Beware the Dangers of Shared Language

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Earlier I wrote about the Power of Shared Language. I really do believe having phrases that we repeat often can unlock some incredible potential.

But on the road of developing shared language, there are a few speed bumps along the way. Today, I want to talk about two specific speed bumps to consider as you try to create and implement shared language.

LANGUAGE THAT ISN’T SHARED IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Our church hosted a Family Camp over the New Year’s Holiday. In the course of planning it, I contacted the camp facility (where I have only been a couple of times). During the course of conversation, I realized there was a breakdown in our communication. I didn’t know everything they thought I knew, and they didn’t know everything I thought they knew. Even things as simple as names of buildings and locations didn’t make sense to someone who had yet to memorize the map. The result? Frustration set in.

Names of buildings are great, but if you don’t understand, then what’s the point? This is why in small towns you get directions in one of two ways: locals talk to each other about the “Jackson house” or “church” street (which isn’t a street name but a description, #truestory) because everyone knows the story behind the names. But locals give directions to outsiders based on landmarks – turn right at the second stoplight, cross the tracks, and turn in at the gate with a water buffalo.

As you seek to create some shared language, always ask yourself first – does my audience understand what this means? If not, explain it and enjoy shared language!

SHARED LANGUAGE CAN CREATE AN US VS. THEM CULTURE

Have you ever been part of a conversation with two other people who are best friends, but you only know them casually? Did you find yourself getting lost in the cracks of inside jokes and only partially told stories? How did you feel?

This is the other danger of shared language. If we are not careful, we create an us vs. them culture. We know the meaning of the secret phrases, but they don’t, so they don’t matter.

As a leader, take it on yourself to become an educator. Invite new people to join you by explaining the things that may not make sense. Build into your culture ways for people to find their place and belong, and watch what happens from there.

Shared language is a powerful tool when used correctly, so learn to use it correctly and watch what unfolds!

Do You See What I See?

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Some people look at nothing and see nothing, while others look at nothing and see what could be.

This past summer we canceled our traditional week of camp. We decided our best bet was to pivot and do something different.

The news that we were canceling was not well received, and I was not surprised. Based on my own sadness and disappointment (the first time I haven’t gone away to camp in somewhere around 30 years!), I completely understood.

Then came the leadership opportunity. Mourning our loss could not be the end. We desired something to celebrate. So I went to the white board with our interns.

Because I could see the writing on the wall in May, a backup plan found roots before we made the official call. But, as I’ve written before, I’m great at thinking up new ideas, but sometimes struggle to execute.

Enter the principle of the Horizon of Possibility. Simply put, a good leader is able to look at what is and see what could be–the Horizon of Possibility.

My goal with our camp alternative was to bring the best parts of camp to us. And throughout the week, we got comment after comment about how well it went.

This isn’t bragging on my prowess, because it didn’t happen because of me–there were lots of people making it happen and making it great.

But, it started with my own ability to see the Horizon of Possibility. To look at a lost summer, and see what could be, and then to mobilize people to help execute the future.

What “nothing” is staring you in the face today? What do you see on the Horizon?

The Horizon of Possibility at Work

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Last week we hosted our Summer Camp alternative. At the beginning of June I got word the camp we were going to attend had cancelled, so we started making plans for an alternative. Instead of trying to find a place to go, we decided to try to bring camp to us.

Enter one of my favorite concepts, the Horizon of Possibility.

I was fortunate enough to have a team to help brainstorm and plan the week, and so we set out to make it the best we could. Taking tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way, we took some of the best *scheduled elements of camp (I would happily argue the benefit of camp comes in the unscheduled elements–conversations in the down times specifically) and put them into a day camp format.

We did 3pm to 10pm each day for four days.

We had a good mix of Bible study, rec and celebration, small groups, worship, and a fun activity to end each day.

The best part of the week, however, was watching the responses. The first day was rough, as the first day of camp generally is. But we hit our stride on the second day. Then, the conversations started. We started to hear “this really feels like camp”.

My favorite part may have been on the final day as I taught the Horizon of Possibility to the students who were in our leadership track. When I asked them what their expectations for the week were, they admitted they were low. And rightly so. We weren’t going to camp. It was an adjustment.

But that’s where the Horizon of Possibility enters. As a leader, I was able to look at the horizon and see what was possible. I knew we could never replace camp, but I had a hunch we could create something that would not only be a great event, but it would help fulfill our mission and purpose.

As the leader I was the first one to see the possibility. The challenge from there was including others in the movement forward and pulling it off.

As leaders, we have to be willing to look ahead and examine the horizon. What’s possible? What might could be? What’s holding us back? What are we waiting for?

What possibility are you seeing on the horizon now that no one else can see? What are you willing to do to accomplish it? Who are you going to bring in to help you accomplish it? Take a step today.

3 Questions to Help Your Focus

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What does the future look like when you can’t even make sense of the present?

Welcome to ministry and leadership development in the age of COVID. Regardless of our personal thoughts about COVID, things have changed. As a leader, I’m trying to navigate the ups and downs while at the same time keeping an eye on the horizon. It’s not enough to do what I’m doing now, I want to take steps today that set me up for success tomorrow.

That brings me back to one of my favorite thoughts: the horizon of possibility.

As a leader, I feel like part of my responsibility is to cast the vision for what might could be, not just what is. I want the people I lead, whether students or adults, to know that we are moving forward with purpose. And that doesn’t happen if I don’t spend time thinking about the horizon of possibility.

The bottom line is this: as a leader, few people are as concerned about the long term outcome of what you’re leading as you are. So the question naturally arises: are you concerned about the direction you’re heading? Are you concerned enough to do something about it?

Spend some time today thinking about the Horizon of Possibility for your situation. It doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out process, but simply ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Knowing what I know today, where do I want us to be in six months?
  2. If we need to be there in six months, what’s the first step I can move towards today to help us get there?
  3. Who needs to be reminded about our direction? Who needs to hear the passion in my voice as we take the first step?

Exercise your leadership influence today and bring someone along for the journey as you move forward.

Cast the Vision, not the path

Cast the Vision, Not the Path

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So much of leadership is about casting vision. Looking at what is and painting a picture of what could be.

So much of developing student leaders is helping them catch the vision so they can cast it down the road.

Some students will naturally respond to opportunities, almost instinctively seeing the possibilities before them and pursuing them. Others, however, face a bigger hill to climb.

So, how do you handle a student wrestling with the goal? Continue to cast the vision.

In my current ministry, I see a few things that need addressing and am trying to raise student leaders who see the need and meet the need. But my goal is to cast the vision, not the path.

If I spell out every step a student should take, I’m not teaching them to lead. I’m teaching them to take the steps I’m telling them to take. That would be akin to the parent in the stands of a game shouting every action their kid should make. If the voice stops, the child does too, thus missing the point.

Sure, I can tell a student every step to take to reach the vision, and I may set out a few stepping stones, but if a student leader never has to think or wrestle, then am I raising a student leader or a robot?

The beauty of developing leaders is that everyone takes a different approach. Why would I want someone to execute things the way I would do it, when I might could learn something from their way?

As you work with student leaders, or even adult leaders, work to develop them. Empower them to look for and meet needs. Train them to make an impact. The process may be messy, but the end result is worth it.

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