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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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?

Changing Environments

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I have a very bad habit of driving somewhere, putting my vehicle in park, and sitting in the vehicle for a while before I get out. Sometimes, I do this because I’m listening to sports radio and want to hear the end of the thought being expressed, or maybe I’m just moving slow that day. But occasionally, I hesitate because I don’t want to trade one climate for the other.

If it is bitterly cold outside, then the warmth of my vehicle is too appealing.

If it is raining, I dread stepping out into the rain. (This one doesn’t happen very often as we rarely get rain.)

If the heat outside is blistering, then the allure of the A/C can be too much.

In leadership, we have to be careful about developing a similar habit.

We may find ourselves waiting outside a meeting where we know the atmosphere will be chilled by attitudes.

Or maybe we hesitate to call an important meeting because we fear what may take place.

Or we put off having a tough conversation out of fear the conversation will go to a dangerous place.

Understand this: if you are in a position of leadership, find the balance between looking for problems to blow up and hiding from situations that scare you. You do not have to become a bulldog that tears into every conflict with glee, but you also cannot afford to be a turtle who hides in your shell at the first sign of unpleasantness.

As a leader, someone has placed trust in you to lead, so make the most of that trust.

Over the years, I have found that when I hesitate to do something, my hesitation is a key indicator the something needs to be done. I seldom worry and put off things that do not matter. Is that true for you? What are your own signs of the need for something to be done?