Archive for January 2015

Get a free digital copy of “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team”

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→ You can get a free digital copy of “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team” by signing up for email notices! On the Common Sense Leaders home page, enter your email address and first name (and I guarantee your information will not be shared with anyone else), and I will send you a free digital copy, containing three important factors to keep in mind when putting a team together.

 


 

Would yoPlease and Thank You graphicu please help spread the word?  My advertising budget pays for the cost of the free use of social media and nothing more; therefore I am relying entirely on “word of mouth” to make people aware of the contents of this blog and the availability of my recently published book.  If you find either or these resources to be helpful or valuable, would you help spread the word?

 


 

Finding Purpose cover→ My book, “Finding Purpose at the Intersection of Passion, Ability, and Opportunity” is available on Amazon (also available for Kindle). Click here to order a copy.

What is God’s purpose for you? What are you supposed to do with your life? These are difficult questions that we all wrestle with, often causing frustration, anxiety, or indecision. Using the concepts of passion, ability, and opportunity, Dr. Jeff McMaster presents a road map for identifying your individual purpose, and finding fulfillment in it. Based on principles from the Bible, these simple ideas can help you gain a better understanding of what God made you to do, and find fulfillment in it.2) You can get a free digital copy of my “Three Keys for Forming a Good Team” by signing up for email notices! On the Common Sense Leaders home page, enter your email address and first name (and I guarantee your information will not be shared with anyone else), and I will send you a free digital copy, containing three important factors to keep in mind when putting a team together.

 


→ I am now available for professional consulting services! E.L.M. Consulting Services can provide professional services for analyzing and assessing your Educational organization, your Leadership, and/or your Ministry; for teaching and training those within your organization through workshops and seminars; and for assisting you in creating and communicating a plan and prescription for future growth, change, and development.

My experience and expertise in these areas, combined with my ability to make connections between an organization’s past, present, and future in a way that makes sense to people, can help you to identify, understand, and implement changes that will benefit the employees, the constituents, and the organization itself. Available services include:

Analyze and Assess: Identifying your story by observing, interviewing, surveying, studying, and interacting in order to provide an understanding of culture, strengths, and needs

Teach and Train: Growing your people through workshops and seminars that will provide professional development and training

Educational workshops and seminars –

  • Be-Attitudes of Better Teaching
  • A+ Education

Ministry workshops and seminars –

  • Teaching the Mind, Reaching the Heart
  • Build Your House on Solid Ground (Marriage Conference)
  • A Friend in Need (Lay Counseling Training)

Leadership workshops and seminars –

  • Be a Better Leader
  • Leadership University
  • Leadership Lessons from Ezra

Personal Development workshops and seminars –

  • Building Blocks for Personal Management
  • Things That Matter

Plan and Prescribe: Developing purpose by working with your leadership team to define, strategize, organize, connect, and communicate a vision and plan for growth and development

ELM

E.L.M. Consulting Services – Discovering Your Story, Developing Your People, Defining Your Purpose

Contact me at jeff.mcmaster@commonsenseleaders.com for more information.

 

What Do You Think . . . makes the Bible so important for leadership?

The Bible is not specifically a book on leadership, and yet it seems to address a number of leadership issues and characteristics.  It provides biographies of great leaders, lessons on leadership principles, instructions for developing various attributes and character traits, explanations of human behavior, and much more.  That’s part of the reason why, in my opinion, I think it is an incredibly valuable resource for leaders. What do you think?  Is the Bible an important book for leadership, and why do you think so? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Before You Can Do It, You Have to Know It

Before you can teach and lead others, you have to live it. In order to live it, you have to know it. I experienced this (or better put, failed at this) in my first experience as the top leader in an organization. To be honest, as I walked in the door I was questioning my own preparedness, unsure of whether I knew enough to be able to lead well. But I had been given the opportunity, so I quelled my fears and jumped.

I arrived at a place that had longstanding, competent employees, and my relative youth probably didn’t help. In my enthusiasm, I started to run without first taking the time to learn. I began making changes (some of them drastic) and implementing new policies and procedures, but failed to take the time to study the history, culture, and people involved. As a result, my actions stemmed from ignorance rather than knowledge, and the result was conflict and disruption. It wasn’t until I took the time to learn that my actions of leadership could represent the right knowledge and therefore win followers and become effective.

But for Christian leaders, this truth goes much deeper: to be effective in your actions of leadership, you must first and foremost have a personal and in-depth knowledge of God and His Word. Your knowledge of His truth is more important than anything else in your preparation. Ezra, as a leader, provides a great example of this. In the description of his preparation for leadership – and more pointedly, his preparation for a specific task – Ezra 7:10 states, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Clearly he had prepared himself for what he was about to undertake, but notice the order of the steps, because the order is important! The first step in the process was “to seek the law of the Lord,” which led him to living out what he knew, and in turn enabled him to teach and to lead. People followed him because his life gave him the credibility to lead, but first having the knowledge gave him the capability to lead.

What does it mean, then, that he had sought the law of the Lord? It means that he had spent time with God. He had studied the Scriptures intensely and diligently, learning who God is and what He says. And that took time and intentional practice. At the core, this is a basic and fundamental part of the Christian walk, and so it shows up nearly everywhere that someone talks about steps of growth. Gordon MacDonald, in Ordering Your Private World, discusses the importance of first having the private world of the inner man in order, and says that this must come from developing intimacy with God through regular time with Him and in His Word. Tim Challies, in The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, explains that the ability to discern is directly related to knowledge of God and of His Word. J. P. Moreland, in Love Your God with All Your Mind, communicates that faith is also an act of reason, based on truth – specifically the truth of Scripture – and therefore Scripture must be studied for faith to grow. Kevin DeYoung, in Taking God at His Word, explores the doctrine of Scripture, and in the process argues for the importance and necessity of reading and studying the Bible. And the list could go on and on. The clear understanding is that every Christian (not just leaders) needs to regularly spend time with God, studying Scripture and building that personal relationship.

Scripture itself supports this truth, as is seen in the examples of men and women of God (like Ezra), but as is also specifically stated. Psalm 1 describes the person who will be blessed because of his moral choices, and states in verse 2 that this is someone “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” In the book of Joshua, chapter 1,verse 8, as Joshua is preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, God challenges and encourages him with this statement: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” The bottom line is, our thought processes, choices, and outcomes are directly impacted by our time spent in the Word of God.

As a crucial byproduct of studying Scripture, Ezra developed an intimate, personal relationship with God. Because of that personal and deep relationship, he didn’t simply learn to know who God was and is; he also came to understand God’s nature and heart. He had developed a relationship that enabled him to trust in God even in uncertainty and difficulty. It was from this relationship that he was therefore able to move and act with confidence in God’s sovereign plan, and that he was able to see God’s hand and His purpose in the events that occurred.

This is a critical lesson for you and me. Leaders must be learners; but Christian leaders must also be learners of God’s Word. Therefore, in our leadership development, we absolutely must study Scripture, growing in intimacy with God. We need regular time with God, in prayer and in His Word. This must be central and foundational to what we do, how we live, and to our call or purpose from Him. Doing this first is what makes us knowledgeable and gives us the capability to lead, because we will learn to see people and circumstances from God’s perspective, shaping how we think and act. It is from this growth of knowledge and relationship with God that we are able to “walk the talk,” modeling and practicing what we know, and living authentic, genuine lives that inspire trust and result in effective leadership.

Week of January 26, 2015

Quotable (Bennis & Thomas, on learning)

“In the extreme, the capacity for reinvention comes to resemble eternal youth – a kind of vigor, openness, and an enduring capacity for wonder that is the antithesis of stereotyped old age . . . this [is a] quality, a delight in lifelong learning, which every leader displays, regardless of age . . . it’s an appetite for  learning and self-development, a curiosity and passion for life.”

Bennis, Warren, and Thomas, Robert, “Crucibles of Leadership” in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership (2011). Harvard Business Review Press: Boston, MA.

 

A Leader is a Learner

Years ago, my family was having a get-together at my parents’ home, and while we were sitting around the dinner table, my dad made a comment about someday wanting to build a deck on the back of the house. One of my two brothers suggested that we do it the next day, because there likely would be very few times that we would all be together at the same time again. So, my dad sketched out the plans, and the next morning we went to the lumber store, picked up all the supplies, and then the four of us proceeded to spend the next eight hours building a large deck. What a great memory!

When we were all finished, my dad commented on how he could see certain attributes of each of our personalities throughout the process. One of the observations that he made about me was that I was constantly asking questions, trying to understand why were doing things in a certain way, and learning from the experience. And that observation was an accurate reflection. In fact, on the StrengthsFinder profile, “learner” is one of my top characteristics. As I have continued to study, learn, and grow in my leadership development, I have seen that this is a common characteristic of effective leadership: leaders are learners.

Bennis and Thomas, in an article originally published in the Harvard Business Review, found this to be true in all of their interview subjects for their research. Their interviewees all described opportunities for reinvention that came from transformative experiences, and all of them placed great value on the learning that took place from those experiences. The authors went on to describe this learning by saying, “In the extreme, the capacity for reinvention comes to resemble eternal youth – a kind of vigor, openness, and an enduring capacity for wonder that is the antithesis of stereotyped old age . . . this [is a] quality, a delight in lifelong learning, which every leader displays, regardless of age . . . it’s an appetite for learning and self-development, a curiosity and passion for life” (Bennis & Thomas, Crucibles of Leadership, in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership, p. 106). What they discovered is that leaders are constantly learning, and doing so with passion and enthusiasm.

I have often told my own children that you learn just about everything from experience – either your own experience or someone else’s, but it’s usually far less painful to learn from someone else’s experience. However, the pain (or joy) of learning from your own experience can often be a much more effective teacher. In another article originally published in the Harvard Business Review, John Kotter pointed out that “leaders almost always have had opportunities during their twenties and thirties to actually try to lead, to take a risk, and to learn from both triumphs and failures. Such learning seems essential in developing a wide range of leadership skills and perspectives. These opportunities also teach people something about both the difficulty of leadership and its potential for producing change” (Kotter, What Leaders Really Do, in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership, p.53).   A key word in that last sentence is “potential” – the potential for growth and change is there, but only if the leader learns. Therefore, if the leader is a learner, he or she will learn from every opportunity, and in that process will continually become a more effective leader. But if that person is not a learner, he is destined to repeat the same mistakes and will fail to develop.

In essence, learning needs to be part of the nature of an effective leader. Expanding a broad, general knowledge base; increasing an understanding of human behavior; studying culture and history on both a macro-level (globally and nationally) and a micro-level (organizationally); learning more about leadership; taking up new hobbies and interests; asking questions; exploring, discovering, reading, and engaging the mind; all can be part of the growth and development of a leader. Becoming a learner will stretch your mind, build your knowledge, and open your eyes to new insights. It will help you to make connections between ideas and to understand people. It will help you to be a more effective leader. Leaders are learners. Be a learner.

Look for an article on the value of being a learner of God’s Word in your leadership development, in an upcoming “Leadership Lessons from the Bible” post.

Bennis, W. G., and Thomas, R. J., “Crucibles of Leadership,” in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership (2011). Harvard Business Review Press: Boston, MA.

Kotter, J. P., “What Leaders Really Do,” in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership (2011). Harvard Business Review Press: Boston, MA.