Lessons from the Court: Know Your Team

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Have you ever misjudged someone’s character? Have you ever expected someone to do something, only to be disappointed (or even angry) when they don’t follow through? Have you ever wondered what that says about you?

For the past couple years, playing pickup basketball has been one of my more consistent events week in, week out. Recently I spent some time reflecting on the leadership lessons I can share from my time on the court.

One of the tricky things about pickup basketball is you seldom have the same team from week to week. So when teams are divided out, it’s important to know who’s on your team. Here’s why:

You don’t want to pass the ball to the wrong person, obviously. If you have someone around you who is aiming for the same goal (literally), don’t pass the ball to someone who doesn’t have the same goal.

Second, you don’t want to neglect potential on your own team. We don’t mess up only when we pass the ball away, but also when we neglect a teammate. If we’re playing 3 on 3, why would I want to exclude a teammate and essentially make the game a 2 on 3 affair? It doesn’t make sense.

Now, the leadership principles are the same.

As you begin to lead people, you need to take some time to evaluate who’s on your team for the same two reasons.

First, you don’t want to misjudge someone’s motives and hand off a critical task only to realize (often too late) your goals didn’t align. They were shooting for their own target, not yours. And now you have to deal with the fallout.

Second, why would you neglect someone who IS willing to help? If I am completely honest with you, I struggle with this more than I should. It’s not that I willfully neglect anyone, it’s that I feel guilty asking someone (who’s on board) to help. That’s why the three questions are so helpful for me.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, your job as a leader is to make the most of the team you have around you. That starts by knowing who is on your team and who is not.

A Bonus Back to Basics!

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Three Question Leadership is kind of my brand. I mean, look at the url above, and you’ll see it. I’ve spent the last 4+ years honing the three questions, but today I have a bonus for you – the secret 4th question that unlocks the power of the Three Questions.

A few years ago I started teaching students a simple framework of questions to help them think through a practical approach to leadership and influence. I reference it often here, even giving this framework it’s own page on the navigation bar (The Foundation), but I thought it might be time to write something fresh about the Three Questions.

The concept is simple: teach yourself (and those around you!) to ask and answer the following three questions, and watch your influence slowly begin to grow. As it becomes part of the language, you’ll begin to see a difference. So, without further delay, here you go:

When you walk into a room (or approach a situation), ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. What NeedsWhat Needs To Be Done? (Awareness)
  2. What Can I Do? (Willingness)
  3. Who Can I Get To Help? (Leadership)
  4. A Bonus Question!

I love these three questions. I love the framework they provide. I love the simplicity. I love the potential they unlock. I love watching students learn to work through them.

But sometimes, as I’ve taught these questions to students, I fill time with talking. One night I was doing that and off handedly mentioned a fourth question, to which Gabe was enamored by. I’m not sure if he was more caught by the content of the 4th question, or the secrecy of it, but he didn’t let me forget it.

The fourth question is simply this: Who can I teach the Three Questions? (Multiplication)

At the end of the day, while the first three questions provide a solid framework, the true power of the questions is in their replication. What I’ve been doing the last two weeks. What you can do by teaching the framework to those you lead.

Ultimately, the best secrets are secrets that cannot be kept. That’s why today’s title mentions a bonus. Learning to share the framework is like hitting the jackpot. Slowly but surely you will see culture begin to shift as service and leadership take a front and center approach.

So, who can you teach the three questions? Who in your life, in your sphere of influence, can you challenge? What are you waiting for? Send them the link to this blog!

As always, you can subscribe here to get these posts delivered straight to your inbox.

The Power of an Aha Moment

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Let’s talk about “Aha” moments. Those moments where someone says something and you almost instinctively push back, only to realize they’re right.

One of my aha moments came about 10 years ago. I was serving bi-vocationally at the church where I grew up. We were seeing some good growth, but we hit a bit of a ceiling. Then one day while listening to a podcast, probably while riding a 4-wheeler, I heard Josh Griffin say something to the effect of: 30 kids is about the max a youth minister will be able to sustain by himself.

To clarify: he was saying that if I was going to do ministry by myself, the biggest number I would be able to sustain would be about 30. We might balloon over that, but reality is we would never successfully grow past that.

And I was living it. The ministry had grown to about 30, but had hit a ceiling. I had my “aha” moment, and decided it was time to make a change.

So I started looking for an adult to recruit. That’s actually a very difficult thing to do in a small town, but I set out to do it. And I found someone willing to help.

Fast forward a few years, and at the peak of the ministry at my last church, we had a solid team of adults investing in and loving on students. In fact, the success we saw would not have happened without those adults.

Now, today, a couple years into a new role, I’ve spent a significant amount of time and energy investing in and encouraging adults, and we are set for growth.

Here’s the point: leadership development means recruiting and retaining.

This comes very naturally and easy to some people, but to others (like me), it takes continual, intentional effort. But it’s worth the effort. And more than that, it’s a blessing to the people we invite for the journey.

So, youth ministers: who can you recruit today? What are you waiting for?

The Why of Leadership Development

When it comes to leadership and leadership development, I feel like I have way more blanks than answers. I look at my own development and see where I fall short. I look at how I’m developing students and see where I fall short. I look at how I’m developing adults and see where I fall short.

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I’m going to go out on a limb and confess something today. I don’t have everything figured out.

When it comes to leadership and leadership development, I feel like I have way more blanks than answers. I look at my own development and see where I fall short. I look at how I’m developing students and see where I fall short. I look at how I’m developing adults and see where I fall short.

And in that moment I’m faced with a decision that I think every one of us faces: what comes next? What’s my response going to be to admitting my seemingly insurmountable shortfalls? What am I willing to do about the need that I see?

I’m going to do something. It may be the right thing. It may be the wrong thing. It may be just in time, or way too early. But the worst thing I can do is no-thing.

Leadership development is one of the most challenging things I do: It’s fluid. It’s elusive. It’s not easy. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. It’s never fully done.

So why do I stick with it?

Because it’s also one of the most rewarding things I do.

When a student catches the vision of the influence they have in a moment, something powerful happens. When they step up to realize the difference they can make in the lives of their peers, classmates, teammates, coworkers, parents, and teachers, lives begin to change.

So today I ask you a simple question: What are you doing to develop leaders around you? My context puts me in touch with students (and adults), so that’s my focus. What’s yours? Who in your realm of influence needs a leader cheering them on? What are you waiting for?

Growth is a Challenge

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Developing student leaders is a challenge.

It’s a challenge to balance the potential we see with the reality of the moment. But when we help a student realize and achieve that potential, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge to convince a student that developing as a leader actually impacts their athletics. But when we help a student become a stronger leader on the court or field, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge to watch a student wrestle with simple decisions because they are torn in so many directions. But when they take a leap and experience the difference, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when you have to learn a new personality and admit you had it wrong from the outset. But when they come out of their shell and reveal their talent and skill, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when a student doesn’t see the value in the basics of expanding their influence. But when they realize their actions speak louder than their commands, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when accountability is not well received. But when they grow from it, it’s worth it.

It’s a challenge when you invite a student to experience a new level of growth, and they politely turn you down. But when they are ready and accept the invitation, it’s worth it.

Ultimately, the greatest reward of developing student leaders isn’t in the easy moments, it’s in the moments that follow the struggle. I don’t know what challenge you’re facing or dealing with in this season, but know that when a student (or adult, for that matter) leans into developing their own leadership influence, it’s worth it.

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