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Make Your Protege an Organizational Disciple

Each year organizations around the world spend billions of Dollars, Euros, and Yen, to train new employees. Unfortunately, organizations lose billions when they lose those people on whom they spent all that training time and money. There are well-documented reasons for this phenomenon and chief among them is lack of loyalty – organization to employee and employee to organization. There is no longer employment security – employment for life.

A 1997 figure on training costs for U. S. companies was in excess of 58 billion dollars. In September 2004, Chief Learning Officer e-zine reported U.S. companies spend an average of $2,000.00 per year per employee for training. The U. S. Department of Labor put employment for September 2005 at slightly over 150 million workers. At $2,000.00 per employee per year, training costs U. S. business $300 billion a year, almost a six-fold increase in eight years.

Training in most organizations is an abstract figure and accounting for training expenses usually becomes lumped into other expenses. Organizations recognize the need for training, allocate training money, and expense it. Training is an expense not an investment. However, the cycle of training for training sake is a trend reversing. Executives want to margin their spending on training with a training strategy to link individual capabilities with the organizations business strategy.

Most companies that send employees to training or provide tuition assistance for college degrees require some pay back in time – one month per college credit hour for example. This does assure that training dollars spent stay in the company for a known period. However, after that period a worker is no longer obliged to the organization and can sell talents to the highest bidder.

Organizations often label training as training; however, the idea stated above to link individual capabilities into the business strategy suggests something more far reaching – mentoring. Spending billions of dollars on training does not necessarily make a worker a better employee. Yet, linking mentoring and training, leaders become acutely aware of worker skill development.

Beyond Training and Mentoring

This begins the discussion on creating workers who are elevated beyond just an employee. The next level beyond training and mentoring, seen by most as a Judeo/Christian concept, is discipling. Most agree that discipling is a spiritual engagement. However, does discipling have a place in secular organizations?

Initially, defining disciple in secular terms is easy. A disciple is someone who is a believer of or in organizational vision and values. A disciple helps spread the vision and values as root doctrines of the organization. Webster’s dictionary (1913) defines disciple as, “One who receives instruction from another; a scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher; an adherent in doctrine; as, the disciples of Plato; the disciples of our Savior.”

That definition suggests more than mentoring. One facet of a disciple is one who, when taught, accepts the teaching and buys into the vision. Upon buy in, the new disciple desires to share the learning and supreme commitment to the vision. Charlie Ragus, founder of AdvoCare International, built a distributorship by having quality products, backed by science and medicine, with a simple approach to teaching duplicated repeatedly, making AdvoCare disciples.

Mentoring and discipling are like connecting the dots. A mentor shows the protégé a picture; however, the picture is just a bunch of numbered dots. The mentor can explain the picture and the protégé my sense the completed picture from looking at the pattern of dots. A mentor transfers knowledge of a vision in describing the pattern or dots. Discipling occurs when the protégé begins to connect the dots. As the picture becomes clearer, the mentor and protégé relationship expands to one of greater understanding. When the dots are all connected and the protégé sees the complete picture, transformation is underway.

Consider another example, Champoux (2006), describes a process of organizational socialization that fits this position well. He begins by stating the new employee goes through a process of unfreezing, to leave behind parts of an old self-image. After accepting the unfreezing, the worker goes through change. This change is mentored episodes of behavioral role development. When this learning process concludes, the worker refreezes the new image. This new image includes expected behaviors and norms of the organization. What the unfreezing, changing, and refreezing describe is metamorphosis. Metamorphosis may be abrupt or occur over time. Discipling metamorphosis is a process taking time.

A mentor with discipling as a goal, by the above examples has personal vision, ability to see potential in another. However, this means a personal commitment of time to intercede in another’s professional growth. Both mentor and protégé are encouraged to enter the relationship voluntarily or risk burdening each other.

It is important for mentors and protégés to recognize how discipling occurs. O’Hair, et al (1998) offers these stages. The first stage is initiation, the protégé recognizes and appreciates the talents, and expertise the mentor brings to the relationship. Second, the protégé and mentor begin a process of interpersonal bonding. In this deepening relationship, they begin sharing vision, values, and connecting personal goals and organizational goals. At some point the third stage occurs, separation. The protégé or the discipling mentor experiences a drifting apart. One or the other receives a promotion, become physically separated, or the protégé is more independent. The final, fourth stage is redefinition. Some event in the organizational life of the protégé brings her/him back to the former mentor. They re-establish their relationship on different terms, not as mentor and protégé.

Therefore, leaders who disciple rather than mentor often behave like a parent. They correct a discrepancy, offering direction and suggestion, and praising a success – leaders who disciple do so with unconditional love.

Love is a word avoided in most organizational settings. Love takes on some kind of physical characteristic of sexual love; however, unconditional love is not physical, it is self-sacrificing. Winston (2002) uses the Greek word agapao. He makes the distinction by defining agapao as “… to love in a social or moral sense, embracing the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and propriety” (pg. 5).

Winston (2002) does not end on love. He continues that leaders must respect all superiors, because someone is watching over them, and especially peers and subordinates. Leaders need humility to make disciples of others. Again Winston, “Humble leaders place the goals of the organization above their own goals” (pg. 25). Leaders need to understand that people hurt, suffer loses, need rest from their toils and Winston cites Augsburger (1982) who tells leaders to mourn (Greek penteo act or feeling of mourning having deep concern (pg. 29)) for their employees, to care for them, the organization, and even competitors.

Mentoring and disciple making cannot occur in a vacuum or one directional. A protégé has to accept responsibility for and actively participate in the process. The next element of the process involves the capacity for the protégé to accept mentoring and discipling.

The Protégé

The protégé is one who is willing to accept the wisdom offered. Reiterating a point made earlier, the ideal relationship with the mentor is voluntary. Bell (2002) asks us to imagine the new person entering the learning experience telling the mentor, “I want to make my learning experience positive for us both.”

Glenn (2003) writes of teaching a class in which she asked students to give examples of a good mentor. Then she asked the class to imagine using their examples to mentor themselves. She tells her readers to have a dream and be able to tap themselves as their trusted guide. She continues by challenging that mentoring ourselves leads us to opening our own greatness and releases us from our fears.

For the new protégé, having a sense of social skill is important. The protégé seeks out people who influence them, who know them, like them, and respect them. In return, the protégé returns the respect and amiability.

Mentoring and discipling is like a partnership and the protégé needs to recognize others’ behaviors change as they change theirs. The protégé is not likely to change the behavior of the mentor until they change their own behavior. Glenn (2003) quotes Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (pg. 110).

Leader Communication/Leadership and Communication

Richmond and McCroskey (2001), address organizational climate as it relates to leadership. They state that organizations exist somewhere, as part of a larger community and leaders cannot ignore external conditions as external conditions do influence events inside the office walls. Organizations assume aspects of local culture and local values as most employees come from within that community. Leadership communication within any organizational environment must be acceptable to be accepted.

People in organizations communicate with the purpose of influencing others. Leadership communication in the mentoring/discipling process is critical to successful growth of a protégé and the entire workforce. Several myths of communication have to be broken for any mentor-protégé relationship success.

• Meanings of words are in people not in the words. Adapt words to the experiences of the protégé.

• Communication is not verbal only. Protégés react to how leaders state something not necessarily what. Understand non-verbal cues.

• Telling is not communication. Telling is passive communication and becomes active when the telling receives an acknowledgement.

• Communication does not solve problems. Peter Senge (1990) tells us that today’s problems exist resulting from yesterday’s solutions.

• Communication, itself, is neither good nor bad. Communication is a tool.

• More communication is not better. Better communication is better – quality not quantity.

• Communication does not break down, “One cannot not communicate” (Richmond and McCroskey 2001, pg. 19).

• People have natural ability; however, communication ability is learned.

From the above points, one can begin to observe leader/mentors need to have a communication style that fits into protégés’ situation and their experiences. Growth of a person in an organization to fully buying into a vision and organizational value system comes from inclusion with the leader/mentor in decision-making processes. Jablin and Putnam (2001), suggest participative communication. With highly participative communication between leader and workers/protégés, high levels of problem-solving communication results.

One can argue that Herman Cane, as former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, was a mentor to an entire organization. When he took over Godfather’s Pizza it was in trouble, had lost its focus trying to keep pace with other national and regional pizza restaurants. Cane (2005) speaking at Regent University Executive Leadership Series spoke of his experience as CEO of a comeback company. First, he had to learn why Godfather’s Pizza was so successful at its opening and how it became unprofitable as it grew. Second, he learned the organization lost its original vision and values. Third, Cane related making an unpopular decision to eliminate multiple pizzas from its menu returning to Godfather’s roots.

Cane (2005) gave his formula for making an organization profitable again; using R.O.I. Cane was specific that R.O.I. is not return on Investment. For Cane, R.O.I. is, “Remove barriers to Success. Obtain the right results by asking the right questions. Inspire (motivate).” This worked for the entire organization; however, it could not have worked if Cane had not mentored senior managers who, as his disciples, took Cane’s message throughout the organization.

Discussion

Leaders in academics, religion, and business, offered a consensus that mentoring is guiding from the side. One discussion with a university enrollment director resulted with a mentor role of “making suggestions, positioning potential outcomes, encouraging critical thinking, while not disrupting a constructivist process.”

Successful mentoring is allowing light to reach the ground, allowing growth to a germinating protégé. A business leader suggested protégés must feel in charge of the moment. In other words, the employee needs to own their successes and learn from their mistakes without blame. Senge (1990) agrees that learning organizations must mentor from a position that does not assign blame.

Defining discipleship in business and academics resulted in mixed concepts. It became clear that in secular settings, disciple, discipling, and discipleship fall in a religious realm. One person feared discipling in business thinking it was too much like cultism. Another came close to secular discipleship understanding relating a close-knit team with shared goals and objectives coming from a greater and wiser source than any of the participants. This is a view of synergy, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

A web seminar held October 18, 2005 at Bellevue University, Bellevue Nebraska helped clarify mentoring and discipling. Doctor Ike Shibley of Penn State Berks College presented a seminar on faculty growth and development. What he shared because of mentoring has application to discipling. He said, “Mentees often report more career satisfaction, improved professional identity, reduced job stress, and greater acceptance within the organization. The organization gets more productive (personnel), decreased turnover, and more committed (personnel).”

Conclusion/Recommendation

Extensive research data exists on mentoring, and extensive research data exists on discipling. However, limited data on organizational discipling is inconclusive in non-religious business. Mentoring occurs in business and religious organizations and there is agreement that mentoring is the same in both. However, understanding discipleship in secular organizations is difficult. The conclusion from this research is secular discipling exists when a mentor and protégé enter their relationship voluntarily and over time the mentor transfers knowledge then vision and values to the protégé.

Herman Cane may be an example of an organizational mentor who also possesses inspirational charisma needed to overhaul a faltering organization. Leaders who want success must recognize synergy comes from within the organization. Leaders, as mentors, need to inspire the work force by removing barriers to success and ask the right questions (of the organization and individuals) to obtain the best results.

References

AdvoCare International (2005). Policy, procedures, and the compensation plan. Carrolton, TX. Retrieved October 23, 2005 from [https://my.advocare.com/_pdf/policy.pdf].

Anonymous (February 3, 2004). Budgets set to soar as coaching gains popularity. Personnel Today. Retrieved October 17, 2005 from [http://www.bellevue.edu/cgi-bin/ezpwebserviis.cgi?url=http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?RQT=318&pmid=59481&TS=1129407420&clientId=4683&VType=PQD&VName=PQD&VInst=PROD].

Bell, C. R. (2002). Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett=Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Cane, H. (2005, September 15). Dynamics of Leadership. Lecture presented for the Regent University Executive Leadership Series. Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Champoux, J. E. (2006). Organizational Behavior: Integrating individuals, Groups and organizations (3rd Ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.

Glenn, J. L. (2003). Mentor Me: A guide to being your own best advocate in the workplace. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

Jablin, F. M. a. P., Linda L. (Ed.). (2001). The New Handbook of Organizational Communication: Advances in theory, research, and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. .

Kunder, L. H. (1998). The Relationship Between Employees’ Satisfaction With Training and Their Perceptions of How Well Training Achieves Established Elements of Effective Training in a Federal Agency. Unpublished dissertation. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Moore, W. B. (June 1991). Qualities of a Disciple Maker. Mentoring, 11,2. Retrieved October 17, 2005 from http://www.mentoring-disciples.org/maker.html.

O’Hair D., Friedrich, G. W., Shaver, L. D. (1998). Strategic Communication: In business and the professions (3rd edition). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

R. Preston (personal communication October 14, 2005) interview stressing his opinions on mentoring and discipling.

Richmond, V. P. M., and James C. (2001). Organizational Communication: Making work, work (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The art & practice of the Learning Organization. New York, NY: Currency and Doubleday.

U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (September 2005). The Employment Situation: September 2005. Retrieved October 17, 2005 from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf.

Winston Ph.D., B (2002). Be a Leader for God’s Sake. Virginia Beach, VA: Regent University School of Leadership Studies.

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