I feel enlightened by http://thecallingjourney.com. The friend who sent me the link said it helped him put his years of ministry in perspective. I agree. It did that for me too.
The website says:
The Calling Journey can help you understand how the road you’re travelling will get you to your calling in life. Using stories from contemporary and biblical leaders, The Calling Journey lets you create a timeline that explains the stages and transitions all leaders tend to go through as they move toward their destiny.
I learned about this kind of exercise from my mentor Dr. Robert Clinton and have actually led a number of seminars to help people create life timelines. Nevertheless, I decided to take this fresh approach and map my calling journey according to this process last evening. My expectations were not high as it seemed a bit artificial to cram my life into a template. However, I was surprised and encouraged by the two page report that was generated at the conclusion of the exercise. When I read it to Nancy she exclaimed, “How did they know all that about us?”
My timeline puts me in the “Valley of Identity.” This transitional stage usually occurs 15-30 years into a person’s calling and averages four years in length. It is often triggered by ejection from a long-time role and includes a loss of influence and favor. The focus shifts from doing to being. Apparently, I entered this stage about six years ago, about 35 years into my calling when my “Founder and President” role abruptly ended.
The report lists more characteristics of this stage, suggestions about attitudes and behaviors I should adopt, temptations to be aware of, and foreshadows what probably lies ahead for me as God continues to take me to the fulfillment of his calling on my life.
I was most surprised by the instruction to “take on the mantle of my call.” My report states:
When you come out you are now the person you were born to be. A key task in the valley is learning to believe you are that person and to present yourself in that way. That’s called, “taking on the mantle of your call.” Just as Paul called himself “Apostle to the Gentiles” and Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life,” you will need to be able to name who you have become.
At first this seems somewhat presumptuous, but it is actually an act of faith. I need to give this more prayerful consideration. May the Lord grant me wisdom!
If you create your timeline, I would love to hear about your experience. What did your learn?
Last week Nancy and I were privileged to attend Hope International‘s Leadership Summit in Lancaster, PA. This annual event gathers the entire staff team, including the people scattered internationally. We were guests and enjoyed the organization’s hospitality. The people assigned to care for us and everyone else we met were warm, open, and eager to serve. As we interacted with the staff, we noticed that everyone modeled and verbalized organizational values and behaviors. The organization is doing a remarkable job building its corporate culture. This level of organizational excellence must be built intentionally and modeled by the organizational leaders. So, I was particularly interested in observing and learning about the CEO, Peter Greer.
Nancy and I toured the offices which were notably unimpressive. Most staff work in small open cubicles. The rest are in small offices with doors. There was no extravagance, no expensive artwork, no fancy furniture, and no sense of space hierarchy. In fact, Peter Greer works from one of the smallest of the small offices. Clearly working efficiency is more important that aesthetic pleasure for that organization.
However, the organizational marketing materials are very attractive. Even internal pieces such as the summit program booklet are pleasant to look at, comprehensive, and easy to navigate. The people responsible for these pieces exhibit professional pride in their work. They care about the organization’s image. This value is reinforced with a stories we heard about Peter Greer. For example, he has been seen cleaning the kitchen area at the beginnings and endings of work days.
A third organizational value that I admire is Hope International’s attention to metrics. They know what they want to accomplish and they have systems in place to measure their progress. I was not overwhelmed by numbers. However, the numbers told stories of progress, success and failure. During the summit, success was celebrated and failure was acknowledged with a commitment to change and improve.
It is very encouraging to see an organization doing well as it does good. Congratulations to Hope International and to your leader, Peter Greer!
During my nearly three decades in executive leadership I felt my primary responsibility was to make decisions. I described my role as clearing the rocks off the path so the rest of the organization could move forward as expediently as possible. More often than not, the “rocks” were choices that someone had to make. Many times the better decision was not clear, but even the lessor decision was better than indecision. So my role was to say, “Let’s go this way.”
Over time I learned that there is a dynamic continuum between making a quick decision now verses waiting until more information is available that will enable a better decision. If the consequences of a poor decision are small, I make a quicker decision. If the consequences of a poor decision are great and if more information is forthcoming, I postpone the decision. In between these points along the decision continuum are decisions that can be made tentatively. That is, we agree to move in a certain direction and as we go we watch to see if that direction is confirmed. If it is not, we agree ahead of time that we will adjust as more information becomes available.
One of the goals for my recent trip to Zimbabwe was to test the idea of launching a leadership conference in Bulawayo and Harare. This idea was hatched during my previous trip in November 2012 and seemed to be gaining momentum. However, I desired to find more local enthusiasm for the idea before fully committing to it. Throughout the trip, especially the first half, I regularly discussed the idea. I was surprised that most of the people I talked to were not enthusiastic about a conference. One lady exclaimed, “It is rubbish.” A leading pastor and businessman said he would support the idea, but could not get personally involved. Others felt the timing might be off. My conclusion was that the idea did not have as much support as I initially thought and, therefore, I have ceased promoting it.
The decision about helping to facilitate a leadership conference originated at a meeting in Zimbabwe. The first several people with whom I shared the vision responded enthusiastically. This led me to presume that it was a felt need. However, I realized that my “research” was with a very small sample and I wanted to gain confirmation from a larger segment of the population. I’m glad I did not charge ahead with my first conclusion. If I had, I would have been frustrated by an unenthusiastic response.
Last November, my colleague Laura and I spent a week in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe meeting with business and church leaders. We were invited to the city to explore the possibility of connecting businessmen and entrepreneurs there with experienced people from outside their context. We hope these connections will provide valuable input that will increase business success and, more importantly, provide opportunities for dynamic relational and spiritual interchange.
The people we met are transparent about the difficulties they have been through during the past five years. Their wealth and businesses were wiped out during the time of hyper-inflation and dollarization. (The country now uses the US dollar for its currency.) However, there is an optimistic view of the future. People hope that the situation is stabilizing. They believe things are getting better and their fortunes are improving. Some are waiting until after the election which is expected to happen sometime this year to take more risk and others are not waiting. The braver ones are moving forward now and they want help. They are very interested in receiving input about how to improve their businesses, leadership, management, etc. For example, they desire the kind of input that we talk about at Anda Leadership.
Laura and I are delighted to continue working with the wonderful people we met. By God’s grace we were able to encourage them while we were there. Our hope is to continue to serve them by linking them with people and resources that they need, but are scarce in their immediate environment.
Would you or someone you know like to join us by giving a hand up to the leaders in Bulawayo? We can use people with various expertise and experience. For example, people in the clothing, rubber, and finance industries specifically requested help. We could also use business and management consultants who have experience with re-launching businesses that have been devastated by external trauma. Finally, we were asked to help them launch a leadership conference. Would you like to help organize that?
I recently spent a couple weeks in Ghana, West Africa. One of the elements in our itinerary was to conduct three days of training with 25 local businessmen in the northern Ghana town of Tamale.
I prefer to have a clear understanding of who the trainees are before I begin a training event. In this case, I did not have that information, so we started the training by surveying the trainees to gain an understanding of why they had come.
The men (and one woman) are mostly farmers, carpenters, and shop keepers. Each participant is either running a small enterprise or desires to start one. None of them has ever considered preparing a business plan, budget, etc. It was quickly obvious that the best thing we could do for them was to give them some perspective and tools about planning.
It was truly a light bulb experience for most of them.
I started the training by showing them from Scripture that God desires that we offer him what we have. (Mark 6:30ff, Ex 4:1, etc.) Unlike us, he is not concerned about what we lack. Rather, he asks, “What do you have?” “What is in your hand?” As we offer him what we have, he multiplies it. These entrepreneurs can create wealth and make their poor communities better places if they offer what they have to the Lord.
After establishing a God focus, we went through a step-by-step process of building a business plan and concluded the three days with how to create a budget. One particularly popular topic was risk. After we talked about it, they quickly realized how often their success is sabotaged by something unanticipated. It was a lot of material, but every person in attendance expressed appreciation and committed himself to follow through by creating a plan for their endeavor. The evaluations they completed are very encouraging.
Thank you for praying for this trip. The work we did could be life changing for people who are living in extreme poverty. Please continue to pray that they will apply what they learned. That they will offer to the Lord their small opportunities and that he will cause their offering to grow. That they will generate wealth and create more opportunities for the next generations.
I consult with a group of Central Asian leaders that desires to adopt and implement organizational best practices. The changes they are trying to make are inordinately difficult because of the absence of local role models, unsupportive social structures, and governmental interference. It seems that everything around them hinders them. However, they desire that their organization has integrity and practices good stewardship.
Currently they are attempting to produce an expense budget for next year. Normally producing a budget for a small organization would be a relatively simple process – gather a list of expected expenses and group them into categories down the page and spread them into cost centers across the spread sheet. However, unlike most Western leaders, the Central Asian leaders have never worked with a budget and do not have an intuitive understanding of how a budget will help them or how to create one.
Last summer, I walked them through the budget creation process. After I demonstrated each step they split into their regions (cost centers) to begin thinking how they would apply that step. The process I gave them concludes with someone rolling the regional budgets into an organizational budget. Following the training event, their intention was to actually produce a budget by this fall.
Last week, I received the document they have created so far. It is a huge step forward, but falls short of a typical budget. This first attempt is a list of anticipated expenses; more like a funding project list than a budget. After reviewing their work, I was tempted to reformat the list into a spread sheet. Most of the needed information for a coherent expense budget was there. I know it would be much easier for me to do this than for them. However, if I do it, I rob them of the learning experience and of ownership of the final product. So, I carefully reminded them of what their next step should be and illustrated how the spread sheet should look using some of their data. I sent this back with a word of encouragement and assurance of my continued availability to help them.
I need to discipline myself to help them create their organization. I am committed to not do anything for them that they can do themselves. My job is to encourage, teach, and coach. It is their responsibility to actually do the work.
My daughter, Laura, is getting married Saturday. To prepare for the wedding I have been thinking about her and her character traits that I particularly admire. Yesterday, I wrote about her adventurism. Today, I am thinking about her responsibility.
Laura is responsible and exhibits other leadership qualities. Examples of her stepping into leadership roles include:
- She was elected the student body president when she was a senior in high school and tirelessly served her school in that capacity.
- She launched and led a group of Christian youth from our community who invested in mobilizing their peers into missions after the Columbine shootings near our home in Littleton, CO.
- She helped facilitate an outreach ministry to internationals from her home in Virginia when she lived there.
- Even though she was only an intern at the ministry she served with in the mid-East, she earned the respect of the organization’s leaders and was entrusted with leadership responsibilities.
When she recognizes a need or opportunity, she acts. She doesn’t wait for someone else to do something, she initiates and then she sticks with it until it is done.
Edmond Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (or women) do nothing.”
Laura has a keen sense of what is right and wrong. She refuses to join the ranks of people who “do nothing.” She continually strives to block evil’s advance and she fights for what is right. She is a good example and that is a large part of why I am delighted to be on her team at Anda Leadership.