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!

Do You Ever Forget Things?

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Sometimes I forget. During the 2020 calendar year, I’ve been working with a group of students to help them grow as leaders.

One of my favorite things to do to help students grow is to evaluate regularly. We do this a couple of ways, one of which is having a quick follow up meeting after our midweek program.

We had a workshop back in September, and ever since, I would start our meetings by asking how they made the room better. And the answers I was getting were not what I was hoping.

Don’t get me wrong, they were trying to make a difference, I was just asking a bad question. A question that put them on a path other than I wanted them to evaluate.

Then it hit me: what if there were some questions I could teach them to ask and answer each week? Questions that would almost instinctually walk them through what it looks like to be a leader?

Oh. I have those. And I’ve trained them on those. But I stopped at the training. And that was my first mistake.

The 3 questions are a great training piece. They are remarkable to consider. But their true worth isn’t in the theory or intellect behind them. The power of the 3 questions is when they are put into practice.

So I made a change. I started asking how they answered the 3 questions because I want them to start to ingrain those questions into their minds and let them become who they are and what they do. Not because I developed the questions, but because I think the power they provide to influence a room is remarkable.

Sometimes, the tools we need are at our disposal. It’s just a matter of not forgetting.

Let me challenge you today, point blank. If you lead a group of people: teach them the 3 questions and then hold them accountable to answer them on a regular basis. No shame. No guilt. Only accountability to make a difference around them. Then, let me know how it goes!

How Do You Stay Sharp?

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Three months ago I started talking to a few friends about starting a book club of sorts. The idea was we would read through a book, and once a week we would have a zoom call to cover what we read and how it applied to our context.

For someone who doesn’t have just a great habit of reading, it was quite a challenge. But it was so much fun.

Then, we finished, and I stopped reading. It was as though I kind of hit the brakes on that discipline. Fast forward from the end of book club to last week, and I realized something:

I’m better when I’m filling my head with thoughts and ideas on purpose.

Now, I know this is true with scripture memory. In fact, one of my favorite to statements to make when teaching on the benefits of scripture memory is nothing impacts my day more than when I’m intentional about memorizing scripture. And it’s true.

But this is different. These are the down moments. When I’m home and done for the day and my mind starts to wander, if I’m not intentional about what I’ve been putting in, the results can be pretty scary.

So, in an effort to remain sharp, I’m trying to continually build the muscle of reading more. I want those moments to be filled on purpose, not on convenience.

In fact, I’m getting ready to start up another book club. And this time, I’m going to open it up. If you’d be interested in participating with me and a few others, email 3questionleadership@gmail.com and let me know. Our plan will be to finish up before the end of the year. Our book hasn’t been chosen, but will deal with something in the realm of leadership.

Answering Why Me?

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Why Me? Twice in the past couple of months I’ve gotten asked this question.

The first was as I was beginning to work through a leadership growth plan with a couple people, and the second was after offering an invitation for someone to serve.

And both times, the question caught me off guard. For someone who puts a lot of thought into most things, my answer both times was not super plotted out. In fact, both “asks” were almost instinctual.

But as I’ve thought about it, my answer boiled down to four elements:

  1. Opportunity – In both cases, there was an opportunity. For one, I wanted to walk through a leadership growth course, but decided I didn’t want to do it alone. For the other, we had been discussing them helping with students and a limited time opportunity opened up–something in which they could “dip their toes”, so to speak.
  2. Availability – Opportunities abound in life, so the next element was their availability. I felt fairly certain the first one would have the freedom to carve out some time in their schedule, and the second was similar. I didn’t ask people who had known conflicts.
  3. Personality – Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t walk up to random people offering these opportunities. Both were people who I thought could contribute and benefit from the opportunity. This element is huge!
  4. Willingness – This was the wildcard. Would they be willing to say yes? Ultimately, as a leader, we get met with plenty of no’s. But when someone agrees, celebration follows.

Here’s my takeaway: people want to feel included and important. They don’t want to be a convenient excuse. They want a reason.

And I stink at articulating this. Both of these people are people with whom I enjoy spending time. Both are great people. And at the end of the day, both have responded extremely well, and I hope have benefitted.

But when we ask people to join us or to contribute, be ready to give a reason why. Don’t look for warm bodies: instead look for reasons. What do you see in them that they may not see in themselves? How can you affirm them when they are asking the “why me?” question?

Who do you need to ask to help carry the load today? What are you waiting for?

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