FAB FOUR!

... 4 quick leadership bits for your Friday ...

ONE
Jason Young’s web site is a great one to check out … he’s all about leadership growth and shares much encouragement as well as challenge.

TWO
What are your plans for Monday?  The Great American Eclipse is happening!  A local meteorologist put together some great info … be sure to be in the know, enjoy the experience and stay safe.

THREE
Say what??
Listening is not an option in leadership.
Here are 4 dangers of choosing not to listen.

FOUR
You may be one friend away from a better marriage.
You may be one confession away from overcoming an addiction.
You may be one conversation away from getting in better shape.
You may be one introduction away from climbing out of the doldrums.
You may be one mentor away from becoming a better leader.
It’s not too late to connect with someone who will change your future.
– Craig Groeschel

My Top 5 Reasons for an A.M. Walk

... vs. later in the day ...

A (big) part of leading myself well is taking care of this one and only body that God has given me. I’m the only one who can. I’m the only one who will.  So, I MUST!!  And, at the top of my self-care list is regular Monday-Friday early morning walks with my neighbor.  (and, just like that, I’ve combined some exercise with some social time!)
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As much as I love my pillow and dislike my alarm clock, I have proven to myself why I really do prefer my 45-minute walk to be in the early morning rather than later on a summer day.
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  1. The sun in the South is very hot later in the day.  The a.m. cool(ish)ness is much preferred!
  2. In the morning, I haven’t consumed several glasses of tea.  By the afternoon, I almost need a potty break mid-walk!!
  3. The neighbor’s dog walks with us.  In the afternoon, she really wants to lay down multiple times in the shade … I almost would have joined her. Did I mention that sun is hot?!?
  4. I prefer to “get ready” (shower, make-up, hair) just 1 time per day.  A walk later in the day creates the need for a 2nd of everything and I just don’t like spending that much time looking in the mirror.  Pre-shower in the a.m. with a hat is definitely my first choice.
  5. An A.M. walk helps me wake up … better yet, I’ve walked over half of the hills before I’m fully awake and not as aware of the incline.  Later in the day, awake and watching every approaching hill with dread!
  6. (bonus!) My Fitbit showing high step count early in the day is very encouraging.  Some days, when combined with early morning yard work, I have most of my 10,000 steps in by 8:30!
How about you?  How are you leading yourself well in the area of physical care?  What are some of your exercise preferences?

When I Say I Read …

Readers are Leaders …

I’ve heard that for years.  It’s true.  As part of my personal self-leadership, I am always in a book.  I will share these with you from time to time and give honest feedback.  But, I also want to give a disclaimer and an explanation …

When I say I “read a book,” 95% of the time I will have actually listened to the book!!  Without apology, that is my preferred reading style during this season of life.  It hasn’t always been and may not continue, but for now, I’m loving my audio books.

For the past 4 years since becoming an avid book “listener,” I have averaged over 40 books per year.  That’s a lot of reading.  I can guarantee that it is way more than if I had solely relied on consuming books in their paper version.

It’s interesting the occasional criticism that I receive.  Some believe to their core that listening to a book is not really reading and that it is somehow cheating.  I was told once that I had misrepresented myself and my reading habits.  Without being (too) sassy, I kindly asked the person how many books he/she had read in the past year.  Enough said and that was the end of the conversation!

My goal in reading a book is not to highlight important lines or take notes or dog-ear the pages.  If any of those were important to me, listening would not be such a good idea.

My goal is exposure and consumption.  My goal is to absorb all that I can from each book and figure out if/how it applies to my life.  My goal is to learn and grow and to keep on moving.

The very practical way that I accomplish this is through Amazon’s Audible and my iPhone.  I have a subscription to Audible for credits.  I keep my wish list full (currently 47) of “next reads” and add titles whenever I hear great ones recommended.  Adding a book to my cart, making the purchase, and having it sync to my phone happens in just a matter of moments.  And, just like, that I’m reading my next book.

So, how about you?  What’s your preferred method of reading?  Paper copy?  E-book?  Audio?

Most importantly, what are you currently reading???  Leaders are Readers!

Serve.

... one of the best ways to develop as a leader

SERVE.

Leaders who strive to be life-long learners are constantly ready for the next great book, anxious to hear the upcoming podcast, available to attend the new conference and always looking for ways to grow.

An often overlooked ‘best practice’ for leadership growth is through serving opportunities.  Seriously.

This particular “serving” that I’m referring to involves the leader putting herself in the position NOT to lead.  Just by virtue of the way leaders are wired, this can be a challenge to find such opportunities.  I promise they exist because I am committed to finding them and have involved myself in many.

I specifically look for situations where I can truly be the volunteer, be the one who asks the questions, be the one who doesn’t know the answers or have the plan or have the lists.  On one level, there is a very personal motivation to give of myself.  There is also such a huge potential to learn as a volunteer how to better equip and communicate with volunteers.

Here are just a few examples from my personal experience:

  • Mission Trips.
  • Conferences.
  • Disaster Relief Call-Outs.
  • Local Food Pantries.
  • Town-Sponsored Events.
  • Elementary School Reading Programs & Events.

What are other situations you’ve been able to serve in (without being the one in charge)?

 

School’s Out!!!

Remember the last day of school in an elementary grade?
Excitement about carefree summer days, a family beach trip, a week at grandma’s house …

What about the last day of an upper grade?
Dreams of time with friends, extra late nights, summer jobs …

Regardless of the grade, the last day of school typically meant no more homework!  No more studying!  No more tests!  No more school … in essence, summer-mode would equal no more learning!!!  Freedom.

Then (finally), graduation.  From high school.  From college.
Moving on to Real Life.

Somehow, in all the efforts our teachers made to instill learning as a life-time process, most of us came out on the other side with the mindset that we were finished with learning.  Afterall, we had been tested on absolutely everything we were supposed to know.  We would no longer be tested.  We must be done learning, right??

How very wrong.  And, how very sad.

Real Life.  Leadership.  Let the MOST LEARNING EVER begin!!!

Earlier posts have referred frequently to the concept of self-leadership.  And, in a nut shell, that is speaking to the life-long-learning process that each of us must monitor for ourselves.  Life is our teacher.  There will be tests of all sorts.  We must manage our learning, our growth, our progress to be ready for all that life and leadership will send our way.

So, as children everywhere are plotting and planning a summer full of lazy days with toes in the water, let us be just as diligent.

Here are a few great summer questions for leaders:

  • What is on my summer reading list?
  • What area of my own communication do I need to strengthen?
  • What local leader do I need to have lunch with to learn from?
  • What podcast should I begin listening to?
  • What are 2 practical ways I can be more generous?
  • What do I need to delegate?

Make it fun!  Summer doesn’t have to be boring just because we are in Real Life & Real Leadership … go put your toes in the water as you ponder these questions.  Take a hike in the woods as you listen to that new podcast.  Try a different restaurant when you meet with that local leader.

Model margin to your team and enjoy these extra warm months called summer as you continue learning & growing!

 

A Job (not!) Well Done

… there’s the clean floor … and then there is stuff under the rug!! 
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First impressions are not always correct.  On this particular day, if you stopped by for a visit, you would find a fairly clean and tidy place that we live in.  But, please don’t look under my rug.  Not only do I not clean under it regularly, I may have been known to sweep a little extra underneath from time to time.  Reason?  Laziness.  Just too plain lazy to walk in the other room and grab the dustpan so that I could do the job completely.
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The same thing can happen with our leadership … particularly in the manner we lead ourselves.
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What is currently under the rug of your self-leadership?
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Have a book only half-finished?
Need to follow-up with a mentor?
Been meaning to listen to that great podcast someone recommended?
What about that journal that hasn’t been updated in 6 months?
Wish for deeper time in scripture?
Need a personal retreat?
Been saying yes to the wrong things?
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The fact is that my floors under the rug will not clean themselves.  I must choose to make it happen.  So, I tell you what!  I’m going to sweep under my rug today.  I am deciding that for this day, for this task, I shall fight with Lazy and I shall win.
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What about you?  What choices will you make today? What step toward leading yourself better are you going to tackle on this day??
Make it so.
Those you lead are counting on you and need you to do this.

600 Seconds

I’m all about lists!  To the extreme … I have been known to make a list of the things I need lists for.
(I’m not sure if I am organized or need therapy)
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Regardless of the type of list-maker you are, I’m going to encourage you to consider a 10-Minute List. This is not only a great list to make, it is also a fabulous time management strategy.
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Have you ever found yourself with just a little bit of time before the next meeting or heading out to an appointment?  It’s not enough time to begin a new project, not enough to give full attention to an email correspondence, not enough to have an important phone conversation, but it IS enough for something!
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Cue the 10-Minute List! (a glorious 600 seconds)
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What are the things in your life (office, home, car, yard, etc) that you could accomplish in just a matter of minutes?  Jot them down.  Lean heavily toward those things that you often plan to do later.  The quick things that seem to never get done because ‘later’ never comes …
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Here are a few examples from my world
(and my actual list):
_ pull weeds
_ file receipts
write a thank you note (because I have a new determination)
_ declutter car
send ‘just because’ text (to the one who first pops in my mind)
_ handle kitchen gadget drawer
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Note that this particular list will not have things permanently marked off.  Maybe not super satisfying to those of us with extreme list addictions.  But, these are things that constantly need to be done.  I don’t know about your kitchen, but my silly gadget drawer simply won’t stay organized and occasionally won’t even shut properly!!  That will always be on my 10-Minute List since I don’t otherwise seem to make it a priority.
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Try it.  You might like it.  AND, you may get more accomplished in 10 minutes than you thought possible rather than letting the moments slip by because you can’t decide what to do next!!
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As leaders, when we get serious about managing our time, we likely discover that we really have more time than we thought.  Let’s make the minutes count!!

How Sweet Is Your Lemonade?

We’ve all heard the phrase: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  It can seem trite, even callous in the moment, but is a statement of encouraging truth.

A question comes out of that phrase though – How SWEET is your lemonade once you’ve made it?  I’m not sure what your taste buds are like, but mine definitely appreciate sweetness.  Anything from M&Ms to Rocky Road Ice Cream to Southern Sweet Tea makes my taste buds smile in a big way.  Tartness just doesn’t work well in my mouth.

Tartness doesn’t really work well in leadership either.  When we are given lemons, which can be very frequently, we all end up making lemonade.  We all deal with the situation in some form or fashion.  The great part is that we get to choose the level of sweetness of that lemonade!!  How freeing is that??!?

I get to choose my response to that lemon-y situation or email or person or decision.  I get to decide the tone of my words, the look on my face, the conduct of my body language, and the way I move forward in the moment.

Will I be curt or kind?

Will I spout off the first thing that comes to mind or ask a clarifying question?

Will I think of only myself or consider where the other person is coming from?

Will I wince and fold my arms or keep open palms and a pleasant face?

Will I say ‘no’ automatically or will I hold my response until I have considered all the options?

When life hands me lemons … and there are lots of lemons in all of our futures … I choose, to the best of my ability, to make sweet lemonade.  Life and leadership are just better with more sweetness and less tartness.

How about you?
What are you going to choose to do with those lemons?

I Think I Can, I Think I Can …

This new journey.  The one that has called me to leave comfort and to step out in faith.  The journey that is undeniably a call from my Father.  A transition that is incredibly exciting.  A peace that cannot be explained with each step I take into this unknown territory.
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It is also a journey that has caused me to experience great loss.  Loss of ministry as I have known it for 14 years.  Loss of a team that I love working with.  Loss of friendships that will be forever different.  Loss of financial security (whatever that really means).  Loss of respect for several.  Loss of trust in some.
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This new assignment has reminded me of His faithfulness.  It has given me a passion to an area that He has grown me toward.  This new assignment has shown me how much my husband believes in me and trusts me and loves me.  It has strengthened friendships. It has shown me blessings beyond what I could imagine.
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This adventure has caused me much self-doubt.  It has seen days of incredible overwhelm.  This adventure has tossed me into stages of grief that I must live out.
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These new days of encouraging and equipping others toward successful leadership in ministry and life are here.  I will blog, I will lead, I will consult, I will speak, I will pray, I will lead live events, I will serve Him … I will do all of these things and more as He leads and to the best of my God-given ability.
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For those who are cheering me on, I will value your sweet words along the way.  For those who don’t understand, I will be patient as I move forward.  For all who are in my life, I will love you as I always have.  For new friends on this new journey, I cannot wait to meet you and give you a hug!!
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Because of HIM, I Think I Can becomes I Know I Can … and so I begin.

The Greatest Risk

“Will who she was, who she really was, be enough?
There was no magic to help her this time. 
This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will ever take:  to be seen as we truly are.”
(From Cinderella, 2015 movie)
 
Friends, it IS worth the risk.  It is scary.  It is not safe.  But, being seen as we truly are has the potential to unleash some of the best friendships, best team experiences, best moments of leading and best days of our lives.
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We have not had the experience, like Cinderella, to have the help of magic that brings about a very false persona.  Most of us, though, have likely manipulated situations and kept them safe so that we haven’t had to be our real selves in the moment.
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What is one small thing you can do today to step out into the land of “real” to experience even more genuineness and closeness in current relationships?

Unspoken Thank-You’s

Gratitude is an area that all of us should work to strengthen … whether it comes naturally or not!!
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I am soooo guilty of having way more gratitude in my heart than I take time to express.  I may even be the world’s worst in this area. (not kidding!)
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There have been dozens of times that I have literally written an entire thank you card in my head and never stopped to write and send those words.
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May I confess something even worse than that?  While cleaning out a “stack of papers” a few years ago, I discovered a really great thank-you card that I had written.  The words said perfectly what I intended.  I was even touched by my own words of thanks!  And, yet, there it was in a big bunch of papers … never sent.   For all that I believe about the value of expressing gratitude, that is an ultimate fail.  My sweet friend never knew how very much I appreciated her.
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What’s my problem?
» I have plenty of cute cards.
» I have a ton to thank others for.
» I have a heart overflowing with love and gratitude.
» I have words formed in my head.
» I have a zillion purple pens to write with.
» I have addresses at my fingertips.
» I have stamps ready for the occasion.
» I keep a list of folks that need to receive a card.
» I even have fairly decent handwriting!!
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My goodness, just really slack in this area.  No excuses.  Maybe I should even classify it as lazy.
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Because I believe that we are never finished products (thank goodness!), I have a new determination to grow in this area.  My goal for the next few months will be to write … and MAIL … one note of thanks per week.  I’ll let you know how that goes.
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What about you, fellow leader?  How do you do in this area?  Do you have any great tips for the rest of us??

Not Old Enough

Most days I don’t feel old enough – or smart enough – or wise enough – to handle various situations..

Isn’t there someone more capable?
More competent?
More gracious?
Older & wiser?
Someone who is better equipped to make the decision, handle the conversation or walk the road?
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These are often the thoughts that float around in my head.  The questions that I ask God.
I’m not at all desiring the easy way out.  It’s out of a desire for the “right” thing to be done and not certain that I’m the gal for the job.
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And another tension point is realized again and again.  I’m glad I don’t feel old enough or competent enough.  I’m glad I’m not so sure of myself that I try to handle things alone.  I’m also glad that He has designed me with just enough boldness and persistence and hard-headedness to plunge into situations to see how He wants to use me.
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So, if there comes a time when I feel quite capable and wise, I should probably do some heavy-duty questioning.  It is not me, but Him through me.  The One who has blessed me with the role of wife and mom and called me into leadership Who will equip and use me.  It’s a mystery that I’ll never understand.
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Why me?
I’ll never be enough.
I’m willing.
And I’ll take the next step in making the decision and having the conversation and walking that road to see how He plans to use me.

When Grief is Personal

When Son #1 left for college, my standard phrase was:  “I’m happy for him, but not so much for me.”  And that was the honest truth!  I did a lot of anticipation crying … like I started tearing up during his Junior year of High School.  All the while thrilled for him and enjoying each moment of the man he was becoming, but sad for me.  I did not cry on college move-in day as folks promised I would.  I did not cry on the long drive home and my husband was pleasantly surprised.  I did cry when we got home and that stinker had left special handwritten notes for each of us.  He is still in trouble for that!
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The days that followed were a strange mixture of emotions and many that I reprimanded myself for.  I was determined not to be that mom who longed for toddler days.  I was also dealing with health issues that could not be figured out.  The emotion of a son leaving and an undiagnosed sickness left me spent and drained.  Most days it would have been easier to stay in the bed.
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At some point the word “grief” passed over my ears or through my brain or in my heart.  I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember the moment that I acknowledged my grief.  The loss.  Not a physical death, but a notable loss nonetheless.
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Why had I not been warned of this?  Why had I not thought about it earlier?  How much energy would I have saved?  How many words of self-reprimand would have withheld?
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Why do we typically not think of grief in terms other than death?  I knew better.  When my first marriage ended, I walked through a grieving time like no other.
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The Grief Process is normal.  It is natural.  It is God-given.  Not to be fought or denied.  To be acknowledged and lived through.
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Once I realized my grief, I was able to give myself permission to walk through it.  I talked about it – even to folks who really didn’t care!  I expressed it with words, tears, hugs and journaling.  I didn’t particularly enjoy it but knew it was necessary to get me to a new place.  There was a new stage of life to be lived.
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This loss was actually a good one.  I never intended for my boys to live with me until they were 30!!!  I grew them up so they could leave.  My son going to college made for some proud mom moments.  The loss was not losing a son.  Instead, it was losing a form of parenting that I had known for 18 years – the kind of parenting where the child lives under your roof, you feed & clothe and pay lots of money for various things, and have a false sense of control of his life.
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It was what it was supposed to be.  My loss.  My grief.  Acknowledged and Lived.
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And so it has continued to be played out in so many areas of leadership.  Loss of ministry partners who received calls to other churches.  Loss of special families leaving for jobs in other cities.  Loss of loved staff members who God called Home.  Loss of normal routine due to changes in scheduling and programming.  Loss of preferred methods as decisions were made that were not my own.
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These losses always were followed by a time of grieving.  Some much shorter than others.  Some that are still tender to this very day.
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Acknowledging grief in leadership is important.  It is critical.  It is yet another way to lead yourself well.

How I Trust

There are folks who will not trust anyone until the trust is gained and proven, often multiple times.

Then there are those of us who automatically trust everyone fully and completely until the trust is broken and lost, often multiple times.

I trust until the message is loud and clear that I should not trust.  Even typing these words makes me feel uncomfortable.  And, for this reason, I often linger in situations where the trust is broken time and again before I’ll step back and create healthy boundaries.

I have countless hard lessons in this area with personal relationships & friendships as well as work situations.  Each time I find myself learning this lesson over again, I wonder how I can possibly be so blind to what is happening and why I am so hard-headed in this area.

My mind tells me to protect myself, harden up a bit, be a little more guarded.  My heart tells me to step in, to believe the best, to trust.  This is a constant battle within to be vulnerable to others while maintaining a healthy respect for myself.

So, my friends, where do you fall on the trust spectrum?  Do you need proof to trust?  Or, do you need to face the difficult situations to give less trust?  What are you intentionally doing to grow in this area?

Misunderstood

Being misunderstood is inevitable.  These words from Carey Nieuwhof passed my eyes and resonated deep in my heart at a particularly challenging time.  Note to self:  I’m not the only one who feels this way!!

At some point, every leader will be misunderstood.

People will say things about you behind your back (or to your face) that aren’t true.
People will judge your motives and get it wrong.

Sometimes you’ll only be allowed to say certain things in public,
not because you’re being secretive, but because revealing all the information
would make others look bad or would be breaking confidence.
So instead, you look bad.

That’s just the territory of leadership.

Leadership is a bit like parenting.
You have to do the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing.

I’ve been there many times as a leader (and as a parent).
Leaders have many decisions to make on the journey of leading.  When clearly being misunderstood, what we do with that impacts future days, conversations, relationships, trust levels and decisions.  We must choose very deliberately to do the right thing and, often, that means choosing to look bad.

 

phone app

Our phones open a world of information and opportunity for us … let’s not miss the world that is right in front of us.  Our spouses, children, extended family, friends, neighbors, teams – the people God has blessed us with – let’s give them the actual face time they need.  Let’s nurture our in-person relationships.

Already Tired

Sunday.  Such an important day on so many levels in church world.  It’s not fun beginning the day already tired.

Such was today.  As I was getting ready this morning, I was reviewing the list in my head of all the things that would take place over the next 7 hours.  The many details I needed to tend to, people I needed to check in with, questions that needed to be answered and extras that this day was to hold … all the while leaving room for unexpected requests and situations.  I was exhausted just thinking of these things and really wanted to crawl back under the covers.

‘Tis the season for allergies to kick in so the cough, puffy eyes and scratchy voice made starting the day extra challenging.  And, oh by the way, remember you are doing the announcements in first service – can you turn the mic up, please?!?

My Internal Dialogue went something like this:  Are you sure you are feeling well enough to go to church today?  No, but I have to.  Do you want to go to church today?  Honestly?  Not really, but I have to.  If you weren’t on staff, would you go to church today?  Probably not.  Then why are you going to church today?  Listen, self, it’s time to switch gears!  I GET to go to church today!!  I GET to be on staff!  I have responsibilities that only I can do today.  I WANT to do them!  Breath deep, finish your hair and let’s go …

Leadership pep talks.  Often come from within.  On those days when I am tired from the beginning, the days when I am beyond frustrated, the days when I just don’t think I can do another day of leading, these are the days that I must dig deep.  I must change my internal dialogue.  I must acknowledge my calling, my responsibility and the privilege that I have to serve in this capacity of leadership.

Does that immediately take away the fatigue?  No.  But, it does bring me to the point of embracing the day and all that it will hold.  And, 9 times out of 10, the excitement and adrenaline that kicks in carries me well past what I thought I was capable of.

In the end, today was even busier than I had originally thought it was going to be.  There were some big unexpected situations and conversations.  And, on top of everything, I locked my keys and phone in my office after everyone had left.

I just thought I was tired at the beginning of the morning. I had no idea!!  God knew.  He prepared.  He equipped.  He sustained.  Not in my strength, but His.

 

Post 1

Here it is.
I have delayed going public with this blog for several months because I kept hitting a brick wall with the first post.
Shouldn’t it be extra-great?
Perfectly worded?
A grand-opening quality?
Well, after much wrestling with my perfectionist tendancies, I won and decided that this would be it.
So, here it Post 1.
(and now that this is published, I can get breathe easier and get on with the fun & excitement of the blog!!)