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I hope you have enjoyed the 27 posts I have submitted since last October.  I encourage you to revisit the posts listed below.  I am concluding the posts until September 2015 when I will pick up where I left off.  I would enjoy hearing from you regarding the posts you enjoyed and why they caught your interest.  Until September I bid you farewell.


#1 - Being a Leader

#2 - Leadership

#3 - Finishing Well

#4 - Key Characteristics

#5 - Major Barriers

#6 - Enhancements

#7 - Budding Leaders

#8 - Concerns versus Influence

#9 - Hills to Die On

#10 - Boundary Events

#11 - SMART Goals

#12 - Time Management

#13 - Decision Filters

#14 - Clock or Compass

#15 - Mentoring Insights

#16 - Mentoring Dynamics

#17 - Mentoring Needs

#18 - Mentoring Types

#19 - Mentoring Guidelines

#20 - Mentoring Contract

#21 - Unrealized Potential

#22 - Wise Decisions

#23 - Reframing

#24 - Interview Technique

#25 - Too Much to Read

#26 - Too Little Time to Read

#27 - Reading What Is Important

Leadership and Formation #27: Reading What Is Important

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stick_figure_books_ladder_400_clr_9130.pngThus far we have covered four approaches for Reading on the Run, Continuum Reading Concepts:  scan reading, ransack reading, browse reading, and Pre-reading.  See the last two posts for details on these methods.

The last and more detailed reading methods include In-depth Reading and Studying a Book.

In-Depth Reading

According to J. Robert Clintion (and in his own words) you do an in-depth reading of a book when you have determined from scanning, ransacking, and browsing that it is worth pre-reading and actually reading in-depth.  An in-depth reading of a book is a detailed approach to the evaluation of a book which involves pre-reading followed by detailed reading of all parts of the text in order to affirm, deny or modify the pre-reading analysis and to produce six evaluation statements.

Reading a book is a serious detailed approach to the understanding of what the author is saying.  It is an approach which says the book deserves to be read in a detailed enough way so you are able to give evaluation statements about the book as a whole.  When you have read a book you have an overall grasp of the book and can discuss it motivationally with a potential reader.  You will be able to discuss six kinds of evaluation statements which are described below.  You will have, if appropriate…

  1. Shown where the author is uninformed in his/her writing, (i.e., examples from the book where the author draws conclusions without considering all the facts).
  2. Shown where the author is misinformed in his/her writing, (i.e., instances/examples from the book in which the author draws conclusions based on false information).
  3. Shown where the author is illogical in his/her writing (i.e., examples from the book in which the author uses faulty reasoning in arriving at conclusions).
  4. Shown where the author’s analysis or account is incomplete in terms of his/her statement of purpose in writing the book (i.e., an evaluation of the author’s accomplishment of purpose in writing he book.)
  5. Shown the author’s strengths in his/her writing, (i.e., reference to useful quotations, point out any strong arguments or explanations, and point out concepts which can be transferred to your own experience).
  6. Shown the relevance of the book to today’s needs, (i.e., application to various life-situations to which the book can be applied.  You can point out the kind of reader who will profit the most by the book).

Studying a Book

Studying a book requires the most detailed kind of reading.  Studying a book is a special in-depth approach to the reading of a book which involves pre-reading, reading, and background research on materials and ideas used in the book.  It involves the ability to do comparative evaluation and original research on materials and ideas used in the book.

Six Results

When you have studied a book you will…

  1. Have done the four pre-reading statements.
  2. Have arrived at appropriate evaluation statements from the six evaluation statements normally considered in detailed reading.
  3. Be able to discuss the book analytically with another reader.
  4. Be able to evaluate the other reader’s analysis for clarification, modification, etc.
  5. Have researched original materials quoted in the book for evaluating accuracy.
  6. Be able to compare the book with other books dealing with the same major subject so as to show similarities, differences, unique contributions, etc.

I hope the information on continuum reading concepts will inform your reading practices going forward.  I strongly recommend you acquire this handy guide by purchasing Reading on the Run: Continuum Reading Concepts by J. Robert Clinton, 1999, Barnabas Publishers.  There is much more detail including examples of each reading method as well as feedback on each method.  There is also information in this valuable resource for writing a book review using reading continuum concepts.


Leadership and Formation #26: Too Little Time to Read

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stick_figure_run_clock_400_clr_7435.pngIn the last post I introduced you reading on the run; continuum reading concepts.  Not every word of every book or article requires reading.  What you read and how much you read depends on the material being read.  As J. Robert Clinton declared, “One can read different books (articles) differently and obtain useful information without having to read every word of every book (article)….Continuum reading concepts teach one how to pick and choose which words, paragraphs, pages, chapters and sections are to be read, and how to read them for information without having to read every word.”

Six reading intensities were identified in the last post, the first two of which were explained in greater detail – scanning, ransacking (see the previous post for more detailed information on these first two levels), browsing, pre-reading, in-depth reading, and studying.  Let’s pick up where we left off again in the words of the original author.

Browse Reading

Browsing id dipping into certain portions of a book to study in detail some discussion of a topic in its contextual treatment.  Having scanned a book you may decide that you are relatively familiar with the material and want to explore in some detail a given topic of interest.  Detailed reading of an extended portion (or portions) of a book is what is meant by browsing.  Often you will discover browsing material when ransacking for a new idea (concept, strategy, process, principle, methodology, etc.)

Three Results

When browsing prepare evaluation type questions on a limited portion of the book you are reading organized around the concept, strategy, process, principle, methodology, etc. you are seeking to explore.  The following questions are helpful to browsing…

  • What did the author actually say on the subject of interest?  Resist initially to read into what the author is saying.
  • How well did the author say it (what definitions, examples, figures of speech, cogency of argument, substantiation) was employed?
  • What did the author leave unsaid?  What lingering questions remain in the mind of the reader that should have been addressed?
  • How does what is said by the author compare to what you have read or learned elsewhere? How does the material differ or contrast with what has been said elsewhere?
  • How useful is the information?  What new insights are gained?  What new perspective has been achieved?  How will what has been learned be operationalized?


Pre-reading a book is a special kind of survey of a book which involves drawing implications from various portions of the book as to the thematic and structural intent of the book.  Pre-reading a book indicates a serious intent to understand an entire book.  When you pre-read a book, you are seeking to find out the overall thematic content of the book and to see how the author is structuring the material to develop the thematic intent.

Structural intent refers to a recognition of how the author uses each portion of the book to contribute to the subject or major ideas of the book.

Thematic intent refers to a single statement that weaves together the main subject of the book and each major idea developed throughout the book.

You pre-read a book when in your scanning, ransacking, and browsing you determine that the book is well written and has developed an important topic in and organized manner.  In pre-reading a book, you will be doing your best to identify a single statement of what the author is saying without reading the entire book.  It is a special kind of survey which requires careful thinking and extrapolation based on a limited amount of information.

The skills to do this are developed only with practice.  After you have pre-read several books and then have followed with reading (the entire book) and discovered how well your pre-reading agrees or disagrees with your reading, you will develop skill and confidence in your ability to pre-read.

Four Results

When you have pre-read a book you will have tentative statements describing…

  • The kind of book being pre-read.
  • The author’s intent and methodology.
  • The author’s thesis which involves the major subject and supporting major ideas.
  • The intent of each major section (or minor where necessary) and how they contribute to the thesis statement.

The last two levels (in-depth reading and studying) will be covered in the next post.


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Leadership and Formation #25: Too Much To Read

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sitting_on_books_reading_custom_book_md_nwm.jpg“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body (Ecclesiastes 12:12).”

Have you ever felt there is not enough time in the day to read what needs to be read?  Emails, postings, articles, studies, and books clamor for our attention.  How can a leader possibly expect to stay abreast of the hurricane of information relevant to one’s calling or profession?

“Leaders need to be able to process large amounts of reading materials since the leadership field is so broad and so much requires comparative skills.”  J. Robert Clinton

My mentor, J. Robert Clinton, introduced me to Continuum Reading Concepts – “useful to direct a reader to process vast amounts of information at some level of acquisition and lesser amounts at more in depth levels of acquisition and evaluation, with an ultimate view of identifying and using concepts in one’s own leadership.”

“Most people learn to read by reading every word on every page.  The Reading Continuum is based on the assumption that one does not have to read every word in order to benefit from the information.  One can read different books differently and obtain useful information without having to read every word of every book.”

Slide1.JPGThe continuum has at the right the most detailed level of reading – called Study.  At the left is the lightest kind of reading called Scan.  In between are various kinds of reading each increasing (in terms of depth, intensity, time invested, amount covered) as one moves to the right.  Each level to the right includes the various features involved in all reading levels to the left.  The ability to read various kinds of books differently is a valuable skill and almost necessity for anyone involved in leadership and leadership training.”

“The Reading Continuum is not related to speed reading skills. Speed reading programs teach one how to rapidly scan words.  A person can be a very fast or very slow reader and still use continuum reading concepts…these concepts teach one how to pick and choose which words, paragraphs, pages, chapters and sections to be read, and how to read them for information without having to read every word.”

Six levels of reading are proposed; scan, ransack, browse, pre-read, in depth reading, and study.  The remarks that follow come directly from Reading on the Run:  Continuum Reading Concepts by J. Robert Clinton (Barnabas Publishers, 1999).

Scan Reading

Scan Reading allows one to survey the potential value of reading a book without having committed to much time to it.  It is the initial approach to reading a book.

Scan reading is an overview approach to reading a book.  This involves a careful reading of the table of contents, introductory information, “dust cover” remarks, along with any information on the author which will allow at least a cursory understanding of what the book is about and how it is organized with a view toward determining what further level along the continuum the book should be read.

Scanning also includes “thumbing” through the book to note any conclusions, summary statements, charts, tables, possibility of useful quotes, illustrations, etc.

Some books can be scanned in as little as 15 minutes.  Some books may take as much as 2 hours.

Six Results

When you have scanned a book you will…

  1. Know who wrote the book.
  2. Have identified the author’s perspective.
  3. Know how the book is organized.
  4. Recognize what the author is trying to accomplish.
  5. Have identified further assessment reading possibilities (ransacking/browsing).
  6. Have made a decision concerning evaluative reading (whether to do: e.g. will do now, will do in future, will not do, decide after ransacking or browsing, which level to do (pre-read, in depth read, or study).

Ransack Reading

When you are relatively familiar with certain topics you may not need to read every chapter in a book but may choose to read very selectively.  That is, you may read given portions to see if they add any new ideas or ideas different than those you are already aware of.

Close Ransacking refers to reading while only looking for a pre-selected topic of interest…refers to rapid reading to compare or contrast what is said with some already known idea or ideas in mind.

Open Ransacking refers to reading while looking for new ideas…refers to rapid reading to see if there is some new idea or new slant on an idea concerning some specific area of interest.

Ransack Reading refers to the technique of looking through a book in order to see what it says concerning a specific topic of interest or combing through a book on relatively familiar material to see if it has any new ideas not known to you.

Six Results

When you have ransacked a book you will have…

  1. Noted a new idea on a pre-selected topic of interest to you.
  2. Noted a contrasting or differing idea on some pre-selected topic of interest to you.
  3. Determined that the book has nothing to add to your pre-selected topic of interest.
  4. Gained something worth noting which is of interest to you on any topic.
  5. Determined that nothing of interest to you can be gained from the book.
  6. Made a tentative decision concerning pre-read, in depth reading, or study (e.g. will do now, will do in future, not necessary to do, decide after ransacking or browsing).

More to follow…Browse, Pre-Read, In Depth Read, and Study.  Stay connected.

Leadership & Formation #24: Interview Techniques

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five_way_puzzle_people_400_clr_4877.pngWhile at General Electric many years ago I was identified as a HiPot (High Potential).  The practice at that time was to select HiPots and send them to GE’s Leadership Development School located in Crotonville on the Hudson for a week if intensive training.  Young managers were invited from GE’s 13 core businesses.  One hundred managers gathered and taught key leadership practices. 

One of the lessons was how to interview potential employees.  Questions were presented under four categories (AAII) and were used to assess candidates:  analytical skills, accomplishments, initiative, and innovativeness.  These questions have served me well over the years.  I have used them repeatedly to assess potential employees.  Not all the questions are asked.  The interviewer selects several under each category.

These questions can also be used to prepare for an interview when you are seeking a position.


Typically, these will be follow-up questions to determine how the candidate thinks through/solves problems.  The problems themselves are best surfaced via other lines of questioning.

  • How did you approach …?
  • Were you able to foresee any of the obstacles you encountered, and if so, what did you do in anticipation of them?
  • When dealing with . . . (situation) . . ., what kinds of information did you seek?  From what sources?  How did you organize it?
  • When planning an approach like . . . (situation) . . ., how do you separate the important from the trivial – how do you set priorities?  What kind of contingency plans do you develop (or how do you develop contingency plans)?
  • When faced with a problem like . . . (situation) . . ., what steps do you typically go through to develop an effective approach?
  • Tell me about (walk me through) your thinking process as you dealt with …


  • When you think about some things you’ve done well over the last (few years/year), what are you most pleased about?  Did that involve other people, or did you do it yourself?  Why do you think you were able to get those results?  What obstacles or problems did you overcome?
  • What was it about doing . . . that gave you particular satisfaction?  What was it that turned you on?
  • How do you compare your accomplishments with those of other people in the same area (class, work group)?
  • Could you describe some of the things you’ve done well during school – as a part of your regular academic program or extra-curricular work?  Were there some obstacles and how did you get around them?  Describe the work or projects that you feel show that you know how to get the job accomplished?
  • What have you learned about your strengths from working on . . .?
  • Did you get any clues about your development needs as a result of . . .?
  • Since we have only a limited amount of time to discuss your strengths, which strengths do you think stand out?
  • Why do you believe you’ve been able to be effective; what personal characteristics/skills/special knowledge has been of particular value?
  • How do you handle obstacles when they get in your way and can you give me some examples of how you did it?
  • For each of the important pieces of your work (of your assignment) would you highlight an activity or accomplishment that would demonstrate your ability to get a job done?
  • How would other people you have worked with describe your accomplishments; how would they describe your strengths and the reasons you have been effective?


Accomplishments that resulted from initiatives will generally be salient and will likely be mentioned.  Probes about how a project got started, etc. will help you get at some of this indirectly.

  • Would you describe a project or activity at school or work where you were responsible for getting the ball rolling?  What was the situation, what did you have to do, and how did people respond?
  • Give me some examples of where you have taken the initiative and what led you to do it?
  • What kind of information do you like to have before you start on a project?  What kinds of sources of such information do you find most valuable or useful?
  • Can you give me an example of a project or activity where you started off by yourself because there was no other interested person or because if you didn’t do it, no one else would?
  • What leadership characteristics do you have – would you describe them and give me some examples of how you have acted on them, or used them? How would others perceive you in this regard?

Initiative frequently is evidenced where someone has to deal with obstacles or make an extra effort to reach an objective. 

  • Why did you continue in the race of . . .?
  • Why did you think it was important to . . .?
  • What was so important about . . . ?


  • Tell me about some of your best ideas and what stimulated them?  How did you develop them and how did you implement them?
  • Tell me about something that you have taken special pleasure in developing, like a new way to do something, a change in a policy or procedure, or a better way to do anything?
  • What kinds of situations prompt you to look for new approaches or better ways of doing things?
  • Could you describe a situation at work or at school where you took a risk?  What prompted you to take the risk, and how did you evaluate it ahead of time?
  • Can you give me some examples of risks you have taken and why you took them? Describe the outcomes.
  • Under what conditions do you take risks in an organizations setting?  What was the biggest such risk you’ve taken in the past year or two, and what was the outcome?
  • What obstacles have you encountered when you tried to improve something or do something differently?  How did you deal with them?
  • When is it appropriate to look for better ways of doing things?
  • Are you more effective when you have a set of procedures to guide you or when you have to develop your own way of doing things?  Can you give me some examples of this?
  • When you started . . . (or, took over such and such) . . . what kinds of changes, if any, did you feel the need to make?  Why did you feel that way, and how did you go about making the changes?
  • At what point do you settle for a solution instead of continuing to look for a better way?
  • What kind of work environments encourage and/or discourage you from exploring new ideas or different way of doing things?

I hope you find these questions helpful as you hone your interviewing technique.

To be continued…

Leadership & Formation #23: Reframing

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door_decision_pc_400_clr_2583.png Every leader seeks to make sense of the world around them through a set of perceptual attitudes more commonly referred to as a worldview.  It is through that lens they view and interpret their surroundings, their relationships, and their perceptions of their observations.  One could say they see the world through a ‘frame.’

While attending Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Institute for Educational Management, I was exposed to Reframing Organizations by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal, now in its 5th edition.  This resource is an attempt to consolidate major schools of organizational thought into a comprehensive framework encompassing four perspectives called frames.  The authors suggest that like maps, frames are both windows on a territory and tools for navigation.

This article is longer than my other posts.  I encourage the reader to read it through to completion.  Doing so will result in the addition of a strategy to your leadership toolkit that will make you a more effective leader.


There are four frames:  structural, human resource, symbolic, and political.  Each leader has a default frame through which they process options, alternatives, possibilities, opportunities, choices, and prospects.  What follows is a brief description of each frame in the author’s own words followed by applications derived by my use of the framing structure,

STRUCTURAL – Factory (Architecture)

This frame is all about an organization as a factory.  This frame depicts a rational world and emphasizes organizational architecture, including goals, structure, technology, specialized roles, coordination, and formal relationships.  It is a rational model that simply looks at the facts to determine direction and action.  Such organizations value org charts, allocate responsibilities, create rules, policies, procedures, systems, and hierarchies to coordinate diverse activities into a unified effort.  When something isn’t working some form of reorganization or redesign is needed to remedy the mismatch. GE, GM

HUMAN RESOURCE – Families (Empowerment)

This frame focuses on interpersonal relationships and sees an organization as an extended family, made up of individuals with needs, feelings, prejudices, skills, and limitations.  The key challenge is to tailor the organization to individuals—finding ways for people to get the job done while feeling good about themselves and their work.  Finding the right fit for people, this perspective contends, can only benefit the organization because members of the organization are operating from their ‘sweet spot.’  Microsoft, Google

SYMBOLIC – Temples (Inspiration)

This frame emphasizes ethos, culture, symbols, and spirit as keys to organizational success.  The symbolic lens treats organizations as temples, tribes, or movements.  These ‘cultures’ are propelled by rituals, ceremonies, stories, heroes, and myths rather than rules, policies, and managerial authority.  These organizations are driven by well-established DNA consisting of mission, vision, and values.  Departure from this DNA is tantamount to betrayal.  Everything attempted or envisioned is seen through this DNA with each actor on the stage playing his or her part.  Starbucks, Apple

POLITICAL – Jungles (Advocacy or Political Savvy)

This frame sees organizations as arenas, contests, or jungles.  Parochial interests compete for power and scarce resources.  Conflict is rampant because of enduring differences in needs, perspectives, and lifestyles among contending individuals and groups.  Bargaining, negotiation, coercion, and compromise are a normal part of everyday life.  Coalitions form around specific interests and change as issues come and go.  Problems arise when power is concentrated in the wrong places or is so broadly dispersed that nothing gets done.  Solutions arise from political skill and acumen.  The Apprentice, Survivor

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Leadership & Formation #22: Wise Decisions

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figure_good_choice_400_clr_12897.pngAn ancient writer once said, “Who is like the wise man?  Who knows the explanation of things?  Wisdom brightens a man's face and changes its hard appearance…and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him. “

How many ‘wise’ leaders do you know?  When I was executive pastor of a large church in southern California a prominent internationally renowned church leader visited our church.  I asked him what he thought was the biggest problem facing leaders for the foreseeable future. His answer came quickly and consisted of one word - DISCERNMENT!  

How does a leader ‘discern’ the right course of action, decide between two equally viable options, be objectively informed by divergent perspectives, suspend their own predispositions and biases to hear different voices, consult their inner convictions, before making a decision?  To a great degree, their intuition enlightened by insight, will help them make wise decisions.

In my way of thinking, three levels of insight of increasing complexity are possible and used by leaders to make decisions; the information level, the knowledge level, and the wisdom level.

Many of us are living at the information level which is simply the ordered understanding of raw data. We do not give enough time to reflection leading to comprehension. The tyranny of the urgent, the frenzied activity of our daily lives, and the constant bombardment of data (TV, faxes, newspapers, magazines, Internet, e-mail, radio, audio tapes, videos, podcasts, webinars, superficial conversations, etc.) rob us of an ordered analysis of our world. We operate off of sound bites instead of measured and thoughtful examination.

Many others are stuck at the knowledge level, satisfied with the acquisition and accumulation of information ordered in such a way as to produce an intellectual grasp of the essentials, enough to converse intelligently on the subject but little more. We acquire competencies analyzing data and applying rubrics to tease out nuggets that will hopefully propel us into a preferable outcome or attainment of a sought after goal.  The trouble with remaining at this level is that our mental comprehension doesn’t move on to applied wisdom.

We need to move to the wisdom level by prioritizing the acquisition and accumulation of knowledge into wisdom.  Wisdom is an internal quality developed over time, established by a congruent belief system, conditioned by a core value system, informed by an integrated worldview, and honed through experience.  Learned methods, processes, systems, and strategies are the tools we use but it is wisdom that provides discernment in their application.

For instance, the Internet offers access to information on almost every topic imaginable.  Any person can acquire information on a given topic, recast it in their own words, and present the information as if it were their own.  When we process that information, comprehend its significance, visualize its application, and apply that knowledge to events, situations, or circumstances we are operating at a knowledge level.  Weighing the significance of information, analyzing the specifics of a body of information, synthesizing it with other related information, evaluating the importance of the information, and making informed judgments regarding the utility of the information is operating at a wisdom level.

As an example, in Exodus 20 of the Bible we are exposed to information, the existence of 10 commandments.  We develop a knowledge about them when, through study and reflection we comprehend their meaning (i.e., the first 4 commandments address our relationship with God and the remaining 6 commandments address our relationship with others).  Knowledge becomes wisdom when we understand the commandment’s implications to us individually and we personally apply them to our lives as we process them through a belief system that has established our values.

In the popular movie, Jurassic Park, the proprietor of the park, John Hammond presides over a lunch with invited guests who have just witnessed the amazing existence of dinosaurs created in a lab and now roaming the grounds.  John is being criticized by Malcolm, a skeptic who questions the entire enterprise.

MALCOLM:  The problem with scientific power you've used is it didn't require any discipline to attain it.  You read what others had done and you took the next step.  You didn't earn the knowledge yourselves, so you don't take the responsibility for it.  You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you knew what you had, you patented it, packages it, slapped in on a plastic lunch box, and now you want to sell it.

HAMMOND:  You don't give us our due credit.  Our scientists have done things no one could ever do before.

MALCOLM:  Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.  Science can create pesticides, but it can't tell us not to use them.  Science can make a nuclear reactor, but it can't tell us not to build it!

In summary then, information is the ordered understanding of raw data. Knowledge is meaning derived through study, reflection and comprehension. Wisdom is knowledge applied based on one’s core beliefs and values. There is a vast distance between having a knowledge about something and having a personal knowledge of something.  The bridge from one to the other is wisdom.

What level of insight do you employ?

How would your associates view you?

What informs and conditions your thought process?

How discerning are you?

What sources and resources do you use to make decisions?

What ethical system influences your decisions?


To be continued…

Leadership & Formation #21: Unrealized Potential

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stick_figure_popping_out_of_a_present_400_clr_13393.pngOne of the primary functions of a leader is to develop those under their charge.  Keen powers of observation are necessary to uncover the potential within another person.  Knowing someone’s potential and helping them realize their potential is one of the most rewarding experiences a leader can have.

When observing someone who reports to you or is within your sphere of relationships or influence a leader should pay attention to strengths, limitations, and weaknesses.  Intentional assessment of these areas will reveal a person’s potential.  The goal at this point is to encourage that person to explore their potential and come to a realization that they have a greater capacity and capability then they may realize.

A person’s strengths are comprised of an amalgamation of their spiritual gifts, natural abilities, acquired skills, personality temperament, core values, discovered axiomatic operating principles, experience, and worldview.  The configuration of these elements, the dominance of these factors, and the ways which they are applied to events, circumstances, and situations make each individual jut that; individually unique.

Although there exists a wide variety of instruments designed to reveal the many dimensions that make us human; observation of a person in a variety of settings will yield a relatively accurate picture of their God-ordained design, what they offer, and how they can make their greatest contribution to a team, a vision, an objective, or a goal.

Limitations are not weaknesses.  Limitations include one area that cannot be mediated and two that can.  A person may not have the aptitude demanded of the responsibility they have been given.  For instance, if they are put in charge of finances for a project and are required to manage a complex budget yet they have no aptitude for numbers or financial structures they may be doomed to failure.  The toe other areas include experience and training; both of which can be mediated by providing opportunities to gain experience or acquire the training necessary for success.  So, aptitude, experience and training and the lack thereof is not a weakness; it is a limitation.

A weakness may be a character flaw, a compromised work ethic, a poor attitude or the like.  These ‘weaknesses’ may also be mediated but will more than likely take time and patience before a person can conquer these inadequacies.  As a leader, manage, or supervisor, you may not have the time to do so especially when a short project deadline looms over the team.

Two factors repeatedly prevent someone from realizing their full potential – competence and confidence.  Because of legitimate limitations or weaknesses such as a lack of discipline, a person may experience varying degrees of performance that may adversely impact their competence and confidence thereby affecting the subsequent successful completion of assigned tasks.

So, developing your powers of observation can facilitate your ability to accurate assess someone’s strengths, limitations, and weaknesses.  What will become apparent is and understanding of the unrealized potential resident in an individual.  Strategies can then be formulated to help them engage their unrealized potential so that they can enjoy new opportunities to exercise their new found awareness.  They may be hesitant at first to explore their potential for fear of failure or simply because of unfamiliarity.  The leader may have to exert their influence as a sage on the stage or a guide by the side until the person is more comfortable in the exercise of their potential. 

A leader may have to adjust their leadership style to accommodate the ability (competence) and readiness (confidence). 

If the team member is unable and unwilling or insecure they may have to be directed and shown specifically how to accomplish the task, objective, or role.  In this case the leader simply describes the steps necessary to effectively and efficiently complete the task, objective or role.

If the team member is unable but willing or confident the leader might have to coach them through encouragement, empowerment, or exhortation.  The leader may still make the final decision but explains the rationale to the team member for learning purposes

If the team member is able but unwilling or insecure the leader may have to shift from a sage on the stage to a guide by the side where the team member is given the opportunity to make the decision with guidance and encouragement from the leader.

If the team member is able and willing or confident the leader should delegate responsibility to the member, observe their performance, and offer timely advice and suggestions as needed or requested.

The reader may recognize this adaptable leadership style as situational leadership.  One caution is needed at this point.  One’s potential has a boundary.  The worst thing a leader can do is to promote the notion that team members can dos anything they set their mind to doing if they are committed and disciplined.  That, frankly, is not true.  A team member can do what they have the capability and competence to do.  Forcing someone beyond their capability and competence will only break their spirit.

People should not be treated as tools or functionaries but valuable resources imbued by his or her Creator to contribute in significant ways to worthwhile endeavors.  Helping people realize their God-given potential can only help and organization to reach seemingly impossible dreams.

More on this subject will follow…


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Leadership & Formation #20: Mentoring Contract

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stick_figure_holding_letter_x_400_clr_7741.pngThis final post on mentoring addresses the specifics that must be thought through before a mentoring relationship is established.  These items should be considered regardless of whether you intend to mentor someone or be mentored by someone.  They help to frame the relationship in terms of expectations and accountability.  When you seek a mentor it would be helpful to think through these items to help define the rules of engagement.

Your prospective mentor may not go to this detail but you should.  If you mentor someone, you should come to conclusions on each of the ten issues that follow so that the parameters of a successful encounter are established in advance and in accordance with your preferences. 

You can also use the list that follows as talking points in your initial interview with a prospective mentoree or mentor.

Jointly agree on the purpose of the relationship.

(Present the objective(s) for the mentoring relationship.  Determine the type of mentor needed.  Identify the area(s) that need to be addressed.) 

Set the criteria for evaluation.

(What will a successful outcome look like?  How will you know the objective(s) have been accomplished?  Have the mentoree describe what they hope to accomplish.)

Determine the regularity of interaction.

(Should be a minimum of twice a month.  Could be more depending on the needs of the mentoree and the availability of the mentor.  Should begin as a 3-month trial.)

Determine accountability parameters.

(Honesty, vulnerability, accountability and whatever else is required by the mentor and agreed upon by the mentoree.  What accountability parameters will be applied?)

Set up communication mechanisms.

(Email, phone, face-to-face, Skype, etc. —whichever is the most convenient.  At least one face-to-face meeting is required per month in addition to second or additional meetings by phone and/or email.)

Clarify the level of confidentiality.

(What is shared on a personal level must remain confidential unless it is of a legal nature (i.e., abuse of any kind, a crime, etc.)

Set the life cycle of the relationship.

(Three months for a preliminary timeframe at the end of which each of you should evaluate the relationship.  If you are in agreement to continue set an end date not to exceed 6 additional months—a total of 9 months).

Evaluate the relationship from time to time.

(Recommend an evaluation every two to three months). 

Modify expectations to fit the real-life mentoring situation.

(If an issue or concern arises that needs more focused attention the mentor and mentoree should decide whether the parameters of mentoring need to be changed).

Bring the mentoring relationship to a close.

(Celebrate the completion of the journey.  Have the mentoree write about the experience and what was accomplished).

I hope this post and the posts on mentoring have been helpful to you in formulating your plans to be mentored and to mentor others.  Mentoring was obviously a subject or great interest to many of you.  Remember, those who finish well have had anywhere from 10 to 15 significant mentors in their life (intensive/intentional, occasional, and passive).

To be continued with a new subject area…


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Leadership & Formation #19: Mentoring Guidelines

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figure_walking_into_sunset_400_clr_14043.pngBefore you can find personal mentors, you must first determine your mentoring needs and their priority.  Two arenas must be considered when determining your personal mentoring needs.  

One has to do with your beingness – the ‘energy’ that will supply the fuel you will need to fulfill your developmental goals.  In other words, what activities will provide the resources needed to reach your objectives?  What resources will provide power and strength to attain your goals?  As said in an earlier post; competencies are the tools of effective leadership but character is the power of effective leadership.

The second area has to do with your doingness – your growth goals for your work and calling; your developmental goals that will provide the tools you need to succeed.  In other words, what competencies and skills are needed for you to succeed?  What barriers to your advancement must be addressed so that you can realize your dreams?

In summary, life development goals (beingness) and professional development goals (doingness) must be considered and prioritized before you can answer the following questions.  Answers to the questions that follow will determine the effectiveness and parameters in any mentoring relationship.

  • What do I look for in a mentor?
  • What must I be willing to contribute to the mentoring relationship?
  • How do I find a mentor?

Let’s begin…

What do I look for in a mentor?

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Look for mentors who will be…

  • Honest with you.
  • A model for you.
  • Deeply committed to you.
  • Open and transparent with you.
  • A teacher.
  • One who believes in your potential.
  • One who can help you plan and turn your dream into reality.
  • Successful in your eyes.
  • Open to learning from you as well as teaching you.
  • Willing to stay primarily on your agenda, not their own.
  • One who will hold you accountable.
  • One who will be available to you.

What must I be willing to contribute to the mentoring relationship?

Am I …

  • Easy to believe in?
  • Easy to like and spend time with naturally?
  • Easy to keep helping?
  • Responsive and teachable?
  • One who will respect my mentor?
  • Self-motivated?
  • Willing to be honest?
  • Willing to be vulnerable?
  • Willing to be held accountable?
  • Willing to be committed to being mentored?

How do I find a mentor?

  1. List your mentoring needs
  2. Prioritize your mentoring needs for the next 12 months.
  3. Identify the type of mentor you need.
  4. Pray and ask for God’s leading for a mentor.
  5. Brainstorm possible candidates within your sphere of relationships.
  6. Brainstorm possible candidates outside your sphere of relationships.
  7. Seek advice and input from leaders you respect.
  8. Contact potential mentors and schedule an initial meeting.
  9. Lay out your mentoring needs and why you chose them as a potential mentor.
  10. Identify your preferable outcomes in a mentoring relationship.
  11. Outline what you will contribute to the mentoring relationship.
  12. Suggest a 3-month trial with the possibility of termination or continuance.

To be continued…

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Leadership & Formation #18: Mentoring Types

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figure_line_standout_400_clr_14429.pngWhat type of mentor do I need?

One size does not fit all.  The mentor you need depends on the area of your life that needs a mentor.  Once you have determined your mentoring needs you are ready to seek out the type of mentor you need.  Sometimes you need a Sage-on-the Stage and at other times you need a Guide-by-the-Side.

God will provide a mentor in a specific area of need for you if you trust Him for one and you are willing to submit and accept responsibility.

Determining the type of mentor you need depends entirely of your need.  Perhaps the following questions will clarify the type of mentor you may need…


Intentional/Intensive Mentors provide formal mentoring often using prescribed material directed to establishing foundations of one sort or another.

Do you need to establish the basics of following Christ and the foundations of the faith?  If so, you need a DISCIPLER.

A Discipler is a more experienced follower of Christ who shares with a newer believer the commitment, understanding, and basic skills necessary to know and obey Jesus Christ as Lord.

Do you need someone to hold you accountable, help you with decisions, spiritual growth, or inner-life motivations?  If so, you need a SPIRITUAL GUIDE.

A Spiritual Guide is a godly, mature follower of Christ who shares knowledge, skill, and basic philosophy on what it means to increasingly realize Christlikeness in all areas of life.

Do you need someone to motivate and encourage you, to help you with spiritual disciplines that will give you the ability to operate at your designed capacity or to meet a task or challenge?  If so, you need a COACH.

The Coach’s central thrust is to provide motivation and impart skills and application to meet a task or challenge…a mentor who knows how to do something well and imparts those skills to a mentoree to learn them.


Occasional mentors provide non-formal mentoring based on a specific need for a period of time necessary to master that need.  Materials used will be specific for that need.

Do you need someone who can impartial provide perspective and timely advice for relationships and life’s circumstances.  If so, you need a COUNSELOR.

The central thrust of a Counselor is the impartation of wise counsel and wisdom on the mentoree’s view of self, others, circumstances and events, and vocation.

Do you need someone to impart knowledge and understanding on a given topic or range of issues?  If so, you need a TEACHER.

The central thrust of a Teacher-mentor is to impart knowledge and understanding of a particular subject.

Do you need someone to provide career guidance, organizational protection, access to key networks, resource support, or advocacy within an organization?  If so, you need a SPONSOR.

A Sponsor is a mentor who has credibility and positional or spiritual authority within and organization or network who will enable development of the mentoree and the mentoree’s influence within and organization or community.


Passive mentors provide informal mentoring through something written, something spoken, or something produced such as books, tapes, podcasts, etc.  The purpose of this mentoring is to inspire, encourage, and provide a catalyst for change.  More than likely, these mentors are not personally involved with the mentoree; their influence is experienced indirectly through recorded tapes (audio or visual), books they have written, or presentations they have made to larger audiences which you attend.  Some of these mentors may longer be living but their works live on by what they left.

Do you need someone who provides an example and model for godly living, expertise in a competency or skill, or principles and values that serves to empower others?  If so, you need a CONTEMPORARY or HISTORICAL MODEL worth emulating.

A Contemporary (living) or Historical (deceased) Model Is a person whose life or vocation is used as an example to indirectly impart skills, principles, values, and practices that empower another person.

Are you in need of the quiet voice of God in your life that offers a timely word for you at critical junctures in your life?  If so, be open to a DIVINE CONTACT form the Lord.

God sends us a Divine Contact at critical junctures in our life when immediate insight or a word from the Lord is needed or when a seed needs to be planted in our heart and mind that will serve some future purpose or design of God.

Hebrews 13:7-8 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

In summary, it is important to determine the category of mentor you need; intentional/intensive, occasional, or passive.  More specifically, determine the type of mentor that will be effective in helping you address you specific need.  Passive mentors will be acquired over time and may augment a face-to-face mentor you might engage. 

To be continued…


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Leadership & Formation #17: Mentoring Needs

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What’s on your bucket list?  What do you want to accomplish before you die? Here is my List…

  • Learn to use a kayak really well.
  • Fly fish in Montana.
  • Buy a cabin in northern Minnesota.
  • Tour Scotland’s highlands.
  • Retire in Ireland.
  • Take a course at Oxford University in England.
  • Take a month-long walking tour across northern England.
  • See my grandsons grow up to be men after God’s heart.
  • Live a legacy worth leaving in the lives of others.
  • Crash through the Gates of Heaven, utterly exhausted having left everything on the field of engagement.

figure_vaulting_over_bar_400_clr_14025.pngWhat does it mean to FINISH WELL?  My mentor, J. Robert Clinton describes the characteristics of finishing well…

Finishing Well:  refers to reaching the end of one's life, having been faithful to the calling God has placed upon that life...is about Christ followers being more passionate about Christ and His mission as they fulfill their life purpose than they were at the beginning.  It also entails a life that experiences the depth of God's grace and love...it is living out one's destiny and the making of one's unique and ultimate contribution in expanding God's Kingdom.  (J. Robert Clinton - Leadership Emergence Theory)

To take a journey, especially over unfamiliar terrain, we need a GUIDE; someone who is familiar with the landscape who can help us arrive at our desired objective.  Taking a journey alone over treacherous or difficult territory can be frustrating, anxiety producing, hazardous, and even dangerous if we don’t know what we’re doing.  More specifically, we need mentors to guide us.

Some of us long to be mentored because we feel the hole in our soul.  We know instinctively that if we keep doing the same thing in our lives the result will be the same thing. 

Some of us know exactly what our mentoring needs are.  Others of us haven’t got a clue – we just know we need help.  Still others of us have multiple mentoring needs but haven’t determined the highest priority. 

One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to counsel us, to provide direction, to teach us.  If you are unclear about the mentoring area seek His counsel through prayer.  You might pray something like this…

Mentally project yourself to a preferable future.  What does it look like?  Does it serve God’s redemptive purposes?  Is it God-honoring?  Does it align with God’s wiring of you?  Come back to the present and look for mentors that will help you reach your preferable future.

These QUESTIONS will help you determine your mentoring needs.

  • What are you doing now you need to KEEP doing (but do better)?
  • What are you doing now you need to CHANGE doing?
  • What are you doing now you need to STOP doing?
  • What are you not doing now you need to START doing?

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you become a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better friend, or a better employee. 

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you learn the basics of the faith and what it means to be a Christian.

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you with a sin pattern or a stronghold of the Enemy that continually defeats you.

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you master a particular competency or life skill.

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you realize your God-given potential.

Perhaps you need a mentor to open up new networks of relationships.

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you grow spiritually.

Perhaps you need a mentor to help you with life management.

What are your mentoring needs?

Who within your sphere of relationships could help you with those needs?

Do you need an INTENSIVE mentor who will help you establish key foundational building blocks?

Do you need an OCCASIONAL mentor who will help you deal with a particular need?

Who are your PASSIVE mentors who inspire and encourage you?

To be continued…


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Leadership & Formation #16: Mentoring Dynamics

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stick_figure_hardhat_tighten_bolt_400_clr_8563.pngAs mentioned in the previous post leaders who have finished well have had from 10 to 15 mentors in their life.  Of those that do other individuals helped them in timely situations along the way and significantly enhanced their development.

It may be helpful to discuss a few mentoring concepts and principles first.

Mentoring Definition

Mentoring is a relational process in which a mentor, who knows or has experienced something, transfers that something (resources for wisdom, information, experience, confidence, insight, relationships, status, etc.) to a mentoree, at an appropriate time and manner, so that it facilitates development or empowerment.

Succinct Definition:  Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.

The term ‘mentor’ has an interesting origin.  In the Illiad, Odysseus, better known as Ulysses by the Romans much later, contracts his ‘wise and trusted counselor’ as a tutor for his son, Telemachus before leaving on a long journey lasting 20 years.  This journey was precipitated by the kidnapping of Helen by Paris, the son of the King of Troy.  The name of his tutor was Mentor.  Mentor's name – with a lower-case "m" – has passed into our language as a shorthand term for wise and trusted counselor and teacher.

Mentoring Contributions  

To finish well we will need from time to time a guide-by-the-side or a sage-on-the-stage; someone to help us navigate our journey, help us avoid dangerous pitfalls, hold us accountable, or provide a resource such as…

  • Wisdom and discernment…
  • Life experience…
  • Timely advice…
  • Competencies and skills…
  • Life principles…
  • Important values and lessons…
  • Direction and guidance…
  • Support and encouragement…
  • Sponsorship and networking…
  • A kick in the seat of the pants!

Mentoring Categories

There are basically three categories of mentors:  Intensive Mentors; Occasional Mentors, and Passive Mentors.

Intensive Mentoring is generally a formal process often using a prescribed curriculum or resource to build essential foundations into the life of the mentoree.  The process is more regimented and has a clear objective that will ultimately provide a basic platform for operation.

Occasional mentoring is a non-formal process that tailors the mentoring relationship to address a specific need or needs.  Once the need is addressed the mentoring ceases.  The need could be mastery of a particular competency, a problem to resolve, a weakness to eliminate, a skill to acquire, a network to access, or a sponsorship to seek.

Passive mentoring is an informal process that is initiated by the mentoree looking for inspiration, knowledge or wisdom from contemporary or historical models.  The resources provided by these ‘models’ may consist of books to read, workshops to attend, seminars to participate in, websites to search, podcasts to watch, webinars to attend, or audio tapes to listen to.  The mentoree will have little to no face-to-face contact with a person.  The passive mentor may be in fact deceased.  But these mentors, contemporary or historical, address a fundamental concern or growth requirement.

Why consider being mentored or mentoring others? 

  • People are longing for their story to be heard and their life to be shaped.
  • It is one of the most effective ways to change lives.
  • It provides an avenue for passing on what we have learned.
  • It is one of the most effective ways to shape a person’s character.
  • It can be a significant means to facilitate leadership development.
  • It is essential to finishing well as a leader.

To be continued…

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Leadership & Formation #15: Mentoring Insights

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reading_to_child_400_clr_9043.pngMy mentor, J. Robert Clinton, author of Leadership Emergence Theory, conducted extensive research on how a leader is developed.  Using grounded theory methodology he and his team studied the lives of biblical, historical, and contemporary leaders.  3800 case studies have been amassed.  One of the key findings is that very few leaders finish well.   Those who have finished well have had 10 to 15 significant mentors in their lives.

Not too long ago I was interviewed on the subject of mentoring.  The interviewer knew I was committed to mentoring others.  He himself had benefitted from mentoring.  Three questions were asked of me.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking for a mentor?

  • Read Connecting by Stanley and Clinton. This resource provides excellent guidance in finding a mentor.
  • Identify the issue, area, or concern you hope a mentor will be able to address.
  • Determine what type of mentor you need (discipler, spiritual guide, coach, counselor, teacher, sponsor, or passive mentor - someone who can provide needed resources from a distance).
  • Determine what will comprise your view of a successful outcome. What objectives do you hope to reach?
  • Prepare a single page document outlining your mentoring need, the type of mentor you seek, what you will provide in the relationship (i.e., your commitment, what you will provide in the relationship, your teachability and willingness to take direction,
  • Look for someone who has demonstrated expertise in your area of need.
  • Meet with the potential mentor and pursue establishing a 3-month mentoring relations, at the end of which both of you can decide to continue or terminate the relationship.
  • Seek advice from trusted advisers regarding their mentor recommendations.
  • Be willing to engage the journey and leave the destination to God.

What red flags do you see that would lead you to say no to investing in someone?

  • Lack of clarity regarding their need for mentoring.
  • Unwillingness to be held accountable.
  • Too many verbal conditions or reservations.
  • Lack of follow through with an initial assignment meant to test their commitment.
  • Argumentative spirit, arrogance, defensiveness, or otherwise poor attitude.
  • Resistance to advice or counsel.
  • Victim mentality that sees no hope of victory.
  • Someone who wants association without responsibility.

Your recent book Setting Your Course is about helping people live focused lives. Why this book? Where are leaders missing it?

Many leaders live unfocused lives with little intentionality, reacting to circumstances, bouncing from one crisis to another, and living a life of mediocrity. Situational lifestyles are adopted to make one’s way forward – patterns of avoidance, reaction, transference, indecision, and obsession – all motion with little forward progress. Coming to clarity regarding your divinely ordained wiring will help a leader move from scattered engagement to laser beam focus. A calibrated compass tuned to the heart of God (beliefs, values, attitudes, and motives) will help a leader understand and navigate the unique terrain of their journey (biblical purpose - beingness, life purpose - doingness, committed passion - focus of engagement, role boundaries - supporting context, unique methodologies - your tool kit, and ultimate contribution - the aroma you will leave when God calls you home. Finding guides by the side will help a leader reach his or her destiny. The book provides a framework for developing a Focused Life Plan consisting of a compass – personal alignment plan, map – personal life mandate, and guide – personal mentoring strategy. The compass provides direction, the map provides the journey we are to take, and the guide provides assistance to reach our God-ordained destiny.

To be continued…

Leadership & Formation #14 – Clock or Compass

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Leadership & Formation #13: Decision Filters

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holding_on_to_principles_pc_400_clr_3543.pngA leader’s beliefs and values will affect their judgment and behavior regardless of protestations otherwise!

This is the season for hopeful politicians to showcase their wares in anticipation of being elected to office.  In the midst of the blather we are subjected to on news channels with growing frequency we hear a common pronouncement of the values they hold.   Much of the rhetoric seeks to create a bond with the voters by suggesting that the politician identifies with and shares common values with the masses who he or she hopes will elect them over other candidates.

Just because a person declares a value set similar to your own you cannot assume they are the same.  For instance, let’s say the candidate espouses a value for ‘family’.  Sounds good but what does the person really mean? Or let’s say a leader stresses the value of ‘integrity’.  We may think we know what is meant but we can’t be sure.  Just because the term used to express a value is the same, the expression and outcome may be entirely opposite to our expectations.  Why is that?

When a person says that they will suspend their personal beliefs or values to govern effectively they are portraying an impossible scenario.  No matter how hard one tries he or she cannot divorce themselves from their inner convictions and beliefs.  They can mask them, they can hide them, they can try to suspend them but they will not be able to remove their influence. What we truly believe (trust in, rely on, cling to) establishes our values (what we esteem).  Our beliefs and values are a fundamental part of our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual makeup and wiring.

So, simply declaring a value is not significant in and of itself.  Declaring what gives rise to and influences one’s values is significant.  We can envision the behavior produced by a declared value when we consider what gives life to that value for the one expressing it.

I have yet to hear a journalist press a politician to explain what they mean about a value they say they hold.  More significantly, I have yet to hear a reporter ask a variation of the following question?   

What informs, conditions, and establishes the values you say you hold?

In the spirit of full disclosure I have personally chosen Jesus Christ and the Bible to be my authority for faith and practice.  When I allow something else to creep in and unseat this authority the decisions I make and the behavior produced is inconsistent with what I say I believe.  Competing authorities will always be there.  I must decide what will rule my beliefs, values and behavior on a daily basis.

In its most simple form values are the hills you are prepared to die on, the principles you intend to live by, the filter through which decisions are processed and made.  Every decision we have made, are making, or will make is based on the values we hold, whether or not we can articulate them.

For many of us, our system of values is an unordered set of qualities often in conflict with one another. One day, we make a decision of merit; the next day, a bad decision with negative consequences. For still others, the consistency of the decisions they make may indicate a congruent system of values.

Like beliefs, values can be aspirations rather than observable realities in our lives. Men and women often ask me to mentor them. They know I am big on values, so they often begin their comments by stating their values. I listen intently and respectfully. I then ask them the following question: “What decision have you made or what action have you taken within the last three months that gives evidence of the values you say you hold?” Many of them cannot give me any examples. This is due to the fact that the values they say they hold may simply be an interest, preference, or affirmation but not an actionable commitment as yet.

The most important question to ask however, is what stands in the privileged vantage point of authority over your values?  Whatever stands in a position of authority over one’s value system will determine the quality and substance of the behavior it produces. 

For instance, a Christian can have a value for truth—and so can a humanist or atheist. What that value produces in one’s behaviors will more than likely be different from the others. A Christian’s underlying belief may be that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and if he holds to His teaching, he will know the truth, and the truth will set him free. His behavior has the focus of living by God’s truth, instead of the world’s truth. For the humanist, having a value for truth may be favorable for business or the esteem of respected colleagues. The practice of truth for the atheist may be to promote his or her beliefs as the only truth. So you see, what informs your values makes all the difference.

When values are loosely acquired without attention to any ordering structure or congruent belief system, the values can produce conflictive results—they may be inconsistent from one day to the next depending on the circumstance or the situation. 

Many authorities compete for influence over our values including tradition, heritage, experience, convention, culture, some ideology or philosophy, our faith, or some “-ism” such as postmodernism, Marxism, capitalism, socialism, humanism or a combination of some or all of them.

Some of us are unclear about our values.  Answers to the following questions might clarify your values.

  • What is it that I treasure so highly that I am irritated when other people don’t also treasure it?
  • What are the things I respect so deeply that I tend to be resentful of those who treat them with disrespect?
  • If I knew that I had six months to live, what would become the most important to me? What would become unimportant to me?
  • What core value(s) do I hope my children will adopt?

If it were possible to follow you around without being noticed for the next three months, I would be able to tell you what you truly valued. Your behavior over time would reveal your values. If I could talk to people close to you—a wife or a husband, a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, or a close friend—and I asked them what your values are, they could probably tell me. If I were to ask your work associates what you valued, they could probably tell me.

I often give an exercise to the people I mentor. I instruct them to meet with their spouse or loved one or someone who really knows them. They are to assure that person that there will be no argument with or consequences to his or her response when they ask this person the following question: “Based on your observations of my behaviors over time, what would you say are my values?”

Acting on one’s values over an extended period of time will embed them in your spiritual DNA.  When that happens they cease to be a value to be cultivated, they become a virtue that marks your character.  You operate from them without much thought because they are now an integral part of who you are.

What informs, conditions, mediates, and establishes your value set will determine the nature, quality, and substance of the behavior it produces. 


Are your values an aspiration or an operational commitment?

What informs and conditions the values you say you hold?

What provides consistency, coherence, and congruence to your value system?

What organizes and prioritizes your values?

What would your loved ones, work associates, friends (and enemies) say you value?

How do the values you say you hold inform what you do?


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Leadership & Formation 12: Time Management

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Do you live your life by the clock or the compass?  Is the frenzied activity of your life reactive or proactive?  Are you in control of your schedule or does your schedule control you?  The following ancient scriptures help to frame our discussion today.

“Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16 

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  James 4:13-17

What problems are you having with personal time management?  What percentage of time is controllable and uncontrollable?  What’s your biggest time wasting activity?  As you think of your team members what are the biggest time wasters?  What do you wish you had more time to do?

Steven Covey popularized a matrix depicting four types of activity.  Quadrants I, III, and IV are REACTIVE activities while quadrant II is proactive.  Too much time spent in I, III and IV results in a fast moving, treadmill existence.   Spending sufficient time in II limits and controls the effects of the other quadrant activities.  Activities in this quadrant are PROACTIVE in nature. 

 Slide3.JPGIf we spend too much time in Quadrant I we are susceptible to stress, burnout, crisis management, and always putting out fires.  This quadrant includes our normal responsibilities, obligations, and duties.  It also includes crises of our own making such as situations where a decision was needed but put off.  Now we have many other decisions we have to make because we didn’t make the critical decision initially.


Too much time spent in Quadrant III results in short-term focus, crisis management, reactive leadership, little time or patience for goals and plans, feeling victimized, feeling out of control, and produces shallow or broken relationships.  This quadrant often contains other people’s crises that we assume or are triangulated in on because of their failure to complete assigned tasks we oversee.

Too much time spent in Quadrant IV results in total irresponsibility, being replaced or fired from jobs, and an unhealthy dependence on others or institutions for basics.  We escape to this quadrant when quadrants I and III become overwhelming.  Too much time in this quadrant makes us susceptible to unhealthy activities and dysfunctional behavior.

When sufficient time is spent in Quadrant II the results are quite different:  vision, perspective, centeredness, discipline, few crises, and control.   Covey states that “In a successful company 20-25% of time is spent on Quadrant I activities, just 15% of time on urgent but not important (Quadrant III) activities, and 65-80% of time on Quadrant II activities. Quadrant II activities - important but not urgent activities, are present wherever success is present.”  Spending appropriate time in this quadrant will control the unrealistic demands or negative influence of Quadrants I, III, and IV.

As indicated earlier, Quadrants I, III, and IV are reactive in that we are reacting to people, events, and circumstances.  Only Quadrant II is proactive.  But because it is important but not urgent we tend to put off these activities for another day, week, month or year.  Making Quadrant II a high priority will, in effect, control the ‘size’ and ‘influence’ of Quadrants I, III, and IV.

I strongly recommend that you conduct a personal audit of how you spend your waking moments each day.  Regardless of the type of calendar you use to keep track of your time I suggest you track the use of your time for at least a week.  I recommend the follow color scheme.

Slide8.JPGFor activities that fall in Quadrant I highlight them in GREY on your calendar.  For activities that fall in Quadrant III highlight them in YELLOW on your calendar.  For activities that fall in Quadrant IV highlight them in RED on your calendar.  Finally, for activities that fall in Quadrant II highlight them in GREEN on your calendar.  If you do want to highlight your activities in colors simply put the appropriate descriptor (QI, QII, QIII, or QIV) next to the activity.

At the end of the week, analyze how you spent your time.  You may be surprised with the results.  Remember, Quadrant II activities are intentional choices we make but are often neglected because of the tyranny of the urgent.  We desire to be proactive with our lives but instead, spend the majority of our time reacting to life or the demands of our responsibilities and obligations.  By devoting time in Quadrant II you will find that you are moving from a desperate attempt to maintain balance to one of centered living.


How much time are you spending (in a given week) in each quadrant

What percentage (%) of time is spent in each quadrant?

What activities are you engaged in waste time or are not healthy?

What changes must take place if you are to manage your time more effectively?

What kinds of activities will you prioritize for Quadrant II?

Leadership & Formation #11 – SMART Goals

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Posted by greg

Goals.jpgThe only time you are guaranteed a 100% success rate is when you aim at nothing – you are destined to reach it; nothing. Effective and efficient planning and implementation of key objectives be they annual, trimester or quarterly will help ensure that a leader makes meaningful progress and reaches their outcomes

In strategic or tactical planning we brainstorm a preferable future by seriously considering the implications of the following questions…

  • What are we doing now we need to KEEP doing, but do better?
  • What are we doing now we need to CHANGE doing if we are to succeed?
  • What are we doing now we need to STOP doing?
  • What are we not doing now we need to START doing?

Answering these thought provoking questions will help a leader and their team look at new possibilities, options, and alternative solutions to a specific problem, a new initiative, or a prescribed objective.

Generally, once an environmental analysis (external and Internal) is completed in a strategic planning exercise, VISION is formed about a new or better future as an organization.  This ‘vision’ is informed, conditioned, and established by agreed upon ASSUMPTIONS, BELIEFS, and operating VALUES.  OBJECTIVES are formulated and applicable STRATEGIES are identified to reach those objectives.  Each objective might include one or more strategies for reaching an objective.

The proverbial rubber meets the road in the implementation.  This is the “action” or “doing” steps for all areas that are used to support the overall strategy.  This phase addresses organizational relationships, lines of authority, reporting relationships and communication requirements necessary to effectively implement the strategic plan in general and the operational plans specifically.  This phase deals with the support mechanisms that need to be in place to provide adequate direction and resources for accomplishing the plans. 

An implementation plan may include the following elements for each strategy:  SMART goals, qualifying conditions, communications required, time lines (schedule), personnel needs, training plans, materials and resources, budget, and facility needs.

One of the most effective management tools used to plan and implement key objectives and strategies is the use of SMART goals, the focus of our discussion today.

Setting Goals

Establishing performance goals helps a leader, manager, supervisor, or project team move in a straight line toward accomplishing long-term objectives via key strategies. Team members need to have a part in determining the goals but in the final analysis they are the leader’s goals.

As I told you when I began these posts I would be operating from a Biblical worldview.  Even though the principles I discuss have application regardless of your faith persuasion. From a scriptural perspective, then, planning using SMART goals ‘redeems’ the time (Ephesians 5:15, 16; Colossians 4:50), helps us be stewards of God’s precious resources, and to focus our efforts according to His plan (Psalm 20:4; 33:11; Isaiah 32:8; Jeremiah 29:11).

Regardless of your context, one of the most effective management tools used to plan and implement key objectives and strategies is the use and application of SMART goals.  Goals are simply a means to that end. Goals are the steps, tactics, programs, recipes, tasks, course, or operations we intend to use to make and mark progress.

SMART Goal Guidelines

They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time constrained. Thus, they are called SMART goals.  Before examples of SMART goals are presented let’s look more closely at what makes a good goal.

Is the goal SPECIFIC?  Most goals fail initially because they are not specific enough.  Is the goal clear enough that a team can ‘see’ it?  Or is it so open ended you’ll never know if you attained it at all? 

Is the goal MEASUREABLE?  Measurement can be either quantitative or qualitative.   Quantitative goals can be numerical or based on percentage of completion.  Qualitative goals may include the presence of observable but non-quantifiable traits.

Is the goal ATTAINABLE?  Overzealous, unrealistic goals outlined may not be attainable.  The onus for attainability rests with those who are tasked with attaining the goal.  Attainability is based on whether the expertise, experience, talent, competence of the team and the resources available to the team.

Is the goal RESULTS-ORIENTED?  What is the ‘purpose’ of the goal?  What is the stated ‘end’ that is to be attained?   How will you know if the goal is reached and that it indeed contributes to the objective sought?  What is the ‘aim’ of the goal?

Is the goal TIME-CONSTRAINED?  What is the time period selected to attain the goal?  My experience suggests that a goal should not be any longer than 4 months.  Three month (quarterly) goals are preferred.  If a goal is longer than that timeframe it should be divided into smaller time increments.

Each strategy should have SMART goals associated with its implementation.

Objectives can be annual and represent key results expected.  To reach the objective one or more strategies (processes, methods, systems, techniques, procedures, etc.) may be implemented.  Each strategy may have one or more SMART goals associated with it.

For instance, to reach a particular Objective three Strategies will be implemented.  Each strategy will include two or more SMART goals designed to employ the strategy.

Although SMART goals can be written to encompass any time frame they usually cover three to four months.  These goals may also be written in terms of steps necessary to fully implement he strategy.

SMART goals can be represented by a time frame (i.e., week, month, quarter, trimester) or a succession of events built on one another leading to completion of the strategy.  Most SMART goals use a designated time frame even if it takes three or more goals to complete the task.  The task is broken up into defined increments of time.

With regard to a succession of events SMART goals may be written as follows.  Let’s assume you were given the strategy to provide qualified individual contributors to a program manager who is responsible for the design and manufacture of a system.  One Smart goal might be to evaluate your personnel resources.  A follow-on goal might be to provide training in the competencies needed by the program.  A third goal might be to implement a probationary period concluding with an evaluation of their effectiveness by the program manager.

As a leader, manager, or supervisor your job is to maintain the integrity of the SMART goal framework, not necessarily the specifics on how the details of the goal are determined- that should be the responsibility of the project team members if possible.

More simply stated, as leader, manager, or supervisor your responsibility is primarily to ensure the framework of the SMART goal is adhered to – specific, measureable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-constrained.

Is the goal specific enough?

Is the goal quantifiably or qualitatively measureable?

Is the goal attainable in terms of the capabilities and capacity of the team?

Is the goal results-oriented in that it adequately points to a recognizable outcome?  In other words, what is its stated purpose?

Is the goal time-constrained in that it progressively leads to the desired outcome whether it is laid out in time increments or progressive steps?


The examples that follow address a ministry context.  The reader will hopefully readily see how they can be adjusted for a non-ministry context if that is your operational setting.

Form a ministry team (specific) to help children process the trauma of their parents divorce (results-oriented) by the end of February 2015 (time-constrained) as evidenced by the selection of curriculum and the scheduling of course dates (measurable/non-quantifiable).

Increase the number of small groups (specific) by 25% (measurable/quantifiable) beginning in March 2015 (time-constrained) for the purpose of reaching those members and regular attenders who have not been involved in small groups and who need intimate fellowship and care (results-oriented).

Form a mentoring ministry for women (specific) to assist them in becoming followers of Jesus Christ by establishing a relationship with another woman who will help them grow spiritually (results-oriented) as evidenced by their commitment to Bible study, prayer, fellowship and witnessing (measurable/non-quantifiable). Training will be conducted in January 2016 for mentors and the program launched in March 2016 (time constrained).

Key Action Words for Goals: Assess, Plan, Design, Develop, Recruit, Fund, Train, Schedule, Promote, Establish, Produce, Communicate, Conduct, Review, Evaluate, Assess, Assign, Critique, select, etc.

SMART Goals can be developed for personal as well as professional purposes.  Wherever I have led others I have used SMART goals with success.  I hope this posting will help you become a more effective and efficient leader, manager, or supervisor.

To be continued…


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Criticism of 'Warrior' Terminology

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Posted by greg

Heart_of_a_Warrior_Coat_of_Arms_-_Copy.jpgFrom time to time I receive criticisms for using ‘warrior’ terminology in Heart of a Warrior Ministries.  I recently felt compelled to respond to a person’s concerns over my use of such terms.  I thought it might be helpful to present my rationale.

The New Testament is full of metaphors and allegories associated with military and warfare symbolism.  The Lord is referred to as a "warrior" by Moses in Exodus 15:1-3.  Jeremiah also suggests the same in Jeremiah 20:11.

"I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.  The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.  The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name."  NIV

Revelation 19:11-16 and Isaiah 42:13 certainly implies similar symbolism...

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16

The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. Isaiah 42:13

The New Testament speaks about spiritual warfare, that we must put on the 'armor' of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).  Preliminary to the verses on putting on the armor of God is the admonition to be strong in the Lord...put on the full armor of God so we can make a stand...that we are in a struggle.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. NIV

Paul himself says he has 'fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7).'  Several places in the NT we are encouraged to 'fight the good fight (1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12).'

I am not advocating that men strap on a sword and press headlong into physical combat.  Instead, I use the metaphor of a "warrior' to call men to the battle for the sake of their loved ones, the unloved, the marginalized, the defenseless, the downtrodden.  I call men to take their assignment to be the spiritual leaders of their home.  I use the 'sword' as a symbol for engagement because too many men have abdicated their responsibilities to their families, friends, associates, and those who don't know Christ. 

I have often used the phrase, "a warrior after God's heart."  I have clearly defined what I mean by being a warrior after God's heart...

1.            A warrior after God’s heart is loyal to his Commander.

2.            A warrior after God’s heart is a citizen of God’s kingdom.

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Leadership & Formation #10 – Boundary Events

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Posted by greg

Slide3.JPGBoundary events are transitional periods in our life that move us from one phase of growth or development to the next.  Most leaders move from establishing foundations beginning in childhood TO preparation where the leader pursues formal training TO contribution where the leader exercises what they have learned in the laboratory we call work TO a place of multiplication where their experiences have matured and can be leveraged for greater effectiveness within their sphere of influence.


Boundary events are precipitated and initiated by a circumstance, situation, or occasion – not all of which are positive.  These events can be instigated by a crisis or transition such as a new opportunity, being fired, a health crisis, being laid off, completion of one’s education, mid-life crisis, promotion, spiritual experience, an epiphany, an awakening, an accumulation of related circumstances, gradual discontent, failure, success, a challenge, significant change, new life stage, or a major change of perspective.

Research has shown that boundary events can last anywhere from 2 or 3 months to as long as 6 years.  Regardless of the length of time or how they are brought into play boundary events consist of essentially three stages; entry, evaluation, and exit.

The ENTRY stage is a period of time where a leader reflects on what just happened to him or her.  They try to reconcile the events that led up to it in an attempt to understand and connect the dots.  This stage looks to the past and is often accompanied by grieving over the loss.  The leader may experience anger, disappointment, despair, and discouragement if the precipitating circumstances were unexpected or negative in nature.  It is important to remember that this self-analysis will rarely if at all yield all the answers.  Eventually, the leader comes to terms with the circumstances even though many questions about the particulars remain unclear.  The leader finally comes to a point where they realize, “It is what it is.”  If the circumstances leading to the boundary event are perceived as positive (i.e., a promotion, new opportunity, the completion of a journey, etc.) then the reflection of the past is simply a period of encouragement, appreciation, sense of accomplishment or achievement.

The EVALUATION stage actually consists of two periods of activity.  The focus of this stage is the present where they take an inward look and may even look upward for spiritual guidance. The first period involves self-evaluation.  The leader takes stock of what they have to offer.  They assess their capabilities and capacity for the next phase of their journey.  They may even seek further assessment through non-formal means such as a coach, taking various instruments, preparing a personal historical timeline, gathering observations of others, attending self-help and self-management workshops or seminars, and/or seeking professional guidance.  The objective is to gain clarity of their personal toolkit of gifts, talents, natural abilities, acquired competencies and skills, and lessons learned from their experiences.

Once the self-evaluation is complete and the leader has an accurate grasp of what they have to offer they may determine that there are some holes in their portfolio.  They may seek further education, undergo coaching to learn a new competency or skill, seek professional career guidance, or acquire a mentor who can help them fill out their unrealized potential in anticipation of their next big step.  This period might also include a personal audit where they determine their life purpose, committed passion, non-negotiables going forward, unique methodologies (their toolbox), and ultimate contribution or legacy they hope to leave.  This personal life mandate will serve as a filter through which they will process new opportunities to ensure that they are operating from their ‘sweet spot.’

The EXIT stage of the boundary event looks to the future.  The leader is ready to move on and embrace something new and different.  They are ready to put past circumstances behind them and engage a new aspect of their journey.  They come out of their hunkered down existence ready to tackle the world but with a new commitment, a new focus, a new perspective, a new attitude, a new sense of hope, a new beginning, a new future.  They will initiate action to find a new position, start a new business, or embrace a new vocation altogether.  They will actively pursue new opportunities in alignment with their wiring and new trajectory. In many cases the transition from evaluation to exit is not dramatic but incremental instead.  It may also be true that the leader does not know they have transitioned from the evaluation to the exit stage until after it has already happened.  Once they have exited and started afresh the boundary event is concluded.

Some leaders will experience multiple boundary events in their life – a movement to calling, a movement to beingness versus doingness, a movement to legacy or ultimate contribution.  Knowing what and how boundary events operate will help the leader deal with the range of emotions they will experience while going through it.  Such understanding will mediate confusion and help the leader understand what to expect and how to endure it. Boundary events serve to bring closure to recent experiences, deepen ones beliefs, values and convictions, expand one’s perspectives to see new things, and to make decisions which will launch one into a new phase of their life.

To be continued…


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Leadership & Formation #9: Hills to Die On

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Posted by greg

flag_at_summit_400_clr_4930.pngWestern culture has redefined tolerance as unconditional acceptance and affirmation.  Anything shy of total, unqualified acceptance and affirmation of the opinion, ideology, personal perspective, or lifestyle choices of another is labeled as intolerance. 

The true definition of tolerance, however, is withholding whatever power you have against what you find objectionable. This means that we withhold whatever influence we can bring to bear on an issue for a more prudent engagement, a higher priority, or an assessment that opposing the issue will cause more damage than good.  The power we are withholding may be the authority we have, the resources at our disposal, the network of influential contacts we can employ, the status we hold, the reputation we enjoy, or the knowledge we possess.

Every conflict, difference of opinion, or assault on our beliefs and values requires wisdom to determine whether or not to engage with whatever power we have available.  The ancient scriptures give us guidance when they remind us to be wise, to evaluate the circumstances, and to assess the possible outcomes of engagement.  We can choose not to make an issue of the matter for the sake of peace, grace or forbearance.

If we choose to engage we must always “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  For those of us in the faith we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Every effective leader of character has determined, in advance, what hills to die on, what hills to bleed on, and what hills are not worth climbing.  Doing so provides a framework of knowing when to engage regardless of the circumstances, when to engage in consideration of the circumstances, and when to withhold engagement in spite of the circumstances.

Hills to Die On…

You cannot die on every hill.  Dying may not require your life but it may require something just as permanent or painful. Choosing to die on a hill may mean that you are willing to embrace the consequences even if it means you will lose the goodwill of others, marginalize your advancement prospects, or even lose your position, ranking, or job.  The hill I choose to die on may not require my life but it may require sacrificing popularity, acclaim, prestige, acceptance, or affirmation. It may require that I set aside my dreams and aspirations for a higher value. It may mean I may be marginalized or even ostracized.

What hills are worth dying on?  First, they should be few in number.  Second, they should ensure laws will not be violated.  Third, they should honor our faith.  Fourth, they should uphold our central beliefs and values.  In other words the matter is too important to ignore because it would mean that your character (or faith) is compromised.  Finally, they should protect the defenseless, unloved, and marginalized. 

These hills are not always a matter of public engagement.  They may be a private or personal commitment such as a commitment to live out certain beliefs and values having decided which ones are non-negotiable.  They may include putting the welfare and wellbeing of our family as our highest priority in that we will never compromise this commitment for any reason.  They may include a commitment to submit to some cause, people group, or belief system that will stand in authority over our lives informing and conditioning what we do.

What hills are you prepared to "die on?"

Hills to Bleed On…

You cannot bleed on every hill.  If you bleed on too many hills you will "die" prematurely.  I have known people who make an issue of every issue.  It isn't long before what they say is automatically discounted regardless of its importance.  If you make an issue of every issue no one will take seriously any issue you have made an issue.  "For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him."

Hills to bleed on is a metaphor for issues and concerns for which we are willing to take a stand given the circumstances.  They are situational in nature and change in terms of how we will respond.  Environmental factors condition whether we choose to say something or do something.  Given the alignment and significance of the contributing factors we may choose to engage but not willing to “die” for the issue.  These issues are selected based on their importance, their affect and/or effect, and whether not engaging will give tacit approval to the outcome of the event or circumstance.

One day you may choose to engage the issue while at other times you may choose not to engage.  This does not mean you are hypocritical or a ‘weather vane’ moving in a direction of prevailing sentiment or political correctness. It simply means that you have measured the circumstance or event and have chosen that it is not a hill to bleed on.  At other times, the circumstance or event may be a hill to bleed on; that is, to risk your reputation, to negatively impact your relationships, or to lose respect or esteem. 

What hills will you bleed on if the circumstances warrant?

Hills Not Worth Climbing…

There are many hills not worth climbing.  They may be important but are they urgent?  I would suggest that there are far more hills not worth climbing than you may know.  This does not mean that the matter before you is not important or worth consideration.  It simply mean that you are not the one called to address it.  The circumstance is someone else’s hill to die on or bleed on.

The intrinsic ‘worth’ of the issue may be significant but you are not the one to deal with it.  You may hold certain convictions about it, may disagree or agree with it, may have something to contribute regarding it but have decided it is a hill you will not climb.  Reasons for this conclusion may be decisions you made regarding the hills to die on or bleed on beforehand.  This is not one of them.  Or the criteria for engagement, which you have decided beforehand, is not met.  Or engagement will do more damage than constructive help. 

If a situation arises where you are trying to decide what to do the following criteria might be considered.

  1. Is it a hill I have already decided to “die on?”
  2. Is it a hill I am prepared to “bleed on?”
  3. Is it a hill someone else should “die on” or “bleed on?”
  4. Is it a hill I have already decided not to climb?
  5. Is it majoring in minors?
  6. Will it sacrifice my integrity?

What hills are not worth climbing?

Each man and woman must decide for themselves what hills they will die on, what hills they will bleed on, and what hills are not worth climbing.  Over the course of your life they will change.

As for me I have decided what hills I will die on.

  • My Faith - The Gospel (Titus 2:11-14)
  • My Family - Responsibility (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • My Focus - Purpose (Ephesians 2:8-10)
  • My Fidelity - The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The hills I will bleed on will be the hills God calls me to bleed on.  My hills will be different than your hills.  The hills I will bleed on will be His hills and not my hills.

The hills not worth climbing are everything else.  I have learned over time-I am in my 60's now-that I was dying on too many hills, the hills I was bleeding on were my hills and not His hills, and the hills not worth climbing were far more than I originally thought.

What hills will you die on?

What hills will you bleed on?

What hills are not worth climbing?

To be continued…

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Leadership & Formation #8 – Concern vs Influence

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Posted by greg

influence_2.jpgHow much time is wasted over matters out of our control?  How much time is spent agonizing over issues that we cannot change?  How much time is spent mulling over concerns outside our area of responsibility?  Extended worry over matters we cannot resolve leads down a path to unhealthy fear, misplaced anxiety, and paralyzing paranoia.  There is plenty of circumstances for which to be concerned.  The key question we need to ask ourselves is what can we do about them that will make a difference other than keep us up at night?

We operate essentially within two circles—the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.

Within the Circle of Concern are issues we are ‘concerned’ about but have little to no control over the issues that fall within this sphere.  For instance, we might be concerned about political or economic issues in Washington, a judge’s ruling on an issue that touches us, a decision being made by someone regarding our circumstances, world poverty, global warming or any host of matters that cause us concern.  We may have a limited influence on these matters but for all practical purposes they are out of our reach to do anything about them.  In these cases, we have essentially one option—prayer.  Once we have prayed about these matters we must release them to the Lord and move on to those issues we can control.

Within the Circle of Influence are issues we have some degree of control over.  Our direct input or interaction will determine the outcome of these issues.  People, events, and circumstances can be changed by our direct involvement.  Our influence may be of a direct nature or indirect nature.  Our direct influence will address the specific issue directly.  Our indirect influence may be to interact with factors that may influence the situation indirectly (i.e., a note to a friend or authority may cause that friend or authority to respond to a set of circumstances over which they have some influence).

Each of us has a finite amount of energy at our disposal (emotional, spiritual, and physical).  The extent of that energy will differ for each person.  Our circle of influence can expand as we grow emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually—it can also diminish through bad decisions and/or sin in our life.

If we expend our limited energy on matters over which we have little influence or control, the energy remaining will be reduced.  When we turn our attention to issues within our sphere of influence we will find that the circle of influence has shrunk while our circle of concern has grown.  Spending our finite energy in this sphere will only increase our anxiety and stress because we can do little to change the outcome.

Focusing our finite energy primarily on issues within our circle of influence and praying about issues within our circle of concern (and releasing these issues to the Lord) will reduce the circle of concern to a more manageable size and therefore cause less anxiety and stress in our lives.  This is a far more constructive activity—focusing on what we can change and leaving to God those issues we cannot change to any significant degree.

There are three domains of influence; direct, indirect, and organizational (Leadership Emergence Theory, J. Robert Clinton, 1989).  The reach and impact you wield in these domains is defined by your character, experience, authority, responsibility, position, status, and the power base (positional or personal) you use to exert influence.

Direct Influence. This domain indicates a measure of people being influenced by the real presence of the leader, usually occurring in focused and structured situations where feedback between follower and leader is possible and necessary, and carries a high level of accountability to God for influence. This type of influence extends to those immediately under the authority and responsibility of the leader and is generally restricted to those ‘in front of’ or ‘face-to-face with’ or in close proximity to the leader.

Indirect Influence. This domain indicates a measure of people being influenced by non-time-bound miscellaneous influences a leader exerts through others, through media, or through writing, and for which feedback between the leader and those being influenced is difficult, if not impossible, and where accountability is primarily for the content of influential ideas.

When a leader matures and the intensity, passion, and focus of the leader crystallizes (moves from shot gun to laser beam) their direct influence grows linearly while their indirect influence grows exponentially. In other words, their extensiveness (quantity of people influenced), comprehensiveness (scope of areas of influence), and intensiveness (depth of influence) grows linearly in the direct domain while these same measures grow exponentially in the indirect domain. When a leader penetrates the life and heart of a follower more extensively, comprehensively and intensively, that follower and those with whom they interact are affected accordingly.  Exponential influence is attained.

Organizational Influence. This domain indicates a measure of people of people being influenced by a person in organizational leadership via direct, indirect, and organizational power.

Spheres of Influence…

Direct                                     Indirect                                  Organizational

Individuals                             Committee                            Supervisor

Small Groups                         Advisory Board                     Program Director

Project Team                        Executive Board                   Department Head

Ministries                              Writing                                   Organizational Head

Seminars                                Radio                                      Policy Formulator

Conferences                         Networking                           Board Member

Mentoring                             Supporting                            Sponsoring

Encouragement                    Blogging                                 Resourcing

Biblical Support: Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30); giftedness and capacity (Romans 12:3-7); accountability for influence (Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:13-38; 2 Corinthians 5:10); rewards for leadership (1 Peter 1:1-5).

Take a personal audit of the time you spend worrying about concerns you can do little to resolve.  Commit to redeeming that time to invest in matters you can positively influence.  Focus on your circle of influence and pray about your circle of concern. 

What concerns keep you up at night?

What can you do to influence these concerns?

What are your spheres of influence (direct, indirect, organizationally)?

How are you leveraging your organizational influence for great impact?

What issues can you directly impact that falls within your sphere of influence?

How much of your time is spent in the circles of concern and influence?

What matters will benefit from an investment of your time?

To be continued…

Leadership & Formation #7: Budding Leaders

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Posted by greg

leaders_3.jpgI repeatedly hear the refrain, “We don’t have enough leaders?”  Emerging, budding leaders aren’t obvious to others who do not have the eyes to see them.  In fact, the characteristics of leaders “in the rough” are most often experienced as annoying aggravations rather than counter-intuitive indicators.  If the prevailing leaders within an organization do not calibrate their perceptions they may never see the emerging leaders right in front of them.

If your identification ‘antenna’ is not properly calibrated you could miss the many leaders in your midst.  Characteristics of emerging leaders often drive experienced leaders nuts leading to premature dismissal of these nascent young leaders in the process of becoming yet not having arrived.  My experience suggests, however, that young leaders in the making possess observable behaviors indicating they are potential leaders.  They may need cultivation, training, mentoring, support, and sponsorship to develop into effective leaders.  Your investment in them will be well worth the effort.

Five Characteristics of Buddy Leaders 

 INSISTENT – They never give up.

They keep butting their head against the same wall or problem. You know the old saying, "What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results." To someone observing an emerging leader it sure looks like they are backtracking over the same problem again and again. Closer observation may show that they are actually hitting the wall at a slightly different angle each time, learning from each obstacle and adjusting their approach. The key is they don't give up and they learn with each failure. There is a difference between this type of emerging leader and a lesser one. The lesser one always approaches the obstacle the exact same way and has not learned any lessons. They are more apt to give up after a few tries.  So, budding leaders are tenacious; they don’t give up easily.  View this characteristic in a positive light.  Before jumping in observe their behavior to determine their approach to solving seemingly intractable problems.  You might just have a great leader in the making.

 INQUISITIVE – They are full of questions.

They never do exactly what you tell them to do. They keep asking more questions or even worse, suggesting ways it could be done better. They have more questions than you have answers. Man, that's irritating. Don't you just hate that? This is our typical response. Part of the role of leader, as leadership developer/mentor is to suggest a direction and then work with the emerging leader on the approaches. Yes, it’s irritating and time consuming but helps grow a leader. Often the mistake of the mature leader is to interpret the attitudes and questions as disrespect and a critical spirit, rather than using these opportunities to learn themselves about other ways to approach a problem.  You might find that their ideas are superior to your own.  Budding leaders are inquisitive.  Their questions may not be polished leading you to conclude they are being disrespectful or that they are challenging you.  Don’t look at it this way.  See their questions as exhibiting a desire to learn.

 IMPATIENT – They seek more responsibility before they may be ready.

They always want more responsibility before they are ready for it. As the mature leader you are always queasy about this. You want the person to advance as a leader but you also have some doubts because you are not sure they are ready. If they exhibit the potential to lead and have been faithful in smaller projects in the past then give them an opportunity to stretch.  If they fail, observe how they handle the failure. What have they learned from it?  Their development might require a guide by the side and not a sage on the stage.  Part of the development process is placing people in situations that are a true stretch. As leadership developers/mentors we don't want to put people in places where they will fail. But if failure is not an option, they will not learn as fast as they can.  Failure should be handled as a developmental iteration on the process to becoming a better leader. Seeking more responsibility even if they are not ready for it is a sure sign of a budding leader.  Don’t be impatient with their impatience.

 INCOGNITO – They are leaders by default.

People defer to them, even if they haven't been designated as the leader. They have been placed in a group or team to carry out a task. Someone else has been designated as leader, but as the project progresses, the group looks to this emerging leader for their opinion. This can be very hard on the designated leader, but the group doesn't seem to mind unless there is a strong clash between the two. These budding leaders aren’t always obvious in group settings.  They are often on the peripheral lurking just out of sight.  They are exposed when others in the group look to them for approval or response.  They may be reluctant leaders or not see themselves as leaders at all.  They may be mavericks or contrarians.  They may be quiet and reserved.  They are however seen by their peers clearly as leaders.  Investigate how a budding leader is perceived by their peers and friends.  Observe how they are engaged by others or deferred to by others.  Observe how their influence is exercised.  They may be rough and even difficult.  Yet, conscious development can make them effective leaders.

INNOVATIVE – They often go beyond what is asked of them.

Emerging leaders often do more than they are asked to do--sometimes to the point of overdoing it. Although this can be a sign to senior leader that time and energy was being wasted, it is also a sign that the emerging leader is ready for more responsibility. The emerging leader is looking not to impress, but rather to do the task or responsibility to their high standards. Sometimes those standards are higher than what we have in our minds if we were doing the project.  Observe how they adjust their leadership style to fit the situation.  Remember, their unique wiring may result in unique solutions.  Give them room to operate.  How do they adjust to a problem?  What techniques do they employ in solving a problem?  How do they engage others in resolving the situation?  Innovation is taking what is and making it better.  It is leveraging existing circumstances to produce a better outcome.  Race horse must be trained to run within the rails and not damage themselves in the process.  Gentle guidance of innovators can ensure they excel within legitimate boundaries.

Careful observation of potential budding leaders can yield a bumper crop of future effective leaders if you have the patience and understanding of the characteristics they exhibit.  You may have to provide a ‘safe place’ for their development and act as a buffer between them and others who may not appreciate their potential.  One of the greatest attributes of a senior experienced leader is their ability to develop talent.  Hopefully, the characteristics of budding leaders just described will help you to be that kind of leader.

Within your sphere of influence who exhibits these characteristics?

Who is insistent, inquisitive, impatient, innovative or incognito?

Who have others written off because they could not see the potential within that budding leader?

Who have you written off that deserves reconsideration?

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