Lessons from the Farm: Know Your Herd

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Would you like to know a little secret about cattle? Some are never satisfied. They almost intrinsically want to find a way out of wherever they are.

There are exceptions, of course. A good wheat field (today’s picture is actually a picture I received in a text this morning!) will stop a hungry herd in their tracks.

But when you move cattle to a new field or pasture, they will walk the fence line. It seems they do this for two reasons: first they want to know their boundaries, and second they want to find a way out of the field.

That’s why when grazing was not great we would spend time putting cattle back in our fences. And often times it was the same ones over and over.

Sometimes we could see the cattle who were on the wrong side of the fence as we drove through them, but sometimes it wasn’t always that easy. That’s why it was important to keep track of our herd-how many we had, where they were supposed to be, and even kind of what they looked like. We didn’t name every one, but you gain familiarity over time.

The same is true of leadership. Not that people like to jump fences, but we need to know the people we are leading. Spend time getting to know them. Ask questions about their life. Listen to their stories. Care about their lives. You don’t have to be best friends, but leadership is so much more effective through a relationship.

The best part: as you get to know the people you lead, trust is built. And as trust increases, productivity multiplies.

Who do you need to reach out to today? What are you waiting for?

Lessons from the Farm: Fix the Tire

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Alright. It’s time. I grew up working on my dad’s farm, and even spent about 3 years in adulthood working on it too. Along the way I picked up some leadership principles, and each year I blog about some of those ideas in a series titled Lessons from the Farm. So let’s kick off our 4th Annual Lessons from the Farm!

When I was growing up my dad had a work pickup we affectionately called “the red pickup”. I know, you’re thinking there must be a story, but there’s not. It was red, so we named it accordingly.

But in the red pickup, we had an air compressor. This was a self sustaining compressor, which meant it did not require electricity, but instead ran on gas. The reason for this is when you have a flat tire in the field, it’s easier to crank the air compressor and air up the tire.

In fact, every day spent on the tractor started this way. We would crank the tractor and while it warmed up, we would check the tires on the plow. Sometimes you could tell as soon as you pulled up, but other times it was kind of tricky. Then, once we found the low tires (if there were any), we would air them up.

During my second stint at Henson Farms, my dad told me about a local farmer who didn’t use an air compressor. His reasoning? Because if you have a tire that’s going flat, you need to address the problem and get the flat fixed.

Seems kind of obvious, right?

Why would we continue to do the same thing, knowing that our actions would cause us to have to do the same thing again the next time? A tire doesn’t magically lose air over night. If a tire is flat, or low, that means there’s a leak. And guess what? More air won’t fix the leak. It will only delay the damage. Why not try to fix it?

Because it’s easier in the moment. The ease of the air compressor is you can be finished in minutes, whereas removing the tire and taking it to town to get fixed required time. But which action cost more time in the long run?

The same is true in our leadership. We perpetually have low or flat tires that we simply address as quickly and painlessly as possible, only working to ensure we will have to meet the need again and again.

That’s why we have to learn to address the real issue, not the one staring us in the face.

What tire are you simply airing up this week? What steps can you take to address the real issue and see if you can’t make progress along the way.

Say It Again and Again

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Have you ever gotten frustrated because you’ve had to repeat yourself? One of my biggest pet peeves is having to say the same thing over and over. But maybe, as I think about it, that’s a completely irrational pet peeve.

I write these posts for basically people that fall into one of two categories: 1) People, generally Youth Ministers, who desire to develop student leaders and value thought generation, and 2) People, generally Youth ministers, who want to grow their own leadership influence.

After doing this fairly consistently for 4+ years, much of what I write comes from in the moment experience. I see a situation I’m having to address in my own ministry or in my own leadership, and find a leadership principle to share. As a result, this blog becomes a time capsule of sorts-chronicling my own leadership journey and growth.

But even in the midst of the lessons and principles I try to extract from my current situations, there are a few ideas to which I always return.

And the redundancy of leadership may be one of my favorite and most central principles. I’ve written about it several times, which actually only makes sense. You can read some of those former posts here, here, and here.

But the idea is simple (and not original to me): Vision leaks. No one is as passionate about your mission and vision as you. As you seek to grow your leadership influence, impact your realm, and develop leaders around you, NO ONE is as passionate about your mission as you.

But there are people who are waiting to be invited into your mission. They want to help. They are begging to serve. But they need to be reminded.

And that’s where the redundancy of leadership comes in. Be prepared to repeat yourself. You’re going to have to do so. You are going to have to stand up time and time again and remind people of the target for which you’re aiming, because if you don’t help them know what to shoot for, they will pick their own target.

Few people love doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over. Redundancy gets a bad reputation because it’s boring. But redundancy is necessary.

So whatever vision you’re casting, whatever mission you’re trying to unite people around, whatever goal you’re striving for: Say it again and again.

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Is This What’s Missing In Your Leadership?

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Is leadership that is not expanding truly leadership?

Bear with me for a minute.

If I’m teaching students to ask and answer the three questions but it stops there, is my leadership influence growing? Even more pointedly, if the students I’m leading are stopping short of answering the third question, aren’t we missing the point completely?

Leadership influence expands when more people fall into that influence. That means I can teach 10 people to grow their influence, or I can teach 10 people to grow their influence who in turn grow their influence by teaching 10 people each. At that point influence isn’t growing, it is multiplying. Like chills in the movie Grease.

Let’s get specific: if I pour into a leader who never into another leader around them, am I really pouring into a leader? Leadership influence is most efficient when we first lead ourselves and then lead others. And leadership influences multiplies when the people I have led begin to lead others.

But secret expectations are rarely met and almost never healthy. You know this. I know this.

How are you equipping those you lead to truly lead others? How are you inviting them to repeat the process?

Let me challenge you today. If you are a regular reader, find one person this week in whom you can start investing. It could be a student. It could be an adult. It could be your child, your spouse, or your neighbor. Teach them the three questions, and then add a fourth: who can I teach the three questions?

Don’t settle for addition. Aim for multiplication.

Will You Lean Into Momentum?

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One of the things that has shocked me was how old I was when I first read John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I’m ashamed to admit that it was only a couple years ago. As I read about each law, so many of them made sense, but a few went further than that.

For example, Law 16 is the Law of the Big Mo. Simply put, Maxwell says, momentum is a leader’s best friend.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this law lately. We are starting to see some momentum building in our ministry, and so I’ve been asking myself how I can make the most of the momentum we are sensing. Is there some way to take the momentum and curtail it into growth? Is there some way to replicate the momentum down the road? How long should I wait to act?

I’m starting to see momentum all around me. The way things progress and grow (momentum building). The way things slow down (momentum waning). The way I handle things in those moments–my response, my actions, my inaction.

So today I have two questions for you: Where is the momentum around you? And how can you make the most of the natural momentum you’re seeing?

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