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.

The Tension of the 3rd Question

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Last week I went to camp. One of my roles at camp was to teach leadership to a group of 12 students. What I did not anticipate, however, was the leadership challenge I was going to face in the process.

The kids were great. They were willing to step up and serve, they had humble spirits that were willing to learn, and they poured back into their own groups to make a difference.

The challenge was on my end. I had two roles while at camp: leadership and sound booth. There were certain times in the schedule where the two overlapped, and so I was faced with the tension of the 3rd question: both things need to happen, but I cannot accomplish both at the same time.

(Side note: If you do not know the 3 Questions, click here to read about them. The 3rd question asks “Who can I get to help?”)

The tension of the 3rd question boils down to this: asking other people to help actually helps us accomplish more. Revolutionary, right? Maybe not. In fact, this concept is completely logical. It makes perfect sense that the more people we ask to do something, the more we can get done.

The tension, then, comes when we as leaders would rather do something on our own for any number of reasons. Maybe there’s a certain level of glory in being in charge of something, or we enjoy accomplishing the task. But at the end of the day, if we want to lead, we have to answer the 3rd question.

So, today, what are you holding onto that you can let go? What is on your plate that overwhelms you, but you are afraid to ask for help? What can you ask someone to help with in order to create some forward momentum? Answer the third question this week and see what happens.

 

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.

My Calling is Not Your Calling

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I still remember where we were as my pastor and I talked about the difference between us as ministers and people in the church. It was not us bashing church members, but wrestling with the reality that we are more committed to the ministry of the church than most people, and the tension that creates.

Last week I talked about the difference between a calling and a job. Click here if you haven’t read it yet.

Today, let’s talk about the leadership principle that grows out of finding your calling: just because it’s your calling does not mean it is someone else’s calling.

I fancy myself a thinker. I think I inherited/learned it from my dad. If I have spare moments, I am likely thinking about ministry. Ministry is my calling. At almost any point in time, I can start a discussion about ministry.

The reality is, however, the people I lead do not think about ministry the way I do. They volunteer to serve. They care, and show they care by showing up. But if their calling lies somewhere else, they generally are not spending extra time dreaming up next steps for ministry.

The challenge for us as leaders is to help people find their sweet spot. When we can find a way to pair someone’s passion with a ministry opportunity, everyone wins.

If I ever decide to expect the same commitment and dedication from a volunteer as I have, there is almost always conflict. Because my calling is not their calling, and thankfully, their calling is not my calling.

Are you holding people to expectations you hold for yourself? Are you expecting those you lead to be as invested emotionally as you are? If the people you lead are volunteers, I invite you to reevaluate your expectations today. Have some conversations to discover callings, and then set your expectations accordingly.