What Do You Expect?

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Welcome to July. We are now halfway through summer. And if you’re a student minister, that means one of two things: you have just finished a big event (camp or mission trip), or you have one coming. Or maybe both are true.

As you reflect or prepare, let me ask you a simple question: are you communicating your expectations?

I just finished an event, and while I ended being pleased with the outcome, there were one or two burrs under my saddle, so to speak. Attitudes that I would have liked to see, but they were sadly absent. But at the end of the day, I didn’t communicate my expectations. I didn’t communicate the attitude I expected, and so my frustration lies with me.

We can’t hold someone to a standard they don’t know exists. This is a hard lesson I’ve had to learn over time. If we don’t communicate what we expect, then people will lean towards being content with what they’re doing, or living in a state of perpetual unrest.

Bottom line: everyone wins when you communicate expectations. Make sure the expectations are reasonable, but communicate away. The people you lead will be grateful.

3 Ways to Make the Most of Mistakes

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A while back, at a previous church, I realized I had been making the wrong announcement for a month. Well, maybe not the wrong announcement, but taking the wrong approach.

We had a community outreach opportunity coming up, and one of the key elements for pulling it off was having church members fill eggs with candy. But, too late in the process, 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 admits to doing anything wrong. Admitting mistakes is a sign of maturity, 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 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.

Teach Others the Power of Evaluation

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This morning I woke up with a post I wrote last year on my mind. If you’re limited on time, let me encourage you to go read it instead of today (or do both!).

The short version is this quote from John Maxwell: Experience isn’t the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher.

If you are someone who has aspirations to develop other leaders, let me issue this charge to you: learn to evaluate. Don’t settle for mediocre or okay. Feed the drive and desire to make what you’re doing even better.

It’s too easy to settle for accomplishing something and moving on. Don’t. Accomplish something, evaluate it, and grow from it.

And to take it one step further, teach those within the sphere of your influence to do the same. Provide opportunities to evaluate. Be the one who is beating the drum for evaluation. Push it. Create the space for it. Highlight the benefits of it. And make it happen.

I think you’ll be amazed at what happens when you lean into evaluation as a tool for growth. But for now, go read this post.

Find a Delicate Balance

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I have a question for you today: how much of what you believe about yourself is because of what you tell yourself, or because of what others tell you?

I have a pretty harsh inner critic. I’m constantly battling self-doubt and thoughts of not being able to stand up to the expectations I put on myself. I struggle with the person I want to be–am I simply “faking it till I make it” or am I really the kind of leader I want to be?

That’s where good friends come in to play. The people who speak into our lives play a much larger role than we might acknowledge. In moments of doubt and self-defeat, the words spoken to us by those around us can give us life.

But it goes the other way. Countless leaders have met their demise because they are surrounded by people (and refuse to listen to people) who will not and cannot speak truth. We reject their message because it doesn’t fit our narrative, or we don’t enjoy the message.

At the end of the day, we need people who will speak life into us; people who will speak the hard truth in love; people who will love us regardless. But make no mistake: who you surround yourself with matters.

Do you have an old friend to whom you need to reach out today? Do you have a new friend to whom you need to say thanks? Acknowledge the people in your life who make you better. Do it today.

Is This The Hardest Part of Leadership?

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Do you know the hardest part of writing a blog? The consistency of having to write another post. It comes up two times each week, like clockwork.

Ministry is the same. Sunday is always right around the bend (or Wednesday for many youth ministers).

Farming was the same. No matter how many years in a row you planted a seed, the next year it was time to plant it again.

I imagine CPAs have the same feeling. Regardless of how hard you work from January to April 15 one year, the next year you will have to work just as hard.

But in the midst of the mundane, there is beauty. In the midst of the repetition, there is opportunity.

Something a mentor pointed out to me not long ago is what he called the “redundancy of leadership.”

What does that mean? Simple: a major part of leadership is repetition.

Take, for instance, the three questions (you can read about them here). The three questions work great when you use them one time, but they find their greatest impact when they are asked and answered on a regular basis. The more frequently you answer them, the more integral they become to your leadership style and effectiveness.

The problem, however, is when redundancy carries a negative connotation. Who likes getting their teeth cleaned every six months? Or, who enjoys shooting hundreds of free throws? Or, what parent anticipates the excitement of yet another dirty diaper?

The redundancy of leadership means having the same conversation over and over. Sometimes the audience changes, but sometimes the message and audience remain the same.

The redundancy of leadership means yet again casting vision for your organization, even though you did it last week, or last month, or last year, or all of the above.

This week, embrace the redundancy. Find the beauty in the mundane. Excavate the excitement of the repetitive. And, above most other things, hang in there.

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