Big Picture

3 Thoughts on See You at the Pole

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Yesterday was when schools all around the nation observed See You at the Pole. This event began almost 30 years ago as a group of students planned to gather around their flagpole and pray for their classmates, teachers, administration, and country. Over the years, it has grown, even crossing national borders.

Last week I heard someone allude to how they thought it was played out. That got me thinking about my experience with See You at the Pole (SYATP), so naturally, you get to peruse my thoughts.

  1. SYATP works best when it is student led, beginning to end. In fact, that should be the only way it’s run. As a Youth Minister, I get to share in the routine of my work. Why rob students of the opportunity to share?
  2. SYATP is an incredible leadership development opportunity. While I always encourage students to take the lead, I do offer suggestions to help them process through the emotions that some of them are facing (fear of speaking in public, being afraid to start, unsure of how to organize, etc.). In my previous context, I watched Junior High students stand up and lead High School students at SYATP. When else does that happen!
  3. Praying for schools, classmates, teachers, administrators, and our country is never played out. Having a prayer time at a flag pole just to be seen, well Jesus addressed that mindset. I do see my role as a spiritual leader is to help students process through their “why” – is it to pray or to be seen? Does it have to be on the 4th Wednesday of September? Is there another way to accomplish the same thing?

Full confession: I’m in a new context this year. We had a solid rhythm in our previous context, but this year I chose to sit back and observe. As a result, I saw a student step up in a way I did not expect. Again, leadership opportunities. Other campuses were underwhelming. Missed leadership opportunities.

What are your thoughts on See You at the Pole? What has your experience been?

The bottom line is this: your perspective shapes the way you see the world. When you look for opportunities, you find them.

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Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Quotes on Leadership

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I recently finished a short John Maxwell book (Self Improvement 101) with a wealth of worthy quotes. I thought today I would share a few of those with you:

“Whenever I mentor people and help them discover their purpose, I always encourage them to start the process by discovering their strengths, not exploring their shortcomings. Why? Because people’s purpose in life is always connected to their giftedness.”

“If you desire to be an effective leader, you must develop the ability to develop people in their areas of strength.”

“The greatest enemy of learning is knowing, and the goal of all learning is action, not knowledge.”

“Cultivate friendships with people who challenge and add value to you, and try to do the same for them. It will change your life.”

“Most people don’t realize that unsuccessful and successful people do not differ substantially in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”

“The ironic thing is that change is inevitable. Everybody has to deal with it. On the other hand, growth is optional. you can choose to grow or fight it. But know this: people unwilling to grow will never reach their potential.”

And one last one: “Someone told me that only one-third of all adults read an entire book after their last graduation. Why would that be? Because they view education as a period of life, not a way of life.”

I don’t know if you’ve stumbled across Maxwell’s 101 series, but they are quick reads that are packed with challenges and insight. If you’re serious about growing in your own leadership, they are definitely worth checking out. What change do you need to make today so education becomes a way of life, not a period of life?

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Big Picture, In the Trenches, Incoherent Ramblings

The Practice Field

The Practice Field
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Football. I grew up in a time before turf fields were readily accessible to small high schools. That meant two things: 1) our main field was grass and had to be watered to be maintained; and 2) we had a practice field.

Now, our practice field was slightly more than dirt. We would utilize every spare patch of grass for tackling drills, just so we didn’t get unnecessarily scraped and cut on the dirt.

Now, schools have turf fields and I regularly see high school teams practicing their game field, which makes perfect sense.

But I realized something yesterday. There’s a disparity between practice and performance. Growing up, I think people expected we had spent time practicing during the week, but the crowd showed up for the performance.

If you do the math, we spent significantly more time on the run down practice field than we did on the lush game field. Why? Because our development in practice meant success in the game.

Let me say that again: Our development in practice meant success in the game.

The same is true of leadership. The amount of time I spend preparing myself to lead through reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and seeking to learn from other leaders helps me develop as a leader. My development outside of leadership situations means success in leadership situations.

The same is true with student leaders. Throwing someone into a leadership situation is a tried and tested way to grow their leadership, but if we want their leadership to multiply, it happens away from the situation as we either prepare them beforehand, evaluate afterwards, or some combination of both. Put another way, their development in practice means success in the game.

How are you developing yourself? What are you doing to develop your leadership understanding? Have you built leadership development into your rhythm?

What about those of us who lead students? Are we preparing them for leadership? Are we helping them grow by being intentional away from the opportunities?

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Incoherent Ramblings

Act Now or Wait?

stop and go
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I’m a terrible bargain hunter. What I mean is, if I find a bargain, regardless of a need, I try to convince myself (and my finance department) of my need for it. In those moments, I tend to live with an incredible sense of urgency, hoping to never miss the opportunity.

The rest of the time, however, I tend to let things run their course, rarely getting in a hurry. I live by a pan mentality–It’ll all pan out eventually.

The balance between action and patience is one of the most challenging parts of leadership for me. Over time I have seen some problems resolve themselves naturally, usually problems in my realm of influence.

But when it’s a problem in another leader’s realm of influence, their patience and waiting often drives me crazy. Oh, the hypocrisy.

There’s obviously a line between waiting and action, and the *blessing of leadership is learning to walk the tight rope. Act too soon or too often, and you become Chicken Little declaring a falling sky at every turn. Wait too long, and you’re the Titanic trying to avoid an iceberg.

Great leaders know when to act. Great leaders also know when to hesitate. After all, if the answer was to always do one or the other, everyone could master it. There would be no intuition, no mistakes, no nuance.

If you’re like me, you lean to one side over the other. Which side is it? Do you tend to act or tend to wait?

Now, if your tendency is action, is there a situation around you demanding waiting to act?

If your tendency is waiting, what situation around you requires action?

Respond appropriately today and allow your leadership influence to grow!

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Incoherent Ramblings

2 Steps to Developing Student Leaders

Play it Again
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Do you ever hear something and find it popping back into your mind from time to time? Like a song that gets stuck in a loop in your head, but a sentence.

I’m guessing we all do this with different things and to varying degrees. A criticism, a compliment (generally less often), or a generic statement all contain the ability to hang around like a nagging cough. Sometimes, though, the thought provides opportunity for growth.

This past summer, as I was leading a group of student leaders at camp, one of them made a statement that has been bouncing around in my head for months. As we were talking about their own leadership growth, they said “You know, I’ve always been told I had leadership potential, but no one ever showed me how to leverage it.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

This sentence has been on repeat in my head ever since, and not just in a leadership sense. This student had been told what for years, but never how.

Does that give you pause? I know I’ve had the benefit of pondering it for a couple months, but do you see the truth in the statement.

It is so easy for us (yes, I fall into this too) to simply acknowledge a gift someone has. In fact, when it comes to leadership, that’s one of the things I value the most–I want to let a student know I see something in them. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it can make them feel good about themselves for a moment.

But do we show students how to lead? The reality is equipping a student (or anyone) to lead is risky. What if they don’t buy into what we’re teaching? What if they don’t achieve what we see as their potential? What if I don’t really know what I’m doing, and they realize my inadequacy?

The struggle is real. Should I put a hashtag with that? That would up my street cred, right?

#thestruggleisreal

So, how do start to shift from merely acknowledging a gift a student has, to equipping them to take the necessary steps? Here are two steps I’d suggest:

  1. Encourage them to start seeking opportunities to leverage their influence. I do this through teaching the three questions. If a student will begin looking for ways to make a difference and people to invite to help them do so, then the momentum starts to pick up. A student who has been told time and again the what but never the how will jump at the opportunity to act on what others have seen.
  2. Give them opportunities to leverage their influence. I don’t have an unlimited supply of resources, but I can provide opportunities. It may come as the planning of an event, or me suggesting a name of someone they can influence. At camp, it’s high-fiving students as they enter a program, encouraging them to invest relationally in their peers, and leading rec. The possibilities are endless, and the response will vary.

So, think of your circle of influence. Is there someone in your life to whom you have said “you have leadership potential” and walked away? Is there someone who needs you to step in and say, let me show you how to lead? Are you willing to do that? What are you waiting for?

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