Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Are You Falling for this Trick?

Last night I was sitting on the couch, not wanting to do anything. I could have been reading, but didn’t feel like I had the energy to pay attention. I could have been writing, but new I couldn’t focus long enough to get out a sentence. I was always taught to do something “constructive” you know, something that used the mind, but all I wanted to do was sit in front of the TV and veg.

As I was sitting there I remembered something I learned as a student. Someone once showed me something amazing–something I had forgotten until that moment.

This influential person told me that the world had tricked us. He said the things the world sells us, and the things we think are fun are acutally only robbing us of our potential, robbing us of using our minds for greatness. I asked him what he meant and he showed me.

“Take the word amuse, for example. Off the top of your head, what do you think that word means? What comes to mind when you hear it?

Amuse means something is funny. I think of amusement parks and fun things to do…”

“You’re right. The word amuse brings about positive feelings of fun, laughter and being carefree. But don’t let it fool you. Take the letter ‘A’ away from the word and you get: Muse–which means to think or meditate quietly. Putting that A in front of the word defines the word to mean the exact oposite–Amuse–to divert the mind to something entertaining. In effect, to allow the mind a break from thinking.

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” he continued.  “A little amusement is good for everyone, so long as you continue to use your mind, grow it, challenge it and expand it more than you let it go.”

Often times I fight against the urge to let my mind go instead of using it to bring about positive outcomes. I don’t want to be unaware of the worlds tricks. That’s why I’m adopting the phrase: Muse before you Amuse. Before you sit down in front of the TV, do something that uses your mind: Read a few chapters in a book, make something creative, organize something in your house, write a blog. Use your mind more than you let it go. It’s time to do something constructive.

Muse before you Amuse.

Development-The Fine Art of Telling People They Suck

I work in an environment of development. What does that mean? It means that almost every conversation that goes on is about how to be better. How to be a better pastor, a better communicator, a better organizer, a better connector. How do we make our teams better? How can we do what we did last year better? It is a constant thought and something that really propels the ministry forward.Development

The hard part is when it comes to development of people. As leaders, developing people is a fine line one must walk across. I have been in dozens of conversations surrounding the “development” of another individual.

“If they would just not do this, then…”

“If they knew how they were around people, don’t you think they’d…”

“That person… they have no clue.”

But in the back of my mind I can’t help but think: If we are leading these people should’ve we give them a clue? If I was the individual, and my leader knew something that could help me, I would want to know, wouldn’t you? I mean, if it’s our job as leaders to develop and help others become better as we allow others to help us become better, shouldn’t we be saying something? Should we, in love, be bringing some kind of self-awareness to certain individuals who display a lack of development? This is tough. I mean, you can’t just walk up to someone and point out their flaws.

I’ve observed both the positive and negative outcomes of this fine art of development and have come to understand at least two things. When you’re in a position to bring about development in someone you must first:

  • Establish a trusting relationship with that person. Your title alone will not help you in the tediousness of the conversation. You must build a healthy, trusting relationship before you have the permission to say anything.

The second observation I’ve made is that:

  • It takes time. Don’t expect to see a change in someone over night. When you bring awareness to someone it will take time for it to fully take root. Development is an oven not a microwave.

Above all, I have understood that you can’t really develop someone unless they WANT to be developed. They have to possess a teachable heart and a willingness to learn. They have to be willing to lay down their pride and admit they don’t know everything.

What a better place to find those traits in practice, than in the people who lead them.

Self-Awareness-The Art of Knowing You

Emotional Intelligence 2.0In a previous post we took a look at the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0. We saw that there are four skills that together make up our unique emotional intelligence. The four skills are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

The top two skills, Self-Awareness and Self-Management, are more about you. The bottom two skills, are more about how you are with other people.

Today, let’s look at the top skill: SelfAwareness.

Self-Awareness, simply put, is the art of knowing yourself as you really are. It is more than just knowing if you like oranges over apples or telling people that you’re a morning person instead of a night owl. Getting to know yourself inside and out is a continuous journey of peeling back the layers of the onion and becoming more and more comfortable with what is in the middle–the true essence of you.

I can’t tell you how vital self-awareness is for our lives. It is the skill that supports the other three skills of emotional intelligence. It is also very important because without self-awareness overcoming insecurities would be nearly impossible. Do you know yourself? Do you know what type of personality you have? Your strengths? Your weaknesses? Gifts or talents? Do you know your insecurities or the truth on how to fight them?

I learned at an early age the importance of knowing myself. As a high school student I was given many opportunities to take personality tests, spiritual gifts assessments and strengths finder tests. Not that these tests were the end all of my self-awareness, but they catapulted me into a world where self-awareness became a high priority in my life. I began to live by the truth that “if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know how to improve.”

So let me ask you a question: Do you know where you are? Have you mastered the art of knowing yourself? Here are a few suggestions on how to gain more self-awareness.

  • Pray and ask God to show you who you are
  • Take a trusted personality test–not the ones you find on MySpace and Facebook! Take a Myers-Brigg or something comparable to find out how you are uniquely wired.
  • Take a spiritual gifts test.
  • Buy the book Strengths Finder by Tom Rath. Read it and take the test in the back.
  • Ask a trusted friend or mentor to enlighten you on how you’re perceived by others.
  • (You can contact me for any of these testing materials by sending me an e-mail.)

SelfAwareness is the starting point to improve our emotional intelligence. I recommend picking up your own copy of the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and start your journey.

Are You a Natural Thinker or Feeler?

Naturally, I am a feeler. Meaning, I base most, if not all, my decisions on how I feel about them and how they might effect others. The opposite side of the spectrum would be the thinkers. Those who base their decisions on logical thought, often taking emotions out of the process. Thinker

Both are valuable. Both have their faults. So let me tell you about the fault of the feeler. Basing my decisions on how I feel about them has brought some challenges to my world. For example:

  • If I don’t feel like working out, chances are I’m not going to work out, because my feelings won out.
  • If I don’t feel like writing a blog, I usually don’t do it because my feelings got the better of my decision making.

Most of the time, when I’m not actively doing something, I let my mind wander. But I’m not thinking. I’m feeling. As a feeler most, if not all, of my life sifts through the filter called: feelings. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, unless it keeps you from doing the things you know you need to do.

Recently, I asked a trusted friend, boss and mentor to teach me how to think. Being a natural thinker, he thought the request was interesting. He encouraged me to do a few things which have already helped me take back the control of my feelings instead of my feelings controlling me.

  • Start a Thought Journal–I used to journal all the time. But my entries were all about what happened that day and how I felt about them. He encouraged me to start a thought journal instead of a feeling journal. In this journal I write down things I’m thinking, things I need to do, goals I want I’m going to reach.
  • Think!–You can’t have a thought journal without actual thoughts coming out of your brain. He encouraged me to start thinking. This takes some intentionality since I am not naturally prone to thinking. So when I’m in my car, or find myself with some free time, I make myself think: What do I want to accomplish? What lessons have I learned today? What ideas do I need to expound upon to make them a reality?
  • Plan in Quarters–Businesses plan their budgets in quarters: three month chunks four times a year. Why not take this model and apply it to ourselves? We talked about the goals I wanted to accomplish this quarter (the end of June.) Once I accomplish them I will move on to the next quarter. Picking one or two things to focus on in a shorter amount of time helps me not become overwhelmed with all I want to do.

What about you? Are you a Natural Thinker or Feeler? What are the pros or cons of being one or the other?

Friend or Leader?

Working in youth ministry gives me many opportunities to learn and grow. One of the areas I’m growing in right now is finding the balance between being a friend and a leader.

I work with several adult volunteers who, over the course of the three years we’ve been doing ministry, I’ve developed strong ties of friendship. I think relational leadership it is a great way to lead, and probably the way I lead the best. But when problems arise it can be difficult to know which side of the fence to lead from: Friend or leader?

Inevitably, in leadership, you’re not going to make everyone happy. (I’m learning this too, but that is a whole notha blog post). When it’s your friends in the ministry who become unhappy about certain things it can be hard not to take their complaints personally. It can be a challenge to not allow their opinions of you to dictate how you lead and what decisions you make.

There have been several instances in my three years of ministry where I have had to figure out this balance between friend and leader. Here are a few things I’ve done to help me along the way:

  • Always check–Anytime someone brings a complaint about how I am leading, I always check myself through prayer to see if their complaint has any truth. If it does, I try to reconcile things with the person. If it doesn’t, I continue to stand firm in my decisions knowing my ultimate goal is not to make other happy, but to please God.
  • Seek Counsel--I am surrounded by leaders who are far better and far wiser than I am. Their guidance in areas like this have helped me tremendously along the way.
  • Don’t take it personal–The ministry is not about me anyways. I’m simply a steward of what God has given me. When complaints or frustrations with volunteers arise I take my emotions out of the equation and try to lead from an objective mindset. (Ok, so I try to take my emotions out of the equation. Like I said, I’m still learning!)
  • Know who you are–This one is so important. If I don’t know who I am or have a firm grasp on why I’m doing what I’m doing, it would be very easy for me to wither under the scrutiny of of what others think. I’ll say it again, I’m not here to make others happy, I’m here to serve, honor and obey God, and only Him.

Maybe you have had similar experiences. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

What do you think, Friend or Leader?

Are You Emotionally Intelligent?

Emotional Intelligence 2.0Our staff is currently reading the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0. This book helps us understand emotions in ourselves and in others and offers tools on how to manage behaviors and relationships. This is an important concept since we are all creatures of emotion and we interact daily with other creatures of emotion. This book offers enlightenment and strategies for improvement in these four areas:

Self-Awareness–to know yourself as you really are.

Self-Management–your ability to use awareness of your emotions to actively choose what you say and do.

Social Awareness–a skill used to recognize and understand the moods of other individuals and entire groups of people.

Relationship Management–The ability to make your relationships work.

As I make it through the book I’ll share some insights and nuggets, but I highly recommend the book to everyone. Each book comes with a unique code in the back so you can take a test to gauge your personal emotional intelligence.

Are You a Part of the Herd?

Herd-Of-Brown-Black-CowsAre you a cow or a bull?

The first time I remember hearing about this thought was after an event in downtown Oklahoma City. The event had just let out and my family and I and everyone else at the event was trying to get home. The problem was when 40 + thousand people are all trying to get out of the same area at once a log jam happens. One would think we’d be sitting in traffic for hours, making progress inch by inch, but it wasn’t 5 minutes until my dad pulled onto a side street. We drove down a desserted alley way and wound around the old buildings in downtown, away from the traffic. I thought my dad was just being impatient, so I asked him,

“What are you doing?”

His reply gave me much to think about. “I’m not being a part of the herd, that’s for sure!” He went on to say, “All people fall under two catagories, either they’re a cow or they’re a bull.”

After a few more moments of strategic driving we found a ramp to the highway, and were homebound long before anyone else.

This has stayed with me all those years later and I can see how true this statement is for my life.

Being a part of the herd means you don’t think for yourself. You are easily led to believe anything anyone wants you to believe. You follow the crowd, never stopping to make sure the way the crowd is going is the best way for you. Your oppinions are often easily swayed because you haven’t taken the time to search out the facts and take a stand for what you believe. You are a cow.

However, if you are a bull, you are not a part of the herd. You stand out. You are a leader. You know what you believe, spiritually, emotionally, politically and you have done the research and taken the time to know what you’re talking about. You have taken a stand and decided that you are in control of where your life goes. You don’t always buy in to what others tell you because you’re always thinking, “Maybe there’s a better way.” You always think for yourself and often find new paths to blaze before anyone else. You are a bull.

Are you a cow or a bull? Are you a part of the herd that blindly follows wherever they are led, or have you taken a stand for your life and decided where you’re going to go?

Thanks to my dad, Dirk Meadows for teaching me to be a bull and think for myself.

How to Most Effectively Influence Others

I was never good at math. Writing was always my better subject. But recently I’ve been thinking about compound interest.

The equation for compound interest is: P = C(1+ r/n)ntWhere:    P = future value    C = initial deposit    r = interest rate (expressed as a fraction: eg. 0.06 for 6%)    n = # of times per year interest is compounded    t = number of years invested

Get it, right? Ok, so maybe that is a little hard to understand. (Except for you really smart weirdos…)

Here is a better definition:

Compound interest is interest earned not only on an original investment, but on its accrued earnings as well.

So I started to think about ministry and leadership, and saw that not only can you compound INTEREST, but you can also compound INFLUENCE. God freed me from the thought that I had to lead, develop and pour into every person that came my way. He taught me how to compound my influence to be the most effective.

For me, since I work in student ministry, I started with a few adult leaders to pour my time into. A small group of  high-impact volunteers– those people volunteering who have the ministry instincts that others just don’t. They usually have great people skills and lead out of a natural ability. Second we started meeting with these leaders once a week, or twice a month to develop, cast vision, and give away leadership responsibilities. As they started to lead we saw our influence compound. Instead of directly leading 60 to 75 adult volunteers, we only lead 5 to 6. Which in turn lead teams of 10 to 12.

But what if you don’t work in ministry? What if you’re a mom? Think about your children as your little group of influencers. If you take the time, energy and intentionality to develop them into who God has made them to be, think about the compounded influence you will create. My parents had 7 children, and each of us has answered our own specific callings in life. My parents may not be directly influencing the people in our sphere, but because of their love, support and training, they are indirectly effecting hundreds if not thousands of individuals through the compounded influence of their children.

What about school teachers? You may never know how the life lessons, love., and acceptance you show to your class will effect them for the future.

What is your position in life? Everyone can influence someone. How can you compound your influence to be the most effective?

Do You Play a Vital Role, or a Value Role?

Roll CallOften times I run into people who are discontent with the role they play. Whether that be a student, a leader or someone I’m meeting with, I’ll often hear these words: “I just don’t feel like I play a very vital role.” Or “Sometimes I wonder if what I do matters.”

Let me ask a question: Do you play a vital role, or a value role? Both are equally important, but each one has it’s own characteristics.

Vital roles tend to be those roles that are more visual or out in the open.

Value roles are roles that tend to stay behind the scenes, directing, coaching, and giving support.

The interesting thing about these roles is that one can’t survive without the other. They both need each other to reach their common goal. It reminds me of this scripture:

“But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.”–1 Corinthians 12:18-19

So which role do you play? If you know it, play it well, stop wishing you played a different role, and be thankful God has chosen you to play a role in HIS story.

How Bad Do You Want It?

How bad do you want it?

This phrase has marked my journey for the last four years. I now realize it is the question that holds most people back from the things they want the most.

I’ve often heard people say things like:

“I want to  lose this extra weight.”

“I want to get that promotion at work.”

“I want to go back and finish school.”

“I want to find my soul mate.”

“I want to fulfill my dream.”

I hear these phrases often, but just as often, nothing happens. Here’s the question I want to ask when I hear those phrases.

How bad do you want it?

Can you see it? Can you feel it? Does the lack of progress make you angry? Can you taste it? Can you hear it? Do you want it? Do you WANT it?

How bad do you want it? The answer to this question will take you to your next step. So…

…How bad do you want it?

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