Did you ever notice the vast majority of Professional coaches played their respective sport at least at a collegiate level?  In fact after doing my own quick research of the 32 current NFL coaches I found this to be true 100% of the time.

 I firmly believe that players are traditionally more willing to follow someone who can relate to them.  Someone who has walked in their shoes.  A leader with past experience brings the following to their role:

  • Credibility
  • Empathy
  • Insight
  • Patience
  • Understanding

The same holds true in business.  Throughout my career, I found having a clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities critical to my effectiveness as a leader.  I had performed many job functions in a printing plant due to starting at 15 years old and working many years in the industry.

 However, even starting that young, and staying within the industry for 35 years, didn’t mean I had come close to working every single position.  Additionally, times change and just because I performed the job 20 years ago didn’t mean I automatically knew what people were dealing with on a daily basis.

 To stay current I started a simple practice very early in my career.  I periodically picked a different area of the plant to work a few hours or a full shift.  This allowed me to gain a present day, full understanding of the environment that our people were working within. Put simply: I Walked In Their Shoes.

 5 Advantages I found of “Walking in Their Shoes” included:

  1.       People see their leader struggle with work they do very efficiently
  2.       Leader becomes a real person to the workforce
  3.       An urgency to get things taken care of that might have gone unnoticed
  4.       Another ear for employees to share ideas and concerns
  5.       An acute appreciation for the people making it happen everyday

 I am not saying that in order to be a leader, you have to have held every position that you are now responsible for. However I am suggesting to maximize your effectiveness and influence it is beneficial to figure out a way to thoroughly understand the challenges and battles that everyone within your organization is facing so that you can effectively serve them as their leader.

 I bounce all my thoughts on leadership against what Jesus modeled. The last thing that God had to do was to come down to earth in human form. But he did, sending his son Jesus to walk in our shoes. The fact that Jesus can relate to the challenges that we face, and that he totally overcame all of that by enduring the suffering and death on our behalf, was a game-changer!

 What are some of your practices that you have found helpful to enable you to experience “Walking in their shoes”?

 Mark Deterding

 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them  – Luke 24:15