Monthly Archives: September 2015

Managing People

Jesus spent the majority of His time with His disciples.  As Robert Coleman noted in The Master Plan of Evangelism, Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but He gave His life to a few. This was a strategic decision because it was these individuals who could best further His mission and vision.  Leaders, with whom do you spend the majority of your time? How do you spend your time with those you lead? The answer to these two simple questions will make all the difference in advancing the mission and vision to which you are committed.

In the previous blog posts on leading like Jesus, attention was given to specifically observing how Jesus led. When it comes to managing people, there does not seem to be as much direct reference in the Gospels. But in the book of Acts, we can clearly see sound principles that the Holy Spirit guided the Apostles to apply. One of the better studies on gleaning insights about how Jesus sought to relate to the Disciples can be found in the book, Servant Leader, by Blanchard & Hodges.

In the early church we can see in seed form how leaders managed. Of the many managerial topics possible to address, four have been chosen to capture the heart of managing people well.

 

  1. Planning (strategy, tactics). People need to know the broad direction and some of the details that will hopefully accomplish the mission so they can agree to fully engage. When possible, people need to participate in the planning process so they develop ownership in what they do and how they do it. The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom on planning, but do we take the effort and time needed to actually do it? How often do we assume that the Holy Spirit will lead us as we move forward when He wanted to lead us first in planning? The early church leaders planned in the context of prayer (Acts 1:14, 21-22; 13: 1-3) and dialogue (Acts 6:1-6; 15:6-7).

 

  1. Organizing (structures, systems, people placement). Organization is much more than a well-defined business function—it is embedded throughout the apparently chaotic natural world. Margaret Wheatley, in her 1999 ground breaking study, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, shows how traditional organization builds upon Newtonian thinking of separating things into parts. What she calls “new science” is based upon study of whole integrated systems in nature and the universe with attention given to relationships and networks. More recently (2015) Brian Robertson in his book, Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World, shows how such thinking plays out in companies like Zappos where people self-organize and self-lead in collaborative ways. This recent thinking is more similar to the early church than our traditional organizational structures. We see in the book of Acts a heavy reliance on guidance from the Holy Spirit so Apostles could delegate tasks to leaders with authority and responsibility. They would then organize such things as care for widows, principles and practices for church growth, and missional outreach. Organization must change to be flexible and generative.

 

  1. Guiding (empowering, supervising, executing). When people have ownership and commitment to plans; are organized in ways to fully engage their contribution; and then guided well; it has the making of breakthrough advancements. A study of the church at Antioch shows how the senior Apostles guided well after learning that a church was planted from disciples who were scattered from persecution. The Apostles empowered Barnabas with full authority to determine church needs and provide solutions. His assessment required more resources so he took initiative to recruit Saul and together they supervised the rapidly growing church. The result was a church that ranked along with Jerusalem and Alexandria in early influence.

 

  1. Assessing (outcomes, developing, rearranging). Having already used up writing space, suffice it to say that without an agreed upon means to assess progress, we will not steward people well. People deserve and long for some objective sense that the hard work they have made was in fact effective. We all desire the satisfaction of contributing to success. Manage people so they can celebrate progress and wholeheartedly recommit to the next opportunity to glorify the Lord.

Next blog: Lead like Jesus review

 

 

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Lead Explored: Inspiring & Motivating

In blog #5 (Leading Well) it was suggested that the essence of leadership is influence and relationship. Perhaps the most powerful way that leaders influence people is by proper inspiration and motivation. Recently I read two books on this topic to grow in my ability to inspire and motive.

The authors of Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, state, “At the end of the day, what qualifies people to be called ‘leaders’ is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results.” (p. 6) The scope of the book addresses a matrix of categories: personal, social, and structural areas each viewed from the standpoint of motivation and ability. I liked seeing motivation considered beyond the personal component since community and environment can significantly influence one’s motivation.

The second book, Intrinsic Motivation at Work, essentially helps one to discover the intrinsic rewards that reinforce self-management. Primary rewards revolve around choosing activities and enhancing competence. The result when people have a voice in decisions and grow in competence is a sense of meaningfulness and progress. A big part of inspiring and motivating is helping people to self manage according to their passion.

In our leadership paradigm of seeking to live and lead like Jesus, we must inspire to a vision (process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something) and motivate to engage (a reason or reasons for acting or behavior in a particular way). Too often our inspiration falls short of touching people at a heart level (affections), focusing at best on challenging the mind or some short-lived emotional high.

Matthew was a tax collector who wanted to exchange that lifestyle for one with more meaning and purpose.  Several of the Disciples were fishermen who deep down inside wanted to catch more than fish. To know what truly motivates people ask these questions – What makes you laugh?  What makes you cry?  What do you dream about?  Jesus motivated by touching the souls of people.

Ask for great commitment – leaders know that how you do “The Ask” matters.  Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow Me.”  When a rabbi made this request to a young Jewish man, he was asking for a life commitment.  When Jesus was able to direct seasoned fishermen to cast their nets off the side of the boat and land an amazing catch of fish, they knew He was a worthy rabbi to follow. Too often leaders do not properly challenge their teams, and unfortunately they only live up to the level of being challenged.

Puritan Thomas Chalmers wrote in a sermon called The Expulsive Power of a New Affection that an exchange is needed for a person to be motivated to set a course of no regrets. Of course the greatest exchange anyone can make is to believe the Gospel and exchange spiritual death for life. The next greatest exchange possible is that of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus over self. From this point onward, life is full of exchanges and the good leader knows how to inspire people to choose a worthy new affection.

How intentional are you with your influence to inspire and motivate? What commitments keep you inspired and motivated? What habits guide you interactions with others so they are encouraged to pay the price of making disciples? Even those of us who are not naturally inspiring or motivating can lead so that others rise to a higher level of living when we properly feed our souls and walk by faith.

Net blog: Managing People

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Lead Explored: Aligning Resources

A second component in our definition of leading like Jesus involves influencing and enabling people.  Jesus wisely prepared His Disciples to succeed.  You might think it is a stretch to say that Jesus aligned His resources, but let’s consider a few examples.

  • Jesus spent an entire night praying over who would be on His team (Lk 6:12) and then selected them (Jn 1:35-51) so He would start with the right resources.
  • He provided training for the Disciples so they were equipped for their ministry (Jn 17:6-8; 20:21-22) and promised the best resource of all, the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13).
  • He removed the obstacles of unbelief (Philip, Jn 14:8-9; Thomas, Jn 20:27-28) and their distorted Kingdom thinking (Jn 13:12-17) so they could live and minister wisely.
  • He took time so the Disciples would own the direction He was setting (Jn 14:8-12).
  • He appeared to value them serving from their own unique position of strength (Jn 21:21-22).

Every leader in every walk of life must learn how to steward human and other resources well.  Nothing has greater potential for impact than the synergistic work of aligned resources.

Although commonly heard, “People are the most precious resource,” systems and processes do not always show such a value.  How well positioned are you for maximum joy and contribution?  How well are you leading others so they can make their best contribution according to who God designed them to be?  What steps can you take toward better alignment for yourself and others?

Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Ensure you have the “right people on the bus and in the right places” to echo Jim Collins in his outstanding book, Good to Great.  If you or those you serve are not in the right place then seek to facilitate a transition to a better place of alignment.

2.  Provide the tools, materials, and funding for people to be successful.  A primary role of a leader is to enable people to be successful, to thrive.  At times there might be a shortage of resources that hinder progress but when resources of information and funding is available it must be shared.

3.  Remove known obstacles that hinder joy and progress.  Some policies and procedures frustrate and drain energy.  Some people who are not fully on board or are misaligned restrict positive movement.  Removing restraints can be as helpful as providing resources.

4.  Build ownership or buy-in so people serve from intrinsic motivation.  When people are confronted with a compelling vision; sense that they are on a committed team; have a valued voice and place in the direction; they will most likely sacrifice to advance the cause.  In three years, Jesus had 11 men willing to work for free and die for Him.  That is motivation!

5.  Leverage strengths for maximum contribution.  When people are young, say in their 20’s and 30’s, many do not yet know their strengths, talents, and gifts.  Usage over time and affirmation by others will confirm a person’s strength.  Every person has a vital role in God’s Great Commission to make His glory known among the nations.  Good leaders help people discern their role, develop their capacity, and best align themselves for maximum contribution.

Let us agree to help those we serve find their best place of service and then serve them so they can thrive!

Next Blog: Inspiring & Motivating

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