One of the things that fascinates me is listening to people talk about small towns. In Texas, we have our fair share of small towns. But here’s the tricky thing: not everyone shares the definition of a “small town.”
Don’t believe me, try it. If I were to walk up to people in my current town of 23,000 and ask if they think we are living in a small town, I think many would say yes.
If you ask me, my answer would be different. This is actually the second largest town I’ve ever lived in, and I grew up in a town of 500. And no, that’s not a typo–there are only two zeroes after that five.
So, which is right? Is 500 a small town, or is 23,000 a small town? Can they both be small towns? At 500 are you supposed to change it from town to village? Is 23,000 a small city? Is it a large town?
Here lies one of the biggest struggles I see in leadership time and again – a lack of shared definitions. We get in a room with a group of people and start talking about a subject, presuming agreement on basic terms, and realize (or sometimes don’t) we are talking apples and oranges.
Have you ever asked a group of people what “deep” means? Chances are in a group of five people, you’ll get six different answers (how’s that for deep?).
Or, how about the way you express emotions. I would say I’m more reserved and intense, but to some people that comes across as detached and angry. I have had times where I thought I was having a wonderful discussion with someone only to find out later our relationship was negatively affected because of our lack of shared definitions.
Learning to navigate the tricky waters of varied definitions provides a very difficult challenge for leadership. But until we get people on the same page, you will find very often the battles you face find their roots in this principle.
What struggles or battles are you facing because of a lack of shared definitions? What adjustments can you make to get on the same page moving forward? Are you willing to do it?
Ministry is difficult. One of the challenging parts of ministry is how to cope with the reality that our spiritual lives and our relationships are often intertwined.
As a minister, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes when someone pushes away from church, I take it personally. I view it as a personal failure. I wonder if there’s a mistake I made in the relationship. Sometimes, I can point to something, sometimes I cannot.
So, how do you cope? How do you make that adjustment so you don’t take things personally? Honestly, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know if I have any answers–I’m still pretty new to this. So I lean on the wisdom of other people.
Yesterday I read a post by Carey Nieuwhof that hit home, and I wanted to share it with you. Carey has a 30+ year history in ministry, is a podcaster, blogger, and pastor. He has an uncanny ability to tackle the tough issues in truthful ways, regularly challenging me.
So, as I read his post yesterday, I couldn’t wait to share it today. Here’s a snippet from his post “7 People You Can’t Afford to Keep in Leadership“:
And as someone (or several people exit), the discussion at the leadership table will end up with someone saying:
Look, we can’t afford to lose people.
Trust me, there’s always someone at the leadership table who thinks we can’t afford to lose anyone.
That’s simply not true.
There are a few kinds of people you can’t afford to keep.
In fact, sometimes the people you are most afraid of losing are the people you can’t afford to keep.
Here’s the strange paradox of leadership: some of the people you think you can’t afford to lose are the very people you can’t afford to keep.
So how do you know the difference?
I think you’ll be surprised by what follows, so give it a read!
I have remarkably soft hands. Thankfully, most people don’t point this out on handshakes. But for some reason, I don’t have rough, cracked hands.
Part of that may be when I worked on the farm I preferred to wear gloves when possible. I hate having my hands covered in filth. It’s hard to explain. I wouldn’t say it’s a phobia or that it encroaches into the realm of OCD, but I was diligent in protecting my hands.
Have you ever tried to change the wheel bearing on a farm implement? Have you ever heard the term “grease monkey”? There’s a connection between the two. Changing a wheel bearing means one end result–grease gets everywhere.
One summer, my boss (okay, my dad) was literally out of the country, and we had a wheel bearing that needed to be changed. I knew how to change the bearing, but I hadn’t actually changed one before. So guess what? I got to have a great experience culminating in my being filthy. The thing about wheel grease is that it gets everywhere, and you have to use quite a bit to do the job correctly.
As uncomfortable as it was to get dirty and filthy that day, the reality was the job needed to get done, and I was the one to do it.
Leadership is the same. There are undoubtedly leadership tasks that strike fear deep inside of you. Maybe you’ve been able to get by all this time without having to face that uncomfortable moment.
I have bad news for you: your day is coming. Before you know it, you are going to have to face that tough situation head on and get your hands filthy.
Your approach, however, determines your outcome. I could have moaned and complained all day about having to change that wheel bearing, but the job went much smoother when I just accepted the job and did it.
Whatever it is that you’re avoiding–a conversation, a situation, a person, a task–you get to choose your approach. Keep avoiding it and fearing it, and the monster grows. Face it head on and you never know what might happen. You may get your hands dirty and be excited about it.
It’s that time of year again: time for Lessons from the Farm.
This is my third year to post about different leadership learnings I picked up while growing up working on my dad’s farm. You can click to see some of the previous posts that deal with learning when to stop, when to keep going, perspective, and working until the job is done.
Now, on to today’s lesson from the farm.
One of the benefits of growing up working on the farm is getting to drive. I was driving a tractor at the mature age of 7. Around 9 or so, I started driving pickups around the farm.
One summer, I was spending a few days at what we call “the Ranch” – my paternal grandparents’ operation. My aunt needed to feed some cattle, and asked me to go with her.
We rolled out to the pasture in what, to my mind, was an awesome pickup – a late 70s green extended cab Ford pickup. We didn’t have a pickup like this on my dad’s farm. His were way worse (at least, in my mind).
We got to the field and my aunt decided the best plan was to have me drive, while she sat on the tailgate opening sacks of feed and dumping them out as we drove along. Pretty standard procedure, and well within my realm of ability.
Except for one thing: that wonderful green pickup had a touchy gas pedal.
I’m not going to say that I popped wheelies that day, but I think my aunt thought that was what I was trying to do. After getting thrown off the back of the pickup about three times, she helped me figure out what I was doing, and we finished the job.
In leadership situations, sometimes we don’t realize how touchy the gas pedal really is.
A situation we see with an obvious solution may give people on our team whiplash when not approached appropriately.
A decision we are ready to make may carry a few more consequences than we anticipate.
Two different relationships we are trying to establish will move at different speeds.
Approaching each of these situations with awareness and discernment will pay dividends in the long run. As you lead, be careful to not lead so quickly or furiously that the people sitting on the tailgate get thrown out of the pickup.
Ultimately, however, as a leader, we accomplish more when we master the gas pedal. When we are leading people, we have to remember that our goal is not just forward movement, but forward movement together.
What situation are you in where you keep throwing people off the tailgate? What situation are you in where you need to go ahead and press the gas and move forward?
Confession time, again. I’ve been blogging about leadership for over two years now, and just recently read (listened to, actually) John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
The laws Maxwell lays out are concise and incredibly insightful. I would encourage you to pick up a copy today and check it out, after you finish reading this post.
The fifth law Maxwell shares, The Law of Addition–Leaders Add Value by Serving Others, grabbed my attention.
If you are reading this because you want to grow in your leadership influence (I’m writing this because I want you to grow in your leadership influence, btw), then take a moment today to ponder this law.
You make an impact on those around you not by how well you speak or plan, but by the value you add to the lives of those you lead. Now that’s no excuse to speak or plan poorly, but learning to live by the law of addition helps you grow as a leader.
Speak truth into tough situations.
Be the smiling face willing to answer questions.
Send a note of encouragement.
Find ways to add value to those you lead. Get to know them, their families, their priorities, their worries, and their dreams. When you make an effort to make their lives better, the return is incredible.
Don’t believe me? Take a moment to think of a great leader you know. I’m sure big names and authors come to mind, but chances are you remember a teacher or coach who went the extra mile with you. They made an effort to add value to your life by serving you, and you will remember them forever because of it.
You have a great opportunity today to add value to those around you. Make the most of it!