Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Take Meetings From Ho Hum to Fun!

Next week I have 6 meetings on my calendar and I’ll only be in the office for 3 days! Unless you work alone, you probably have weeks where you feel like it’s one meeting after another. It’s easy to zone out and get stuck in the same old rut.

When I am planning or leading a meeting, there are a few things I've found that can turn a meeting from ho-hum to fun. It will take you more time but the added creativity and energy that you can spark in your team will be worth it.

1) Plan ahead! Put the time in to really think through how you want your meeting to run. Come prepared with a list of outcomes and an agenda. If possible, send out the topics and list ahead of time so your attendees can start thinking in advance. For example, next week I’m holding a Men’s Retreat brainstorming session and I sent all the attendees 4 areas I want them to think about: stage d├ęcor, man game events, session openers, and workshops.

2) Create atmosphere. Great ways to do this are by using music, props, costumes, toys and decorations. When planning a spy-themed retreat we listened to the James Bond soundtrack, wore paper mustaches and were assigned code names.

In disguise with Paige, a camp apprentice.

3) Set boundaries. If you are brainstorming then any idea goes! Write everything down even if it seems ridiculous or impossible. Rather than stop to list why it would never work, capture it. Sometimes the craziest most impossible ideas will lead to a unique and possible idea. If you are not in the brainstorming phase but rather focusing on what you've already decided and outlining the details then work to limit rabbit trails and stay on topic rather than continuing to add to it.
Write everything down, even if it seems impossible or ridiculous.

4) Take breaks and have fun! Play a game, stretch, go outside or do a brain teaser with your group. A list of ideas can be found at http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Creative under ‘creative exercises’. 
As the Program Manager at Grace Adventures, I run a lot of brainstorming meetings and planning meetings for our different camps and retreats. I've found that when I look at our meetings as another event to program our results are almost always more exciting and innovative.

What would it look like for you to re imagine your meeting style in your work environment? Even if you aren't planning glow dodge ball tournaments and camper schedules, look for a way to use these tips to bring new life into your organization. You may be surprised at the results!

This article, http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/157962-18-rules-for-creative-meetings.html?p=1 has a lot of great tips for leading creative meetings. Check out numbers 4, 7, 11, 13 and 17, these are tips that we've put into practice at Grace Adventures and recommend for you to check out as well.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Compartmental Discipline – Why New Year’s resolutions don’t work

              According to Proactivechange.com , 40-45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. After one week, 25% of them have already given up. After six months, 54% will have given up. There are a lot of theories as to why New Year’s Resolutions do not work and can leave you frustrated.
After 19 years of working with high school and college students, and supervising young professionals, I have come up with a theory of my own.  You see, New Year’s Resolutions are year-long goals aimed at some specific change we want to see in ourselves. This is not a bad thing. In fact, self-examination is something we all need to do. Change for the sake of growth and maturity is a good thing as well. The problem is that most people become compartmentalized in their self-discipline. The focus becomes compartmentalized on the issue. Then, the other areas of the person’s life can become forgotten. In our internship programs, we see this all the time. A student will have a goal to complete tasks on time and to produce a quality product. This can be great goal for a student. However, in the attempt to complete the assigned tasks, the student becomes obsessed. He or she craves the supervisor’s approval, neglects the Bible Study and reading assignments, and withdraws from the community environment to get further ahead in preparing for the next program we are going to deliver.  The student has compartmentalized his or her discipline, and other areas of his or her life have suffered.

Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding.” God tells us that discipline is important to an effective life and leadership. We can also see from this verse that discipline is outside of ourselves. It is something we can get.  However, I want to suggest that effective self-discipline is what I call Holistic Discipline. That is, discipline in all areas of your life. God created us as connected beings. We are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  When one area of our life is undisciplined, it affects the other areas. For example, when we are not disciplined spending time with God in his word, it will eventually affect how we feel and interact with those around us.   It will eventually impact us physically; even though we may be spending extra time working out,  we should be spending some of that time in prayer and scripture.  Paul tells Timothy, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy  4:8). Paul doesn’t say that physical discipline is of no value but rather points out the value of both physical and spiritual discipline.

I think the number one reason why Christians compartmentalize their self-discipline is that they only see half the picture. Yes, self discipline is an act of the will, something outside yourself that you can get. But that is not all. Paul also told Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of POWER, of LOVE, and of SELF DISCIPLINE.” That is, holistic discipline is more than well balanced will power. It comes from within us by the Holy Spirit. That is why spiritual discipline can’t be compartmentalized, but it must  lead the way.  After all, discipline is a gift of God not a chore we must labor through.  As you learn holistic discipline yourself, you will in turn be better equipped to lead others and helping them learn how to be holistically disciplined. Tim Elmore at Growing Leaders gives some great advice on how to begin Holistic Discipline http://growingleaders.com/blog/5-steps-discipline-bridge/

Examine the chart below and see what resonates with you between Holistic Discipline and Compartmental Discipline.
Holistic Discipline
  1. Internal Change
  2. Transforms the person
  3. Behaves out of principles rather than approval
  4. Secure Identity
  5. Balanced in life
Compartmental Discipline
  1. Behavior modification
  2. Conforms to expected behaviors
  3. Performs for others’ approval
  4. Insecure about how you are
  5. Other areas of life out of balance
What other ideas or theories do you have about self-discipline?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Millennials in Leadership

“Are Millennials Fit to Lead?” That was the question I found being asked of myself when I ran across an article on Relevant Magazine’s website recently.  As a Millennial myself, one who very recently entered into a more formal position of leadership within the organization here at Grace, I was highly intrigued by this question.  Am I really fit to lead in the multi-generational workplace I find myself in?  Are my fellow Millennials? Those were the questions sparked in my mind, and answered very well, at least in my opinion, by the author Andrew Henck.

Here at Grace, we talk a lot about servant leadership, lifelong learning, and do our best to equip people to live these values out.  I myself have benefited deeply from the lessons I learned as a summer staffer and volunteer here and continue to apply those lessons in my new role here.  We believe that in order to truly lead, you need to place the needs of those following you before yourself, looking to serve rather than be served as Christ not only models for us, but states directly as well regarding His role here on earth. He challenges us to lead in the same way.  If it’s been a while, or even if it hasn’t, take a minute to read Matthew 20:25-28, if it doesn’t challenge you to take a look at how you’re interacting with the people you lead, I’m not sure what will.

Thinking back to Henck’s article, he made a number of points that should offer some hope for those of you that find yourself in the Millennial category, or even for those that might be inclined to answer no to Henck’s original question. Throughout his article, Henck makes a number of observations about the changing landscape of leadership today:
  • “Yet with recent movements and revolutions from Wall Street to the Middle East, we have shown that followers are an even more significant element in the leadership equation than had been previously believed. It’s the followers who comprise the fuller movements that pave the way for real change."
  • “Additionally, organizational structure is shifting. Different generations of leaders in companies have transitioned from largely organizational cultures of hierarchy and bureaucracy to new atmospheres of collaboration with flatter structures.
  •  “In this new reality, the emphasis on authority, position and title has been diminished.”
  •  But with these new developments and changing workplace realities, we have an opportunity to change the way we think about and practice leadership, especially across the growing generational spectrum at work.” 

I especially enjoyed the last point I quoted above.  Henck sees these changes and shifts in the landscape of  leadership as an opportunity for us as Millennials to help change the way that leadership is practiced.  This shift in thought opens up the door for the practices of servant leadership to come to the front. It gives those of us in leadership the opportunity to practice placing the needs of others and our communities and organizations before our own success, and truly live out the model that Christ set forth so many years ago.  Henck also praises the virtues of being a lifelong learner, and of seeking wisdom and guidance not only from someone who may be in a position of authority over you, but also from those who you may be in authority over. 

In short, the answer to his question is yes, we as Millennials are fit to lead, and not just lead, but also to help drive this movement toward a new, and in my opinion better, definition of great leadership.  So take the time today to think about how you as a Millennial can keep this movement growing, or if you find yourself in a different generation, ask yourself how you can adapt to and embrace this new generation that is entering your organization and welcome in this new age of servant leadership.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net