Mom and Dad – get ready to swallow a tough pill – here we go – A time will come when you and your child will need another adult in their life besides you. Did you catch that….I’ll write it again, “A time will come when you and your child will need another adult in their life besides you.”
Now before you leave this page let me ask you a quick question? How many contacts do you have in your phone? Weird question, huh? Go ahead and look……
I have something like 700 contacts in my phone. You might have double that, or half that. My friend Josh has like 3,000. It’s just the world we live in.
But even if you only had 100, you wouldn’t really know each of them well. Not deeply. Not personally. You couldn’t. Our relational span just isn’t that big. If I were to be honest, there are really only about three to five that I call or text all the time. These are the handful of people closest to me.
These few folks know me inside out…my good points and not so good ones. My dreams and my struggles. My favorite and least favorite things. They’re the ones who are not only great friends, but great advisors.
I’m sure you’ve got those people too.
But do your kids?
When your kids need to talk, who do they talk to? I mean beyond their friends and beyond you as a parent? Friends are of limited help. As a former youth pastor friend used to say, “Sometimes the last thing a 16-year-old needs is advice from another 16-year-old. And sometimes the last person they want to talk to is a parent.”
I’m sure there are parents who say, “My kid will always want to talk to me.” But let me ask you something, did you tell your parents everything? Exactly!!
So who do they go to? To whom can they turn?
I would encourage you to spend some time over the next few months identifying people your kids can build a trusting relationship with. My guess is between small group leaders, neighbors, family friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents, coaches and teachers, you will find a few who will be willing to spend a little one on one time with your child periodically.
Widening the circle doesn’t have to be a sneaky parent move. Let your kid in on the conversation by brainstorming people your family knows best. Then answer the questions: What can each person do well? What can I learn from them? How can they help me? How can they be a part of our family’s circle?
As author Reggie Joiner states in his book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, “You are the most influential person in your child’s life, but do your kids (and yourself) a favor and widen the circle of influence with trusted adults. When that day comes, you want to make sure the right people are in place to support your kids.”
I am thankful for some great family members and some wonderful friends that continually pour into both my boys.
They come to sporting and church events.
They take them fishing.
They play basketball in the drive way with them.
They coach their teams.
They sit by them in church.
I could go on and on…..
Simply put, their actions say, “I am here for you.” And my family is better because of their influence.
Did you know, according to data from The Harvard Business Review, the time spent by leaders and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more over the last twenty years, and almost three-fourths of an employee’s day at most companies is spent communicating with colleagues?
That is a lot of time working with others!
There are numerous reasons for this rise in teamwork and collaboration but I think it is common understanding that for many tasks, working in teams encourages faster innovation and better problem solving.
Just this week, a team I am a part of read and discussed an article on Google’s Quest to Build the Perfect Team. In 2012, the tech behemoth launched a venture called Project Aristotle, which gathered data by analyzing many studies and actually observing the way people interacted in a group.
Turns out, the key to successful groups isn’t in the personalities or skills of the individual team’s members at all, but comes from the team’s “group norms.”
So what are “group norms?”
Group norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound.
Based upon the study, here are a few examples of group norms categorized by healthy or dysfunctional teams:
Common group norms for dysfunctional teams were:
– You must prove yourself. One is not necessarily a part of the team to accomplish a task or complete a project but to further their standing within the organization.
– Competition among peers. Because I must prove myself, my success and recognition is more important than the goal of the group.
– Zero tolerance for mistakes. Very few risks are taken therefore the new or good ideas can only come from the top.
– No outside social interaction. Simply put, team members do not enjoy each other’s company.
– Vision focused. The accomplishment of the mission and vision trump individual performance. If one succeeds we all succeed.
– No competition or judging. An atmosphere of “safety” is present…where ideas can be shared and discussed without the fear of intimidation. Everyone has a voice in the discussion regardless of title or role.
– They have fun!
– They cared for each other.
So what does all this mean for the leader? Easy answer: If group norms are the key to successful team building, guess who can directly influence, change, and set those group norms? You!
As a leader, ask yourself (better yet – your team members) the following questions:
– What are the group norms of our current team?
– Do my actions and example support or hinder a healthy team?
Who knows, maybe you’ll build the perfect team!
We had a saying in the Marine Corps, “We have been doing so much with so little for so long that we can practically do anything with nothing.” Translation: “Marines do more with less.”
One of the most important skill sets of any great leader is resourcefulness. It’s about realizing that you can do more with less because you and your team have more potential than you may have thought before.
It’s about how hard we look to find its replacement or to solve the problem at a difficult, maybe even overwhelming moment.
For our businesses or ministry, it doesn’t mean just exhausting every option, but finding new options that never previously occurred to us.
History shows resourcefulness has separated ordinary people from those considered heroes. It has been applied to get people out of tight spots, as in the near-fatal Apollo 13 mission. It has also been applied to change the way we travel, as demonstrated by the Wright Brothers. Scripture too provides us with some great examples of resourcefulness. When a paralyzed man could not be brought close enough to Jesus because of a large crowd, a few of his friends put their minds together and devised a plan. Luke tells us they climbed atop the roof of the house in which Jesus stood and cut a hole in it. This band of determined friends then lowered their buddy down in the presence of Jesus. And whose faith did the Lord praise? Not the man with the infirmity. The resourceful characters who may have ruined someone else’s roof received the acclaim. They evidently understood what was more important than anything else at that moment in time….Jesus Christ.
In part, I think resourcefulness is a matter of attitude rather than access. A true leader wants to redefine the possible: extract greater results from the same hours or minutes, cut through the clutter of to-dos and focus on how to get real results. Because for a leader, there is no such thing as limited resources, there are only opportunities for innovation and self-realization…like cutting a hole in someone’s roof for the sake of a friend.
There’s no way to overestimate the importance of learning from the people around us. When we’re open to learning from others, we benefit from their experience as well as our own and we can inherit their wisdom and knowledge.
I learn a lot from my friends and teammates. Recently one of them, Ryan Cook, wrote an article for LEAD 222, an international coaching and mentoring ministry. In this article he shared his 4 keys to team building. Here is an excerpt from his piece:
*Wherever you are and whatever capacity you serve in I’m going to bet you became very aware, very quickly that leadership is kind-of a big deal. Either because you experienced good leadership or you experienced bad leadership. The health of any organization, ministry, or team will rise or fall on leadership.
Early on I saw the huge impact of leadership and began wrestling with questions like:
What does a good leader do?
Am I a good leader?
Can I effectively lead others?
Can I build a winning team?
So here are a couple things I have tried to do to lead my team:
- PRAY – I serve with a great team right now. It has taken four years to build and lots and lots of prayer. I asked God to bring leaders of leaders. Then I waited patiently and didn’t move until He said to.
- VISION – You have to lead with vision rather than tasks. Leaders follow vision and workers accomplish tasks. Invest the time to pray and seek God for His vision for your ministry. Learn how to cast vision effectively – too big and the team can get demoralized, too small and the team is uninspired. Find ways to celebrate little wins along the way and always keep the vision in front of your team. Vision leaks so YOU have to fill it up again!
- EMPOWER – Surrounding yourself with the right people allows you to manage lightly. I sit down with my team members each month and ask 4 questions – How are you doing personally/spiritually? What have you been working on the last month? What are looking ahead to the next month? What do you need from me? We always end with prayer. Checking in more often feels like micromanaging and checking in less often feels like neglect.
- STAFF FUNZIE’S – Ministry is a grind. Set aside one time a month for your team to do something fun. It could be a simple lunch, a day trip, a conference, an overnight get away or dinner at your house. Make memories and build community. Right now we have the “Year of the Burger” – so we are going to lunch once a month at a new burger spot in town. Simple but fun.
There are so many other things, but this is a good start. Leadership is a life-long pursuit. Grow as a leader and you will build a winning team. Lead with wisdom and humility and God will honor that and ministry can be a lot of fun. *
Ryan is spot on…whether in the workplace, ministry, or your local community, team building requires a keen understanding of people, their strengths and what gets them excited to work with others. Team building is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams will accomplish more than he could ever do alone.
My challenge for you today – take a few of Ryan’s keys to team building and give it a try. I think you’ll find it worthwhile!
Lesson #2: Leaders Love Others
Okay, maybe you’re uncomfortable with the “L” word in a leadership context. So, what if we use the “C” word – Care….Or, the “A” word – Appreciate. Would that make you feel better?
I still choose the word love.
The greatest leaders I ever had in the Marine Corps loved me and I knew it. I knew that they would sacrifice themselves for me or the misson at hand. That type of love served as an unbreakable bond for some of the best units I ever served with.
I once read an article about Vince Lombardi, the iconic, hard-driving, tough football coach. The author had attempted to show a sneak peek of the person behind the coach, the person who was passionate about growing each team member in a highly intimate and personal way. On separate occasions, each of the former players surprised the writer with a very similar sentiment about Lombardi; “I have never been so loved by someone outside my family. We all knew he would do anything for us…anything. We would go through walls for this man.”
Coach Lombardi earned the right to drive his team to the limit, because his intense drive was balanced by his equally intense love for each man. He awakened in his players the respect, drive, and love he held within himself. When people know that a leader loves them great things are possible.
When I think of a leader’s love I am also reminded of Army Captain William Swenson. On September 8, 2009, Swenson was part of an operation to connect the Afghan government with native elders in the Ganjgal Valley in Eastern Kunar Province in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.
According to the U.S. Army’s detailed Official Narrative, Swenson’s force was ambushed at about 6 a.m. by as many as 60 insurgent fighters who soon surrounded the column on three sides. Swenson called for air support and with two comrades crossed 50 meters of open space under direct enemy fire to administer life-extending first aid to his severely wounded sergeant.
When the column was surrounded by enemy fighters that advanced within 50 meters, Swenson responded to Taliban demands for surrender by throwing a hand grenade, an act of defiance that rallied his men to repel the enemy advance.
Swenson and his men moved his sergeant and the other wounded to a helicopter for medical evacuation before returning to the enemy’s “kill zone” for at least two more trips in an unarmored vehicle to evacuate additional wounded. After the 7 hour firefight had ended, 15 coalition soldiers were dead.
What most people don’t know, is that Swenson is considered the only living Medal of Honor Awardee to have a portion of his actions captured on camera. The event was captured by two different MedEvac crew members and shows each crew member’s perspective of events spanning the same time period. (You can see the video here but keep reading below first!)
What makes this video so special is not the dust, the bullets, or the chaos, but the actions of a leader. At about the 4:10 mark you can see Swenson lean over, look at his wounded soldier, and gently kiss his forehead. It would be the last time he ever saw Sergeant Westbrook…he died soon after the ambush.
The army’s official account makes no mention of the kiss Swenson gave one of his men. But that one act explains everything about true leaership…..
Lesson #2: Leaders Love Others
I love books…especially books on leadership. One of the best ones I have read recently is called “Leadership Axioms” by Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. In his book, Bill provides a collection of insight and wisdom aimed at helping today’s leader.
During one of these short essays Bill recalls a moment at the conclusion of a conference he was speaking at in Germany. Bill’s translator was bringing him back to the airport and along the way they chatted about the most impactful moments of the conference. To quote Bill, “As we made our way through a residential part of town, our conversation matched the relaxed, easy pace of our drive.” But then they hit the autobahn. (For those who may not know, Germany’s autobahns are famous for being among the few public roads in the world without speed limits for cars and motorbikes.)
Bill immediately noticed that the faster his friend drove, the less they talked. He recalls that for most of the drive on the autobahn they rarely spoke at all. He somewhat jokingly added, “Instead of continuing our enjoyable conversation, we found ourselves focusing solely on dodging other cars and avoiding a crash.”
I believe there is an important lesson in this story for all us….especially during this time of year. We add events to our week, items to our list, and begin planning for a New Year. We don’t want to be under-achievers (heaven forbid!), so we fill our schedules uncritically. Options are as attractive as they are numerous therefore we overbook. Before we know it we have generated a velocity that we find hard to sustain.
Maybe it is time to slow our pace, adjust our schedule, reorder priorities, and focus on our relationships. I know there have been seasons in my life where the health of my relationships with my Creator and my family have suffered due to the speed I had committed to. My speed caused me to be less aware of God’s presence in my life and even less aware of my actual presence at home. Driving on the autobahn may be fun….but it is not sustainable and it comes with a price.
I challenge you to slow your speed. Find time to rest…Time to relax…Time to enjoy your family and friends…Time to be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10).
And I’m actually going to take my own advice….if you are looking for me next week, my boys and I, along with my father-in-law, will be relaxing and enjoying the view of Southwest Texas from a deer stand.
One of my favorite places to be as a kid was in a 1978 Chevy Truck with my Grandfather. It didn’t matter where we were going. Many times we were pulling a boat to the lake. Other times he was dragging my brother and me with him to the railroad yard where he worked. Regardless of where we were going, it was the time in his truck that I remember.
I loved asking him questions. Questions about the Korean War, questions about the country music stars he had played with, questions about faith, questions about life, questions about nothing at all. Without a doubt, these conversations had a profound impact on my life.
Deuteronomy 6 is an oft-quoted passage of many family advocates, and rightly so. Verses six through nine of this dynamic chapter challenge the families of Israel as to how the wonderful book of the law should be used:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV
Did you catch that? Right in the middle of this passage describes “when” we should have these conversations with our kids. “Talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” TRANSLATION: During everyday life!
There are things that every one of us do each day of our lives that we can use to teach key life principles to our children. These events move beyond regular family devotions to what many call “devotions in motion.” Even mundane activities like walking the dog, washing dishes, or driving to football practice can be used to share timeless biblical truth and principles….simply by having conversations with our kids.
As I further reflect on these conversations, and their role in forming the hearts and minds of my two boys, I cannot help but see the connection with our Heavenly Father. How much more should our conversations with Him mold and shape our hearts ? As we pray and read His Word, He speaks to us. In a sense, He is sharing Himself, His thoughts, His will, and His values with us….a powerful conversation!
As a dad now, I know that the conversations I have with my two sons will have a lasting impact on them as they continue to grow up. They will help shape and mold their hearts and minds, just as the conversations with my Grandfather did for me.
“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” Abraham Lincoln
The words of our 16th President could not be truer. This weekend my family has the privilege of spending time with some of our best friends. Liz and I met Garrett and Sarah in a Young Married Sunday School Class in Jacksonville, NC. We were both military families in the “pre-kids” stage of life. Garrett and I instantly connected over our love for Texas high school football. Liz and Sarah bonded quickly over the shared experience of having such awesome husbands…… Our families have been doing “life together” ever since.
The interesting story of our friendship is that only once have we ever actually lived in the same state, at the same time….and only for a little over 18 months. As active duty Marines both of our families were continually moving around. North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and California were just a few of the places our families lived; however never at the same time!
As Garrett and I are now past our active-duty time in the Marine Corps, both of our families have settled down in Texas. Over 10 years and 6 kids later, we are now only a 5 hour drive away from each other.
Through this unique long-distance friendship, what I have learned is that perseverance is more important than proximity. The commitment our families have to each other is not swayed based upon the distances between our front doors.
Throughout our many moves in the Marine Corps, Liz and I learned that not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. Many are gifts of friendship meant to bless us for a certain season; however I am truly thankful for lifetime friends…..I am thankful for the Hager Family.