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Unbroken Resolve

"Today's Leadership Development Determines Tomorrow's Success."

Unteachable - The Organizational Lens

~ From The Organizational Lens ~


Unteachable - adjective (of a student or skill) unable to be taught.

Thriving organizations have a thriving personal development process for their people. They create avenues and opportunities for the more advanced staff, leaders, and members to invest in the lives of those who are less advanced. It is one of the safe guards that helps keep healthy growing organizations growing and healthy and is often one of the key factors that lead unhealthy churches and organizations to eventually close their doors.

Now at the heart of a successful personal development process is an all important factor that will cause the process to either sink or swim. I’m speaking about teachability. Within your organization you can acquire or write the best materials to use with your people. You can have top tier mentors and coaches ready to pour into the lives of others. You can have a work environment and work schedule that is both creative and stimulating toward the idea of personal development. You can have the most awe inspiring incentive program known to man. But even with all of these incredible tools in place without a teachable pupil you are sunk and your organization is on the slow crawl toward death. Teachability is critical to the success of the individual development process and it is critical in seeing your church and organization move forward in a healthy way.

So, as we consider the topic of teachability the natural question then is what do we do if we find ourselves in a place where we have unteachable men and women in our development process. Here are five initial questions to consider when evaluating someone that you perceive as unteachable within your development process.

Is It A Relationship Issue?

One simple question to ask when you believe you are dealing with an unteachable pupil is wether or not there is a relationship issue between the teacher (Mentor) and the student (Mentee) . Sometimes the problem really is as simple as there is a personality clash. Now this is not always a bad thing and not in every case should this be fixed in the investing relationship. If it really is just a bad fit, then something as simple as reassigning the leader and student to different people could be the “quick fix” that is often desired. If there is a personality clash but for whatever reason you believe this will benefit both parties then you might want to meet with the two individuals involved, verbally identify the differences and challenge them to put forth the extra effort needed in order to make the relationship profitable for the current stage of the development process. In this situation, if the pairing is successful, then both the mentor and mentee will be forced to develop in ways that will allow them both to be able to work better in the future.

Is It A Capacity Issue?

Have you ever asked someone to step up to a new level in their leadership and then once you begin the process of investing in them and developing them toward the new level of leadership you realize that something is wrong. Maybe after some more consideration you realize that you were wrong about their ability to achieve the higher capacity of leadership at this time. Don’t worry we’ve all done this at some point in leadership. If it is a capacity issue seek to identify it early and adjust the development process for the mentor and mentee quickly. Don’t be embarrassed to say that while you still believe in the mentee’s potential and leadership ability you simply made a mistake in asking them to take this step at this time. As a note of warning, if you allow them to continue and eventual hold a leadership position that is above their current capacity then you are running the risk of them negatively impacting themselves as a leader, the people they lead and the organization as a whole. Never let your ego get in the way of making the call to pull them back as a leader.

Is It A Heart Issue?

Heart issues can come in all shape, sizes, and severities. It can be something as simple as the individual having a negative view point of being a part of a development process to something more severe such as past experience scars from a previous mentor or coaching experience that has left them completely turned off to the development process. One quick way to identify if there is a heart issue with the mentee is by asking them some basic questions in a relaxed non-threatening setting. Trust me, you will be amazing at just how much people will tell you about their feelings, their likes, their dislikes, their desires, and their personal beliefs if you only ask. A few easy opener questions to get the heart conversation going might include: What do think about the development process? How are things going with your leadership mentor, is it a good fit? What did you think about the last book/study that we did? Do you think this mentor/mentee format is really working for you?

If you think there might be a heart issue with the mentee then all you really need to do is to get them started talking about the difficult area and they will do the rest. For a lot of people it is almost like they can’t help themselves. They have a need to tell you or someone how much they dislike the development process or their pairing in the organizations development process.

Is It A Discipline Issue?

You’ve heard the idiom, “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. You can give your mentee the opportunity to grow and develop, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to. Desire and discipline go hand in hand. Yes, there are some cases where you might say that a person has the desire but it is too difficult for them to muster the discipline in order to develop they way they must, but this is not the norm.

So, the question you have to answer is: “Is the individual demonstrating the commitment and discipline to the personal development process needed in order to allow the system work for them.” If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, then what needs to be done so that they begin the process of developing the discipline needed in order for them to find success in the development process? Determine what proper help or motivation they need, put it in place, and then hold the mentor and mentee accountable for the needed improvements. One thing to remember - if the mentee is unable to develop the needed discipline to carryout their personal development process responsibilities then you can be sure that they are not executing the day-in and day-out disciplines needed in order to carry out the responsibility of their job or ministry role at a high level either. Pay close attention to the personal disciplines that govern or don’t govern a persons life.

Is It A Career Issue?

“I loved the idea of working here until after I worked here for a while.” Phrases like this and others similar to it are sometimes the sentiments of individuals that may have made a wrong career move or may have misunderstood their leadership calling.

If you find yourself leading a frustrated and unresponsive mentee or with frustrated and unresponsive mentees in your organization’s personal development process and nothing is working to get them on plan then maybe it is a career issue. I know you are probably thinking, “I can’t make that call in someone else life.” However, reality is that you could very well be dealing with someone that has found themselves trying to lead in an area where they are not gifted or called. No one likes to admit it when they have made a wrong career move or when they have declared their calling to serve in a particular area only later to find out that they got it wrong. Honestly, sometimes in cases like these people just need someone to sit down and be honest with them and help walk them through the process of getting back on track in the right career. A place where their gifting, leadership, and calling are being maximized to their full potential.

Do you have a few unteachable individuals in your

organizations personal development process?

Don’t see it as a burden but as an opportunity! Face the issues with your mentors and mentees sooner rather than later, make the needed adjustments and begin the process of seeing even the most hesitant leader/mentee find their sweet spot for making a real difference in your church or organization and in the world.

Keep ‘em growing!

Craig Ratliff

Unbroken Resolve

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