Memories, Good and Sad

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Two years ago today we had a memorial service for my Father in Law, Andy Hill. To say his absence is still felt is easily classified as an understatement.

In reflection of and in the moment, I wrote a post titled “Grief and Joy”. This morning, as I was starting my day, I kept seeing pictures from the service pop up on my photo memories, and thought it only fitting to share that post again.

I’ve included a clip (and one of my favorite stories of Andy) below, but you can click over to read the whole thing. The reflections are still true today.

With the passing of my father-in-law, I lost an advocate. Every birthday card he gave me was addressed to “No. 4 Son”, and he meant it. I was not a son-in-law. He saw me as part of the family.

As my wife and I were approaching our first anniversary of marriage, she was talking to him one day and made a statement to the effect of “You know, when Wes and I fight, I usually win most of the time” (time warped interpretation, but that was the gist of it). Andy replied as only a father can, “You know sweetie, sometimes it’s just easier for the husband to let the wife think she’s right.”

Click here to read the full reflection, and thanks for sticking with me.

Take Responsibility and Grow

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Nobody carries the burden for your leadership more than you. And rightfully so.

I love writing these posts, I really do. I’m even more grateful for those of you who read them.

But if we’re being honest, this blog is largely a mutually selfish exchange. I write because I think I have something worth sharing and something that will be a great benefit to you, but at the same time it gives me a place to process what I’m going through.

You read these posts for a combination of two reasons: you find them helpful and beneficial to your setting OR you see it as a way to show support and encouragement to me.

But at the end of the day, I carry the burden for my leadership and you carry yours.

That’s why it’s so important to find ways to expand your leadership influence. Read about and implement the three questions. Remind people why you do what you do, and then remind them again. Look for inspiration in the most unlikely places.

But take your leadership growth seriously. Make a plan, execute, and adjust accordingly. When you step up and take ownership of your burden for leadership, you’ll begin to see some pretty amazing results.

Lying Street Signs

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Last week I talked about shared language. You can read what I wrote here (Unlock the Power of Shared Language) and here (Beware the Dangers of Shared Language).

Today, I thought I would share a story.

At my previous church, we had to find our own housing. Our salary was pretty minimal, so the cost of housing was a burden, and add to that living in a small town with few housing options, we were always looking for an opportunity to alleviate some financial burden.

One day at church a deacon approached me with an opportunity. This deacon was a wonderful man, had grown up in the community and moved back in retirement. He and his wife opened their home to us the first weekend we stayed in town, and undoubtedly supported us. He had found a potential house for us to live in for an incredible price.

The next step was for us to drive by and look at it. He gave me directions, with one problem. He told me the house was on Church Street. So, later that Sunday, after naps, we piled the family into the car and started driving around, looking for Church Street. It wasn’t where I thought it should have been, so we started driving to find it.

Let me insert something at this point. I love small towns. I grew up in a small town. I have lived in small towns most of my life. But, one of the downsides to small town life is street signs are not a necessity.

So, as we were driving around town, we had to hunt to find street signs just to see if we could find Church Street.

Can you see where this is going? I never found Church Street. Do you want to know why?

I didn’t share the language. Church Street, strangely enough, was the street with three churches on it. But it’s name was Washington Street.

Shared Language is a powerful thing. But makes sure the people to whom you’re talking share the language too. If not, bring them in and watch an ally be born.

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!

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