Do Not Fear Criticism

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Happy Independence Day!

Last week I wrote a blog post, scheduled it, and published it, but I had one problem with it: I thought I could have done better. The title, in my opinion, was way better than the content. (You can read it here and judge for yourself)

The problem was not that I did not know how to match the title, I just didn’t have the time to do it. So, I published it.

“That wasn’t your best post” came the matter of fact statement from my wife Mica, while sitting beside me in a booth at Buffalo Wild Wings. A recently graduated student from our ministry sat across the table. Her eyes got wide when she heard the criticism, waiting for the fallout.

I nodded my head in agreement. I knew it. My wife knew it. The recent graduate knew it (she admitted having only skimmed the post earlier that day). It was perfectly okay for Mica to voice it, out loud, with me in range of hearing. Why?

I value constructive criticism. After being married for 13 years (my longest marriage to date), my wife and I know what’s safe. I lean on her to tell me the things other people will not. I value her opinions and loving correction.

As a leader, learn to listen to other voices. Learn to allow other people to say things to help you do better, to help you be better. When we allow pride to cover us so much that we depend on people around us to merely tickle our ears and say what we want to hear, we lose sight of our shortcomings.

When we lose sight of our shortcomings, we never have to wrestle with the things that will make us better: failure, struggle, and pain. When we believe we have it figured out, we stop growing as a leader.

My desire for you and for me is that we will never get to a place where we are satisfied with where we are as leaders. That’s why I write. That’s why I teach the three questions.

In the meantime, I will continue to write, to strive to get better, and to value the input and honest evaluation of the person I care for the most in this world.

Whom have you invited into your inner circle and given permission to be honest with you? Thank them this week.

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Encouraging Students to Experiment with Leadership

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On Tuesday I talked about the need to redefine leadership potential. If you missed it, click here to read it.

Today, let’s talk about how to provide a way for students to dip their toes into leadership.

Over the past year, I’ve been teaching a group of student leaders to ask themselves three questions when they walk into our youth room.

  1. What needs to be done? (Awareness)
  2. What can I do to help? (Willingness)
  3. Who can I get to help? (Leadership)

As they work to answer these questions, their outlook on what constitutes leadership has changed. Leadership isn’t something accomplished only from the stage. Leadership happens when one person is able to move another person (or a group of people) in a common direction for a common purpose.

If I can teach an 8th grader the basic principles of leadership, and give them opportunities to exercise leadership, then as they mature and progress through our ministry, they will lead more effectively at a later age.

More than anything else, as I have redefined leadership potential, my desire is to teach students an awareness of what’s going on around them, and a willingness to help.

If you want to read more about the 3 questions, check out the “Foundation” page, or search through the 3 Questions category here on the site.

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Big Change Takes Time to Chew

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I fancy myself a thinker. I enjoy looking at situations and dreaming up next steps. As such, I spend a large chunk of my time thinking and considering options.

Along the way, I’ve learned an important leadership principal:

big change takes time to chew

Just because I’ve spent countless hours thinking about a change I want to lead, does not mean the people around me and, more importantly, those from whom I need support in the change, have spent countless hours thinking about the change.

In fact, often times, I’m suggesting a change they may have never considered.

When I include other people in the planning and thinking process, three things happen:

They feel like part of the decision, because they are

When someone feels free to offer opposing views in a supportive way, solutions are more easily sought out and pursued.

They get to work through their hesitations

I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have initially bristled at a decision made by someone above me, only to realize the validity a little time later (sometimes hours, sometimes a few days).

They take ownership of the new direction

Decisions are implemented much more fluidly when leadership is on the same page. One body moving in the same direction proves more effective than chaos.

One Final Disclosure

I am not saying you let the people around you determine the direction, but instead you bring them to the table and treat them like their thoughts and opinions matter, because they do.

I am far from the world’s best at this, and still regularly make mistakes, BUT I do know enough to say: do not let the people around you choke on the big changes, because big change takes time to chew.

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The 3 Questions and Growth

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If you’re reading this, let me start today by saying thank you. I appreciate you reading, thinking, sharing, and participating. I started this blog with one basic premise: I think there may be something to the 3 questions I have started asking myself to help me grow as a leader.

What are the 3 questions? Well, when I walk into a room (or find myself leading an event), I ask:

  1. What needs to be done?
  2. What can I do?
  3. Who can I get to help?

If you’re new, you can click here to read the original series of posts introducing and explaining the 3 questions.

Disclaimer: This is not an effort to toot my own horn, but let’s be honest–there’s a level of self indulgence that comes with writing a blog (probably my biggest struggle with continuing to write and post).

I am constantly amazed at how when I ask myself the three questions in most situations, I am immediately presented with an opportunity to grow, especially as it comes to that tricky third question.

It’s risky to ask someone for help. It’s natural to fear a no. It’s easier to do it myself. It’s less revealing of my shortcomings when I’m the only one who realizes how poorly I plan. It’s comfortable to stay where we are and never grow.

But, once again, let’s be honest: leaders who never grow, never last.

Too extreme? Maybe, but I know I am not going to find satisfaction unless I am willing to push my own leadership limits and encourage those around me to do the same thing.

What about you? What are you building into your life and routine that regularly challenges you to grow? Is it working?

 

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Learning to Follow Up, Part 2

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Okay, as promised, here are the questions I use when evaluating an event. (click here to read the first part.)

what did we do?

I use the first part to basically plot out the steps I took in preparing. If there were decisions to be made, I explain my reasoning for making that decision.

I write out time frame notes, including how early or late I started planning, especially if I order shirts or other swag, I want to remember how long it took the artwork and delivery.

Try to be as thorough as possible on the little details, the things that might get forgotten in 9 months when you re-visit the event.

What Worked?

This is where I celebrate the positives, the things that went well. What were the wins from the trip or event? What made the up front effort worth the work? I make a point to highlight things I wasn’t sure would work, but did.

This is important because even in the midst of a disaster, there are going to be one or two bright spots. Dig to find the positive so you can re-visit that energy and excitement down the road.

What to Do Differently?

Finally, instead of just listing out things that didn’t work (which would be the obvious follow-up to the second question), I spend some time dreaming about what could be done the next time to make the event better.

This is the most fun of the three because it allows me to dream. This is also the part that is the freshest immediately after, but the quickest to be forgotten from my memory.

Taking time while the event is still fresh to dream about how to make the next one even better makes all the difference in the world, for me.

One final thought

I use Evernote to file all of my reviews, and bullet points make it easier for me to skim what I wrote.

When I start an event for the second time, the first thing I do is open my review and get going.

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