Have you ever found yourself stuck as a leader?
You see your people staring at challenges, and they are struggling to solve them. You know it's your job to lead them through this, but truth be told, it can all feel overwhelming.
You start to think "Wouldn't it just be easier to do it myself?" "Why don't I just tell them the answer." "When I tell them what to do, I AM helping them." Sound familiar? That approach might work for the short-term. But at some point, your people need to be able to solve problems on their own.
If the whole thing depends on us, then it will always be about us. That kind of leadership is not only NOT inspiring, it's limiting. If the ceiling of our team's potential is determined by how far our arms can reach personally, we are holding our people back from reaching their full potential.
But there's good news. It's short, sweet, and to the point. When applied consistently, over time, it holds the power to be an absolute game-changer for your team.
It's simply this...
Solving starts with serving.
Not the going to soup kitchen's and pet shelters kind of serving. That's great, and has it's place. This is the pouring-into the team of people you are leading kind of serving. It's getting out of our team's way as a limiting factor, so they can step up and solve.
The challenge we are facing is to teach, not preach. To equip, not do for.
This happens when we value the perspective that comes from getting the attention off of ourselves as leaders. It equips our team to make better decisions.
Let's talk practical application:
Circumstances can feel stressful, and situations overwhelming. We've established that.
How do we equip our people to solve the problems that comes with those feelings?
We need a process for our progress.
It's one that starts conversationally, and built relationally...consistently...over time.
4 Questions That Will Change How You Lead.
These questions apply to us as individuals, teams, organizations, and families.
The more we talk about them, the more value will be placed on them.
Great, but how does that help our people learn how to solve problems?
Use the 4 questions as a compass. When your people run whatever they are facing through this process, they have something consistent to base their responses on. They won't be making choices based on random opinions and preferences. They will be gaining momentum as they make them based on your vision.
Why is this so important?
You may be facing similar challenges as other individuals, teams, organizations, and families. BUT...you can't solve those problems based on who someone else is. The group of people at the company down the street has a completely different reason why they exist. The person who parents differently than you likely has core values that are different as well. Not necessarily right or wrong, just different. But to be the leader of your people, you need to be you...not someone else.
Starting conversations with these 4 questions, consistently over time, will help you make better decisions. And more than that, it will equip your team to do the same, not needing you to do all the heavy lifting. That makes you a leader of influence, impact, and intent.
That's a leader your people will love to follow.
As a boss.
As a coach.
As a manager.
As a parent.
And as a bonus?
That's the kind of leadership that leaves a legacy you'll be proud of.
Get out in front of your fear.
It doesn't have the legs to keep up with you. That's because your energy comes from your calling. It's a resource fear can't drop it's bucket into, because it wasn't given the keys to that well. Fear's only hope is that you won't move. All it can do is stand there, stare at you, and convince you that it's tougher than you. Fear hopes your knees will buckle under the weight of it's presence, even though it's existence is filled with empty promises. It can't stop you. Only your giving in to it can.
Show fear the truth.
Get out in front of it, and leave it on it's knees behind you. Leave it defeated by the resilience of your preparation. Leave it dismayed by the persistence found in your passion. Leave it disillusioned by the fact that you stepped forward into your calling.
Your first step forward might feel more like a crawl, and that's fine. Eventually you will walk, then start to jog, and finally...burst into a full-fledged run, in the direction you were always meant to go. The same direction that fear thought it could keep you from.
And if at the end of this blog post, and your day, you are still wrestling with the first step?
When we start to see our #calling for the positive difference it can make in someone else's life, we'll find energy that we didn't know we had.
Get out in front of your fear.
There is someone out there that needs you, and the talent only you have, to meet the need that helps them overcome their fear.
Your calling isn't a burden to walk with, it's a gift to lead from.
When we don't move, we refuse to let other people connect with the gifts we bring through our talents, so they can receive the blessing that comes from them.
No...that isn't arrogance. Fear would say it was. I'm here to remind you that your talents are a blessing to others. Don't ever apologize for leveraging them to make someone else's life better. But don't ever sit on them, refuse to share them, and tell me it's because you are afraid you might fail. I've done that in my own life, and it doesn't end well.
Perspective says that the only potential failure on the table is our refusing to step into our calling, and not be someone else's blessing.
Run with perseverance the race marked out for you (Hebrews 12:1), and remember..."that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:3-4)
That is how you look fear in the face...
The behavior problems we are seeing come from the inability to communicate the words they are feeling.
This is true in every facet of our player's lives.
As a coach I talk about the 3 most common areas that I see it.
On the field.
In the classroom.
In the community.
If we can teach them how to see it and say it, they will be able to overcome it.
Their ability to act differently comes from their awareness and articulation of the situation.
How about an example?
Let's say you are struggling to gain buy-in from your team as you lay the foundation of your vision. It starts with an understanding of what your individual players are seeing.
Hand them an index card, and a pen. Ask them to write down the top 3 issues facing your team. The obstacles they feel are in the way of progress. A few things are happening when you do this. Immediately they feel heard. They feel safe to think independently. They are opening up. They are pausing, so they can start to process what they are feeling. Once those words come to life on the card, they've taken the first step towards the actions you want to see.
The next step is having them share what they've written with the team. Whether it's you reading them, or each player, get the responses out in the open. Momentum builds as many of them will share the same responses. They will start to see how similar they are. The isolation some of them were feeling becomes a common ground that you, as their coach, can start building on.
At this point they have started to see it and say it.
Now you have a captive audience to help them overcome it.
This is when you share your vision. This is where you talk about your core values. This is where you tell them that every one of those obstacles can and will be overcome. All of this happens when individual opinion is sacrificed to the overall vision.
Take one obstacle at a time, and apply your vision and values to it. Show them how your foundation is strong enough to lift the temporary weight of the frustration they are carrying. When they start to see how you consistently return to your vision and values as your compass, they will see the value in following you.
Does it mean the process will always be neat, easy, and clear? No. There will be good days, and bad days. But every day lived in consistency, is a day closer to the buy-in you've been wanting.
Help them see it.
Let them say it.
Watch them overcome it.
As they buy-in to your vision because of it.
That's how a culture of success grows.
One obstacle cleared at a time.
In one word?
If we truly want to see change, we have to #EmbraceTheStretch.
Winning comes from a place far deeper than simply making the choice to play a game.
A head-level decision must be met with a heart-level commitment.
That consistency, over time, is what separates those who are true competitors from mere players. It's what it means to have the heart of a champion.
I have a friend who has won multiple state championships as a coach. I could spend an entire blog writing about all of his accolades, and those of his staff and student-athletes. It's incredibly impressive.
I ran into him as he was beginning this past season, right after his team lost a game. Something he said in his post-game press meeting really stuck with me. I'll paraphrase his sentiments. It went something like this: "We came to play today, just not compete."
Think about that for a moment.
Anyone can suit up for the game. They can take the field, court, or whatever surface the game is to be played on, and well...play the game. But that only requires a head-level decision. My friend was saying that if his team was to be successful, it would take far more than that. They would need to compete. That...that is a heart-level commitment.
Competing means you give your all no matter what. You find a way to get the job done. Not just game to game. Sometimes it's down to second to second. Reaching deep inside to bring the very best you have to a contest you aren't sure you can win, but will go down fighting with every ounce of what you bring as your try.
I know A LOT of student-athletes who LOVE the idea of winning. But it's doing the hard work of competing that separates the ideation athletes from the implementation champions.
Do you want to improve? Compete.
Do you want your team to be successful? Compete.
Do you want your community to be proud of you? Compete.
And don't stop once you leave the game. Bring that same vigor to your classwork, and to your community service.
Be the student-athlete that makes a heart-level commitment to their athletics, academics, and community involvement.
That is the heart of a champion!
Don't just enter the field, classroom, or world today.
Doors that are opened with crowbars don't generally have endings that are productive. Doors that are opened with keys are better received.
It works the same with new ideas.
I've been speaking, writing, and teaching on character education for several years now. I've had the opportunity to bring it into schools and universities. The impact has been tremendous. But like anything worth putting time, energy, and resources into, it's a slow grind.
Sadly...what I run into many times is a sense from leadership that they don't need anything else to address character education. There isn't time, money, or support to see it through, so they won't bring it in.
Let that settle on your heart for a minute.
Time. Money. Support.
We don't get time back once it's gone, and the longer we wait the more the next generation misses out. Money can be raised. Every time I hear "We can't afford to", my heart says "You can't afford not to!" And support comes in droves once we all agree character education is an absolute necessity. But we have to set our pride aside, and stop acting like bringing in character education to our schools is some judgement on our leadership and parenting. It's not. It's actually proof we care at the deepest level.
Until we can say that the next generation is behaving appropriately & leading effectively, character education will always be a necessity.
That is where you come in, and why I am writing this post today.
You very well may have, or be the key, to bringing my character education material to your school or university.
If you missed my blog last week, this is how to get the ball rolling.
Once you read through that blog, and the testimonials, you'll see why I am so passionate about this.
My hope is that a handful of you will reach out.
Take the influence you've been gifted with, and be the key.
The next generation grows up once.
When we blame time, money, and support, we steal from their future.
When we accept responsibility to provide them with this opportunity?
A door opens that couldn't have without your help.
I'm looking forward to the fall of 2017, as some schools are already excited about this, expressing their desire to bring character education into their schools on a whole new level. I'm excited about working with their faculty and staff to make this happen.
When the next generation is Mentally aware of their surroundings in every facet of their lives, and able to Verbally articulate WHO they are and WHY they exist...THEN...and only then...will they be able to Physically perform at their absolute best.
Mental: What they THINK about themselves, and others.
Verbal: What they SAY about themselves, and others.
Physical: What they DO for themselves, and others.
The #MVP Model is a ground-breaking, game-changing perspective that allows the next generation to tap into their potential. It creates confidence, humility, responsibility, and so much more.
In academics, athletics, art, music, community, globally...
All of it, and more.
That's the heart behind #MVP.
When you see this teaching come alive through my workshops with students in high schools and universities you can't help but get excited. The emotion in the room is palpable. The life-change is transformational. The entire experience...forever memorable.
Be the key.
Make the call.
Respond vs. React.
Is there really a difference?
A reaction is based only on current circumstances, a response is based on knowing who we are and what we will do if this moment ever comes up. When we react we let our current emotions become the driving force to our next decision. When we respond we actually pause first. We think it through. We reflect on who we are and why we exist. We call to the front of our mind what we believe and begin to process how we do what we do. And then...we act.
Reactions are knee-jerk and not thought through. Sometimes we can get those right, but most times they are packed with regret. Words spoken that we can't take back. Actions taken that multiply that negative effect.
A response is the opportunity to walk out our convictions. To remain in control of our emotions, and make a choice that won't derail us from arriving at our desired destination.
I've seen it on the field as a coach, in the classroom as an educator, and in the community as a parent. Kids make choices in the heat of a moment they weren't prepared for, and hadn't thought through ahead of time. When the winds of peer pressure whip around them, they react. Only to realize later, through unwanted consequences, that the choice they just made isn't at the core of who they really are. Sometimes, and thankfully, they are small mis-steps that we can help them work through. And yet, more often now than ever (with the permanent nature of a digital world), it becomes a choice that has a far deeper impact.
So how do we help the next generation to stop reacting, and start responding?
If we want to see the needle move on our kids making great choices in every area of their life it starts with us having intentional conversations with them.
Relational roots create missional movements.
If we are willing to put in the time now, it will help them respond later.
And let me be clear...this isn't about cornering our kids and lecturing their faces off.
It's asking them questions. It's helping them discover WHO they are, so they will know WHAT to do. See...here's the thing. Whether we want to admit it or not, the moments they will face their greatest challenges we won't be able to stand next to them. We won't be able to whisper prompts, catch their eye across the table, or gently squeeze their hand to help them choose well.
The foundation we lay in their lives happens over time. It's never too late, and it's always the most important. Talk about core values. Ask your kids, players, and team what matters most to them today. Then teach them that those core values need to be their compass when the winds whip. Teach them to respond to their internal compass, not react to their external distractions. Teach them to value WHO they are more than who someone else says they need to be.
Our kids will never have a shortage of doubters, haters, and general societal de-railers. It's our job to pour into them now so when that time comes they respond, instead of react.
Remind them that their life is their story to write.
Every time our kids make a poor choice, they hand the pen to anyone and everyone who would love nothing more than to change their story...forever.
It's not dramatic, it's truth.
When we teach our kids to know WHO they are, they will know WHAT to do.
They will stop reacting, and start responding.
They will hold tight to their pen.
They will write their story.
And at the end of time, they will be so very proud of their legacy.
That's the difference between reacting and responding.
When push comes to shove, and life gets hard, have them say this to themselves:
That will help them to respond, instead of react.
Are we using technology, or is it using us?
I remember the moment we were introduced to "the electronic mail". I was in college at the time, and the whole notion blew our mind. Students jammed themselves into the computer lab to see what all the noise was about. We would type a short note, hit send, and then the best part...we'd run back to our dorm rooms to see if we could actually open the note at a different location. Yeah, that happened.
Email. It captivated an entire campus. It changed the game for how we were communicating with one another. It impacted how our professors communicated with us. And yeah, it was another route for mom to check in to see how things were going. Pretty amazing breakthrough.
We were still dragging around bag phones, and the idea of texting wasn't even born yet. But for the first time, we could communicate through the air, without using a phone attached to a wall...or giant bag!
We were using technology.
But today I am seeing something very different.
Technology is using our kids.
It's promising connection, and it's creating distraction, frustration, and dysfunction. There is an ever-pervading idea that kids have a right to be connected digitally. And when that happens, without any sense of boundaries, education, and restraint? Lives are changed in an instant. And it's not the kind of moment we want. It's systematically destroying kids futures.
Technology doesn't need to be something our kids are afraid of. That's not what I am saying at all. It does need to be something that is reigned in, restricted, and educated on. Yup...I am totally aware that makes me sound like "that guy". I'm also totally ok with that.
I've seen it in the work I do professionally. I've listened to business owners talk about how the next generation has a lack of social skills...and yet, they are all over "social media". I've watched college coaches "de-recruit" student-athletes, yet somehow kids still act like it won't happen to them. I've sat across the table from a young person in tears, as they showed me a screenshot of words that cut so deep, it destroyed a life-long friendship.
Technology is using our kids.
It's over-selling and under-delivering. It teaches that perception of perfection is the goal, even if behind the device they've never felt more alone. It shows how easy it is to say something when you aren't standing in front of the person you are saying it to. It is reinforcing how easy it is to hide, when our kids desperately need to learn how to walk into the light and own who they are, and how they treat one another.
So what is the next step?
I think it starts with an honest conversation with our kids.
Ask them where they feel confident. Ask them what makes them feel uneasy. Share an example from our growing up, to let them know that those emotions are real. They were for us, and they are for them. Then ask them if their access digitally makes them feel empowered or bullied. If they are finding themselves in a digital environment that isn't helping them become a stronger version of themselves, it's our job to step in and address it.
Don't say it Brett...
Sorry, not sorry that I will.
Take the phone away. Take the tablet away. Take the computer out of their room, and move it into a common family space. And when you are doing it, don't apologize for it.
Listen...would you hand car keys to a 12, 13, or 14 year old? Would you send them to the store with no driver's license? Would you feel obligated because you heard someone else's kids were driving around like that? Would you worry that kids would pick on them if they weren't doing it, too?
That sounds bonkers, doesn't it? That's because it is.
Here's the thing. Our kids need us now, more than ever. They are watching us. They are listening to us. And through their silent stares they are begging us. To step in. To take the pressure off. To let them...be kids.
Life happens fast. And in a digital world, it's feels like warp speed. There is nothing wrong with pumping the brakes, putting protections in place, and waiting. The latest, greatest digital innovation doesn't need to become our child's elation.
Every kid is a little different. Every family is a little different. You know your kids. I know mine. I'm not going to sit in judgement of what age you decide your kid could or should be on a digital device. That's up to you for your family. And it's up to me for mine.
That said...I want to encourage you today.
You don't owe your kid a digital anything. We ate dirt, drank from garden hoses, and acted like complete goofballs playing with our friends. We made it just fine. If you feel like your kid isn't ready for their own phone, don't give them one. If they spend more time in front of YouTube than chasing their kid brother across the lawn with water balloons, unplug them.
At the end of the day, we have to decide for our own families what the answer is to the question I began this blog with. And that answer will be different for all of us. But know this...you aren't alone.
I've heard it said "we have a generation that has never been more connected digitally, and at the same time more disconnected relationally."
Are we using technology, or is it using us?
That's the million dollar question.
Solving that starts with looking inward, so we help our kids see the big picture.
A phone...a tablet...a computer. None of them are going to hold your kids when they are sick, clap at their ballgames, or cheer at their graduation. What we model for them, is what will be repeated by them.
If technology owns us, it gets our kids for free.
That can't happen, because they are priceless.
So it's up to us to put boundaries in place, even though they may roll their eyes at them. It's up to us to take stuff away, even when they are sure the world will crash in around them when we do. It's up to us.
Have you ever asked that question of one of your kids?
Let's face it...we all have. I know I have.
Here is why it's the wrong question...
We know they messed up. They made the wrong choice, a bad decision. We get it. They get it (yes, even if they won't admit it). So how do we change the outcome next time?
We flip the script.
When we ask them "What were you thinking?" it's confrontational. What we need to be reaching for is something that is conversational.
I don't know too many people that feel very comfortable in a confrontational setting. By it's nature it makes someone defensive. They shut down. Better to say little, if nothing at all, and let the storm pass. (fyi...we are that storm in their eyes. Hard to hear, but so true)
Great, Brett. But how in the world do we start a conversation when our blood is boiling over the bad decision they just made? We need to make one small change to the question "What were you thinking?"
What weren't you thinking?
Well...we don't actually say it to them that way. But we need to process it in our minds that way. We know what they were thinking, because they are sitting in front of us. It's what they weren't thinking that could have helped them avoid the poor choice that landed them here.
SO...we need to rewind and find the point that something they weren't thinking about could have helped them avoid the wrong decision. Every single person is different, so this moment will be as well. It's based on who they are as an individual, and their set of beliefs. If they don't see value in it, you can get on a soapbox and preach it, and it won't matter to them.
Every person is unique. That makes every challenge they face unique to them as well. The stressors, pressures, and unknowns in their world all impact the decisions they make. What looks crazy to us, might be more of a survival mode to them. What makes no sense in our world, makes total sense to them. And the only way we are going to help the next generation avoid the chair in front of us after-the-fact, is to teach them how to process that moment before-the-fact.
Character education isn't a cliche'. It's not some fluffy idea. And it's certainly not just slapping up inspirational posters on hallways in a school.
Our kids need a process for their progress.
I'll leave you with this:
When you know the destination you want to arrive at, and you don't know how to get there, how do you overcome that obstacle?
It's no different in decision making. We can want our kids to arrive at the destination of better choices. But unless we give them a mental GPS to get there...well...we need to stop being shocked when they don't.
Does your school have a process in place that teaches kids HOW to make the right decisions? Is it a cookie-cutter approach that treats every kid the same way, even though they are unique individuals? Are you beginning to wonder if something more could be done for your kids?
Something does exist that can help your school, your kids, and your community teach the next generation how to arrive at that destination.
Don't take my word for it, listen to what others say about it.
If we are serious about finding a solution to things like bullying and the inappropriate use of technology, we need to start talking about making character education a staple in our schools.
Here is what can happen when we do:
We have to do whatever it takes to get out in front of this. I believe we can make a difference, and have seen this process work over and over again in many different schools.
It would be an honor to work with your kids, your school, and your community. If this sounds like something you'd love to see implemented where you live, you can reach me by filling out the form below.