Motivation and Leadership

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Let’s talk about Student Leadership today. More specifically, let’s talk about developing Students with leadership potential.

Over the past 5 years I have had a student leadership team of some sort. The intensity has increased each year as I try to find the right balance between commitment and over commitment.

A few years back, I thought differently about how to bring student leaders into the fold. There were a couple of girls who I thought showed incredible leadership potential, so I went to them and invited them to apply for the leadership team. They did, and what unfolded over the next year was unexpected.

“You cannot motivate people to do something they don’t want to do.” This statement was the focus of a conversation I had last week, and something that has been bouncing around my head ever since.

I think the temptation we have as leaders is to believe we CAN motivate people. We are good with words, maybe even charming. But the truth of the statement above shows us motivation does not last. Instead, we need to find people who are motivated and equip them.

This is the struggle I found in student leadership years ago. I saw potential in a few, but they were not motivated to be part of our leadership team, so things went south over time.

Now I focus my energy on the kids who show some level of motivation. I may not have as many, and I still see potential in others, but the fruit comes from the motivated ones.

So, as you look around your leadership realm, who are you pouring effort into but they simply lack the motivation? Who around you shows a level of motivation? How can you pour into and strengthen them?

One last thought: everyone is motivated to do something. The challenge for us as leaders, and as church leaders especially, is to get to know people well enough to discover what motivates them. Build relationships. Love the individual. Help them grow.

Leadership and Yard Work

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Yesterday was a milestone for me as a father. I have a busy week this week, so I took some time yesterday morning to mow my yard. This time around, however, was different. I had a helper.

My 10 year old, earlier this summer, went through Papa and Mimi Lawnmower training. So, naturally, as I prepared to mow yesterday, I recruited her to help. She was scared to try a bigger mower, so I had her edge until I got to one spot we agreed would be her spot.

Now, having grown up on the farm, I remember how this works on tractors. My dad would make the first round, then put me on the tractor to finish the rest. So I did the same.

I made the first round and it was ready for Anna. So, I called her over, had her sit down on the mower, and gave her the orientation. Throttle. Mower blades. Forward. Reverse. Brake. She was ready.

I stepped back and was ready to gloat at my incredible lawn mowing daughter. Then she took off. The first 5 seconds were magical, then I realized she couldn’t see where I had gone the first time.

She turned way too early. Skipped a mower width away from my initial cut, and consistently turned short, leaving skips on the ends.

Strangely enough, at this point I was not upset or angered. I only chuckled to myself and called her over. I pointed out where she missed, gave her some tips, and sent her on her way again, still watching.

Can you guess what happened next? She still made mistakes. So, I called her over and showed her a trick that I learned decades ago, and let her go at it again.

The leadership principle here? When we let someone do something new, we have to remember they don’t have the experience or judgment we have at the moment. Actually, we would do well to remind ourselves of the mistakes we made when we first started.

But, if you want to expand your leadership influence, you are going to have to fight the battle between “I can do better myself” and “I do not have time to do this.”

My daughter is years away from being a professional yard care expert, but this summer she has had a great start.

Everyone has to start somewhere. The question becomes, are we going to give them their start or not?

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.

Calling vs Job

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A few years ago I took a break from full time ministry. During that time, I worked on my dad’s farm and served part time at a church. This week I have been reflecting on one of the conversations I had with my dad toward the end of my time farming.

My wife and I were wrestling with returning to full time ministry. We thought it was maybe time to send our resume out and see what happened.

I remember pulling up to the barn, turning the key off, and sitting in the pickup for the conversation that followed. As I talked with my dad about the transition, he told me “I can tell your heart isn’t in farming. When I was your age I spent spare moments dreaming what I could do to make the farm more successful. You don’t do that.”

My dad wasn’t belittling me, but he was pointing out something he saw in me: Farming wasn’t my calling. Ministry was my calling.

He was right. I didn’t spend my spare moments thinking about the farm. On the contrary, I spent my spare moments thinking about church. Farming was what I did for almost 3 years so I could serve part time at a church. Farming was where my paycheck came from. It was how I provided for my family.

So, what’s the difference between calling and a job? When we find our calling (ministry, farming, teaching, etc.), we are able to throw ourselves into it. We do what we do out of love for the opportunity, because we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

When we have a job, we leave work and start thinking of something else. That something else is likely your calling, and it’s not limited to ministers and farmers.

I have a friend who over the past few years has worked in the oil field, then as an aviation mechanic. Just recently, however, he seems to have found his calling. Last summer, he finished police academy and has been serving as a police officer ever since. He loves it. He knew his calling for years after finishing the military, and finally got the opportunity to pursue it, and I couldn’t be happier for him.

What’s your calling? Is your current occupation your calling? Or, are you working a job until you can pursue your calling? This isn’t an easy answer, but my hope for you is that you will find the joy of fulfilling your calling.

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.