3 Shifts to Make to Unlock Your Leadership Growth, Part 2

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How have you grown in your leadership capacity over the past month? The past six months? The past year?

Growth isn’t always immediately noticeable. But I really hope you can look back at the past twelve months and point out how you have grown. Maybe you added an arrow to your quiver, like moving conversations from surface to something more using intentional questions. Maybe you’ve spent more time pouring into someone. Maybe you’ve swung for the fences and learned something along the way.

I realized this morning I made a mistake with my first post. I assumed ignorance on your part. It’s possible I’m not sharing new information with these posts. In fact, it’s probably very likely.

So why am I writing them?

Because these are the things I either (a) wish someone would have shared with me 20 years ago or (b) completely missed when someone shared them with me 20 years ago. Sometimes we need to hear the same thing for the first time again.

Here we go.

2. Leadership is Most Effective as a Group Effort

I write a lot of my posts directed to you as an individual, hoping to help YOU grow as an individual. But the truth remains: we are better together. The very nature of this blog proves itself. I enjoy writing and reflecting, but I am better if you grow as a result.

Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the best leadership isn’t lonely. Leadership works better when we understand we are part of a team working to improve. Accountability, camaraderie, encouragement, problem solving and so much more are only enhanced when multiple people participate.

Please allow me to be blunt. You need other people. You need people who will come alongside you and support your wild ideas. You need people who will challenge your outrageous ideas. You need people who will encourage you when your crazy idea doesn’t work.

And leadership is not always a top down activity. Sometimes leadership happens every direction in a group. The bottom rung of the ladder can still leverage influence up, if the leader understands and champions that everyone has a voice and a role.

For me, it’s easy to tackle opportunities on my own. To take things into my own control and move forward. After all, who knows what should happen better than me?

But leadership is better, stronger, longer lasting, and more effective when we lean into the reality that leadership is most effective as a group effort.

What shift do you need to make? Who do you need to invite into the conversation?

Some Pain Is Growth

As we grow in our leadership, we are going to face situations that are annoying and painful. What’s the root of the pain? Good leadership is not void of pain. Good leadership understands the difference between beneficial (and necessary) pain and toxic pain.

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About 15 months ago I started lifting weights for the first time in my adult life. Nothing too strenuous, but I wanted to develop a healthy lifestyle and thought that was a good step. But not knowing how to really go about it, I recruited a friend.

I’m so grateful for my friend who showed me the ropes. What I’m not grateful for is his approach. I joked early on that he wasn’t happy unless he was miserable after working out. But I’m not sure if it’s a joke…

Ultimately, however, certain pain after a workout is an indication of a good workout. Because sometimes pain means growth.

As we grow in our leadership, we are going to face situations that are annoying and painful. What’s the root of the pain? Good leadership is not void of pain. Good leadership understands the difference between beneficial (and necessary) pain and toxic pain.

So how do you know if pain is growing pain? Here are three questions to help you process growing pains:

  1. Does it make you address something that needs to be addressed? Your pain may result from a weak structure, or unclear communication. Lean into addressing the situation and reap the results later.
  2. Is the pain a result of growth? Maybe what you were doing last year or three years ago worked when what you led was smaller, but as you’ve grown, you need to re-evaluate. Pain because of growth still hurts, but gives you an opportunity to adjust and grow even more!
  3. Will addressing the pain point put you in a better spot? Are you ready to grow as a result of the pain? Push through, do what you need to do, and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

Ultimately, some pain is good pain. Is there a situation you’re walking through now where you need to reframe the pain point from negative to understanding it’s a positive pain? How does that change your approach and mindset?

Lessons from the Farm: Adapt for Progress

But at the end of the day, those transition moments were crucial. We had to pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing the long term goal superseded the immediate situation.

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Have you ever had a perfect plan until it came time to execute the plan? Mike Tyson is quoted as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Have you seen this play out in your life?

Maybe you’re not a boxer. Okay, most of us aren’t boxers. But the premise is still true. Our plans can make all the sense in the world until we have to execute them.

First, a quick word. April at 3QL means I dig into my past and bring some leadership lessons from the farm. If you’re new, or if you’d just like a refresher, you can see some of the lessons from the farm posts from the past by clicking here, here, here, and here. Now, let’s move forward!

I saw this on the farm all the time. Last week I talked about moving cattle. Well, there’s one thing you need to know about cattle: there’s never a pre-meeting with the herd leader to determine the best, most efficient path.

Sometimes, when you move cattle, chaos ensues.

My dad had a draw (essentially a big ditch that has washed out over time) that runs through his land, separating a few of his fields. At one point specifically, the draw separates East/West and a county road separates North/South, creating a four corner situation with a 40 yard buffer in the middle running every direction.

If we wanted to move cattle across the road, it was simple enough. But if we want to move cattle across the draw, we could never predict which route was going to be taken.

That’s why we would discuss possible plans. Ideally we wanted the cattle to come out of the field and walk down the road across the draw, but it didn’t always work that way. Sometimes they would be moving fast enough that they would run across the road and we had to cross the draw at a different point. Sometimes they would go out of one gate and turn the opposite direction. And on occasion, they would take the most logical path.

But at the end of the day, those transition moments were crucial. We had to pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing the long term goal superseded the immediate situation.

The same is true for leadership. As you lead, you are going to get a sense of the direction and destination. Thankfully you work with people and not cattle, so you can discuss this. But please understand, everyone has a plan until they have to execute the plan.

The best plans on paper don’t always translate. So you have to learn to adapt in the moment. Remember, transition moments are crucial. Pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing that the long term goal supersedes the immediate situation. Take the time to adapt and move forward.

What’s Your Growth Plan?

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I’ve been spending some time recently thinking about what it takes to grow. On occasion I will ask someone this question and won’t get much of a response.

I think everyone wants to grow, but growth rarely happens without intentionality. Unless it’s weight gain. So let’s take a step toward intentionality today.

What are you doing to grow? Do you have a written plan? Do you have a mental plan? Do you have practices in place to help?

If you were to create a written plan to grow, like a workout routine or training regimen, what would it look like?

Here’s mine:

  1. Books. I’m not an avid reader, but I’m trying to become better at it. I’ve read more books in the past three years than I had read in the previous 15. I listen to a large number of books, but I’ve also learned that I retain better when I actually see the words. I also know that I retain better when I read a book as part of a group, so I’ve participated in a few “book clubs” over the past couple of years.
  2. Podcasts. I listen to talk more than music, so I have a few key podcasts that are must listens and a few that I return to every so often because they challenge me in my leadership development. This isn’t always easy, but it helps stimulate my mind for sure.
  3. Evaluation. A blank whiteboard or yellow pad is my love language. I love dreaming about what could be in the context of what is. Am I doing a good job? How can I grow? What can I change to make something better? What am I forgetting?

I don’t have a written plan, but I will by the end of this week. If our leadership growth is important (Is it worth it?) and we are willing (Am I willing to grow?), then the time it takes to chart the course matters.

Let me challenge you to do the same, and share it with me! We are better when we grow together.

The 2nd Question You Need to Answer for Leadership Growth

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Last October we had some work done on one of our flower beds. The bushes that were in the planter box were too big and breaking the box, so we had them taken out and replaced with some different plants.

Now, the fact that I can’t tell you what the plants were reveals a shortcoming in my master plan for beautifying my house, and conveniently enough, gives us a framework for today’s post. Funny how that works, right?

Last week I wrote about the first question you need to answer for leadership growth: “is the desired result worth the effort?”

For our planter box, the desired result (keeping the roots of bushes from destroying the box) was worth the effort. But I never asked the next question: am I willing to do what’s necessary to help the replacement plants grow?

The result? I arrive home most days and hope my new plants are just dormant and not dead. But they’re probably dead. I wasn’t willing to consider the effort it would take on my part to make sure the plants grew, which was a pretty low bar.

The same is true in our leadership journeys. Once we decide if the desired result is worth the effort, we stare face to face with the next question: Am I willing to grow as a leader?

This seems simple enough, but the reality is the two questions go hand in hand. Asking one without the other will only provide partial results – your planter box will be saved (1st question) but your new plants will die, OR you won’t actually do anything because you’re willing, but didn’t exert the effort.

Once again, ultimately the decision belongs to you. How will you answer?

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