Simple Shifts

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Since I started writing here two years ago, I have always moved back and forth in content from personal observations about leadership to lessons I was learning while trying to teach the three questions to a group of students to lessons about leadership I was learning (or struggling to learn) about my own influence.

The next few weeks I am going to toy with a little more structure to that. Tuesday posts are going to be more about personal leadership development, whereas Thursdays will center me on reflections on leadership conversations I’ve been having as I try to increase those conversations in my current context. In addition, you’ll also get a Flashback Friday, where I share a post from deep in the 3QL archives. Spoiler alert: my early writing was probably my best, so don’t skimp on the flashbacks.

So, onward we go.

What I’m going to say is hardly revolutionary, but it’s something I’ve had to learn. I retain better when I read.

Part of my startup to the day routine (inspired by Michael Hyatt) for the past 6-7 months has been to watch a leadership video of some sort from RightNow Media. The majority of the videos have been of John Maxwell sharing insights.

The challenge? I can “multi-task” while the video is playing. Sure, occasionally I would pull out my journal and jot down thoughts or responses to what was covered, but for the most part, the videos ended up being background noise.

The past two weeks, however, I’ve replaced that video with reading. I’m not spending a significant chunk of time on reading, but just making myself pause to read produces a different result.

I can’t be looking at the calendar while I’m reading. I can’t start checking email while I’m reading. I can’t start piddling with whatever is on my computer screen while I’m reading.

The simple act of picking up a book helps me zero in on my purpose for that time. And guess what? The quality of that start to my day has increased by a multiple of ten.

There is something you’re doing right now to help you grow, that really isn’t helping you grow. It may be from the right place and with the right intention, but you and I both know it’s not helpful.

Change it.

If you’re serious about expanding your leadership influence, do not settle for something that doesn’t help you move forward.

For me, the shift has been actually reading instead of a video. For you, that shift may be something different – a leadership podcast instead of music on your way to work, or a weekly phone call with someone who pushes you and challenges you to be better.

Whatever it is for you, make the shift today.

3 Signs to Know It’s Time to Start a Student Leadership Program

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If you’ve followed me for very long, you know that I moved to a new church last March. Since moving, I’ve been able to do some reflecting on the transition, specifically when it comes to creating a culture of leadership.

One of my greatest learnings is there is a difficult balance between “time in” and movement forward.

My brother once told me one of his professors talked about a ministerial checking account. Every minister, when starting a new ministry, gets a relational checking account from which they can write checks. Big changes require big checks. But it’s very difficult to add credit to the account. Therefore, more often than not, a minister will overdraft their relational accounts too quickly.

Full transparency: I still don’t know if I’ve waited too long to start, but this week I’m rolling out an introductory version of a leadership team.

I do know this: when I think back over the grand arc of my time in my previous church (almost 7 years total), there was never a grand sweeping change. Everything was done bit by bit. We started with a leadership trip one summer. Then we adjusted the trip the following summer. The next year I added monthly meetings. The year after that we moved away from monthly meeting and toward weekly follow ups (which ended up being our sweet spot).

Developing a leadership culture was a process literally years in the making.

How do you know when it is time to start implementing a student leadership program? Here are three signs I’m using.

  1. You have students in the room. You don’t have to have the right students. Too often we can fall into the trap of what we want versus what we have. Don’t. Work with what you have and you’ll be ready for what’s to come.
  2. You have the relational capital to leverage your own influence. If you’re trying to turn the boat, it takes time. If you’re asking for someone to make a big change, make sure you’ve built up the trust first.
  3. You have a grasp of the culture. I never want to let my experience dictate what I do next. I do, however, want it to influence what I do next. That means I have to understand the culture of where I am, and that culture is different from anywhere I’ve been before. This is always true. No church culture is the same. There is always something different.

Keep leadership conversations going. I am just now starting a leadership team, but I’ve had countless leadership conversations along the way. It’s part of my regular vocabulary, and so when an opportunity presents itself, I’m talking about leveraging influence.

Having a Plan

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What are you doing to develop your personal leadership?

I ask this question from time to time, and if you’re reading this, then I hope you would include this blog as part of it.

But what else are you doing?

Do you read books on leadership? TED talks? Audiobooks? Podcasts? Are you in a network of other leaders who help you wrestle with ideas?

What we do to grow our leadership influence is both a variable (what we do) and a constant (grow our leadership influence). But it rarely happens on accident. Intentionality paves the way for progress.

If you want to expand your leadership influence, it starts with intentionality. Commit to growing. Make sacrifices for the sake of growth.

Reading, for me, is a sacrifice. I have a solid routine, but regular reading is not part of that routine. That’s why I set a goal of reading a certain number of books the past few years (and increased my number this year). I want reading to be a central part of who I am, because it opens my mind to things I don’t get from old episodes of Psych. So, I’m finding ways to work reading into my routines.

So, once again, what are you doing to develop your personal leadership?

Take some time today to work through this. Make a decision about what you’re going to do, and then stick with it.

Maybe you’re going to read one leadership book each month.

Or listen to one leadership podcast a week.

Or start your day with a leadership thought.

Or watch a leadership video from YouTube or RightNow media.

Or choose to not do anything. But that’s not you. You want to grow.

In the meantime, I know you’ll hang around, and we will continue to grow together. Thanks for being here, now let’s expand our leadership influence.

Final Thoughts on 2019

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In August of 2018 I was on vacation with my family in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was flipping through some files and remembered I had set a goal of reading x number of books. Unfortunately, I had forgotten and fallen behind.

I started reading in August with the intent of catching up to my goal, somewhat, and made some progress. But in December of 2018, I realized something: I had sabotaged myself.

I can chase a lot of rabbits at this point, but let me just say I don’t buy into New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve set them, and failed at them, like almost everyone else.

I do, however, believe in the momentum that January brings. I took a little time 12 months ago to set some 2019 goals and reaped the benefit. I simply used the momentum and excitement of something new, and allowed it to push me past the start line.

I spoke at a retreat for a friend right before New Year’s day. One of the things I did was give the group a single sheet of paper and time to fill it out. It only had three questions, but not these three questions. In preparing for the talk, I did a dry run of the sheet and realized a few key things about my life in 2018. As a result, I made a couple changes.

First, I wrote down my goals in a note on my Evernote account. I had four areas, with a specific goal in each. A couple of them had to do with a number (36 books this year), the rest were about rhythms and routines. But I decided it was going to be something I checked regularly because we move toward what’s in front of us. If I wanted to meet my goals, I had to be reminded of them.

The time I spent on that sheet was minimal, but the difference has been incredible. As long as I don’t lose my mind between today and January 1, I will have lost (and kept off) close to 40 pounds in 2019, established a solid morning routine (thanks to The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod), and exceeded my goal of 36 books (12 read, 24 audio). These may seem small, but the reality is I was able to enter the year with focus, and each of the goals tied together–one of the first books I read in 2019 helped me establish a morning routine that has given structure to my year and helped me be more consistent than ever in my life!

All of that to say: tomorrow, 3QL subscribers will receive the same worksheet that set me up for one of the most incredible years of personal growth I’ve experienced, even in the midst of one of the most challenging emotional years I’ve had. I hope you’ll take the time to use it and I sincerely hope 2020 becomes the best year ever. But you have to be willing to take steps. And it starts today.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to where 2020 takes us together!

2019 By the Numbers

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Well, we are wrapping up 2019, and I wanted to spend today hitting some of the 3QL highlights. I’ve gone through three pretty significant changes in my life this year: losing my Father-in-law, moving (& starting a new job), having my first born transition into youth ministry, and losing my Father-in-law’s father.

Life has a natural ebb and flow to it, but it’s interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on the ebbs and flows. So, here are the highest clicked posts for each month. Read through the list, and if you see one you that peaks your interest, check it out!

January – It’s All About Perspective

February – Support Counts (This was the most viewed for 2019); Grief and Joy was a reflection on the passing of my Father-in-Law.

March – How the Day Ends was written in the middle of my move from Bronte to Kerrville

April – Lessons from the Farm: Dirty Hands was the highest viewed of my third Lessons from the Farm installment.

May – Defining Small Town & Leadership

June – Communicating Expectations is one of the things I personally return to most often in leadership

July – Mindset Makes the Difference (followed closely by Lessons from the Farm: The Right Tool)

August – The Father-Leader Paradox, which actually posted the end of July, so August’s new post high was Naming Leadership.

September – We had a low month and three posts tied, but my favorite of the three was Getting Corrective Lenses. You can read the other two here and here.

October – We All Need to be Reminded

November – Powerful Leadership

December – Leaders Show Up (which originally posted in November), so the most viewed December post to date was Mastering the Ask.

Closing thoughts: My favorite post of the year is one that, very recently, has popped back up and served to remind me of a key weakness in myself — Mistakes mean growth.

If you’ve stuck with me for the full year, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a shift. I’m not posting about developing student leaders as much as I did in 2017 and 2018. Part of that has been a natural by product of the shift I’ve gone through. As I started a new position, I’ve spent more time trying to develop adults and grow myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t have students who are leading, or that I’m not investing in students, it just means when I’ve sat down most mornings my thoughts have been on how I’m growing.

I believe with all I am that if I don’t grow as a leader, I cannot help those around me grow. This blog has been a great place for me to process the changes I’m experiencing. With the exception of November, I’ve remained extremely consistent to sit down and share my thoughts, and plan to continue that for 2020.

I do, however, think in 2020 we will slowly start to shift back to posts about developing students. I’m hoping to introduce some student leadership elements into our vision and programming, and it’s going to be interesting to adapt what I’ve known for a new context.

Thank You so much for joining me through this journey, and if it’s been a while, be sure to refresh on the 3 questions. Amazing things happen when we empower those around us to not only lead, but grow in their influence. That’s why I’m here, and I hope that’s why you’re here as well.

Also, if you aren’t already, be sure to subscribe to get 3QL posts in your inbox. On Friday I’m sending out an evaluation tool to email subscribers to help you reflect on 2019 and to make 2020 the best yet!

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