Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

A few days ago I wrote a post about a conversation I had when I was in the Army.  Click here for the link.  The short version is that during a lull in a training day, we were tasked to pick weeds out of a rock bed.  One of the other trainees said that they did not join the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.  That post was generally about entitlement and the current trend of people who think they’re too good to do real work.  This post is going to be about the same conversation, but from a different perspective.

One thing that I purposefully left out of the details of this conversation is the rank of the person I was talking to.  At the time I was just a lowly Private (E2) and the complainer was a West Point cadet.  The interesting aspect of this conversation lies in the fact that this cadet was (unless something happened) on her way to becoming an officer in the Army.  She was on the road to be in charge of other people and to possibly make decisions that would put soldiers into life threatening situations.

My response to her, at the time, was that she needed to remember that day.  I told her that at some point, she would be in charge of people and she would need to know that this is how the other half lives.  I told her that soldiers were to do what they were told and that menial work is something in which most soldiers have an intimate knowledge.  I told her to remember that day when she is in charge of others.  I told her to remember it so that when she was leading people, she could do so with compassion and understanding.

Too many people lead by their position alone.  They are the boss, they tell you what to do, and make sure you do it.  They are sure to let you know, regularly, that they control your paycheck and, in turn, your life.  That is not leading. That’s just pushing.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=721

Take over to the water cooler, minions!

If you are in charge of someone or many someones, think about how you get things done.  Do you use fear?  Do you use manipulation?  Do you make sure everyone knows you run the show, sign the checks and have all of the power?  If so, you are probably getting poor performance from your team.

On the other hand, do you spend any time figuring out the abilities, knowledge, passions and talents of those you lead?  If you spend time figuring out where people shine, you can organize your team better and get better performance from your people.  If you show your team that you care about them and their needs, talents, passions, skills and abilities, you show them that you care about them as a person and not just as an employee or volunteer.  If you make a shift in your leadership to take into account those under your care, you will be amazed at how much better your team will take care of you and the tasks at hand.

It also helps to remember how you felt when you were in their shoes, especially if you don’t have a boss anymore.  How did you like hearing your boss bark orders at you?  Do you still have a boss who treats you poorly?  If so, does that give you the excuse to do the same to your subordinates?  Pulling people along instead of pushing them around is a mindset.  People love to follow their leaders, but they generally do not enjoy being pushed by insecure or egotistical tyrants.

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It doesn’t take a keen eye or some sixth sense to know that today’s kids are struggling with life. There are so many options and so many paths they have laid out before them. Most don’t seem to know where they’re going or even that they should be going anywhere. Their parents tell them what to do after school(usually college), their teachers tell them what to do, and their friends tell them what to do. They are constantly bombarded with options and choices, some with dire consequences. I see students all of the time. I work for a public school district and I am a youth leader at my church. What I see around me are students who are trying to figure out where they fit into the grand scheme of life. They have lots of decisions to make, and lots of factors to weigh. The big question is; who is actually helping them?

You won't get through to him if you can't get him to pay attention

Teenagers need direction; but who can they turn to for real help? Parents would be the easy answer, as would teachers, friends, older relatives, clergy… and many others who may or may not be the ones you want investing time into today’s youth. Sometimes even those who seem like obvious answers to us adults are not necessarily the first places teens will turn for advice. In fact, those people might be the last people teens turn to. Some teenagers are afraid of looking stupid, or failing to meet expectations. Some just don’t want to deal with the stress. The fact is, some teenagers just don’t have good role models to emulate.

See, still not paying attention

What can be done to help? Is there any way to offer help and support? I think there is. I spend a lot of time working with teenagers, and I consider that one of the best decisions I have ever made. Working with the youth group at my church has been amazing. I get to spend time with some of the greatest people I have ever met. These students are fun, funny, smart, caring, energetic and lovable. Like anything, there are good times and bad times. Joy is mixed with frustration and heartache. There is also a lot of work and it can be very stressful at times. The rewards are worth the effort, though.

I get to watch teenagers grow and mature. I get to see them stumble and fall, and then pick themselves back up again. I get to help them make decisions (well, those who choose to listen) and many have bent my ear from time to time. The relationships built as teenagers can grow into real adult friendships, too. I still spend time with a lot of my former students, and one of my old students was even the best man at my wedding.

What is the secret to being a good mentor? There really isn’t one. There are some ingredients that are needed, but they aren’t really secrets. Time and effort are key, though. Make time to be with those you mentor. It’s like any other relationship. If you neglect to spend time with someone, the relationship you form will start to die. If you don’t invest any time at all, there will eventually be no relationship. Effort is also important. Some teenagers have been let down before and it may take some legitimate effort on your part to build a solid relationship with them. They need to know you aren’t going to throw them to the wolves or berate them when they make mistakes. They need to know they can confide in you and that you are trustworthy enough to listen without judgement. There might be some baggage to sort through and some pains that need healing, but when you can see hope in the eyes of a teen, especially one who never had hope before, you will see why people devote their lives to investing in others.

I know this one guy.  He’s one of those people who is always running around.  He has a job, serves at his church, has a social life and a lot of other things that pull at him from seemingly every direction.  He never seems to rest, and is almost always stressed out or tired.  Actually, come to think of it, you probably know this guy, too.  He is probably every guy (or girl) you’ve ever met.  He’s probably you.  In fact, you’re probably hoping that this will be a short article so that you can get back to something else that’s demanding your attention.

The question is, how did we get here?  I don’t know about you, but my life is fairly busy.  I work, lead a young adult group, and help lead a youth group.  I am generally teaching twice a week (sometimes three times a week) along with having a full time job in IT.  I have wonderful friends who would like to spend time with me.  There are teenagers and twenty-somethings who seek me for advice and guidance.  I am a fairly busy man.  Don’t get me wrong, I ike what I do, so I’m not really complaining about it, I’m just setting the scene.

I think I hit the main problem with a lifestyle like this.  I like it.  In fact, I really like it.  I truly enjoy the lunches, dinners, meetings, group times, study sessions… all of the things that make ministry difficult and time consuming.  If I didn’t like these things, I would stop doing them.  But how long can I (or you) keep up this pace?  What happens when we start to lose our footing, or our momentum?

I think we need breaks.  Not necessarily long breaks, but we need breaks.  A couple of weeks ago I asked some of the other leaders in my groups to take over for a bit.  I’m in the middle of planning a wedding and looking for a house, so I need all of the extra time I can find.  I am grateful for these people who are helping me with the teaching and planning of these ministries while I take a short sabbatical.  One of the things I started to notice once I shared the responsibilities is that I felt free again.  Not in a “see you later, sucka” kind of freedom, but I noticed that I don’t need to lead everything all of the time.

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Just tell the intern I'm looking at houses

Since I have these people around me who are capable of teaching and leading, I should use them more often.  In fact, they have been asking to help out more often, and allowing them to step up not only helps me, but it also helps them.  What an amazing concept.

Now that I see that I have people around me who can take charge and lead these groups, maybe I will plan for a couple of these breaks every once in a while.  I know I can use the time off to regroup and refocus.  Also, I can help others to grow as leaders while I recharge my own batteries.

Do you take breaks?  How do you plan them out?  I’d love to hear how you guys do it.