Is This the Worst Student Leadership Mistake?

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What do you do when you have a student who shows great leadership potential?

Over the course of my ministry experience I’ve had a few students who seem to be a step ahead of their peers when it comes to reading and understanding a room. They have an intuition about them that makes them appear more mature and capable than everyone else.

So, it only makes sense to give them more and more responsibility, right? I mean, we want to develop student leaders. That’s kind of the point of what I write about here at 3QL.

Let me offer one caveat. And it’s one that is still fresh in my mind.

I never want to crush a potential leader’s spirit. I desperately try to avoid adding too much to their burden, but when a student has a high capacity, I find myself wrestling with this.

That’s why I’ve started reminding myself of the following thought.

Give students student leadership opportunities, not adult leadership opportunities.

If you want someone to feel the weight and worry of leadership, give a teenager the load you would expect from an adult. I’m not saying some teenagers cannot handle such responsibility, but they have the rest of their lives to be adults.

Put in the effort to help a student find appropriate levels of challenge for where they are. I want to avoid expecting a 14 year old, who shows incredible capacity for influence, to carry the load I would ask a 34 year old to carry. No one wins in that situation.

Instead, I want to help that 14 year explore leadership in appropriate avenues.

Stretch their thinking? Of course.

Challenge their abilities? Sure.

Help them grow their leadership influence? Absolutely.

But if I ask them to start adulting, they will burn out and I will give up.

So, how are you at this? Are you providing high capacity students with student leadership opportunities?

The Repetition Key

The Repetition Key

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Practice makes perfect, or so the saying goes.

The past few years I have coached my oldest daughter’s basketball team. Right or wrong, one of the things I made them do was work on shots from the block. I wanted them to be able to make a shot close to the basket using the backboard.

We would have competitions to see who could make more. We would take turns. We would have timed drills, all with the purpose of helping them develop that one shot.

Why? Because you perform how you practice. If you practice making shots from the block, you have a higher likelihood of making shots from the block in a game. The math is simple.

There’s a rhythm to the repetition. Your muscle memory takes over at some point.

For me, in high school, I shot countless shots from “the elbow” of the free throw line. That was almost 20 years ago, but guess what: today, I can make an elbow shot almost without thinking about it. I repeated the process over and over, and it has stuck with me, somewhat.

Leadership is redundant. As we teach students the ins and outs of leadership, we have to embrace the redundancy.

It’s practicing block shots every practice, knowing eventually you can move further away.

It’s asking and answering the 3 questions every week, over and over, and seeing how the answers change.

It’s inviting those around you to join you as you accomplish a task.

Leadership is doing the same thing over and over. Even when you think you cannot do it again, repeating the process. And teaching others to do the same.

Does repetition get old? Sure.

Does repetition get boring? Sometimes.

But is repetition necessary? Absolutely.

As I’m embarking on helping developing a new group of student leaders, I realize the importance of repetition, and easy repetition to start. I’m striving to help them find a rhythm, to find a place to get started. The goal is to help these student leaders see the opportunities for them to make an impact.

What needs repeating in your setting? Are you willing to tackle it?

3 Tips to Pick Your Spots

3 Tips to Help Pick Your Spots

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Pick your spots.

And so went my advice to a friend about a situation they found themselves facing.

Sometimes the temptation we, as leaders, face is to try to generate sweeping changes all at one time, when in reality the most effective change happens when we pick our spots.

If you face a situation and see ten different things that need addressing, here are three tips to help you narrow down your list and more effectively pick your spots.

  1. Clarify – Sure, you may be full of great ideas. I mean, truly, how many of us ever think to ourselves that our next great idea is a dud? But the person standing on the street corner yelling about ten different things doesn’t garner an audience. But, when you can narrow your focus, your message carries more weight. This bears itself out in preaching, too. A message with one solid point has a better chance of inspiring change than a message with one great point surrounded by two mediocre ones. Clarity pays.
  2. Prioritize – If you only had the relational capital to influence one change on your list of ten, which would it be? Start there. Then, after that one, consider moving on to the next. I’ve been playing a lot darts on my phone against my wife (#millenials). I do better when I have a specific spot I’m aiming to hit.
  3. Move with Humility – Be careful not to sit on your hands and think you don’t have influence. When you approach a situation with humility, then you have a better chance of affecting change. Sure you can barrel through your list and bully people into your way, but you’re the only person that wins. And when you’re the only person who wins, nobody wins.

As simple as this may sound, the reality is so often lasting change happens bit by bit. Take a minute to look around today and pick your spots. Clarify, prioritize, and move with humility. You may just be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Flashback Friday #1

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Today’s flashback takes us back to one of the first posts on 3QL. The post is titled “Don’t Let Someone’s Character Surprise You“, and was born out of some personal frustrations years ago. Here’s a clip:

I have a morning routine. I make coffee before I do almost anything else. Sometimes I prep the coffee maker the night before, and sometimes I have to prep and brew in the same motion.

But do you want to know something that has never happened? I have never pushed brew on the coffee maker and watched the coffee pot fill with soda. Why is that? Because the coffee maker does what it is made to do — make coffee.

Over the years I have learned a similar lesson about people — I cannot let myself be surprised when someone does something that lines up with who they have been while I have known them.

Be sure to click over and read the rest of the post, and thanks for stopping by!

Simple Shifts

Simple Shifts

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Since I started writing here two years ago, I have always moved back and forth in content from personal observations about leadership to lessons I was learning while trying to teach the three questions to a group of students to lessons about leadership I was learning (or struggling to learn) about my own influence.

The next few weeks I am going to toy with a little more structure to that. Tuesday posts are going to be more about personal leadership development, whereas Thursdays will center on reflections on leadership conversations I’ve been having as I try to increase those conversations in my current context. In addition, you’ll also get a Flashback Friday, where I share a post from deep in the 3QL archives. Spoiler alert: my early writing was probably my best, so don’t skimp on the flashbacks.

So, onward we go.

What I’m going to say is hardly revolutionary, but it’s something I’ve had to learn. I retain better when I read.

Part of my startup to the day routine (inspired by Michael Hyatt) for the past 6-7 months has been to watch a leadership video of some sort from RightNow Media. The majority of the videos have been of John Maxwell sharing insights.

The challenge? I can “multi-task” while the video is playing. Sure, occasionally I would pull out my journal and jot down thoughts or responses to what was covered, but for the most part, the videos ended up being background noise.

The past two weeks, however, I’ve replaced that video with reading. I’m not spending a significant chunk of time on reading, but just making myself pause to read produces a different result.

I can’t be looking at the calendar while I’m reading. I can’t start checking email while I’m reading. I can’t start piddling with whatever is on my computer screen while I’m reading.

The simple act of picking up a book helps me zero in on my purpose for that time. And guess what? The quality of that start to my day has increased by a multiple of ten.

There is something you’re doing right now to help you grow, that really isn’t helping you grow. It may be from the right place and with the right intention, but you and I both know it’s not helpful.

Change it.

If you’re serious about expanding your leadership influence, do not settle for something that doesn’t help you move forward.

For me, the shift has been actually reading instead of a video. For you, that shift may be something different – a leadership podcast instead of music on your way to work, or a weekly phone call with someone who pushes you and challenges you to be better.

Whatever it is for you, make the shift today.

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