Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “January, 2019”

Help – I Need a Mentor!

Many a conversation with next generation emerging leaders sooner or later comes to their felt need to be mentored for their development.  This is frequently followed by a complaint that there is no one to help them.  “I’ve looked and asked, and no one is willing to help me,” they say.  What to do?

First of all, the absence of a mentor is no excuse for not pursuing your own development.  There are multiple resources available to us online for growth.  We can read biographies of leaders and glean valuable leadership lessons.  We can do personal bible studies of leaders, both good and bad, and seek to learn from their examples.  But, it is nice to have someone to interact with – a mentor who can bring perspective and personal help.

Yes, leaders are busy people with very full schedules.  Few are looking for mentoring opportunities.  What to do?  Here’s my suggestion.

Identify someone who you think can be of some help.  Approach them with this question, “Could we meet for me to ask you some 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… they have too many things to do!  But they all have to eat sometime, so invite them to a meal (you offer to pay!) and come with specific questions.  Take good notes and reflect on their answers for your growth and development.

I’ve done this over the years, targeting specific leaders for specific topics of development.  Topics I’ve benefited from are things like:  how to work with an executive assistant, how to select a leadership team, how to lead a meeting, how to manage your schedule, how to lead a geographically dispersed team, lessons learned about travel, how to handle communication demands, how to arrange an office, and many, many more.  All were practical and immediately applicable.

Another frequent objection is that they have never done this type of mentoring.  To answer this I’ve said, “I realize that this may be new for you.  But, you’ve been preparing for this all of your life.  It’s my job to get from you what you have learned by asking you questions.  All you have to do is answer my questions.”  This makes it doable, as they realize that they are not expected to prep anything – they’ve already done the preparation.

Don’t let the absence of a mentor stop you from your own growth and development!  Get after it!!!  And if you do have someone, pursue them – now!!!

Who’s 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?

Certainly, God Himself is very interested in our development.  We understand that we are created for a purpose (Ephesian 2:10), and are all works in progress, being shaped into the image of Christ daily as we grow toward maturity in Him.   He is at work within us, developing us through the work of the Spirit.

Our second source of development may be our organization or workplace.  Businesses and organizations that purposefully invest in developing their leadership communities tend to do well over time.

These developmental opportunities can be:  1) formal (academic credentialing – i.e. secondary degrees) or 2) semi-formal (certifications, symposiums, or seminars).  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.

But, the primary source for our development must come from within.  We must own our own development as leaders.  Rather than waiting or complaining, take the responsibility upon yourself to be the best leader you can possibly be.  Pursue your development and don’t let any excuse keep you from it.

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

Wise Travel and the Kingdom Leader

Often, one of the consequences of increased leadership responsibilities is more travel away from home.  This increased ‘away time’ puts added stress on family, local, and routine operational responsibilities.  How to wisely handle this travel and optimize it for all involved is key to being an effective leader.

1.  The first question to ask is, “Why am I making this trip?  Is it truly essential that I go, or could someone else represent me?  Could what I hope to accomplish be handled via phone or video conference?”  Maybe you don’t have to make the trip at all!

2.  When booking air travel, have you allowed enough time for the seemingly inevitable delays in arrivals, departures or connections?  Booking too tightly increases stress load and decreases enjoyment if you are running from gate to gate to make a connecting flight.

3. When planning your schedule at the destination, think of dividing the work day into three parts – morning, afternoon and evening.  Those planning your schedule upon arrival should be informed that they can only fill two of these three parts each day.  Thus, you will have a portion of each day for rest, reflection, catch up and dealing with any unexpected crisis.

4.  Be wise on what you eat and when you get to sleep on trips, especially if you have time zone changes such as on international trips.  If hosted, you will often be treated with great generosity of sight-seeing events, shopping for family gifts, wonderful meals, etc.  Being out of your normal routines can make self-control and self-discipline difficult.  Pace yourself!

5.  For truly extended trips of a couple of weeks, consider a one or two-day break in the middle of the trip for restoration and rejuvenation.

6.  Be sure your spouse knows how to contact you if needed, especially for emergencies.  Even today, not every place has easy internet or mobile phone connections.

7.  When returning home, it’s easy to think that the trips is over when you ‘hit the front door’ upon your return.  You’ve been giving out for some time and now you just want to crash and relax.  On the other hand, your spouse has been at home while you’ve been away, and you have a lot to catch up on.  If there are children still at home, the one who stayed home probably needs a break from the kids.

A wise mindset is this, when returning home from a trip, tell yourself that the trip ends the day after you return.  That is, you are still in the ‘giving out’ mindset when you hit the home front – especially the first 24 hours after your return.  Focus on the kids and your spouse’s needs, not your own.  Seek to serve them, not be served by them.

When’s your next trip?  Are you planning ahead for more than just how you will spend the days away?  Are you planning wisely not only for the trip, but for your return?

Beware of the Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…   Hebrews 12:15  (ESV)

Life will bring wounds and hurts from others, even those we love and who love us.  It’s the nature of the fall and the curse that we now live under.  Though Kingdom people have been saved by God’s grace and mercy, we are still people in process, being conformed into the image of Christ daily.  To expect to never hurt or be hurt-wounded by another, even those who are followers of Christ, is unrealistic and only setting ourselves up for great disappointment.

When wounded by another we have a choice to make.  We can choose to forgive the offending party or we can harbor this wound, cultivate it, letting it take root in our souls.  This wound now becomes a ‘generalized infection’ within us and poisons our life.  Someone has said, “Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison thinking it will hurt the other person.”  How foolish of us, yet many still hang onto past memories and hurts, dwelling on them and letting these control our emotional well-being.

God’s solution for relational hurts and wounds is forgiveness.  It frees the offended person from the bitterness and the pain of the offense.  While we may not be able to forget the offense, the pain of it is removed.  Much like a physical scar can bring to mind past injuries, when the scar it touched there is no associated pain.

The only way possible to be free from past wounds is to forgive others.  And the only possible way to forgive others is to first, fully understand how much we have been forgiven.  Jesus reminds us that those who have been forgiven much love much (see Luke 7:47).

Is there some offense that you have been clinging too that has taken root and bears toxic fruit in your heart?  Release that offense and forgive the offender, knowing that you have been forgiven a much, much larger debt due to your sin against the God Himself.  The truth will set you free!

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