Have Difficult Conversations

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This past weekend I was reminded of a principle I blogged about early on. (Click here if you want to read my original post on this topic.)

As leaders we all have to make unpopular decisions. We know they’re unpopular when we make them, so the result is the temptation to avoid conversations surrounding them.

Or, maybe you have had to correct someone. You dread the meeting, so you find reasons to put it off.

These conversations are the dentist office visit of leadership. We know we should go to the dentist, but we just do not want to. Have you had situations that can relate to this idea?

Or, maybe you make a decision that is in the best interest of your organization, but you worry some people are going to give push back, so you try to find a way to minimize their reaction.

In seminary I took a class on Crisis Preaching. One of the principles we were taught was to “name the monster” when a terrible situation arose. The idea is everyone in the room, or almost everyone, knows what you are hinting at when you hint at something, so why not just come out and say it to make sure everyone is able to move forward?

Having tough conversations is the same thing. I’m not advocating seeking drama, but I am advocating talking openly so as to minimize fallout. When we address what needs to be addressed, we allow healing to become part of the process.

What situation are you currently in that could benefit from having a tough conversation? Have you made the statement recently “I really don’t want to talk to…”? If so, that’s probably a sign that you need to have the conversation.

Don’t hide from tough conversations. Don’t send a text when a phone call is what is needed. Be a leader and have the conversation no one else wants to have.

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.

Learn From Your Mistakes

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Learn from your mistakes. Seems like a simple concept, right?

But when was the last time you stopped to ask yourself if you’re truly learning from your mistakes? When was the last time you admitted you made a mistake?

I think there’s a fine line in here. I never want to wear a badge of “proud to make mistakes” on my chest, because mistakes are embarrassing. But I also never want to wear a badge of “mistake free since ’93” either.

Mistakes come from 2 places. New mistakes and mistakes of comfort.

New mistakes happen because we are trying something new. We step out of our normal routine, maybe swing for the fences with something, and make a mistake along the way. Whether the something we tried is a success or a failure on the whole, the mistakes we make are all part of the learning process.

Mistakes of comfort, on the other hand, happen because we are too lazy to correct them. Sound harsh? It may be, but that doesn’t make it less true. Mistakes of comfort are the result of knowing we are making a mistake, but we’ve made it so many times that we know the outcome and think we can live with it. Mistakes of comfort are dangerous and damaging to our leadership.

If you want to grow as a leader, take some time to evaluate the last few months. What mistakes of comfort keep popping up? My tendency is to laugh them off, but I know they need to change. What about you?

The bottom line is this: if you desire to grow as a leader, you need to learn to eliminate mistakes of comfort but maximize new mistakes. Taking risks can aid growth, but accepting mediocrity kills it.

Let Go

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I took last Wednesday off to go on a trip with my oldest daughter and her class. In doing so, I asked one of the adults who helps on Wednesday to take over our weekly program.

I will miss a Wednesday night generally about one to two times per year, and I’m starting to realize the most creative times we have on a Wednesday are the nights I’m not in charge.

There is something freeing about being able to miss a service and not have to worry about how things are going to go. The temptation, however, is to want things to go just like they would had I not been there.

Very rarely will you find someone who will do a good job at keeping things exactly the way you have them, but part of leadership is letting a person’s unique voice shine.

So, today, what do you need to let go of in your leadership? Is there something to which you have been clinging but you know it’s time to let go? Or, maybe like a bunch of ministers, you need to take a Wednesday or a Sunday off, and let someone else lead for the moment. You never know what you might learn about yourself if you do just that.

Lessons from the Farm: Fight Through

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I’m continuing Lessons from the Farm today. If you’d like to read some of the other posts, here are a few of them: Keep Going, Know When to Stop, Same Destination Different Paths, Work Until the Job is Done, and Don’t Leave Cattle on the Truck.

Today, let’s talk about blizzards. Not the Dairy Queen treat, but the weather phenomenon.

In 2009, my wife and I moved back to my hometown so I could start working on the farm again. We knew it was for a season, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

When I got back, I found my dad’s operation was different than when I graduated high school and moved away. He had moved more to a cattle operation than a crop based operation.

In December of 2009 we got a few truck loads of cattle, and the weather got cold. January 2010 was one of the wettest ones I remember, but it was also extremely cold for our area. That meant the wheat (the main source of food for our cattle) went dormant earlier, which meant we had to find ways to supplement what the cattle were eating.

That’s where my job started. Every day (emphasis on every), I woke up, drove to the barn, and started the process of feeding cattle a mixture of grain and molasses, that I mixed fresh that day. It was a very hipster process–fresh ingredients, fresh preparation, every day.

I’ll never forget mixing grain and auguring it into the feed bin on the pickup while snow was blowing sideways across my face. It was a very unique (and cold) experience.

Here’s the leadership principle: our success (cattle gaining weight and selling for more money) did not allow for a blizzard break. The cattle needed to be fed every day, regardless of weather, and regardless of whether I felt like fighting the weather.

Success for you in business, in ministry, in farming, will not wait because of the storms you’re facing. I’m not advocating being a workaholic, or spending so much time doing your job that you lose your identity. What I am advocating, however, is acknowledging the times when you don’t feel like doing something are precisely the times you need to do something.

I didn’t want to feed cattle in a blizzard. Actually, feeding them was easy. I didn’t want to do the work to prep the grain in a blizzard.

Sometimes, dealing with teenagers can be challenging. Sometimes, dealing with church people can be difficult. Sometimes, dealing with anyone can be difficult. But the moment I don’t want to do those things is exactly the moment I realize I need to do something the most.

Get out there today, fight the blizzard so you can do what needs to be done. Lead well today.

 

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