Lying Street Signs

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Last week I talked about shared language. You can read what I wrote here (Unlock the Power of Shared Language) and here (Beware the Dangers of Shared Language).

Today, I thought I would share a story.

At my previous church, we had to find our own housing. Our salary was pretty minimal, so the cost of housing was a burden, and add to that living in a small town with few housing options, we were always looking for an opportunity to alleviate some financial burden.

One day at church a deacon approached me with an opportunity. This deacon was a wonderful man, had grown up in the community and moved back in retirement. He and his wife opened their home to us the first weekend we stayed in town, and undoubtedly supported us. He had found a potential house for us to live in for an incredible price.

The next step was for us to drive by and look at it. He gave me directions, with one problem. He told me the house was on Church Street. So, later that Sunday, after naps, we piled the family into the car and started driving around, looking for Church Street. It wasn’t where I thought it should have been, so we started driving to find it.

Let me insert something at this point. I love small towns. I grew up in a small town. I have lived in small towns most of my life. But, one of the downsides to small town life is street signs are not a necessity.

So, as we were driving around town, we had to hunt to find street signs just to see if we could find Church Street.

Can you see where this is going? I never found Church Street. Do you want to know why?

I didn’t share the language. Church Street, strangely enough, was the street with three churches on it. But it’s name was Washington Street.

Shared Language is a powerful thing. But makes sure the people to whom you’re talking share the language too. If not, bring them in and watch an ally be born.

Beware the Dangers of Shared Language

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Earlier I wrote about the Power of Shared Language. I really do believe having phrases that we repeat often can unlock some incredible potential.

But on the road of developing shared language, there are a few speed bumps along the way. Today, I want to talk about two specific speed bumps to consider as you try to create and implement shared language.

LANGUAGE THAT ISN’T SHARED IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Our church hosted a Family Camp over the New Year’s Holiday. In the course of planning it, I contacted the camp facility (where I have only been a couple of times). During the course of conversation, I realized there was a breakdown in our communication. I didn’t know everything they thought I knew, and they didn’t know everything I thought they knew. Even things as simple as names of buildings and locations didn’t make sense to someone who had yet to memorize the map. The result? Frustration set in.

Names of buildings are great, but if you don’t understand, then what’s the point? This is why in small towns you get directions in one of two ways: locals talk to each other about the “Jackson house” or “church” street (which isn’t a street name but a description, #truestory) because everyone knows the story behind the names. But locals give directions to outsiders based on landmarks – turn right at the second stoplight, cross the tracks, and turn in at the gate with a water buffalo.

As you seek to create some shared language, always ask yourself first – does my audience understand what this means? If not, explain it and enjoy shared language!

SHARED LANGUAGE CAN CREATE AN US VS. THEM CULTURE

Have you ever been part of a conversation with two other people who are best friends, but you only know them casually? Did you find yourself getting lost in the cracks of inside jokes and only partially told stories? How did you feel?

This is the other danger of shared language. If we are not careful, we create an us vs. them culture. We know the meaning of the secret phrases, but they don’t, so they don’t matter.

As a leader, take it on yourself to become an educator. Invite new people to join you by explaining the things that may not make sense. Build into your culture ways for people to find their place and belong, and watch what happens from there.

Shared language is a powerful tool when used correctly, so learn to use it correctly and watch what unfolds!

Shared Language

Unlock The Power of Shared Language

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I’ve always wanted to go to a place where you have to know a secret knock and pass phrase to get in. You know, “Open Sesame” or something like that.

The allure is having to know the secret phrase. We all love knowing something others don’t. There’s comfort in it. There’s unity among those who know.

Shared language is a powerful thing. I’m a huge fan of developing memorable and repeatable phrases: things that stick with you for a while.

Even here on 3QL, I have a few ideas that I cover repeatedly:

If you’ve been with me for a while, you probably recognize those phrases. Sometimes, even in conversation, they will come up and we will nod knowingly because we both understand them. If you hear me say something about the “the three questions”, you know what I’m talking about.

But if you’re new here, those phrases don’t have the same power. They are just a collection of words with your own assigned meaning.

That’s why, in leadership, it pays to create shared language. Leadership requires the casting of a compelling vision, and shared language helps keep that vision fresh.

What shared language are you using in your context? Is there anything you’re saying that prepares those you lead for action? How can you leverage shared language to your benefit?

One last thought: never assume shared language automatically means shared definitions. Sometimes we “fake it ’til we make it” to create the appearance of understanding. But your job as a leader is to continually and constantly cast the vision, to articulate the shared definition, and to help everyone get on the same page.

It’s not easy, but it’s imperative. Lean into shared language today!

Want to Make 2021 Even Better?

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My church hosted an event this past weekend. I ended up being the guy making most of the decisions, and as such, I spent a lot of time mentally evaluating how things were going, how I was doing, and what I would do differently with time and knowledge.

All of that is great, except if I never write it down, so much of it goes away completely.

That’s why I’m such a fan of taking time to review things. As a church leader, it pays to review events, and makes the next one that much better.

But as a person, every year around this time, I set back a little bit of time to review the previous year.

2020 was monumental, to say the least. But at the beginning of the shutdown, and throughout, my mantra was simple: this could be one of the worst things for us as individuals, or it could be one of the best.

Let’s set aside the social impact of the shutdown in April and May. Think for a moment about yourself: how did you grow in that time? Did you maintain that growth for the rest of 2020? Are you a better person for how you spent that time?

This week, I want to give you something. A simple gift to help you evaluate 2020 and dominate 2021. There’s really nothing magical about the gift, but if you take the time to work through it and answer the questions, I think you’ll be pleased with what you walk away with.

But here’s the catch. It’s for subscribers. If you’re signed up and receive 3QL emails in your inbox each week, then on Friday, you’ll find the gift waiting for you.

If you haven’t signed up, then click here to subscribe!

Here’s a Great Investment Tip

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I’m not talking stocks, bonds, or guitars (my preferred financial investment strategy).

In 2018 I bought a One Line a Day Journal. The premise is simple: you journal about a sentence every day for a year, then repeat the process for 5 years.

I bought the journal in 2018, but didn’t start using it consistently until 2019, and I’m about to finish up my 2nd year with it.

Here’s what I’ve learned from using it *almost every day (and making up the days I miss).

  1. Perspective helps tremendously. I love tracking data, and so this October when I was dealing with frustrations, I was able to immediately see where I was mentally in 2019 and found some footing to move forward. It’s hard to explain, but trust me–the journal paid for itself in that moment.
  2. I have a terrible memory. They say that time rounds off the edges, and I believe it. I don’t want to remember every pain I walk through, but it is nice to be reminded things weren’t as rosy as I think they were.
  3. It’s exciting to see progress I’ve made. In 2019 I started practicing The Miracle Morning, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m looking forward to January 2021 as I read the thoughts I had as I began my journey.
  4. I now have a documented (brief) history of 2020. In March and April I will be reminded of the shutdown and how I grew during that time. I will also, hopefully, be grateful we’re not in the same boat!
  5. One Line a Day takes hardly any time at all, so if I miss a day or two, it’s easy to remember and make it up!

I generally don’t try to make broad, sweeping statements, but if you’re not journaling already, this may be the single best investment you could make for yourself 5 years from now.

Head over to Amazon and check it out!

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