Mentoring Made Simple

Margaret was ten years old when a woman in her 30’s decided to start investing herself in young girls. There was no magic curriculum, no overly-structured strategy, just an authentic woman who loved Jesus and chose to love the girl that would one day become my wife.

Two weeks ago Margaret and I attended the 80th birthday party for that mentor. We would not have missed it for the world. Her children and grandchildren made her proud and the dozens of guests made it a success. But what struck me was the impact of Lenita’s life expressed through so many people to whom she had given herself. Margaret was not the only one. A handful of no longer young girls were present to honor the woman who helped them learn to be good mothers and deeper lovers of Jesus because Lenita chose to invest in them.

Margaret and Lenita on her 80th

When we walked up to the house, I watched Margaret sign into the guestbook. “Dear Lenita, you are my longest standing friend.”

It’s funny. Margaret didn’t write about the structure of their mentoring relationship, or the books they studied, or anything remotely complicated. What matters most is the depth and authenticity and consistency of Lenita’s friendship.

You see, I find that we get all twisted up over the notions of mentoring because of some funky ideas that mentoring is about structure or curriculum or Yoda-Like super-wisdom. In reality mentoring is about sharing your life, your experiences, and your perspective when needed. It is more about walking together over the long haul then solving a urgent problem in a perfect way.

Yes, there are multiple ways for mentoring relationships to work well. J. Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley did an excellent job looking at nine different types of mentoring relationships in their book, *Connecting*. However, the vast majority of mentoring is as simple as a relationship between one person who chooses to make his or her life available and another person who admits they have a need.

I like to keep it simple. I am responsible for my own mentoring. If I have something to offer, it is my responsibility to offer it. If I have a need, it is my responsibility to look for someone to help me. I don’t expect anyone to read my mind, I own responsibility for the mentoring I need.

So, let’s cut through the red tape. Who are you pouring your life into? What do you have to offer and who do you know that might need it? What are the areas of personal development you need to work on? Pick up the phone. Schedule a coffee. Do whatever it takes to get off the dime. Start asking questions and start sharing your life. Perhaps one day at your 80th birthday you’ll have someone sign your guestbook whose life was changed forever.

As the husband of a woman who’s life was marked forever, thank you Lenita.

 

 

Join the Conversation:

Your Thoughts? Your Mentoring Experiences?

 

When Sending Email is Stupid

Sometimes sending an email is really stupid. I know, my Mom tried to teach me that calling someone or something stupid is not very nice. But, I can’t think of any better way to say it. Simply put, there are occasions when you are being stupid to send an email.

Danger: Email Ahead

In my last post, I wrote about the need for a personally effective and efficient solution for managing the deluge of email. But today I want to rant about two mistakes I see all the time. I am amazed, not just at how often these happen, but how surprised people are at the fallout from their actions.

Stupid Action #1::

Using Email to Communicate or Resolve Relationally Complex Situations


Can I just ask, what are we thinking? We all know the majority of communication happens non-verbally. The statistics I remember are that only 7% of all communication happens through the words we use. 40% of meaning is picked up through body language and 53% happens through tone of voice.

Yet, all the time, I read emails from people who are trying to express a complicated matter or resolve an interpersonal problem through email where all you have to work with are words. That’s like trying to swim across the English Channel with your hands tied behind your back. You are leaving 93% of what it takes to communicate effectively off the table.

The result? On the best days, this approach sets you up for three or four rounds of emails to explain, re-clarify, and soothe over what was misunderstood in your original missive. More often than not, these ill-advised email bombs leave emotional shrapnel in the very people you had hoped to serve with the information in the first place.

I know that email is easy, but more info

if you face a situation that is complex, a situation where relationships are going to be effected, or are delivering emotionally charged information, DON’T DO IT! Find a way to connect in person, even if only by phone. At least by phone you have 60% of your communication horsepower.

I know that writing an email is is easy and accessible, but why would anyone choose to communicate in such a handicapped way?

Stupid Action #2::

Including Your Private or Volatile Opinions in Email


Here’s the rule: unless you want what you write broadcast to the world, don’t put it in an email!

How many times have you seen someone send an email that is actually confidential information? I’ve seen things that range from unguarded caustic opinions about a co-worker, to blatant gossip, to personal data.

To be repetitive, what are we thinking?

Once you put something in print, it is out of your hands. You have no control when and where it gets sent. Sure, you can ask that your comments be held in confidence, but it is common for an email thread to be forwarded to someone else in the future. And, all it takes is for someone to forget your confidential opinions were included earlier. Voila!  Scroll down and your earlier ‘confidential’ comments are posted for all to see.

You wouldn’t publish your credit card information out there for all to see, so why would you put other volatile opinions out there? At least when it is your own personal data, you are the one who will be effected. But, when unguarded opinions and other confidential information are spread around other people are hurt.

Let me make it simple. On those days when you need the cathartic experience of vomiting your frustration to someone who you think might care, just don’t do it on email.

To make it even simpler: Stop It!

Lord, Teach Me to Number My Days

Yesterday, we had a normal text conversation with a really close friend of ours about the custody hearing of his daughter regarding her child. Then at 7:14 this morning my phone rang and I learned that this same friend and daughter were shot and killed by her ex-husband last evening.

Emotionally I’ve spent the day vacillating between shock, sorrow, anger, and indignation. This was a good friend and truly a fine caring man. He was a loving generous grandfather who gave himself in sacrificial ways to his family. He and his wife had hopes and dreams about their retirement years. There are many things I could say about Russ, but since you don’t know him I need to write about the personal reflections I cannot escape.

In the words of David, the great song writer, “Lord, teach us to number our days.” (Ps 90:12)  In my own words, “Lord, help me put today in perspective, by attending to the fact that each day is a sacred gift, a limited commodity. Help me live aware of the fact that I will never know how many days I have ahead of me.”

The truth is, in my entire life, all I ever have at my disposal is one day: today! Yesterday is a memory I can celebrate, treasure, learn from, etc. Tomorrow is a day I can plan for. But, the only day within my grasp, the only day where my purpose and priorities and values can be actively lived out, is today. In a tangible way, the real number of our days is ONE.

“Lord, teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom, not drivenness. Drivenness would be the American way–run faster, do more, strive harder, live in a panic. On the contrary, embracing the reality that only one day lies within our grasp should lead us to depth, direction, and the de-cluttering of our lives.

I think this is one of the core messages of my life: the power of one day. When I live in the light of one day, it keeps me sensitive to the sacred nature of my own life and the people who populate it. It focuses my attention on the direction of my life and how I might lived connected to the Kingdom. It keeps me passionate about living in intimacy with Jesus as I seek to follow him. Today is the day when I get to live out my convictions, give my life away serving the potential of others, participate in the redemptive work of the Gospel. Today–every day–is pregnant and holy and fragile.

In all my life, I only have one day at my disposal. So, Lord, as I lean into the sorrow and loss of my friend, show me more about how I might live into the sacred trust of life called “today.”

———————-

p.s. I have touched on this theme of life as fragile and sacred before. Here are a links to some of those posts:

Life is Sacred:

http://aboutleading.com/2009/03/13/life-is-fragileand-sacred/

– Grieving and the Health of my Soul:

http://aboutleading.com/2009/10/07/grieving-and-the-health-of-my-soul/

– Life is Long and Fragile:

http://aboutleading.com/2008/03/20/life-is-longand-fragile/

A Tension that Makes Great Teams

Because I spend most of my time working with Christian ministry leaders and leadership teams in churches or ministry organizations, I regularly run into teams that have become hospice care centers to the detriment of quality work that needs to be done. However, as I interact with colleagues in the for-profit business world, I frequently hear about the opposite sinkhole where people don’t matter only what they produce does. Neither extreme makes for a healthy team.

I would like to suggest that the tension of needing to care for people and also get the job done is a tension that can nurture great teams.

If all a team does is focus on task, you are moving into the demoralizing posture of using people without developing or even attending to them as individuals. If all a team does is care for each other, you are moving into the demotivating posture where the hard work, expertise, even sacrifice of people is ignored.

On the other hand, when people are cared for in a team-based context where the cause that drives the team is compellingly pursued, you have the potential of releasing the greatest creative energy. When people feel safe, they feel safe to risk and experiment. When challenging assignments or pressure packed deadlines are balanced with support for the people facing that pressure, the entire team finds the will power to keep their hands on the plow together.

If you can imagine these dynamics as intersecting axes, any team or organizational unit could actually plot their state of balanced tension at any given moment in time. In fact, a five minute check-in could help a team take its collective “temperature” in real time.

You could label these axes a number of ways: Task v. Relationship; Nurture v. Productivity; or as I prefer Cause v. Community.

The “Cause” axis measures the intensity of focus and demands your team places on the work it is supposed to be doing. (Is it very high or low at the moment?) The “Community” axis measures the weight of attention being given to caring for the people on your team.

The point where the two lines intersect reveals the current state of balance between these two tensions. [In the diagram, the dashed line example would be a team that is weaker as a caring community right now but highly productive. The dotted gray line shows a team that is less of a productive focused unit and more of a caring community right now.] And obviously, your team could score high-high or low-low just as easily.

Why does all this matter? It is because highly effective teams make greater impact. They are like finely tuned v-10 race engines instead of anemic gas saving 4-cyclinders. They steward people while making a difference.

So, thinking about the key team(s) you lead or function on how would you diagram these two creative tensions right now?

IDEA: Use this paradigm as a discussion prompt for a work-group, a task-force, a governing board, a focused team, or any other identified group of people you have the chance to work with.

COMMUNITY — THE FIFTH “C”

I love an old African proverb that says,

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

I love the invitation embedded in that proverb, but if I am honest, I have to admit that my native wiring is to go fast and furious. In fact, I think that for most of my life my practiced approach to community was to find others that wanted to run fast and furious with me. However, living in community is far more than that.

High capacity leaders in the 21st century are those that live and lead in community. It is one result of a tectonic shift in culture.  For example, it used to be that the notion of a leader as Lone Ranger was a good thing. Riding in on a white horse to save the day single-handedly is the way great leaders carried themselves. That day is over. Today, leaders that operate today as autocratic individualists are suspect.

Here’s the catch, for all the potential of leading in community, moving into community comes at a high front end cost. To develop community requires vulnerability, sacrifice, substantial time, and one of the toughest challenges for leaders — the subordination of personal opinions to the collective discernment of the community.

Leaders that live and lead in community pay attention to healthy process and cultivating safe environments. They transform basic conversation into relationally based journeys of discernment. They submit their personal agendas to the group and allow collective wisdom to shape priorities and decisions. They champion the contribution and giftedness of others in the community. They make themselves dispensable.

Even though leaders are surrounded by the people they lead, the reality is that most live in an ongoing state of isolation. So, even if you as a leader are the only one at risk, it is time to seek out, form, choose, and live in interdependence with others.

So, what lives deep in you? The desire to simply go fast? Or the conviction that you long to go far?

[If you would like a .pdf version of a reproducible article describing the “5 C’s of a High Capacity Leader” send me an email request and I will forward it to you. Send to admin@noredcapes.com]

Runner’s up for Book of the Year 2008

Getting beyond the wow factor of technological advancements can be hard at times. After all, today my phone has more memory, speed, and graphic computing power than my first computer ever dreamed of. But the real issue for all of us is how we are going to leverage the opportunities created by technology in order to exercise leadership influence? How do we participate in the social-networking and web-based explosion of the likes of Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, or blogging phenomenon.

Tribes is about that kind of leverage. In fact, in the surprise I didn’t expect, Godin’s book offers powerful principles for effective leadership in an information age. I an such a fan o the book that I have been highly recommending it to our staff. Every leader of the day faces the challenge of getting beyond the surface and superficial use of technology and informational systems and getting to the real issue: leadership. Here is a book to help you do just that.

Tribes invites all of us into a fresh look at the opportunities and necessities of leadership in the environmentof our day.

The second book in my Runner’s Up category is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero.  I have written on this in an earlier entry that you can read.  But, as I look back on the year, I realize that I am continually having conversations that link back to EHS and to the journey that book sent me on.

One component of the book I have thought a great deal about lately is the way Scazzero addresses the need we all have to grieve our limits and our losses.  We all have God-given limits and our ability to discover genuine emotionally healthy spirituality is connected to how well we learn to deal with loss and with our limits.

I don’t know about you, but I have found that my emotional well-being and my spiritual well-being are inseparably intertwined. Here is a tool to guide the integration of my (and I hope, your) journey.

SO THE QUESTION IS: IF YOU WERE TO NOMINATE YOUR “BOOK OF THE YEAR” WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST AND WHY?


Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Scazzero - Emotionally Healthy SpiritualityEmotionally Healthy Spirituality
Peter Scazzero

“It is impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature. [But,] something is missing…the spirituality of most current discipleship models often adds a protective layer against people growing up emotionally.” (pg. 15)

I grew up in a Christian culture that functionally reduced following Jesus to a list of obligations and daily duties. Do daily devotions–or “have a daily quiet time,” memorize scripture, tithe, attend services and Bible studies, acquire knowledge about the Scriptures, and avoid the obviously sinful stuff. I heard very little of the mystery and dynamic nature of following Jesus into a life of deeper mission and intimacy.

Biblical and theological facts, not to mention ecclesiological tradition, were the substance of our Church conversations. Absent was anything of the radical invitation to engage God with the fullness of my emotions. Missing was any notion of the depth of God’s nature as an emotional being in who’s image I was created. Even further off the radar was the notion that my sanctification and my emotions could be connected.

Here is a profoundly different look at discipleship. It is freeing and enticing. It might give new meaning to what Jesus meant by, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And it is different from the way most of us “do” the Christian life.

Scazerro’s honesty about his own journey, the way he led his church, the frustrations of his wife Geri, and his redemption into a new way of life make the book human. It is written with an honesty and a connection to the daily stuff of life and leadership that is as compelling as it is convicting.

In a sentence, the summary of his prescription, is this: “the pathway to unleashing the transformative power of Jesus to heal our spiritual lives can be found in the joining of emotional health and contemplative spirituality.” (pg. 37)

The book is not only helpful, I think it is profoundly significant and recommend it highly. At the same time I need to be forthright. You should know that I was a fan of this book before reading it. Pete won me over with his earlier book, The Emotionally Healthy Church and, because a few of CRM staff have attended his church in Queens, I have followed the stories of his leadership for some time. I think so highly of what God has shown him that I have invited he and his wife Geri to be the keynote speakers at our staff conference in Portland this coming August.

Life is Long……and fragile

watchLife is long and paradoxically fragile.

In spite of the fact that we blaze through the demands of our daily lives at an impatient pace, the truth is, life is long. It takes time to accomplish anything great. It takes time to build deep relationships. Nothing happens as quickly as we would like. It takes time.

At the same time, it can be threatened in a heartbeat.
A few weeks ago, I led a ceremony for a married couple renewing their vows on their tenth anniversary. The day before the ceremony, the ‘grooms’ brother said to me, “this really is an accomplishment. I don’t have any friends who are still married and happy about it after ten years.”

A cruel word, a careless decision, a selfish choice, and a host of easy missteps and you do long-term damage to any relationship. Yet in contrast, the stuff that strengthens a relationship tends to be small, daily, non-dramatic, easy to dismiss. What takes a long time to build can be damaged with amazing speed.

It’s the same with your health. Right eating and exercise generally builds a healthier body. But a random DNA flaw, a weak heart valve or a rogue cancer cell and that temple of health is undone. A careless driver or mechanical flaw and a traffic accident can change your future forever.

I think this is part of what God meant when he spoke through the Psalmist telling us to number our days.(Psalm 90) Today is the only day we will ever have within our grasp. Tomorrow is unknown and yesterday is a memory. Today is sacred. Holy. So, seize opportunities to influence others. Celebrate more. Relax more. Choose to love the people who populate the fabric of your life. Laugh. Enjoy. Take God and his mission in the world seriously, but lighten up on most of the other stuff. Learn all there is about all you can. Today is the only moment of eternity you can touch, so drink it in as a gift. And do those things today that will make tomorrow better.