Category: Leadership Journey

Simple Shifts

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Since I started writing here two years ago, I have always moved back and forth in content from personal observations about leadership to lessons I was learning while trying to teach the three questions to a group of students to lessons about leadership I was learning (or struggling to learn) about my own influence.

The next few weeks I am going to toy with a little more structure to that. Tuesday posts are going to be more about personal leadership development, whereas Thursdays will center me on reflections on leadership conversations I’ve been having as I try to increase those conversations in my current context. In addition, you’ll also get a Flashback Friday, where I share a post from deep in the 3QL archives. Spoiler alert: my early writing was probably my best, so don’t skimp on the flashbacks.

So, onward we go.

What I’m going to say is hardly revolutionary, but it’s something I’ve had to learn. I retain better when I read.

Part of my startup to the day routine (inspired by Michael Hyatt) for the past 6-7 months has been to watch a leadership video of some sort from RightNow Media. The majority of the videos have been of John Maxwell sharing insights.

The challenge? I can “multi-task” while the video is playing. Sure, occasionally I would pull out my journal and jot down thoughts or responses to what was covered, but for the most part, the videos ended up being background noise.

The past two weeks, however, I’ve replaced that video with reading. I’m not spending a significant chunk of time on reading, but just making myself pause to read produces a different result.

I can’t be looking at the calendar while I’m reading. I can’t start checking email while I’m reading. I can’t start piddling with whatever is on my computer screen while I’m reading.

The simple act of picking up a book helps me zero in on my purpose for that time. And guess what? The quality of that start to my day has increased by a multiple of ten.

There is something you’re doing right now to help you grow, that really isn’t helping you grow. It may be from the right place and with the right intention, but you and I both know it’s not helpful.

Change it.

If you’re serious about expanding your leadership influence, do not settle for something that doesn’t help you move forward.

For me, the shift has been actually reading instead of a video. For you, that shift may be something different – a leadership podcast instead of music on your way to work, or a weekly phone call with someone who pushes you and challenges you to be better.

Whatever it is for you, make the shift today.

3 Signs to Know It’s Time to Start a Student Leadership Program

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If you’ve followed me for very long, you know that I moved to a new church last March. Since moving, I’ve been able to do some reflecting on the transition, specifically when it comes to creating a culture of leadership.

One of my greatest learnings is there is a difficult balance between “time in” and movement forward.

My brother once told me one of his professors talked about a ministerial checking account. Every minister, when starting a new ministry, gets a relational checking account from which they can write checks. Big changes require big checks. But it’s very difficult to add credit to the account. Therefore, more often than not, a minister will overdraft their relational accounts too quickly.

Full transparency: I still don’t know if I’ve waited too long to start, but this week I’m rolling out an introductory version of a leadership team.

I do know this: when I think back over the grand arc of my time in my previous church (almost 7 years total), there was never a grand sweeping change. Everything was done bit by bit. We started with a leadership trip one summer. Then we adjusted the trip the following summer. The next year I added monthly meetings. The year after that we moved away from monthly meeting and toward weekly follow ups (which ended up being our sweet spot).

Developing a leadership culture was a process literally years in the making.

How do you know when it is time to start implementing a student leadership program? Here are three signs I’m using.

  1. You have students in the room. You don’t have to have the right students. Too often we can fall into the trap of what we want versus what we have. Don’t. Work with what you have and you’ll be ready for what’s to come.
  2. You have the relational capital to leverage your own influence. If you’re trying to turn the boat, it takes time. If you’re asking for someone to make a big change, make sure you’ve built up the trust first.
  3. You have a grasp of the culture. I never want to let my experience dictate what I do next. I do, however, want it to influence what I do next. That means I have to understand the culture of where I am, and that culture is different from anywhere I’ve been before. This is always true. No church culture is the same. There is always something different.

Keep leadership conversations going. I am just now starting a leadership team, but I’ve had countless leadership conversations along the way. It’s part of my regular vocabulary, and so when an opportunity presents itself, I’m talking about leveraging influence.

Final Thoughts on 2019

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In August of 2018 I was on vacation with my family in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was flipping through some files and remembered I had set a goal of reading x number of books. Unfortunately, I had forgotten and fallen behind.

I started reading in August with the intent of catching up to my goal, somewhat, and made some progress. But in December of 2018, I realized something: I had sabotaged myself.

I can chase a lot of rabbits at this point, but let me just say I don’t buy into New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve set them, and failed at them, like almost everyone else.

I do, however, believe in the momentum that January brings. I took a little time 12 months ago to set some 2019 goals and reaped the benefit. I simply used the momentum and excitement of something new, and allowed it to push me past the start line.

I spoke at a retreat for a friend right before New Year’s day. One of the things I did was give the group a single sheet of paper and time to fill it out. It only had three questions, but not these three questions. In preparing for the talk, I did a dry run of the sheet and realized a few key things about my life in 2018. As a result, I made a couple changes.

First, I wrote down my goals in a note on my Evernote account. I had four areas, with a specific goal in each. A couple of them had to do with a number (36 books this year), the rest were about rhythms and routines. But I decided it was going to be something I checked regularly because we move toward what’s in front of us. If I wanted to meet my goals, I had to be reminded of them.

The time I spent on that sheet was minimal, but the difference has been incredible. As long as I don’t lose my mind between today and January 1, I will have lost (and kept off) close to 40 pounds in 2019, established a solid morning routine (thanks to The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod), and exceeded my goal of 36 books (12 read, 24 audio). These may seem small, but the reality is I was able to enter the year with focus, and each of the goals tied together–one of the first books I read in 2019 helped me establish a morning routine that has given structure to my year and helped me be more consistent than ever in my life!

All of that to say: tomorrow, 3QL subscribers will receive the same worksheet that set me up for one of the most incredible years of personal growth I’ve experienced, even in the midst of one of the most challenging emotional years I’ve had. I hope you’ll take the time to use it and I sincerely hope 2020 becomes the best year ever. But you have to be willing to take steps. And it starts today.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to where 2020 takes us together!

Waiting is the Worst

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Waiting is the worst.

Waiting for culture to change. Waiting for seeds to grow. Waiting for change to acclimate.

The bottom line is that change rarely happens quickly, until it does.

Occasionally, you will see drastic change or dramatic results. It may seem like those things happened in an instant, but what if they didn’t?

What if the waiting is the most critical part of the change? What if during the waiting you spend time preparing for the change, to the best of your ability?

I’ve written before about the Horizon of Possibility, meaning basically as a leader we have the ability to look at what is and see what could be. You may not know exactly what’s going to happen, and for some things you may never be able to fully prepare, but if in the waiting, you make the most of your waiting, what could happen when the tide turns?

What are you waiting for at this moment? How are you preparing for the coming change right now? Live in the now so you can be ready when the time comes.

Leadership is Tough

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Leadership is tough. The constant battle that wages war between finding a groove and not being satisfied with where things are can take a toll over time.

Comfort versus progress provide the background for an ongoing tension.

That’s where vision and focus come into play. During seasons where comfort starts to settle into a situation, a clear vision helps me move forward.

Knowing what your target should be helps orient your aim at the end of the day. Having an idea of how to track your success and growth helps you not feel overwhelmed.

What’s your vision and focus for your current context? Do you have one? How are you measuring your successfulness? Ministers, is it attendance? Is it buy in? Is it something else?

As a leader, no one in the organization is as committed to the success and fruitfulness of your area as you are (or should be). Few people you lead lay their head down at night worrying about that little detail that has been rubbing you the wrong way all day.

You carry a burden for the success and growth of your ministry (or business). The burden, at times, feels feather light, while at other times it feels like a bag of bricks. That’s the burden of leadership. Your greatest test as a leader may not be your success as much as your endurance. If you can run the race and remain faithful, your impact over the years gains positive perspective. But you have to remain faithful where you are. You have to remain committed.

So, once again, what your vision and focus for your current context? What are you aiming for? Are you hitting it? Are there changes that need to be made? Are you willing to make the changes?

The reality is that leadership is tough, but you have an opportunity to take a stand and make the kind of difference you’re called to make. Hang in there, and keep expanding your leadership influence.

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