The Last Little Bit

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I am very excited about what’s coming up in April. Last year I did a series I called “Lessons from the Farm”, and starting next week, I am going to revive the series with new posts and leadership lessons.

But first, let’s talk about pushing through.

Last summer my wife and I bought a house just outside the city limits, down a country road. It sounds more majestic than it really is. We live about 1/2 mile off a paved road, but almost all of it is either caliche or some kind of gravel. The last 50 yards, however, is straight dirt.

There are benefits to living outside of town, but there’s also one draw back I was reminded of this week: dirt plus water equals mud.

We have gotten somewhere north of 2 inches of rain this week. My yard is greening up nicely. My trees are starting to show signs of growth. But my road is a mess.

I think this happens in leadership, too. We can have things around us going well: our team is clicking, our projects/events are rocking, and our communication is top notch, but there always seems to be the last 50 yards of mess.

Part of this is natural. Rain plus dirt equals mud. But vegetation plus moisture equals growth. A muddy road (and filthy vehicle) mean growth is coming.

Part of the mess, however, is because of a choice. Someone chose to stop putting caliche down 50 yards before my driveway. There was a choice made to stop at a certain point, and I live with the results.

So, let me ask you this today: what steps have you taken to offset the 50 yards of mess in your life?

In other words, are you content simply living with chaos in one area because you’re seeing growth in others?

Or, are you willing to address the chaos in the hopes of being able to enjoy the success?

3 Ways to Make the Most of Mistakes

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Yesterday, as I was talking to my Pastor, I realized I had been making the wrong announcement this past month. Well, maybe not the wrong announcement, but taking the wrong approach.

We have a community outreach opportunity this weekend, and one of the key elements for pulling it off is having church members fill eggs with candy. But, as we talked yesterday, I realized we could have been encouraging our members to fill eggs AND invite people from our community. Simple enough, right?

Part of leadership is realizing and admitting you make mistakes. Some mistakes, like failing to emphasize the inviting nature of an outreach event, are relatively minor, something we might consider to be simply missed opportunities. Other mistakes carry consequences, like hesitating to schedule an event and losing the opportunity to make it the best possible as a result.

So, today, how do we overcome mistakes or missed opportunities? Here are 3 things I have learned over the years.

  1. Admit It. More than likely everyone knows you made a mistake, so admit it. Few things are more difficult than following a leader who never does anything wrong. Admitting mistakes more times than not is a sign of humility and humanity.
  2. Own It. There is a slight difference between admitting you made a mistake and owning your mistake, but there’s a difference. When we learn to own our mistakes, we take responsibility for the new course we are set on. When we take ownership of the mistake, we are then able to evaluate and move forward.
  3. Grow From It. Most people would prefer to follow someone who admits their mistakes, but few people will continue to follow a leader who always makes mistakes. Learn from the mistakes you make by evaluating what you could do differently, and fix it the next time.

The bottom line is this: you will make mistakes. Everyone does. You will miss opportunities. Everyone does. But what you do on the back side is what will set you apart as a leader.

Grow in your leadership today. Learn from your mistakes and missed opportunities.

Time to Stretch

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Last week I took a group of students on a trip and stepped out of my comfort zone.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone who talked about his having to learn to excel at programming for events because he couldn’t play an instrument. During that conversation I realized the opposite was true for me.

I got my first guitar in 7th grade. I formed a “band” in 8th grade, and have been playing in some capacity ever since. Music has always been part of what I do in Youth Ministry programming.

In other words, I have never had to learn how to effectively program, meaning I found a growth area–something I wanted to add to my leadership toolbox.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge programming is bigger than running a game. It’s the total package. Programming builds the total experience. But, for me, I’ve got to start somewhere.

As I was preparing for our trip last week, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try to do something other than music in our programming. In the fall, I attended a conference where we played “Extreme Bingo”. I downloaded the file from Download Youth Ministry, and tried to prepare myself for what came next.

At the end of the night, “Extreme Bingo” was a blast. I had a student leader take the role of number caller, and we played 5 rounds. The kids had fun. I had fun. The adults had fun.

My thoughts today, however, are not about how I did it, but that I did it. I recognized an area in my leadership that needed growth, and decided to challenge myself to do it. I have not arrived as a master programmer, nor will I ever, but I have taken the first step to improve.

So much of leadership boils down to knowing where we excel and where we fail. I do not have to be the best at any one area, but I have to be willing to try and willing to bring in people to help.

So, what about you? Where are you stretching yourself to grow? What do you need to add to your leadership toolbox? If you were to sit down and self-evaluate, what risk do you need to take? Are you willing to take it? Who can you bring along to help you take the risk?

Get More From a Phone Call

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Have you ever done Amway? Or something similar?

Years ago, when my wife and I were fresh out of college with a baby in diapers, we found ourselves in a group of people selling Amway (or the North American branch). The experience was what you would expect. We had no problems with any of it, but after a while decided it wasn’t for us.

I will never forget, however, one of the meetings. It was in a hotel conference room, and we were listening to a guy give a speech to encourage and recruit. One of the things he said was profoundly simple, yet incredibly powerful.

When you call someone to have what could be a significant conversation (let’s say 2 minutes or more), first ask if they have time.

Asking such a question may seem counter-intuitive, but here’s my experience employing that simple concept over the past almost 10 years: it works. It communicates I want to respect how someone else uses their time. It gives the other person a chance to say “Let me call you back in 5 minutes after I finish my current task” or “I’m busy at the moment, but you can call me back in 30 minutes.”

But most importantly, it allows the other person to be fully engaged with our conversation.

Over the years, I have found the times where I take for granted someone is free to talk and skip past the question, are usually the times  when I get cut off in mid sentence and they ask to call me back in a little while.

So, for the rest of this week, when you make a phone call, I want you to start by asking the other person: do you have time to talk? See what happens. Be okay if they’re busy at the moment, the engagement you’ll get back when you finally talk will make a difference.

And at the very least, you will communicate a respect for the other person’s time, and we all win when we show respect.

Have Some Fun

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Today’s thought is extra short, but also timely: have fun.

With March Madness kicking off today, I’m looking forward to some basketball. I just spent a few minutes with my youngest, letting her pick games. What exactly does a 6 year old think when picking basketball games? I don’t know, but we will see how she did.

Part of being a healthy leader is finding things you enjoy and embracing them. So, today, have some fun! Get outside. Watch Basketball. Play a card game with your family. Grill. Build. Demolish.

Whatever it means for you, have some fun today.

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