You Can’t Learn if You Don’t Fall

Bikes“You can’t learn if you don’t fall!”

I’m sure years from now, my children will sit around a table at family gatherings and recount the many “Dad-isms” of their growing up years — much as my siblings and siblings-in-law laugh about things our parents said when we were growing up.

And so as I was at a skating rink (yes, they still exist) at our daughter’s 6th birthday party, I found myself saying the above Dad-ism to our eldest daughter, who was on skates for the first time. I knew the instant it came out of my mouth that I was creating fodder for her to laugh at my expense years from now. Nevertheless, the statement was true, and she needed to hear it.

“You’re okay, Babe, you can’t learn if you don’t fall!”

She needed to hear it, because she was afraid of falling.Continue Reading

Video of the week: No Look Pass in Football?

Of course, there’s a leadership lesson to be learned here.

When you see this pass, it looks cool. It fooled the defense and resulted in a touchdown. On top of all that, it was executed to perfection. Who wouldn’t want to pull off this play?

Here’s the thing: This play likely took hours of practice to perfect. The coach didn’t just draw this up in a timeout right before it happened. Everyone had to get their part down, and they likely got it wrong several dozen times in practice before they felt like they had it right.

Was the work and practice worth it? Absolutely, especially considering the play’s been featured on ESPN and, among other news outlets. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took dreaming, vision, planning, and preparation.

What dream are you making a reality today?

Video of the Week: The Galactic Empire: 5 Leadership Mistakes (from Forbes)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t see something without considering how to relate it to leadership…this video from Forbes is pretty fun:

If Anything Else, Leadership is THIS

Path in the green forest in summer

“What is leadership?”

This question is asked in just about any course taught on leadership. I remember a seminary class on leadership where we were asked that same question at the beginning of the semester. To be honest, I don’t really remember any of the definitions that were suggested. I’m sure most of our answers included words and phrases like influence, followers, and common vision.

Those are certainly relevant words to use when talking about vision. I’ve probably used all of them when talking about leadership, perhaps even when writing about it in this blog. But as I’ve learned as a leader, made lots of mistakes as a leader, and experienced what people respond to in a leader, there’s one thing that I’ve noticed separates the good leaders from the great ones. And we actually find it very early on in Jesus’ ministry:

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17, ESV)

This passage usually is noted for the immediacy of Simon and Andrew’s decision to follow Jesus. Or it is highlighted in a sermon on evangelism, pointing out the Jesus’ primary call to discipleship was that of telling others about Jesus. Both applications hit the mark, but there is something else there that we usually don’t notice.

You see, Jesus was calling Simon and Andrew to make an immediate decision. And he was calling them into a life in which — unbeknownst to them at the time — they would help change the entire world for millennia and on continents they didn’t know exists by spreading Jesus’ Gospel after his death and resurrection.

But the heart of what Jesus was calling them to was this: something bigger than themselves.
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The Difference Between Copying and Learning

lead pencils isolated on white

In seminary, I took an “Intro to Youth Ministry” class where a professor introduced me to the phrase, “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.” His point was this: When developing ideas for ministry and programming, don’t hesitate to get ideas from other youth workers.

It makes sense, right? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel each and every week or each and every event. The idea can be applied to any area of ministry…or can it? Some would say that there are places where we absolutely not copy from other ministries, such as preaching another pastor’s sermon as your own. What is the line between “borrow” and “steal”?

When you get down to it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with copying great ideas from other ministries, churches, and leaders. I’ve been in vocational ministry for over ten years, and I don’t know if even one idea I’ve had hasn’t been at least partially borrowed from someone else. Instead of asking how much it’s okay to borrow from others, there’s a better question to ask: What’s the difference between copying and learning?

Think about it: when you get an idea from someone else and you apply it to your own context, what you’re really doing is learning. Apprentices have learned this way for millennia: learn and develop a skill from someone, then take it and use it in your own context, continually developing it.
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Video of the Week: When You Make an Embarrassing Mistake As a Leader

There are times when you just blow it as a leader. I’m not talking about a moral failure here or anything that would disqualify you for a ministry leadership position. No, there are times when you simply make a poor leadership decision, plan an event or initiative that just doesn’t go anywhere, or maybe even forget about an important meeting. And when that happens, you might feel like the goalkeeper feels in this video:



The question is this: How do you react when you do the leadership equivalent of what the goalkeeper does in the video? When we mess up big time, here’s what we need to do as leaders:

Own the mistake

Confession: My first reaction when I make a boneheaded mistake that affects the people I lead is to find an excuse that either takes the blame off me or at least makes me look a little less stupid. It may make me feel better, but the truth is those around me see right through these kinds of excuses and attempts to shift the blame. Just own your mistake; people will respect you far more for being honest (even if what you did was pretty stupid).Continue Reading

Telling Stories that Cast Vision

seamless-49-texture_zynMXnSOA few weeks ago, I sent an email to our staff about a fantastic fall kickoff of one of our small group settings for moms. This particular small group environment happens around tables at our church on Fridays in one of our main spaces, which puts a pinch on our teams getting ready for Sunday. In addition, almost 100 little kids attend the childcare portion of the event, which infringes a bit on our children’s ministry space and routine.

The purpose of the email was to thank my fellow staff members for their flexibility, and to let them know it was worth it: many, many unchurched moms attended and were connected into loving, Christ-centered community. I shared some of the “wins” of the kickoff, plus the story of an unchurched mom who was really impacted by the connections she made.

We usually do a pretty good job as a team of celebrating when God does big things, so I wasn’t surprised at the emails I received that essentially said, “Awesome! Glad to help.” But one response caught my eye: “Thanks for telling the stories! That makes it all worthwhile!”
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The Choice Every Leader Needs to Make: Coach vs. Manager

15439091286_e0e096b183_bHave you ever wondered how great leaders get the most out of the people they lead? Maybe you’re friends with a pastor whose employees love working on his staff. Or perhaps there’s a church in your area that seems to always have volunteers around who can’t wait to arrive early, work hard, and refuse to leave until the job’s done.

So how do you influence people to reach their potential? Lots of encouragement? A fun work environment? Good ol’ fashioned manipulation?

Having led a lot of teams (and having made a lot of mistakes) as well as working with other leaders, there’s a choice every leader has to make that I believe makes a world of difference in their effectiveness: whether to be a coach or a manager.

A coach helps the people she leads develop skills to reach a goal or realize a vision or dream. A manager works to help his team perform pre-determined tasks within a certain set of parameters, ideally in as efficiently of a manner as possible.

Of course at some point, both roles are necessary in the life of a leader. But all leaders will lean one way or the other, and leaders who choose to be a coach instead of a manager will better help others—and the organizations they are a part of—be the best they can be. Here’s why:

Coaches don’t micromanage.

Coaches give input, they critique, they correct, and occasionally they reprimand. But they don’t micromanage. When it comes to goal-setting, they cast vision, but they also let those they lead set goals for themselves and at times for their team or organization. Coaches understand the importance of allowing the people they lead to have plenty of input on important decisions and be a part of the conversation.Continue Reading

Leadership Skill: Why You Should Give Decisions Away

a missing piece in a square built from tangram pieces, a traditiOne of the most difficult skills for leaders to learn is how to allow other leaders in our organization or on your team make decisions that senior leaders often make themselves. The temptation is to hoard all the decisions, because when those decisions go wrong, the buck stops with us. But giving away decisions is one of the most important leadership skills you can learn. Here’s why:

It develops leaders

Decision-making is a crucial leadership skill and you’ll get a better understanding if you decide to do some research into sites like Ginger Public Speaking. For any successful business, this is necessary, especially when it comes to getting a message out there. If you’re the one making the vast majority of decisions on your team or in your organization, you may be unknowingly stunting the growth of emerging leaders you work with. When you tell a leader you’re leading, “You decide” you give them the opportunity to lead.Continue Reading