S+B: How Old Industries Become Young Again

The Building Supply /Lumber industry is an old industry. Which is dematuring. What are you doing to make our industry young again? Are you aware of your changing customer’s habits? What technology are you using to be more effective and cost efficient? Do you know what your competition is doing? Below is an excerpt from strategy+business: How Old Industries Become Young Again.

 

How Old Industries Become Young AgainWordle: dematurity

Five indicators reveal when your sector is about to be transformed by dematurity.

Leading in Dematurity

One of the few certainties in business today is that dematurity is coming to your industry, and soon. Responding effectively requires that you throw out old assumptions about how value is built and sustained in your markets. You need to ask questions about your industry that others believe have already been fully, inexorably, answered: What makes for efficient scale? Who is the competition? Who are the customers? What do customers want? Who owns what? Where is the risk?

If asking these questions and pursuing untraditional answers seems like an unlikely path to success, consider this fact: More than 80 percent of the self-made billionaires who are profiled in my upcoming book, The Billionaire Effect, made their billions in mature industries that they reinvigorated by tackling one or many of the factors identified above. They either introduced a product attuned to new consumer habits, changed the technologies of production, adopted ideas from another industry, adapted to new regulation, changed the distribution system, or made some combination of those moves. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, challenged the internal combustion engine’s dominance in the auto industry by developing a customer-friendly electric car. Farallon Capital Management founder Tom Steyer worked laterally: He created an investment vehicle for university endowments and changed how those customers defined profitable investing. Alibaba founder Jack Ma created one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world by taking advantage of production and distribution changes inherent in the Web to provide platform and infrastructure services to thousands of small businesses.

Although dematurity is inevitable, your business can be the one that benefits most. Half the task is recognizing the facets of impending change early enough to prepare. The five indicators in this article provide you with a starting point, a way to begin honing your judgment and identifying the real threats to your industry. The other half of the task is to respond in a way that makes you stronger: by assembling and integrating the capabilities you’ll need in this new, rejuvenated marketplace. The right capabilities will probably be a combination of what you already do well and what you must learn to do from scratch. If you can set your company up to sense and respond to dematurity ahead of time, then you’ll be one of the first to catch the big wave of small changes—before everyone else in your industry gets on board. … Read More

 

What Made a Great Leader in 1776

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

The ordinarily decisive George Washington was paralyzed by indecision. It was the summer of 1776, and the Continental Army was being routed by the British in New York. Sick from dysentery and smallpox, 20 percent of Washington’s forces were in no condition to fight.

Militia units were deserting in droves. General Washington had exhausted himself riding up and down the lines on Brooklyn Heights, attempting to rally dispirited troops. Prudence dictated retreat — to preserve the hope of fighting another day. At the same time, though, Washington viewed any defeat as damage to his reputation and a stain on his honor.

There are any number of good reasons to read Joseph J. Ellis’s splendid little book, Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence. Ellis is a wonderful storyteller. His prose is lucid and succinct. Revolutionary Summer is a riveting exposition of exploded myths and excruciating dilemmas. For one thing, Washington —…

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Good Producers and Good Managers — Creativity, Inc.

In the book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, he talks about how to communicate to people on different levels. Below is an excerpt about Katherine Sarafian on how she manages her directs.

 

Good producers–and good managers–don’t dictate from on high. They reach out, they listen, they wrangle, coax, Creativity, Inc.and cajole. And their mental models of their jobs reflect that. Katherine Sarafian another Pixar producer, credits the clinical psychologist (Dr.) Taibi Kahler with giving her a helpful way of visualizing her role. “One of Kahler’s big teachings is about meeting people where they are, Katherine says, referring to what Kahler calls the Process Communication Model, which compares being a manager to taking the elevator from floor to floor in a big building. “It makes sense to look at every personality as a condominium,” Katherine says. “People live on different floors and enjoy different views.” Those on the upper floors may sit out on their balconies; those on the ground floor may lounge on their patios. Regardless, to communicate effectively with them all, you must meet them where they live. “The most talented members of Pixar’s workforce-whether they’re directors, producers, production staff, artists, whatever — are able to take the elevator to whatever floor and meet each person based on what they need in the moment and how they like to communicate. One person may need to spew and vent for twenty minutes about why something doesn’t look right before we can move in and focus on the details. Another person may be all about, ‘I can’t make these deadlines unless you give me this particular thing that I need.’ I always think of my job as moving between floors, up and down, all day long.”

When she’s not imagining herself in an elevator, Katherine pretends she’s a shepherd guiding a flock of sheep. Like Lindsey, she spends some time assessing the situation, figuring out the best way to guide her flock. “I’m going to lose a few sheep over the hill, and I have to go collect them,” she says. “I’m going to have to run to the front at times, and I’m going to have to stay back at times. And somewhere in the middle of the flock, there is going to be a bunch of stuff going on that I can’t even see. And while I’m looking for the sheep that are lost, something else is going to happen that I’m not aiming my attention at. Also, I’m not entirely sure where we’re going. Over the hill? Back to the barn? Eventually, I know we will get there, but it can be very, very slow. You know, a car crosses the road, and the sheep are all in the way. I’m looking at my watch going, ‘Oh, my God, sheep, move already!’ But the sheep are going to move how they move, and we can try to control them as best we can, but what we really want to do is pay attention to the general direction they’re heading and try to steer a little bit.”

Notice how each of these models contains so many of the themes we’ve talked about so far: the need to keep fear in its place, the need for balance, the need to make decisions (but also to admit fallibility), and the need to feel that progress is being made. What’s important, I think, as you construct the mental model that works best for you, is to be thoughtful about the problems it is helping you to solve.

I’ve always been intrigued, for example, by the way that many people use the analogy of a train to describe their companies. Massive and powerful, the train moves inexorably down the tracks, over mountains and across vast plains, through the densest fog and darkest night. When things go wrong, we talk of getting “derailed” and of experiencing a “train wreck.” And I’ve heard people refer to Pixar’s production group as a finely tuned locomotive that they would lovethe chance to drive. What interests me is the number of people who believe that they have the ability to drive the train and who think that this is the power position-that driving the train is the way to shape their companies’ futures. The truth is, it’s not. Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.

3 Questions Executives Should Ask Front-Line Workers

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

The higher up you go in an organization, the harder it is to stay in touch with what’s really happening on the front lines.  And the bad news—if you hear it at all—is presented only in the best possible light.  How do you get the real truth about what’s happening out in the field?  How do you stay connected to all corners of your organization?  I have found that three simple questions, asked with the intent to learn, can help you stay in touch with reality and be a better leader:

Get out of your office and ask, “How can I help you?”

Doug Conant, while he was CEO of Campbell Soup Company, knew that if he was going to transform the company culture, he had to ask the simple question, “How can I help you?” He asked it continually of his employees, his suppliers, and his customers—and he demanded…

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How to Start and Run a Mentoring Program

Below is a great article on how to start a mentorship in your company. I think mentoring is very important for succession and developing future leaders.

How to start and run a mentoring program.

 The right people, processes, and reporting structure are key to meeting goals.

By Jeff Drew

March 2014

Paul Martin had a lot more questions than answers when he started as a staff accountant at Apple Growth Partners. At the top of the list: Where did he want to go with his career in public accounting?

“I didn’t know what path to take,” he said.

Martin found direction in the mentoring program at Apple Growth, a 90-employee firm based in Akron, Ohio. Following the firm’s guidelines, he worked with his mentor to create an individual development plan that would help him chart and progress down a career path.

“My mentor really helped me stick to a plan of action goals,” Martin said. “It really helped me start on the path I want to go, which is ultimately to partner level.”

Four years after starting at Apple Growth, Martin is making progress on his career aspirations. He just finished taking the last part of the CPA exam and hopes to have his license soon. He has been promoted to senior staff accountant and even has begun mentoring three staff accountants at the firm.

Mentoring programs have long been desired by young, and sometimes not-so-young, CPAs. Firms are increasingly finding real value in these programs because they help prepare the future leaders of accounting firms and, therefore, play a pivotal role in succession plans. The AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS)/Texas Society of CPAs 2012 Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) survey found a significant jump in the percentage of firms that include mentoring and training as part of their partner compensation formula, from 3% in 2010 to 15% in 2012.

There is room for improvement, however. The AICPA’s PCPS 2011 Top Talent Survey found that while 80% of the brightest young CPA talent participated in some form of mentoring, fewer than half had access to a formal program. Of those who did, 84% reported that they benefited from the mentoring program (see “The Lowdown on High Potentials,” JofA, Dec. 2011, page 36).

For the better part of 20 years, Gatto, Pope & Walwick LLP (GPW) was one of those firms that provided mentoring but did not have a formal program. The San Diego-based practice enjoyed success with its mentoring efforts, but it decided about a year ago to formalize and document the program. The goal was to solidify the parts of the mentoring system that worked well and to shore up its reporting and accountability mechanisms.

GPW’s system is similar to the mentoring program used at Apple Growth and follows many of the guidelines laid out by consultant Rita Keller, an expert in mentoring programs. This article draws from all of those mentoring plans to outline a framework for designing and deploying a formal mentoring program.

PLANNING FOR SUCCESS

Firms considering a mentoring program should form a committee to study the issue, Keller said. The committee should include stakeholders from different levels within the firm, which should select one of the committee members to spearhead, or own, the project. The committee should research mentoring programs through CPA firm associations, state societies, and the AICPA, among other sources. The firm should then draft a mentoring document that fits the firm’s goals and culture.

At many firms, not all partners will be on board with a mentoring program. Some will question the advisability of devoting nonbillable hours to the project. Supporters can counter such resistance by listing the benefits of a mentoring program (see Exhibit 1). In addition, an analysis of time worked likely will show that there are hours available to devote to a mentoring program without affecting the number of billable hours (see Exhibit 2).

Mentoring Exhibit 1

Mentoring Exhibit 2

Keller cautions firms not to confuse training programs with mentoring. “Firms need good, strong training programs to set the stage for the mentoring,” she said. “Mentoring should not be how to fill out a tax form.”

Instead, a mentoring program is established to develop future firm leaders and to foster healthy work relationships, said Katie Lee, Apple Growth’s human resources manager. Apple Growth set up its mentoring program almost a decade ago because it needed to have a better understanding of its staff’s succession potential. “We had no answers where our employees were going in the future,” she said. “It was a shot in the dark who wanted to be a manager or a partner.”

The mentoring program helped Apple Growth learn about its personnel’s career desires. Mentoring arrangements also establish connections that can help guide CPAs down their career path.

“It’s finding someone who really cares about you and your career,” Keller said. It’s the type of relationship that has facilitated young CPA learning for decades, she added. But while informal arrangements work, having a written mentoring program helps to establish accountability and reporting standards while making sure everyone gets a chance to participate, said Thomas J. McFadden, CPA, a GPW partner who heads the firm’s mentoring program. A formal program also helps to make sure the mentoring process and expectations are the same across the firm, Lee said.

That’s a lot to work into one program, but Keller warns firms not to overcomplicate it. “You want to come up with something that’s not too difficult,” she said. “You want something that’s natural, that’s easy. Having a little bit of a framework is important.”

Once that framework is written and the firm is ready to unveil it to the staff, leadership should hold an event or do something else that lets everyone in the firm know that the program is a big deal, Keller said.

GETTING STARTED

Firms should emphasize the importance of the mentoring program to new hires from day one and should actively engage them in mentoring relationships soon after their start date. GPW requires new hires to be paired with a mentor after their first 30 days. Apple Growth connects mentors and mentees around the 90-day mark.

Opinion is divided on whether new employees should select their own mentor or whether the firm should do the matchmaking. Apple Growth’s human resources department assigns mentors to new hires. “It’s hard to choose when you don’t know people really well,” Lee said.

GPW lets new hires choose their own mentors. Most new hires at the 30-day mark have reached a comfort level with a potential mentor, who is a partner or manager but not their direct supervisor, McFadden said. If a new hire is not comfortable selecting a mentor, McFadden or another partner goes through the choices with the employee and assists with the selection.

Keller prefers seeing new hires pick their own mentors, but she places greater emphasis on firms making sure they pick the right people to serve as mentors—a view McFadden and Lee share. Not everybody is suited to be a mentor. Accounting firms usually make promotions based on a CPA’s technical prowess, but many CPAs at the manager level or above lack the soft skills—the ability to motivate, coach, listen, etc.—required in an effective mentor.

“What we’ve found is that not everybody is a mentor,” Lee said. “It’s just not built into them. Some are strictly practitioners, and that’s OK.”

At Apple Growth, 25 of the firm’s 90 employees are mentors, from the senior associate staff level up to partner. All of the firm’s employees are mentees, including the chairman, who is mentored by a member of the board of directors.

“We have found that everyone in the firm needs a mentor,” Lee said. “Mentoring is not necessarily to advance one in their career, but to have an advocate or someone who believes in you. We encourage our team members to always set goals and continue developing new skills. … A mentor is an important figure in your career and is important at every level.”

At GPW, partners and managers serve as mentors. The firm implemented a training program for mentors and guarantees them at least two hours of training per year. Apple Growth introduced a rating system that allows mentees to rate their mentors.

THE MEETINGS

Mentoring programs usually consist of two types of meetings: formal and informal. Formal meetings take place two to four times a year and usually consist of the mentor helping the mentee set goals and make progress in achieving those goals.

“We set up goals once a year,” said John Valle, CPA, a tax manager and mentor at Apple Growth. “Once we establish goals, we document them at the initial meeting and check in on the progress toward achieving these goals in follow-up meetings.”

Lee said that Apple Growth emphasizes setting S.M.A.R.T. goals—i.e., goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and apply for a defined period of time. GPW’s individual development plans track the following for each goal or objective:

  • Action steps required.
  • Resources needed.
  • Milestones/target dates.
  • Rewards.

Formal meetings generally last an hour to an hour and a half and often are held over lunch. Formal meetings usually involve the mentor checking the mentee’s progress on goals and determining what steps the mentee needs to take and what assistance the firm can provide. Goals and action steps often are written down during the meeting, and business items can be documented in a report filed with program or firm leadership (see Exhibit 3).

Mentoring Exhibit 3

Conversations between mentors and mentees sometimes broach sensitive topics. To protect privacy, GPW requires mentors and mentees to sign a confidentiality agreement. The firm wants mentees to feel safe discussing sensitive in-office and even personal issues with their mentors. No personal information is shared outside of those meetings without the mentee’s permission.

“You feel a little more comfortable sharing confidential information because you know it was going to be kept quiet,” said Brent Gastineau, CPA, a tax manager at GPW who has been both a mentee and a mentor with the firm. “You could talk about someone you were not getting along with.” While open, honest dialogue is desired, mentors must be careful not to allow the meetings to devolve into complaint sessions.

Formal meetings can operate outside of, or as part of, the firm’s official employee evaluation and performance review. At Apple Growth, the official performance review takes place during the meeting held just after the close of busy season, Valle said. Other firms believe that performance reviews should always be kept separate from the mentoring process.

INFORMAL BUT IMPORTANT

Informal meetings between mentors and mentees can be just as valuable as formal meetings, said Martin, the Apple Growth senior staff accountant.

“I would ask my mentor, ‘Hey, can we go out to lunch?’ ” said Martin, who would ask for further explanation of technical issues or general advice. “We would go over it for a half-hour or an hour, and then I’d really understand the issue.”

Informal meetings can take place at any time. Sometimes, mentees walk into their mentor’s office to ask questions or discuss concerns. Other times, mentors will take mentees to networking events or to client meetings. Those expeditions provide opportunities for mentees to learn to connect with potential clients and work with current clients.

“We try to get them involved with networking,” Valle said. “I’ll let them shadow me in a client meeting, but we won’t charge the client for their time.”

REPORTS AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Reporting mechanisms are key to the mentoring process. As head of the mentoring program at GPW, McFadden is responsible for making sure all mentees have a mentor and for keeping a list of those relationships. He also oversees the orientation and training of mentors and handles the termination or alteration of any problematic mentor-mentee relationships.

In addition, McFadden makes sure meeting reporting forms are turned in. Through those, he monitors the progress of each mentee, ensuring that meetings are occurring, advice is being followed, and goals are being set, pursued, and achieved. Finally, he makes twice yearly reports to the partners on the progress of the mentoring program and its participants.

Mentors occasionally step into roles beyond those of meeting with mentees and submitting reports. One of the most difficult situations is resolving a conflict between a mentee and the mentee’s manager. The discord can result from a personality conflict or a disconnect between a mentee’s goals and the supervisor’s goals for the mentee. When goals don’t match, the mentor can be called upon to work with both parties to align the goals. When there is conflict between the mentee and the supervisor, the mentor may choose several courses of action: speaking with the supervisor without the mentee; speaking with the supervisor with the mentee; having the mentee discuss the issue with the supervisor; or convincing the mentee that he or she is in the wrong.

“This is probably the toughest situation a mentor in our firm will face,” McFadden said. “Luckily, it doesn’t come up that often.”

GROUP EFFORT

One-on-one pairings are not the only way to facilitate a mentoring program. Firms can employ a group mentoring approach.

Keller encourages group mentoring because it allows mentors to serve more people. For example, an “engaged” mentor might have three mentees. If the mentor spends 90 minutes in formal meetings with each mentee on a quarterly basis, then the mentor has devoted four and a half hours to mentoring meetings in the quarter. The same mentor could accommodate six mentees, meeting with them in two groups of three each quarter. Even if those meetings are two hours, the mentor has committed less time (four hours vs. four and a half hours) and served twice as many employees.

In a group system, mentees can still request informal one-on-one time with a mentor as needed. And mentors can still take mentees to networking events and client meetings.

THE VALUE PROPOSITION

In the end, mentors and mentees agree that mentoring programs are beneficial. Mentees receive valuable career guidance and develop lasting business and personal relationships. Gastineau, the GPW tax manager, said that the biggest thing he has gained from his mentoring relationships is confidence and support.

“I’ve had somebody on my side who can tell me from their perspective where I’m at in my career and what I need to do to reach my goal,” Gastineau said. “My goal is to be a partner, and I’m going to get there. I’m right on the cusp.”

Mentors often gain from their mentoring activities as well. Martin, who has served as a mentor for a year, credits the process with helping him learn more about the profession.

“When you teach something, it helps you have a better understanding of what you are trying to teach,” he said.

Firms also benefit. McFadden said GPW’s mentoring program is the main reason for the firm’s low turnover—which has contributed to the firm’s top-heavy structure, with 15 managers and partners out of a total of 35 employees. Staff stability also bodes well for Apple Growth, said one of the firm’s tax managers.

“People aren’t leaving,” Valle said. “It says something about our organization that we are developing a strong group of young leaders for the succession of our firm.”


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Mentoring programs help to develop the future leaders of firms and, in the process, solidify succession.

Firms considering a mentoring program should form a committee to study the issue. A member of the committee should step up to “own” the project, and the committee should spearhead the drafting of a document outlining how the mentoring program will work.

Formalized and documented mentoring programs often have reporting and accountability mechanisms that help make sure everyone gets a chance to take part and the expectations are consistent across the organization.

Firms should engage new hires in mentoring relationships in the first few months after the on-boarding process. New hires can select a mentor with whom they feel comfortable, or the firm can pair mentors and mentees. It is important that mentees feel comfortable talking with their mentors and that they are offered confidentiality for personal and sensitive issues.

Mentors must be able to motivate, coach, and listen to mentees. Not all CPAs are cut out to be mentors. Group mentoring is an option when a firm doesn’t have enough mentors for one-on-one pairings.

There are two types of mentoring meetings: formal and informal. Formal meetings take place two to four times a year, for 60 to 90 minutes each, and usually consist of the mentor helping the mentee set and meet career development goals. The meetings usually result in a report with objectives and action items.

Informal meetings can be just as valuable as formal meetings. The types of informal meetings include impromptu discussions between mentor and mentee as well as mentors taking mentees to networking events or on client visits.

Jeff Drew is a JofA senior editor. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact him at jdrew@aicpa.org or 919-402-4056.

John Maxwell: Are You Busy Building Sandcastles?

Whose influence has shaped your life and leadership in a profoundly positive way? What enabled him or her to make such an impact on you? Below is a blog post from The John Maxwell Company.

Are You Busy Building Sandcastles?

 

Anyone who has constructed sandcastles knows how fragile they can be. Minutes after they’re made, incoming waves swoop in to swallow them up and wash them away. Sadly, many leaders’ legacies suffer the same fate. They diligently build an organization for years only to see it disintegrate as soon as they’ve gone.

There is no lasting success without successors. If you do not identify, equip, and develop a leader to carry on the work you have begun, then it’s likely to unravel once you transition elsewhere. As Max De Pree has said, “Succession is one of the key responsibilities of leadership.

Training a successor is difficult because they usually make mistakes early on. As the incumbent leader, it feels as if everything will go more smoothly if you just stay in the driver’s seat. In fact, it will go easier. That is, until you leave, and then everything is in danger of falling apart. It may take a successor several months to get acquainted with new leadership responsibilities. While the road may be rocky at first, eventually they will learn the skills needed to lead and can be trusted to successfully guide the organization in your absence.

However, training a successor isn’t just a last-minute chore—something to do on the way out the door. Rather, you can prepare your successor now through the character you display, the choices you make, and the seeds you sow.

1) Character

Having character means being and becoming a moral example. As leaders, we teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are. In other words, people do what people see. Integrity—being true to yourself—and honesty—being truthful with others—are two traits essential to character. When your life and work displays impeccable character, then your example will linger on in the hearts and minds of your teammates long after you have departed.

2. Choices 

Obviously, the consequences of our choices have repercussions, but our approach to decision-making also impacts others. To make the right decisions consistently, we can’t let external influence or peer pressure cause us to ignore our conscience and do something unethical. Instead, we must be guided by vision and values. When developing successors, show them how to think clearly about options and how to select carefully among alternatives. That is, share the process by which you draw on your knowledge, experiences, moral conscience, and sense of purpose to make difficult decisions.

3. Consequences

Whether positive or negative, our actions have consequences. Yesterday’s bad choices cause us to spend today repairing the messes we’ve made, whereas the wise choices of the past position us to take advantage of today’s opportunities. Success is based on the seeds you sow, not the harvest you reap. If you sow wisely and diligently, the harvest is automatic. Sow daily in the lives of others, by adding value to them, and your investment will compound over time.

Thought to Ponder

Whose influence has shaped your life and leadership in a profoundly positive way? What enabled him or her to make such an impact on you?

John Maxwell Company: Live Like a King

Giving is the highest level of living.  As a leader, what are you doing to add value to others? How does serving others enrich your life? Below is a blog post from The John Maxwell Company.

Live Like a King 

By The John Maxwell Company.
December 23, 2013

Crowns and scepters, thrones and palaces, rulership and riches—these are the words we associate with medieval royalty.

Celebrity and ceremony, elegance and style, popularity and paparazzi—these are the words we associate with modern royalty.

Tattered cloth and shepherd’s staffs, a stable and manger, humility and servanthood—these are words we associate with the newborn king celebrated at Christmastime.

Jesus of Nazareth did not live to be served, but to serve. He gave himself away on behalf of others. His example communicated a simple but profound truth: leadership isn’t about how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.

HOW TO ADD VALUE TO OTHERS:

1) We add value to others when we truly value others.

Leaders who add value to others believe in their people before their people believe in them. They serve others instead of expecting to be served. Jesus’ disciples began following him before they believed he was the Messiah. Why? Because he saw their potential and believed they could be influencers.

2) We add value to others when we make ourselves more valuable to others.

The historical texts documenting the life of Jesus do not give much information about him as a teenager or twentysomething. They do offer this tidbit, though. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” The whole idea of adding value to other people depends on the idea that you have something of value to add. You can’t give what you don’t possess. Personal growth precedes influence with people.

3) We add value when we know and relate to what others need.

As a leader, it’s dangerous to cater to what people want. You’ll wear yourself out trying to please them. However, it’s important to be aware of their genuine needs—the need be accepted, the need to do meaningful work, the need to feel significant—and to help them meet those needs.

“Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. Then he said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.’”

In the above passage, notice how Jesus discerned the true need underlying the disciples’ silly boasts: the need to have influence and to make an impact. He then instructs them on how to meet the need. Accept those who are overlooked and neglected and be a humble servant. This verse inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. who later summarized its essence: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.

Thought to Ponder

Giving is the highest level of living. When we spend ourselves on behalf of others we gain the sort of fulfillment that can never be bought with money or satisfied with stuff. As a leader, what are you doing to add value to others? How does serving others enrich your life?