We All Need a Little Reminder

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Have you ever wondered how people used to make maps of shorelines? Seriously, was it a boat and a compass? Then, with the ability to take pictures from miles above, was there ever a shore line that was just wrong until we had the right perspective?

And so went my random thoughts this morning. Do you ever find yourself dreaming solutions about things you have zero experience with? I’ve never mapped out a coast line in my life.

Sometimes those distractions keep us from focusing on what requires focus in front of us. Sometimes we need a reminder of the foundational things in life.

It’s been a while since I talked about the three questions (you can read all about them here), so instead of trying to figure out how to map a coastline, let’s revisit the name sake of this blog.

I love the simplicity of the three questions. Teaching students (or adults) to embrace awareness-willingness-leadership as an approach to influencing situations around them opens the door for possibility.

This past weekend I taught the three questions to a group of student leaders and made a statement I hadn’t made before. I learned early on that not everyone naturally sees the need in a room (awareness). Some people, even if they have good hearts, are missing the natural ability. So, my challenge to them? Stick close to someone who naturally asks the first question.

This makes sense, right? If I’m trying to watch what I eat in order to lose weight, it’s easier for me to make good choices if I’m with someone else who is trying to do the same thing. My healthy eating decisions get more difficult, however, when I’m around people who are less than intentional.

The same is true for us as leaders. If you have a hard time simply acknowledging the need of the moment, find someone who handles it naturally and allow them to help train your mind to observe.

At the end of the day, it’s very difficult to influence change and raise up other leaders if we are unable to acknowledge what needs to be done around us. Spend some time today honing your awareness.

Can Dissatisfaction Be a Good Thing?

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I’ve been reading through a John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” with a group of friends. In this week’s reading, we came across a line I thought was interesting.

“Dissatisfaction is a good one word definition for motivation.”

John Maxwell, 5 Levels of Leadership

Maxwell’s words resonated with me. I want to always be getting better. Last week I talked about Routines and Ruts. I think dissatisfaction provides the traction to get out of ruts in our lives. As we feel ourselves getting comfortable, often dissatisfaction proves to be the nudge we need to get out of a rut.

But, in our discussion yesterday, a friend asked a great question as a followup: how do you stay healthy in the midst of dissatisfaction? In other words, if we are dissatisfied all the time, don’t we eventually become someone people avoid?

I think, as leaders, we have to celebrate the wins. We have to learn to enjoy the moment. But in balance with a healthy sense of dissatisfaction.

A football team (do you remember football?) plays one game per week. A single win does not make a successful season, but can instead lay the foundation for growth and progress.

In High School, I never once had a coach come in the day after a win and say “good job guys, let’s take the week off after that one.” Instead, we celebrated the win in the moment, but remained focused to progress and grow.

The same is true for us as leaders, especially in ministry. We may remain dissatisfied, but until we learn to celebrate the victories along the way, growth will evade us. If we are always dissatisfied, though, we become jaded and our leadership influence takes a hit.

So where do you land on this spectrum? Is there something you need to celebrate? Is there some dissatisfaction that needs to start brewing? Take a leadership step this week.

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The Calm in the Storm

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I went on vacation last week. So, naturally, when I got back in the office yesterday, I was met with a whirlwind.

Things I should have finished before leaving were staring me in the face, as well as new “opportunities for leadership growth” (read:issues to be addressed). It was a full day.

But, the final 30 minutes proved to be the most productive. After spending the day checking things off my to do list, brainstorming, writing, catching up, fielding grounders, I was able to sit down at my desk for 30 minutes to wrap up the day, uninterrupted. Because everyone had gone home.

The calm in the storm provided some much needed clarity.

The same is likely true for you. You’re facing all sorts of challenges on a constant schedule. The COVID interruption (or disruption) has likely made you feel like you’re pedaling a 10 speed bicycle in 5th gear–coasting downhill is the same, but having to cover the same ground you covered pre-COVID is twice as much work.

Find the calm in the storm. Find the moments where you can take a breath. Maybe it’s early in the morning, or late at night after everyone has gone to bed. Maybe it’s the first 30 minutes in the office before everyone else shows up, or the final 30 minutes after everyone has left.

Maybe the calm in your storm isn’t about your schedule as much as your location. A sunset, sunrise, quiet lunch, or challenging podcast may be exactly what you need to feel refreshed.

Wherever (or whenever) your calm may be found, pursue it. You need time to catch your breath. You need a break from the chaos. You will be healthier for it. Your family will be healthier for it. Your leadership will be healthier for it. Trust me.

Have you subscribed to get 3QL in your inbox? It may just be the calm you need each Tuesday/Thursday!

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.

Lessons from the Farm: Overlap

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I started driving a tractor at a young age. Most kids of farmers do.

I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent on a tractor plowing a field. I’ve used chisels, sweeps, duck bills, and discs. I’ve started at sunrise and finished after dark, even spending some time running under the lights of the tractor.

Would you care to know the hardest part? Not overlapping too much.

There’s a balance to be had when you’re pulling a plow through a field. The goal is to turn the dirt over. Just how much or for what purpose varies, but the end goal is breaking the top layer and allowing soft, hopefully moist, dirt to come to the top.

If you don’t overlap where you were before, you leave dirt unturned. And it shows later.

If you overlap too much, you waste time. I mean, think about it. When you’re working in a field that is 1 mile by 1 mile, doubling up on 2 feet every 40 feet adds up.

Overlap is a delicate balance to have.

The same is true in leadership. There are some things worth doubling over: key concepts, values, strategies, motivation. Each of these can get lost in the hustle of everyday. Diligence, however, demands vigilance.

Excessive repetition, however, does the opposite. It means you’re spending more time, energy, fuel, and resources than necessary.

Not overlapping has a similar result: you skip the things that keep you centered as you lead, and later on those “skips” are noticeable. You may cover more ground, but the price is too high. 

Proper consistent overlap doesn’t happen on accident. It takes diligence. It takes intentionality. It takes focus. But in the end, the efficiency is remarkable.

What falls into your overlap? What do you need to continue covering? What do you need to avoid repeating? What do you need to make certain you don’t skip?

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