Why You Need to Say It Again

If you were going to ask someone you lead what their goal is, how would they answer? More importantly, would their answer match yours?

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This week I encountered a scary scenario. Do you ever begin reading a sentence and try to finish the thought in your head before finishing the…sandwich?

Well, that happened to me. I was reading something, and I honestly don’t remember the end of the sentence, but I remember where my thoughts went, and it was somewhat alarming.

The idea was simply this: if you want to know how you’re doing at casting vision (or clarifying the win), ask your leaders what they’re aiming for.

This bothered me for two reasons. First, I tend to constantly run different scenarios through my head, and I generally try to bounce them off people to see what the response may be. I do that without the intent of being committed to the direction or thought, but as a way of helping me process or see roadblocks. But the by-product is a pasture full of ideas. They all have room to graze and grow, but they’re not easily accessible.

Second, I don’t know that I’ve cast a clear and concise vision for the incredible volunteers I get to lead. In part because I’ve not built a clear and concise vision capable of being cast. That’s something that needs correction.

So, take a moment right now and ask yourself this question: If you were going to ask someone you lead what their goal is, how would they answer? More importantly, would their answer match yours?

That’s where the redundancy of leadership comes into play. As leaders, we have to continually repeat ourselves, but with purpose. Repeat your vision so clearly and concisely that everyone will know why you exist. If you think you’ve repeated enough, keep repeating. Trust me.

The moment we as leaders stop casting vision, we stop communicating a clear direction.

Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself today, but make sure it’s something worth repeating.

What’s Your Rhythm?

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I served at my last church for almost 7 years. In addition to the ministry I was able to lead and participate in, one of the things I am most grateful for during my time was the unofficial mentoring relationships I was able to establish.

In that unofficial mentoring, one of the things I picked up was the value of understanding rhythm. You can read a small part of that thought, geared specifically to Youth Ministers, over at the Horizon Youth Ministry blog. But when it comes to rhythms, I still have so much to learn!

One of the things I am benefitting from is journaling. In January of 2019 I began practicing The Miracle Morning as described by Hal Elrod, and it’s been a great practice for me. One of the elements is journaling. So, almost every morning, I journal. Twice.

The first is a “One Line a Day, 5 Year” Journal. This means, I write a sentence or two about that day. And now that I’m on my 2nd year, I have a built in reminder of major life events from the past 2 years, as well as perspective on things that seem big in the moment, but I would have completely forgotten. I make a point to make up for missed days on this, so I don’t have a blank day for the past 22 months.

The second, is an online journal with a feature that will send me my post from the last year, if I wrote on that day. I’m a little less rigid with this one, but the two-three paragraphs make for great reminders.

Today, I benefitted from my one line a day journal. I read what I wrote last year, and immediately it gave me some perspective on the rhythm I’m in for this time of year. And I feel refreshed (and perplexed) by it.

How are you embracing rhythms? What are the natural ebbs and flows of your life, and are you leaning into them? Do you naturally notice those rhythms, or do you (like me) need help being reminded?

Lessons from the Farm: Learn the Hacks

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I was very fortunate growing up working on the farm. Our tractors always had air conditioners. The A/C may not have always functioned perfectly, but the tractors were equipped.

They also had cabs. They may not sound like an important distinction, but it is. That means our tractors were relatively new. Emphasis on relatively.

But we had one tractor that would transition between what we called the farm and the ranch. It was a John Deere 4020, and it was a bear to start.

Until one day someone gave my dad a tip: as you try to start, turn the steering wheel. Guess what? It worked.

In fact, it worked on all of our John Deere tractors. As you turn the key, put your hand on the steering wheel, turn it left to right repeatedly, and it will crank a lot easier.

Hacks make life easier. But here’s the thing: hacks are never written into the original owner’s manual. Why? Because hacks develop out of necessity and frustration. Sometimes you develop it on your own (adapt and innovate), and sometimes an old farmer shares a tip.

That’s what the 3 Questions have become for me. They are a hack to help move student leaders (and adults) into an attitude of leadership.

Chances are you have a leadership hack or two in your arsenal as well. Or if you don’t, you know people around you who do. And that’s the beauty of what we do: we don’t have to do things alone.

My challenge to you today is to think about the thing that frustrates you on a regular basis, then think of someone in your life who might just have a hack for that situation. And ask.

You never know what information is out that there that might make things easier, until you ask.

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Lessons from the Farm: Build Around the Water

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Somewhere before or after my senior year of high school (I forget which), we underwent a major construction project on the farm. We tore down our existing corrals (part of which had been there for nearly 100 years!) and built a new set.

This was my largest construction project to date, and it only included pipe and oil field cable. But it was something my dad had been planning for a while.

As we built, obviously my dad knew how he wanted the layout. Do you care to guess what we built around?

It wasn’t the new loading chute, though that was part of our plan.

It wasn’t the new sorting lane, though that was part of our plan.

It wasn’t the new crowding pin, though that was part of our plan.

It was water.

Everything else could have been built anywhere on the place. Our water supply, however, was in a specific place. So we built the new corrals around our water tank.

I’m going to confess something. This COVID19 interruption has thrown me for a loop. It’s taken everything I’ve spent the last 12 months to establish (my 1 year anniversary was the last Sunday we met in person), and taken it to the ground.

I value routine. That’s part of why I’ve been able to blog so consistently for 3+ years. It’s part of my rhythm. But what happens when my rhythm gets challenged? What happens when you level the old corrals and start new?

You build around the water.

Months ago I spent some time adding some structure to the direction I want the ministry I lead to head. We rolled out a new logo in January that represents that new direction. And in the middle of this, that new direction is what has kept me grounded. That direction, or purpose, or vision, or whatever you want to call it, has been my water.

What’s your water? What are you building around in this time of shifting? Do you need to take some time to determine what your water is?

Stay faithful to what’s important today, and let the rest build on itself.

Think Trails, Not Highways

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Sometimes when I write, I formulate ideas as I go. Okay, maybe a lot of the time.

That’s why last Thursday’s post (Cast the Vision, Not the Path) has been replaying in my mind. Do I truly think for leadership, it’s beneficial to set the destination and let someone else reach it?

Let me rephrase the concept for today’s post: Think trails, not highways.

Growing up, I spent countless days and hours on my dad’s farm. We lived in town, so every time we went to the farm we started the same way: out of the drive way, turn right on the highway that led to the barn. That path only changed when our destination was different.

Once we got on the farm, however, there was no pavement. There were no highways. There were dirt paths worn down over the years.

But even those dirt paths had variations. Pot holes in pavement are simply mud puddles on a dirt road. So guess what? You drive around mud puddles, creating a new path.

Only once or twice during my life working on the farm did we drastically change the paths to get to our destination, but we had that freedom. We knew where we were going, so how we got there was simply a matter of efficiency.

When we think trails not highways in leadership, we understand the destination plays the key role. As leaders, we have to set a clear vision as to what we want, then allow those we lead to choose the path, to some extent. And that can be scary.

Time and time again in my life, I have experienced the fear and anxiety of entrusting someone with a task, sometimes regretting the decision as they are beating out their own path, and then to realize at the end, the result was what I hoped.

Not everyone sees the same trail as me. And that’s okay.

But we have to cast a clear and compelling destination. If we leave room for ambiguity on the destination, those we lead run the risk of getting lost in the weeds.

So, what vision are you needing to cast? What destination do you need to set out for those around you? Are you willing to think trails not highways?

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