Embrace Your Strength

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How well do you know yourself? What settings do you find yourself naturally gravitating toward and thriving as a result?

I work better in a collaborative setting. When I have the opportunity to work with a group of people, my creativity goes through the roof.

For example, last year I worked with an intern. The greatest benefit was having someone with whom I could talk through decisions and ideas. When left to myself, I bog down in possibilities and options.

What about you? How do you thrive? Do you find yourself being rejuvenated by working alone? Or maybe you feel like working in a group helps you present your best?

If you have never considered this before, take just a minute and think about the last month. How many times have you tried to get together with a group of people? How many gatherings have you avoided? When did you feel energized?

Some people do better by themselves, where others thrive in community. Neither is right or wrong, unless you’re going against your wiring.

Once you have evaluated and decided how best you work, embrace it. Because I do better in group settings, I have built group times into my schedule. I have two to three groups I meet with on a regular basis, whether it be lunch, catching up, or coffee. Our time together may not always be about ministry or leadership, but I regularly grow as a result. My schedule reflects my leanings.

If you do better alone, find time to get away. Let your calendar reflect your strengths. Schedule in times to get creative.

One final word, balance is important. I may lean towards working better in a group, but I still have to find time to work alone. You may work better alone, but you cannot hide from group work completely.

Know your strength. Play to your strength. Embrace your strength. But do not neglect your weakness. Find the balance.

Know Yourself: Trust Your Instincts

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Have you ever seen Napoleon Dynamite? Unfortunately, the story that follows may make me seem a lot like Napoleon, and the comparison is very likely true.

In high school, I was in FFA. As part of my FFA experience, I joined the Dairy Products judging team. Our contests did not occur like the scene in Napoleon Dynamite (where he sits at a table on a stage, drinks some milk, and says the cow had gotten into an onion patch), but the basic principle of the contest was similar.

Our team would split into different groups and we would rotate through different rooms: milk, cheese, natural/artificial, and a written test. In each room, there would be a number of samples and our role was to determine the identity or defect of each sample.

I judged dairy products for four years and walked away with quite possibly one of the most productive life lessons I have ever gained, but it wasn’t how to tell if milk has gone bad.

I learned to trust my first instinct.

I remember one contest in particular, maybe my Junior year. It was early in the judging season, and the contest was right up my alley because it did not include the written test.

We went through the contest, turned in our scorecards, and our Ag teacher took us back through the contest so we could see how we did. Well, as we went through, I realized I scored a perfect score. I did not miss a single defect, flavor, or texture. I was ecstatic, until the awards ceremony.

I was wrong. I missed one milk defect (still impressive, but not perfect). The confusion came because I second guessed myself and changed my answer on my official scorecard, but not on the one I kept for after the contest.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day: trust my first instinct because it generally will not let me down.

Since that contest, especially in school, I learned to trust my gut, especially on tests and homework. Still today, however, I have worked this into my identity as I set out to accomplish different tasks.

Often times today that first instinct is a nagging feeling that I need to have a tough conversation with someone, or that something needs to change. Sometimes, my first instinct is to simply listen, or to walk away.

So, let me ask you today: do you know yourself? Are you the same way? What have you learned about yourself in your leadership journey? Can you trust your first instinct, or are you better when you deliberate?

Don’t Be Surprised

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I think we all pick up leadership lessons to which we continually return. You learned something along your leadership journey, then forget what you learned, then are reminded of the validity of the lesson.

Recently, I found myself returning to a simple principle I learned a few years ago: don’t let someone’s character surprise you.

Along your leadership journey you will encounter more and more people. After a period in the same situation, you will start to learn more about individuals-their interests, habits, and character.

Then, one day, the inevitable will happen. Someone will do something to disappoint you. They will drop the ball on a project. They will show up late, again. They will gossip. They will fail to show up at all. Any number of possibilities, and they leave you, the leader, dealing with the fall out.

Before you take it out on them, or if you’re like me, take it out on yourself, ask yourself one thing: is this in line with who I know them to be? Do these actions line up with their past behavior?

I cannot promise the answer to this question will soften the blow for you, but I learned a long time ago if I can avoid expecting people to behave in the same way I would behave, I will be much healthier.

We all have faults. I can change my faults. I cannot change yours, nor can I change the faults of those I lead. I can encourage change in others, but I can only change myself.

What recent disappointment in your life resulted from expecting your values and character from someone else? How have you worked through that disappointment? Take some time today to process the situation through the lens of “don’t let someone’s character surprise you”, and see what changes.

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Check It Out: Digital Reading and Student Comprehension

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Today I thought we would shift gears a little bit and link to an article from Tim Elmore. Yesterday I got in an online discussion about reading physical books vs. ebooks. I tend to carry a Kindle and a physical book at all times in my backpack, although I like reading from my kindle a little more.

Then, today, imagine my surprise when the Growing Leaders blog delivered to my inbox dealing with the same topic, but framed in student comprehension. I thought it was worth passing on, so click here to read it.

Not convinced? Here’s a clip.

Researchers found that digital reading was faster but less effective as a tool for helping students process and learn information. What’s interesting is that although their retention was worse when reading online, the students surveyed believed that reading online improved their retention.

I really like the application they suggest at the end of the article, which I plan to implement almost immediately.

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6 Tips to Implement the 3 Questions

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Let’s zoom in on local church ministry today. How can you use the 3 questions to help develop student leaders? (Not sure what the 3 Questions are? Click here to read more.)

  1. Teach them to ask the 3 questions. Make the 3 questions part of your language. Repeat each question individually, challenging them to incorporate the questions into how they approach situations. Do not neglect the repetition it takes to change mindsets, because it takes a lot of repetition.
  2. Give them opportunities to put the questions into practice. Go one step further by highlighting different opportunities they might have to influence a room. Walk with them through the process, pointing out the opportunities they missed or how they naturally worked through the process. Early on, you will find some who work through the questions naturally, and others who struggle. That’s okay, everybody is here to learn, including you.
  3. Highlight the positive. When you see a student answering the 3 questions, celebrate it! As you celebrate more and more, you will see more and more students buy into the concepts. Create a culture, at the beginning, where positive reinforcement reigns.
  4. Evaluate Regularly. If you want your students to put the 3 Questions into practice, find a time to regularly evaluate. For my ministry context, I send out a reminder text prior to our mid-week service, and we sit down following the service to share how we answered the 3 questions. The students know what’s coming, and they know they’re going to be asked how they answered the 3 questions.
  5. Personally commit to becoming a better leader. As a leader, you will not be able to lead someone to accomplish what you’re not pursuing yourself, so make the 3 questions part of what you do on a regular basis. Build them into your vocabulary. Evaluate situations you encounter with the 3 questions. As you learn the ins and outs of the 3 questions, you’ll be able to highlight those ins and outs with your students and help them along the way.
  6. Never forget the why. The 3 questions are a tool to teach and implement servant leadership. Why do we implement servant leadership? Because the greatest example we hold as Christians was quite possibly the greatest servant leader to ever live. I want to teach students (and adults) to answer the 3 questions so they can influence the world for Christ.