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Ask someone to name their weaknesses, and they fire off a laundry list of shortcomings without hesitation. But ask what they’re good at, and many tend to struggle for an answer. People struggle to identify their strengths for two reasons:

1. They’re embarrassed. Insecurities can keep us from admitting when we’re good at something.

2. They don’t recognize it as a strength. It’s easy for to see others strengths, but it’s not always easy to see our own.Sometimes we’re good at something naturally and for that reason we’re unaware that they are good at it.  A few months ago a friend mentioned a strength he had observed in my leadership. It caught me off guard because it was a behavior I knew it was something I did, but never considered to be a strength. Because he pointed it out, I now try to develop and practice this more intentionally.

It’s tempting when doing leadership development to identify weakness and try to help them grow from a three to and eight. But your time will be much better invested if you help the leader develop his or her strengths.

Try this exercise next time you meet with one of your staff members or someone you’re developing. Ask the following questions:

  • Name 5 to 7 projects or goals you’ve been working on for the past four weeks. Write a list on the whiteboard.
  • Where have you felt surges of energy during the past four weeks? What were you doing when you felt it?
  • What fruit or results have you seen in the past four weeks? What are the specific things you did to contribute to that outcome?
  • To what do you attribute those results, be specific? What response have you seen from others as you did this work?
  • Reverse engineer what you did well. Think about what you did well and why. Write down the skills you used to accomplish those things.
  • What do you learn about your strengths from these observations?
  • What are two or three things that you can put into practice over the next 30 days to sharpen that strength?

When you take someone through this process, there are three outcomes.

  • They will develop their strengths
  • They will begin to use the strengths with more intentionality.
  • It will increase their ability to develop others in that particular strength area.

As a church planter, I was constantly seeking to learn from those who had gone ahead of me. But as I listened to these seasoned planters I often found myself filled with “Vision Envy.” Do you know what I mean? You listen to another visionary, and suddenly your vision seems too small, too insignificant or too bland. That’s when we’re tempted to “borrow” part of their vision, or add elements to our vision that God never intended us to include. While it’s a great practice to listen to and learn from other visionaries, we must be aware of the traps of Vision Envy.

Trap #1 – You miss the unique vision God has called you to accomplish in your community. In my friend Will Mancini’s book Church Unique, he provides an exercise you can use with your team to identify the unique calling of your church. He calls this your Kingdom Concept. Your Kingdom Concept consists of Your Local Predicament, Collective Potential, and Apostolic Esprit. These three things working together help you answer the question: What will our church do better than 10,000 others? When you can answer that you are well on your way to discovering God’s unique vision for your church.

Trap #2 – You’re overcome with a sense of inferiority. My friend, Chip Judd says, “Comparison is the root of all inferiority.” Comparing your vision with the vision of another planter will not lead to a healthy perspective. But if you learn transferable principles from their vision its a win.

I was meeting with a visionary leader recently and was blown away by the size of his vision. Immediately “vision envy” crept into my soul, but once I recognized it, I was able to celebrate his vision and learn from his visioning ability. Listening to him lead me to ask myself a new set of questions, challenged me to think deeper about the measures of my vision and refine the way I share my vision.

Trap #3- You stop looking to God as the source of vision. Rather than spending time in solitude seeking the heart of God, we surf the Internet in an attempt to scheme up a bigger and better vision. There is no greater vision than the one God speaks directly into your heart, no matter how big or how small.

It’s a valuable practice to listen to the vision of other church planters. Just make sure you don’t fall to the traps of Vision Envy. There’s nothing more powerful than being given a vision straight from the heart of God. Moses spent hours in the Tent of Meeting face to face with God. This discipline gave him the fortitude to endure the times when the vision of the Promise Land seemed insurmountable. Nehemiah, wept, prayed and fasted as God formulated a vision for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. His time with God generated passion that others saw and longed to follow. Paul had a personal encounter with Christ that not only gave him a vision but put a fire in his soul to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Vision envy will produce a pseudo vision you can chase. But it will not give you the conviction and passion that comes from a personal vision encounter with God.

Years ago when I taught the Teacher Training at our church I would attempt to shift their paradigm by telling them, “Teaching isn’t talking, listening isn’t learning.”  We make a fatal mistake in leadership development when our only approach to training is dumping information from the teachers mouth to the learners ears .  Dumping information doesn’t necessarily produce transformation.  But many organizations use an informational rather than a transformational approach to developing leaders. Here are some of the big differences between the two.

  • Informational tells learners what they need to know.  Transformational challenges learners to behave in new ways by putting principles into practice.
  • Informational dumps content.  Transformational develops competencies
  • Informational the trainer provides the relevant information.  Transformational the trainer adapts content to the need and competency level of the learner.
  • Informational is one-way communication. Transformational is a two-way dialogue
  • Informational uses a one dimensional form of lecture.  Transformational uses the multi-faceted approaches of adult learning.
  • Informational follows a linear pathway.  Transformational customizes learning based on the learners present situation, curiosities and needs

What percentage of your leadership development efforts are Informational versus Transformational?  What steps can you take to increase the percentage of Transformational training?