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Posts tagged ‘SpringHill’

Asking the Right Questions then Discovering the Best Answers!

FullSizeRenderI was recently asked to provide 3-5 “Things You Should Know” on the topic ofLeadership: Vision, Mission, Values & Strategic Planning” for our industry’s trade magazine.  Below is what I provided. Let me know if you have something to add.

Leadership and strategic thinking isn’t about having all the answers, it’s, at the core, asking the right questions and then leading a team or organization to discover the best answers. And these answers are critical because it’s around them that a leader builds unity, community, focus and ultimately success.

The following six groups of questions are the most foundational and strategic questions a leader can ask and then help their team or organization answer:

  1. Why do we exist? What purpose do we fulfill, what difference do we make in the world? If we ceased to exist, what hole would be left? The answer to these questions is typically expressed in a purpose or mission statement.
  2. What’s most important to us? What are we most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for? The answer to these questions is stated as an organization’s core values.
  3. What do we believe to be true? What is it about the world we’re most sure of? What’s true even though we may not like it? The answer to these questions is typically written in a statement of faith or a confession.
  4. What do we want to become? When we look into the future who and what kind of team or organization do we want to be? What are the kinds of things we’d want others to say about us? Answering these questions will lead to creating a shared vision of your future.
  5. What do we want to accomplish? 5, 10, 20 years from now, when we look back, how will we know we’ve been successful? What will be the key indicator that we faithfully fulfilled our mission and vision? A Big Hairy Audacious God Goal (BHAGG) answers these questions.
  6. What makes us distinct? What are the defining characteristics that make us stand out from other similar organizations? How do those outside our organization or team describe the work we do or service we provide? When you answer these questions you’ve articulated your brand promise (in organizations with a Christian mission – it’s often called a philosophy of ministry).

So a leader’s first task is to ask these foundational questions then second, lead their teams to discovering the answers. When these first two tasks are accomplished the leader’s job isn’t finished. The final, unending task of the leader is to teach, remind, highlight, reinforce, and be the biggest communicator and cheerleader of these answers to every stakeholder of the organization. This is the primary task of the leader and one that needs to happen every day, all the time; it’s what makes a leader a leader, and one that makes organizations great.

The One Short-term Investment with Life-long Returns

2015-07-06 07.53.23Recently I was at an automotive service business run by a past SpringHill camper. When I picked up my car I asked this SpringHill alum for a tour of his business. You see I was not only interested in learning about his business but more importantly I wanted to get a glimpse into the life of one of our past campers.

After the tour we stood in the middle of his shop floor and talked about his life as a young entrepreneur. Our conversation drifted to SpringHill and reminiscing about those summers when his parents would drop he and his brothers off at camp. As we shared those memories together I could see his eyes lighting up. That’s when he said –

“It’s funny you’re here and we’re talking about camp because I was just recently thinking about my camp experiences. It’s become clear to me just how important they were in my development as a person. I was a shy, quiet kid. But at camp I gained confidence to interact with others and build positive relationships.”

Hearing him say this while sitting in the middle of his impressive business, brought to life the reality I’ve built my vocation on – that summer camp is an incredibly spiritual, emotional, and social building experience. Camp is one of those milestone moments where people’s live’s takes a quantum step forward.

And this is why SpringHill is so committed to creating life-transforming summer camp experiences. We see no other short-term experience in the world that provides young people such a life-long payback than attending summer camp. If there were, trust me, SpringHill would offer it in a New York minute. But there just isn’t.   There’s no other experience that provides the breath and depth of personal, long-term growth than summer camp.

Which means there is no better short-term investment with such a life-long payback that a person can make for the child they love then sending them to camp this summer.

 

Pushing, Dragging, Carrying or Inspiring?

2015-07-22 22.37.39Leaders tend to use one of four ways to move people in a desired direction. Each approach works in the short-term, especially when movement is urgently needed. Which way a leader chooses often depends on the people and circumstances involved.  But one way is ultimately the best, one that moves people farther and faster than the others.  But before we talk about that way, let’s take a look at the other three.

The first way is Pushing Leadership.  The reality is sometimes people need a simple push to move forward (think of a mother bird pushing her young out of the nest to learn to fly). In many situations this is the best approach – a gentle push and big things happen.  But too often leaders are simply pushy people. Pushy leaders will wear out their team, especially if their team already knows how to fly. When this happens those being pushed simply comply, hide or leave.

The second way many leaders lead is by dragging their followers along.  Dragging Leadership is when the leader runs so far ahead that the rest of the team is always killing themselves to stay up.  It looks much like a dog race with the leader as the rabbit and the team are the dogs running hard to catch it. It’s an excellent leadership style for dog races but it burns people out quickly.  Yes, leaders should set the pace and lead by example but they need to be careful not to confuse running with leading.

The third way is what I call Carrying Leadership. Carrying leadership occurs when a leader steps in and rescues their team by taking on their jobs and responsibilities.  As with the first two ways, there are times when leaders need to step in and help their people through a difficult patch.  But it turns destructive when leaders create leadership co-dependency by always assuring their team avoids difficulty or pain and thus never learns to deal with problems, issues and rough patches.

Finally, the most effective (and the most difficult) leadership is Inspiring Leadership. Inspiring Leadership requires relationship, clarity, communication, a meaningful cause, an opportunity to succeed, an end to the game, and understanding of role.  Inspiring leadership is helping others make their best contribution and, when they do, receive all the credit.  In Inspiring Leadership is where the team is center stage and the leader is back stage or in the sound booth assuring the team’s success.

So which way do you lead?  Are you a pushing, dragging or carrying leader?  If so, take this as a gentle push to become an Inspiring Leader, one who leads others to become all that God’s created them to be so they can do all that God’s planned for them to do. This is the kind of leadership we all crave and the type of leadership that can change our world.

A Title that Fits the Job

2015-05-31 16.58.22I’m not big on job titles. To me they’re an organizational necessary evil. But sometimes getting a job title or classification right is important because they often communicate very powerful messages.

Since SpringHill’s first summer in 1969, the people we hired to work with kids and assist in running summer camp were simply called summer staff. It’s a practical title since these people joined our staff team and worked for the summer. But the issue is, like so many titles in the world, it doesn’t do justice to the actual work these people do. It doesn’t come close to communicating the critical roles, responsibilities and impact these people have on the lives of literally 10,000’s of young people every summer.

These important team members provide the moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day leadership required to provide campers with safe, exciting, memorable and life transforming experiences. Every person on our summer team leads. They may lead a group of campers or lead their peers or lead exciting activities and thoughtful programs, but every one of them leads. And every one of them also leads in the most powerful way a person can lead – through their example, by living in a way that when young people see them, they see Christ.

As you can see this job has significantly more responsibility than the title summer staff implies. The people who have these jobs are more than just staff, they are leaders, all 1200 of them.

So, in light of this reality, during summer staff training (in the future to be called leader training) I announced that we would no longer refer to them as summer staff, but instead, from this point forward they would be known as summer leaders. It’s a title that is worthy of the work these committed people do.

 

A Worthy Day to Follow Cyber Monday

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Over the years, it seems, the holiday season has become the shopping season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday matching Thanksgiving for our attention. But recently there has been a movement to bring our collective attention back to the holidays and more importantly to the spirit of season – thanksgiving, celebration and especially giving.

Following the shopping feast that is Thanksgiving weekend, Tuesday has officially become Giving Tuesday. It’s a day set aside for people around the world to give back, to contribute to those people and not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve others and better the world. Giving Tuesday builds on and expands the Christmas tradition of giving gifts to friends and family by encouraging us to give gifts which benefit people we may not know.

Now if you’re convinced that Giving Tuesday represents the right focus of our holiday season let me encourage you to donate to your favorite not-for-profit or ministry. If you’re not sure where you should give let me give you two places your gift will benefit kids. First, is the ministry I work for – SpringHill (click here) and the second, the Christian Camp and Conference Association’s Corner of the Fields camper scholarship fund (click here). By supporting organizations that work with kids you’re helping to build their future and the future of our world.

So please consider expanding the Thanksgiving weekend one more day beyond Cyber Monday and make Giving Tuesday a new tradition in your family.

Not Listening to Others –What could Cause Me to lose my Job? Part 5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is the fifth of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The opposite of this habit is simply not listening to others. And not listening to others is the third of seven behaviors that often causes a person to lose their job at organizations like SpringHill.

Not listening to others, like the other 6 behaviors that lead to people losing their jobs, is rooted in arrogance or its sister self-righteousness. Because when a person believes they know more than anyone else they conclude there’s nothing to learn from others.

Now not listening to others usually takes on one of two different forms.

The first is when a person does all the talking (because if you know everything there is to know then you assume everyone else will want to hear what you have to say). Doing all the talking and assuming that others want to know what you think is the epitome of self-centeredness and the opposite of being other-focused.

The second form of not listening is simply not asking questions or taking the initiative to seek out what others know or have to say. Real listening, listening that actively seeks to understand another person requires asking good and meaningful questions. Asking questions also keeps us humble and from slipping out of reality and into self-delusion.

Think about it, have you ever had a conversation or a relationship with someone where they did all the talking or never asked your thoughts or sought to get to know you? For me the message is the other person doesn’t believe I have anything of value to contribute. Or even worst, I begin to wonder if I have any value personally in their eyes. Either way, not listening to others slowly but surely erodes a relationship, and wearing out a relationship will always lead to wearing out one’s welcome in an organization.

What Could Cause Me to Lose my Job?

???????????????????????????????Have you ever wondered “what could cause me to lose my job?”

I believe most thoughtful people, if they like their work and want to keep their job, have asked themselves this question. Of course there are the obvious answers such as stealing, not doing your job up to standards, or changes in the organization. These answers are usually written up in employee handbooks and reviewed in orientation programs.

But it’s the subtle or unspoken answers to this question, answers about attitudes, relationships, and organizational interactions that haunt conscientious people. It’s because these answers are usually what determines a person’s success in an organization.

Now to assure that SpringHill isn’t falling into this fuzzy communication trap, I’ve started to include  in my portion of our new employee orientation, a section I call “the things that will cause you to lose your job at SpringHill”.

So I share with them the seven attitudes and behaviors I’ve identified over my more than 15 years at SpringHill that have caused people to fall short as SpringHill staff –

  1. Misuse of power and authority
  2. Playing politics
  3. Not listening to others
  4. Mistreating people
  5. Believing they’ve already arrived
  6. Becoming an organizational martyr
  7. Having their own agenda

At the core of each of these attitudes and behavior is arrogance, or the Christian version of arrogance – self-righteousness. When people are arrogant, when they’re self-righteous, it always leads to one or more of all these seven attitudes and behaviors.

So I’ve told new staff that any of these behaviors and attitudes can lead to them losing their job at SpringHill. But the warning isn’t really about being self –righteous, instead it’s about bringing an appropriate humility to their work so that these seven behaviors and attitudes never take hold in their lives and in their work.

Over the next several posts I’ll dive deeper into arrogance and self-righteousness as well as each of these seven behaviors because I believe they’re relevant not just for people who work for SpringHill but for anyone who wants to be successful wherever they work.

A Mile Wide and a Mile Deep

2013-06-13 02.50.12Often, when thinking about ministries, people create a dichotomy between numerical growth and spiritual depth as if the two are not compatible. The thinking goes like this – if a ministry grows numerically it’s at the cost of challenging people spiritually. In other words it’ll be a mile wide and an inch deep. I get this thinking because too often, unfortunately, this is reality. So it’s easy to be a bit cynical when a ministry is experiencing significant growth and wonder if the increase in numbers is the result of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”.

But cheap grace hasn’t and isn’t always behind exponential growth. 2000 years ago a small group of Jewish people from a dusty Roman backwater saw the mission they inherited explode into a global movement. How did that happen? How did the Church become global and include hundreds of millions of people? It didn’t happen because the leaders of the Church watered down the message of Jesus. It happened because these leaders and their followers both lived out the Gospel fully, including being willing to give their life for Christ and His Church and challenged others to do the same. The Church today continues to explode in some of the most repressive countries in the world, where being a follower of Christ is a life threatening proposition. There is no “cheap grace” in places like these, yet, paradoxically, there is incredible growth.

At SpringHill we are continuously challenging ourselves to reach more kids in the same way the early Church and the Church in many places today are reaching more people – by being faithful to the Gospel and by being bold in sharing it with others. We want no numerical growth through cheap grace. Instead we desire to reach more kids through an uncompromising expression of Christ. To assure that young people can clearly hear the Good News of Jesus, see it lived out in the lives of our staff, and to experience Him in every part of every one of our programs.

Being a mile wide and a mile deep is not only possible it’s the expected model of healthy and effective ministries.

Wishing the World was more Like SpringHill

2013-06-13 02.50.27“I just want to say thank you. SpringHill has just been fantastic for my son. I only wish the rest of the world could be more like SpringHill.”

This statement  to me and a small group of our year around staff during the closing day of camp by a father of a camper with special needs. The father went onto explain that his son has been coming to SpringHill for a number of summers and it’s always the high light of his son’s year. It’s the week when his son feels accepted and loved like a “normal” kid.

I believe it’s this acceptance and love that the dad was referring to when he said, almost to himself, “I only wish the rest of the world could be more like SpringHill”.

Of course it’s always great to hear this kind of unsolicited feedback from a parent. Our goal is that every kid will feel like this camper, to experience the love of Christ through our staff and in the small communities we create.

So with summer camp just ending (and I’m already starting to miss it), this father’s wish has had me thinking. I’ve realized his wish really isn’t a wish at all, but instead it’s our ultimate mission.

You see at SpringHill we exist to create experiences (we call them SpringHill Experience) where Christ can transform the lives of young people. These experiences include embracing all kinds of kids, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done or where they’ve come from. Yet, as powerful as this is, the SpringHill Experience isn’t an end unto itself; it is part of something bigger.

That something bigger is the Church’s work of bringing the values and reality of Christ’s Kingdom into the world. In other words, we haven’t thoroughly done our job unless our campers and staff are leaving SpringHill and bringing a little of it back into the world, making the world a little more like SpringHill, which really means making the world little more like Christ’s Kingdom.

Leading through Presence

284When I began my career, I worked for a company that preached and expected its leaders to “manage by walking around” or “MBWA” as we called it. As a result, during my 10 years with the company I literally wore out the soles of my shoes before I even scuffed the uppers. This is no exaggeration – I must have resoled a half-dozen pairs of shoes in my tenure there.

Also during this same period, my wife Denise and I were volunteer Young Life leaders. We learned that the one of the most important elements of relational ministry was “to see and be seen”. In other words we were to go to where high school students hung out, whether it was school, ball games or other local gathering spots. It was another version of MBWA.

Thus the MBWA and “to see and be seen” approach to leadership has so deeply influenced my leadership style that it’ now a deeply held value of mine. You see, for me, I must lead through being present in the lives and the work of those I’m called to serve.

However when I first arrived at SpringHill, because our camps are so large and spread out, our staff developed a habit of driving around camp. Though driving saved our staff a few minutes of time, it also meant that they’d miss the sounds, sights and smells of camp, and more importantly, interacting with campers and staff. You see, driving in this context isn’t the same as “seeing and being seen”, and it certainly doesn’t qualify as “walking around.”

So when I began my habit of walking around camp, people wondered how I had time “to take a walk”. My response was always “how do you not have time to see, hear, experience camp and interact with our campers and staff in the intimate way? Being present is how we’re going to lead SpringHill. Any extra time it takes to walk will more than be made up by the fact we’ll lead better for it.”

Now, as only God would have it, while I writing this blog over the last two days, our Michigan Retreats Director, Eric Woods, also posted an excellent perspective on Leading through Presence. Click here to glean his insights as well.

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