Today we are continuing our Lessons from the Farm series. You can click to see some of the previous posts that deal with learning when to stop, when to keep going, perspective, and working until the job is done.
Have you ever passed a cattle truck on the highway? Have you ever thought about how much weight is on the truck?
Or how about a grain truck?
Maybe you don’t know the difference between the two. A truck is a truck, right?
Well, let me let you in on a secret: every truck driver hauling a load of cattle is interested in how much weight they are hauling for several reasons, but one in particular: because there are a group of people on the highways who are very interested in how much weight a cattle truck is hauling.
That group of people are so interested, in fact, they are willing to stop a truck and weigh it themselves. Sometimes, they will even use the red and blue lights on top of their vehicles to assist in pulling the truck over.
There are laws as to how much weight a truck can weigh. So, lighter trailers are worth more because you haul more weight if your starting weight is lower.
These are all things the average person will never know. These are all things I still don’t fully understand. But someone in charge of an operation is heavily invested in not getting a fine for having too large of a load.
As a leader, you may not get pulled over to check the weight, but there are things you need to know (and care about) that other people will never consider. Things like organizational health, relational health, growth metrics, attendance, and engagement.
As a leader, in fact, your investment into these factors should be significantly higher. Understanding key metrics about your ministry (or business) will make you a better leader.
I’ve written about this before, but leadership needs to be intentional. We make decisions to move in a direction, otherwise we drift aimlessly. Intentional leadership means we are aiming at something. It doesn’t mean we are stuck aiming at the same thing for years to come, but we are aiming at something.
So, what are you looking at in your ministry to help you know the weight on the trailer? What are your metrics for success? Is it program attendance? Is it volunteer engagement? Is it the financial bottom line? Camp signups?
Take some time today to work through this, if you haven’t already. Learn the weight limits you have, and grow your leadership influence.
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It’s that time of year again: time for Lessons from the Farm.
This is my third year to post about different leadership learnings I picked up while growing up working on my dad’s farm. You can click to see some of the previous posts that deal with learning when to stop, when to keep going, perspective, and working until the job is done.
Now, on to today’s lesson from the farm.
One of the benefits of growing up working on the farm is getting to drive. I was driving a tractor at the mature age of 7. Around 9 or so, I started driving pickups around the farm.
One summer, I was spending a few days at what we call “the Ranch” – my paternal grandparents’ operation. My aunt needed to feed some cattle, and asked me to go with her.
We rolled out to the pasture in what, to my mind, was an awesome pickup – a late 70s green extended cab Ford pickup. We didn’t have a pickup like this on my dad’s farm. His were way worse (at least, in my mind).
We got to the field and my aunt decided the best plan was to have me drive, while she sat on the tailgate opening sacks of feed and dumping them out as we drove along. Pretty standard procedure, and well within my realm of ability.
Except for one thing: that wonderful green pickup had a touchy gas pedal.
I’m not going to say that I popped wheelies that day, but I think my aunt thought that was what I was trying to do. After getting thrown off the back of the pickup about three times, she helped me figure out what I was doing, and we finished the job.
In leadership situations, sometimes we don’t realize how touchy the gas pedal really is.
A situation we see with an obvious solution may give people on our team whiplash when not approached appropriately.
A decision we are ready to make may carry a few more consequences than we anticipate.
Two different relationships we are trying to establish will move at different speeds.
Approaching each of these situations with awareness and discernment will pay dividends in the long run. As you lead, be careful to not lead so quickly or furiously that the people sitting on the tailgate get thrown out of the pickup.
Ultimately, however, as a leader, we accomplish more when we master the gas pedal. When we are leading people, we have to remember that our goal is not just forward movement, but forward movement together.
What situation are you in where you keep throwing people off the tailgate? What situation are you in where you need to go ahead and press the gas and move forward?
Every time I sit down to write, my hope is that as you read this you start nodding your head in agreement, thinking to yourself, “This is really good stuff.” I would even take a, “hmmm…that’s interesting.” And I would be thrilled with an audible “A-ha!”
Well, on Tuesday, I had one of those reactions to the post below. I have linked to some Carey Nieuwhof blog posts before, and if you’re not connected with him through his blog or podcast, you really should check him out.
But, a few days ago, he posted a blog titled “How to Stack Your Leadership Pipeline With The Best Volunteers and Team Members.” If you are a leader, specifically a church leader, and even more specifically a Youth Ministry leader, you need to check it out.
Towards the beginning of the post he talks about the two kind of team members: leaders and doers. Here’s a clip:
Leaders gladly rise to a challenge and can take others with them.
Doers, on the other hand, prefer to do what you tell them and little more.
Effective organizations build teams of leaders, not just teams of doers.Carey Nieuwhof
Following that, he sets out five steps to tell the difference from the recruiting stage, and it’s worth the click over to read it.
Think of your favorite vehicle. Not your dream vehicle, but out of the vehicles you’ve owned, what has been your favorite?
For me, it was a GMC Yukon. It had after market rims, but that wasn’t what I loved about it. You want to know what I loved? Heated seats and an automatic start. It was my first vehicle with both.
I loved driving that Yukon. My youngest was still an infant, and that car was a dream, except for the mileage.
Every vehicle since then has been compared to that Yukon, and probably from here on out (until I find a new favorite), every new-ish vehicle I get will get compared to it.
The same is true in leadership. We compare what we see to what we have seen.
The comparison of the present to the past is not negative, unless we let it become that way. The past, when remembered fondly, grows more legendary with every positive remembrance.
When my wife and I first got married we were broke college students who could barely afford to eat out, and only if that eating out was 49 cent tacos at Taco Bell. We were broke. But guess what, I look back on that time with great love. But I would never go back to it.
Our memory will naturally elevate the glory of things we remember fondly. The opposite is true, as well. Negative memories, when left unresolved, will grow more negative, as well.
Back to leadership. In our personal lives, we compare what we see to what we have seen. This could be positive or negative, depending on our approach.
As with most things, I advocate for awareness. When I realize I have a bias toward the present based on the past, then I am more likely to take what I see for what it is, not for what it has been previously.
Put another way, just because something went poorly in the past, doesn’t mean the ending is the same this time, although sometimes it is.
Just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean it’s the best way of accomplishing something, although sometimes it is.
Just because someone betrayed you in the past, doesn’t mean a new someone will treat you the same way, although sometimes it does.
Allow the past to inform the present, not dictate it. Learn from your experiences, but don’t allow them to handcuff you.
And understand the people you lead are searching for the same balance along the way. Help them navigate the present and the past, and watch your leadership influence grow.
The genesis of my blogging adventure began with a simple concept: sharing three questions I started teaching students leaders to ask and answer in an attempt to expand their leadership influence.
If you’re new to 3QL, I would encourage you to go check out the Foundation to see a short summary of the namesake for this endeavor. Go ahead, this post will wait for you.
The abbreviated version boils down to this: When you walk into a room (or encounter a situation in general), ask yourself…
Lately I’ve been reflecting on the simplicity of the questions. Asking and answering the questions opens doors we could never imagine, but the three questions are also counter intuitive.
One of the easiest lies to buy into is that leadership belongs to those at the front (of the line, of the organization, of the room). But we all have seen the impact someone can have on a room from a seat that’s not the front.
So leadership is not limited to the front. John Maxwell’s second law of leadership is “The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less.” When we grow our influence, we grow our leadership.
The same is true in Youth Ministry (and life in general). When we teach students (or anyone) to ask and answer the three questions, what we are doing is preparing them to make an impact where they are.
If you’re reading this today, let me issue a challenge. A student doesn’t have to pay dues before having influence. Granted, there are benefits to life experience, but the gamble we take in Youth Ministry is waiting too long to provide leadership opportunities.
Don’t wait. Develop leaders regardless of their age. You never know what may happen. Pour into your older students, but also be willing to pour into and invest in your younger students as well. When you build a balance, you’ll be amazed at the difference you’ll begin to notice.
And if you’re not sure where to start, get a group of students with hearts of a servant, teach them the three questions, and ask them how they answered the questions. You’ll be amazed at what begins to happen.