Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Empowerment: Modeled or Read?

Written by: on January 20, 2023

Reading Mining for Gold by Tom Camacho brought back strong memories of Bill Burnett’s and Dave Evan’s New York Times best-selling book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joy-Filled Life. The similarities between the two books are almost identical in theme: True happiness comes from designing a life that works for you.  On the surface, these two books share stunning similarities of getting unstuck, way-finding, coming alive and vulnerable stories weaved throughout the content.  Similar deeper level questions, weaved throughout Burnett’s and Evan’s book, were thoroughly organized at the end of every chapter in Mining for Gold.

Yet beneath the surface–and between the lines–these two books on the flourishing, well-designed life are sending opposite messages.  They subtly represent our current mainstream crisis for this generation with two competing visions.

In Camacho’s chapters 9 and 10, he iterates the increased strength and power we have as human beings when we cooperate with how God made us. “We find momentum when we cooperate with our God-given design. Momentum releases freedom, fruit and fulfillment” (78). As a reader, my faith is strongly challenged by his visuals of seagulls and bottle-nosed dolphins flourishing in their environments as I am convinced that God built into my life all the tools I need to fulfill my destiny.

By contrast, the essentials Burnett and Evans teach is having good insights about yourself, exploring options about where to engage in the world and prototyping experiences (160). The picture of reality they create is that a person could find themselves unable to choose–or at least unable to choose with confidence–a way forward in their life, job, leadership role.  The point is the burden is placed upon the reader’s efforts to design their own life. The authors assert that through the technique of mind-mapping (71) one can generate a plethora of ideas. This is innovation, they claim, and an activity that produces even more options in designing your life’s work. 

In Mining For Gold, Camacho says, “Great coaching simplifies the complexity of leadership development. .  coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry . . .“ Which brings me to why I compared the two books: Although there’s a space for figuring some things out on our own, we need people to speak truth to us.  The message that has gotten lost in the world of self-help and independence is God created us to encourage and be encouraged by others to become all He created us to be.  Further, as David Brooks noted at the Lead Where you Stand conference, the solution to our current leadership crisis for emerging leaders is a posture of being willing to be taught, coached, challenged.

One surprising interview I had last fall was with Daniel, a 22-year-old engineer who recently relocated from Iowa to New York City. He left the world of engineering to help start a church through the Salt Company.    As I pressed this young man with questions, he said something I won’t soon forget.  From his first year at Iowa State University, leaders from the Salt Company intentionally coached and equipped him to be involved in the local church by asking him great questions.  From being coached during his formative college years, Daniel discovered God’s design for his life. Daniel inadvertently listed the same method his coaches and mentors used that Camacho calls the four primary parts of Leadership Coaching: Deep listening, asking great questions, cooperating with the Holy Spirit and determining the right next steps  When Daniel and I ended our Zoom interview that day, I wondered to myself how many of us leaders are in danger of missing these coaching opportunities?  Might we be dismissive thinking high school, college-aged or young adults can find what they need on their own? Or in a book?

The difference between Burnett’s and Evan’s book with Camacho’s is perhaps best illuminated by David Brook’s advice to leaders on building up the Kingdom: He said we have an epidemic of blindness. We don’t see each other. Why don’t people flourish? Because people are not being recognized for who they are on the inside.  To conclude I offer a few of his tips:

  • Give 100 percent attention. Don’t dim
  • Be a loud listener
  • Make your client the authors not witnesses – ask for details
  • Do the looping: “What I just heard you say”
  • Find the gem statement: Find the disagreement under the disagreement
  • Don’t fear the pause

Might the concept of Leadership Coaching be a Gospel-centered calling that will heal our epidemic of blindness?

Note: I actually found the book, Designing Your Life, to be helpful when I was helping one of my daughters navigate through her senior year of high school.  Comparison helps me make a point not put someone’s work in a negative light–it’s a fabulous book!

About the Author


Pam Lau

Pamela Havey Lau brings more than 25 years of experience in speaking, teaching, writing and mediating. She has led a variety of groups, both small and large, in seminars, trainings, conferences and teachings. Pam’s passion is to see each person communicate with their most authentic voice with a transparent faith in Jesus Christ. With more than 10, 000 hours of writing, researching, and teaching the heart and soul of Pam’s calling comes from decades of walking alongside those who have experienced healing through pain and peace through conflict. As a professor and author, Pam deeply understands the role of mentoring and building bridges from one generation to another. She has developed a wisdom in how to connect leaders with their teams. Her skill in facilitating conversations extends across differences in families, businesses, schools, universities, and nonprofits. Pam specializes in simplifying complex issues and as a business owner, has helped numerous CEOs and leaders communicate effectively. She is the author of Soul Strength (Random House) and A Friend in Me (David C. Cook) and is a frequent contributor to online and print publications. You can hear Pam’s podcast on Real Life with Pamela Lau on itunes. Currently, Pam is a mediator for families, churches, and nonprofits. You can contact Pam through her website: PamelaLau.com. Brad and Pam live in Newberg, Oregon; they have three adult daughters and one son-in-law. One small, vocal dog, Cali lives in the family home where she tries to be the boss! As a family they enjoy worshiping God, tennis, good food and spending time with family and friends.

11 responses to “Empowerment: Modeled or Read?”

  1. Adam Harris says:

    Great tips and observations. Especially on the listening portion. How essential is listening these days?! Camacho mentions the coaches portion of a session should ideally be 80% listening.

    I was in sales for a few years and attended a conference that spoke on ambiverts, which is the middle ground between extraverts and introverts. They said sales people who listened more did better, because they truly understood the needs of the person in front of them instead of assuming what they needed and pushing an agenda.

    This is so applicable with just about everything. One of my favorites quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh is “compassion is born through understanding” which most certainly requires listening. “100 percent attention. Don’t Dim.” Love the posts!

    • mm Pam Lau says:

      Adam, As I read your response, I felt a question rising up in me about those of us in this program–are we making sure we are being listened to so we can model the empowered life of what it looks like to “have been deeply heard?” Along the line of the quote you mention, “Compassion is born from understanding.” I would say the more I am understood, the more compassionately I approach and relate to others in my work and life.

  2. Cathy Glei says:

    Thanks Pam for reiterating the importance of the process and how God has uniquely designed each individual. The quote you shared from Camacho’s book “Coaching is the process of coming alongside a person or team to help them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry” really resonated with me when it comes to thinking of coaching as an integrated practice in ministry.

    • mm Pam Lau says:

      I am still left with questions about coaching as a whole as I work alongside leaders who are now in director/executive positions. They claim they have been “coached” along the way yet cannot seem to receive any constructive feedback. Camacho writes that we need people to speak the truth to us, so what does that look like from a coaching perspective? Might you have some insight as you coach teachers?

      • Cathy Glei says:

        Pam, here are some things to consider when coaching. . . (a lot is dependent on the coaching plan/needs as determined by the coachee). There is a big difference between coaching and consulting. Some prefer consulting over coaching because it is fast and allows both to move on (providing closure). In a coaching model, with the focus on mediating thinking, the coachee feels rewarded by finding his/her own way, developing more self-directness, internalizes the identity of a thoughtful, reflective practitioner, and becomes less dependent on the coach. It is a process of clarifying goals, specifying success indicators, anticipating approaches, establishing personal learning (what is most important for the coachee to pay attention to in themselves in the process?), and then reflecting on coaching (how has the coaching supported your thinking?). Practically, it involves much listening, pausing, paraphrasing, posing questions, pausing, paraphrasing and reflecting. When working with educators, coaching involves analyzing data, thinking about desired outcomes, planning conversations, reflecting on outcomes, celebrating, problem-resolving and going back to the drawing board. It is process of equipping and empowering.

  3. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    Pam, I love what you gleaned from the book about deep listening. What I like about this is people deep down want to be seen and heard! With the popularity of Social media, no wonder it’s exploded! People can talk with out being interrupted! Problem is that talking is controlled and edited and is left to interpretation of the comment section, not unlike blogging:). Anyway, I’ve studied Circles of Trust by Parker Palmer and one of the touchstones in creating a circle of trust he suggests is to “Treat silence as a member of the group”. In our busy fast paced world is Silence makes us uncomfortable, deeply uncomfortable. I push myself in my Chaplaincy and Spiritual Direction work to wait in silence until I notice my own discomfort then force myself to count to 10 slowly before speaking. More often than not, the other person speaks up to talk more! I lends us as coaches and spiritual directors to allow them to hear themselves more deeply and our job is to give them silence to listen to themselves! It is hard for those of us who process fast and quickly! I have to do this exercise a lot! Thank you for highlighting the importance of deep listening!

  4. Noel Liemam says:

    Ms. Pam Lau,
    I like what you said about giving 100%. I believe it is very important in listening. When one listen, it shows that one cares. And that, “don’t fear the pause,” it is encouraging. I get weary and uncomfortable when I am in this situation, thank you.

    • mm Pam Lau says:

      Could you elaborate on your last sentence as I would like to understand more. You say you get weary and uncomfortable in this situation. Do you mean when there’s silence? Or when someone else is feeling uncomfortable with the silence? Thanks for clarifying, its helps me to know you better.

  5. Jennifer Vernam says:

    “the burden is placed upon the reader’s efforts to design their own life” such a wise observation. We can really fall into a trap when we center the coaching relationship on self…. I guess that a potential trap in everything we face.

    I really value your critical lens as well as how you have pulled the strengths out of both resources, here. Reading your entry makes me think that understanding both opposing messages is helpful in providing an antidote to the frustrations some may have in taking a humanistic approach.

  6. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    It is intriguing to read your writing and how you appreciate Camacho’s writing. I learned that we always need to learn from others.
    I agree with you about the concepts you offer: paying total attention, being a great listener, and paraphrasing in communication. My question is, is it also given space for God’s presence and listening to His voice?

  7. mm Mathieu Yuill says:

    Hey Pam! I have heard you speak about this Engineer in the past – he has provided you with lots of selection yourself and I wonder if perhaps you are aware of any personal growth you have had through this relationship? I’m not suggesting you ought to or you are unaware, I’m simply curious if you have been able to reflect on this journey you took him on and gleaned any useful information for yourself.

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