had directed us to accept an opportunity to serve in Indonesia with The Navigators.  We moved from Purdue University to Chicago to be involved with several churches while we waited for the visa to move to the country of our destiny.  We anticipated a six-month wait, so we busied ourselves with fundraising and preparation for departure.

Three years later we were still waiting!  People would meet us and ask questions like, “Are your still here?  Are you sure God is leading you to Indonesia?  Maybe this closed-door is His means of directing you to stay in America.  Have you considered that possibility?”  Of course we considered that possibility and many others, but each time we prayed there came a deep assurance from the Lord that He would answer in His perfect timing.  After three years the visa was granted and we moved to Indonesia, staying for the next eleven years until once again the visa was denied and we came home.

During those years of waiting, there were many days of anxiety, questions, and wondering if we would ever get overseas.  As I grew older I wondered about our ability to learn a new language and adjust to a new culture.  But during this time of waiting, God was at work in my life, building into me some life lessons that He knew I needed in order to serve Him well in Indonesia and later in life.  I chafed under the delay in proceeding with this plan we had laid out, but God was gracious to keep us in Chicago rather than rushing us off to the far side of the Pacific.  I came to learn the lesson that what He does in us is often more important than what He does through us.  God’s purposes will be accomplished with us or without us.  [1]

Waiting on God is a quality needed for leaders to experience the touch of God in them and on their leadership.  Are you straining at the end of the leash that the Lord has you on?  Do you want to run ahead and He has told you to sit and wait?  Can you trust Him to do good and give you His best?  He knows the time and when the time is right He will unclip the leash and shout, “Run!”  Until then, wait and watch for Him to do what only He can do.


[1]   Yeakley, Tom  Growing Kingdom Character  NavPress  Colorado Springs, CO  2011  pp. 128-129

Who is Responsible for My Development?

The heights of great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upwards in the night.

The Ladder of St. Augustine,  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My conversation with this 30-year-old leader had come to a point of discussing his ongoing development as a leader.  “But my organization is not even thinking about my development,” he explained in exasperation.  “When will I be developed as a leader so that I can truly make my contribution?”

I’ve reflected on that conversation many times.  Who is responsible for our development as leaders?  I ‘d suggest 3 sources who are very interested in you reaching your potential for influence in the Kingdom.

First of all God Himself is very interested in your leader development.  While both competency and character are needed to lead well, God chooses to focus our development on the character side.  The obvious reason is that He will certainly take care of competency issues through His help as we depend upon Him.  This does not mean that leadership competency is not so important for Kingdom leaders, but God places a priority on character for His leaders.

He is committed to seeing Christlike character shaped within us all, especially His leaders.  He is constantly arranging the circumstances of our life and leadership in order to help us grow into the person He desires.  We can embrace these opportunities for character growth or seek to run from them.  But should we choose to run, He will again raise up new circumstances to once again move us towards Christlikeness.

Our second source of development should be our organization, corporation, business, or workplace.  Businesses and organization that purposefully invest in developing their leadership communities tend to do well over time.  These organizational opportunities can be formal (academic credentialing through study. i.e. secondary degrees in organizational leadership) or semi-formal (certification, continuing education days,  or seminars around areas of leadership competency).  Some workplaces are better than others about providing this type of intentional development.  And even those who are committed to this intentional development of leaders will often greatly cut the budget or staffing for it when there is an overall budget tightening.

The third source of our develop comes from within ourselves.  We must own our own development as leaders.  Rather than waiting or complaining about not being developed, take the responsibility upon yourself to be the best leader you can be.  Seek out opportunities for growth in competency and character.  Pursue it wholeheartedly!  Start today!

One of the most helpful development opportunities is having a mentor for your leadership. Many emerging leaders tell me that they can’t find a mentor willing to meet with them.  Here’s my suggestion.  Find a leader who you think can be of some help.  Approach them with this question, “Could we begin to meet together for me to ask you questions about how I can be a better leader?”  Note that you’re not asking them to mentor you.  Many busy leaders will immediately decline this offer…too many things to do!  But they all have to eat sometime, so invite them to a meal (you pay!) and come with specific questions that they can respond to.  Take good notes and reflect on their answers for your own growth and development.

Be the best leader you can be for Jesus sake and embrace your own development!

Leading a Better Meeting

We all want to learn how to lead a good meeting.  There is nothing more discouraging that wasting your time and energy on meetings that don’t accomplish what is needed or actually demotivate those who attend.  We’ve got to stop meeting like this!  Here’s some practical ideas for improving your “how to lead a meeting” skills.  Perhaps all will not be helpful, but look for one idea that you can begin to implement this week to make you a better leader.

Types of meetings  –  multi-day vs. one day team meetings  –  different objectives for both of these types of meetings

  1. For multi-day meetings, address the most important issues or most complex issues first before you lose energy or enthusiasm
  2. Consider multiparty video meetings instead of face-to-face for routine meetings
  • Use Skype, ooVoo, MegaMeeting, etc. for video meetings; many can handle up to 20 people with little cost
  • Get comfortable with the technology before the meeting so you don’t waste time during the meeting trying to make the connection work!
  • For large teams, remind all to be sensitive to each others need to contribute; don’t dominate the conversation; don’t remain silent; not everyone has to speak on every issue!
  • Be sensitive on when you, the team leader, weigh in with your opinion; for younger teams this can shut down discussion

3 Parts to Every Meeting  –  Business, Relationships, Development

  • Not all parts get equal weight at each meeting – use as guideline for setting the schedule and agenda
  • Maintain a spiritual tone  – devotions (let others share devotions, not just team leader)
  • When discussions are bogged down with no clear solution, stop and pray individually (listen to God, as well as speak); pray collectively; report back what God has said to the group
  • Some special meetings may get more emphasis  –  i.e. development or relationships
  • Be sensitive to time zone changes for those who travel to the meeting  –  make the agenda a short night the first night so all get adequate rest; no important topics on the first day when arriving from travel
  • Pace the meeting if it’s multi-day  –  allow time for breaks, rest, and recreation
  • No cell phone or text messaging, unless family emergency!  (create a “cell phone fine pool” for violators)
  • No email checking during the meeting!  –  multitasking diminishes focus and contribution!
  • No web surfing during a meeting!
  • Be sure to get input from the quieter personality types in discussions; don’t let a few dominate or set the tone for a discussion;  invite quieter ones to speak first sometimes
  • Be sensitive to women not contributing due to being outnumbered or intimidated by number of men
  • Consider having one or two additional seats at the meeting to invite guests (“bench members” who could be future team members)
  • If you have only one woman team member, invite another woman (make sure that these are leaders in their own right, not just selected for gender balance)

1. Business Items

  • Have a schedule for each day and share it with all before the meeting begins so they can plan how to use their free time wisely; this also allows them time to come well prepared to contribute at the meeting
  • Let them know which meals will be together and which are free for them to schedule
  • If meeting at a headquarters, be sure to recognize the need to interface with others at headquarters, thus allowing time for it in the meeting schedule
  • Have a written agenda with top priority items listed first that will usually require extended discussion
  • Request member’s input on additional agenda items before the meeting so you can decide whether to include them or handle these items in a different way
  • Think what must be done face-to-face and what can be done by other means
  • Have list of operational issues that are easy to use as short, time fillers – i.e. dates for next meeting, location of next meeting, etc.
  • Consider letting others lead the daily agenda so that you as the team leader can gain some better perspective on any discussion and the overall meeting tone
  • For multi-day meetings, consider having evenings free unless it’s a relationship oriented activity
  • Personnel decisions will always take more time than you think!  Allow plenty of time in the schedule.

2. Relationship Building

  • Trust is the key to a great team; never underestimate the power of trust!
  • Personal updates at the beginning of the meeting  –  set a time limit; pray for each other
  • What is shared in the meeting stays in the meeting, unless permission is given!
  • Consider creating a tradition that will bond members by sharing a common experience  –  i.e. revolving miniature golf trophy, game tournament, etc.
  • Just having meals together is not the only way to deepen relationships!
  • Be sensitive to gender differences on what builds relationships –  i.e. paintball wars; choosing which movie to watch together, etc.
  • Consider a special event where focus is primarily on deepening relationships
  • Bring spouses to the special event?
  • Be sensitive to financial costs, travel costs, babysitting needs, etc.
  • Be sensitive to differences in interest level  –  one person’s fun time is another’s torment!

3. Development of Team

  • As the team leader, you don’t have to do the development yourself, just lead them in development!
  • Plan your development ahead of time; what can you do together to grow as leaders?
  • Read and discuss an article; do a bible study together and discuss it; read a chapter in a book and discuss it
    • Assignments to be discussed at the meeting  –  i.e. an article or chapter from a book
    • Make sure the assignments are doable for busy leaders
    • Use devotions as development times  –  leadership lessons from the Word
    • Ask others to share the devotions  –  give them feedback on how to improve their sharing of the Word
    • Make special events both developmental and relationship oriented  –  i.e. Gettysburg, Alamo
    • Be sensitive to gender differences and interest levels

Begin with the End in Mind

Someone has said, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.”  Have you thought about the final seasons of your life when hopefully you will have developed your strengths to the point where you are serving and blessing others in and through them?  If that is the ‘end,’ then what road should you be on now that will lead you to that destination?

By way of personal illustration, what I am currently doing is sharing my life messages in the form of coaching leaders individually, teaching others from these life lessons, and helping to lead a leader development process for our US Navigator work.  But all of this flows from a decision to focus on my life passion of leadership and developing leaders about 20 years ago. 

When home on assignment from Indonesia for six months in 1991, I took some extended time to reflect upon where I sensed the blessing of God on my life and ministry and where I was truly motivated and excited about the topic.  This led me to begin to focus on the areas of leadership and developing emerging leaders.  After leaving the Collegiate Director role in 2003 I again took some extended time to reflect upon my passions and life messages that I felt a sense of stewardship for before the Lord.  This led to a laser focus on three areas:  leader development, emerging leaders, and the nations (missions). 

In thinking about this path of development over two decades plus now it is clear that the “end” has become more and more focused.  The general direction for multiplying my life through spiritual generations of laborers now has resulted in a personal mission statement as follows:  I am out to change the world one leader at a time by helping them live and lead like Jesus.

In sharing this I am not suggesting that you imitate my personal journey.  I only point this out as an illustration to consider for your own development.  Operating and leading from strengths will not just happen with the passing of time.  You will have to choose to focus, to say ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to others in order to maximize your strengths.  It will be a process, a longer process that you think, to get to a destination of serving others from your passions and strengths.

So, here are some general thoughts for you regarding contributing in your strengths:

 1.        Develop yourself for contribution, not a role or title or spot on an organizational chart.  The latter is thinking too small and limiting what God could desire to do with and through you.  Develop your life messages and then let God surprise you as to how He will let you make that contribution.  The two roles that I have now in leader development did not exist 10 years ago.  Both were created for me as I developed my strength in the message of leadership and developing leaders.

2.       Work on your personal mission statement to clarify your contribution.  Take some time to stop and think about the end of your journey now, not later.  What would you desire?  What would ‘turn your crank?’  This could be a great sabbatical exercise.  It will clarify what you are aiming for in the future.  Why has God made you?  For what purpose?  What are the life messages He has given you to steward for which you will be held accountable?

3.       Determine your primary audience for your contribution.  Who is the audience that the Lord seems to connect you with?  What age group?  Do you have cross-cultural ability or experience?  Again to illustrate from my life, I determined that my primary focus was to be emerging leaders under the age of 40.  I wanted to help shape them before they made too many choices that led to bad consequences in their leadership careers.  This aligned with my life experience as well as my strategic desire to help others before they made major mistakes, rather than afterwards.

4.       Finally, you will want to determine your primary delivery platform.  What format do you just love to engage others in?  Is it one-on-one, small group, or large group?  Do you like informal, semi-formal, for formal environments for influencing others?  Written or verbal?  Is it more “come along and watch me” or “sit down and let’s dialog on this”?  Regardless of the delivery platform, there needs to be intentionality for the greatest impact in the lives of others.

Now, it’s time to get out the map and determine your destination.  Remember, if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll hit it every time!

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