What’s Your Map?

What’s your map? Do you even own a map anymore? That’s the question I should be asking! Most likely you have a smart phone or some type of mobile device that you use to help you get places. A GPS, Google Maps, Mapquest, etc…they are all tools and structures to help us get somewhere.

All the new tools do the thinking automatically for us, which can be a good thing, but I do think we miss out on something too. Back in the day (whenever that was) it was probably more common to find someone who had multiple maps in their car. Maybe a county map, state map, probably a map of the country. If you had one of those maps, you probably sat down before you went on a trip and picked your starting point, picked your destination, and then plotted your course. You had your plan. You had a course of steps and pre-determined decisions to help you get to where you were going.

I think this concept of plans, or mapping your course, can sometimes be a lost one for us. I believe it’s essential to have plans for the things we engage in daily. For the sake of this post I’m talking about Social Media. What’s your plan? Do you have a personal plan in how you engage online? Does your business have a strategy for social media?

Often times we start these journeys without a real destination in mind. Maybe you do have a destination but you are relying on a GPS to get you there, which they don’t make for social media by the way.

So what do you do? Where do you start? Take a few minutes today and ask yourself, “what’s my goal for engaging online?”. Ask it for yourself or the organization you represent. Once you have that down, start plotting your course. Make the pre-determined decisions for where you are going.

To get an idea on what a personal social media strategy looks like, check out this one here from Justin Wise.

I’d love to hear if you already are doing this. What’s your strategy? What’s your goal?

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A To-Do List (Of Sorts)

Creating, ideas, getting and things done need to have structure. It can be simple or it can be very complex. It works best on your own terms. But most times it centers around to-do lists. To-do lists range from the simple lined sheet of paper to some complex web app that shares tasks with a whole team. Today I thought I’d share with you some to-do list options that have lots of potential depending on your work environment and your personal way of doing things.

1) Paper – One of the oldest ways of doing to-do lists is writing it down on paper. This has morphed over the years to more trendy forms of to-do lists like using a Moleskine, but all the same. Depending on your style paper can be a great way to dive into To-Do lists. If it’s something you keep with you all the time (like a moleskine) then even better.

2) Action Method – Action Method is a method (obviously) of managing a to-do list. Created by the genius’s behind the Behance network it’s designed to be used in a way that suits you best. It’s flexible and has “rules”. You can use Action method via paper products the company sells, Action Method Online, or by using one of their Action Method Apps. Either way I find this to be one of the most helpful tools out there when it comes to getting things done. This method along with their book has helped me immensely.

3) EvernoteI’ve blogged about Evernote before but another great use for it is to use it as a to-do list. If you have a smartphone, and a computer or access to the internet you can always have access to Evernote (and your to-do list). Evernote actually has great check-box lists you can make to help it feel even more like a list. Again, Evernote can do much more then this, but it’s a good option if you already spend a lot of time in it.

4) Clear – Clear is one of the most simple to-do apps that I have ever come across. I’m more of a paper person when it comes to to-do lists but I use Clear often. Because of it’s simplicity I use it for quick lists. Grocery store lists or maybe a list of errands I have to run on a Saturday. I don’t usually recommend breaking up lists between mediums but Clear is perfect for it. You can also use it for more complex lists as well. You can have categories, sublists, etc. Check it out here.

5) Orchestra T0-Do – One of the last apps that I’ve been wowed by is Orchestra. This is another app that can be used personally or with a team or really any individual for that matter. It’s got a great user interface and has some great features like “speak your to-do” and chats with other people centered around items on your list. Again, if I was going to use an app I would strongly consider this one. They also have a great web app companion to use on your computer. Check out the App and Online versions here.

There are five options for you. (In case you were looking for something like this) I’d love to hear what you use. I know there are so many options out there. What kind of struggles have you had with to-do lists? 

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The Questions To Lead You Forward

Here’s a secret to leading well. Ask really good questions. Yup. I talking about well thought out, daring, courageous, silly, gut feeling questions. The ones you want to ask but chicken away from.

As leaders we can have this special ability to assume things. I consider it a sixth sense that we don’t want. Assumptions are, well, they are assumptions. We can’t lead based off assumptions.

The other trait leaders tend to have (and I’m including myself in all of these) is to think that we are the best communicators when it comes to our expectations. I’ve come to learn that we aren’t. You know when you explain an idea to someone you lead and they kinda shake their head like they are getting it. 90% of the time they probably aren’t, not because they are stupid, mostly because we think they know everything that’s in our head.

What can help with these two problems? Asking the right questions. Here are three questions to start asking today.

1) Where Are They? – One of the first things as leaders we should be finding out is where our people are. I’m talking about going all Location Services on them. (lame attempt at an iPhone joke). With GPS accuracy we should be able to know where those we lead stand on different ideas, new policies, projects, etc. We need to be asking them what they think. We need to ask them how an idea makes them feel. Once you know where they are, then you can lead from there.

2) Who Are Your Experts? – Who ARE your experts? Maybe you hired them. Maybe you are in charge of them. If you did a good job and hired people smarter then you, then you should be asking them questions. It’s a simple idea but not necessarily the default of a leader. Don’t assume you have the best ideas. You don’t. Ask those around you who are smarter and have different view points. Diversity in feedback can be a very helpful thing. Go to your experts.

3) What Are The Facts? – As leaders we have to deal with problems. It’s easy for someone to come into our offices and start going off on a problem and then we get worked up about it too. “Let’s deal with this problem now!” (Probably the thought going through our mind) Here’s the thing, much like Ogres and Onions, problems have layers. What are the facts about the problem? Ask that question and diffuse a potential bomb very quickly.

What are the questions you ask? Which questions have been invaluable to you? Which ones are you afraid to ask?

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Interruptions

Interruptions can come in good forms or bad forms. This is something I’m recently learning. For example, the cute picture above is of our new dog Lola. She’s pretty much come in our house and stolen our hearts. But it’s a little bit of an interruption. In a good way.

As leaders we often find ourselves in routines that we build or structure to help us do well. Essentially they are positive habits. But even positive habits can get in the way of things. Here are a couple things that having Lola around over the past four days has done for me.

Slow down – When you have a puppy, life slows down for a little bit. While the puppy might be very active and playful, my life has to slow down to take care of her.

Unplug – When you have to keep your eyes on a puppy, that means you can’t be constantly plugged in and working. A new puppy needs good attention and training so it knows how to behave.

These are just two things I’ve quickly learned will change during the puppy stages. But most importantly I’ve been asking myself this question.

What is my attitude when encountering interruptions?

The reality is that they happen all the time. It might be something major like a puppy or having a baby, but it could be as simple as a flat tire or someone stopping by your office.

I think learning how to manage interruptions well is key to leadership. There are times when we will need to flow in and out of our “systems” we have in place to lead well. It’s key to learn how to adapt and reroute our energy to what we need to focus on. All while still leading well. Here’s the thing. I’m just learning this. I really don’t have it figured out.

How do you manage interruptions when they come? When something throws you off your rhythm, how do you just go with it? 

(Just as a side note: this isn’t a post about me complaining about our puppy. She’s great. It’s just a post about learning how to lead during change well!)

Is The System Failing?

I normally don’t like posting videos two weeks in a row, but this video came out last week and I thought it could be a great thought or conversation starter. This is part 4 of a video series called “Everything is a Remix”. It’s a short video series on creativity and where great ideas come from. If you haven’t seen any of the earlier videos, I’d encourage you to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The video is a little on the longer side but it is very interesting and will go by quickly. Take a few minutes to watch this then I’ll have a couple comments on the flip side.

Ok, I’ll start off by saying the flow of logic at the beginning from Evolution to Social Evolution isn’t necessarily something I believe it, but I understand the point he is making. And I really think he is making a great point. The point isn’t that the system has failed us…(which we could have an argument on all day) the point is that it’s OUR responsibility. If the system has failed us, it’s our fault. We created and contribute to the systems.

So, my question is simple. What are you doing to take responsibility of with what you create, and with moving our culture forward? 

My favorite example of how people have been trying to help change this is in the music industry. Some of the best music (and most original) that I’ve been hearing is being made by friends and acquaintances. And guess what…most of the time they give it away for free. This is because they understand that the influence is worth more then the immediate gain.

Don’t get me wrong, money isn’t wrong and we need to learn how to make a living. Just make sure that what you are offering is greater then what you are expecting. Give more then what you take. Be responsible with your ideas, your creations, your songs, your art.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you giving more than what you are taking? Are we beings of “taking” or “creating”?

Use Your Tools Well!

When engaging in the creative process and implementing ideas tools can go a long way. We all have tools at our disposal. Computers, cameras, instruments, paint, our ideas, how we teach, books, the list can go on and on.

A lot of times when we have ideas we try to spice them up with tools. What can often happen though is we lean on them to heavily to make our idea better. That’s usually not best, and others notice when you do that. Check out the video below to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Now, obviously these guys go over the top with how to use all these tools wrong, the main focus being on the PowerPoint slide show. But, we’ve all been in that presentation, or church sermon, or concert where the person using the tools was doing it all wrong. So, here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding on that “creative element” to help your ideas sink in.

1) How does this tool help punctuate the point? – This is a serious question to ask. So often people (me included) use a tool because we think it will be cool and add a “wow” factor to what we are doing. Most times it does add that “wow” factor. But, do you want people to remember the wow or the what? Make sure you use tools that help punctuate your point.

2) What’s it going to cost you? – A second question you should ask is what’s it going to cost you? Sometimes we can come up with this crazy, out of this world idea to help support another idea. The problem is, the cost to execute that supporting idea won’t pay off. Cost can be anything from money, time, energy, anything that could take away from developing the main idea first. Again, it’s not bad to use something that will cost you, just make sure it will be worth the cost.

Just to make sure I’m clear. Using tools aren’t bad. They are actually great! The problem that we usually run into is that we use great tools to help support a not so great idea. In effect, killing the greatness of the creative tool we are using.

So, the next time you are doing that guitar solo and you add all the delay to make it sound better, work on nailing the guitar part first. Add the delay to sweeten it. Or, maybe you build a 50 slide presentation so that the crowd doesn’t look at your nervous teaching style. Slides aren’t bad, but working on the way you present will have the best results. Make sure your idea gets the attention it deserves and that your tools aren’t getting in the way.

What tools do you struggle to use well?

Resource Dump #2

Well, it’s that time again! I thought it was about time to do another resrouce dump and let you know the things that I’ve been loving lately. It’s pretty simple. I’ll share three things (resources) that have been helping in my journey lately. The only think I ask for you to do is to share one resource that you’ve been digging lately below in the comments. It’s pretty easy!

 

Resource 1) The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman – I’m about to finish this book up. It was recommended to me by my friend Peter after we had a conversation about leadership and managing people. I’d highly encourage you to read this book if you are a manager. It’s short, super simple and the principles are simple, great reminders of how to lead people. The book is written in an engaging way that helps you remember these principles as well. Check it out!

Resource 2)  Flipboard (App) – This is a great app. I know it’s been around for a while and has already received a lot of attention. I tried it a few months ago and really didn’t like it. As of recent, I’ve found myself needing to cut back on some blogs (tech/news/etc) but still wanted a way to catch up or scan through things quickly without it being something I needed to clean out of my RSS Reader. Flipboard became the perfect thing for that. Instead of having news sites or mac rumors dumping into my RSS, I can now open up Flipboard and catch up and read the articles that I want to read. And it looks amazing too. The only down side is that it’s iOS only, so my Android friends can’t get it.

Resource 3) “For The Honor” Elevation Worship (Music) – It might seem weird to put music as a resource but it’s not. It can actually be a great resource. For me, it helps me connect with God. Maybe you read my blog and that’s not something that’s important to you or you don’t like worship music, either way I understand. Just wanted to share this one because I appreciate the hard work, great songwriting, and honest heart that’s presented in this album. Great job to the guys at Elevation Worship.

Well, now it’s your turn! What is your favorite resource right now? Let’s share them with each other and be stronger, creative leaders because of it! 

The Broken Leader

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a one day conference called the Elephant Room. I had my idea of what I thought it was going into the event, because of the promo’s, but it ended up being something really great. Essentially, two pastors go head to head on an issue in the church. It really is great conversation that’s done in a “grace & truth” kind of way. The issues talked about varied from Denominations, the Gospel, Ministry Burnout, Doctrine, Racial Diversity, Moral Failure, and Relationships with Other Pastors. It was a very good conference and I learned a lot.

Today’s post was specifically inspired during the ministry burnout discussion with Wayne Codeiro and James MacDonald. I don’t necessarily want to talk about burnout (that can be an issue for a later post), what I really want to talk about was a key way to lead.

During the discussion one of the other pastors submitted the idea that we spend less time on “leadership development” and more time on “leader development.” Instead of taking all your energy and pouring it into others, which is important to do, make sure you save some energy for yourself. Most importantly, the development of your leadership skills, vision, etc.

Many times as leaders we live off the thrill of “leading”, being in charge can get us amped up. Being able to move people from one success, or failure, to another success is life giving. But it is such a bad motivation for leading. The alternative to this, that one of the pastors pitched, is that we should lead from a brokenness.

As soon as I heard that I thought about The Broken Leader. What is the broken leader? What does it look like? What am I broken for? In our areas we lead, we need to be leading from a brokenness.

What does that mean?

I take it this way: the core of my job centers around 20somethings, and helping them to connect to one another and to God. To lead in this area well, I really need to be broken, have a heart for, these 20somethings. Otherwise what I’m doing could be somewhat heartless.

I don’t think this brokenness is something your force or fake. I think it can be something that is grown, fueled by experience.

The question is very challenging to me. What am I broken for?

What are you broken for? Are you leading out of that brokenness? Have you ever seen anyone else lead from a brokenness? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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