DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The best review you’ll ever read

Written by: on June 20, 2019

I am blessed with the negative ability to get the wrong end of an author’s metaphors. Subsequently, reviewing a book often means climbing past metaphors in order to see what they are getting at. This book was a prime example of how my dysfunctional mind operates. The introduction just about tipped me over the edge.

Gold mining! Wrong metaphor for me. It brings images of strip mining, ecological devastation, slave labour, violence, civil wars and the economic deprivation of displaced communities. Gold mining has rarely bought about anything good except nice jewellery, electronic conductors and symbolising wealth and power. Gold is rare and when found commercially it benefits a few at the expense of others. I don’t like the gold mining metaphor.

Second, in most wars’ military leaders were more often pragmatic tyrants than visionary leaders. People followed them out of fear, not vision. Many leaders weren’t trusted at all. I was in the army too, and one of the close secrets held by officers was not to disclose to the cannon fodder (otherwise known as ‘troops’) one of the equations they used to calculate a battle plan – acceptable losses. “Yes, we are going to take this strategic hill with an accepted 20% death rate and 30% casualties. Will it make a difference in the scheme of things? No. However, we can’t afford to retreat”. Military leaders more often used troops; they didn’t lead them. In fairness, Tom Comacho doesn’t draw much on the military metaphor.

However, in true English fashion, now that I have the stuff I didn’t like off my chest, I must say it was a good read, reminder and provocation to reconnect with mentoring in a refreshed way. I do like the precious metal’s analogy, though it needs expanding: personally, I’m more like a lump of lead or perhaps iron. I still need to be refined, but quite frankly I’m a lot more useful than gold. So maybe it would have been better to look at the benefits of different metals. Especially given the end desire is mentoring. Different metals need different treatment for different outcomes. I get the idea though, and it’s helpful, especially if mentoring is seeing people as they could become rather than who they have settled to be.

There was a sentence in the movie, Rocket Man, which caught my attention a few weeks back, and I have been thinking about it. A side character said in passing to Elton John, “If you want to succeed, you need to kill off who you were born to be in order to become who you want to be”. Is that true? If I change the phrasing to, “You must kill off who you were born to be in order to become who God wants you to be”, I engage in theology and transformation. In section entitled, The Challenge of Leadership Development,[1] Tom Comacho has a go at addressing transformation. Being born is not being created in theological terms. We might bear the imago dei but we live with the imago adami too. The former requires the transformation of the Spirit, and Spirit engaged people to recognise it in us.

Comacho addresses the issue of brokenness in leaders and leadership development, and the theme is scattered throughout the book. As a broken leader in my own right, I appreciated this. In chapter 8 Comacho tackles brokenness and identity pretty well in the concept of being sons and daughter; though in my current context the gendered terminology just gets me in trouble.[2] Consequently, I like the way Fr Greg Boyle uses the terminology of broken kinship and its restoration. (You need to listen to him – see the note below)[3]

Though the book reads like a practical guide to mentoring, at its heart the desire is to know that mentoring flows from the experience of mentoring, as Comacho himself confesses, “One of my greatest mistakes over my life has been to focus too much on helping others, without doing the things that I needed for my own nourishment and growth.”[4]

A few years back I saw a bowl that was possibly the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a while. It was a broken bowl repaired though the Japanese art called Kintsugi.  The broken parts are gathered and are re-joined, not with glue, but with gold.[5] The end result is not a repaired bowl, but a renewal; same broken bowl but with a beauty that changes the environment forever. Isn’t that a good illustration of mentoring?

Twenty years ago I read an article by Martin Broadwell describing four levels of teaching.[6] It has come in handy over the years for both self-reflection around my own leadership and mentoring skills, and understanding how to see other leaders in development The four levels go something like the following:

Unconscious incompetence

A person does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit.

Conscious incompetence

A person does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit.

Conscious competence

A person understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration.

Unconscious competence

A person has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task.

The reason the four levels are useful in mentoring is that they categorise the places in which we might not be helpful to others. They are worth thinking about. Ironically, unconscious competents are terrible mentors as they don’t know how they do what they do because they just do. Such people need to reflect on their skills in order to pass them on.

What I took away from the book? Open your eyes to see God’s best in people where it’s not always visible. Sometimes the precious metal is within, sometimes we need to use a bit of metal to reveal a beauty hidden in the broken and ordinary.

Notes

[1] Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders Through Coaching 26ff

[2] Camacho, Mining for Gold, 91ff

[3] If you haven’t read or heard of Greg Boyle, you need to listen to him. Short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipR0kWt1Fkc

[4] Camacho, Mining for Gold, 129

[5] Have a gander at this link: https://www.lifegate.com/people/lifestyle/kintsugi

[6] Martin M. Broadwell, Moving Up to Supervision (Wiley-Interscience, 1986).

About the Author

Digby Wilkinson

I am currently the Vicar of the Tawa Anglican Church in Wellington, New Zealand. I have only been in this role since February 2018. Prior to this appointment, I was the Dean of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, which made me the senior priest of the diocese working alongside the Bishop. I guess from an American perspective this makes me look decidedly Episcopalian, however my ministry background and training was among the Baptists. Consequently, I have been serving as pastor/priest for nearly thirty years. My wife Jane also trained for ministry, and has spent the last decade spiritually directing and supervising church leaders from different denominations. We have three grown children.

12 responses to “The best review you’ll ever read”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    So Digby . . . do you have an unconscious competence with weekly blog posts?

    My preferred metal is copper by the way.

  2. mm Rhonda Davis says:

    Thanks for your insight, Digby. I appreciate the way you offer mentoring as a process of renewal. I wonder what would happen if we opened our eyes to the jewels within those we lead rather than spending that energy on finding needed changes. I am very grateful for mentors/coaches who have guided me to strength after brokenness.

    • Digby Wilkinson says:

      Precisely. Brokenness can be gift or curse. Everyone has light (John 1:9) but it is often overcome by our dysfunctions. Coaching or mentoring is an honest attending to our characterological faults that harm our gifts. Ironically some of those faults can be handy in certain situations, but they often appear at the wrong times. One mentor I had told me I had to befriend those failings because if understood correctly they can be harnessed. Brokenness manipulates the good for the destructive outcomes.

  3. Mario Hood says:

    Great post. I love the bowl, maybe this is a better metaphor as a whole for what we are looking and growing in people. Meaning, if we all start from a broken state then our job as leaders is to acknowledge the worth and help mend the broken parts with God’s help.

  4. mm Sean Dean says:

    Digby, I am glad someone else saw the mining metaphor as terrible. I started learning about Kintsugi a few years ago and I love it. An interesting bit is that the repaired bowl is considered as having higher value than it had prior to being broken. The very acts of being broken then repaired has provided it with a value that is not available to the unbroken bowl. So yes, it is a great metaphor for mentoring. Thanks for reminding me of the process.

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Digby, I too struggled with the gold idea because of my story and how rare it is. I focused on his emphasis that it is rare but everyone has precious stuff within them. But yes, most days for me it is more lead or iron – not as fancy but more useful. You are wonderful.

  6. Digby,
    Perhaps there’s a book project for you in the future: “The Art of Kintsugi as Applied to Godly Leadership” or something like that. I’d buy it.

    This reminds me of the time when I decided to break down some shipping pallets to make a coffee table. It turned out great and it’s a constant reminder to me that just as I created something from ugliness to beauty, that God does the same with us. Thanks for your post Digby.

  7. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Digby,
    I am glad you found the art of Kintsugi helpful as a construct for beauty and value being renewed out of brokenness. Perhaps in Kintsugi, mentoring is like an artist who introduces the metal to form a beautiful outcome. I wonder if coaching is more like listening and observing how the Holy Spirit introduces the metal to form the beautiful outcome of the broken leader’s life. Obviously, all illustrations have their limitations. Just my thoughts.

  8. mm Shermika Harvey says:

    Digby, Love your post! I too struggled with the first part of the book that speaks of the gold mining experiences. It was hard to push pass the realities of the devastation and destruction caused by gold and diamond mining in Africa. I also enjoyed your reflection on brokenness. Do you feel mentors can use their brokenness to help in mentoring others?

    • Digby Wilkinson says:

      Hey Shermika. Yep, mentors can use their own brokenness as learning moments or illustrations, but sparingly. It’s always a temptation to offer up a story in the hope it will help, but it tends to get in the way of the clients story. I have endless stories of failure, dysfunction and chapters of my ministry I would rather went unpublished, so o offer them as stories of hope and redemption and restoration rather than illustrations of what not to do. A long time back faced to possibly of jail time and spent some time with other people facing incarceration too. It didn’t happen, but I know what it’s like to be in that position and also to know the judgement of General society. I see a mentor a few people in that situation and they don’t need to know my whole story, but it’s helpful to them knowing I’ve been there. They get to see that brokenness can become new life, and a full life too. Failure is never the final word.

  9. Tom Camach says:

    Digby. Thank you for your brutally honest blog here. I think I see why the mining metaphor doesn’t work in many contexts. One chapter I wrote but it didn’t make it into the book, because the imagery was of diamonds and not gold, was the historical example of Botswana. Their partnership with DeBeers where the government got to steward 50% of all wealth generated from the diamonds mined from their soil resulted in raising the health, education and opportunities for all the citizens of the country. I wanted to communicate with that chapter that sin and selfishness is the enemy of mining, because of greed, power and control. But if we mined with the intent to share those resources with the whole country, the whole community, things could be radically different, as the Botswanan example reveal. It helps to have critical feedback and your post gives me much to ponder as I share my thoughts with others. Thanks for being honest. Just wanted to share another perspective. Humbly, Tom

    • Digby Wilkinson says:

      Hi there Tom. Nice to meet you online. I wondered if you might be reading our blogs. As I said in mine, I only had an issue with the nature of the metaphor and illustration. In my part of the world mining is a major ecological issue and can trip readers up when reading material written in a popular voice. In New Zealand, anthropocentric economic outcomes rarely trump ecological welfare – hence my reaction. However, I note that it won’t be an issue for everyone. So, despite the mining analogy I enjoyed reading your book and found it a helpful resource to refer back to. I will purchase a copy. Thanks for your response. It’s appreciated.

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