Teach Me

A key component of the job for every supervisor is to develop the people around you. Today, coaching and mentoring have taken on a greater importance for the workforce. The current generation of employees want to be challenged and seem to have a short attention span at times. This generation is the “everyone gets a trophy” generation and this need for feedback has been brought into the work place. They require regular feedback (coaching) and seek rewards (rises/promotions) at a much higher rate.  I’m not saying anything is wrong with their wants/needs; I’m saying it is different. I’ve been passionate about developing people since my first days in the fire service.

I started in 1982 and was taught by a great man who was also passionate. My first Captain was a commanding man, a former Marine, who was very authoritarian yet compassionate. He wanted to make sure that we knew our jobs and could do them well. My first training officer passed along everything he knew and encouraged constant learning. He yelled at you when you deserved it and praised you when you earned it. He always left us knowing what was important. We need more of those people today, ones that aren’t afraid to share their knowledge because you might end up becoming smarter than they are. Pass on what you know, you will be making an impact all around you.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3

Here is another example of a single verse that tells the whole story of the Bible – Christ died for our sins. Paul is teaching the people of Corinth through his letters. There were no lecture halls, no handouts, no power point slides or videos, just Paul’s letters. He never stopped teaching. He wrote to the Thessalonians, the Philippians and the Romans too. He never lost his passion for teaching God’s promises and word to everyone he could reach.

Obviously, St. Paul’s mentor was a little more than a salty old Marine but he understood that keeping the knowledge and wisdom that was bestowed upon him was not an option. He could have kept it to himself and had people coming to him but God was with him and he understood that his role in this life was to share the good news. God uses us in many different ways to do the same. We need to pass on what is the first importance: Christ died for our sins. Make an impact in all that you do, teaching, witnessing, living Godly lives, helping others or sharing the Good news. We can all make a difference if we remember that we are doing God’s work and not our own.

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Your Place in Life

Whether you say counselor, teacher, mentor or instructor they all mean the same for someone who is a supervisor/leader. You have a responsibility to develop the skills and knowledge your personnel. People want to progress in their positions and are generally interested in learning; regardless of their position. As a leader, people look to you for help with problems or seek your input as they try new things. Your responsibility is to help them problem solve; not solve their problems but help them work out a solution. It might be easier to simply do it but you will not allow them to learn; you must be the teacher or counselor.

Teaching requires great patience and a commitment to helping others achieve success. Think back to your favorite teacher/mentor, what made them great? Chances are good that they were: caring, interested in you, passionate about the subject, inspiring or willing to share their knowledge. Do you do that for your people? They will appreciate it and you’ll see benefits from improved morale, higher productivity, improved creativity and generally a problem free work place.

John 14:26 – “But the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

The great counselor, called teacher by many was, of course, Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was telling everyone of “one greater than I” whom the Father would send to continue teaching and ultimately pay for our sins with His life. Despite the teachings of Jesus, people still remained doubtful. Even after his crucifixion and resurrection people remain doubtful.

Since the beginning of time, God has been teaching by using man as an instrument of delivery; a living power point presentation if you will. God has inspired men to do great things; Noah, Moses, John and Paul all did God’s work through His inspiration. God has put great teachers in our lives – some show us what to do while others show us what not to do. God has put you in a place to do great things so He can help others. Honor God by following Jesus’ example in your life, be the “teacher” for others to understand the hope that you have in Him.

Follow the Leader

Do people follow you because they have to or because they are inspired by you? In our lives, we are all leaders and followers depending on the situation. Sometimes at home, you are the leader and other times you are the follower. Good followers do not go blindly, they understand the mission of the leader and follow to make things better. What kind of a follower are you? Generally speaking, followers inspire others and in turn become leaders.

Even designated leaders must learn to be good followers. Unfortunately, we often see people in leadership positions who demand allegiance from their followers but they fail to act in the same way to those they follow. What kind of follower are you? Do you demand from those you lead something you won’t give as a follower yourself or do you leave them in the dark about where you are headed? We should always try to lead by setting a good example. The bottom line is that we all need to work toward common goals for the betterment of the greater good. Effective leadership and followership fosters an atmosphere that inspires innovation, allows people time to explore ideas and be creative which will pay dividends in morale and may produce efficiencies or new products.

Matthew 4:19 – “Come, follow me,“ Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower too – he fulfilled the prophets and, followed the commandments and His Father’s will with perfection. We will never be perfect but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men”, it really means: I will give you the tools, the strength, the time, the understanding, the guidance and an example to follow so that you, my disciples, will lead people to me.

Despite His followers set backs, Jesus was always there to pick them up, help them understand and lead another day. He gave them opportunities to serve and circumstances to teach the Word of God. Are you a fisher of men? The Lord has blessed you by putting you in a unique position as both a leader and a follower. Remember what Jesus did, how he lead, and put that to good work. The work of a follower is important to. Understand the mission and do your best. Reading the Bible, daily devotions and deliberate Christian living are keys to being a good follower and you will attract those that need a leader. In the end, you are already a fisher of men.

Sharpen Your Iron

“We are only as strong as our weakest link” goes the old saying. As a team, you cannot be strong if one of the team members is weak. When I started in the fire service, my first training officer established a great foundation for me to constantly be a learner. I’ve spent the past 33 years living by that advice. I’ve studied learning organizations, failure tolerant leadership, employee development, training and education, building up others but most importantly; I’ve learned to be adaptive. A person whom I have great respect for told me that he appreciated my “modern and progressive thinking”. I found this funny because I have always believed that I was more of an “old dog” or pretty traditional in my thinking. For those of you that know me, I bet I’m not far off.

I’m working on a project right now that has put me face to face with some true “old dogs”. They have not adapted to the changing work force nor the advancements being made in municipal government. It’s easy to see how this happened to them given their self-imposed isolation. I’ve always believed that if we’ve trained and educated our people to take over for us, that we’ve done the right thing. This particular leadership team feels that if the workforce is smarter than they are, chaos will breakout. They live the mantra “knowledge is power”. Individually, this might work in the short-term but organizationally; it is the direct path to failure. I challenge every reader to reflect on how you treat co-workers, subordinates and industry peers in terms of knowledge sharing. Are you sharpening your iron using the backs of others as your grinding stone or are you sharpening your iron in conjunction with others?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Stated in a more simpler fashion – when you share your learning of the Word with another; both of you increase in wisdom. Bible verses speak to each of us differently or they invoke different emotional responses from each person reading it. I guess that is what I hope to share with these weekly devotions. Maybe you read these and can relate to something in your own life or maybe I actually write something that opens a new point of view for you. I grow every time I write and I hope you grow in reading it.

God never wanted His word kept private or used by “only a few chosen ones”. Jesus didn’t seek disciples from the Elders, he chose simple “every day” men to follow Him and learn God’s teachings. God used Saul, a persecutor, to teach the Word. Saul was spoken to by God, given wisdom and then shared it with everyone. We read his letters today as St. Paul. He sharpened generations of believers by sharing his learning of the Word. What ripple can you start by simply sharing your learning of the Word? The knowledge is power mantra when it comes to learning and understanding the Word of God, is not power at all. The Pharisees believed they had the power because they had the knowledge but Jesus called them hypocrites. In the end, they really knew little about God’s grace and our place with Him in eternity through Jesus Christ as our savior. Stay sharp!

Pass it on

Today, I’m teaching a weeklong college class for the first time in a very long time. I’m nervous about being rusty and connecting with the students. They are all career firefighters who are taking this class as part of their preparation for a state certification test on Friday. One day, these students will be supervising other firefighters. They will be making decisions that will undoubtedly have life or death consequences. No pressure! I’ve been teaching these supervisory classes for the better part of 20 years but as my consulting work has shifted to organizational matters, my time in the classroom has dropped dramatically. To quote Austin Powers, “Will I find my mojo?” There are so many variables in the classroom these days. Fewer power point slides, more interaction, more technology and more videos. I’m confident that I will be ready and things will go fine, I’m passionate about the subject and about teaching our future fire service leaders. I started my career in 1982 and was taught by a great man who was also passionate. My first Captain was a commanding man, a former Marine, who was very authoritarian yet compassionate. He wanted to make sure that we knew our jobs and could do them well. My first training officer passed along everything he knew and encouraged constant learning. He yelled at you when you deserved it and praised you when you earned it. He always left us knowing what was important. We need more of those people today, ones that aren’t afraid to share their knowledge. Those that aren’t worried that sharing what they know will make you smarter than they are. We all need to pass on what we know, we will be making an impact all around us.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3

Here is another example of a single verse that tells the story of the Bible – Christ died for our sins. Paul was teaching the people of Corinth through his letters. There were no lecture halls, no handouts, no power point slides or videos, just Paul’s letters. He never stopped teaching. He wrote to the Thessalonians, the Philippians and the Romans too. He never lost his mojo or passion for teaching God’s promises and word to everyone he could reach. Obviously, St. Paul’s mentor was a little more influential than a salty old Marine but he understood that keeping the knowledge and wisdom that was bestowed upon him was not an option. He could have kept it to himself and had people coming to him but God was with him and he understood that his role in this life was to share the good news. God uses us in many different ways to do the same. We need to pass on what is the first importance: Christ died for our sins. Make an impact in all that you do: teaching, witnessing, living Godly lives, helping others or sharing the Good news. We can all make a difference if we remember that we are doing God’s work and not our own.

Leadership Traits

I have recently had several conversations about leadership vs. management. My daughter told me a story about a “manager” in another department that refuses to let his student worker “unplug from her position” in the call center three minutes early so she can catch the noon shuttle back to campus. He told her to bring her things for class and take the 12:20 shuttle. She offered to come in early so they still would get their 4 hours of work from her but he refused. This is a college worker, working on campus, who is trying to make it all work and has someone as a supervisor who is only capable of being a manager. A leader would have helped her and worked out a solution. There have been books written to describe leadership, so I’m not going to do it in a short blog post. The verse for today talks about: “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training”; all good signs of a leader. Taking the time to ensure that your people understand their job is a management function. Taking the time to build their skills and knowledge so that they can grow/advance is leadership. Rebuking, which is the expression of disapproval or criticism is a management skill of correcting unwanted behavior. Leaders that have courage, will not only help others correct mistakes, they take the time to coach their staff toward improvement and will allow mistakes to serve as learning points and not disciplinary moments. Managers will spend time correcting every little thing that people do, sometimes we use the phrase “micro-manage” to describe these people. We have all worked for someone who wants things done a certain way and within a certain time period. A real micro-manager takes their “certain way” and makes changes to everything we’ve done. A leader will correct someone by showing more effective processes, they will explain what and why certain things are important but most of all, they will acknowledge when they too are wrong. Training employees is critical for the overall organization’s success. Teaching is about learning new skills and training is about taking what you know and making it better. Leaders view training as an opportunity to let people experiment and get comfortable with concepts and processes. The signs of a good leader can be found in these traits, modeled by the greatest leader there will ever be.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is one of those verses that sum up the bible – “All Scripture is God-breathed”. It’s amazing to think that these are the words of God given to us through His writers. If you look back through the scriptures, you will see Jesus use teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in all that He did. Whether he was addressing large crowds, small groups, His disciples, His mother or the Pharisees, He was working toward righteousness. The men referred to in these verses are us. We should use these traits to become equipped for every good work. No one will manage us, there is no one to “make” us do it; Jesus (our leader) has given us examples to follow. As sinners, it is easy to fall away from the teachings, no one really knows when we fall and there is no one to discipline us. Our coach and our leader, who is there all of time, is God. He is the one who inspired the scripture and sent His Son to be our savior. We need to embrace the One whom we call “teacher”; He is the one that makes it all right in our Father’s eyes.