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Exclusive Interview With David Lutes: The Blueprint For Inspiring Leadership

Brainz Magazine Exclusive Interview

 

David is an American-British dual national and retired ‘ordained’ minister/pastor in three countries. He is a former adviser to NATO on military downsizing and re-skilling of 100k officers and family members in the post-Soviet Union era. He has more than 30 years of international experience in 40+ countries as a consultant and at a senior strategic executive, middle management, and operational level with several global Fortune 125/250/500 companies. He is a former Global Program Director for MA-level development of leaders from 45 countries with the Christian Charity and Humanitarian Agency, World Vision International. He is now an Organizational Development, Talent Management, and Training, Consultant, Master Trainer, and Executive Coach, and well-known conference speaker and a published author. He shares widely on business ethics and values impactful HR and truly Investing in People.


McCluen-Martin Associates LLC is a global influencer and values-driven culture builder focused on helping organisations invest fully in their people and achieve world-class status. National culturally sensitive and attuned, we strive to help make organisations healthy and ‘whole’ by supporting its leaders to lead with authenticity, transparency, and with ‘servant leader’ hearts. We do this through unique strategic HR consulting, executive coaching, and highly experiential training – at all levels – that not only changes the culture for the better but also results in measurable and sustainable ROI. We help organisations identify, unlock, develop, and use talent to the full. The ultimate goal is to help people find meaning, purpose, and direction for their careers and lives.


Under-New-Management LLC seeks to help Christian leaders and managers in any (private, public, or charitable) organisation or sector, at all role levels, shape their leadership development, teamwork, and collaboration on Christian values and biblical principles. To lead, manage, and coach like Jesus. We do this through career and related life counseling, personal 1-2-1 coaching, workshops, seminars, and training. The focus is on people, from all walks of life – and not only in the church or Christian organisation context – but on anyone who is seeking to live and ‘work’ and lead others by the values, principles, and ethics of the Christian life. The ultimate goal is to help people find meaning, purpose, and direction for their career and life – ‘Under His Management’.


Davis Lutes
David Lutes

What is your business name and how do you help your clients?


Most of the information shared here relates to my non-Christian focused training, coaching, and consulting business called McCluen-Martin Associates LLC (McM) – been in existence as a registered LLC (USA) since 04/2021, but operationally out of four countries originally since 1996. Under New Management Group LLC (UNM) is a specifically Christian-focused company doing very similar work to McM but with a primary focus on applying and living out faith, beliefs, and values based on a Christian and biblical perspective. This business is new and is becoming my anticipated growth business down the road.


What kind of audience do you target your business towards?


McCluen-Martin LLC is legitimately global (42 countries to date) and targets any and all organisations in many sectors and cultures; and leaders and managers at all levels who want to build strong, successful, and profitable organisations (and their careers) based on the core principle of investing in their people as their most important asset. Much of my work focuses on competency gaps identification (and plugging those gaps), weaknesses in HR processes, training needs analysis, values formation, management of change, and culture shaping and transformation. Personal coaching with senior leadership teams is standard. In-country, in-company, and remote training is normal life.


I also deliver keynote leadership presentations all over the world. With UNM – I target individuals or groups - Christian leaders and managers in any (private, public, or charitable) business sector at all role levels. Churches and Christian organisations that need help with organisational change, leadership development, teamwork, and collaboration and/or to offer career and related life counseling and coaching to their members. Under New Management = Under His (Christ’s) Management and Leadership. The focus is on people, from all walks of life – and not only in the church or Christian organisation context – but anyone who is seeking to live and ‘work’ and lead others by the values, principles, and ethics of the Christian life. Often, this work is either remote or on weekends. Articles, podcasts, workshops, retreats briefings, and sermons are the main methods of delivery.


Can you tell us more about your work and how you ended up where you are today?


I was in ordained, Christian/church ministry before in 3 countries (South Africa, the UK, and the USA). I transitioned out of institutional church roles into ‘lay’ (non-official) roles into more training and development work in the ‘real world’ about 30 years ago. While still remaining active in my local church (UK), I began to help with training, coaching, and counseling people who had been made redundant (laid off) during a large-scale downturn of the UK economy in the 1990s. Career guidance, personal life coaching, and counseling were where I began. Some of the work was for free (for unemployed people), and other services were delivered through international or European aid agencies (e.g., UK Know How Fund, EC, World Bank, UNDP, ETF, Soros Foundation, USAID, and others). I did all of this work under McCluen-Martin’s banner.


Personally, during this phase, actually, I was also seeking my own career path/new direction and building a business that embraced Christian values and principles while being immensely practical for application in wider, normal business life. I accepted and passionately believed, that the values I embraced could be applied in and truly benefit the ‘real’ business (non-church) world. But I needed a modern, accepted, and successful management, organisational, and leadership model or philosophy that was compatible with my Christian perspective and beliefs. Leadership and management training courses, coupled with the change that often takes place in an organisation, began to dominate my thinking, planning, and time.


How has your faith influenced your approach to leadership and management?


Whether in the name of McCluen-Martin Associates or Under New Management, I absolutely believe that God, through His Son Jesus, cares about the whole person – the totality of life. Creatively, He has stamped His image on everything and everyone. But we all have distorted, twisted, blurred, and perverted that image and its beauty through our greed selfishness, and sin. While I believe wholeheartedly that belief in Christ is essential for discovering His plan, purpose, meaning, and direction for our lives - the values of care, servanthood, treating people with respect and dignity - and helping people get their lives back together spiritually, physically, mentally, relationally, socially, environmentally, and even financially- seemed to resonate with everyone. Finding a way to help people, managers, leaders, and even whole organisations has become my passion and my main goal.


I decided that I could effectively blend those Christian values with ‘best in class’ management and leadership standards and could help people in leadership and all levels of work and life to discover a better way to live and work. I must stress that this was my inner motivation. As McCluen-Martin Associates, I never put myself forward in a Christian ‘package’. I was and am convinced that God will bless any effort to help people live and work in ways that align with caring and nurturing practices and that treat, manage, and lead people into more meaningful and productive lives – and are ‘happier’ while they do so. We, as Christians, are called to help put the world back together again in all of the above ways. All that said, I began to operate on the principle that people don’t read the Bible, they read us as people who claim to live by the Bible. And too many of us are not a good ‘read’. Learning to "walk the faith talk" without beating people over the head with Bible verses is a tricky, but necessary journey.


But I needed a respected, real-world, effective management, and business philosophy/model that I could be comfortable with. I was clueless. But then, when I was invited to be an intern with Dr. W. Edwards Deming in the UK (The Father of the 3rd Industrial Revolution – the Father of Total Quality Management – TQM), and was exposed to his 14 Points or Obligations of Leadership Excellence, I became hooked and quite obsessed with both the ‘philosophical’ aspects, but also by the fact that the whole world was talking about TQM at that time - and that the country of Japan was dominating the quality product world. They directly attributed their success and growth to Dr. Deming. While participating in think tanks at Cambridge University (UK) and speaking at workshops, I was invited to speak at a historical conference in Prague after the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991). My presentations and training at that conference thrusted me as a leading expert into the wider regional spotlight and as a ‘specialist’ (which was ironic considering I was a true novice. There is a very funny story about this, by the way. I was promoted on the agenda at the opening keynote address as Dr. Lutes. I became an "expert" immediately!) This led to being a certified Master Trainer, being an advisor to NATO in helping downsize and re-skill tens of thousands of officers and family members in 8 countries and working with other governments on organisational change and leadership development. This experience led to many more consulting and training opportunities around the world. I have built my consulting, coaching, and training work on the foundation of that experience – and reputation.


In your book: "Authentic Christian Manager" you discuss the concept of servant leadership. Could you elaborate on how you apply this principle in your management style?


The book is not really a typical book, but it is an online, straight-talk, daily Bible devotional for Christian leaders and managers to help them apply best practice non-biblical plus biblical values and principles in their daily life and work. Authentic Servant Leadership has actually become one of the most popular and talked about leadership ‘styles’ in the world today- outside the specific church or Christian world. To serve with a view to help another person grow, rise, climb, improve, find purpose and meaning (and be productive) and to use their skills and God-given strengths to do and be the best they can be – that’s Servant Leadership. Pushing people ‘up’ is the main theme. Empathy, coaching, wise delegation, emotionally intelligent care, direction, and support – based on consistent, transparent, and authentic, personal Trust. I use the same principles of Servant Leadership in businesses as I do in churches. The only difference is that in the businesses, I don’t use Bible verses – otherwise, everything is the same – which is somewhat curious, if not ironic. It is one of the most popular leadership training and coaching messages I offer in any part of the world – in any culture. The message resonates everywhere.


David Lutes
David Lutes

Can you share an example of a challenging situation in your career where your values played a significant role in guiding your decision-making process?


I was the interim Talent Management, Organisational Effectiveness Director (USA) for a very big, French-owned, global dairy and cheese producer. The organisation was losing approximately 37% of its middle and upper management team each year – they were leaving by their choice. I was brought to, amongst other things, find out why the attrition rate was so high – and propose a solution. I toured all production and other facilities, conducted an Employee Engagement survey, met with dozens of middle and upper-level leaders in all locations – and discovered that at least 70% of them had active CVs. I determined that the primary reason for this was the highly toxic, command-and-control culture that was being fostered, perpetuated (out of fear of retribution), and tolerated by the corporate ‘masses’. Coincidentally, top management introduced a new collection of Vision, Mission, and Values statements (which I helped to write, and which were approved) as a way to describe the ‘New Future’ they hoped could be possible. I was asked to develop a way to get the word out among all employees – through public briefings - that a ‘new working world was coming and that the culture was changing’.


Included in the new vision was a specific commitment to ‘work-life balance’, flexible working hours, and more sensitivity toward family life. Everyone in the organisation, from the very top to the ‘lowest’ employee, would be required to attend the open briefings – and then to attend them in mixed-position groups (no elite or role-specific sessions). However, when I designed the internal communication strategy to achieve this, which was truly ‘loved’ by my VP, the president in France vetoed it outright - and essentially told me, “I really don’t like this American touchy-feely, warm, and fuzzy, family love thing so they can watch their kids play football on the weekends – it’s not what I want. Go and tell everyone, you were hired to do a job. If you don’t like how we’re doing things, and don’t put cheese-making as your number one priority in life, then you’re fired.” I had built up trust and credibility during my investigative tour and people were becoming more optimistic about the future. Despite that, the fact that to communicate this would result in embarrassment for me, as a Christian and a values-led Director, I simply could NOT be that messenger. So, I left. I found out from friends there that, 3-4 years later, the rate of departure had risen to approximately 43% and they were really struggling to attract quality talent - mainly because of their terrible reputation in the job marketplace.


In your book, you mention the importance of ethical decision-making. Can you provide an example of a difficult ethical dilemma you faced as a manager and how you resolved it?


Please see above – and how I resolved it was to leave the company. Maybe there was a better or alternative, more patient way, but I just couldn’t be part of the toxic future at the organisation. I simply could not be identified with it.


How do you balance the responsibility to achieve business objectives while staying true to your Christian principles?


I apologise for the length of this next story. Many years ago, when I was living in the UK, a work opportunity (a European Social Fund project) came up that ‘pushed all the right personal values, dreams, hopes, skills-use, and career ‘heart buttons’ inside me. When I looked into the role and its objectives, and the skills I would need to use in order to do it successfully, a very loud ‘Yes!’ sounded excitedly in my heart. It incredibly and beautifully aligned with my Christian values and vision, and what I would love to do with my life at that time. As mentioned before, my education was focused on, and my career history, up to that time, was predominantly Christian/church ministry. I had realized some years before that, however, that I was not a good institutional church guy – not really cut out for it – and rather needed to be amongst ‘the people’ mixing it up with the rank and file of normal life and not in the pulpit in an ‘official’ capacity. In the church context, which was my life, I wanted simply to be a ‘gift amongst other gifts’. Authentically. While far, far short of perfect, my heart was about guiding others to find meaning, purpose, and direction in their lives – and helping them to learn, grow, and improve. And to find balance and peace in their hearts, lives, and careers but not through sermons. I had discovered more of my own personal Must Be and Meant to Be by this time.


I successfully got through the three-stage interviewing process with HR and eventually found myself on the opposite side of the desk, from ‘the boss’ (Mr. David M.) – the final decision would be made by him – then and there. As I entered his office, he shook my hand but generally gave me no personal attention – only a bit of a curt ‘have a seat’ wave of the hand; no eye contact. Then, without saying anything, he just sat there and read over my CV that he held in his hands. He finally kind of threw it onto the desk and looked up at me. With no preamble or introductory comment, he simply said…. “I’ve looked at your CV David, and to be honest with you, I don’t think you can do this job.” I was near-speechless but managed to mumble out, “Why do you say that?”


He said, “I see from your education and work history that you are a principled, spiritual, ethical, and moral person. That won’t fly here. You see, I don’t care who I hurt, who I step on, what corners I cut, in what ways I need to cheat, or how I compromise on the truth – or what lies I need to tell. I will do anything that is needed to make sure I win. If someone gets in my way, opposes me, tries to block me…I will walk or roll over them and hurt them. I win. That’s what I do. I don’t think you can cut it in this department and working with me.” I was totally non-plussed. That someone would publicly admit to having a nature and character like that was startling in the extreme. Here was someone completely lacking in moral or professional integrity – and was proud of it! More than that, he just violated about a dozen UK labour laws.


Moment of decision time. I really, really wanted this job. I really, really needed it for much more than just the money - it was connected to my personal, heart purpose. Hard swallow; sweat dripping down my spine; dry mouth; armpits soaked; pounding heart. I looked him straight in the eye. (My dad always told me to look someone directly in the eye when you need to tell the truth – especially). “Mr. M, thank you for being honest with me. But I also need to say something absolutely honestly to you…I know without a doubt that I can do this work – and do it very, very well – and make it and this department successful – and make you look good in the process (imagine a shy smile). No question in my mind at all. But to be honest with you, my biggest problem and conflict is coming to terms with what people will think of me if they know I work for you.” Probably not the wisest of career and interview moves. My ‘gulp’ was obvious, if not, audible. I continued to look him in the eye. He looked at me and grinned – and said, “I like it! You’re hired!” He stood up and reached across the desk and shook my hand. Nine months later the police escorted him from the building in handcuffs – for embezzlement – from my department’s budget of all places!


David Lutes
David Lutes

Can you discuss the role of compassion and empathy in your management approach? How do you demonstrate these qualities in your interactions with employees?


Empathy + Compassion is the ability to understand another person´s thoughts and feelings in a given situation from their point of view, rather than your own. It is both an inner character/values/heart response AND is also a choice. If you simply don´t care about other people except to perhaps, e.g., exploit their skill or knowledge for profit, with little reference to their own preferences, choices and beliefs, or motivations, then all the training on HOW to show empathy and compassion won´t help much. And you may care and have a good sense of what it means to "walk a kilometer in their shoes", but because of busyness, pressure, disorganisation, etc., you can´t CHOOSE to show enough of the empathy and compassion that is needed. Of course, even faking it until you make it (i.e., go through some of the motions that could be construed as empathetic compassion) is possible - and in some ways, it may be better than nothing. Some of Empathetic Compassion comes from the heart and can´t be learned. Some can be learned as a "technique" or "best practice" that can eventually become more a part of your "nature" and "their" experience.


Empathetic and Compassionate leadership focuses (or should focus) on identifying with others and understanding their point of view, their needs, and their challenges. It’s about walking in their ‘shoes’. Empathetic and Compassionate leaders take a genuine interest in their people – they focus on understanding what makes them tick and what inspires and motivates them - and how they learn best. I am convinced that only a "handful" of unselfish, sincere, authentic, transparent, and caring actions, consistently demonstrated toward others in a team or department, reduces turnover, dramatically increases morale and teamwork, and causes productivity to explode for the better.


But at the heart of any empathic compassion is consistent Trust and Authenticity. If you, as a leader, consistently, authentically, transparently, and sincerely show you are a person who cares, genuinely listen, and practices an open door and open heart and open mind, then you have discovered the secret to all the good things about an empowered culture. A final way of describing what Empathetic Compassion does is that it creates the kind of soil where people can plant, put their roots down, be nurtured and blossom, and produce ‘fruit’ for the organisation and for their lives and careers, and families. To care enough about this to actually work at being a good ‘gardener’ is what Empathy and Compassion are all about. Oh, I might add, it’s also ‘smart business’.


Is there one common or similar organisational or leadership theme, issue, or challenge that you have come across in your work as an executive, consultant, or leadership coach over 2.5 decades and in the 40+ countries you’ve worked in?


Yes, absolutely! While there are numerous global, best-practice, surveys or awards focused on being a, e.g., Best Place to Work, or, Employer of Choice, there are two common features about the companies that not only meet but exceed the standards…but are also the two main reasons where other organisations fall short. I’ve discovered that they are relevant to any culture or type of organisation. Both resonate deeply with not only my Christian perspective but also my own plain, best practice, professional view.


1. If people don’t feel they and their families are cared about/care for, don’t feel they are being invested in (training, career pathing, etc.), and don’t feel or believe they ‘fit’ with the team or organisational culture, they will not only be far less productive but will eventually leave earlier than normal.


2. It has been said that “People don’t leave organisations, they leave managers.” If open, transparent, and regular access to ‘the boss’ does not exist; if sincere, empathetic, and compassionate listening, feedback, and support are not present, then people pull away and eventually leave.


David Lutes
David Lutes

Have you encountered any major challenges during your journey and how have these affected you?


I genuinely wake up each day wanting to help people learn, grow, improve - and to find their purpose, meaning, and direction for their career and life. I would love to spend all my time helping discover and unlock the skills and potential of and in people. I am 'called' to be a ‘gift detector and developer’ and the biggest challenge I have faced during my journey is WHERE I do this. And for WHOM I do this? I care about helping all people, but when I try to put my calling into ‘eternal’ perspective, I find I am spending too much of my time e.g., helping rich Middle Eastern companies and leaders become richer; and creates a sense of ‘wasted time’. It’s not what fulfills me - but finding my way back to a solely dedicated life to helping Christians become whole – and in turn help them, to help us, to be for the world what God calls them to be – that’s my challenge. Hence, the creation of Under New Management LLC. It will take time, but that’s the challenge and heart goal.


Is there something special that keeps you motivated?


It’s a simple thing really. Whether in a training room, in a public gathering where I’m the main speaker, or behind the church pulpit... whenever I see that special light of understanding, illumination, and ‘Yes!’ (or ‘No!’ depending on the point) come on in their eyes, and their heads nod with a determination to Do Something! … It doesn’t matter who or where it happens, Christian or non-Christian, how far or how long I need to travel and endure the heat, pain, storms, crowds, missile attacks, technical glitches, etc., it’s worth it just to help turn that light on.


What’s the next big goal or project for your company and how can someone get in contact with you?


There are 3 big goals or projects (big for me!), that are interwoven. Plus, 1 special UNM project (No. 4) for Christian managers and leaders in business – and churches – who need or offering help to people in career transition or career ‘panic’.


1. To expand and turn my 12 Brainz Magazine articles (no. 5 currently published) – Find Your Purpose, Meaning, and Direction for Your Life and Career – into a much fuller and more comprehensive publication or book. Part of the goal is to include much more guidance around Empathy, Leadership Authenticity, Emotional Intelligence understanding best practice.


2. To further this goal, I am expanding the subjects into Podcasts – but in a special type of ‘hard truth debate’ format with the objective of not giving out ‘easy slick solutions’ or ‘success formulae’ – and with guests that challenge the status quo.


3. To begin to offer myself more pro-actively as an inspirational conference speaker to Christian and non-Christian audiences with a view, again, of straight talk, hard lessons, connection to work and life realities – and providing a Purpose, Meaning and Direction Compass and Roadmap for their Journey.


4. Hold church-based/hosted Know Yourself, Be Yourself – Purpose and Calling ‘Discovery’ Seminar or Retreat (2½ days, on-site or off-site) – Helping people find their ‘True North’ in Biblical and very practical ways. [A variation of this ‘standard’ seminar will be one specifically for leaders and managers in business.]


As for how to reach me, the company website is not up and running at the moment,

but I can be contacted through: LinkedIn or directly by two emails: mccluenmartin@yahoo.com / davidlutes@under-new-management.com



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