Category Archives: Mentoring

Do You Have a Council of Counselors?

It is the time of year that we typically look back over the last twelve months and take stock of what went well and what didn’t quite measure up to our ideas of success. We hopefully spend some time using the lessons of the past and planning for future accomplishments in the coming year. This is an exercise successful business owners definitely engage in. The most fruitful ones have some form of a council to help them, not only during this annual evaluation and planning time, but on a regular basis.

Why should you have some kind of council of counselors? God tells us through His instructions to us in the Bible that we should have trustworthy people giving us advice. Proverbs 12:15 states it this way in the New Living Translation: “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” There are many other such statements in Proverbs. As imperfect people, we tend to have weaknesses and blind spots that prevent us from making the right decision or doing the right thing 100% of the time. If we have some wise people around us as we go through life making these decisions and doing these things, they can hopefully help us avoid the wrong ones or at least make a proper course correction in the wake of mistakes.

Here are some suggestions from a C12 Group segment on how a Christian business owner can put together that helpful council of counselors:

■ Formal Board of Directors – common for large or public companies

■ Christian Peer Advisory Board – A group such as C12 provides a readymade format for asking and receiving counsel, being challenged by best practice ideas, and submitting issues and plans to other committed Christians for feedback. C12 also provides a degree of accountability, prayer, planning, and one-on-one counsel.

■ Council of Advisors – Another resource that can complement either of the prior two alternatives is meeting with a smaller group of trustworthy colleagues (often two to four local C12 members and/or church members). Real benefit can be generated by meeting together regularly for counsel, accountability, and prayer. Due to their informality and small size, a COA can provide an opportunity for deeper intimacy which many C12 members have found to be extremely helpful.

■ Mentor – More than teachers, mentors are generally role models with more experience or authority in areas where we desire to grow. Teachers impart knowledge; mentors impart life. Long-term mentors are difficult to come by, but they can be hugely beneficial.

If you aren’t a business owner you can still benefit from having a council of counselors. I’ve found that having a group of three additional people of the same sex that meet together at least twice a month for at least 90 minutes each time provide a good format for sharing life and getting advice on the challenges we all face. Having a small number of all men or all women in the group fosters a higher degree of transparency and trust that is difficult to achieve in a larger group of men and women.

As you gather together with your council, here are six common characteristics of finishing well that you could pose to them, asking if there is evidence of these characteristics in your life.

 The Six Common Characteristics of Finishing Well

Develop and fight to:

  1. Hold an Eternal Perspective. Don’t get caught up in the short term thinking of the culture. Eternity is considerably longer than even the longest life we could possibly have.
  2. Build Intimacy with Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:13 we are told “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” A relationship requires time conversing. To converse with Jesus Christ you need to read His words in the Bible and spend time talking to Him through prayer.
  3. Maintain Self-Discipline. The self-discipline being raised here is avoiding “many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” Timothy warns us about.
  4. Maintain Open and Accountable Relationships. This is a key part of having a council you can trust and be transparent with. They also need to be able to challenge you when you have a blind spot.
  5. Maintain a Teachable Spirit and a Lifetime of Learning. Proverbs 11:2 is one of a number of verses that tell us “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” I can trace nearly all my worst mistakes back to pride and arrogance. I can trace nearly all of my successes to wisdom that came from someone else that I acted on.
  6. Maintain a Heart to Help Others Finish Well. Since others need a council of counselors, invest time, energy and prayer in being a wise counselor for someone else, sharing the benefits that you are receiving from your council.

Best wishes for a fruitful and blessed year, one that is focused on relationships, both earthly and eternal!

 

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Do You Need Business Advice? Where Do You Get Yours?

If you are a business owner do you find it challenging to run that business successfully? Do things always go just as planned? Do you have week after week of your employees doing everything with excellence and exceeding expectations? Do your customers never complain and pay you early? Do your suppliers and vendors always deliver the products and services you need on time and on budget?

If these things are happening in your business every day, then please contact me so I can come to work for you! I don’t know any business owner who consistently experiences this kind of success. I didn’t experience it when I ran my IT company of twenty plus employees and I don’t consistently experience it now, even as a sole proprietor without any employees. The reality is that because the world is broken by sin, our businesses will always be broken too.

That doesn’t mean we should just give up and go home. We still have to provide for ourselves and our families. As business owners we also have an obligation to provide for our employees and their families. It will be a struggle at times, sometimes easier than others, but still a struggle.

So, given we will struggle at times, where do we get help and advice for those times? If you are a learning leader you probably spend time reading the latest business books and articles. That is one method that I agree with and encourage all leaders to do. But, as a Christian business owner the first source should be the Bible. The Bible itself tells us through the writing of Paul that it is the first place we should turn. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 he tells us:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

So, how do we apply that exhortation in our business? First, you need to be familiar with what’s in the Bible so you can apply the wisdom as you need it facing the challenges of the day. That means reading it regularly, ideally daily. The typical Bible is about 2,000 pages and some of it is not real easy to understand, so it requires a life-long study approach. A reading of the Old Testament will help you to understand how stubborn and thick-headed we can be.

The most valuable Bible book for a business owner is the book of Proverbs. Last year I read all 31 chapters in Proverbs each month and benefited greatly from reading it twelve times in a row. The first seven verses of the first chapter tell us why this is a good idea:

“These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

The next source of advice and counsel is trustworthy, like minded advisers as Proverbs 15:22 tells us:

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”

The C12 Group is one great place to find these advisers. The members of the groups are there to give and get good advice and to hold and be held accountable. They want to do the right things in order to be successful and more importantly, to do them in a God honoring way. They know the people around the table have the same values and will be transparent when sharing problems and honest when giving advice. The C12 Group also provides a structured framework at the monthly meeting to help the members share their issues and get that valuable advice. We have the added benefit of a morning full of biblical and business content to read and discuss, increasing our knowledge every month.

If you don’t have access to a C12 Group in your geography then try to find some other Christian business owners, six to twelve would be a good number, and commit to meeting once a month and share your issues. I recommend starting that meeting with a devotional. If you don’t have any other business content, then half a day should be enough time for the issues sharing.

Read your Bible every day, pray without ceasing and regularly get wise counsel from other Christian business owners and you will be better equipped to meet the challenges you will face today and tomorrow!

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Chief Technician, Chief Manager or Chief Executive Officer?

In “The E-Myth Revisited” Michael Gerber writes about three common stages many small business owners either transition through or get stuck in. He uses the terms Entrepreneur, Technician, and Manager. The Entrepreneur starts the business, the Technician wears all the hats and does his best to keep the customers happy and the Manager organizes everything and tells everyone what to do (hopefully close to the same level as the Technician can do it). If the Entrepreneur gets stuck in the Technician stage he will most likely burn himself out and damage his family relationships in the process. If the Entrepreneur gets stuck in the Manager phase he will have a lot of employees who can’t make any decisions on their own because the Manager is controlling everything. He’s probably not liked very much by his staff.

Many owners are the Chief Technician in their business because nobody else is as skilled as they are at what they do, nobody else can do it as well. Others are the Chief Manager, micro-managing everyone and everything, often in a way that alienates the employees. Neither of these are effective leaders.

The C12 Group recently spent our business segment time looking at this topic, focusing on the difference between leaders and managers. Here’s a table from that segment that describes elements of the different roles:

Gerber’s book focuses on creating systems so the owner can move beyond these three phases and be the Chief Executive Officer, a leadership role. The advice he gives is solid and has been followed by many successful business owners. The challenge for many is that it’s not easy to do what Gerber describes on your own, especially if you’ve never done it before.

A business owner who recognizes that he is stuck in the Chief Technician or Chief Manager phase could read Gerber’s book and other good business books and work on implementing their suggestions. He could hire a consultant or consulting firm to help him transform his business. Or, he could join an executive peer group like the C12 Group.

The C12 Group is going to provide the time tested business content he would find in reading the best business books on the market, but in a summarized, targeted fashion. The C12 Group is going to provide the wisdom of experience from others who have successfully made the transition to Chief Executive Officer. The C12 Group is going to provide education, counsel, goals, plans and accountability so the owner doesn’t have to figure it out on his own or pay a lot of money to someone who may or may not be able to help. In addition, the C12 Group is going to help the business owner develop all areas of his life outside of his business.

As a business owner, I found myself in these phases at various times in the life of the business. I bought an existing technology business where I was on the management team. Early on I probably occupied the Chief Technician and the Chief Manager roles at the same time. Fortunately, I became involved in two different executive peer groups to help me move out of those roles over time and be the leader of the business I was supposed to be. Unfortunately, the C12 Group wasn’t an option for me at the time. I would have been a much better leader if it had been, due to the better content and the 360° emphasis of group membership as well as the prayer support of the members.

The members of my groups in Wisconsin are at various points in these phases, some just becoming aware of them and where they are, others recognizing where they are and working on their leadership transitions and others are solid leaders of their organizations, continually improving themselves and those around them. If you own a business and especially if you are a business owner who is a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ, which level of owner are you? Are you happy at that level? If not, investigate a C12 Group in your geography. Qualified guests can visit a group meeting without cost or obligation.

www.C12Group.com

www.C12CentralWI.com

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Are You Coaching, Mentoring, Discipling?

The last couple years of being a C12 Chair has given me a greater awareness and appreciation for the value of good coaching, mentoring and discipling. It was a recent topic in our February advisory board meeting content, specifically in our devotion time, focused on this verse from 2 Timothy 2:2 You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” Some of the questions we discussed included:

What specific things do you do or might do to apply this principle in your business?

Practically speaking, how can we track our effectiveness in developing next generation ministry leadership using life-on-life discipleship, mentoring and delegation?

As usual there were great ideas shared among the group of Christian business owners who form the C12 groups. One of the resources offered by the C12 Group to the members is the Leaders Program materials from C12 member Troy Meachum of ACR Supply Company. I will share some of the elements of Troy’s program, as well as my own suggestions on how to implement a coaching, mentoring or discipling offering in your business or your church or your neighborhood.

Why is it important to provide this kind of leadership and do it well? For a business the benefits can be significant. “Training increases productivity 22%, when paired with coaching it increases productivity 88% to 400%.” (International Personnel Management Association, 2001)

The Leaders Program at ACR Supply Company has a formal application process for participants. The mentoring is done by CEO Troy Meachum in two three hour sessions each month. Each person participating commits to reading one book each month as part of the program. Troy’s program includes topics like self-knowledge and emotional intelligence, teamwork and cooperation, communication and feedback, stress management and work-life balance, influence, conflict resolution, developing others, and leading change. Troy’s goal as CEO is to spend 50% of his time coaching and mentoring staff.

If you are intimidated by the size and scope of what Troy is doing in his business, I suggest you start on a smaller scale. If I were to implement this in a business similar to the one I used to own (about 25 people on staff), I would start with 2 or 3 people. The group should meet every other week for at least two hours each time. The relationship building process is key and will take time, especially for employees to be honest and transparent with a business owner or senior manager. Each person should start with taking about 30 minutes to share their life story, where they were born and raised, their family life, their school life, their faith life. The coach should be the first to share, setting the tone for honesty and transparency. Our childhood shapes so much of who and what we are and most of us in business leadership roles know little to nothing about that time in the lives of our employees.

The list of topics from Troy’s program would be an excellent framework to use. C12 Group members could use segment topics or the recommended resource bibliography in their member binder to create a monthly topic for the coaching times. Incorporating a personality profile such as DISC would be a good tool for these sessions as well, helping your staff recognize the different ways people think and communicate. As you take your people through this time, be patient and be flexible, be aware of where they are at and their individual growth. Speed up or slow down if necessary, don’t be rigid about sticking with the program you designed. Share your successes and failures from your years of experience. Model for them humility and a desire for life-long learning.

You can use these same principles in a discipleship group focused on growing the members’ spiritual maturity. Again, keep the size small, 2 or 3 plus the mentor and of the same sex as the mentor. Start with the same life story approach to build trust. Cityteam,  http://www.cityteam.org/dmm/, has a discipleship resource called “Discovering God” that is good for a new believer. I was part of a group that used Greg Ogden’s Discipleship Essentials, http://www.gregogden.com/books.htm, and found it to be another good resource. One caveat for the Ogden book is that there is a lot of homework in each chapter and I would suggest cutting out the additional reading in each chapter, sticking to the Bible passages and verse memorization. Another alternative would be to take two sessions for every chapter in Discipleship Essentials.

In all of these models you and the people who are being coached, mentored or discipled need to commit to at least 12 months and ideally to 24 months. A covenant should be presented and signed by all participants as well.

If you are a leader, then you need to be doing this with others. Get started!

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