Mentoring New Leaders Part 4: Train

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Your mentoree has watched you in action. You have explained to them how you do things & answered their questions about your techniques. You have given them the opportunity to try to do it themselves & had them tell you about the experience. Now it is time to train them to do it better.

I would like to differentiate between teach & train for the purposes of this material. When I talk about teach someone, I’m referring to more of a lecture type situation. You explain a subject in detail & take questions from the students. At this point, they may have no practical experience on the subject. Training comes after the student or mentoree has had the opportunity to apply the lessons they have learned through your teaching. Now they have practical experience however, they need their abilities refined. They are more apprentices than masters in the field. To give a broad example, medical school teaches students about medicine. They have the opportunity, through internships, to test what they have learned. Eventually, they move on to a residency where they receive more detailed training to refine their skills & abilities.

When the disciples would return from the mission trips Jesus sent them on, Jesus would take time to debrief them. He listened as they told Him what worked & what didn’t. They told Him about any problems they had. This debriefing is more for the mentor than the student. It gives the mentor the opportunity to discover areas that need more focus or topics that are confusing. It also helps the mentor understand things that simply don’t work anymore. If the mentor has been doing a task for years, there may be a newer or at least easier way to do it nowadays. You always need to listen carefully to your student. Your task as a mentor is to turn a job, position, etc. over to them. Unless you want to keep on doing it until you are gone, you need to help them discover the way that works best for them. That means combining your way & their way.

Training allows you to break bad habits before they begin, strengthen good habits & help your student discover the best way to do it for themselves.

One more step in the process & you’re ready to beg

Mentoring New Leaders Part 3: Test

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The second biggest mistake mentors make, after not mentoring new leaders at all, is failing to test them. We tend to be too quick turning things over to the newbie before we are certain the are prepared. Offering them a short period of time to shadow you & then giving them only a bit of teaching before handing over the reins is worse than no mentoring at all.

When we drop everything into the newbie’s lap too soon, they may become frustrated when things fail to go well. Even worse, they may become embarrassed, believe THEY are to blame for their lack of success when the mentor is the one responsible.

Rather than quickly giving them the responsibility of their new assignment, take time to make certain they are ready. And the best way to do this is to test them. No, not a written exam! Instead, give them responsibility for an assignment while you are still there to offer guidance & advice.

Early in their training, Jesus sent the disciples out into neighboring towns to do ministry. He sent them out in pairs so they could support & encourage one another & to hold each other accountable. When they returned, Jesus talked to the disciples about their experience. What worked? What didn’t? Where did they have problems?

These mission journeys gave the disciples to practical experience, like an internship. They were able to fail on a small scale while Jesus was still available to offer them guidance & advice.

Nothing discourages a new leader faster than failure. It takes less time & effort to retrain them to overcome their mistakes & weaknesses than it does to start all over with a new person when your current new leader quits in frustration.

Take the time to do the job right!

Mentoring Leaders Part 2: Teach

The disciples first had the opportunity to watch Jesus talk to large crowds & smaller groups, seeing Him share His message. These moments gave the disciples the chance to see Jesus model the behavior He wanted them to imitate & to hear the lessons He was sharing as He spoke to the public. This, however, was not enough. Jesus needed to be sure the disciples understood the lessons so they would be able to teach them later.

For this reason, Jesus always sat down with the disciples after these events & asked them if they understood the lesson He had taught. He would go over His message in detail, answering their questions until He was sure they not only understood but would also be able to share the message later.

It’s important for the new leaders you mentor to watch you perform the work they will need to continue when you turn it over to them. It is also very important that they understand the work they are supposed to do. For example, they may think an aspect of the work is minor without realizing how vital that small step is to the whole process.

A woman once spoke to me after I finished teaching a Bible study to a large group of women. She lamented her inability to do what I did, minimizing the gift of hospitality she had been given. Every week, she & her sister stood at the door, greeting every woman that came in & giving them a hug to make them feel welcome & at home. They performed this same task every year during our huge women’s conference. I told her I would probably be speaking to an empty room if not for the warm welcome she & her sister offered women every week.

If a new women’s ministry director had taken over without know the importance of this seemingly small task, she might overlook inviting the sisters to greet during Bible study & the conference. This task might seem small but it set the tone for every event the women hosted during my time working with the ministry.

New leaders must not only see the process in action, they must have it explained to them so nothing, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is overlooked!

Give Teach Train: 3 Steps to Help Women Grow

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Step 2: Teach

Give a woman a fish, you feed her for a day. Teach her to fish & you feed her for a lifetime. In the first post of this series, I explained why we must sometimes give women fish, sometimes for many days, before we are able to teach them to fish for themselves. Some women are so unsure of themselves, so beaten up emotionally, mentally, spiritually that they lack the strength & confidence to “fish” for themselves. If we try to force them to do it themselves before they are ready, we may do more damage, weakening their already fragile self esteem in the process. Sometimes, it only takes a bit of time to help a woman see her worth, her abilities before you are able to teach her ways to grow even more. Unfortunately with some women, it may take time to help her grow strong enough to move on to the next step. Patience is always the key.

Given time, though, a woman will become strong enough for you to teach her how to fish. Let me give you an example: over the years, I have taught many Bible studies for women that were either new to the Church or had simply never read the Bible. In the beginning, I know I must go slowly, explaining everything to them so they don’t become lost or confused. I never want anyone in a class struggling to understand what was being said in verse 5 while we are now discussing verse 8! When we begin, I often need to explain how the Bible is laid out, Old Testament/New Testament & what the difference is between the two. I talk about the Gospels & their message. We spend time on basics with them asking questions. If you are an experienced student of Scripture, you might be stunned that a person wouldn’t know these things. However, I would never expect a first year math student to open a calculus book the first day & begin discussing equations! I would never hand a person a book in a different language & expect them to understand what it says! I have found I must give them the fish each time, strengthening them until they are able to study on their own.

My goal is to help them develop a hunger for Scripture so they begin studying it on their own. They may still have basic questions, may still need help but we all need to continue our learning in any area if we are to continue to grow.

We can’t simply teach a woman to fish & then walk away, regardless the area of study. We must continue to help her with the learning process, ready to answer questions when necessary. And helping her to stretch herself so she continues to grow.

As women, we need to support & challenge one another. We need to see who needs to be fed & who needs to be taught. And we need to be ready to step in to help when help is needed. When we work to do this, we are ready to move on to Step #3 & that is when things get very exciting!

 

Called to Lead: Delegation Part 6

 

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Never Forget to Say Thank You!

 

I hate sounding like everyone’s mom but you must never, EVER forget your manners. Whether you are overseeing an event or an organization, working with volunteers or high paid professionals, you must ALWAYS REMEMBER TO SAY THANK YOU!

This is vitally important when you are working with volunteers. Most volunteers work hard for no pay. Many if not most do the work out because they feel called to serve. However, everyone wants to know their hard work is appreciated. Too often, once an event or term (for those serving on a board or committee) is over, the leader walks away, musing over the great job THEY did. Yes, they did do a great job, with a lot of help.

You simply must show your appreciation. At the very least, send a handwritten note thanking each volunteer. Yes, handwritten. They put in a lot of time. The least you can do is take some time to write a brief not thanking each & everyone of your helpers for they contribution to making your event, year, organization, etc a success. If you are able, you might give each person a small gift to thank them. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can even be something you made. You just need to let them know you really appreciate how hard they worked & how good they made you look! Take my word for it, you will have an easier time gathering volunteers for your next endeavor if you treat your current volunteers like royalty.

So, what if they are employees. I mean, after all, they’re getting PAID aren’t they? Why should I have to say “thank you” when they are simply doing their job? Well, first off, if all you want them to do is the barest minimum required, then go ahead & refuse to thank them. Before you do that though, you should understand the hierarchy of needs. I’m not going to teach the entire structure but I am going to share the short version. Maslow’s  hierarchy is a motivational theory. At the bottom, people are working for basic needs. On the next step, they are working for their safety. If you want people that are going to give more than expected, then you need to show your appreciation. People higher on that hierarchy seek to belong, to strengthen their self esteem. On the final level, people seek personal growth & fulfillment. Once you get past the first two levels, pay is not the motivator. While those people like appreciation, they prefer something more substantial. While the people on the top 3 levels like monetary rewards, they need more in order to be satisfied with their position. You MUST let them know you not only see the great job they are doing, you also appreciate THEM! It’s not just about the job, it’s about them!

Now you might think the idea of thanking people is outdated. WERE YOU RAISED IN A CAVE? Good manners are NEVER outdated. Good manners help you know you are always doing the right thing. Now, if saying thank you makes you uncomfortable because no one else in the organization acts that way, in other words, like a civilized human being, then TOUGH! If you want to be a leader, you must do the things no one else is willing or able to do. A leader must be willing to blaze a trail, even if it means clearing an old, little used trail, THEN DO IT! Otherwise, you are simply a  follower! Is that what you really want!

It takes so little to show people that you appreciate them. Yet the rewards for them AND YOU are tremendous.

Called to Lead Series: Delegation Part 5

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Never Criticize

 

I have a confession to make, well, actually 2 confessions: I am borderline OCD & I struggle with anxiety. Both conditions are mild & only cause me slight problems. My darling husband, the Infamous Mr. D is so wonderful about all this. I once apologized for being so fussy about something. He told me I wasn’t fussy. I simply like things a certain way. Why shouldn’t I insist they be that way if that’s what I want?

While this attitude of wanting things MY way may work well at home & with family, it doesn’t always fly when serving as a leader. An effective leader must surrender control to those assigned tasks & trust they will do an incredible job with their assignment. Easier said than done!

When we are given the responsibility for an event, project, etc., we often begin with a vision of the end result. After all, leaders tend to be visionaries so this is only natural. Then we do our best to share that vision with our team, allowing for them to adapt the vision to fit their gifts & talents. We must remember we took the time to do our research, selecting the right people for each task according to their skill set. We must accept the fact the end result may reflect our vision but from a different angle as each member of the team applies their perception of the vision. this is when trouble may begin.

Sometimes its tough to remember our vision did not come down a mountain craved in stone tablets. Our vision is a living idea that evolves as new people are added to the process. Each person brings their perspective of the vision, making it better, even stronger. However, as the source of origin for the vision, we may have a difficult time accepting any changes to the original. We may believe it was perfect to begin. How dare these charlatans trifle with perfection! Without thinking, it becomes easy to criticize the adaptation to the vision, pointing out perceived flaws & weaknesses. BIG MISTAKE!

Unless we want to do EVERYTHING ourselves, we must be able to surrender the vision to members of our team & allow them to adapt their portion as needed. Remember, NO MICROMANAGING! We must hand it over & trust our decision to add them to the team & trust their ability to do the job efficiently & creatively.

When someone has changed my vision, I have had to take a breath before speaking. I say something pleasant without committing myself until I have time to consider the changes. Once I take a step back, I usually find I like the things that have been changed, added, subtracted or whatever. The ideas brought to the vision by others have only strengthened the original, not weakened it. If I do find their changes just won’t work for whatever reason, I gently point this out & begin a discussion on ways to make the improvements that will work.

No one likes to admit their idea wasn’t just brilliant but also perfect the way it began. Let’s face it, though, even a genius idea like the incandescent lightbulb took thousands & thousands of tries before Edison arrived at the perfect combination of materials that worked. Be open to improvement & never give up!

Called to Lead Series: Delegation Part 4

You’ve chosen the right people for the job, asked them to help you in your organization or on your event & made a vow not to micromanage the very competent people under your leadership.  Now, nothing to do but sit back & relax while things happen flawlessly around you, right? Uh, not so fast!

 

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Never Make Assumptions

 

In the last post in this series, I warned you about the problems with micromanaging the people helping you in your organization or with your event. If an individual has never been responsible for anything before, you may intimidate or discourage them if you watch them too closely. If they are experienced, they may be insulted by you questioning them. You may think you’re helping but you might cause more problems than you prevent.

Now I am going to appear to contradict myself. While you never want to constantly question the people helping you, you must ALWAYS check in with them on a regular basis. There is a very broad line between micromanaging people & abandoning them!

Unfortunately, too many “leaders” go to one extreme or another. I’ve already discussed micromanagement. Let’s talk about abandonment. You must never assume everything flows smoothly even if you have the most experienced people helping you. Things happen. Obstacles pop up. And if you are an effective leader, not all your workers are going to be experienced. For some, this may be their first time running ANYTHING. It is important to give new people an opportunity to learn ways to serve but you can’t simply throw them in the water & encourage them to swim. While some people will call for help, others, out of embarrassment will drown quietly in the overwhelming tasks. Rather than working to create a new worker & potential leader, you might create a FORMER member of your group!

While you never want to stare over someone’s shoulder, regardless of their experience level, you do need to check in with everyone on a regular basis. Ask them how things are going. Ask if they need anything. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them. Assure them you are a,ways available if they need anything, anything at all.

It is vitally important you never assume all is well just because you aren’t hearing any complaints. Every mom knows when things are too quiet, she needs to check on the kids to see what is happening… & it usually isn’t good! Let your people do things their way without you hovering while giving them the support they need to succeed. THAT is something the entire team should be able to assume!

Called to Lead Series: Delegation Part 3

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Never Micromanage

As a first time leader, you want to do a good job. No, you want to do a GREAT job! You’re concerned it might reflect badly on you if something goes wrong, whether you are in charge of an event or an organization. Your name & face are what people see & you are going to do everything in your power to make certain everything goes RIGHT! Unfortunately, this often leads to micromanaging every aspect of  of your event or organization. Nothing is going to slip through the cracks on your watch. Nothing, that is, except all those wonderful workers helping you. Workers who get tired very quickly of having every task & decision second guessed by their Fearful Leader!

Managers need to dot every I & cross every T. Leaders need to have faith their workers are taking care of the I’s & T’s. For this reason, leaders must do their work before assigning tasks to others. They must create a list of all the things that need to be done or positions to be filled. Leaders must then study the people in their potential worker pool, matching the best people (based on their gifts & talents) with tasks or positions. While everyone may not be a “perfect” fit, you should match them up as closely as possible, allowing room for growth. I believe a vital part of leadership is helping others grow. Growth gives individuals a sense of pride & accomplishment while increasing your worker pool.

Once you have people in place, let them do their job. Check with them regularly in case they need something. Let them know you are always available should they have questions or need help. Otherwise, LEAVE THEM ALONE! Talented workers become frustrated when someone is constantly staring over their shoulder. It implies you have no faith in their ability. If they are an experienced worker, they will resent this implication. If they are a new worker, just learning how to apply their talents, they will become insecure, questioning their ability to do the job correctly. In either case, you have cost yourself time & talent. In addition, word will get out that you are NOT the one people want to work with on any event or in any organization.

Take a breath, stand back & let people do the job they are qualified to do. In the long run, this technique makes things much less stressful for everyone!

Called to Lead Series: Delegation Part 2

In the last post, I wanted you to understand why you shouldn’t do it yourself. You CAN help out but as the leader, your job it to oversee the work being done, offering encouragement & guidance. In this post, I’m going to tell you something you may not believe & then appear to thoroughly contradict myself!

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NEVER ASK for Volunteers

This doesn’t mean you won’t NEED volunteers. However, the least effective way of recruiting help for your group or event is by making a public plea for volunteers.

We’ve all seen it. Sitting in church on Sunday morning when some poor shlub has to stand in front of the congregation to ask for help. Sometimes, they are almost on the knees pleading for someone, anyone to volunteer. Why doesn’t this work?

First, EVERYBODY is busy. They are all sitting there listing the things they have to do that prevent them from helping out.

Second, everybody assumes someone else will do it.

Finally, people like to be asked! The big fundraiser at my church is an event I had led for the last 4 years. When the new women’s ministry was created, I turned the event over to them. I began hearing there were problems within the group & it looked like the fundraiser would be cancelled. You might wonder why I didn’t volunteer to help out. Simple! No one asked me. Now, this isn’t a matter of hurt feelings or being a mean. When no one asked, I assumed they had a different way they wanted to do things. A new group was in charge. I stepped back & let them run it the way they saw fit.

People like to be asked! It shows them you specifically want them to help do a certain task. It shows you feel they have the qualifications to handle the job. It also allows you to overcome any objections they may have. “Yes, everyone is very busy. That’s why we are dividing the event up into smaller parts so no one is overwhelmed by a large time commitment!” Ask them face to face & your level of success increases greatly!

A final note: Henrietta Mears, late director of Christian Education at Hollywood Presbyterian Church & founder of Gospel Light Publishing always advised against a pulpit call for volunteers. She noted this seemed to be the most popular way to recruit Sunday School teachers. Even back when she was running a very large Sunday School that had multiple classrooms for each grade, she never did a pulpit request for teachers. She felt this often attracted the wrong people to the job. Not that you would get terrible people, just people with their own agendas. Often, individuals volunteer to oversee something in an organization because they  believe THEY can run it better. “I know how this should be done & this is my chance to show them how they SHOULD be doing it!” This brings on more headaches than it cures. You may also have situations where people volunteer to help because the volunteering is what gives them the warm fuzzy feeling. Unfortunately, they have no aptitude when it comes to follow through. Determine what needs to be done, the skills needed to do, then ask people qualified to do the job. Putting in time at the beginning saves you time, & pain, later!

How do YOU ask people to help with an event? What problems have you had when you call for volunteers?

Called to Lead Series: Delegation Part 1

Congratulations! You have been asked to lead your organization. Or you volunteered to chair your group’s fundraiser or special event. Whatever it might be, you find yourself in a leadership position, perhaps for the first time. You want everything to go great. After all, you ARE in charge!

True but in order to have a great year at the head of an organization or a successful event, you must rely on other people, particularly volunteers. And this is where many first time (or even long time) leaders run into trouble! Not a problem! Jean Ann is here to help you avoid a few of the pitfalls that have sabotaged many a leader! And the easiest way to do this is by showing you 6 things you should NEVER, EVER do! I’m breaking this down into 6 parts so you can comment or ask questions specific to each No No! Ready? Let’s Begin!

 

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NEVER Do It Yourself

 

This does not mean you shouldn’t do any of the work yourself. However, it has been my experience that new leaders often have problems recruiting help so they end up doing much of the work themselves. This is a very, very bad idea!

I recently attended a planning meeting for a large fundraiser being held at my church. One of the chairwomen from the women’s ministry was chairing the meeting. As the discussion went on, I realized she wasn’t chairing the meeting as the head of the women’s group. She was chairing it as the person in charge of the event. I finally asked her outright who was chairing the event. “I am,” she told me. Seems no one else would volunteer to do it.

This is a problem. The chair of an organization must be able to focus on multiple elements of the organization. If she must also chair one of the major activities of the group, it diverts her focus from the whole. The best way I can put it is this: when the first chair in the brass section of the orchestra calls in sick, the conductor never takes their place. The conductor’s job is to oversee the whole. Taking an active role in a part of that whole weakens their ability to smoothly orchestrate the group. The same is true when you are chairing an event. You must be able to focus on the whole by not getting caught up in a part.

One word of warning: One of the greatest pitfalls of doing it yourself is finding volunteers to do other tasks. Once members see you are willing to take over anything left undone, you may find yourself doing it ALL!