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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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.

The Undercurrent of the 3 Questions

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If you have been with me from the beginning, or even for the past few months, you have likely read about the foundation for 3QL. If not, please check it out by clicking here.

The short version is a few years ago I stumbled onto three questions I have since been teaching student leaders. I hope to train and equip student leaders (and adults, too) to change their mindset when encountering different situations.

Here’s why: I believe we, as leaders, can influence the direction of an organization (or a situation) by being intentional. The influence may not provide immediate results, resulting in a painstakingly slow process, but it can be done.

Let’s think about this another way: when I become part of something, I want it to get better. How do I help make it better? By increasing my awareness (what needs to be done), my willingness (what can I do), and my leadership (who can I get to help).

One of my main goals is to raise up a generation of leaders who get involved, stay involved, and when they leave, leave things better because they were there. In student ministry, the results seem simple enough to measure. In the real world, however, things are usually trickier.

But the question has to start with me: am I making the things around me better? Am I equipping and training other people to accomplish what I’m accomplishing? Am I hogging responsibilities and thus preventing someone else from doing something they love? Am I setting my church (and not just the student ministry) up to win because of my time spent serving?

The goal of leadership is to make the world a better place because of our having been in it. What are you doing to equip those around you to be influencers and not participators? What steps can you take this week to help others grow their influence?