Hocus Pocus Bewitches a New Generation

A Lesson in Culture Transfer from One Generation to the Next

When it first hit theaters in 1993, Hocus Pocus performed poorly at the box office and with critics. However, thanks to annual replays on cable and strong video/DVD sales, a core fan group kept it alive over the years.

When the Disney Halloween classic was released to theaters earlier this month, it quickly rose through the ranks to become 2020’s biggest box office. Granted, the numbers are tiny compared to pre-COVID box office totals, but people are still going to theaters and strange things are happening.

Which is totally appropriate for Hocus Pocus, a bonafide 90s classic that children of that decade – now parents – are introducing to their children.

And by the way, that last sentence describes my two older kids – born in 1981 and 1984.

They first saw Hocus Pocus in theaters when released, later on VHS, and for a few years now, rewatch it every year on DVD or streaming.

Now, they are introducing it to a new generation – my grandchildren.

The movie’s unexpected success at the box office is impressive since it is widely available for fans to rent or buy and stream on various platforms; it’s free on Disney+; and it has aired on Disney’s “Freeform” as well.

There’s even a book about it – Hocus Pocus in Focus, by Aaron Wallace. My daughter and her husband – born in the late 80’s – devoured it when it came out, talked about it with their friends, and now viewing the film on Disney+ is evidently a big deal among their friends.

Of course, with Disney involved, you know what comes next – a sequel.

Bette Midler, who played Winnie Sanderson in the original, recently confirmed that she, along with co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson) and Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson) will all be returning as the Sanderson sisters for the second Hocus Pocus movie.

The sequel will be coming to Disney+ at an undesignated date in the future.

As I was researching different sources for this post, it occurred to me that I have stumbled upon a whole new thread of generational research – the transfer of culture from one generation to the next.

Immediately, I thought of the Disney Company. Certainly, my Disney fanaticism was fully developed in the last couple of decades – but I was introduced to it by my parents. First, through movies: my first movie seen in a theater (1964), and my favorite Disney movie even today, is Mary Poppins. Then, my father, as a Gulf gas station owner, was part of a Gulf-Disney marketing campaign throughout the mid to late 60s. We received regular promotional items, like magazines and record albums (which I still have!), which his customers eagerly snatched up.

When my wife and I became parents (four times, from 1981 – 1992), the introduction of Disney movies through first theaters then VHS tapes was a regular part of family entertainment. It continued with the shift from a cable channel to DVDs then streaming services.

As our children became parents, they did (and are doing) the same: Disney entertainment is a regular part of their lives, especially with the advent of the Disney+ streaming service.

In 2016, my wife and I brought this to a new level: a week-long family vacation for all 15 members of our family to Walt Disney World.

From viewing movies to visiting theme parks to sharing our Disney-related gifts across birthdays and other times, the Adams family culture had been deeply imbedded with a Disney imprint.

In my childhood, that meant one thing: Disney. To my children and grandchildren, though, it’s much more:

  • Walt Disney (movies, cable channel, TV shows, theme parks, cruise line)
  • ABC
  • ESPN
  • The Muppets
  • Pixar
  • Marvel
  • Lucasfilm
  • 21st Century Fox
  • Disney+ (I list this separately because of the HUGE impact it will have in the future).
  • and many more!

Here’s a graphical representation of the above:

You want to talk about the transfer of culture from one generation to the next and the next?

Class is now open!

How to Deliver an Exceptional Guest Experience by Design

It is relatively easy to provide a great Guest Experience occasionally. You know, those big holiday events or other special occasions.

But in order to create an exceptional Guest Experience, it is vital that you do this every time.

The only way to achieve a consistently exceptional Guest Experience is if the experiences are designed.

To design something means that it is deliberate, not an accident or luck. Deliberate is a strong, proactive word. Stop and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is our Guest Experience process deliberate?
  • Did my team deliberately set out to create and deliver an exceptional Guest Experience?
  • Is the outcome of the Guest Experience one that we have proactively designed?

By observation, research, and onsite studies in organizations of all sizes and types across the country, in many cases the Guest Experience is not deliberate – it is something that just happens.

Guest Experience leaders care about their guests. Many leaders understand guests and have some insight into their experiences and needs. Often, though, these same leaders struggle to turn insight into action.

Design isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of guests, team members, and partners in your mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

Design is the secret weapon of organizations that gives them a strategic advantage in figuring out what services their guests need and in defining the exact characteristics of every guest interaction. Design helps you understand how a guest accesses your website, what a guest is likely to do as they approach your campus, and gives you clues about creating a welcoming environment.

Design is the most important discipline that you’ve probably never heard of.

The right Guest Experience changes, implemented the right way, won’t just fall into your lap. You must actively design them. This requires learning – and then sticking to – the steps in a human-centered design process.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Outside In, by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine

Customer experience is, quite simply, how your customers perceive their every interaction with your company. It’s a fundamental business driver. Here’s proof: over a recent five-year period during which the S&P 500 was flat, a stock portfolio of customer experience leaders grew twenty-two percent. 

In an age when customers have access to vast amounts of data about your company and its competitors, customer experience is the only sustainable source of competitive advantage. But how to excel at it? 

Based on fourteen years of research by the customer experience leaders at Forrester Research, Outside In offers a complete roadmap to attaining the experience advantage. It starts with the concept of the Customer Experience Ecosystem—proof that the roots of customer experience problems lie not just with customer-facing employees like your sales staff, but with behind-the-scenes employees like accountants, lawyers, and programmers, as well as the policies, processes, and technologies that all your employees use every day. Identifying and solving these problems has the potential to dramatically increase sales and decrease costs.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality guest experience need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into guest experiences: strategy, guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are consistently exceptional at Guest Experiences excel.

Restating a comment from above, the only way to achieve a consistently exceptional Guest Experience is if the experiences are designed.

If you want to deliver an exceptional Guest Experience, you need to begin with the discipline of design.

The discipline of design is key because it lets organizations understand the current customer experience they provide, uncover opportunities for improvement, and track progress over time. It connects the dots starting with what needs to be done to improve customer experience, all the way to the benefits of what has been done.

The human-centered design process starts with research to understand guest needs and motivations. It’s all those activities in the discipline of understanding guests. Analysis is next – synthesizing the data into useful forms. The next phase is ideation, which is just what it sounds like – coming up with ideas. After that, it’s time to prototype – ranging from a simple redesigned guest survey to a full-scale mock-up of your typical guest experience on the weekend. Next, these prototypes are put into action with real people while you observe the results. Finally, you must document the features of the resulting product or service that has evolved.

The practices in the design discipline help organizations envision and then implement customer interactions that meet or exceed customer needs. It spans the complex systems of people, products, interfaces, services, and spaces that your customers encounter in physical locations, over the phone, or through digital spaces like websites and mobile apps.

Design spells the difference between a symphony orchestra performance and a garage band jam session. The orchestra performance is carefully arranged, rehearsed, and executed – just like the customer experience at top organizations. The jam session just sort of happens, with varying levels of quality – like what we’ve all encountered at companies we’ve stopped doing business with over time.

Design Practices

Follow a defined Guest Experience design process any time a new experience is introduced or an existing experience is changed in some way

Use guest understanding deliverables and insights to focus and define requirements for projects that affect Guest Experiences

Engage guests, team members, and partners as part of the experience design process

Use iterative ideation, prototyping, and evaluation as part of the experience design process

Identify the set of complex interdependencies among people, processes, and technologies that shape interactions with guests (the Guest Experience Ecosystem)

Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business

A NEXT STEP

At your next Guest Experience team leader’s meeting, make the discipline of design the primary topic.

First, write the six words in bold from the first paragraph above (research, analysis, ideation, prototype, action and document) down the left side of a chart tablet.

Next, come up with a single Guest Experience action you are not currently doing but would like to implement in the next six months, writing the action on the top of another chart tablet.

Now, walk through each of the six steps, writing down ideas or actions needed for each step. At this stage, you don’t have to fully develop the proposed action – you are just creating a “design criteria list” for follow up.

After you have exhausted all ideas, go back and circle no more than three items under each step, representing the most important ones to do.

Identify one leader and two additional members from your team to take the proposed action and run with it. Using both the six steps and the five “Design Practices” noted above, they will recruit additional team members as needed to follow the actions as outlined, and bring a ready-to-proceed recommendation back to the larger team for a decision.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 125, released August 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

The Changing of Intergenerational Dynamics

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.

Judge Taylor in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

People are blind to the unexpected, the unusual, the periphery.

That’s all 2020 has been.

We’re at an unprecedented juncture in history: several generations of relatively similar size are sharing the stage and competing for influence. Generations matter because they behave in specific ways related both to when they came of age and to their situation at the current moment. “The creation of a world view is the work of a generation rather than of an individual,” wrote novelist John Dos Passos. “But we each of us, for better or for worse, add our brick to the edifice.”

I’m beginning a deep dive into current and future intergenerational dynamics, and the six books below are my starting point.

The Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe

William Strauss and Neil Howe will change the way you see the world—and your place in it. With blazing originality, The Fourth Turning illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, it offers an utterly persuasive prophecy about how America’s past will predict its future.

Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history. The authors look back five hundred years and uncover a distinct pattern: Modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting about the length of a long human life, each composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that last about twenty years and that always arrive in the same order. In The Fourth Turning, the authors illustrate these cycles using a brilliant analysis of the post-World War II period.

First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis—the Fourth Turning—when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.

The Fourth Turning offers bold predictions about how all of us can prepare, individually and collectively, for America’s next rendezvous with destiny.

Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam

Twenty years, ago, Robert D. Putnam made a seemingly simple observation: once we bowled in leagues, usually after work; but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolized a significant social change that became the basis of the acclaimed bestseller, Bowling Alone, which The Washington Post called “a very important book” and Putnam, “the de Tocqueville of our generation.”

Bowling Alone surveyed in detail Americans’ changing behavior over the decades, showing how we had become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and social structures, whether it’s with the PTA, church, clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues. In the revised edition of his classic work, Putnam shows how our shrinking access to the “social capital” that is the reward of communal activity and community sharing still poses a serious threat to our civic and personal health, and how these consequences have a new resonance for our divided country today. He includes critical new material on the pervasive influence of social media and the internet, which has introduced previously unthinkable opportunities for social connection—as well as unprecedented levels of alienation and isolation.

At the time of its publication, Putnam’s then-groundbreaking work showed how social bonds are the most powerful predictor of life satisfaction, and how the loss of social capital is felt in critical ways, acting as a strong predictor of crime rates and other measures of neighborhood quality of life, and affecting our health in other ways. While the ways in which we connect, or become disconnected, have changed over the decades, his central argument remains as powerful and urgent as ever: mending our frayed social capital is key to preserving the very fabric of our society.

The Gilded Age, Alan Axelrod

The Gilded Age—the name coined by Mark Twain to refer to the period of rapid economic growth in America between the 1870s and 1900—offers some intriguing parallels to our own time. Prolific historian Alan Axelrod tackles this subject in a fresh way, exploring “this intense era in all its dimensions. . . . This book will reveal it . . . as, truly, the overture of the ‘American Century.’” He also looks at how it presaged our current era, which many are calling the “Second Gilded Age.” Photographs, political cartoons, engravings, news clippings, and other ephemera help bring this fascinating period into focus.

Zconomy, Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa

Gen Z changes everything. Today’s businesses are not built to sell and market the way Gen Z shops and buys, or to recruit and employ Gen Z the way they find and keep jobs. Leaders need answers now as gen Z is the fastest growing generation of employees and the most important group of consumer trendsetters. 

The companies that quickly and comprehensively adapt to Gen Z thinking will be the winners for the next twenty years. Those that don’t will be the losers or become extinct.  Zconomy is the comprehensive survival guide on how leaders must understand and embrace Generation Z. 

Researched and written by Dr. Denise Villa and Jason Dorsey from The Center for Generational Kinetics, the insights in Zconomy are based on their extensive research, they’ve led more than 60 generational studies, and their work with more than 500 companies around the world.

In Zconomy, Dr. Villa and Dorsey answer: Who is Gen Z? What do employers, marketers, and sales leaders need to know? And, most importantly, what should leaders do now?

This is the critical moment for leaders to understand and adapt to Gen Z or become irrelevant. Gen Z is already reshaping the world of business and this change is only going to accelerate. Zconomy is the definitive manual that will prepare any executive, manager, entrepreneur, HR or marketing professional to successfully unlock the powerful potential of this emerging generation at this pivotal time.  

The Upswing, Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.

But we’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam’s most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

2030, Mauro F. Guillén

Once upon a time, the world was neatly divided into prosperous and backward economies. Babies were plentiful, workers outnumbered retirees, and people aspiring towards the middle class yearned to own homes and cars. Companies didn’t need to see any further than Europe and the United States to do well. Printed money was legal tender for all debts, public and private. We grew up learning how to “play the game,” and we expected the rules to remain the same as we took our first job, started a family, saw our children grow up, and went into retirement with our finances secure.

That world―and those rules―are over.

By 2030, a new reality will take hold, and before you know it:

– There will be more grandparents than grandchildren

– The middle-class in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will outnumber the US and Europe combined

– The global economy will be driven by the non-Western consumer for the first time in modern history

– There will be more global wealth owned by women than men

– There will be more robots than workers

– There will be more computers than human brains

– There will be more currencies than countries

All these trends, currently underway, will converge in the year 2030 and change everything you know about culture, the economy, and the world.

According to Mauro F. Guillen, the only way to truly understand the global transformations underway―and their impacts―is to think laterally. That is, using “peripheral vision,” or approaching problems creatively and from unorthodox points of view. Rather than focusing on a single trend―climate-change or the rise of illiberal regimes, for example―Guillen encourages us to consider the dynamic inter-play between a range of forces that will converge on a single tipping point―2030―that will be, for better or worse, the point of no return.

2030 is both a remarkable guide to the coming changes and an exercise in the power of “lateral thinking,” thereby revolutionizing the way you think about cataclysmic change and its consequences.


Look for more in the coming weeks.

Connect Better by Fast-Focusing on Listening

Many, if not most, leaders consider themselves good speakers. The basics are simple: leaders speak, their audience listens, and then they act on what was said.

Leaders also know that rarely happens, and that there’s really much more to it than that. While it may be easy to speak to groups of all sizes and on many diverse topics, one critical question remains: “Are we connecting with our audience?”

To fully connect with an audience, leaders need to understand “empathy.” While you may not equate the word empathy with excellent communication skills, it actually is the secret to connecting with your audience. 

When you are able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and try to see things from their point of view, their world, and their perspective, you will have a greater chance at both reaching and connecting with them.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

You made a great point — but did anybody hear it?

Probably not, warns high-stakes communication expert Paul Hellman. The average attention span has dropped to 8 seconds.

So whether you’re presenting to a large audience, meeting one-on-one, talking on the phone, or even sending an email, you’ve got to engage others fast, before they tune you out, maybe forever.

Your challenge: to get heard, get remembered and get results.

Through fast, fun, actionable tips, You’ve Got 8 Seconds explains what works and what doesn’t, what’s forgettable and what sticks. With stories, scripts, and examples of good and bad messages, the book reveals three main strategies to get heard in a noisy world:

  • FOCUS: Design a strong message–then say it in seconds.
  • VARIETY: Make routine information come alive. 
  • PRESENCE: Convey confidence and command attention.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

People discover unseen opportunities when they have a personal and empathic connection with the world around them.

Dev Patnaik

How easy is it for you as a leader to imagine yourself in the place of those you lead? Do you intuitively understand the lives and stories of your audience? That may be made easier by the fact that your audience most likely “looks” like you in many areas – socially, economically, and spiritually to name a few. But what if your audience is different than you?

How can you connect with people who aren’t like you?

Yes, it is easier to connect with other people who are like us, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t understand – and communicate – with people who are different from us.

Most messages, spoken or written, are designed from the speaker’s point of view. That’s upside down. Imagine you’re the audience. What would capture your attention?

The point is, your audience is probably not thinking about you. But to capture attention, you need to think about them. Be the audience.

Your audience, whether you are talking to 100 people at work or one person at home, has three questions, always the same.

Why should I listen (or read this)?

What exactly are you saying?

What should I do with this information?

To fast-focus your message, answer these three questions.

First Audience Question: Why Should I Listen

Fast-focus with a purpose statement.

A purpose statement is like a present. You immediately hook people with something they value. It’s a great way to state what you’re going to talk about and, more importantly, why. Why answers the audience’s question: “Why should we listen?”

Second Audience Question: What Exactly Are You Saying?

Fast-focus with your main message.

Third Audience Question: What Should I Do with This Information?

Fast-focus with a call to action.

A call to action spells out the next step. It’s usually about doing something. But if that doesn’t fit, the next stop could be to think something or feel something.

Paul Hellman, You’ve Got :08 Seconds

A NEXT STEP

Draw the following chart on a chart tablet.

With the chart and the following suggestions from author Paul Hellman, prepare your next presentation/message/communication with the Fast-Focus concepts.

  1. The Opening – The purpose statement is the hook that entices the audience to pay attention. The agenda statement that follows says how you’ll accomplish the purpose.
  2. The Body – If your audience could only remember one thing, what’s the one thing? Use a limited number of key points to develop the message.
  3. The Close – Close your presentation on a powerful note. What’s the next step? What should the audience do? If there’s nothing to do, then the call to action can also be what to think or what to feel.

Following the delivery of this presentation, pull together two-three associates and ask them to critique this presentation in terms of previous presentations on a similar topic. Listen with an open mind for possible areas of improvement.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 129-3, released October 2019


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

To Better Understand Gen Z, Take a Look Back

As a reminder for everyone, the “context” around you affects everything else.

In the case of this post:

  • My wife and I are Baby Boomers (born in late 50s)
  • My four children and their spouses are GenXers and Millenials (born between 1981 and 1992)
  • My six grandchildren are Gen Zers (born between 2008 and 2020)

Generational cohorts (like the above) are a source of never-ending curiosity for me. From being in the largest group (Boomers) to having kids at the end of one cohort (Gen X) to the beginning of the next (Millenials) to having grandchildren born in the middle of the next cohort (Gen Z), just observing and interacting with my immediate family has been fascinating.

Increasingly though, I am being drawn to GenZ; specifically, this generations’s defining moment.

And to no surprise, virtually everyone is pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the defining moment of GenZ.

As The Center for Generational Kinetics defines it, a defining moment:

Takes place at the right time in a generation’s coming of age experience. The event or external influence needs to occur at a formative time in a generation’s coming of age experience, which is usually an age range from childhood through early adulthood. The key is the generation needs to be old enough to deeply experience the event while at the same be in a young enough life stage where it can significantly impact their views, beliefs, and attitude toward their world and their future.

Creates a powerful, unforgettable emotional impact, usually tied to fear and uncertainty caused by the event and its aftermath. These moments tend to make a generation feel vulnerable and look at the world differently than they did before, such as the way 9/11 impacted Millennials or how the JFK assassination affected Baby Boomers. 

More from CGK:

For Gen Z, COVID-19 has upended almost every aspect of their life. For younger members of Gen Z, they no longer go to school with classmates, see their friends in-person, or work part-time jobs. Instead, they are confined to their home, with a parent or other family members, and trying to continue their education at a time when many schools do not have an effective distance learning program. These same Gen Zers are seeing their parents struggle financially, including job losses, inability to pay rent, and tension between adults within their household as everyone deals with this new reality and the close quarters of being quarantined.

Gen Zers from the class of 2020 in high school saw standardized testing canceled, no graduation ceremony, uncertainty about college options, financial pressure, and no ability to play competitive sports or drive academic achievements or progress that could change their future. These Gen Zers are telling us they worry if college will even take place in the fall. Will they move out of their family’s home this year? If college is all online, how will they have a traditional college experience? While the COVID-19 experience can vary widely based on our interviews with Gen Zers from different socioeconomic, geographic, and other factors, the result continues to be a real question mark about what will happen after their senior year of high school.

At the same time, Gen Zers who are in the workforce are disproportionately in the service industry, hourly workers, in entry-level jobs, or are young professionals as they are typically on the very front end of their careers. These same Gen Zers are often the first to get laid off or furloughed as many industries contract. Gen Z can also suffer from the “last hired, first fired” mantra of years past. Put all this together, and Gen Zers already in the workforce are feeling a massive reset at exactly the time they should be starting to build their independence and self-reliance. 

Gen Zers who are in college are often experiencing a hybrid of the newly upended work and education reality. Some colleges and trade schools have moved quickly to cancel all on-campus classes and move to online learning while others are struggling under the weight and scale of the change— as well as the practical limitations of specific learning activities, such as scientific lab access. Add to this mix the unknown about whether or not colleges will refund room and board, whether international students who had to go home will be able to return, and the overnight change of having tremendous freedom taken away as they move back in with their family. There is a lot for Gen Z college students to worry about besides just finishing their classes.

On top of Gen Z’s work and school impacts from COVID-19, add all of these significant stressors: the heavy external influence of daily death counts and mortality rates, fear of losing their parents, grandparents, or friends, and the endless social media echoing how bad the world is around them. It’s easy to see why COVID-19 is a Generation Defining Moment for Gen Z—and the impact gets deeper the longer the event is extended and the more uncertainty, fear, and difficulty it creates. 

from “The State of Gen Z 2019-2020,” The Center for Generational Kinetics

Wow – is that heavy, or what?

And yet, I have reason to hope. Reason based on the fact that while we may live in a very tumultuous time, and uncertainty is a constant, all this is not new.

It’s highly likely that some of the best understanding of the future can be gained by studying the past.

And that past reveals – going back hundreds of years, and a couple dozen generational cohorts – is that generations have a cyclical pattern.

What Gen Z is experiencing today – not the specifics, but broad understandings – can be unlocked by looking at a prior generation.

The farther you look back, the farther forward you are likely to see.

Winston Churchill

My grandchildren may well be shaped by circumstances and events like their great-grandparents, born in 1925-1942.

More to come!

Four Core Guest Experience Behaviors to Practice

First impressions are automatic – taken in and recorded by our senses, often registered for later recall. More often than not, they make an immediate impact on our decision to participate and to return – or not. We may not agree with it or not, but the consumer mentality of the world we live in has moved full force into our church world. Our churches don’t compete with the “world” so much as the experiences of the world.

As you live your life day in and out, you are living the life of a consumer.

  • Where do you consume?
  • Where do you shop?
  • Who provides service for you?
  • Most importantly, why?

You may stop at your favorite coffee shop for a good cup of coffee – and the conversations you have with the barista and the other regulars in the shop. Your supermarket always has good value and a wide selection of the food your family likes. Clothes from a particular shop just fit better – and the sales associates are always helpful with suggestions. The point is, you have established expectations of each place and the people who work there.

Is it any different for Guests and attendees at your church?

If your goal is to create a space and an experience that will positively impact people, you must first plan and evaluate it from the perspective of its quality. You start that process by examining the daily places and routines in the offices, retail, and recreation spaces of the people you are trying to reach. The homes they live in, the offices they work in and the stores they shop in all communicate a level of expectation they have for their space.

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the last time you truly had a great experience with a company as a consumer, an experience that captured your heart, soul, mind, and spirit. What about it was special? Call it “X” – that “je ne sais quoi” that makes something so special.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A by Steve Robinson

The longtime chief marketing officer for Chick-fil-A tells the inside story of how the company turned prevailing theories of fast-food marketing upside down and built one of the most successful and beloved brands in America.

During his thirty-four-year tenure at Chick-fil-A, Steve Robinson was integrally involved in the company’s steady then explosive growth from 184 stores and $100 million in annual sales in 1981 to more than 2,100 stores and more than $6.8 billion in annual sales in 2015. As a member of the marketing team and as chief marketing officer, Robinson was both a witness and participant in the company’s remarkable development into an indelible global success. Now he shares the story of Chick-fil-A’s evolution into one of the world’s most beloved, game-changing, and profitable brands. From the creation of the “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign to the decision to stay closed on Sundays to the creation of the company’s corporate purpose, Robinson provides a front-row seat to the innovative marketing, brand strategies, and programs that created a culture customers describe as “Where good meets gracious.” 

Drawing on his personal interactions with the gifted team of company leaders, restaurant operators, and Truett Cathy himself, Robinson explains the important traits that built the company’s culture and have sustained it through recession and many other challenges. He also reveals how every aspect of the company’s approach reflects an unwavering dedication to Christian values and to the individual customer experience. Written with disarming candor and revealing storytelling, Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A is the never-before-told story of a great American success.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The famous “My pleasure” response of Chick-fil-A team members arose from an experience by founder Truett Cathy in 2000. In 2003, Truett and his son Dan co-wrote the following leadership message, entitled, “My Pleasure”:

“My Pleasure” is more than just an operating standard and more than just a personal request. “My Pleasure” is an expression from the heart where team members, Operators, or staff members literally show that they want to go the extra mile – that they truly care about the other person. They have enough value in the other person to exceed expectations.

It was a transformative moment, charting a course to a place where a warm greeting would infuse every Chick-fil-A restaurant and create a culture of genuine hospitality.

As we began the journey to create an entirely new service model without the constraints of the fast-food tradition, we asked customers “What makes you feel most cared for? What made you want to come back to Chick-fil-A?”

More than 90 percent of guests answered, “When someone smiles at me, looks me in the eye, and lets me know I’m being cared for and treated with excellence. That’s above and beyond what I expect at a fast-food restaurant.”

If these were the desires of our guests, then we needed to package them in a way that made them easy for team members to remember. So we created the Core 4:

Create eye contact.

Share a smile.

Speak with an enthusiastic tone.

Stay connected to make it personal.

These were the four behaviors we wanted team members to extend whenever they were engaging a guest in a restaurant. When we packaged the request that way, it was amazing to see how teachable it was. Team members got it. The requirements were not lost among the other requirements in the quality guide.

We didn’t want to stop at “smiling and eye contact” and “my pleasure,” so we explored what we might add to take us into the second mile, and we selected three additional behaviors:

Carry eat-in meals to the table.

Check in with guests for any needs.

Carry large orders, such as Chick-fil-A trays, to the car.

These simple, proactive behaviors became our “recipe for service.” As the name implies, this recipe consists of ingredients that are as critical as the ingredients in any of our menu items.

Steve Robinson, Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A

A NEXT STEP 

It’s time for a field trip! If you are lucky enough to have a Chick-fil-A restaurant nearby, take your team to lunch. As you prepare to go, instruct the team to be on the lookout for the specific behaviors described above.

If you are not located near a Chick-fil-A, take your team to another local restaurant. As you prepare to go, instruct the team to be on the lookout for specific behaviors mentioned above that may or may not be present.

After lunch, gather your team together for a debrief session. On a chart tablet, list comments by your teams during their experience. Underline the positive ones and circle the neutral or negative ones.

After everyone has had a chance to list their comments, lead a discussion about how the experience may prove instructive for developing your own “recipe for service.” On a separate chart tablet, list the ideas of your team that might comprise your “recipe.”

Review the list, and agree on no more than five actions that you will put into practice immediately. Assign a champion to create and deliver the “recipe” to your hospitality team leaders, and work with the leaders to implement across all teams.

After a six-week period of following the “recipe,” bring all the team leaders together to evaluate, and if necessary, revise the “recipe.” Continue to follow the “recipe” for the next six months, and revisit it again at the end of that period.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 124-2, released August 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Leading Forward by Looking Back: The Leadership Lessons of Walt Disney

Courage is the main quality of leadership, in my opinion, no matter where it is exercised. Usually it implies some risk – especially in new undertakings. Courage to initiate something and to keep it going – pioneering and adventurous spirit to blaze new ways.   – Walt Disney

Walt Disney – and the company he founded in 1923 – was no stranger to adversity and even failure.

The setbacks, tough times, and even failures of Walt Disney are well-documented. In every case, he led the company bearing his name to greater success in spite of adversity.

Today is a sobering, disconcerting time to be a Cast Member of any Disney organization. In the last week I have had several conversations with both current and former Cast Members, and to a person, there has been one trait that stands out.

Optimism.

Even when it is hard to see in the increasing numbers of Cast Members laid off, the curtailment of operations, the postponement of work in progress, and the likely cancellation of future planning, optimism is the underlying strength of the Walt Disney Company.

So where did that come from?

Jim Korkis is a Disney historian and long-time writer and teacher about Walt Disney and the organization he created. Who’s the Leader of the Club: Walt Disney’s Leadership Lessons is a departure for Korkis in that his usual subject matter is about the culture and history of Disney, a topic which he is uniquely qualified to write about.

As a boy, he grew up grew up in Glendale, California, which just happened to be located next to Burbank – the home of the Disney Studios. Korkis was an inquisitive and undaunted fan of Disney who not only watched the weekly Disney television series but took the initiative to write down the names he saw on the end credits.

He matched passion with inquisitiveness and began to look for those names in the local phonebook. Upon finding one, he would call the individual up and ask them about their work. Many were gracious enough to invite Korkis to their homes where he spent hours being enthralled by their stories of their work at the Disney organization.

Fast forward decades, where you will find that Korkis relocated to Orlando FL to take care of aging parents. In his own words,

I got a job at Walt Disney World that included assisting with the professional business programs, where I met many executives who had worked with Walt Disney and been trained by him.

I was often called on to research, design and facilitate customized programs for different Disney clients like Feld Entertainment, Kodak, Toys “R” Us and more that touched on both the connections of the individual companies to Disney history, as well as how Walt did business.

I was tapped to do this work because of my knowledge of Walt Disney and his approach to business.

I got the opportunity to meet with some of Walt’s “original cast.” I was enthralled by their stories and experiences and took detailed notes. Hearing stories about how Walt led and how he expected others to lead with compassion, integrity and common sense made a huge impact on me.

Twenty years later, the result is Who’s the Leader of the Club.

Korkis goes to great lengths to use Walt Disney’s own words, from a variety of published and unpublished interviews, as well as the words of those who personally experienced him in action, to help elaborate and describe the basic concepts.

In doing so, we have delivered to us a refreshing breath of fresh air – a business book using the words and actions of a rare genius that are glaringly absent from most organizations today.

Five decades after Walt Disney’s death, his achievements and legacy continue to inspire new generations.

In my case, it’s actually to re-inspire old generations. As a Baby Boomer, I grew up with “The Wonderful World of Disney” as a weekly television show. As a child, I was taken to see most of the Disney films of the 60’s and early 70’s. As a teenager, I took myself – and then, once I became a father, took my family to see those movies. Though I only visited Walt Disney World once as a teenager, I maintained a fascination with the Disney organization that has continued to grow through the years.

In the early 2000s my vocational role as a consultant to churches took on a specific niche – a focus on guest experiences. That lead to a Disney immersion of research, books, films, on-site visits, and conversations with Disney Cast Members past and present. Over the past three years alone, I have spent over 70 days on Disney properties from coast to coast – and on the oceans. My Disney library numbers over 400 volumes – the oldest released in 1939; the newest coming hot off the press next week.

Vital to that immersion was the work of Jim Korkis – through his books and writings by, for, and about Walt Disney and the Disney organization.

By his own admission, Who’s the Leader of the Club was the most difficult book Korkis has ever written. That may be true from his perspective, but the words and stories flow off the page and into the reader’s conscience in an almost imperceptible manner.

Leaders of any organization would do well to settle in with Who’s the Leader of the Club, and be prepared for a story-filled journey of insight into one of the most creative geniuses of recent history.

Along with the stories the reader will find seven “lessons” about Walt Disney’s leadership. Best of all, Korkis concludes each of the “lesson” chapters with a one page checklist called “What Would Walt Do?” summarizing the key points in the lesson and a space to write notes.

Of course, when Korkis wrote the book, he could not have anticipated the  uncertainty caused by the disruption to the Disney “kingdoms” around the world by the pandemic.

Disney will emerge a greatly-changed organization – and future generations of families – and leaders – will benefit from it. After all, Walt Disney himself went through countless setbacks, and even failures, before the launch of the Walt Disney Company in 1923…

…and look what that has brought to the world in the almost-100 years since!

What are you waiting for? It’s time to join the “club!”

For more on the book by Korkis himself, see here.

Who's the Leader of the Club

Improve Your Ability to Connect with Others by Focusing Less on Yourself

Many, if not most, church staff leaders consider themselves good speakers. The basics are simple: leaders speak, their audience listens, and then they act on what was said.

Church leaders also know that rarely happens, and that there’s really much more to it than that. While it may be easy to speak to groups of all sizes and on many diverse topics, one critical question remains: “Are we connecting with our audience?”

To fully connect with an audience, leaders need to understand “empathy.” While you may not equate the word empathy with excellent communication skills, it actually is the secret to connecting with your audience. 

When you are able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and try to see things from their point of view, their world, and their perspective, you will have a greater chance at both reaching and connecting with them.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan

Simply Said is the essential handbook for business communication. Do you ever feel as though your message hasn’t gotten across? Do details get lost along the way? Have tense situations ever escalated unnecessarily? Do people buy into your ideas? It all comes down to communication. We all communicate, but few of us do it well. 

From tough presentations to everyday transactions, there is no scenario that cannot be improved with better communication skills. This book presents an all-encompassing guide to improving your communication, based on the Exec|Comm philosophy: we are all better communicators when we focus less on ourselves and more on other people. More than just a list of tips, this book connects skills with scenarios and purpose to help you hear and be heard. You’ll learn the skills to deliver great presentations and clear and persuasive messages, handle difficult conversations, effectively manage, lead with authenticity and more, as you discover the secrets of true communication.

Communication affects every interaction every day. Why not learn to do it well? This book provides comprehensive guidance toward getting your message across, and getting the results you want.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

All leaders aspire to be better communicators. And most times, leaders feel that better communication starts with them. While not wrong, it would be a mistake to think that the focus needs to be on ourselves.

If we put the focus on what the other person is trying to gain from our exchange, we will do a better job communicating, because we will select more pertinent information, drill down to the desire level of detail, and make the information we are sharing more accessible to our audience.

If we want to improve our ability to connect with others, to understand them and to be understood more clearly, the easiest and most effective way to do so is to focus less on ourselves and more on the other person.

This is the single most significant differentiator we can apply to our communication skills to improve our effectiveness.

Your message to the world is, of necessity, your message connecting you to the world.

Your Content: the substance of what you want to convey.

Your Oral Communication Skills: the way you convey your substance.

Your Written Communication Skills: the way you represent yourself when you’re not physically present.

Your Interactions: the settings in which you engage your audience, whether it’s an audience of one or one hundred or one thousand.

Your Leadership: the way you set the tone and relate to others.

Jay Sullivan, Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond

A NEXT STEP

Set aside some time for personal reflection on your ability to connect with others by focusing less on yourself and more on the other person.

Using the five statements above, rate yourself on a scale of one to five, where one equals “I really need help in this area” and five equals “I am consistent in this area.”

Use the following suggestions from author Jay Sullivan to improve in each of the areas above in which you scored yourself anything less than a three.

Your Content

  • Convey a clear message
  • Tell engaging stories
  • Organize your content

Your Oral Communication Skills

  • Make the most of your body language
  • Listen to understand
  • Deliver from notes and visuals
  • Respond to questions

Your Written Communication Skills

  • Edit for clarity
  • Structure your documents
  • Create reader-friendly documents
  • Write emails that resonate

Your Interactions

  • Conduct effective meetings
  • Delegate successfully
  • Share meaningful feedback

Your Leadership

  • Lead others with inspiration and influence
  • Show vulnerability

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 129, released October 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Looking Through the Generational Lens

One of the consistent lenses I use to view life through is that of generations.

It comes as a natural part of my curiosity of life, as I am interacting with 5 generational cohorts in my family: my parents and in-laws are from the GI Generation; I am a Baby Boomer; my oldest son and one daughter-in-law are Gen Xers; my other three children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law are Millennials; and my 6 grandchildren are Gen Zers. Even though we are spread out across three states (and occasionally, around the world) and do not get to interact as much as we would like, the personal level of generational differences is obvious.

Take the same dynamics as above – 5 generations – and move them into the institutional world, say a church setting, and it won’t be long till you have a generational collision.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, how do you deal with the fact that, for the first time in our history, we can have five separate and distinct generations working alongside each other in our churches? The 5th generation, born since the mid-2000’s, is not far behind in taking up a leadership role.

Generational differences are important, but it is all too easy to stereotype these differences. The only way we’ll ever build bridges between generations is to stop stereotyping and get to know who these generations really are and why they are that way.

An interesting book on the subject: Sticking Points – How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, by Haydn Shaw. Here’s a teaser:

For the first time in history, we have four different generations in the workplace (and five in families). These generations might as well be from different countries, so different are their cultural styles and preferences. Of the four approaches organizations can take to blending the generations, only one of them works today. Focusing on the “what” escalates tensions, while focusing on the “why” pulls teams together. Knowing the twelve sticking points can allow teams to label tension points and work through them—even anticipate and preempt them. Implementing the five steps to cross-generational leadership can lead to empowering, not losing, key people.

How many different generations do you regularly interact with?

How’s that going?

Encourage All Generations on Your Team to Connect Through Real Conversations

In 2020, 25 percent of the labor force will be over the age of 55 – and they’re not retiring anytime soon. These projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the US Department of Labor indicate that not only will Baby Boomers continue to work alongside their current Generation X and Millennial colleagues, but that they will still be around when Generation Z joins the workforce.

The result? A clash of cultures that will require a new management approach.

Gone are the days when people entered the workforce as young adults, worked until their late 50s, and then moved off into retirement while younger generations took their place. Instead, the average retirement age has steadily been creeping up in recent decades as older employees – in particular, the Baby Boomers – stay in the workforce either by choice or by necessity.

Of course, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are still reverberating across home, work, and church settings, so everything is up for grabs!

Before we dive into the discussion, here’s a brief recap of just who comprises the generational cohorts mentioned above. While there’s no set standard, the following descriptions are generally accepted:

  • Baby Boomers – born in the years 1946-1964, numbering about 76 million people
  • Generation Xers – born in the years 1965-1980, numbering about 66 million people
  • Millennials – born in the years 1981-1997, numbering just over 83 million people
  • Generation Zers – born in the years 1998-present, numbering over 80 million and still growing

THE QUICK SUMMARY – You Can’t Google It! The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work by Phyllis Weiss Haserot

Much of the learning, skills and perspective people of all ages need to succeed long-term in their careers is not found in data on the Internet, but rather in conversations and personal relationships with the people they work with.

Tech tools have trained us to search the Internet for answers to everything, but we can’t find most of the non-technical or non-data-based answers we seek there. Learning about perspectives, relationships and experiences comes best from conversations.

In most organizations there are three, four, or even five generations working together with differing expectations about how things are done and by whom. People of different generations are increasingly isolated physically, functionally, or emotionally from each other both by communication styles and media and lack of the perspective that would help them understand why people think and act as they do. You Can’t Google It! facilitates action to promote and foster cross-generational conversation in organizations on both the parts of management and the multi-generational teams that are increasingly the key to productivity, profitability and sustainability.

You Can’t Google It! is a tool to help organizations and individuals remove the stress, frustration, and negative energy that often arises from working with people of different generations, so they understand and are able to accomplish their common goals―faster and profitably. It is about the implications of different generations, and how to move towards closing that gap.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Author Phyllis Weiss Haserot pulls no punches in establishing the issue of cross-generational conversations:

  • As an established professional, do you question the work ethics of young employees and co-workers?
  • As a young professional, how do you deal with resistance to your ideas from Baby Boomers who think their experience and seniority mean they know it all?
  • Will your organization be threatened because key personnel will soon reach traditional retirement age?
  • Are you wondering how to transform intergenerational challenges into an asset for your organization?

Much of the learnings, skills, and perspectives that people of all ages need to succeed – especially in working with each other – are not found in data on the Internet but rather in conversations and personal relationships with the people they work with. The new multigenerational paradigm is meaningful cross-generational conversation.

GENgagementTM can be defined as the state of achieving harmony, mutual involvement and cooperation, flow, and ongoing absorption in work with people of different generations.

GENgagement means getting all of the generations to understand each other, their influences, and their worldview so they can work collaboratively, loyally, and productively.

It is integral to the mission of transforming workplaces into engaged and productive environments for solving problems and being great places to work. Equally important, it helps individuals and organizations develop closer rapport and loyalty bonds with clients and other external stakeholders – the bedrock of any mission-driven organization.

A satisfying and perennial recipe for GENgagement contains these ingredients as integral to the experience for all personnel:

Defining the big picture for everyone

Having a clear purpose and mission

Visioning – what achieving the mission and purpose will look like

Communicating the importance of each person’s role

Living a culture that respects the values of and promises to employees, clients, donors, alumni, etc. every day

Enabling multigenerational input to organization and and market strategy and service delivery

A sense of joy and continuing curiosity at work

Phyllis Weiss Haserot, You Can’t Google It! The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work

A NEXT STEP

Distribute the following questions from author Phyllis Haserot to your team in advance. After they have had time to read through them, gather the team for an extended conversation about each question.

  1. Help me understand your perspective on work and the marketplace outside of our organization. What factors influence your worldview, the attitude you bring to your work, and your interactions with colleagues?
  2. What would you like to see changed about how our work is done, and how can you help make it more effective? How important is hierarch to you? When is years of experience very important in your role, and when are other factors equally or more important?
  3. What is getting in the way of a more productive and satisfying working relationship? How can I as your teammate help you learn how best to work with me?
  4. What would you say are your core values? Do you think they are significantly different from my generation’s core values? How can we jointly overcome intergenerational tensions?
  5. What strategies for impact and influence at work can we learn from each other?

Use these conversations as a springboard to ongoing cross-generational conversations as a regular part of the leadership development process in your organization.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 127-3, released September 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<