The Best Mindset for Training

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Do you ever think of something you wish you had said, only it was after the fact?

A few weeks back I hosted a youth worker’s meeting (one of only a couple I’ve done since starting). In my intro to the meeting I made a statement along the lines that I realized I had done a poor job training them.

Then one of the leaders asked, jokingly, “Do you think we’re doing a bad job?”

Again, let me emphasize I know this leader’s heart, and know it wasn’t aggressive, but meant to be funny. But still, it made me think. So, here’s my response, three weeks later.

I want to train to maximize, not correct.

At the end of the day, everyone has bad habits in need of correction. But, more than correction, training provides a way forward. When I’m able to help my adults steps forward and become better, stronger, more equipped leaders, then we both win.

Let’s put this another way. A fire extinguisher is not the best way to fight (correct) a grease fire. The best way to fight a grease fire is to implement proper protocols (training) to keep the grease from catching fire to begin with.

Or, let’s go agricultural (because that’s what I do). Good grazing keeps cattle in the pasture way better than good fences. So, when you do the work on the front end to have the best possible grazing, you spend less time on the back end chasing cattle.

It’s the difference between being reactive and proactive. Reactive people spend all their time reacting to what’s happening. Proactive people work to change the outcome from the beginning.

The same is true for student leaders. If I can train them to influence a room, then we make way more progress than if I simply spend my time trying to correct everything they’re doing wrong.

So do you spend more time helping those you lead put out grease fires, or teaching them how to prevent them in the first place?

So You Want to Be a Leader?

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Over the course of my leadership journey, especially the past four or five years, there are a few key principles I can pretty much hang my hat on. And I’ve written about them several times.

Providing students (and adults) a framework to start growing their leadership influence.

The Horizon of Possibility. Oh, and this one, and this one too.

Key traits for student leaders.

Learn from everything.

The Redundancy of Leadership.

Today, I’d like to revisit yet another thought. But first, if you only have time to read one post today, read this one.

Are you ready? This is going to be mind-numbingly simple or incredibly challenging.

Leaders show up.

That’s it. Very few people can positively influence a room by not being in it. If a place is better because we are not there, one of two things are true:

  1. Our level of influence is so great that even in your absence, people have been empowered and equipped to step up, connect, and lead.
  2. Our leadership influence is negative.

Outside of these two instances, if we are not present, we cannot lead. And I’ll be perfectly honest with you, the first one is extremely rare.

If leadership is influence, we have to be present to exert influence: Present in the lives of the people we lead and physically present in the rooms they are in.

I’m watching this play out all around me. If I want to influence something, I have to be part of it. I cannot watch, critique, bemoan, and stay at arm’s length and create any kind of change. But by jumping in, serving, listening, contributing, and listening some more, I can slowly start to build the relational credibility that allows me to grow my leadership influence.

But it only works if I show up.

Where do you need to show up today? Make your presence a priority.

You'll Figure it Out

You’ll Figure It Out

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Did you know I play bass guitar?

I got my first guitar in junior high and learned to play over the following few years. Who am I kidding, I’m still learning to play.

But for Christmas my senior year of high school, my dad bought me a bass guitar. Ever a pragmatist, he decided to buy me a “real” bass so that when/if/when I decided to give up on it, since I was a guitar player, the bass would have a good resale value. That meant my first bass was a Fender Jazz Bass.

But there was something he didn’t expect: I’m a pack rat, so I never get rid of anything. So I kept my bass. I learned one 8 bar blues bass line that made me sound like I knew what I was doing, but never really had occasion to play bass.

Fast forward a couple years. I was serving at my first church as the youth minister. Even though I was in charge of youth, I helped with music where I could. Then, with the arrival of a new music minister, something changed.

Our new music minister was incredibly gifted musically, but had cut his teeth playing bass guitar. So, he started teaching me how to play. But his approach was different.

I generally have a pretty poor memory, but I’m pretty certain we never sat down for a formal “lesson”. It was always learning “on the fly”.

I still have a picture in my head of one morning. He was on guitar. I was on bass. It was the opening song for the morning. Right before he started playing, I remember telling him I didn’t know the song. And his words continue to ring true: you’ll figure it out.

And that’s what I had to do. Sink or swim. And I sank, a lot. Until I learned to swim.

Playing with him I learned to anticipate the changes, to play with the rhythm, to find the groove, and so much more.

His leadership approach is something I occasionally employ today. Sometimes the best tool for growth is immersion.

Does that mean it’s going to be perfect? Nope.

Does that means it’s going to be flawless? Nope.

Does that mean it’s going to be memorable? Very likely, one way or the other.

There is someone in your sphere of influence who needs an opportunity to sink or swim. There is someone you are leading who needs a challenge they feel they cannot meet.

So I have two questions for you today: 1) who is it? and 2) are you willing to step back for the sake of their growth?

When Something Wins

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A couple weeks back I was talking with a friend and had a thought. We were talking about the delicate balance of ministry (and any activity, really) during our current COVID reality. Our debate centered on how much should we be doing in comparison to a normal year.

More specifically, how do we find the balance between doing too little and doing too much. We wanted to be smart. We do not want to be reckless or careless. And we want to be present. It’s all a very difficult balance. Then, it hit me.

Something is better than nothing, but everything is not always the best thing.

I’ve written in the past about how getting started is often the most difficult part for me. And I think in our current context, the struggle to begin and not overthink remains.

But at the end of the day, just because I’m doing something doesn’t mean I have to do everything.

The same is true for you. I’m going to guess you are probably living in the tension of activity vs inactivity. You’ve had to cancel key events, or decide altogether if they were going to happen at all. Your calendar does not look remotely close to what it was 365 days ago. The things you were anticipating have either been significantly altered, or cut altogether.

And so you’re left looking at what’s next.

Something is better than nothing, but everything is not always the best thing.

We have an incredible opportunity at this point in our lives. We can cut some of the fluff and focus on the meat. We can make the most of the day and age in which we live, or we can lament all that’s been lost or altered.

Make a move today. Plan something. Do something. But rest in the knowledge that it’s okay for that something to be less than everything. It’s okay to trim the fat.

You can do this. Now, go lead.

Time to Get Started

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This weekend was a remarkable weekend for me. There was no significant event that really happened. I had nothing on the calendar. But I had a few Audible credits. So I bought a book.

A few years back, during a guest talk by a leader I respect, I heard about John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership. It was intriguing, but it just sat in my brain for a few years. Then, on Friday, I redeemed an Audible credit for the book and started listening.

Early on he had a pdf included for the listener to work through. Because I’m trying to engage books more than finish them these days, I sat down and worked through the pdf. And my world was rocked.

I’ve lost sight of developing leaders the way I know I can (and should).

That got me thinking. I’ve said for a few years that as I talked to Youth Ministers about leadership, my first question would always be “What are you doing to develop student leaders.” The answer? Most of the time the response was an event or two they had students attend, maybe even a camp.

The sense I always got was everyone has developing leaders on their list, it’s just not close enough to the top to get our best energy. And that’s where I’ve been lately. I’ve been so focused on treading water, and honestly, getting my wits about me since starting my new position, that the difficult part of leadership development has gone by the wayside.

So let me ask you this question today: Are you developing the people you lead to become better leaders? Not just the ones who are easy to develop, but the ones that make you sweat thinking about trying to help them develop. Are you doing the difficult work of developing and leading and teaching and training? Are you willing to do so? What step can you take today?

Now, go lead.

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