Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the category “#4 REPRODUCE – Developing More Leaders”

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!

Lasting Impact

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” …. Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”    Matthew 16:13,15  (NLT)

Jesus was asking these questions to bring into focus of the Twelve what they believed about Him.  He used questions to force them to reflect on their personal beliefs.  He was not having an identity crisis!

How to insure that your investment in others will have a lasting impact?  It’s a matter of focus – focusing on beliefs.

You can influence another my focusing on their outward actions or behavior.  Accountability structures or ‘rules’ will insure that others conform to the expected performance standards.  But, as soon as they step out of this environment, they will revert back to their ‘default’ behavior patterns or adopt new patterns that align with the new environment they are in.

A more lasting impact can be had by focusing on a person’s values.  By helping shape values, we can impact behavior because values determine choices which result in behavior.  Values can be encouraged and re-enforced by the environment we create.  But, once again, when others leave this environment they will find themselves in a new one with different values that are influencing them to conform.

By focusing on beliefs / convictions and deeper matters of the heart, we can see true transformation in the lives of others that will last.  Personal beliefs will deepen and mature over time, but need to be rooted in the Scriptures which do not change and God’s character which is immutable.  Beliefs drive values which cause choices resulting in behavior.

These three levels of focus – beliefs, values, or actions (behavior) all will have impact.  But, impact that lasts comes from influencing what one believes.  Helping others answer “why,” not just “what” or “how” will plant seeds that grow to a fruitful maturity over time.

So, where’s your focus?

Faithfulness through the Generations

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel… After that whole generations had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.            Judges 2:7,10     (NIV  1984)

Israel walked in obedience to God and His law throughout the lifetime of Moses, Joshua, and the elders who led after Joshua.  For three generations they remembered the great deeds that the Lord had done and how He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt and preserved them for forty years in the desert.  They remembered how He had helped them cross the Jordan River and conquer the land promised to them when Moses sent Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’

But, now a new generation grew who did not know the Lord or His deeds.  Something had been lost in transmission through the generations.  The author of Judges reminds us that this fourth generation did not know the Lord or His deeds done for Israel.  Something happened after the generation of elders – they failed to raise their children in the ways of the Lord and also failed to connect them to their spiritual history.

To see spiritual generations continue for the fourth, fifth, and more generations, we will need both a dynamic walk with God personally and some intentionality.  Our ‘children’ – those we lead and influence (whether spiritual or biological) will need to see our own pursuit of Christ and embrace it as their own faith when they grow to maturity.  While we cannot force or make others grow, our example can be so compelling that others will desire it for themselves.  It has been said, “Set yourself on fire and others will come and watch you burn!”

Secondly, generations who do not experience the great God doing great things will drift into spiritual doldrums and their faith will be more intellectual rather than personal.  They will have many opinions, but few convictions.  The previous generations will have to be intentionally helping the new ones to know their spiritual heritage and live a life that takes new steps of faith based on God’s promises to them and their spiritual forefathers.

Isaiah 50:1-2 says, “”Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord : Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.”

Are you planning and leading for a legacy of many spiritual generations?

Developing Kingdom Leaders for What?

In Genesis 12:1-3 we read of God’s promise to Abram that the blessing upon Abram and his descendants would be a blessing to all the world.  1500 years later, Isaiah writes a prophecy about the coming Messiah and states that the mission of the Messiah would be to take the message of salvation not just to the tribes of Jacob, but to all the nations (peoples) of the world.

500 years after Isaiah, Jesus summarizes His entire public ministry with a commission to make disciples of all the nations (see Matthew 28:18-20).  And at His final public appearance, the Ascension from the Mount of Olives, the Lord instructs them to begin at Jerusalem and reach to ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

This mission of discipling the nations is why we need Kingdom leaders.  These missional leaders will seek to advance the gospel and the Kingdom into the various peoples of the world.  These leaders will be called of God to engage in this great cosmic task.  They will hear His voice and raise their hand.

The grand vision of making disciples of all the peoples of the world will need leaders of disciplemaking ministries and disciplemaking movements; leaders who see globally and act locally.  They will not be discouraged or shrink back from the immensity of the task.  Rather, they will rise to the challenge, trusting God by faith to use them is some way to further His purposes.

What better way to spend your life?  Some will be called to engage in this vocationally as full-time workers.  Others will have differing vocations, but their missional commitment will not waver as they engage in the grand enterprise of seeing the nations come to know Him.

These Kingdom leaders must be prayed for, worked for, recruited, trained, developed, and deployed strategically into the peoples of the world.  They will be few in number, given that the ‘laborers are few’ (see Matthew 9:35-38).  But, God does accomplish this mission with just a few (see Revelation 9:7).

We are not disheartened by the few who may raise their hand and volunteer for this daunting mission.  With God, one is a majority!  And with Him we have all the resources needed to accomplish everything He desires of us.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31  (NIV  1984)

Creating a Platform for Influence

One of your primary functions as a leader is to develop those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission.  The ability to influence and help them grow is built upon the foundation of trust in the relationship that you have with them.  But, what do you do when you do not have that kind of history with them–when there is no real relationship established?

In a recent conversation with Paul Stanley, former International VP of The Navigators, we discussed how to address this challenge.  Below are some of our practical ideas on how to build this kind of relationship, especially one that is geographically distant from you, so that you can help them grow and develop.

  1.  The first step is to begin to create trust
    • Remember, the depth of your relationship will determine the impact of your influence
    • You as their leader and mentor, want to be viewed as a ‘value-added’ asset to their life and leadership
    • Mutual vulnerability will create a growing bond of trust, with you, their supervisor, initiating the self-disclosure and openness
    • Mutual confidentiality must be assured, for any ‘leakage’ will quickly destroy any trust that has been built
  1. Seek to create a sense where they know that you are in it with them – we are in it together to help them succeed
    • Join their team in spirit, becoming their fan and champion
  1. Help them see a bigger vision for their life and future contribution beyond their current role
    • Help them believe that their future destiny is more than what they can currently ‘see’
  1. Early on in the relationship, they must feel practically helped in their current responsibility
    • Identify 2 or 3 leverage points for them to focus on in the next 1-2 years that will truly help them make progress and bring change to their mission
  1. Help them clarify their responsibilities before God and the organization that they are to steward
    • Help them shape the stewardship of these responsibilities, seeking to prioritize them into what is most strategic at this time
    • Help them identify 3-4 key responsibilities to focus on for the next 1-2 years
    • Pray for them and with them over these 3-4 key responsibilities
    • Talk with them regularly about progress in these 3-4 items
  1. Help them grow in confidence as a leader
    • Affirm, encourage, advocate for, and champion them
    • Help them identify certain leadership principles that they are already doing that models good leadership
      • Ken Blanchard reminds us to, “Find somebody doing something right and tell them about it.”
  1. Help them grow in self-awareness as a leader
    • What are their personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader
    • Help them learn how to lead from their strengths and staff to their weaknesses
  1. As you supervise and mentor them, adopt the attitude of asking, not telling!
    • Lead with questions, not answers!
  1. Open the bible together and pray together on a regular basis

Qualified to Lead

But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens… Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.  He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.      Exodus 18:21; 24-25   (NIV  1984  Italics added)

Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you…  So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials.       Deuteronomy 1:13, 15  (NIV  1984  Italics added)

In Deuteronomy we have several messages from Moses to the people of Israel before they were to cross into the Promised Land.  In these words, Moses reminds them of their history – how they arrived at this point in time.  In the first chapter he reviews the change of leadership structure that came about from the advice given to him from his father-in-law, Jethro, some forty years earlier (see Exodus 18).

Jethro saw that Moses was being worn down by the daily leadership demands of the people, and thus needed some help.  The advice given and heeded was to set up a hierarchy of leaders to help carry the leadership load and thus free Moses to focus on teaching the people the Law of God and only handling the most difficult cases.

Note the selection criteria for those who were chosen to judge the people:  capable men who feared God and were trustworthy (Jethro’s advice).  Moses’ summary forty years later was the choosing of those who were wise, understanding, and respected.

Here’s two general observations on who was considered qualified to lead.  First, they were to be capable, wise, and respected.  To determine if someone meets these criteria, they must have a track record of their leadership.  We need to be able to assess the results of their decisions and evaluate the outcomes of their choices.  We are to select based upon demonstrated, realized potential, not just potential. We are looking for proven leadership ability, not just raw potential.  Competency counts!

Secondly, they were to be men of godly character.  They were to be – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, wise, and understanding.  They were to be able to lead from a foundation of seeing their leadership as a servant and steward of God.  They must be people of integrity.  And they must have wisdom and discernment to see solutions to problems and able to discern root issues.  Character counts!

When selecting leaders for Kingdom leadership we are to choose those with both proven competency to lead and Christlike character.  Competency and character are two wings of the leadership airplane.  We need both for it to fly!

Intentionality – A Little Goes a Long Way

One of your primary responsibilities as a Kingdom leader is to leave behind more leaders.  You are tasked with developing those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission of discipling the nations.

But what if you don’t have the ‘gift mix’ for developing others?  Often this development gets ignored or we silently hope that with the gaining of more experience that those leaders around us are being developed.  While experience does help, it may or may not be good and certainly does not maximize one’s development opportunities.  What to do?

When it comes to developing others, a little bit of intentionality goes a long way.   A little bit of forethought or planning on how to develop those you are leading in their leadership can bring great gains.  And here’s the secret – you don’t have to be the ‘developer.’  All you have to do is lead them in their development.

Many leaders accept the responsibility for developing the leaders around them, but are paralyzed into inaction because they assume they must be the ones to do the development.  The answer is not in delegating the development of your leaders to another.  Rather, simply lead them in development as you do mission together.  It does not take much effort on your part and those you lead will love you for it.

As you put together your team meeting agendas, set apart some time for leader development.  Depending upon the meeting, the length of time can be short or long.  By setting time for this in the agenda, you will focus the team on the importance of their own development as leaders.  If not, then ‘business items’ will take all available meeting time and still not be completed.

Here’s some simple ideas on how to lead your team in development as leaders:

  1. Select a passage from the Gospels to read about Jesus developing the 12 Apostles.  Read it together and discuss leadership principles you observe and how they might apply to your context.
  2. Print out a short article on leadership or a topic of current interest to discuss together and then relate it to your mission.
  3. Read a book together and discuss it at your team meetings.
  4. Visit another organization as a team.  Meet with their leaders and discuss what you learned that may be applicable when you next meet as a team.
  5. Watch a film that has leadership related themes you believe are applicable for your context and discuss lessons you observed and how to apply them.

In all of these situations you do not have to be the ‘answer person’ for your team’s development.  You just have to take the time to plan ahead and lead them in their development experience.  You can learn and develop right along with them.

Do you have leader development as a part of your team meeting agenda?

The Learning Cycle Applied – 3

Experience is not the best teacher.  It is evaluated experience that makes for truly developmental learning.  For those of us who seek to intentionally develop others, especially leaders, helping them to evaluate their experiences will maximize the developmental opportunity.

David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, captured a model on how adults learn.  Later Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business.  Here is their Learning Cycle with minor adaptations.

The Adult Learning Cycle

Learning Cycle diagram

4 Phases of the Adult Learning Cycle

  • Experience – The circumstances, people, responsibilities and opportunities that make up the reality of life.
  • Reflection – People need to reflect on their experiences. Questions need to be asked about what happened and why it happened.
  • Conclusion – Having reflected, the learner draws conclusions that form applications for future activity.
  • Application – Applications form the basis of ongoing activities and experience.

Too often busy leaders fail to stop and reflect adequately upon their leadership experiences.  One of a leader developer’s tools for helping others is the ability to cause busy leaders to stop long enough to adequately reflect upon their experiences.  We do this by asking them questions.  Becoming a good questioner is key to helping other adults learn from their experiences.  But many fail to probe another’s experience by failing to ask.  Why?

One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is the desire to talk about yourself and your own experiences.  This self-centeredness flows from an inflated ego and an assumption that my experiences are more important than yours.  We can ramble on and on about ourselves without seeming to take a breath and the listener, though hopefully polite, has really not benefited.  You may feel good about the time, but it is a wasted opportunity for them to reflect upon their own experience because you lacked the self-control to shut up about yourself and listen to them.

Jesus asked hundreds of questions to those around Him, especially The Twelve leaders in training.  Not one time was He asking for information!  It was all for their benefit.

So, are you a ‘teller’ or an ‘asker?’  How you answer can determine how well you develop other leaders.

 

The Learning Cycle Applied – Five Questions for Reflection – 2

Experience is not the best teacher.  It is evaluated experience that makes for truly developmental learning.  For those of us who seek to intentionally develop others, especially leaders, helping them to evaluate their experiences will maximize the developmental opportunity.

David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, captured a model on how adults learn.  Later Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business.  Here is their Learning Cycle with minor adaptations.

The Adult Learning Cycle

Learning Cycle diagram

4 Phases of the Adult Learning Cycle

  • Experience – The circumstances, people, responsibilities and opportunities that make up the reality of life.
  • Reflection – People need to reflect on their experiences. Questions need to be asked about what happened and why it happened.
  • Conclusion – Having reflected, the learner draws conclusions that form applications for future activity.
  • Application – Applications form the basis of ongoing activities and experience.

Too often busy leaders fail to stop and reflect adequately upon their leadership experiences.  One of a leader developer’s tools for helping others is the ability to cause busy leaders to stop long enough to adequately reflect upon their experiences.  We do this by asking them questions.  Becoming a good questioner is key to helping other adults learn from their experiences.  Here are five of my favorite questions to ask leaders about a recent leadership experience.

  1. What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
  2. What did about your God from this experience?
  3. What did you learn about leadership from this experience?
  4. If you were to repeat this experience, what would you do again and why?
  5. If you were to repeat this experience, what would you not do again and why?

These simple questions will cause a person to stop and think carefully about their life and leadership and help them arrive at good conclusions.  They ‘why’ part of the final two questions is most insightful as it helps us understand their reasoning and values.

So, are you a ‘teller’ or an ‘asker?’  How you answer can determine how well you develop other adults.

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