Getting the Most out Learning Experiences – Part 2
Like many things in life, you get out of learning opportunities what you put into them. Whether it’s a conference, class, worship service, book, video documentary or even a meeting, if they’re to be impactful they require something from you. This is the flip side of my last post about creating memorable learning experiences, which is the participants’ responsibility in learning.
So to get the most out of learning opportunities I take the following steps.
- Enter with the right frame of mind – I never look at learning opportunities as if it’s entertainment. When I’m entertained all I do is sit and enjoy the show. Learning requires much more from us than entertainment does.
- Enter with a humble posture – I always believe there’s something I don’t know so there’s always something for me to learn. So I submit myself to the “teacher”, not uncritically, but thoughtfully to find that “gold nugget”.
- Be prepared to write – Whenever I want to learn, or remember something, I write it down. This means I always have paper and pen with me. I take notes in meetings, seminars, even church. If I’m serious about retaining what I’m seeing and hearing I write it down even if I never refer to it again.
- Make commitments – I make notes about what I will do with what I’ve just learn then I…
- Do something with it – by quickly going back over my notes and trying out or implementing what I’ve learned. The sooner I do it the more I remember.
So when I take these five simple steps I always walk away from learning experiences with something I’ll remember long afterwards.43.928283-85.286682
Being Better Everyday than we were Yesterday
There’s a hard reality we need to accept, and it’s simply this – if something isn’t growing then it’s dying. There’s really no standing still. And by growing I mean getting better, progressing, moving forward, and by dying I mean things are slipping backwards in their usefulness or effectiveness. I know this to be true for myself, I’m either getting in better shape physically, emotionally and spiritually or I’m slowly in decline. I might ignore this reality but I can’t escape it.
But what’s true for us as individuals is also true for organizations, whether it’s a company, an educational institution, a local church, or a nation. Organizations are either moving forward or moving backward. And leadership is the key to which direction an organization will go.
That’s why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies needed by people who work for SpringHill is what we call “Continuous Improvement”. Now understand I’m not a big fan of buzz words especially when they’re code words for something else. But I like “Continuous Improvement” because it’s a phrase that says exactly what it means.
And it’s why we use this phrase to describe the personal quality someone needs to display, both in their personal life and in their work, to have long-term success at SpringHill. You see SpringHill wants to be an effective and an enduring organization, which means every day, SpringHill, needs to be better than it was yesterday. And for this to be a reality SpringHill’s staff also needs to, every day, be better than we were yesterday.
This is part 11 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
Together Accomplishing Something Great and Enduring
The greatest accomplishments the world has ever seen are the result of teamwork. Great institutions built, just wars won against incredible odds, and complex social problems solved because of communities of people who worked together to achieve something good, positive, and lasting. In every case these great accomplishments could not have happened through the work of a single person. True, a single person may have led the team, or been the public face, but behind that leader has always been people committed to seeing the work successfully completed.
Even in my life, in the great accomplishments I’ve participated in, I’ve always been member of a community. Whether it’s teaming up with my wife Denise to raise our children, being a part of a winning sports team, or working for an effective organization like SpringHill, it’s always been the team, the community that has brought success.
It’s this reality and the power of people working together to accomplish something significant and lasting that’s made it absolutely critical that SpringHill staff be great team players. It’s why being “Community Focused” is an essential personal quality and a key professional competency for staff who want to make an enduring impact at SpringHill.
“Community Focused” people not only value being part of a team, they value the team’s success over their own. They acknowledge and thrive on the inter-dependency our work requires including valuing the God-given differences each person brings to the community.
So whatever good and lasting thing SpringHill has ever done, or will ever do, will come through the team of people who’ve committed themselves, not only to SpringHill’s mission, vision and goals, but also to each other, working tirelessly as a team to see SpringHill accomplish the good work God’s given it to do.
This is part 6 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
A Centered Life
Everyone centers their life on something. Whether it’s on a pursuit, purpose or goal, our lives become energized by our “center”. Some people center their life simply on surviving day by day, while others, on the opposite extreme, center their lives on consuming material goods, experiencing pleasure or living for excitement and highs. Yet others center their lives on an idea or a cause. But regardless of what it is, everyone’s life’s centered on something, something that drives them and gets them out of bed every day.
At SpringHill we expect our staff to be centered on a person – the person of Jesus Christ. Of all the personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to have to make an ongoing, positive impact at SpringHill, this is the most important one, because it’s who we are and what we do. We call this quality “God Immersed”, which simply means that a person is Christ centered and thus living their lives in a Christ like way and from a Biblical perspective.
When you consider our mission and our core values this only makes sense. If our mission is to create life changing experiences where young people can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ than our staff has to being growing in their own relationships with Christ. And if one of our organization’s highest values is “Jesus Christ and His message of grace”, than it needs to be a living value of our staff as well.
So what do we expect to see in a person’s life to know they’re “God Immersed”? It’s simply participating in such spiritual practices as prayer, Bible reading and study, as well as attendance and involvement in a local church. All of which leads to a Christ centered life that reflects Biblical and Kingdom values, and, in the end, multiplies the fruitfulness of our work.
This is part 5 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
The test of our wisdom is found in the decisions we make. It’s displayed in the quality, timeliness, and the process in which we go through to make decisions. So it’s all three of these aspects of decisions – quality, timeliness, and process – that reflect the wisdom we have, or don’t have.
Wisdom requires knowledge, experience, judgment, and analytical ability, combined with a strong sense of right and wrong. And the measure of all these things, the proof that we have wisdom comes through in the decisions we make. Decisions are the tangible, measurable expression of our wisdom. Its wisdom applied.
It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies someone needs to possess if they’re to have long-term success at SpringHill is quality and timely Decision Making.
At SpringHill this competency is absolutely critical because of the freedom we provide our staff to do their jobs and the sense of stewardship we expect them to practice. It’s because we believe that the best people to make decisions are the ones closet to the “action”, not those sitting far behind the “frontlines”. We believe this to be true because those at the “front line” have the best perspective and expertise.
Thus when an organization keeps decision-making closest to the “front lines” it requires staff who can display wisdom through their Decision Making. And, if done right, this kind of Decision Making ends up being the best because it’s almost always faster and higher quality.
And the added benefit of entrusting decision-making to staff on the “front lines” is that they continue to grow in their wisdom and in their ability to make decisions, helping the entire organization continually become better and more effective in fulfilling its mission (it’s all part of Personal Learning I covered in the last post).
This is part 4 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
Always a Student – The Essential Need to Learn
When you learn, you grow and change, and when you grow and change, it’s almost always a result of learning. There’s an undeniable relationship between these concepts. So if a person or an organization wants to grow, whether it’s in a career, a relationship, or in their impact on people and the world, it almost always requires ongoing learning. Because the reality is growth and change will stall or burn out if not fueled by learning.
This is why one of SpringHill’s core values is to be a learning and mission-driven organization. Without learning we would not experience the necessary change required to grow in our influence, outreach and effectiveness in fulfilling our mission and achieving our long-term goals. As we often remind each other “if we’re not learning we’re dying.”
It’s also why one of the qualities and competencies a person needs to have long-term success at SpringHill is what we call “Personal Learning”. It’s that personal and professional curiosity and inquisitiveness which leads to continuous improvement in one’s self and in the organization.
Personal Learning is evident in people who read, listen to others, ask lots of questions, and seeks out other people and organizations to “go to school on”. It’s also evident in people who take mistakes, defeats, and crises and see them as opportunities to learn , grow, and change. Struggles are an ally to people who love to learn.
One of the tell-tale signs a person (and organization) embraces Personal Learning is that they’re humble. You see Personal Learning requires people who accept and acknowledge to others, and to themselves, that they don’t have it “all figured out” and never will.
So, as you can see, Personal Learning is an absolutely essential part of SpringHill, which also means it is an absolutely essential quality of our staff, board and volunteers, especially if, together, we’re to make an enduring impact on our world.
This is part 3 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
Life is a Stool – Living in Balance
My dad has always said that life sits on a 4 legged stool with one leg being work/career, another family, a third friends and service, a fourth being health and recreation, and the most important part of the stool, the seat, representing our faith. Dad says that for life to be in balance, for it to be the way it’s supposed to be we need all four legs and the seat. If we neglect or remove any part we’ve made balance nearly impossible and the entire stool, and our lives, become at risk of falling apart.
I’ve always appreciated my dad’s way of looking at life, partly because it makes sense and partly because I’ve seen he and my mom live their lives in this way with the result being they’ve been blessed as well as having blessed those around them.
It’s this life perspective and practice that we’ve discovered to be an essential quality of people who’ve made a long-term and an enduring impact on SpringHill’s mission. It’s what we simply call “Life/Work Balance”.
Without this balance, life quickly crumbles and one’s ability to make an enduring impact quickly diminishes. When balance is gone health, influence and impact quickly leave as well, only to be backed filled with burn out, broken relationships, and poor judgment. Because like a stool, every part is essential and needs to be in working order or it will negatively impact the entire stool.
So Life/Work Balance is absolutely essential for people to be at their best. And we want and need people to be at their best, whether it’s at home with their families, at church teaching Sunday school, or working at SpringHill.
This is part 2 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
What it Takes to Be Successful at SpringHill
Every organization and team “culture” is different. The culture is the organization’s unique personality, its set of unwritten (and often unspoken) rules and expectations about how work gets done, and how people should treat and how relate to one another. And obviously, for a person to be successful within a specific organization, requires a unique set of personal qualities and competencies that fit that culture.
So because there’s no one right formula of personal qualities and competencies that work in every organization, with the help from an organizational psychologist, we’ve identified those qualities and competencies necessary for a person to be successful, over the long run, at SpringHill. The process we used included gathering feedback from a large number of our staff about the qualities they see in successful SpringHill staff. And to this feedback we added the best that leadership research says on the subject.
When we finished we ended up with 13 different, clearly defined “Leadership Competencies” that members of our team need to possess if they’re going to have a long-term impact within SpringHill. These 13 competencies have become the core to all of our “people” processes such as hiring and selection, performance management and appraisals, training and development, and finally succession planning.
Below are these 13 SpringHill “leadership competencies” divided into four categories:
Mastery of Self
Life/Work balance Personal Learning
Decision Making God Immersed
Mastery of Relationships
Community Focus Compassion and Sensitivity
Spiritual Leadership Customer Focus
Mastery of Performance
Leading People Resourcefulness
Professional Will Continuous Improvement
Mastery of Vision
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share with you more details of each of the competencies and their importance within the SpringHill culture.
This is part 1 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.43.928283-85.286682
A Case for a Technology Sabbath
Last week the Perry’s had a family reunion at Camp Anjigami in northern Ontario, Canada. The trip was a result of our boys and I “taking a risk” by inviting our entire extended family to join us for our annual fishing trip.
It was a risk because going to northern Ontario means there’s absolutely no connectivity, and we had no idea how everyone would handle such a 5 day “technology sabbath”.
Well the consensus from the family was simply this – it was an incredible vacation. Our family said things such as
“The most relaxing vacation I ever had”
“I got to know my cousins in a way I never have before”
“It was so nice not having any distractions”
There’s no doubt that the lack of television, video games, cell phones, text messages, internet surfing and social media monitoring was a major contributor to this great experience (as well as being in God’s stunning creation). Why? Because all of these technologies add stress and distractions instead of eliminate them.
But it wasn’t just the lack of technology that eliminated stress and distractions, the difference was the lack of the temptation to use it (you can’t get cell service or internet in the Canadian wilderness). You see, we tend not to crave the chocolate cake when it’s out of our line of sight or reach. This is especially true when we’re immersed in so many other incredible things (people, nature, facilities).
So the lesson I took away from our family reunion? Take the occasional break from technology but do it in a place that’s beautiful, peaceful, with great people, and where there’s no possible temptation to be connected, then you’ll have a true sabbath (rest).43.928283-85.286682
C.S. Lewis on Reading Old Books
C.S. Lewis got it right in his assessment of benefits and the necessity of reading old books. Now I just need to do a better job of following his advice.
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should be content himself with the modern books….This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology….Now this seems to me to be topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old….it is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read on old one to every three new ones….We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books….We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century…lies where we have never suspected it….None of us can fully escape this blindness….The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”
Quoted by John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, from C.S. Lewis’ “On Reading of Old Books” in God in the Dock43.928283-85.286682