Do You Ever Forget Things?

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Sometimes I forget. During the 2020 calendar year, I’ve been working with a group of students to help them grow as leaders.

One of my favorite things to do to help students grow is to evaluate regularly. We do this a couple of ways, one of which is having a quick follow up meeting after our midweek program.

We had a workshop back in September, and ever since, I would start our meetings by asking how they made the room better. And the answers I was getting were not what I was hoping.

Don’t get me wrong, they were trying to make a difference, I was just asking a bad question. A question that put them on a path other than I wanted them to evaluate.

Then it hit me: what if there were some questions I could teach them to ask and answer each week? Questions that would almost instinctually walk them through what it looks like to be a leader?

Oh. I have those. And I’ve trained them on those. But I stopped at the training. And that was my first mistake.

The 3 questions are a great training piece. They are remarkable to consider. But their true worth isn’t in the theory or intellect behind them. The power of the 3 questions is when they are put into practice.

So I made a change. I started asking how they answered the 3 questions because I want them to start to ingrain those questions into their minds and let them become who they are and what they do. Not because I developed the questions, but because I think the power they provide to influence a room is remarkable.

Sometimes, the tools we need are at our disposal. It’s just a matter of not forgetting.

Let me challenge you today, point blank. If you lead a group of people: teach them the 3 questions and then hold them accountable to answer them on a regular basis. No shame. No guilt. Only accountability to make a difference around them. Then, let me know how it goes!

The Best Reason to Step Up

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There’s something powerful when we ask someone to join us in leadership.

A few weeks back I had a student step up and serve in a way that almost no one noticed, but in the exact way I needed at the moment. It was unprompted and genuine–two of my favorite aspects of serving.

On the heels of that morning, I encouraged him to sign up for our worship team, and in return I got one of the best answers I’ve seen.

Our worship team (and leadership team) application was online this year. One of the questions read: “Why do you want to be on worship team? Put some thought into this.”

His response? “Because Wes asked me to.”

I’m still smiling. Here I was expecting a thoughtful response from anyone applying (I should know better, right?), and he tells it how it is. Simple. Understated. Truth.

I mentioned my struggle with this last week, but I regularly try to find the line between acknowledging what I see in a student and trying to coax out the potential I see in a student. A healthy conversation uses encouragement, an unhealthy conversation uses guilt.

One of those works in the long term. The other doesn’t.

This kid would likely never see himself as a leader. He would, especially at this point in his life, never acknowledge he has influence. But I saw something in him that morning, and encouraged him to pursue it. Now we are going to take steps together to help him grow.

A quick note: he unknowingly answered the first two questions of 3QL: what needs to be done and what can I do. Some kids get it. When they do, I want to continue to train them to build on what they do naturally, and then help them take the next step to ask the 3rd question: who can I get to help? That’s the power of the three questions. It gives a student a framework to follow to help them leverage their influence.

The same is true for us! The three questions help me leverage my influence to accomplish more. And I hope you would say the same thing!

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Multiplication vs Addition

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Open your text books chapter 2 section 1. Today we are going to talk about multiplication.

Just kidding, kind of. The math concepts that come to mind apply to leadership as well. Would you rather be given $100 plus $100 or be given $100 times 100?

As we seek to develop leaders, we’re not looking to just add leaders. We are looking to add leaders who add leaders. I want to develop students who in turn develop students.

If developing students who develop students is my goal, then my approach is different. My training doesn’t only center on the tasks of a leader, but on the tasks of a leader and how to train others to fulfill the tasks of a leader.

So how do we do this?

  1. Begin with multiplication in mind. Sure, some of the best development comes from places we never anticipated, but if we know we want to multiply in the end, how we begin changes. We don’t accept just anyone. We set a higher bar. We encourage commitment. We encourage but don’t coerce.
  2. Keep multiplication in mind. Relational investment plays such an integral part in multiplication. We cannot expect someone to grow if we do not understand where they need to grow. That’s where relationship comes in. Get to know those you lead.
  3. Model multiplication. Continue to invest in and grow leaders. Do not stop with one or two. When it gets difficult, push through. When it becomes a challenge, keep going. Model the behavior you want to see repeated, and it will be repeated.

I love investing in students. I love the conversations we get to have as a result of the time we spend together. But, at the end of the day, my influence is greater as I learn to multiply. Yours will be as well.

Relational Investments

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Early yesterday morning my junior high daughter realized her band audition video was due by midnight last night instead of Friday, as she thought. So she spent the day practicing her pieces. And I mean the day.

Every time I came home, she was playing, trying to figure it out. When I came home for the final time, she was almost in tears. So I sat down with her and helped her figure out how to practice.

At first, because #teenager, when I would suggest something, she would push back. But eventually, we were able to start making some progress on the trouble parts. She would play through, and channeling my best Herb Brooks from Miracle, I would say, “Now, do it again.”

Finally, around 9:45pm last night, my sweet procrastinating angel, submitted her three part video. It was not perfect, but she wasn’t in tears either.

Our interaction embodies a thought I’ve been wrestling for the past few weeks. How many times do we expect someone to accomplish something, but don’t help them figure it out.

In other words, when assigning a task or setting a goal, where is the balance between completely hands off and micro-managing? I didn’t play her instrument for her (I wouldn’t know where to start if it doesn’t have 6 strings, which it doesn’t). I simply helped her break down the challenge into smaller pieces, using principles like: practice slow, then speed up, then repeat; visualize playing the piece before playing; and power through the mistakes.

As you lead, you are going to ask people to do something they’ve never done before. Sometimes you need to throw them in the deep end and let them sink or swim. But sometimes, you need to sit down with them and give them principles to help make progress.

Who around you needs you to come alongside them this week and say, “here, why don’t you try it this way?” Spend some time investing in someone. You never know what the payoff may be in the long run.

Increasing Awareness

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I’ve enjoyed getting to work with a new group of student leaders over the past couple of months, and I’ve been sharing my thoughts as I go along.

Last week I mentioned missing having a shared language (not in those words, but that’s the idea). So, I’ve slowly been trying to teach a few of these new students to look for opportunities. And it’s working.

Actually, what I’m doing, without them knowing, is teaching them the three questions. And we are starting at the beginning. I’m trying to teach them to walk into a room and ask themselves what needs to be done–simply increasing awareness.

Why? Because when a student can learn to ask (and answer) that question on their own, it empowers them to meet the need. Then, as they grow and mature, their awareness grows and matures with them.

Ultimately, if I (or we) can teach students to look for and meet needs, we are moving in the right direction.

Initially the needs being met may be as simple as arranging chairs or changing where they sit. But, over time, as those things become an intrinsic part of who they are, the growth that takes place is incredible.

I’m actually getting more and more excited as I think about how these students, over the course of about 5 weeks of 10 minute program follow up meetings, have already shown incredible signs of improvement.

And the sky is the limit. That’s why I love working with student leaders.

But it all starts with awareness.

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