A lady I could arm wrestle reminded me of Jesus

Last summer it was HOT!  I didn't know this could happen in the midwest but my lawn got scorched.  That's right, like your brain on drugs my grass got fried (the pun in that sentence just made your head explode). [youtube nl5gBJGnaXs]

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I drove to the local lawn and garden store and asked for advice on how to treat the problem because the scorched grass has been replaced by weeds.  When I told the store associate my problem she told me to plant new grass in the midst of the weeds.  She also told me not to put weed and feed or any other treatment on the spot until the grass has the chance to fully grow.  

As soon as she made the suggestion my mind went here...

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-43

New International Version (NIV)

Really?  I'm talking to a woman who looks like she could be a great arm wrestling challenge about my scorched lawn and her advice triggers a teaching by Jesus?  Wouldn't it be awesome if you and I could coach and teach like that, in a way where people would encounter the same teaching over and over again?  

Jesus made a teaching stick by:

1.  He knew his audience socially, emotionally, and spiritually - Who they are spiritually determines the material and who they are otherwise determines the method.

2.  He put content to repeatable practices - By speaking to an agricultural community about planting seeds they would constantly re-encounter his story and remember his words.  Even 2000 years later, it came to my mind when I was working on my lawn.

3.  He kept it simple - His point was simple, one will be harvested for good the other will be harvested to be burned.  Sometimes we make application too complicated.  When it doubt go simple.  

As a leader we have to sharpen our ability to provide application to our teaching or coaching.  I think Jesus was pretty good at it, what do you think?

Please leave a comment about what you think made this teaching stick?

You make things complicated

We make things complicated because of fear or pride.  Either we fear that we will look incompetent or our pride tells us that something must "look" a certain way to measure up to protect our expectations. If we want people to be successful we should remove obstacles not create them.  The same is true for us as well, if we want to be successful we have to focus on the one thing we do better than anyone else and invest in that one thing.  I didn't say we only do that one thing.  I said we invest in that one thing, we get better at it and work hard at it.  The key is to simplify everything else in order to be able to focus on the one thing.

Great leaders simplify process and nurture the gifts that they see in people.  Managers will see a strength and assume that more should be delegated to that person, which results in talents being buried under complicated processes.  Some will refer to this as the "Peter Principle," eventually everyone of us will be promoted to incompetence, which is probably true in a community of managers.  The gut check of an organization is to ask itself, "Have we created a role that is so vastly complicated, few people are able to be successful?"  If the answer is yes, then the organization does not have a "people" problem but a "process" problem.

I hate to quote Avril LaVegne, "But why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?"

Crap, I can't believe I just quoted Avril Lavigne but you have to ask yourself when you discover things are complicated, "What is driving this to be so complicated?  Is it my fear of failing?  Or is it my pride trying to make this experience live up to what I think it should be?"  The good news, or possibly the bad news, is that we all do it.  We all have some place in our lives that we are making things complicated for ourselves and others.

Measure everyone

Every person you lead has three outputs that you should pay attention to: 1.  Gifting- Their talents.

2.  Availability- Their pre-determined level of availability, this can be their time, finances, energy, etc.

3.  Teachability- How they receive and apply the coaching they receive.

You can have a highly gifted team member who makes themselves available to do the work but never does the work correctly because they aren't teachable.

You can also have a teachable person who has a lot of gifts but never makes themselves available to do anything.

Or you can have a teachable person who is available to do the work, but they never discover their gifts so they burn out trying to do it like everyone else.

Great leaders identify the one output that holds a person back and confronts it.  Here are some things to remember though: 1. Gifting you can't control or add into a person.  2.  Availability will only change if there is a clear expectation.  If the expectation is not met, it's time to cut them lose.  3.  Only the proud aren't teachable and some times pride needs to fail before it will listen.

Great leaders pay attention to these details and learn how to make others better.

Leading for us...

...(or two sentences from my dad taught me more about leadership than I’ve learned in some years) Guest Post by Daniel Cummings (bio below)

A few years ago my dad, who is the greatest leader I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, retired from a 50 year long career in public education. He did amazing things in his career, including being named the 2005 Missouri Superintendent of the year, having a district building named after him, and gathering more awards and honors than he can fit in his home office (I’m not kidding he had to choose which to hang and which to store). During his last few weeks our family had the honor of attending awards ceremonies and city and state proclamations, it was a true honor to see the outpouring of love for him.

The greatest memory I have, and the biggest lesson learned wasn’t during his awards speeches but in a quiet moment during a car ride when it was just the two of us. Leaving yet another ceremony in his honor, and getting into his car in front of a community center that he helped lead the charge to have built I asked a simple question, “what achievement are you most proud of in your career?” Was it the new state of the art high school he’d opened just that year? The very community center we were sitting in front of? Maybe one of the plaques that hung on his wall. His answer was surprising and a perfect summation of the leader he is. He simply said, “That first bond (tax increase for schools) issue we passed during my first full year as superintendent. I knew that things were going to change after that.” That victory, while it was a smaller one, spoke volumes about what he believed and I learned a few lessons in those two sentences.


  1. True leadership isn’t about me, it’s about us – Anytime my dad was given an award he always thanked the community, school board, and the staff of the school district and he meant it. He worked to make the lives of students better and provide meaningful interactions between schools and the community. He gave himself to the collective “we” of the district and worked to help make others successful.
  2. Success creates longevity- the average school superintendent has the job for 3 years, with all of its demands. My dad held the position for almost 15 in part by relishing is the success of the not only himself but the district and others. When a school did well, he celebrated with them. When an improvement issue was voted on and passed, he celebrated. When the transportation department had their yearly banquet you better believe he was there. When you celebrate other’s success you relive your own and gather, often, much needed encouragement to keep going.
  3. Values guide behavior – You can only fake it for so long, in the end what you truly want and believe guides what you do. In my dad’s case he was about creating the best environment possible for students to learn and grow. He understood that when schools grow, people grow, and communities grow. He dedicated his life to helping this happen and believed it at his core and it guided what he did.


I could write for days about the leadership lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn from my dad, as I gained these from one brief conversation. He inspires me to be a better leader and person and I hope what I have shared can do the same for you.

Daniel Cummings is a Brand Manager for Baldwin Denim in Kansas City.  Daniel's father, Tom Cummings, was the superintendent of the North Kansas City School District.  You can follow Daniel on Twitter.