Landmarks and Memories

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Sometimes I wonder if everyone operates the same way I do. Today, let’s find out.

When I drive by certain landmarks and have a memory come to mind, it is generally something I was listening to at the time. As a result, I can drive by a windmill and remember the song that was playing, or under a bridge and remember a conversation I was having. Or, on a tractor, drive by a fence post and remember the point of the story I was at in an audiobook. Crazy, right?

But one place in particular is different. There is one spot between where I live and where I grew up that every time I drive by it, I feel like a 7th grader again.

Honestly, I do not know if the memory comes from that long ago or not, but it’s a spot where over time I have assigned a specific feeling: the feeling of awe at finally having arrived–being an athlete. It was undoubtedly one of my first early bus rides, but the emotion remains. Every time I drive by that spot, I feel optimistic, energetic, and old.

I may not know you well, but I’m going to guess you have something like that. It may be a spot where you fell in love. Maybe it is a note you keep in a safe space. It might be bigger, like your old car from high school, or your very first instrument. Or, maybe, it comes with a person. You think about the first person to encourage you to push for something more, or the first person to point something out to you.

Whatever it may be, I want you to think about this: you are not the same person you were in that moment, in that memory.

I am not a 7th grader anymore, though my wife may accuse me of acting like one from time to time. More than that, I had no clue I could ever become the person I am today.

Again, I would venture to say the same is true of you.

We change over time. We mature. We grow. We make mistakes. We get things right, and we grow some more.

Take a moment today and celebrate that you are not who you were in that memory. You are something more, something better, something different. And, if you’re not better than you were then, take a step today to correct that.

Leadership and Yard Work

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Yesterday was a milestone for me as a father. I have a busy week this week, so I took some time yesterday morning to mow my yard. This time around, however, was different. I had a helper.

My 10 year old, earlier this summer, went through Papa and Mimi Lawnmower training. So, naturally, as I prepared to mow yesterday, I recruited her to help. She was scared to try a bigger mower, so I had her edge until I got to one spot we agreed would be her spot.

Now, having grown up on the farm, I remember how this works on tractors. My dad would make the first round, then put me on the tractor to finish the rest. So I did the same.

I made the first round and it was ready for Anna. So, I called her over, had her sit down on the mower, and gave her the orientation. Throttle. Mower blades. Forward. Reverse. Brake. She was ready.

I stepped back and was ready to gloat at my incredible lawn mowing daughter. Then she took off. The first 5 seconds were magical, then I realized she couldn’t see where I had gone the first time.

She turned way too early. Skipped a mower width away from my initial cut, and consistently turned short, leaving skips on the ends.

Strangely enough, at this point I was not upset or angered. I only chuckled to myself and called her over. I pointed out where she missed, gave her some tips, and sent her on her way again, still watching.

Can you guess what happened next? She still made mistakes. So, I called her over and showed her a trick that I learned decades ago, and let her go at it again.

The leadership principle here? When we let someone do something new, we have to remember they don’t have the experience or judgment we have at the moment. Actually, we would do well to remind ourselves of the mistakes we made when we first started.

But, if you want to expand your leadership influence, you are going to have to fight the battle between “I can do better myself” and “I do not have time to do this.”

My daughter is years away from being a professional yard care expert, but this summer she has had a great start.

Everyone has to start somewhere. The question becomes, are we going to give them their start or not?

The Power of Devotion

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Last night at church we read Colossians 4:2 – “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Then, I asked what the people in the room were devoted to.

The answers, naturally, were varied. I had put a qualifier on the question that I didn’t want church answers, that I hoped we were are all devoted to Jesus. From there, the answers given were sports, band, eating, and one spouse (an adult, of course).

This got me thinking about my own life. Of course I am devoted to God first and foremost. After that, I would like to think I’m devoted to my wife and family. From there, however, what comes next.

Devotion is such a strong word. There are some things that I feel like are okay to be devoted to: God, family, work, etc. There are, however, some things I would hesitate to identify as being devoted to, smaller things. Things that I can be interested in, but devotion carries a next level connotation.

That brings me to this blog in and of itself. Honestly, I’m devoted to this blog. Granted, my devotion is not an all out devotion, but here it is Thursday morning and I’m writing yet another post. There’s a definite devotion to the process that has been taking place for the better part of the past 17 months or so.

But really, my devotion is not to this blog. My devotion is to becoming a better leader. My devotion is to help you become a better leader. My devotion is to process the things I am learning each week by writing them out, in the hopes that as I process through different ideas, you’re able to make the journey with me.

So, two thoughts to wrap us up today: First, thank you so very much for joining me on this journey. Thank you for commenting online or in person. Thank you for subscribing in your email (as simple as that sounds). Thank you for sharing on social media when a post speaks to you.

Second, to what are you devoted? Top three aside, are you devoted to growing as a leader? Are you devoted to making those around you better? Are you devoted to leading in a way people want to line up and support you along the way? I’d like to challenge you today to spend some time thinking about your own devotion.

Christ first, always. Family next. Maybe even work after that. But, what about leadership? What about growth? What about joy? To what are you devoting your efforts?

Avoid Getting Distracted

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I love grilling. Over the past six years, especially, I have started to experiment more and more with recipes, rubs, and types of meat. It has been a wonderful journey.

Last night, unfortunately, I was reminded of something: I am not an expert, and I cannot multi-task very well.

We had some friends over for supper last night, so I decided to grill some ribs. I put them on the grill, but it was late at night so I wanted them to cook a little faster than I usually cook, so I violated a policy I have when grilling: leave the middle burner off. (My policy comes from experiences with flare ups mainly.)

I went inside to take care of something in the kitchen, and while doing so my youngest daughter comes running inside saying “Daddy, your ribs are smoking!” I ran outside to find the flare up of all flare ups.

In leadership, beware of the temptation to multi-task. There are going to be things in your experience where you know you have to keep some safeguards in place (no middle burner), unless you can devote all of your attention to the task at hand.

I truly believe trying to multi-task often only means divided attention and weakened results. Focus on the job at hand. Keep your mind on what you’re doing. Carve out time later to jump to the next project, but make the most of the time you have in the moment.

The good news: I was able to salvage most of the ribs last night.

The bad news: I lost one. Well, one rib had a custom blackened crust on it.

Beware the distractions that pop up in your leadership and keep you from focusing.

Communicating Expectations

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You know, for someone who has written 150+ blog posts about leadership, you might think I would learn some of my own stuff along the way.

Last week we took a trip, and one of the biggest tensions on the trip was the realization that I had not clearly communicated expectations.

Years ago, I realized that trips would go smoother if I were able to communicate what I expect from students on a trip, so I typed up a sheet with about 15 bullet points. Most of them were simple (work hard, respect adults, Christ first, etc.). Each trip I pass those expectations out, and we go over them. It’s been a solid approach for a number of years.

Then, last week, I realized something I had left off the list. In fact, it was something I have never considered as part of the communicating expectations part of any trip. The result: pain and anguish.

I would get frustrated and respond to situations poorly because I was frustrated, but because I wanted to show grace, I would relax my guideline. So, basically what was happening was the kids on the trip never knew what to expect. How was I going to react? They couldn’t predict, so they coped in their own way.

The tag line on this site is “helping expand your leadership influence.” If I could challenge you to do one thing, aside from asking the 3 Questions, I would implore you to learn to clearly and specifically communicate expectations.

Leadership does not happen in a vacuum. When I blog, I am not speaking only about self-leadership. Leadership happens when we create movement in a group of people toward a common goal. Leadership happens when we lead others to accomplish something.

But, if the people you are leading do not know what to expect, they will either live in a state of second guessing and fear, or they will go off the rails doing what they want.

Learn to effectively communicate expectations, whether it be behaviorally, situationally, results, or interactions. When you make it clear what you expect, the number of people who line up to follow you will continue to grow.