An executive is a coach when he or she goes beyond “telling” and actually demonstrates a skill. In basketball, a player often has better skill sets than the coach, but the coach can demonstrate how to improve. It is the same in business. A manager may not be the best salesperson, but they can show someone how to improve.
But wouldn’t it be great if the manager didn’t have the burden of coaching the entire organization? The secret is to become an “enabler.” An enabler creates an army of employees who teach and coach each other.
If you create an environment where each individual takes charge of not only their own skill improvement but also teaches and coaches others then you are an enabler.
Nehemiah the Enabler
The one thing business does not need is another empty program promising miraculous results. But becoming an executive enabler and creating an enabled organization is truly worth the effort. One great example of the power of enabling is found in the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.
Ezra led a remnant of people back to Jerusalem and they began rebuilding the city. But twelve years later they had still not rebuilt the city walls, and the people were under constant threat from marauders. Nehemiah heard about the condition of Jerusalem and left his comfy job working for King Artaxerxes to take over the Jerusalem project. Under his leadership, the city walls were rebuilt in only 52 days.
Nehemiah was extremely effective because he was a man of God, an outstanding leader, a good supervisor, and an enabler. Here are some of the characteristics of an enabler that Nehemiah exhibited:
Nehemiah recognized that change is difficult and that men could find many excuses not to finish the work. So before he ever left for Jerusalem he developed a plan. He thought about the work that needed to be done, and the materials required to complete the work.
Once the basic plan was in place and building materials secured, Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and spent three days surveying the city. He personally rode around the entire city to understand firsthand the work to be done. Then and only then did he assemble the city fathers for a heart-to-heart chat. He discussed his vision for Jerusalem; “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come and let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Neh. 2:17).
The city fathers were so excited about the plan that they immediately agreed to begin rebuilding the city walls.
Empower the Workers
Nehemiah was faced with an enormous project. He did not have the luxury of having a full-time staff of trained wall builders and gate hangers at his disposal. He didn’t have an army that he could commandeer. Nor did he have thousands of slave laborers. Nehemiah had to get the job of building the city walls, and hanging the city gates done with the ordinary citizens who lived there.
He began by enlisting everyone in the city to become involved in the building project. He had goldsmiths, priests, perfume makers, guards, and merchants among the people working on the walls. Women worked next to men. Community leaders worked alongside servants.
Each person was given a specific job; a section of wall, or a specific gate to work on, and they were left to get the job done on their own.
Encourage Risk Taking
Any truly important result carries with it some element of risk. In rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem the people faced opposition from several neighboring cities who conspired to stop the rebuilding.
When Nehemiah found out about the threats he posted guards but kept the people working; “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, ‘Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.’ Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water” (Neh. 4:16-18, 21-23).
People may be averse to taking risks but risk can be evaluated, controlled, and encouraged.
With only a few workers skilled at building walls and hanging gates Nehemiah had to utilize all the labor resources available to him. Priests worked next to merchants and city leaders. People from other towns worked next to the people of Jerusalem. No one who had a heart for the work was kept from helping because of their background, lack of experience, or their place of birth.
While the wall was being built we never read about Nehemiah micro-managing the project. Neither do we read about an army of supervisors running around checking everyone’s work. People had the assignment of rebuilding the wall in front of their own home, and they did so with great care. Nowhere is there a report that their work had to be redone because it didn’t meet quality standards.
Motivate & Inspire
Every day Nehemiah walked the walls watching the work being done. No doubt he encouraged the people as he went. Eliashib, the high priest, set an example by working with his priests rebuilding the Sheep Gate (Neh. 3:1). Workers who see their leaders standing next to them in their labors rather than seeking the comfort of a shady tree will be motivated to work harder.
Reward & Recognize
Following the establishment of a government, the people rededicated the city and themselves to God. Then, at Nehemiah’s command they celebrated; “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to the Lord” (Neh. 8:10).
It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to provide recognition for a job well done. Employee surveys continue to reflect people’s desire for recognition and rewards that are administered fairly and recognize work of exceptional quality.
It is interesting that Nehemiah had city leaders working on the wall doing the same work as the merchant. Nowhere in this account do we find these leaders complaining about the work they were asked to complete. Neither do we read about the common man complaining about long hours and poor working conditions. People simply went about doing the work they were assigned.
The ability to follow direction and to be a reliable, trustworthy worker is a skill to be honored not one to be looked down upon as subservient.
One Final Thought
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He prayed for the people in Jerusalem (1:5-11), for success with King Artaxerxes (1:4), when people opposed the building (4:4-5), and for strength (6:9). Several times he prayed that God would remember him for the work he had done.
Nehemiah’s objective in rebuilding the city walls and gates was not to create an empire for himself or to create great personal wealth. His motive throughout this work was to serve God. Nehemiah’s example of selflessness and willing service to God is important for us today. In the rush to develop earth shaking new products that will catapult our companies into global prominence we should pause and reflect.
Consider the example of Nehemiah who cared greatly for God’s people. He left a great job serving a king to live in a ruined city among the remnant of Judah. He faced opposition from outsiders, he dealt with laborers unskilled in their work, and people who made slaves out of their countrymen.
All this he did hoping only to please God. Ask yourself, “What motive is driving my work?”
8 Steps to Creating a Barrier Busting Enabled Organization is an excerpt from The Executive Enabler–Enabling Organizations Increases Productivity. This 12-page bonus whitepaper includes much more in-depth content including:
- Who Should Coach
- Barriers to Learning
- Coaching versus Enabling
- Nehemiah the Enabler
- Getting Started – 8 Steps to Enabling Your Organization
- Words to Ponder
- Cases in Real Life
- Meeting Notes to Create an Enabled Organization
- Action Keys for the Executive Enabler
You can download this valuable resource here:
Join the Conversation
As always questions and comments are welcome! Have you worked in an “enabled” organization. Have you led an “enabled” organization? How did that experience compare to typical organizations?
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Category: Skills | Situational Leadership