leading with ‘we’ instead of ‘I’

We’ve all heard the adage “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” – but there can sometimes be a lot of “I” in leadership! (And I mean more than just the little one that is the second last letter!)

Of course, leadership by definition is often an individual or solo task. It’s the act of being ‘out in front’; the front bird in the geese formation, the pointy end of the arrow, the cutting edge, the trailblazer, the pioneer – all of these aspects of leadership are true and right. But more often than not, we find that our leadership plays out in teams and groups. There’s limited value in being the trailblazer if no one is actually then walking on that trail – and if you’re flying out the front of the geese formation and there’s no one else in the geese formation? You know what that makes you? That’s right, a goose!

The purpose of leadership is to take others somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go. It’s to see things that are not yet and paint a picture in the imagination of others to inspire them towards future possibilities. It’s to champion gifts, skills and capacity in people that they might otherwise not have known they possessed and to lead them into actions, thought and influence that they might otherwise not have explored or experienced.

Language matters.

How we speak as leaders shapes the culture of our teams and contexts.

Here are some things that can happen when we use “we” instead of “I“.

  • We draw people in to realising their part in a broader movement; a greater purpose. We reinforce a culture of collaboration and team work. We allow others to feel part of activity and outcomes that they may not have even had direct involvement in. It generates energy and excitement around the bigger picture and grander vision.
  • We indicate that we’ve included other voices in our thought processes and decision making. It may be our spouse, parent or friend (as opposed to someone within our organisation or team) but it demonstrates a willingness to listen to other opinions and allow accountability to external input to refine and shape our actions.
  • We demonstrate the humility to share successes (that might actually be wholly ours) with our team. The idea might have been ours, the hours of preparation might have been ours, dealing with the obstacles and opposition might have been ours, but the win is the team’s. We also communicate an expectation of humility in others.
  • We create a culture that handles failure in healthy ways. When we communicate a loss in the language of ‘we’, we show our teams that they can explore, innovate and experiment with confidence because we will all share in the loss. They don’t need to fear public correction or embarrassment. Review and recovery will be handled in a shared and sensitive way.
  • We keep a separation between policy, processes and decisions, and people and emotions. The language of ‘we’ draws on a corporate code; our agreed methods of working and interacting. It reminds others of the decisions we’ve made as an organisation that are guiding our choices rather than making it about personality.
  • We reduce the need for personal defensiveness – from ourselves and the team member. This is not me against you. No one is fighting for themselves in this conflict, process or project – we are on the same team.

It’s really important to note – this is not about deflecting personal responsibility when the responsibility is ours. It’s not an ‘out’ for taking ownership of decisions that are difficult for others to process or avoiding ownership of personal mistakes and shortfall. “I” is also necessary sometimes. But our tendency towards that language first can be unnecessarily distancing, hierarchical, and contrary to building healthy team culture.

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when is the right time to talk to your kids about sex?

It’s a question often wrestled with by parents and leaders, when is the right time to talk to kids about sex?

The answer is simple.

The right time to talk to your kids about sex is just before they hear it from someone or somewhere else.

That might not be the answer you were hoping for. In fact, that probably opens up more questions than anything. How can you know when they’re going to be exposed to content on television, scribbled on a bathroom wall, stumbled across on a computer or device, conspiratorially whispered about amongst friends at a sleep over, or joked about in a locker room? It seems impossible to predict, and therefore difficult to pre-empt, but it is undeniably the ‘best time’.

The power of first exposure.

Our brains are wired to attach knowledge about a subject to the person who first introduced it to us in an informative or useful way. So, whoever first exposes us to information is solidified, subconsciously, in our minds as the expert on that topic. We are far more likely to return to that source if we find ourselves needing more details or, if we get data from an alternate source, we are likely to come back to the original source to verify or test it.

What an incredible opportunity that presents as parents or people of influence in the lives of young people. If they are introduced to concepts of sexual biology, reproduction, arousal, intimacy, consent, masturbation, boundaries, gender, safety, identity and responsibility by you, they are more likely to see you as a source of useful information and understanding on these topics. How much more preferable is it that YOU be in this position of influence than a child’s school friends, bus pals or anything that might spew out of a television or smart phone?

This doesn’t completely address the question of timing, but I believe it ought to create a sense of urgency and boldness driven by the value of equipping our young people to adequately navigate their own sexuality, understanding and expression in a highly sexualised culture.

“I don’t want to talk to my children too early because I don’t want to introduce them to concepts before they need to be … and I don’t want to arouse their curiosity, which might lead them to further (potentially unhelpful) exploration.”

This is a hybrid of commonly expressed concerns by parents when wrestling with decisions around timing.

The myth of early exposure.

It goes without saying (which generally means it needs to be said!) that when we reference ‘early’ conversations (as in, prior to when they might otherwise be exposed) those need to happen in age appropriate and ongoing ways.

It’s not just ‘the talk’ it’s a lot of talks. It’s a continuing conversation. Any thoughts you have, as a parent or leader, of having one conversation that articulately (and in completely non-awkward ways) covers all of the necessary topics and concepts your child needs to successfully land them in sexually educated, adjusted and healthy adulthood need to be banquished! Sorry! 😉

In light of this, any topics you broach ought to be couched in language and cover information that is able to be helpfully processed and absorbed by the individual child. It will be different at every stage of development, but it will most likely be different from child to child. Their level of maturity, sensitivity, social awareness, personal experiences, personality and intellect will all impact what they need to know and what they are able to absorb.

Tips

  • You need to talk about everything in order to be able to talk about anything. Developing a relationship of open dialogue with your child (about Minecraft and puppies and football teams and complicated school/friendship dramas and …)  will grow their confidence that you are someone they can trust to handle conversations about particularly uncomfortable or uncertain topics.
  • Ask your child to ask questions – and then ask more questions. “What do YOU want to know? What do you understand and what more can we learn about together?” Respond to only the questions that are asked and check understanding as you go. “Does that make sense? Does that settle what you were thinking about?”
  • Capitalise on ‘teachable moments’. Interact with books they’re reading or things they see on television – “Why do you think she/he reacted like that?” If your child says or does something that indicates a wrong understanding (like the Gr 5 child wrestling with a peer in the playground I overheard exclaiming “stop it, or you’ll catch puberty!”) or an awareness or exposure to something – speak to it, ask about it, clarify it.
  • Act normal! Even if you don’t feel normal, ACT IT! It is counterproductive to try and explain the ‘naturalness’ of sexuality and intimacy while you stumble over words, don’t look anyone in the eye and scurry off as soon as there’s the slightest break in conversation. So …
  • Practice! Practice what you might say, what words you might use, how you might describe certain acts, attributes or attitudes. Read articles or listen to speakers who can help you develop your language – it will help your child as well as increasing your confidence.

The myth of aroused curiosity.

Curiosity only exists in a void. It’s true, right? You are only curious about what you don’t know. Speaking about pornography or masturbation isn’t a guarantee that your child is going to go off and explore that more for themselves. They are far more likely to if there’s a gap in their understanding. If they haven’t asked the questions that they still have or if they haven’t fully understood what you’ve explained.

Tips

  • Ask comprehension questions “Can you tell me in your own words what I just explained?”.
  • Encourage active listening “Nod at me if you are following but stop me if I’ve said something that was a bit weird or confusing.”
  • Plan a follow up chat. “That seems like enough for now. How about we check in later once you’ve had a chance to process that some more?”
  • Monitor your child. If they have been disturbed or discomforted by what they’ve heard you might notice that in their behaviour, body language or responses.

What do you think? What have you found helpful or unhelpful in your own experience? What further information or discussion do you require to help you keep this conversation going (or to start it!)?

3 reasons you should be a mentor

Being a mentor is one of the more privileged, rewarding, and challenging things you can do! If you’re not one, here’s a few reasons I think you should consider it.

Because it’s not all about you! 

Whatever you know, have or experience is not just about or for you. It never is. Everything that you learn in your life, the skills you possess, the talents you develop, the capacity you have is never about you learning, possessing, or developing so much as it is about the IMPACT those acquisitions can have on the world around you.

To be a mentor is to realise that you have something to give. And you do!

Being a mentor is an acknowledgement that the wisdom you’ve acquired over the years is most wisely applied in the developing of other people’s wisdom! Even if you’ve earned it through a series of terrible decisions and catastrophic failures, your wisdom can be of benefit to those who are coming behind you. Even if you don’t think you’re particularly wise, you’re probably wiser than someone … in something … and it is upon us all to see that we don’t just hoard and protect what we know but that we use it in service of others.

Because it has redemptive power.

Your most disastrous mistake. Your most embarrassing failure. Your deepest wounding. Your greatest regret. These can all find a sense of redemption when allowed to be used to protect, prepare or comfort others.

Whether your story becomes one of warning and caution, one of inspiration and conviction or one of empathy and understanding … there will be something for others to glean from it and so it needs to be shared. And although it doesn’t erase the consequences, pain, guilt or regret it ensures that those feelings aren’t wasted. It brings something of purpose and usefulness out of experiences that would otherwise seem so wasteful and hopeless.

Would I rather not have experienced a broken marriage, grief, or failure? Absolutely! But if it’s happened, would I rather see the learning and the sharing bring life, hope, and wisdom to others? You bet!

Because you know it’s hard to ‘go it alone’.

You may never have had a mentor. You may have constantly craved that intentional investment and support or you might not even realised you were missing it. But I think we can all acknowledge that sometimes life is difficult and often times we are left to navigate life on our own.

New parents, young entrepreneurs, students, newly weds, first time home owners, emerging artists, writers and communicators can all feel like they’re stumbling in the dark – trying to work out how to conduct themselves in an industry or lifestage where everyone else seems to know what they’re doing but them. It can be intensely isolating.

You remember that. You can be part of breaking that pattern for those who are coming after you.

So, what do you think? Who could you be mentoring? What environments could you connect into where your wisdom and experience can be beneficially shared? What relationships could you be fostering to bring some of these mentoring outcomes to the fore?

(And just a little something for nothing … the reality is that you ARE leading, modelling and influencing whether you choose to or not. People are watching you and imitating you. A little more intentionality could help ensure that influence is positive and helpful.)

3 reasons you should try audio reading


I don’t want to overstate this but audio reading changed my life! 

It first started when I discovered that, with the tap of a button, a charming little man would read the Bible to me via the YouVersion Bible app on my phone! Brilliant! He reads while I brush my teeth. I can interact with him – repeating phrases out loud to gain meaning for this external-processing brain of mine. He even knows how to say all those tricky Hebrew names (some of them make me giggle and I mock him as he says them). 

Then I got onto Audio books. As a long time subscriber to numerous podcasts I’ve been an in-car listener for a while but with the help of the Audible app I was able to get to those books that I’d been meaning to read one day. 

Here are 3 reasons I think audio reading is a tool worth considering, if you haven’t already. 

You can redeem your time 

Audio reading can transform your daily exercise, getting ready for work or bed, commuting time (or any other activity that doesn’t require you to speak or listen) into productive ‘reading’ time. I listen to my daily Bible readings while putting a load of washing on or walking to the shops for milk. 

I have ‘read’ 3 books in the last month. Something I would never find the time to do (outside of a holiday) but the audio reading has turned otherwise non-reading times into reading times. (I also read at 1.25 or 1.5x normal speed – because I like the thrill of it!)

It’s called working smarter not harder. 

It is super portable 

Given the ability to host audio reading on your smart phones it means it’s with you everywhere. In an unexpected delay, wait time or slice of quiet when you might have wished you’d been more prepared with something to do – voila! There it is, ready and waiting!

Thank you technology, you’re lovely. So handy. 

Great leaders are readers 

John Maxwell says it, “Leaders are readers“. People growing in their capacity to lead themselves and others are those who draw from wisdom and research, from the expert and experienced to broaden their own knowledge and understanding. 

If you’re like me, you might find it hard to prioritise work time to read. Or to find joy or engagement in the silent practice of reading (I’m a well-documented raging extrovert – silent reading was my least favourite time at school even though literature and language were my strength subjects) – particularly for learning (I find novel reading can draw me in a little more effectively than non-fiction). 

Audio books might just save your mind from inevitable decline by gaining the learning and developmental stretch that all good leaders ought to be pursuing. 

What about you? What has your experience been with audio reading? Do you find it a help or hinderance to your reading disciplines?