Mistakes Mean Growth

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This year I got a daily desk calendar with leadership quotes. It’s been interesting to see the different quotes over the past two months. Some of the pages remain on my desk, making an appearance when I want to remember a quick lesson or share some encouragement with a friend. Other pages are not so lucky.

Several quotes hone in on a particular theme, one which I have been spending extra time pondering lately, and they make regular appearances in my reviews. So, today, I thought I would share one.

Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.

Nikki Giovanni

The past year has been full of lessons for me, but mistakes are something to which I keep returning. I am realizing over time the necessity of mistakes. I have gone through seasons in my life where I have been afraid to act out of fear of a mistake, and that missed the point. I have gone through seasons where I make mistakes, learn from them, and grow as a result.

Mistakes, as quoted above, are a fact of life. Everyone makes mistakes. You make mistakes. I make mistakes. Our heroes make mistakes. The question then comes down to: are we willing to make the change necessary to correct the mistake the next time around?

I don’t view this as a license to live by the mantra “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”, but even that mantra is necessary on occasion.

If I can teach my children, student leaders, or adults one thing lately, it is that mistakes will happen. Mistakes have to happen. The magnitude and impact of the mistakes can be mitigated, but mistakes are natural.

We should not live in fear of making mistakes. We should live in fear of not learning from the mistakes we will inevitably make. The subtle shift provides remarkable freedom.

What’s holding you back in life right now? What action are you not taking for fear of making a mistake? What if you lived by the mantra that making a mistake is not the worst thing that can happen to you, but making a mistake and not learning from it is the worst thing that can happen to you?

Know Your Strengths

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I played sports in high school. I was a multi-sport athlete because I went to a small school and that’s what you did.

Possibly my favorite sport was tennis. I was not very good, but I was decent. My doubles partner and I had a unique style, and one that frustrated good players–we lobbed the tennis ball.

But more than that, I played the baseline and my partner played the net. I was 6’4″ at the time, and my partner was somewhere around 5’8″. Picture that for a moment. You see two guys walk onto the court, one tall and the other short, and then they take the opposite spots. It doesn’t make sense, until it makes sense.

I was too slow to play at the net. My reaction time was often delayed just enough that I could not respond quickly enough. On the baseline, however, I was surgical. I could lob a tennis ball with a foot of my aim, and had patience for days.

Now, we didn’t win the state title or even get close, but boy did we have fun and frustrate some people along the way, all because we knew our strengths.

The same is true in leadership. There are certain things that make you unique. The way you approach situations and scenarios is different from those around you, and that’s great. But, you need to know what those strengths are.

Self awareness makes us a better leader. When we are able to be honest with ourselves about what makes us unique, we are better able to understand why certain people seem to clash with us, and hopefully have a little more compassion in those clashes.

What makes you unique? What mindset do you have about things that drives people around you crazy? Who do you need to cut some slack today in an effort to do what is necessary to fully leverage your leadership influence?

Where Does Learning Originate?

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On Tuesday I wrote about learning from everyone, and I got some good response from it. If you missed it, click here to read it.

Shortly after posting, I had a conversation that centered around the concept of the post, specifically what makes a great leader.

So, what do you think? What makes someone a great leader? I have a theory (obviously).

A leader never stops learning.

But who would argue with that? Someone who views themselves as a leader would likely agree rather easily that learning is essential for surviving.

The difference between an average leader and a great leader comes in where learning originates.

A great leader views everything as a growth opportunity.

A great leader understands learning opportunities are all around us. An average leader assigns learning to a few specific realms (classroom, books, etc.) and rarely learns outside of those.

Great leaders (like John Maxwell) are willing and ready to learn from anything and anyone. We never know where leadership lessons will originate, but great leaders learn from everything.

The danger we all face, regardless of our age, is limiting learning to locations. We can learn leadership everywhere, but that’s no excuse to sit back and wait. Leadership growth is also a pursuit. Read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs (convenient, right?), talk with other leaders, ask more questions, and observe dynamics around you.

The world is our leadership classroom, are you ready to learn?

Learn from Everyone

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I had a good friend send me a podcast to listen to yesterday. It was John Maxwell on the 5 Leadership Questions podcast, and I’m grateful I listened.

During the podcast, John was asked who he was learning from currently in his life. His response–everyone.

My cynical side took over for just a moment as I thought to myself, what a “great” answer. Then, I realized it was a great answer. When someone who is synonymous with leadership answers a question that way, I should probably pay attention.

There’s something about someone who is willing to say they’re not too smart or experienced to learn from anyone. It’s an attitude of humility worth cultivating. And it’s an attitude that ensures the people around you will be willing to work with you for years to come.

But the struggle comes in the choice.

It’s a choice to listen more than you talk (John guessed he tried to listen 80% of the time and only talk 20%).

It’s a choice to ask engaging questions, and wait for the answers.

It’s a choice to not assume yourself an expert in a given situation.

It’s a choice to value the person in front of you more than yourself.

Today, as you go through the day, I want to challenge you to learn from those around you. Learn from everyone. People older than you, younger, more naive, more seasoned, and with different views all have something we can learn. Do the hard work of humbling yourself and learning from someone around you.

Part of learning from everyone includes blogs! If you haven’t subscribed to get 3QL posts in your inbox, click here and do that now.

Learning to Ask for Help

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I had a conversation with a student last night. It’s slowly becoming one of my favorite leadership conversations to have with teenagers.

There are some changes in the future (I’ll post more about that in a few weeks), but this student runs the computer on Wednesday nights at church. He loves running the computer at church, and I can identify with him.

We currently have a 2 person rotation on running computer at church, and every week when I see him his first question is always “can I run computer tonight?” When I have to say I’m going to ask the other one first, he is always disappointed.

So, last night, we had a little talk. I told him I love his enthusiasm (and can identify with it, we are kindred spirits), but I had a challenge for him: teach someone else what you know.

I told him if he could learn to teach someone else to do it, and subsequently not take over for them, he would become incredibly valuable.

The reality of the moment was I was having the discussion with him about what I wanted him to do while pointing out the very thing I had done with him. I taught him how to run the computer, and let him do it. Now, if he could do the same, maybe he could find someone who loves the sound booth as much as he does.

This is the challenge we all face in leadership. One of the most challenging things we face is letting go. That’s where the 3 questions come in. For some of us, we need a reminder to ask the 3rd question. We need a reminder that until we allow others to move forward we are not leading, we are simply working.

Who do you need to teach something today? Who do you need to ask for help? I’m not saying you fully surrender anything, but maybe you can find someone today who will find their passion because you asked for them to help. And if you can do that, everyone wins.

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