Do You See What I See?

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Some people look at nothing and see nothing, while others look at nothing and see what could be.

This past summer we canceled our traditional week of camp. We decided our best bet was to pivot and do something different.

The news that we were canceling was not well received, and I was not surprised. Based on my own sadness and disappointment (the first time I haven’t gone away to camp in somewhere around 30 years!), I completely understood.

Then came the leadership opportunity. Mourning our loss could not be the end. We desired something to celebrate. So I went to the white board with our interns.

Because I could see the writing on the wall in May, a backup plan found roots before we made the official call. But, as I’ve written before, I’m great at thinking up new ideas, but sometimes struggle to execute.

Enter the principle of the Horizon of Possibility. Simply put, a good leader is able to look at what is and see what could be–the Horizon of Possibility.

My goal with our camp alternative was to bring the best parts of camp to us. And throughout the week, we got comment after comment about how well it went.

This isn’t bragging on my prowess, because it didn’t happen because of me–there were lots of people making it happen and making it great.

But, it started with my own ability to see the Horizon of Possibility. To look at a lost summer, and see what could be, and then to mobilize people to help execute the future.

What “nothing” is staring you in the face today? What do you see on the Horizon?

Ready. Set. Grow.

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When I started this blog four years ago, I had years and years of thoughts stored up, so writing was pretty easy. Now, many of my thoughts are real time reflections on what’s happening around me.

That’s why on Thursday, after writing about the secret super power, I chuckled to myself when I heard John Maxwell say the following: “Experience isn’t the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher.”

This is true all around us.

I’m a better communicator when I evaluate my teaching.

I’m a better parent when I evaluate my parenting.

I’m a better event planner when I evaluate the events I planned.

I’m a better leader when I evaluate my leadership.

I started writing this blog four years ago because I believe the youth ministry world needs adults who are investing in student leaders, and raising up student leaders can be simpler than we think.

I keep writing this blog because not only do I believe in the power and potential of student leaders, but because I believe everyone around us benefits as we grow from leadership.

So, here’s my question for you today: what experience are you evaluating? How are you growing?

Fill in the blanks for you: I’m a better _________________ when I evaluate ______________.

Ready. Set. Grow.

Here’s a Secret Super Power

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I think evaluation and forward progress may be my love language. If I can sit down with someone and evaluate something we’ve done together with the intent of making it better, then I’m able to live in my happy place.

But, if I’m going to be honest, as much as I love evaluation, it takes effort. Simple evaluation (i.e., self criticism) comes naturally, but true evaluation requires more brainpower and energy.

And I think this is true in leadership. if we want to grow, we need to learn to evaluate truthfully and effectively. But it’s a difficult habit to build and maintain.

So today, here are three reasons why I think evaluation is worth the effort:

  1. It makes the mistakes worth the cost. Have you ever done something perfectly the first time? No? Yeah, me either. If I fail to evaluate, the chances of me making the same mistake again are significantly higher. So doesn’t it make more sense to spend time evaluating and deciphering how to eliminate the mistake and replace it with something better? The best mistake launches us toward growth. Evaluation helps the transition.
  2. It helps me remember what we did. I have a terrible memory. In youth ministry, I pull off annual events, but so often they are separated out by 12 months. So when I sit down to plan the next one it’s been at least 9 months since I thought about (10 or 11 if we’re honest about my own planning process). So, when I write out an evaluation, it helps me remember why I made the decisions I made, it helps me remember the mistakes I made, and it helps me remember the great idea I had that would have been lost otherwise.
  3. It makes the event better the next time. This is the greatest benefit of evaluation for me. Whether it’s an annual event, or a regular weekly happening, my effort produces greater results when it’s paired with evaluation. I have an event coming up in March that we did for the first time last year. Because I spent time evaluating, when I start to take steps to plan based off the evaluation I did, I know the event will be even better.

Alright, so how do I evaluate? I work through three questions (but not the three questions you might think). They are simply this:

  • What We Did
  • What Worked
  • What to Do Differently

That’s it. Bullet points are my friend, and they will be yours too. Take 10 minutes today and evaluate something. It could be a project you just finished, an event that concluded recently, or fixing a Thanksgiving meal. Unleash the power of evaluation. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Best Decision Making Tool

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I have a significant issue in my life. It plagues me constantly. It’s effects consume me. Some of the people around cannot stand what it does to me, while others have learned to appreciate it.

My issue is this: I can argue both sides of most situations. I have an uncanny ability to clearly see the argument from both sides.

At the end of the day, I believe this is part of my super-power. It gives me incredible perspective for most things. But there’s a downside–it takes me a long time to convince myself to make a decision.

Think about it. Not only can I make a case as to why I need yet another guitar, I can also make a case as to why I don’t need yet another guitar. And the battle wages constantly.

That’s where guiding principles come in.

To finish the thought on guitars, my guiding principle is simple: there’s always room for one more. (Well, maybe not…)

In all seriousness, though, I don’t want you to miss the next statement.

Guiding principles make us better and more consistent leaders.

Indecision in leadership can be incredibly harmful. So many times when I can’t make a decision, knowing my guiding principle gives me strength to move forward. Whether it be a program decision, an event to plan, a relationship to build, or so many other things. When I have spent time clarifying my wins, the decisions become less turbulent.

What decision are you trying to make today that could benefit from a guiding principle? Take some time to work through the big picture, and then see if that decision doesn’t become a little easier down the road.

Why You Need to Say It Again

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This week I encountered a scary scenario. Do you ever begin reading a sentence and try to finish the thought in your head before finishing the…sandwich?

Well, that happened to me. I was reading something, and I honestly don’t remember the end of the sentence, but I remember where my thoughts went, and it was somewhat alarming.

The idea was simply this: if you want to know how you’re doing at casting vision (or clarifying the win), ask your leaders what they’re aiming for.

This bothered me for two reasons. First, I tend to constantly run different scenarios through my head, and I generally try to bounce them off people to see what the response may be. I do that without the intent of being committed to the direction or thought, but as a way of helping me process or see roadblocks. But the by-product is a pasture full of ideas. They all have room to graze and grow, but they’re not easily accessible.

Second, I don’t know that I’ve cast a clear and concise vision for the incredible volunteers I get to lead. In part because I’ve not built a clear and concise vision capable of being cast. That’s something that needs correction.

So, take a moment right now and ask yourself this question: If you were going to ask someone you lead what their goal is, how would they answer? More importantly, would their answer match yours?

That’s where the redundancy of leadership comes into play. As leaders, we have to continually repeat ourselves, but with purpose. Repeat your vision so clearly and concisely that everyone will know why you exist. If you think you’ve repeated enough, keep repeating. Trust me.

The moment we as leaders stop casting vision, we stop communicating a clear direction.

Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself today, but make sure it’s something worth repeating.

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