Tag: Thanks

Becoming a Discipling Leader

This is a post I wrote earlier this year and published at the Vision Room in October.

Over the years, I have worked in a variety of fields, gaining exposure to many different industries. Each industry has unique jargon. Have you ever worked on a cat cracker or executed a turnaround? If so, you probably worked in a refinery. In church, we throw the word ‘discipleship’ around like everybody knows what it means. We talk about needing more of it and how we are really going to focus on it next semester. I was not well versed in church terminology, so I did a bit of research on the word. In addition to discovering this funny video from Tripp and Tyler, I found the major theme of discipleship was ‘following in the ways of someone else’.

I love the practical nature of this approach. It is not about reading more books and listening to more sermons or getting another degree. In fairness, I love knowledge and I loved school while I was there. However, real life happens in, well, the real world. What, then, is a disciple?

Disciple = Learner

I had a friend boil all that down for me: to be a disciple is to be a learner. I again went back to our old friend Chris Argyris, who stated (with Donald Schön) that learning is the ability to detect and correct error. We are striving to change our behavior to follow in the ways of Jesus. The best way to do that is to discover when we miss the mark and then get better. Sounds easy, right? There are a few key steps to making that happen consistently for you and for those you lead.

Build a Learning Environment

  • Create safety. The foundation of a learning environment is safety. Learners must feel safe enough and confident enough to admit mistakes. First to ourselves, then to our community (family, friends, coworkers, bosses, employees … you name it). This begins with the leader and sets a tone for all disciples. Exposing your own failures, fears, or questions is a sign not of weakness but of strength. This does not mean exposing every detail of your life to everyone; you must use judgement when being vulnerable. We are all disciples together, sometimes in the role of teacher and sometimes in the role of learner, so we need to consider how we create the environment for others to learn. Find a learning partner that you can listen to, guide, and hold accountable, and who can put their trust in you.
  • Embrace your mistakes. Too often, the concept of being a disciple of Christ is associated with having everything together. This is not how we think about a student. No one thinks the third grader can calculate the velocity of a moving object on the first day of school. Calling yourself a student begins with acknowledgment that you don’t have all the answers and are prone to mistakes. As disciples, we need to see our mistakes not as failures but as opportunities for growth. We must learn to enjoy our mistakes. Those may be errors in judgement, poorly chosen words, or a swing on that golf club that didn’t work out just right. Remember, mistakes are better teachers than success.
  • Check your emotions. Think back to the last time you realized you had made a mistake. The bigger the better. Without focusing on the error itself, revisit the experience of that realization. Is that a positive feeling? For most, this is an unpleasant feeling and leaves us running for the hills, thinking, “I will never do that again.” I recently had the chance to hear Brené Brown talk about this sense of being ‘emotionally snared’ and how it limits your ability to think clearly or learn anything new. That mistake you made — can you think clearly about it or are you staying wrapped up in the emotional response?
  • Talk less, act more. Great, you analyzed your mistake. Unless you translate that into action, you are likely to find yourself in the same position again. Often, through introspection, the learning we gain from a mistake can be applied to numerous situations. Don’t just learn from the individual circumstance. Look for the themes, causal factors, and unique things about your personality that make that situation difficult. Now experiment with new behaviors to see what works. Trying new things helps you know how best to engage with others and get a better result.

Is it possible to enjoy your mistakes? I think so, and it happens when you have experienced more good from your errors than bad. When you have presented a mistake to the world, and you got better as a result, that leaves a mark. Lather, rinse, repeat. Over time, reframe the experience of error from fear to excitement.

Your Next Move

Take a risk and admit the next mistake you make to the most dangerous person in the room. Detect your errors and share them with a close friend you can trust, then ask them for help in changing your behavior. To walk in the ways of someone else, to become disciples of Jesus the Christ, communicate your weakness and strengthen it for the next encounter.

The Wake We Leave

As we go through life, we leave a wake behind us in the results we produced and the lives we touched. I first heard this concept during a conference with Henry Cloud, and it has left its mark on me. Depending on your attitude about yourself, you may imagine your wake to be entirely positive, or entirely negative. In reality, it is probably a mixture of both.

In my opinion, the wake we leave with people is more important, and more lasting, than the wake we leave in tasks or results. Rarely do we remember people who delivered a particular project on time and how that changed our lives. Although I think working hard to deliver results is key to our success and fulfillment, changing lives is much more satisfying to me. The challenge is that it is very hard to know when you have done it.

Love Letter

I discussed that problem a bit in my post about being Defeated. In that post, I also mentioned keeping a file of “love letters” to help you remember you are doing a good job. I got one of those letters today, and it made my day.

Hi Dave
I recently transferred to [city] as the Training Team Lead directing a small team of 4 individuals to develop and design training programs and curriculum for operations and maintenance for [Company]. It is a very exciting time in my career development and I really feel our team will make an positive impact on the development of personnel. I’m not sure that this would have been possible without the interaction with RMG and in particular yourself. I felt I learned much from you in the short time we worked together on the incident management process. Hope everything is well with you and your family and thanks again for the part you played in my personal development.

We could talk all day about how to improve the wake we leave. However, this post is really about letting people know you benefitted from their wake.

Your Next Move

Have you been affected by someone in an amazing way? Write them a quick note and let them know. You will make their day, and improve your wake at the same time.

Let’s Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us and we are gearing up to celebrate. This has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, our family shared Thanksgiving each year with another family in Denver. We would drive the 450 miles one year, and they would drive the next. That tradition held on for about 25 years (I think) and it was a wonderful extended family experience, although they are not technically related. That tradition has faded away with the kids having grown up, been married, had kids, etc. Now, there are too many moving parts to make it work reliably. I still have many fond memories, though.

What Are You Thankful For?

I believe gratitude is one of the most helpful emotions we have. I find when I am grateful for my life, I give others a lot more grace, I am happier, and I can deal with challenges much more easily. Although I am not very good at remembering that fact on a daily basis (like I wish I would), Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on giving thanks.

I very thankful for my family and how we have built into each other and stayed together. We can discuss difficult topics and (usually) come out pretty much unscathed. We know we are truly there for each other, even in those contentious times.

I thought about creating a long list here about all the things I am grateful for, but I will spare you. I think it doesn’t matter what you are thankful for, as much as it matters that you are thankful at all. Henry Cloud book, talks at length about this subject in his book, The Law of Happiness. I recommend reading it.

What You Going To Do With That?

I mentioned gratitude being a “useful” emotion. I wanted to expand on how I use it.

  • Curing Depression. When I get in those long standing down times and everything is wrong with everything, gratitude can be the cure. Although it is tough to remember to do it, when I take time to be thankful in those times, my outlook on life is much improved. In engineering, there is a saying, “When you are up to your neck in alligators, it is hard to remember to drain the swamp.” If that is the case for you, find a friend to help.
  • Creating Patience. When I am frustrated with some person, I stop and think about what I like about them. Why am I thankful they are here, right now? If I can be thankful about their existence, then the things they do to frustrate me are not really that big of a deal.
  • Ignoring Problems. Much like the patience thing with people, being thankful for my life situation helps me to ignore the problems I perceive. When I can be thankful for the house we live in, it is easier to ignore the cracked tile in the bathroom…at least for a while. For me, hyper focus on those little problems lead me to a negative attitude, so I try to ignore them for a time.

While I think all the range of human emotions have value, gratitude is one that creates quick and consistent results.

Your Next Move

Take the time as you walk through the day, the weekend, and this life to be thankful for things.

Be thankful for the people around you and how they have made you better.

Be thankful for the “stuff” in your life and how life is better as a result.

Be thankful for you and how you are changing the world for the better.

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