Well, what would you say… you do here? Mark 4: 21-25 Evaluations  

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If you've ever seen the movie Office Space, you know that this is a classic line delivered by the king of saying-the-things-you-always-wanted-to-say-but-never-had-the-stomach-to-do-so, John C. McGinley. For those that haven't seen the movie, John plays a character who has been called in to do employee interviews to determine where the company could stand to lose a little weight. Although this is a hilarious exchange between the three characters in this scene, it also is a great example (and pretty funny one too) of one kind of evaluation. Now, I'm not saying that this is necessarily the right way to go about doing an evaluation, but it definitely makes for a good laugh.

But evalutions out in the real world are typically anything but light-hearted. They usually involve a bit of uncomfortability both on the part of the evaluator and the evaluatee and are usually done in a very cold and disconnected manner. Often the conversation is dominated by the evaluator providing his/her comments on the employees' or subordinates' performance. These become especially difficult if that employee is not a very good one and the evaluation isn't very positive. None the less, evaluations are a crucial part of any good work environment and provide the leader with a great tool if done correctly; and believe me, their are definitely wrong ways of doing them.

I, myself, have been both an evaluator and an evaluatee many time throughout my military career as the Army requires annual evaluation reports on all of its leaders and as a leader I can say that I have done many evaluations also. So in this area I can definitely speak with some authority but admit that I also have much to learn if I want to apply the traits that both the bible and Jesus give. So, continuing my learning using Ray Pritchard and Bob Briners book, Leadership Lessons of Jesus, I hope to learn what it is that I need to be both a better evauator and evaluatee.

In chpt 32, Evalute, it states that effective leaders evaluate their followers because Jesus tells us that we are should use or knowledge responsibly and productively. So how else can I know if this is what I am doing with God has given us unless I'm evaluated by someone who can offer some crucial and necessary feedback. But for me, having been a part of these evaluations, regardless of my role in them, their are some certain things I need to be aware of. First, if I'm doing the evaluation on one of my Soldiers, I need to ensure that I evalute performance and not let any of my personal biases or opinions of that person weigh in on the evaluation. Second, I have to remember that evaluations aren't meant to be something negative but are meant to take a look at what this person has done and provide my feedback, not my criticism. Lastly, qualifying and quantitative (meaning having factual data to support the comment in this instance) feedback will help to keep it professional and not personal - even if some of my feedback isn't the most glorifying. So, using these guidelines, how can I, as a leader, become a better evaluator and evaluate based on the godly principles set forth in the bible? One of the most important things I can think of is to evaluate perfomance based on a specified criteria. The bible says that we will all be evaluated on judgement day and that are actions will determine our fate. In reading the teachings of Jesus and other leaders in the bible, I can actually lay out the categories that I will be evaluated on. Using these, I should be able to figure out what the important areas I need to concentrate on in my life. Here are some of those categories: love (how am I showing my love as it was shown to me), relationships (what am I doing to ensure that those I interact with know who I am and do I know those in my life), service (do I have a servants heart and are my motives in check - ie. not doing them for recognition but because I am called to do so), discipleship (am I living a life dedicated to glorifiying God and following his teachings). These are just a few areas that I can use in my life to evaluate the things I have been given by God. But in most professions our evaluations need to be more focused on performance rather than how we live our lives, it's just the nature of the world we live in. But, that doesn't mean that we can't apply some of these godly principles to help steer our evaluations. In my study in this chapter here are the things it says can help us in this process.

Honest and consistent feedback: for me, this means that this is something that I need to be constantly doing and that it is always ongoing. In the Army our counseling/evaluating process happens quarterly with an overall annual evaluation that sums up the the last year. This system, although a bit cumbersome at first, if applied correctly can be one of the most useful and motivating tools any leader will have. It also has very specific categories that are measured that the Army deems to be the most important for its leaders. They are: the Army Values (Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage), Competence, Physical Fitness & Military Bearing, Leadership, Training, and Responsibility & Accountability. The way this periodic evaluation works is like this; at the beginning of the year or rating period, I sit down with my subordinates and lay out for them what it will take to receive either an Excellent, Success or Needs Some/More Improvement rating in each category for the upcoming year. Each rating level is given quantitative items (something hard, factual and measureable) for each evaluated level of success so that it is very clear to them before they start the year off what it takes to meet any of them. Then, at the end of the next three quarter, we sit down and go over how they've done for each 3 month period and see where they are at and where they need to focus for the next quarter. At the end of the rating period, all of these counselings/evaluations are rolled up and the annul evaluation is complete.

Reward hard work: Lay out in your evaluation something to shoot for to provide that motivation and then make sure that you are looking out for that type of behavior. When it's noticed, ensure that it is known among all of your followers to see that this is the type of thing that is rewarded and considered honorable. Nothing is more disheartening than when someone's contributions are not noticed by leadership. According to the authors they also write that not only is this a discouraging factor in keeping your followers motivated but also when others get the recognition that they didn't deserve. For leaders, this is probably the single most important thing in maintaining positive performance and helping to keep the vision alive in your followers. For me, I know that if I recognize a Soldier for something that they didn't deserve, the moral level in my section goes down and my Soldiers won't feel that their contributions are worth their effort as they don't get that boost that they need to keep going.

Looks good vs. Is good: This is where you have to fight to see thru the perceptions that your followers want you to have about them. I know that, right now, I have some Soldiers who I like to categorize as Looks Good Soldiers. These are the ones who have all the right answers and always have their uniform looking good and usually say all the right things in front of the boss. But make no mistake, when it comes to putting effort into work these are usually the ones who put in the least amount of effort and are typically your biggest complainers (in front of certain people - and if its about anyone else you can be sure that one of these people is your boss). Be aware of those who work for you that seem to act too much like an informer. They won't come right out and throw someone under the bus but they can definitely drop a bomb about something you or other followers are doing by merely dropping certain comments at the most appropriate (or inappropriate) times. The easiest way to see thru this smokescreen is to look for the excuse train when it starts rolling out of the station. These people are easily spotted when a leader knows more about their job then they do and can weed thru the BS.

However you do your evaluations, the most important thing to remember is to do them. These are such an important part of maintaining your vision and keeping all of your followers in line with the end state, what ever that may be. As long as you maintain your integrity in your evaluations, these things can be some of your best resources when bringing that next person into your inner core and further developing their skills to become better leaders themselves.

I never should have said anything! You weren't supposed to know about this right now; Mar 4:1-20, Truth and Timing  

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The military decision making process, intel preparation of the battlefield, war gaming; human intelligence, signal intelligence and decision points. These are just some of the tools we use to issue guidance and critical information in the Army. Many times during this process a number of different people and sections are brought in at different times to either provide information or to receive it, but not many are all present at the same time. Yes their are those that are there for most of it and a few that are there for all of it but by and large each member contributes its part at the appropriate time. The one thing that all these people get out of each of these stages is the appropriate message and information during the appropriate time.

I know some of you are scratching your head trying to figure out what all of these things are and how they relate to both leadership and more importantly, to Jesus. But as I've been going along on my journey, I've discovered that Jesus, too, had a plan in which he brought certain people in and informed people at the appropriate time and place. Now, I can say that I'm one of those people who likes to be informed (really what I mean is that I like knowing things before anyone else). Everyone's heard that knowledge is power but how and for what purpose that knowledge used is just as powerful as the knowledge itself. Knowing where and when the appropriate time, and how much to give out, for leaders can be somewhat more difficult to understand.

The first thing I need to look at here is truth. More often than not, what I say isn't nearly as important as how I say it. If I'm going to be a leader that people can trust, regardless of how much I share with those who follow, it always has to be truthful. Many times when leaders only give out bits and pieces of information, no matter how truthful, followers have a tendancy to fill in the blanks. If too much information is missing, those gaps can be disasterous for any plan as too much speculation about a leaders plan or vision is left to question. But the opposite is also true, if too much information is given at an inappropriate time, vision can be lost, but more importantly not everything you've said will be heard. As a leader I need to strike a balance with those who follow and how much truth I let them in on.

Another issue related to the truth of the message is context and timing. Truth is about establishing a bond of trust with those who follow but what type of bond is needed is something else entirely. I have to decide how much I tell those individuals in my core group compared to how much I tell those who are just followers. I need to learn how to tailor my message to those I lead at the different levels that I lead them. I also need to stand firm on the fact that not everyone has a need to know regardless of how much I may want to tell them or how important they feel they are.

This leads to the next piece of the puzzle in truth and timing and how much and when to give it out. In case you haven't already figured it out, not everyone will hear and understand everything that you say. Jesus often taught the masses by the uses of parable (a fancy word for stories with meaning). He knew that the actual message He was trying to convey to the people would get lost in translation no matter how much He emphasized and reiforced His point. What He did understand about people though, was that if He could tell them a story, they were more likely to hear it and would remember that more easily than the actual message itself. When asked by His disciples why he talked in parable and what the meanings were, Jesus imparted this knowledge to them. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Those who have eyes to see, let them see. It was obvious that by their follow on questions that, that message only seemed to confuse them more so He clarified. Those who have a true desire to understand will understand. He also said to them that He would teach them the meanings behind these lessons so they would know the truth behind the message and would be able to spread their meanings across the land (referrance the sower and the seeds to understand this further).

So, as I look at the parables that Jesus taught to the crowds and the meanings behind the lessons He taught to His disciples, I can understand the lesson here of truth and timing. His message remained the same from the parables to their meanings but the distinction is made on how that message was given. This is truly one of the greatest lessons on ensuring that any leaders' vision remains constant as it's carried out, even if that vision is carried out after that leaders time has past. Jesus was intentional on how much and what He told to the various people around Him. He understood the different layers of people and what affect they had on His father's vision. To the many people He addressed whether walking along the roadside, or speaking from a shore, those people recieved the parts that they needed to hear to get them to follow Him. To the twelve and eventually the seventy-two, He gave them the meaning of those lessons so they could teach as they were taught. To the three, He showed them all so they could understand the importance of each of these lessons and carry one the vision long after He was called back to His father.

As I look at this, knowing that I am someone who likes to know all that I can as soon as its available, I have to have patience if I am one of those people sitting on that hillside. If I am lucky enough to be one of the leaders in the inner core, I have to know the intent of the information I hold and know how much of it I am able to share. But if I'm one of those fortunate few that get a glimpse of the entire plan, I need to gain the understanding of the mission so I can keep the vision alive and see the mission thru to its completion.

And later on, we'll all go out for ice cream...Mark 4:1-9 You win some, you lose some  

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I don't know what it is about my personality but I hate losing. I mean I hate it with a passion. Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to be on the winning side...of everything! Growing up I hated being picked towards the last of the bunch, I hated losing hockey games, I hated losing arguements. I just hated to lose, period. I would get so mad and frustrated at myself for not being able to perform better or be smarter or be better than the person next to me. It drove me nuts. My anger would cause me to do some pretty stupid things because of it. It's not that I think that I was that bad at things that I often lost, but when I look back at those I compared myself to, I was just among a better class of person that I was trying to compare myself to. And the standards at which I compared myself were not my strongest attribute despite how desparately I want them to be. Even when I joined the Army seventeen years ago, I was no different, hell, even today I don't like coming in second. I consistently strive to out perform those around me, be the most knowledgable in my field and make sure that I've established myself as the one who knows and can do everything. The difference between growing up when and where I did and my time so far in the Army is that the Army has seemed to play to my strengths. I have had, by all rights, an extremely successful career up to this point. I consistently out-perform my subordinate, peers AND superiors (no not all of them, but most of them). My list of accomplishments list from being the youngest National Guardsmen (at the time anyway) to ever graduate from Tank Master Gunner School at the age of 23, consistently being the student in my courses to out-do everyone of my classmates and establish myself as the Soldier who has the answers. I've even been on the fast track for all of my promotions, only slowing down in the last few years because of my family choice (and I'll get into some of that at another time) and because of career longevity rather than accomplishment. But it's been only recently that I've come to realize that being the guy on top isn't necessarily the definition of winning. In fact I've learn to except losing and even tieing (once in a while).

In the book, "The Leadership Lessons of Jesus" by Bob Briner & Ray Pritchard that these blogs have been about, this chapter is dedicated to understanding wins, losses and ties. But as I've sat and thought about it, the bigger point behind the scenes is the lesson of patience. In Mark 4:1-9, Jesus is talking to the crowd about sowing seeds and how widely spreading them will yeild the good and the bad, the win and the loss, and the deep and the shallow. He finishes by saying that those seeds that fall on good soil will yield thrity, sixty even a hundredfold. The thing that I need to understand is patience in waiting for that small percentage to yield the good and the fact that when the harvest is ready (on God's time not mine), the work will be done by few. But I can't wait that long, can I? I dedicated, focused and intentional about what I want when I want it. I have to have victory now or suffer at the hands of defeat and walk away disappointed in my performance. This is where I need to look at how Jesus accepted the win, the loss and the rain delay.

Even with God's perfect plan laid out, even He knew that He would not win everyone. In fact He's seen more than once where the harvest has been miserable. But was it His desire to walk away mad and disappointed at His performance? Absolutely not, see, he still had the ace up His sleeve and dropped it on the table at just the right time. He sent His Son in human form to live out a perfect life and in doing so, pay the price for my disgusting life. And it's only because God IS perfection that He call that play in His playbook and come out on the winning side (by the way, if you haven't figured it out yet - He'll always be on the winning side, hint, hint). But even when Jesus was walking among us, even He realized that He wasn't going to always win the immediate fight. Look at those times when Jesus called someone to follow Him and how many of them turned to take care of there own lives first and He had to cut them loose. The rich man and the son who lost his father. Jesus knew that these people weren't ready and therefore didn't chose to pick His battle with them at that time. See, Jesus understood the meaning of a rain-delay and the meaning of a defeat; moreso than He did a win. He understood that you can't win all the time. It's just not possible but He was ok with it because He knew that it wasn't going to be a total loss. Oh, sure, He knew that some souls He would never capture, He even tells us that there will come a day when those who chose not to follow and repent and live a life for themselves would be weeping and gnashing there teeth. But for many he knew that this loss was only temporary, in fact, it wasn't a loss yet, just merely a postponement due to circumstances.

The problem I face when I think I've lost, often times is that I can't see past my own selfishness to see that this might just be one of those times when the game has just been called on a count of rain. I have to be cognicent of those time and remember to reschedule the game for another day. If I don't, I may as well consider it a loss already. The difficulty I face is knowing which ones will be those delays. I may not even know which ones will be wins and even losses. Only God, in His perfect timing, will know whether I've won or not.

Since I've been over here, I have put together everything I've needed to start up a Men's Ministry group called the "Band of Brothers"(c) (not based on the HBO series but on the speech from Shakespear from Henry V). I've spent hours coming up with the study material for this men's group and have sunk a lot of my personal time getting this thing ready. About four weeks ago I put out fliers advertising this group, creating a little bit of my own information campaign. Within days I had about thirteen men who had contacted me stating that they were interested. Two Sunday's ago, we had an informational meeting and only six people showed up. I knew that I already had a few who couldn't make it but I also had some that I had no idea wouldn't show. But as it was just for information and kind of a question and answer session, I brushed it off as those others didn't have any questions. So, last Sunday was to be our first meeting. I got everything ready, reserving a small room in one of our dining facilities to have these men gather where we could dig into this thing and enjoy some (hopefully) really good fellowship over a meal. I had even arranged the tables in a diamond pattern so they could see that everyone here is an equal and that there would be no one but Jesus sitting at the head of our table (kind of a King Arthur concept, the whole Knights of the Round Table thing). I had everything set...only two people showed up. I was completetly decimated. I knew that we had a lot of activities happening that day as this was the day we set for our fourth of July celebration but I had no idea that none of these people would show up. But, pressing forward I decided to have faith. I told the two guys that we would just sit and have a meal together and just talk, that we'd pick up our first lesson next week. So, I finished up my meal and went to church, praying and talking to God the whole way. I told Him that I was not going to give in and be defeated by this temporary set back and that I believed that He wants me to do this but maybe just not on my time. I said that I wasn't going to lose faith and would continue this next week because I believed that God would have His hand in this and that it would produce good crop from this seed.

Well, Monday morning arrived and I went in to work. Throughout the day I had almost everyone of those men look me up and apologize for not being there but that with everything going on they just needed a break but that this coming Sunday they would be there. I even talked with two other men who said that they were interested and asked if I had room for them. I told them what had happened and that absolutely, there was a spot for them. After going back thru my notes for this lesson, I saw God truly teach me the lesson of winning, losing and calling the game on account of rain. I saw where my own selfish timing got in the way of other's who may have needed a break only because I felt that I was doing such a great thing to give God some glory. I let my ego get in the way of His timing. Only time will tell if I am to have some more patience or if God truly believes that this is His time to start this group. God, I know you're listening, may your will be done...