Leading on the Line

In 1982 a book called In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman was published. Even though it was a business book, it made quite a hit in my seminary classes as well. (Way back when, even before it became the standard practice it is today, Ralph Hardee had us reading business books!)

One of the most important lessons of that book then, and still important today, is the idea of MBWA, or Managing by Wandering Around.

With MBWA, “what you see is what you get.”

Peters, in his latest book The Little BIG Things, added these thoughts about MBWA:

  • Get out of your office!
  • Unplug your laptop!
  • Put your smartphone in the drawer!
  • Chat up anybody whose path you cross…especially if they are not among your normal chatees.
  • Go strolling in parts of the organization (or your neighborhood) where you normally don’t stroll.
  • Slow down.
  • Stop.
  • Chat.

There is a lot of value in putting “wandering” on your permanent formal agenda. It may sound counterintuitive, but “aimless wandering” requires strict discipline. We all fall into ruts, even in our wanderings. Same route. Same people. Same time of day. Etc. Etc. Etc. Somehow you’ve got to introduce spontaneity.

Make a pledge to “just wander” at least a half-hour each day. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you come back to the pile of work on your desk or the files open on your screen.

This principle applies to ChurchWorld, too. I’m fortunate, as I get to see it in action every week at the Lake Norman Campus of Elevation Church in Charlotte. Our Campus Pastor, Matthew Drew, and our Associate Campus Pastor, Scott Hosey, make it a part of their weekend routine. It’s not scheduled, but both of them can be seen circulating outside the entrance, talking with Guests and team members. You see them on the sidewalk between the building and the parking lot, smiling and welcoming everyone they see. On occasion, they even venture into the parking lots, just to check things out.


There’s plenty for them to “do” inside, but they realize the value of connecting with as many people as possible – even if only for a moment – each and every weekend.

They have refined MBWA to LBWA…

Leadership by Walking Around

Are you the senior leader on your team? When was the last time you walked the front lines?

What are you waiting for?

Marking Milestones

It‘s a week for marking educational milestones at the Adams’ house.


Our youngest son graduates from college this week, and that marks the end of “school” for our children. Anita and I have four children, who were born four years apart. From the beginning of kindergarten for our oldest son to graduation from college for our youngest, we have been in “school” for 29 years.

That’s a lot of school!

By the numbers:

Elementary and Secondary Schools

  • 25 years of public schools
  • 11 different schools in 3 states
  • Shortest – ½ year at kindergarten in KY
  • Longest – 16 years (all 4 kids) at North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville

University and Graduate School

  • 16 years of college
  • 5 different universities in one state
  • 1 graduate school
  • Shortest – 1 semester at UNCC
  • Longest – 11 years (2 kids) at Campbell University, including 3 years of graduate school

When we started our parenting journey in 1981, we didn’t set out to achieve these milestones. We didn’t know what was in store for us. Milestones are reached with small, consistent achievements that, when added up over a 29-year span, equal something big.

Our oldest son, now 34 and a father of 2 himself, started kindergarten in the fall of 1986. That was the first milestone in a long line. Parents and child alike look forward to those first days of school.

Now fast-forward to May 23, 2015. Our youngest son, now 22, will be graduating from college. In between were another son (now 30 and married with a 2 daughters) and a daughter (now 26 and married), who graduated from divinity school last year. Add it all together and you have consistent work along the way and before you know it – a milestone.

Milestones are accomplished over time from achievement after achievement. Showing up every day for class. Homework papers turned in. Quizzes and tests to study for. Projects, big and small, completed on time (most of the time).

If you’re going to reach a milestone, think one day at a time, not 29 years of days.

I’m proud of all my kids. They finished school; now their education really begins.

Bring the Heat

The ability to control the temperature of food involves a set of kitchen skills and food knowledge that, more than anything else, defines the excellence of the cook. An expertise in temperature control won’t turn poor ingredients into good ones, but it will determine much of what follows once the ingredients are in your house.

The Elements of Cooking, by Michael Ruhlman

 In other words, it’s all about heat.

courtesy aventarte.wordpress.com

courtesy aventarte.wordpress.com

 Bill Hybels, writing in axiom, has exactly this process in mind when he writes:

Anytime you see God-honoring values being lived out genuinely and consistently, it’s fair to assume that a leader decided to identify a handful of values and turn up the burner under them.

When you heat up a value, you help people change states.

  • Want to jolt people out of business as usual? Heat up innovation.
  • Want to untangle confusion? Heat up clarity.
  • Want to eradicate miserliness? Heat up generosity.

New “states” elicit new attitudes, new aptitudes, and new actions. It’s not rocket science – it’s just plain chemistry. Which is a lot about heat.

Leaders must determine what values they believe should be manifested in their organizations. And then put them over the flame of a burner by teaching on those values, underscoring them with Scripture, enforcing them, and making heroes out of the people who are living them out.

Over time, sufficiently hot values will utterly define your culture.

It’s time to bring the heat.

Customer Service is Never Out of Date – or Out of Place

Epiphany at the Gas Pump

Regular readers of this blog know of my borderline fanaticism in the area of Guest Services related to ChurchWorld. Some leaders cringe at those words, but the fact is people who come to church are consumers, and leaders in ChurchWorld can learn a lot from good customer service practices wherever they find them – even in a 1946 training manual for Gulf Dealers.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked the question, “Where does your passion for Guest Experiences come from?”

The answer to that question became a little clearer in the last week.

My father.

My father passed away in 2012, and recent changes in my mother’s health required that she move out of the house in which she and my father had started their family in 1954. Over the last week, as my brother and I were going through the process of moving her from her home of 61 years, I took great delight in looking through some of the items my dad had saved and stored over his life. When I found this manual pictured below, I knew it would become a special part of my Guest Services resources.

After my father was discharged from the Army Air Corps following WWII, he worked at several jobs before he and his brotherGulf Service Plan 1 built a Gulf Service Station outside of Nashville TN. My father operated it for 44 years, closing it when he retired in 1993. Growing up in that gas station (literally – our house was about 100 feet away) I learned a lot about how to deal with people by watching my father interact with his “customers.” What I didn’t realize until recently was that his natural, easygoing style was augmented by customer service training materials supplied by the Gulf Oil Company.

It seems that good service is never out of date.

Notice the red dotted line around the vehicle – that’s the suggested travel path for the service man – or two – to take when a customer pulled up to the gas pumps to have gasoline put into his tank (I realize many readers have no clue nor experience of this, but it did happen!). Starting by engaging the driver, here are a few of the suggestions for engaging the customer:

  • Always be prompt – the service plan starts when you see a customer driving into your station. Whenever possible, be alert and at his side when his car stops, ready to greet him.
  • Greet the customer – your greeting is your first important step in showing courtesy to the customer, and it should be friendly, cheerful, and always in your own words.
  • Acknowledge the other customer – when a second car drives in, you should immediately recognize the other customer and saying you’ll be right with him. This kind of greeting pays off because you not only please the customer who is waiting but you also please the customer you are waiting on, who notices that you are courteous to others.
  • Improve the rear view – while you are at the rear of the vehicle putting gas in, wipe the rear window and tail lights. Should a light be out, call it to the attention to your customer at the proper time.
  • Look at those tires – while you are back there, take a look at both rear tires for cuts, blisters under inflation, etc. and make a mental note to tell your customer before he leaves your station.
  • Work to the front end – walk around the right side, cleaning the right windshield, checking the wiper blades, and inspecting the front tires.
  • Under the hood – check the oil and water levels; it’s your responsibility to protect your customer’s car. If any is needed, ask him if you may bring the levels up to the correct level.
  • Keep alert under the hood – while you have the hood open, keep alert for other service needs. Train yourself to quickly observe all needs, informing the customer as appropriate.
  • Collect for the sale – it is important to give the customer the right change, so count the change back into his hand. If he is using a credit card (yes, they had those in 1946!), learn to fill out the invoice quickly and accurately.
  • Courtesy is pleasant – before your customer leaves the station thank him and ask him to come in again. By this time you should have learned his name, so make it personal.
  • Help him safely on his way – if your station is on a busy street where it’s difficult to get into traffic, give your customer a hand. Guide him into the moving traffic safely. He may not expect this added courtesy, but he’ll be glad to get it and remember it. Every courteous act will be appreciated by your customers, and make them regular patrons of your station.

And a closing reminder:

With the Gulf Service Plan, every time you do some little service for the customer, it makes him realize that you know your business, and that you’re looking after his welfare. These services keep your customer coming back again and again. Good will – the tendency of the motorist to return to a place where he has been well-treated – is being created every time you give him not only what he wants, but what he needs. He remembers you are the man who looks after his best interests by taking good care of one of his most prized possessions – his car.

To all of us who live in 24/7, always-connected world, the actions above probably seem like a throwback or an anachronism of the good old days.

I happen to think they are a timeless reminder that service still matters – especially in ChurchWorld, where there is no “product” per se, but the outcome of the interactions with our Guests may be eternal.

Thanks Dad, for the lessons you taught me even when I didn’t realize it, and for the lessons you still teach me after you’re gone.


Bring “The Experience” to Your Church and Elevate Your Guest Experiences to a New Level

As my wife and I drove to our church campus yesterday, the drizzle became a steady downpour. While we knew that even a few drops of rain is often enough to convince people to stay in bed instead of coming to worship, we also knew that those who chose to come to our campus were in for a treat – most likely a treat few of them had seen, certainly not at church!

The Guest Experience Teams at Elevation Church LOVE IT when it rains – it gives them a chance to demonstrate how they set high expectations, and then exceed them.

You can read more about the specifics here, but my point today is what’s behind those actions.

You see, the Guest Experience Teams at Elevation use their gifts of hospitality and service to welcome, inform and serve Guests. We know the sermon starts in the parking lot (thanks Andy Stanley!)

Most importantly, we know that it takes effort and training to serve our Guests with excellence.

We are continually on the lookout for the best resources to use in training our Guest Experience teams.

And a new resource – from the world of Customer Service – is going to take Guest Experiences to a new level.

All churches have customers – you just call them by a different name.

How can your church be proactive in creating an Experience that will amaze Guests (and everyone coming to your church campus), and help them prepare for worship by being genuinely welcomed?

A great first step is to look to the organization that is known world-wide for its outstanding Guest Services – Disney. And there’s no better place to start than a brand-new book that was released today – The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence.

What can the Disney organization teach the church about Guest Experiences?

Walt Disney set the standard for Guest Services, and Disney Legends like Van France, Dick Nunis, Marty Sklar, and a host of others refined them over the years. From a single theme park in 1955, Disney has spread literally around the world (and across the oceans) with their unique methods of making everyone feel “magical.”

In 1983, a number of key leaders from across Walt Disney World formed a team that was designed to take the Disney Guest Experience to the next level. A part of that team was a young man tasked to enhance the service and presentation skills of the Disney Cast Members – Bruce Loeffler.

During the next decade, Loeffler and the rest of the team successfully planned, implemented, revised, and then spread basic principles of Guest Experiences to all Disney properties.

In the next two decades that followed, Loeffler continued to refine and extend those principles in his own consulting group. Now, joined by Brian Church, those principles can be found in The Experience.

The heart of The Experience contains five I CARE Principles:

  • Impression
  • Connection
  • Attitude
  • Response
  • Exceptionals

Don’t let the simplicity fool you! Packed along with the 5 principles you will find 10 “Non-Negotiables” for each Principle, followed by “Actionables” designed to help you put the Principle in practice in your own organization. Each Actionable is introduced by a “Quotient Question” to make you think and connect the broad Principle to a specific Non-Negotiable.


Simply Brilliant!

Easy? Not really – but your church doesn’t need easy solutions when it comes to creating a Guest Experience or revising an existing one. If it was easy you would already be doing it.

Here’s a short example of how you can use the information found in The Experience at your church.

I’m going to start at the beginning, and list the first Principle, the first Non-Negotionable, and how I’m going to modify the Actionables in leading the church Guest Experience teams I work with.

I – Impression

Non-Negotiable 1.1 – Engage The first Impression! Engaging and making the effort for initial positive contact.

Quotient Question How demonstrative and strategic are the efforts to make positive first Impressions with your Guests?

Actionable To the Guest, your Guest Experience Teams are the church – at least the first face of the church. It is your job to initiate and create a positive first Impression with each Guest you encounter.

Try This

> When first meeting a Guest, be personable and friendly. Welcome them with a genuine smile, eye contact, and a warm greeting. Rehearse this with your team and consider having a warm-up for teams that have contact with Guests. Consider it your “engagement calisthenics.”

> Before you start your day serving, take a moment in your team huddle and give each other a big smile – just in case you forgot what it looks like, Next, try a frown, next anger, next confusion, and finally apathy. It is important for you to see what Guests might see every day – and how it looks on you!

> Look Guests directly in the eye. The more genuine your warmth is, the more it relfects in your eyes as a smile. When you look Guests in the eye, it demonstrated confidence in yourself and a primary reason to trust you. Start with your team, building the eye contact habit – and watch the level of how people Experience you increase.

How simple – and how powerful – is that?

I deal with Guest Experience materials every day in my passion of helping churches make the best, First Impression on Guests as they come to their church campuses. Like The Experience, almost all of them come from the world of Customer Service in the business world. Many of them are good…

But The Experience has just ushered in a new level of helpful tools for Guest Experience leaders and teams to improve their game. Wisely, the authors caution against trying to do too much. The final chapter presents a “One Level Challenge” that encourages you to identify 12 areas that will become a monthly growth point for your teams over the next year.

Imagine having a readily-adaptable action plan for the encouragement and training of your Guest Experience Teams for the next year!

That’s just one of the benefits The Experience delivers.

The I CARE Principles and their supporting Non-Negotiables found in The Experience are the elements and opportunities that can help you enhance the Guest Experience for your church.

I strongly recommend you order a copy of The Experience today – NOW – and begin a journey to Guest Experience Excellence.




Delivering an I CARE Guest Service Experience at Your Church

Ask almost anyone about a recent customer service experience and the odds are it will be “meh” at best and a total failure at worst. Research by Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church backs that up. Customers are increasingly frustrated because “no one seems to care.”

Fortunately, Loeffler and Church, co-founders of Experience International, were not content just to do research about customer service – they used that research as a springboard to develop tools for creating “Ambassadors” through Exceptional customer service and by building relational Experiences.

At the core of their tools are 5 “I CARE” Principles you can use to test yourself, your services, and your organization using the Experience Quotient™.

Loeffler and Church are releasing a new book on Monday, April 20 entitled The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence.

Here’s a sneak peek at the core of their book – the 5 I CARE Principles as they define them:

I C.A.R.E Principles

I – Impression: The lasting imprint made through first and ongoing relational inflection points; the catalyst to building a relationship. The Impression that you provide before a guest interacts with your company all the way until their interaction is complete matters; it is the catalyst to building and maintaining that relationship

– Connection: The pivot point between contact and relationship. Converting clients and customers from consumers to Ambassadors (those on a mission to tell the world specifically about you) hinges on the ability to create the cerebral, emotional and personal connection.

 Attitude: The filter for everything you think, say and ultimately do. Attitude is the lens in which you see the world and the outward expression of inward feelings.

R – Response: Service is about personal responsibility and responding as opposed to reacting. The hallmark of customer service and an exceptional experience is the response. If the response time, tone and talent do not match up with every other aspect of an exceptional experience, everything else is rendered useless.

E – Exceptionals:  The secret behind the experience is the relational expertise and execution that comes from the people in charge of delivering it. The management team and employees must be prepared and  empowered to have the Experience living and breathing within them.

Now the question church leaders are asking: What does a book on customer service have to do with my church?

Your church has customers – you just call them something else, like guests, members, attenders, volunteers, team members, etc.

If recognizing that a church has “customers” is a barrier for you, I encourage you to break through that barrier now – and reading The Experience would be a great place to start.

Check back Monday for a full review of The Experience, and more information about the wealth of information it contains.


What’s Happened to Customer Service?

Think of the last 3 experiences you had as a customer – how did it go?

According to Brian Church, Chairman of Experience International, probably not so well.

We recently conducted a study involving 500 organizations with regards to Experience they provide, both externally (for their customers and clients) and internally (for their employees.) The results were compiled into a hierarchy of the experience called the Five Levels of the Experience and ranging from exceptional down to toxic. The results were staggering. Only 3% of organizations scored on an Exceptional level and roughly 60% of all organizations scored either average or toxic.


Ask yourself this question, what exactly happened to service excellence in America? What happened to creating relational experiences for the customer interface and interaction? There are many companies that still strive to create an exceptional experience, but, by and in large, the bulk of American companies are subpar when it comes to the level of service and relational excellence they provide.

I think Brian is spot on about companies in general. But unfortunately, I believe the same trend can be found in our churches when it comes to welcoming our Guests to our church campuses.

Here’s Brian again with a challenge…

Your clients and your customers deserve better. We believe an exceptional Experience is what will breathe life into your organization.

If you are ready to take up that challenge in your organization, you are in luck – The Experience is just around the corner.

The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence will be released on Monday April 20. Joining Brian is Bruce Loeffler, a former Disney Cast Member who served as the first Disney Service Excellence Coordinator. They have combined their expertise and delivered a very practical guide based on 5 Principles, which they call I CARE.

With The Experience as your guide, your organization can execute your Guest Experience on an exceptional level.


Tomorrow: A preview of some of the content found in The Experience.