The Tension of the 3rd Question

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Last week I went to camp. One of my roles at camp was to teach leadership to a group of 12 students. What I did not anticipate, however, was the leadership challenge I was going to face in the process.

The kids were great. They were willing to step up and serve, they had humble spirits that were willing to learn, and they poured back into their own groups to make a difference.

The challenge was on my end. I had two roles while at camp: leadership and sound booth. There were certain times in the schedule where the two overlapped, and so I was faced with the tension of the 3rd question: both things need to happen, but I cannot accomplish both at the same time.

(Side note: If you do not know the 3 Questions, click here to read about them. The 3rd question asks “Who can I get to help?”)

The tension of the 3rd question boils down to this: asking other people to help actually helps us accomplish more. Revolutionary, right? Maybe not. In fact, this concept is completely logical. It makes perfect sense that the more people we ask to do something, the more we can get done.

The tension, then, comes when we as leaders would rather do something on our own for any number of reasons. Maybe there’s a certain level of glory in being in charge of something, or we enjoy accomplishing the task. But at the end of the day, if we want to lead, we have to answer the 3rd question.

So, today, what are you holding onto that you can let go? What is on your plate that overwhelms you, but you are afraid to ask for help? What can you ask someone to help with in order to create some forward momentum? Answer the third question this week and see what happens.

 

Where We Are With 3 Questions

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About 2 years ago I stumbled onto what I consider a pretty simple concept. It actually happened on a Sunday I took off, and was the result of evaluating a story I heard. Kind of crazy how things like that happen.

The bottom line is this: about 2 years ago, the 3 questions were born. This entire blog revolves around these three question, so click here to read a more in-depth explanation. But, as a refresher, the 3 questions are:

  1. What needs to be done?
  2. What can I do?
  3. Who can I get to help?

Today, I thought I would share where I am with these three questions. I have spent the last two years teaching these questions to my student leadership team, taking time after each mid-week program to evaluate how they did at answering the 3 questions. One of the key things I learned this year was the redundancy of asking the 3 questions.

Growing up I ate the same thing for breakfast about 90% of the time. My dad would make a batch of waffles at one time, and I would eat waffles every morning. There’s a rhythm in eating the same thing every day.

There’s also a rhythm in answering the 3 questions. It takes discipline, focus, and a desire to make a difference.

For working with teenagers (and I’m guessing the same would be true for adults), the challenge is finding a way to keep the ¬†3 questions fresh. After all, not everyone wants waffles everyday for breakfast.

So, this summer, on our leadership trip, I plan to sit down with a couple kids and re-evaluate how to implement the 3 questions. Even this is the 3 questions in use (what needs to be done-evaluation, what can I do-evaluate, who can I get to help-student leaders who have put the questions into practice.)

The bottom line is this: when I ask myself (and answer) the 3 questions, my leadership grows. It may not be flashy. It may not be exciting. But I see results. The 3 questions lead to leadership results. But everyone’s context is different.

There’s not much application today other than to say: learn to ask and answer the 3 questions. Your context may be different than mine, but I still believe whole heartedly you can expand your leadership influence when you regularly invite people to help you accomplish what needs to be done.

 

Owners and Hired Hands, pt 2

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As a follow up to last week’s post on the difference between owners and hired hands, today’s post is going to shift gears, for a moment. But before reading further, you need to read this post.

Jesus was the ultimate example of an owner teaching hired hands to become owners.

If you think about Jesus’s interactions with the disciples in the Gospels, he was constantly preparing them for a day when he would not be there.

The disciples, however, were slow learners. They regularly missed the point (see the Sons of Thunder), or only made sense of what was happening much later.

But, when push came to shove, in Acts we read how the disciples were able to step up when the situation called for it. Jesus prepared them for the leadership call they were going to face.

In your leadership, I’m not saying you have to be Jesus. But one of our strongest goals should be the desire to help people moved from hired hands to owners.

In ministry, this means equipping people to find a place to serve, and to allow them to serve!

Some of my favorite conversations are with teenagers when I tell them they have the freedom to make a decision and I’ll deal with the followup, or that when they are serving their way, I don’t have to worry about what they’re doing.

Leadership means bringing other people into ownership. But you have to extend the invitation. Find the people who are willing and ready to serve, and test the waters.

Communicating Expectations Well

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One of the things I have most enjoyed about blogging over the past year has been the lessons I have learned and processed through my writing. Almost a year ago, I broke an unwritten rule I have about not writing about an idea or topic that recently took place when I wrote about communicating expectations.

The truth is, that post came directly out of a lesson I learned while on our annual Spring Break trip. You can click the link above to read the full post, but the short version was I got frustrated because my adult leaders were not following the schedule I had worked up, but I had never given them a copy of the schedule. So, in reality, I was frustrated with myself, not with the incredible team of volunteers who serve in the youth ministry.

As I am spending this week getting ready for the same trip, I am keeping in the forefront of my mind: communicate expectations well.

I believe this is a foundational leadership principle for my personal journey. If those who serve with me do not know what I expect, how can I realistically hold them to those expectations?

Plus, I can be a rather intense person, so learning to write down and communicate those expectations helps me manage them to a more realistic level. In other words, my unspoken expectations are often unrealistic expectations.

So, I have two questions for you today.

  1. Do you struggle with communicating expectations? If I was to ask the people you lead what you expected of them, would their answer line up with your answer?
  2. On a grander scale, what leadership lesson have you learned in the last year and what changes are you making as a result?

Just a side note to finish today: this is why I am so passionate about teaching the 3 questions to student leaders. I can teach a simple concept, and we are then on the same page moving forward!

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.