Month: September 2017

Four Tips for Young Leaders

Young leaders live with tension. We have the pulse of the community around us, but sometimes lack the wisdom of life experience. We can see with fresh eyes the unhealthy patterns in an organization, but sometimes we focus on change that’s not the highest priority. We can have a vision for hope for the future, but that can come across as a slam to the success of the past.

It’s not easy being labeled a young leader. As I look back at the opportunities afforded to me, I have many instances that I would label “handle that differently.”

Perhaps you have felt the same way. God has placed you in a role in the marketplace, church, or school. The people around you see your desire to lead and change a community for the better. On one hand, people love your insight and ingenuity; on the other hand, you may feel that people have put you in the box stamped young.

Last week, I was sitting with my mentor, Mike. We were discussing the tensions of young leadership. He gave me four practical tips in that conversation that I thought would be important to share with you:

1. Ask good questions

One of the frustrations people have of young leaders is that they have an answer for everything. Many of us have a lot to say, but the question is, are people ready for it? When we begin by asking good questions, it helps us create a bridge of understanding. It can also lead to better responding to the feedback that we desire to give. Asking good questions slows us down and communicates that we want to listen. Wait to talk.

2. Wait to talk.

Have you been in a meeting when the same person responds first to every question? That can be off-putting and the constant talking can render a voice ignored. I confess that at times I have failed here. Why should we wait? Because it gives other people a chance to respond. Another person might give the same insight, which would allow you the opportunity to agree with them. Instead of speaking, take a moment to write your thoughts down. And be patient.

3. Compliment specifically.

In talking with older leaders, I often hear how they feel young leaders critique more than affirm. One way to lose influence is to be the person that points out more problems than solutions. When something goes well, compliment specifically with an email, text, or note pointing it out. It tells people you are listening, watching, and observing.

4. Say YES as much as you can.

Many leadership books talk about the importance of saying “NO” to things that don’t fit the vision of the organization. At times, we need to narrow our focus.  As young leaders, a “YES” can be an opportunity to build a bridge. A lot of times when we say “NO” it has less to do with vision and more to do with convenience. That’s not always a bad thing, but if you become the person who constantly says “NO” then people might stop asking you. Look at ways you can support the people around you. That’s what saying “YES” can do.

Whether you’re a young leader or not, I hope these tips help you in your role. What other tips might you offer to young leaders? Share them in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Štefan Štefančík

Two Questions to Find Deeper Relationships

Who would you say is the greatest friend you ever have? As you think about that person, you felt like you clicked. Proximity played an important role. You might have gone to high school or college together. No matter where you are today with them, you feel like you can pick up where you left off.

For some people, you have a close friend with whom you remain close to this day. Yet, many of us build a bond with a person or group of people and for various reasons we relocate or they do. Sometimes, we lose touch due to changing life stages.

On a regular basis, I help people try to get connected into small groups. My job title is even called Belong Director –the guy that helps you BELONG at a church. You and I pursue community to engage the Bible, pray together, and serve, but our larger hope is to find our tribe, the people with whom we can share life.

Let’s be honest. This process of finding deeper and more meaningful relationships is tricky. It’s far more art than science.
Each decade of our lives has more complications through changing life stages.
The effort it takes to meet new people can feel exhausting.
Even when we intentionally commit to a new group of people, we’re not always convinced it’s the right one.

An observation that I have seen in myself and others is this: we measure our new relationships by our best old relationships.

What do I mean by that? Remember the friend you answered in the first question? When you set out to find deeper community, ultimately you are looking for something similar to the good you had. Don’t get me wrong; there are consistent characteristics of great friendships that are universal. But there is a line of wanting to over-replicate something you already had.

When we measure our new relationships by the old ones, we will have a difficult time letting the new friendships grow naturally. In many ways, we’re asking for duplicates rather than originals. Our expectations could be ruining the beautiful reality of growing relationships.

You might find yourself in this spot. You moved to a new area or you long for deeper relationships. I want to leave you with two questions to pursue deeper relationships: What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

1. What’s realistic to your life stage right now?

Many people tell me that their most meaningful relationships came during their time in college and 20’s. Both these eras of our lives had copious amounts of availability and invites. Then our career responsibilities and family life changed. Start with what’s possible to develop now and manage your expectations.

2. Who are two-three people that I want to invest more time into?

I think we have to start with the people already around us. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we can either meet too many new people or not enough. Start with two-three people. Perhaps you meet with them one at a time and then move to a group setting. Begin by building the proximity so a deeper relationship can happen.

What insight can you give about finding deeper relationships? Share in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Phil Coffman

Why Personality Tests Matter

You can take the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, Strength-Finders, and the DISC test. There’s an endless amount of these personality tests. Each one of them provides their own unique insight into how a person sees the world and acts in community.

Skeptics can argue that people assign their type based on what they hope to be, rather than reality. Also, some people manipulate the results to box a person into certain behaviors. At some level, these tools can amplify narcissistic tendencies that make individuals the center of attention.

Why do these personality tests matter? Why should you and I engage these tools with those close to us in our lives?

One reason is that we need more bridges to connect us to our friends, family, and coworkers. Personality tests can provide the opportunity for healthy conversations. They bring us into the world of another person: seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, and thinking what they think.

In mature relationships, personality tests are less about us knowing ourselves, and more about understanding others.

  • Knowing when to give space vs. leaning in.
  • Recognizing how to encourage, rather than exacerbate.
  • Amplifying strengths instead of pointing out deficiencies.

Think about what would change your relationships if you could better understand the people around you. Personality tests create starting points for these important dialogues with others in your life.

How can you get started? Here are a few resources for you to initiate the conversation with people in your small group, coworkers, spouse, friends, and the important people in your life:

What have you learned from participating in personality tests? Share your answers in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Ben Duchac

Who asks you the tough questions?

What’s your greatest challenge?
How are you handling that conflict?
What keeps you up at night?
How’s your marriage?
What do you sense God doing in your life right now?

You could probably add a thousand more like these. When it comes to tough questions, you stop and ask, who asks me questions like these and do I ask people around me the same types?

Creating space for deeper conversation allows you to see God at work in the larger issues. For some of us, we live life swayed by the vapor of urgent matters. For others, our minds run through these questions without answering because no one asks them of us.

When I hear people share where they want to grow spiritually, they tend to list off reading the Bible, praying, serving, and other disciplines. Taking a next a step of growth is extremely valuable; but if you want to take your spiritual growth to the next level, it requires you to share with the people closest to you what you sense God doing in you.

Let me ask you – Who asks you the tough questions? Who in your life can help you see beyond the immediacy of today to the long term important issues? Or who has permission to ask questions to draw out what consumes your mind?

People asking us the tough questions invite us to see God at work. The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, invites us to these conversations. These conversations allow us to see the truth of our own brokenness and the grace of God’s love for us. God speaks through the people in our lives asking the tough questions.

Photo produced by Cole Hutson

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