When Mistakes Are Not Mistakes, pt 2

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We’ve all been there–the frustration of leading. You pour hours into a project or event or relationship, only to experience sub-par results. Or you have to make a decision in the moment, only to realize later you made the wrong choice. Anyone who has been in a leadership role can identify.

Today, we continue looking at a few mistakes we make in leadership, that even though they feel like a colossal failure in the moment, they are actually not mistakes. (You can read the first post by clicking here.)

Investing in Relationships

Human relationships are hard. There are nuances that vary wildly from relationship to relationship. There are often unexpressed expectations that go unmet. And more often than we would like, those relationships do not end the way we wish they would.

Part of our role as a leader is to invest in relationships. In ministry, we invest in people in whom we see potential or promise. So we spend time getting to know them, encouraging them, leading them, trying to help them grow. And occasionally, we watch our investment dwindle away as they begin making poor choices and slipping away.

At the end of the day, when those relationships have slipped away, we feel like we wasted our time, but I would argue it was not a waste of time. We cannot control people. Everyone has free will. But any time we learn to invest in someone, we are providing the opportunity for them to better themselves. Any time we spend investing in people is time well spent.

The real mistake in relationships, however, is not building them at all. If we find ourselves deciding beforehand a student (or anyone in general) will not benefit from the investment of our time, we play a dangerous game.

One final note, beware of trying to relationally invest in a disinterested person. I have built relationships with students early on, only to have them distance themselves later. Find the balance between mourning the relationship (and trying to mend it) and obsessing about the lost relationship. Remain emotionally available, but realize the energy you may be spending trying to rebuild could be spent elsewhere.

People are surprising. You cannot know their hearts until you get to know them, and vice versa. Spend time investing in relationships this week, and be not discouraged.


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When Mistakes Are Not Mistakes, pt 1

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We’ve all been there–the frustration of leading. You pour hours into a project or event, only to experience sub-par results. Or you have to make a decision in the moment, only to realize later you made the wrong choice. Anyone who has been in a leadership role can identify.

Today, we are looking at a few mistakes we make in leadership, that even though they feel like a colossal failure in the moment, they are actually not mistakes.

Making the Wrong Decision.

You will never know how to make the right decision if you never make the wrong one. This concept seems simple enough, but being wrong stings. No one likes to make mistakes. Doesn’t a mistake mean we failed? Not exactly.

A mistake means you made a decision. Decision making requires experience. You gain experience by making decisions, and evaluate the right decision by understanding the wrong decision. So, in the end, making the wrong decision almost always leads to a step in the right direction.

The test here, interestingly enough, boils down to how soon you realize you made the wrong decision, and your response from that time forward.

The bottom line is making the wrong decision is a necessary part of leadership. We will never know or grow if we never make mistakes.

The real mistake is making the same mistake, repeatedly. If we make a decision in the moment, and fail to realize it is the wrong decision after the fact, we will make the same decision the next time. Failing to learn and adapt means we fail to lead effectively.

So, as I ask so often, what mistakes are you making and learning from? What mistakes are you making and not learning from? What needs to shift or change this week so you can move forward and grow your leadership influence.

Be sure to come back next week, as we talk about a couple more mistakes that aren’t mistakes. Or you can subscribe and get the next posts in your email inbox the day they post!

The Failure of Leadership

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Do you ever feel like a failure?

Over the past week I have had a couple people make mention of my leadership skillfulness (my word, not theirs). At the moment, however, I feel like a leadership failure.

The ministry here has a hit an interesting spot, and one I am having a difficult time assessing. But, in the process of assessing and diagnosing, I came to a realization: the failure of leadership is not leading poorly, it is not leading at all.

Let me drill down and put it another way. Making mistakes is not the failure of leadership; the failure of leadership is failing to develop others.

Let’s agree for the moment the 3 Questions give us a framework not only for developing other leaders, but for developing as leaders ourselves. After all, the power of the 3 questions comes from answering the 3rd question–“who can I get to help”.

Every organization (a youth ministry, for example) experiences life stages. Some organizations are in their infancy when the world is new and everything is exciting. Other organizations are in retirement, enjoying the fruit of their labor. Still others are adolescents, dealing with the emotional roller coaster of development, learning how to make right decisions by making wrong ones. But every organization changes, and will not look the same in the future.

As a leader, we have to ask ourselves, how are we adjusting to the current life stage? As a parent, I cannot relate to my 7 year old the way I did when she was 2. It takes time, discernment, and action to adjust and move forward.

So, if the failure of leadership is failing to develop others, when your ministry or organization moves from one stage to the next, the question to ask is not how do we keep things the same, but what does our ministry look like now?

For you, whatever life stage your ministry or organization is in, how are you adjusting? What needs to change? What needs to stay the same?

Connect with Other Leaders

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I got to spend the first part of my week at the Texas Baptist Youth Ministry Conclave in Arlington this week. For years I have always gone with the intent of connecting with friends and picking some insight up along the way.

This year, I was reminded why I enjoy connecting with other ministers.

I worked the booth for Horizon Camps and Resources, so I was able to interact with a variety of people. We gave away YooHoo (the official camp drink of Horizon Camps), but the better part was being able to reconnect with friends I have developed along the way.

One minister, in particular, I engage several times each year, but Tuesday I realized how much we had in common, and I was grateful for an opportunity to process some things together.

Today’s lesson is a simple one, but it’s this: connect with other leaders. If you are able to network regularly, keep it up! If you are one of the people who naturally engage with others, embrace that.

But, if you’re like me, I intentionally force myself to connect. Not because I think I am better, but because connections do not come easily for me.

Who are two leaders with whom you identify and respect? What would it take to call them up and invite them to coffee, or to do a video call if the distance is too great?

The truth is we pursue what is important to us. If growth is important, you will pursue it. If connection is important, you will pursue it. If relationship is important, you will pursue it. But, if your priorities are somewhere else, you will avoid the others out of necessity.

Make connecting with other leaders an intentional part of you life and priorities, and see what happens next.

3 Reasons to Ask for Help

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Okay, so you are a leader. You are probably even good at some (if not most) of the stuff you do. But have you ever considered your ability to do more is actually a hindrance to those around you? Leaders fail when they fail to ask for help.

Think about it. The more you accomplish, the less the people around you are able to accomplish.

Granted, we are approaching today’s topic from a different perspective, possibly even a counter-intuitive place. But if we are going to buy into the 3 questions to help us grow as a leader then we have to admit a few things.

Here are 3 reasons why you should ask the people around you to help:

  1. You’ll make fewer mistakes. When you focus on what you should be doing and let other people handle the rest, you are able to do your part better. Have you ever tried to juggle? Like actually tried to juggle? Juggling two things is pretty easy, almost natural for most people. Adding a third is more challenging, but definitely accomplishable. Juggling four things, however, is something few people can do well, ask Four Toed Frank the Knife Juggler. The truth is when you ask someone to help, your own effectiveness goes up.
  2. You will frustrate fewer people. Someone who can think for themselves doesn’t want to feel useless. Put another way, high performing people do not want to feel sidelined, so let them get in the game. Taking a step back and bringing them into (or appropriately handing off) the conversation (or project, or task) allows them to feel helpful and fulfilled, thus expanding your leadership influence and theirs. And as a result, they will likely hang around longer because they feel useful.
  3. You’ll get better at your job. When you focus on one thing, you’ll learn how to do it better. Being a jack of all trades, but a master of none is not a desirable trait! This is hard to say, because this is who I am. I do a lot of things, but I only do a few things well. When I spend my focus and energy on the things I do well, I get better and those around me benefit.

The more I teach and talk to other leaders about the three questions, the more I realize the biggest impediment to impact is failing to empower those around you to serve. If you want to see your leadership impact grow exponentially, learn how to ask people to help.

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