Don’t Let Someone’s Character Surprise You

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I started the Three Question Leadership Blog 4 years ago. I thought I would spend the next few weeks sharing some of my first posts, in their entirety, here. Whether you’re new or have been with me all along, I hope you find these concepts applicable.

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.

If a person repeatedly shows up late for an event or a meeting, I cannot allow myself to be bothered or surprised when they show up late for an event or a meeting.

If someone constantly seems uninterested in what is being said or what is happening around them, I cannot let myself get angry when they act uninterested or uninvolved in what I’m saying.

If someone regularly causes troubles by talking about people behind their back, I cannot take it personally when they do the same thing to me.

There are things I do that people should not be surprised when it happens.

Every one of us have life experiences that have led us to where we are. Our behaviors are a culmination of our life experiences and our decisions to that point. We have not become who we are today without the influence of who we were yesterday.

Does this mean we cannot change? Absolutely not. Ask the person who did not go to the dentist for decades, but now has become a dental advocate. Or the person who had to have emergency heart surgery and now is one of the healthiest people you know.

We can always change, but we cannot always change those around us.

So, how do you find the balance between having no expectations of change in others, and trying to be a catalyst of that change? Get to know them, show grace, and encourage them along the way.

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Finding Comfort in Principles

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Something I do from time to time is return to principles I’ve picked up along the way. Some of them are from victories, and some of them are from struggles. Today, I thought I’d share a principle I’ve been reminded of recently. I’ve written about it a couple times, here and here.

I’ve included a snippet of the post, but I’d encourage you to take the time to click over and read the whole thing. I hope it helps you process some of the things you’re going through at the moment.

Along your leadership journey you will encounter more and more people. After a period in the same situation, you will start to learn more about individuals-their interests, habits, and character.

Then, one day, the inevitable will happen. Someone will do something to disappoint you. They will drop the ball on a project. They will show up late, again. They will gossip. They will fail to show up at all. Any number of possibilities, and they leave you, the leader, dealing with the fall out.

Before you take it out on them, or if you’re like me, take it out on yourself, ask yourself one thing: is this in line with who I know them to be? Do these actions line up with their past behavior?

Leaders Cast Vision

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Leaders cast vision. In the midst of uncertainty, when no one knows what may come next, leaders cast vision.

I am fascinated by COVID19 and the rapid pace of change all around us. Every day new information bombards us, causing more shifts in reality. So, as a leader, how do you make sure you are leading others to move forward?

Leaders cast vision.

When I started in my current role just over a year ago, one of my goals was to set out some goals and some targets I wanted to aim for. This morning, as I was thinking about the road ahead, I realized my goals have not changed; my delivery method may change, but my goals remain the same.

My job, as a leader in my own context, is to make sure those I lead are on the same page, moving in the same direction. Chaos, by definition, is the absence of a unified movement. We are living in a time of chaos.

So, my role, as a leader, is to cast vision.

You are in the same spot. In a world dominated by chaos, casting vision is more important than ever. Return to the base line of your goals. If everything changes (which it is), what do you still want to accomplish? Now, communicate that to those you lead.

And remember, leaders cast vision.

Student Leadership Development and COVID19

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Back when I was starting to help develop what we now call Horizon Leadership Camp, I set out to ask as many youth minsters as possible one question: What are you doing to develop student leaders?

In the process of asking the question, I came to a conclusion: developing student leaders, while important, doesn’t take a front seat in the midst of the demands of student ministry. Instead, it gets pushed back into the realm of “if I have time”.

I wonder if in the midst of the chaos of self-isolation and social distancing we are once again pushing developing student leaders to the back. It’s only natural. I’ll confess that this week, in spite of my passion for leadership, I’ve not spent much time trying to come to grips with what student leadership looks like in our current context.

Thankfully, for today, I get to turn my focus to it. Here are two opportunities as we move forward:

  1. Gather student leaders, however possible, to evaluate. Our student ministry hosted a Zoom call last night, and it went pretty well, but I treasure evaluation. If I can get student leaders to help me think through things that went poorly and things that went really well, then everyone wins. The great thing about Zoom is everyone gets a voice.
  2. Gather student leaders to train them. I’ve mentioned previously that I regret not having a training with these student leaders to give us shared language, so guess what? It’s time to schedule a training! We don’t have conflicts for a few weeks, so now is a great time. It may not be ideal, but the opportunity is undoubtedly there.

As time rolls on and as our next steps become more and more clear, I’m sure that I will come up with other plans, but the biggest key is to not let leadership development go dormant in the midst of the chaos of ministry during COVID19.

So, what are you doing to develop student leaders during this time? Comment below!

Building Trust

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One of the joys of leadership is bringing new people alongside and letting them lead. One of the risks in leadership is deciphering how much rope a new person should be given.

So, how do we decide how much freedom to give a new person? Easy – relationships.

Occasionally, as leaders, we have to trust someone whom we do not know to step up and lead. One year ago I was hired by a church to come in and lead the student ministry. Our relationship was starting essentially from scratch, and so there was a built in level of trust that was necessary for me to start my job.

But the reality was (and continues to be), trust is built through relationships. As I have (hopefully) shown myself to be a trustworthy leader, I benefit from more and more responsibility.

The same is true as I’ve brought on new people to lead in the student ministry here. As we’ve gotten to know each other better, I’m learning what I can and cannot give away.

But it all starts with relationship.

This is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of leadership, because at the end of the day if we are not building relationships with other people, we have no leadership influence.

Relationships are messy. They take time. They rarely have easy answers. Everyone is unique, no matter how much they remind of us people from our past. But relationships unlock potential.

As a leader, if you are interested in growing your influence, continually build relationships. Be careful not to give too much rope, but at the same time, you’ll be amazed at how high capacity people have a high desire to serve. In other words, if you never give away responsibility, you run the risk of losing your best people.

So, what relationships do you need to work on this week? Maybe it’s building trust with new team members. Maybe it’s checking in with consistent leaders. Maybe it’s pouring into someone who is feeling empty. Maybe it’s have a conversation to realize someone is feeling empty.

Whatever step you need to take to further a relationship, do it today!

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