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.

You Can Make a Difference

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In group settings, I usually tend to be a listener first.

I remember taking a senior level class in college with about 12 people. Somewhere around 7 weeks into the class I was talking in the hallway with someone else in the class and mentioned a concept we talked about. They paused and said “I forgot you were even in the class with us.”

What I am about to say does not come from an extrovert or someone who owns a room when they walk into it.

You can make a difference in any room you enter. Really, you can.

Not only can you make a difference, you need to develop a mindset that says “I will make a difference.”

I am not suggesting arrogance and conceit. Nor am I advocating being the center of attention. But, if we seriously intend to grow as leaders, if we genuinely want to expand our leadership influence, it starts with believing we can help.

Help. Influence. Impact. Whatever word you choose, the bottom line is the same: you have something to offer. But what is it? What do you bring to the table? What can you do better than anyone else around you?

I have a mentor who has a knack for finding people with leadership potential and giving them a platform to experiment. I know another friend who has an ability to connect with people and in turn connect people with people.

Influence happens not when we decide to have influence, but when we decide to make the most of what we have.

Leadership happens not when we decide to exhibit leadership, but when we decide to make the most of what we have.

I may be a listener first, but I aim to be able to understand a situation and provide new views and new ways to examine what is happening.  So not only do I listen, but I process at the same time.

As I seek to answer the 3 questions, I have to believe that I can help. You can help, too. Find a way to lead today.

Teaching Others To Dive Into Influence

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Teaching student leaders to answer the 3 questions has been quite a journey. I knew up front I would learn from the process, but never guessed the breadth and depth of what I would stumble across.

One learning, perhaps the most significant to date, is the difficulty of the first question. As a friend commented on a previous post, we have become a society where we are expected not to rock the boat, so we neglect having an awareness of what needs to be done.

On a more basic level, I think some people are born with a propensity to subconsciously ask the first question, whereas others are not. The challenge for us, as leaders, is to discover how those we lead are wired. As we learn who is more likely to self-initiate the first question, we know who we need to urge along the way.

Part of this boils down to having the belief that we can make a difference in a room or situation. If I do not believe I can exert influence, then there is no point in asking the 3 questions. If I, however, DO believe I can make a difference (large or small doesn’t matter to begin with), then the first question becomes my diving board.

So, today I have a few questions for you to think about:

  1. Which person are you? Do you naturally ask the first question, or is it a struggle for you? Be honest with yourself in this, but if I had to guess, you’re reading this because the 3 Questions resonate with you on some level.
  2. Think of three people you lead. One by one, consider whether they naturally ask the first question (whether they know it or not). What are the implications for your influence on them?
  3. Think of 2 people in your realm of influence to whom you can teach the 3 questions. Look for people who are naturally serving in some capacity, and let the questions become their diving board!

The Undercurrent, Part 2

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On Tuesday, I finished my post about the Undercurrent of the 3 Questions with this statement: The goal of leadership is to make the world a better place because of our having been in it. Today, I’d like to explore this idea a little more.

I serve as a youth minister at a small church in a small town, so the majority of my time spent developing leaders is spent with student leaders. Over the last few years I have been teaching our student leadership team to ask themselves the 3 questions, and it has been an interesting process.

The biggest hurdle has been trying to get a 14/15/16/17 year old to buy into the belief that they can make a difference. You see, there’s something scary about trying to lead your peers. There’s something scary about asking them to simply help you accomplish something.

A mindset shift is one of the biggest goals I have for them. I want them to know they can make a difference in a situation. I’m not talking about changing the world in a drastic way, which could happen down the road, but an acknowledging of the current potential in a situation.

My goal for student leaders is for them to understand they have the capability to change the atmosphere in a room. They can do little things to impact those around them, but positive influence rarely happens by accident. Negative influence, on the other hand, is infectious.

I want my student leaders to understand they can make the world a better place, but that starts by making the situations and people around them better.

I want to understand I can make the world a better place, but that starts by making the situations and people around me better.

And I want the same for you. Find a way today to positively influence someone. Make a difference even when you think you cannot. I’m cheering for you.