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.

Willingness Matters

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I feel like there are a few topics I come back to often here on the blog. But, my habit is to process what leadership lesson is on my mind, and today it’s what follows:

I would rather have a potential leader who is incredibly willing and somewhat talented than a potential leader who is incredibly talented and somewhat willing. Here’s why.

Willingness matters.

Someone, when asked to help or participate, who responds with trepidation, will move forward with trepidation. Someone who responds with enthusiasm, will move forward with enthusiasm.

So would you rather work with a hesitant person or an enthusiastic person?

The same goes for developing leaders. Enthusiasm is contagious, in a good way. Skepticism is contagious in a bad way.

This is true for students and for adults. Someone who is willing to serve will make a greater impact than someone who is hesitant.

Because willingness matters.

So what does this mean for you? Are you surrounding yourself with enthusiastic people? Are you looking for students to empower as leaders who are willing?

Do you agree with my initial thought? Is willingness more important than skill? How have you seen this play out in your life and experience?

One last thought, the ultimate jackpot is willingness AND talent. They are rare, but when you get to that point, leadership gets way more fun.

You'll Figure it Out

You’ll Figure It Out

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Did you know I play bass guitar?

I got my first guitar in junior high and learned to play over the following few years. Who am I kidding, I’m still learning to play.

But for Christmas my senior year of high school, my dad bought me a bass guitar. Ever a pragmatist, he decided to buy me a “real” bass so that when/if/when I decided to give up on it, since I was a guitar player, the bass would have a good resale value. That meant my first bass was a Fender Jazz Bass.

But there was something he didn’t expect: I’m a pack rat, so I never get rid of anything. So I kept my bass. I learned one 8 bar blues bass line that made me sound like I knew what I was doing, but never really had occasion to play bass.

Fast forward a couple years. I was serving at my first church as the youth minister. Even though I was in charge of youth, I helped with music where I could. Then, with the arrival of a new music minister, something changed.

Our new music minister was incredibly gifted musically, but had cut his teeth playing bass guitar. So, he started teaching me how to play. But his approach was different.

I generally have a pretty poor memory, but I’m pretty certain we never sat down for a formal “lesson”. It was always learning “on the fly”.

I still have a picture in my head of one morning. He was on guitar. I was on bass. It was the opening song for the morning. Right before he started playing, I remember telling him I didn’t know the song. And his words continue to ring true: you’ll figure it out.

And that’s what I had to do. Sink or swim. And I sank, a lot. Until I learned to swim.

Playing with him I learned to anticipate the changes, to play with the rhythm, to find the groove, and so much more.

His leadership approach is something I occasionally employ today. Sometimes the best tool for growth is immersion.

Does that mean it’s going to be perfect? Nope.

Does that means it’s going to be flawless? Nope.

Does that mean it’s going to be memorable? Very likely, one way or the other.

There is someone in your sphere of influence who needs an opportunity to sink or swim. There is someone you are leading who needs a challenge they feel they cannot meet.

So I have two questions for you today: 1) who is it? and 2) are you willing to step back for the sake of their growth?

Heart Check

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Words reveal intent. Actions reveal heart.

I worked up that phrase a few years back, and it’s something I return to regularly to both wrestle with it’s validity and to check my heart in the process.

You see, I think we say things we want to do. We want to eat better, exercise more, be a better friend, and be more dependable. All of those are things we intend to do.

But at the end of the day, after that third serving of supper, our actions reveal things about us we may not be ready or willing to accept.

The same is true in developing leaders around us. We know we should do a better job. We say we should do a better job. But, when push comes to shove, our actions reveal something different.

This summer for student ministry is unlike anything we have ever experienced. I know so many ministries who are having to completely audible what would have been and move in a different direction.

But I have one plea. Don’t let leadership development get pushed to the side.

Developing leaders is not an easy task. I love what we’ve been able to do each summer at camp with our Horizon Leadership Camp, but in the absence of camp, I am going to spend brain energy deciding how to work leadership development into what I’m doing.

After all, I can say developing student leaders is important. But if I’m not taking steps to help students grow, do my actions line up with my intent?

Dream a little today about what leadership development could look like this summer. Put some thought into it, and then do it. You can do this!

Leaders Set the Pace

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I’m a thinker. I think about options constantly. It could be options for an event. Options for guitars. Options for meals, or grilling, or yard work, or house work. I’ve jokingly said in the past that I spend about 90% of the time thinking about things and only 10% doing.

One upside when I finally do something is I’ve thought through it and have a good idea of what I want to do, and usually trust that it’s going to be pretty good.

So years ago I had to learn a pretty hard lesson. Change stimulates grief. Even for me, as a leader. I grieve the loss of what was comfortable and normal. But by the time I’ve acted on it, I had already processed my grief and am ready to move forward. But, as a leader, I was wrong.

Leading organizational change isn’t like changing shampoo. If I switch to another shampoo, you have no emotional attachment to the level of hair care I provide myself, aside from excessive dandruff.

But if I am changing something that’s known and comfortable, the process gets sticky. There needs to be space for grief before we can move forward.

I realized it when I led a previous church to separate middle school and high school for a season.

It’s happening now with changes due to COVID.

Just because I’ve spent days and weeks thinking about the change and the implementation of the change, doesn’t mean everyone else has. And if people don’t get the benefit of grieving change, they are going to be more resistant (even hostile).

That’s why our job as a leader is to set the pace. If we get too far in front, we leave everyone behind. If we move too slow, no one stays with us.

As you lead change during this time (or any time), remember to set the pace. Just because you’ve spent countless hours thinking about it, do not assume the people you’re leading have. Help them process the grief of loss, but set a healthy forward pace.

Because at the end of the day, if we outrun the people running with us, we stop being a leader.

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