Currently, I’m sitting in an airport terminal in Richmond, Virginia. A combination of mechanical issues, weather, and vacation chaos has culminated in a delayed flight (sitting at 3+ hour delay so far, and that doesn’t count the fact we were at the airport early!).
Some things are out of our control. Weather, mechanical failure, and attitudes of those around us are all outside of our control.
What we do control is the attitude we use to respond.
I do not know if I am at ease because its the end of my vacation (that has been wonderful), or if I just really enjoy flying so waiting a few extra hours in a terminal with my family seems quite bearable. But I decide how I respond.
The same is true for the clerks working the desk here at gate A7. The people who are paid to handle situations when storms move in two places hundreds of miles from each other appear to have the proper attitudes. No one is grateful for the delay, especially not the girl stuck in the terminal store with a sideways screen, but most people seem to be managing the unfortunateness.
So, let me ask you this: how are you handling the unfortunateness in your life? Let’s narrow down a little: how are you handling the unfortunateness in your leadership?
What’s your attitude as your decisions come under scrutiny, or as those you lead start to show signs of unrest?
What’s your attitude when those you lead completely ignore the direction you are trying to move?
What’s your attitude when you face dilemmas you have never faced before?
What’s your attitude as you peer the future directly in the eyes, not sure if you should jump or stand your ground?
Take some time today to put things in perspective. You will face leadership struggles. You will face leadership failures. You will face leadership storms. But the way you respond, that’s up to you.
As for me, here’s hoping I get to board my flight in the next few hours.
What are you good at? I mean, what are you really good at? What is something you enjoy doing? What comes naturally to you that other people have to struggle to understand?
I enjoy running sound at my church. I may not be really good at the nuts and bolts, ironing out frequencies, but I understand the concepts of running sound.
The same goes for running presentation software on the computer. I know how the programs work, am willing to learn what I do not know, and enjoy doing it.
At camp last week, however, I had a moment. One of my roles at camp was to oversee the sound booth, but we took a different approach. This year, instead of the person in charge of the sound booth doing both parts, I oversaw students who took the responsibilities.
That means, every time we gathered for a service, two high school students were making everything happen.
One student, in charge of the sound board, turned mics on and off, adjusted levels, and made sure what was coming out of the speakers was exactly what needed to be coming out of the speakers.
The other student, in charge of the computer, displayed the lyrics for songs, played videos, and controlled the screen games.
These may not sound like impressive roles, but there are plenty of people who would not know how to do them.
The struggle for me, however, was letting go. In my role overseeing them, it was tempting to step in and take a more active role, but I did not. I kept reminding myself they will never grow if I do everything for them. This does not mean I did not correct or direct. I let them feel the freedom to make choices and I tried to help them understand the reasoning behind things I would do differently.
Now, these two teenagers have experience, and subsequently confidence, because of the time they spent in the sound booth. Next time around, they will be even more willing and equipped.
Leadership means learning to let go. As I stepped back and let these kids (who serve in these roles at their churches already) serve, they grow because of it. As a result, I grow as well.
As I said at the beginning, I enjoy doing those things. But if I want my leadership influence to grow, I have to learn to let go and let others make the most of opportunities. Ultimately, three people grew because of what happened in the sound booth last week, and that’s a win for leadership.
Today, let’s get back to basics: expanding your leadership influence.
Would you care to hear a secret? The people you lead can probably identify your ruts long before you can.
Some ruts are secrets, but some are not.
Routines can serve to give us energy, but ruts drain us. When we are drained, people around us notice. When we lose focus, people around us notice.
Sure, you can fool some people, but the ones who know you can spot the struggle.
So, let me ask you: what would the people around you identify as a rut you’re currently fighting through? Seriously think about it.
Now, ask yourself: is this truly a rut in my leadership?
A while back I wrote about the redundancy of leadership. The more I think about it, the more I realize that redundancy does not bother me the way it bothers other people. I do not mind the mundane nature of some tasks. In fact, I find energy in the redundancy. But that’s a post for another day.
The danger of embracing redundancy is simple: redundancy can dig a rut, too.
In my own leadership, there are areas where the redundancy of leadership has actually become a rut. Maybe the same is true for you?
So, what your next step? Identify the rut and choose a course of action–stick it through and wait for the terrain to change, or steer hard to one side and see what breaks loose.
Either one may not work the way you expect, but at least now you know you’re in a rut.
Lead well today.
Last week, I blogged about Routines vs Ruts. Today, I have a bit of a confession for you.
I feel like I have several ruts in my life right now, one of them being this blog. So, naturally, the best way for me to process this rut is to blog about it. That makes sense, right?
Here’s my blog rut as I see it: Up until the end of May, I was incredibly consistent. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would get up and crank out a post of some sort. Sometimes, I would even be really diligent and hammer out the post the night before.
My topics were generally thoughts that came to me as I sat down, but the best ones were ones where I had written them down before as a topic to attack, thus letting my mind chew the proverbial cud of content potential.
That routine worked for a season. Granted, for a significant season. I love writing these posts, even if only for a handful of people.
But over time, recently, my routine became my rut. I knew I would write better if I did not write and immediately publish, but my rut was (is) to write and publish.
As a result, my consistency has dropped over the past five weeks. What used to be clockwork has become cork-work. The routine has become a rut.
So, how do you get out of a rut? In real life, sometimes you have to ride it out, knowing that the rut will change when the terrain changes. Sometimes, you have to steer hard to one side or the other.
Honestly, I am still pondering what breaking out of a rut looks like. But I think a key element is understanding you’re in a rut.
That’s why last week I asked you to write down three routines you have and one rut you’re in. I want you to identify what holds you back or holds you down.
Now, answer this: what are you going to do to break out of that rut? How are you going to overcome it? Write out one thing you’re going to try.
For the record, this is not me saying I am going to take a break from blogging. I enjoy it too much. But I do have to admit that I find myself in a rut that I want to break out of. Maybe you can learn something from my struggle.
Thanks for sticking with me.
I have a dirt driveway. Well, part of it is dirt, and part is caliche. When it rains, the dirt turns to mud (obviously), and I avoid driving through the mud. Sounds simple right?
I avoid the mud for two reasons: I hate getting my suburban muddy and I hate having to drive through dried ruts (created from driving through mud in the first place).
Ruts can be annoying. The make the ride rougher, because I can never seem to find the right spot to drive through the rut.
But, ruts can be beneficial. When I’m driving down the dirt road leading to our house, I can tell which part of the run is the muddiest by looking at the ruts.
We all have ruts in our lives. I bet you didn’t see this one coming, right?
Not just ruts, though. We also have routines.
I have a specific routine when I park my suburban. I always back in. I have no solid reason or justification for it, I just prefer to avoid the ruts in my driveway when I’m starting my day. Not swerve around them, but bypass them altogether.
You have routines, too. It may be exercise, food choices, weekly schedules, the order you get ready in the morning. Routines give structure to what can often become a chaotic world.
Routines are good. They help us prepare for what comes next, because we know our routine. After completing Task A, our routine says it’s time to move to Task B. It’s simple.
Until a routine becomes a rut. What used to be simple and natural, now feels forced and rough.
Honestly, I think routines and ruts are both very natural, but I do not think they are both beneficial. Ruts mean the time to change has already passed; change now becomes necessary.
I have no secret weapon today, but let me challenge you to do something: take a sheet of paper (or open a note on your phone) and write down 4 things: first write down three routines you have; then write down one rut you find yourself trying to navigate.
Now, you’ve identified a rut. What do you need to do to get out of it? Who can help? What do you need to give up?