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!

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.

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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Leadership Isn’t Always Flashy

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I think it is safe to say everyone has a situation in their life where they would enjoy being the leader. Is that a generic enough statement to start today?

What I mean is this: everyone has a desire to lead, something.

But the reality is leading is often the hardest thing you can do in a situation. One of the most consistent struggles I see in student leaders (and in my own ministry) is the constant battle to find ways to leverage leadership influence.

I’ve written about the redundancy of leadership before, and this is similar to the feeling of redundancy. Being a leader who makes a difference is a choice we make when we walk into a room or encounter a situation.

The 3 questions actually establish a different foundation for leadership. Instead of starting from a position of top-down authority, the 3 questions look for ways to exert influence with simple actions.

Effective leadership, whether it be top down or simply exerting influence, maximizes impact when pursued on purpose. In other words, part of being a leader requires conscious effort. Everyone can lead a little without thinking about it, but the best leaders work on their craft.

So, what are you doing to work on your leadership? Read books that help you become a better leader. Surround yourself with people who make you stronger. Strive to become a person of positive influence. Find blogs or online articles that challenge your processes.

It may not be flashy, but find ways to grow as a leader. Put in the effort and work, and you’ll see the benefit.

Flint-Like Friends

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Proverbs 28:18 says “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to build some key relationships with some great people. Many of those relationships are ones which I try to keep fresh on a regular basis. Some of them, however, go dormant for a season.

Last week I had the honor of reconnecting with some good friends. It was a joy to talk about faith, life, ministry, family, and several other things. We asked each other questions to help us understand situations and problems, and even shared some great dreams we have for our lives.

In the end, I’m so grateful for the men and women who surround me and whom I am able to engage in mind stretching conversations. I was challenged by the things we discussed (and hopefully did the same in return), and I believe we were better for the time we spent together.

What about you? Who are you engaging on a regular basis to make you a better leader? Is there someone you need to re-engage? It may not be someone locationally close, but with modern technology most people are only a text away.

If you cannot answer the question above, take some time today to write down a few names of people you can start trying to bounce ideas off. Then, over time, see what starts to develop. You might be surprised at what happens next.