It’s Time to Start Somewhere

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I started the Three Question Leadership Blog 4 years ago. I thought I would spend the next few weeks sharing some of my first posts, in their entirety, here. Whether you’re new or have been with me all along, I hope you find these concepts applicable.

I am a thinker. I have a terrible tendency to be able to argue both sides, even when they don’t need to be argued. Because of my propensity to think, I joke that I spend 90% of my time thinking about what I could do, and 10% actually doing it.

Thinking about things all the time has benefits. Often, I can think through a situation and find a new way of looking at it. I enjoy hearing how other people think so I can see if there is something I can learn from how they process and proceed.

There are downsides to thinking about things 90% of the time–you actually only act on what you’re thinking 10%. That leads to plenty of mental development, but very little real life occurrence.

That’s where the principle for today’s post came into my life. I don’t know if you’re wired like me, but I think there is a little truth in what I’m about to say. I’ve made this my new mantra, especially when there’s something I would much rather just think about doing than actually doing.

Are you ready? Here it is: Start Somewhere.

Sounds simple enough, right? You would be amazed at how many times it has helped me move from thinking to action.

For example, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a student leadership team. I’ve tried one at past churches with moderate success, but never had a set structure I wanted to follow.

Where I serve now, it’s pretty fun to look back at the growth of our student leadership team. The first two or three years was just a trip at the beginning of summer. Then, two summers ago we added monthly meetings. This year, we’ve added weekly meetings and have really started to hit our stride.

But we would not be where we are today if I hadn’t started somewhere.

The crazy thing about starting somewhere is your start is not your final product. I never start something with the mindset that it is going to be perfect from the beginning. But, if I want a program, event, relationship, or opportunity to reach full potential, it will not happen until I start somewhere.

You may not be wired this way. Maybe you spend 90% of your time doing things and only 10% thinking. (If so, I think we would make a great team.)  Your “start somewhere” may be to put a little more thought into something before you start it.

Maybe you have a habit of starting things and never finishing them. So your “start somewhere” would be to pick one project and actually finish it.

I am not saying my way is the only way. I am asking, though, for you to evaluate yourself. Are you more of a thinker or a doer? Could the principle of “start somewhere” apply in your life? If so, where?

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Willingness Matters

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I feel like there are a few topics I come back to often here on the blog. But, my habit is to process what leadership lesson is on my mind, and today it’s what follows:

I would rather have a potential leader who is incredibly willing and somewhat talented than a potential leader who is incredibly talented and somewhat willing. Here’s why.

Willingness matters.

Someone, when asked to help or participate, who responds with trepidation, will move forward with trepidation. Someone who responds with enthusiasm, will move forward with enthusiasm.

So would you rather work with a hesitant person or an enthusiastic person?

The same goes for developing leaders. Enthusiasm is contagious, in a good way. Skepticism is contagious in a bad way.

This is true for students and for adults. Someone who is willing to serve will make a greater impact than someone who is hesitant.

Because willingness matters.

So what does this mean for you? Are you surrounding yourself with enthusiastic people? Are you looking for students to empower as leaders who are willing?

Do you agree with my initial thought? Is willingness more important than skill? How have you seen this play out in your life and experience?

One last thought, the ultimate jackpot is willingness AND talent. They are rare, but when you get to that point, leadership gets way more fun.

What’s Your Focus?

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Have you ever set a goal and accomplished it?

I set a goal to finish 36 books in 2019, and I did. That came after setting a goal in 2018 to finish a number of books (I don’t remember how many), and not reaching it. Even the fact I don’t remember the number from 2018 but do remember the number in 2019 tells you something.

My focus shifted. I no longer wanted to just have a goal, I wanted to accomplish my goal.

So I made a spreadsheet at the beginning of 2019 and recorded the books I finished. Every time I finished one, I would add it to my last, and update my count at the bottom of the page. And something amazing happened. I met my goal.

It’s actually not that surprising that I met a goal as I was tracking it consistently. It makes sense to most of us. Why?

Because we move toward our focus.

Focus is the difference between setting a goal and achieving a goal.

And the same is true for developing student leaders. If we don’t have a focus to guide them towards, then how are we helping them grow? It’s the difference between some books and 36 books.

Spend some time today narrowing your focus. Decide what you want students to aim for, and how you can help them hit that target. Then, put the target out there and continually remind them it’s there.

Ultimately, if we want to develop student (and adult) leaders, focus is the key.

What’s one way to do that? Implement the three questions and continually ask how they’re answering them. Over time, they will start to see opportunities and meet them instinctually.

Answering Why Me?

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Why Me? Twice in the past couple of months I’ve gotten asked this question.

The first was as I was beginning to work through a leadership growth plan with a couple people, and the second was after offering an invitation for someone to serve.

And both times, the question caught me off guard. For someone who puts a lot of thought into most things, my answer both times was not super plotted out. In fact, both “asks” were almost instinctual.

But as I’ve thought about it, my answer boiled down to four elements:

  1. Opportunity – In both cases, there was an opportunity. For one, I wanted to walk through a leadership growth course, but decided I didn’t want to do it alone. For the other, we had been discussing them helping with students and a limited time opportunity opened up–something in which they could “dip their toes”, so to speak.
  2. Availability – Opportunities abound in life, so the next element was their availability. I felt fairly certain the first one would have the freedom to carve out some time in their schedule, and the second was similar. I didn’t ask people who had known conflicts.
  3. Personality – Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t walk up to random people offering these opportunities. Both were people who I thought could contribute and benefit from the opportunity. This element is huge!
  4. Willingness – This was the wildcard. Would they be willing to say yes? Ultimately, as a leader, we get met with plenty of no’s. But when someone agrees, celebration follows.

Here’s my takeaway: people want to feel included and important. They don’t want to be a convenient excuse. They want a reason.

And I stink at articulating this. Both of these people are people with whom I enjoy spending time. Both are great people. And at the end of the day, both have responded extremely well, and I hope have benefitted.

But when we ask people to join us or to contribute, be ready to give a reason why. Don’t look for warm bodies: instead look for reasons. What do you see in them that they may not see in themselves? How can you affirm them when they are asking the “why me?” question?

Who do you need to ask to help carry the load today? What are you waiting for?

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?

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