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.

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

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I’m a terrible parent.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve felt this way for a while, but it feels nice to be able to say it.

When our first child was still an infant, I distinctly remember a conversation with my wife. As our daughter was learning to take her first steps, I mourned the mobility that was looming ahead. Gone were the days of her being only where we led her. Coming soon were the days where we had to chase and keep up with her. And boy did those days come.

Granted, this conversation was tongue in cheek, but the sentiment was there. Those first few steps marked the end of an era.

Developing student leaders is a similar experience. As we teach students to influence a room, we are teaching them to take baby steps. There are times they are more than capable of accomplishing a goal by themselves, but they lean on our experience or expertise.

Sometimes these baby steps, however, are a little more difficult. And that’s okay. Everyone has to struggle at first. The things that come second nature to us, like including people in our projects, are an appropriately larger chore for a student who is just experiencing leadership.

The problem comes, however, when they never learn to walk on their own. Our leadership reaches the maximum potential when those around us discover their maximum potential.

One word from my current experience. As I’m teaching a new group of student leaders and trying to help them exert their influence, we are missing a key element. We have not had a chance for me to teach them the 3 questions, and I’m feeling it.

In case you’re not familiar, the three questions (for which this blog is named), serve as a framework to help students (and adults) look for and pursue opportunities to influence the room. The questions don’t make someone a leader, but they serve as a great place to start raising awareness of leadership opportunities. Check them out here. It’s always good to be reminded.

Is This the Worst Student Leadership Mistake?

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What do you do when you have a student who shows great leadership potential?

Over the course of my ministry experience I’ve had a few students who seem to be a step ahead of their peers when it comes to reading and understanding a room. They have an intuition about them that makes them appear more mature and capable than everyone else.

So, it only makes sense to give them more and more responsibility, right? I mean, we want to develop student leaders. That’s kind of the point of what I write about here at 3QL.

Let me offer one caveat. And it’s one that is still fresh in my mind.

I never want to crush a potential leader’s spirit. I desperately try to avoid adding too much to their burden, but when a student has a high capacity, I find myself wrestling with this.

That’s why I’ve started reminding myself of the following thought.

Give students student leadership opportunities, not adult leadership opportunities.

If you want someone to feel the weight and worry of leadership, give a teenager the load you would expect from an adult. I’m not saying some teenagers cannot handle such responsibility, but they have the rest of their lives to be adults.

Put in the effort to help a student find appropriate levels of challenge for where they are. I want to avoid expecting a 14 year old, who shows incredible capacity for influence, to carry the load I would ask a 34 year old to carry. No one wins in that situation.

Instead, I want to help that 14 year explore leadership in appropriate avenues.

Stretch their thinking? Of course.

Challenge their abilities? Sure.

Help them grow their leadership influence? Absolutely.

But if I ask them to start adulting, they will burn out and I will give up.

So, how are you at this? Are you providing high capacity students with student leadership opportunities?

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