Dave Kier: Leaders Know Their Giftedness

By Dave Kier, Businessman and IBEC Board member.

We don’t like to talk about our giftedness because it makes us sound egotistical, but the fact is that we all have different abilities. Those who start a business or ministry must have the gift of entrepreneurship or seeing needs and a way to fulfill them. Some are gifted with a mind for numbers. Some are gifted in developing relationships. Some are wizards at solving problems. Then there are those with the gift of mercy whose heart is burdened for the spiritual welfare of others. It’s not an all of one gift and nothing else as we all have abilities in more than one area to various degrees, but there are certain areas our abilities are best aligned with. The challenge is to know where your giftedness is best suited and where it isn’t. Life becomes difficult when we think we are gifted in an area we are not.

I have hired many people over my days and made many mistakes. One mistake I regretted for a long time was years ago when I was seeking someone to manage operations in Newell.  A young man was recommended to me that I interviewed and was very impressed with, even though his operations experience was with a much smaller feed company.  He was a God-ly man and appeared to be a hard worker.

Once on staff, I became impressed with his wisdom. When in leadership meetings, I could tell his mind was working hard bringing up concepts on how to improve and grow the company. At that time, growing the company wasn’t a big priority, as we were growing quite rapidly already, but his ideas were very good and some of which we implemented. The trouble was, he wasn’t good at managing operations. Our growth rate required us to steadily add trucks and drivers, which he was slow to do. This hesitancy resulted in his being a truck driver for most of the day, leaving only a few hours (which extended well past time to go home) for tending to the details of leadership.  I kept telling him to hire drivers and get out of the truck. I also told him he was working far too hard and too many hours.

One day I approached him and said “____, I am going to fire you!”. He was shocked and climbed out of the truck. I said I no choice. I told him I didn’t want him to drop dead on me from overworking. That helped for a while, but he couldn’t step aside from the urgent to work on the processes. Eventually, his wife forced him to resign. My regret was that he would have been a phenomenal marketing leader, but I didn’t think I needed one. Our culture was a bit different in that while we were one of the largest feed mills in state at the time, we had only one salesman. In our culture, all of us were salespeople. I took care of the larger accounts, and the one salesman we had serviced the medium to smaller accounts as all of us were in tune with the customer’s needs. This was an example where we were both out of our lanes. He didn’t know how to prioritize his responsibilities, and I didn’t have the foresight to see how to better utilize a very good person.

If you started a business or ministry, you had to wear multiple hats, regardless of how well they fit. If your enterprise grows, you must be honest with yourself knowing where you need to best funnel your time using your God-given abilities. This is where the challenge lies, especially if tough times hit. Then, we see the true nature of individuals, as some become even more reluctant to trust someone else with skills they lack. I speak often of the 1980’s “Ag Crisis”, because I observed how various personalities responded to hard circumstances. Some farmers asked for advice and took it. Some “hunkered down” thinking they will make it if they try harder doing things the same. You know who came through the best. I recall one farmer in deep debt who kept thinking if he could just borrow more money, he would make it through, even though he was told it was debt that was destroying him. When he failed, he became bitter because the bank wouldn’t loan him more money. When the pressure is on, it is then we need to be the humblest, following the biblical advice to seek counselors and take their recommendations.

Knowing your giftedness is important. I enjoyed studying numbers and working with staff to improve processes. I hated reading and writing contracts, which was becoming a crucial part of our business. I also had a mental block when it came to understanding all the various tools for making trades on the board of trade. I had to – I needed to – hire others I could trust to do what I wasn’t good at. I also disliked being on industry boards and committees but took my turn chairing a national feed committee and serving on a couple of local industry boards, but as soon as my terms were up, I returned to doing what I loved – building the business.

The issue is – how do we help others, or ourselves, understand their God-given abilities? We are wise to surround ourselves with various types of counselors or advisors, be they excel in financials, marketing/sales, working with people, or understanding industry and societal changes, etc. – and then listen to them. Sometimes we must bluntly ask an advisor where we can improve or how they see we should better utilize our time. The last person you want as an advisor is one who agrees with you on everything.

First things first – know your giftedness. Not sure? If you step back, you will observe your business or ministry telling you where you aren’t gifted.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures

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