Activity is Not Necessarily Accomplishment

Deep in the countryside of Tuscany, there is an olive grower who makes exceptional olive oil. When asked why it was so good, he simply said:

“There are two reasons – When I pick and what I pick. Nothing else matters.”

He begins his harvest in September, when common sense suggests that your trees should be left alone. In September, the olives are green and hard. Most people pick in late November or December.

“Ten to twelve weeks later, the olives are swollen and full of juice. The more juice you get, the more oil you can bottle, the more money you make. But for me, that olive is bloated – pulpy and full of water. As a result, the oil is thin. You have volume, but no intensity. For me, intensity is everything. For me, less is more. My oil is very, very intense.”

Reading this story from Heat, by Bill Buford, I am reminded of John Maxwell’s Law of Priorities:

Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.

In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul advises us to:

  • Analyze our lifestyles (5:15)
  • Utilize the present (5:16)
  • Prioritize what is important (5:17)

Every leader, every day, gets the same amount of time.

Not every leader gets the same results.

Priority = intensity

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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.

It All Begins with Hospitality

Church leaders need to understand the fact that our competition is not other churches; it’s places that provide WOW! Experiences and to which guests compare our churches.

While that may seem a negative, it can also be turned into a positive by LEARNING from those top-notch places and their leaders.

Take for instance Danny Meyer, the founder and co-owner of multiple top-rated New York restaurants and author of a book entitled “Setting the Table.” Subtitled “The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” Meyer shares the lessons he’s learned while developing the winning recipe for doing the business he calls “enlightened hospitality.” They are lessons that the church can learn from. Here’s a sample:

Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two prepositions – for and to – express it all.

Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes it recipient feel. Service is a monologue – we decide how we wan to do thins and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.

People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. Similarly, the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice. The overarching concern to do the right thing well is there or it isn’t.

Eleven Madison Park, founded by Danny Meyer

Eleven Madison Park, founded by Danny Meyer

What a great learning environment for churches wanting to improve their Guest Services team!

Last week, I posted a series on hospitality based on Le Bernardin, the famous restaurant in NYC owned by Chef Eric Ripert. If this post resonated with you, click on the links below for more.

Creating experiences of hospitality allow for positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. They will help you connect to people coming in your door week in and week out.

How will you practice hospitality in your church this weekend?

 

photo courtesy Julian, CC

9 Secret Sauces That Will Make Your Guest Experience Unique

Stock…

…the foundation for all classical French cooking.

At the CIA (that’s Culinary Institute of America), you start off a three-year education by learning how to peel vegetables and prepare a basic stock. You don’t do it once – you do it every day during the three-week rotation of the first class. Students move on after the first three weeks, but will continue to use the stock prepared by the next class of new students. Every three weeks, a new rotation of prospective chefs learn how to prepare stock.

A great stock is judged by:

  • Flavor
  • Clarity
  • Color
  • Body
  • Aroma

The perfect stock has what is referred to as a “neutral” flavor. This is a kind way of saying it doesn’t taste like anything you’re used to eating or would want to eat. But you can do a million different things with a great stock because it has the remarkable quality of taking on other flavors without imposing a flavor of its own. It offers its own richness and body anonymously. When you reduce it, it becomes its own sauce starter. You can add roux to stock and create a demi-glace, and with a demi-glace, you can make over a hundred distinct sauces that define classic French cooking.

What’s your stock?

Personally. Organizationally. However you want to define it.

 What’s that basic “thing” you are, have, or do that makes everything else come together to make things happen?

 >> Learn to make a basic stock, and the possibilities become endless.

Chip Bell knows how to make stock too – or as he calls it, the secret sauce of awesome experiences.

Bell, a well-known consultant and trainer to some of the largest countries in the world, has just released his newest book, “Sprinkles.” SprinklesSubtitled Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, it delivers a delicious journey to innovative service.

According to Bell, there are nine “secret sauces” that form the basis for a customer experience that is served gourmet style:

  • Amazement
  • Animation
  • Abundance
  • Ambiance
  • Adoration
  • Allegiance
  • Alliance
  • Accessible
  • Adventure

Just like a chef takes a basic sauce and makes it into the foundation of an exquisite meal, your organization can take the “secret sauces” Bell writes about in Sprinkles and deliver a “value-unique” service that creates an unexpected, enchanting experience for those you serve.

Bon Appetite!

A Successful End (to whatever you’re doing) Starts by Beginning with Everything in Its Place

Yesterday, we saw Poetry in Motion by looking at efficiency – today, it’s all about a successful end to whatever you’re doingby starting with everything in its place.

In the culinary world, it’s called “mis en place.”

French for “put in place”, this is what allows all the actions described yesterday to take place. It is the hours of work that start before the first meal is fired: washing, cutting, peeling, pre-cooking, weighing, portioning, and positioning of all the ingredients that go into the wonderful final product.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

Taken broadly, it is the slow simmering of the soups for the night; the baking and preparation of individual items that comprise the wonderful complexity of desserts. It even goes to the preparation of the wood fires that will later cook the wonderful meats that anchor the meal.

Mise en place doesn’t get any attention in the final review, but you wouldn’t have anything without it. It’s all those things that aren’t noticed till they’re not there. It’s the sauté’ chef reaching in the cooler knowing that he has all the right ingredients to prepare the dish just called out. It’s the pastry chef preparing 3 different kinds of ice cream for the desserts on the menu. It’s the fry chef making sure the oil is fresh and hot, ready for use. It’s the salad chef having everything ready to assemble a variety of salads from the same few ingredients, differing in presentation and dressing.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

It’s the dishwasher, knowing if he doesn’t get the dirty pans out and clean ones back, the whole kitchen grinds to a halt.

Mise en place is all about the knowing everything that is required to produce the finished meal, and making sure all the ingredients are ready to use when needed. It’s about thinking through things before they happen, so that when they happen, you’re one step ahead.

It’s all about being prepared.

Our evening at Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen was delightful on so many levels. The front of house staff were gracious in working with me to make sure we could have a front row seat to all the action; the wait staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive; the chefs prepared wonderful food while displaying their skills to an audience.

But it was more than just a meal – it was a demonstration of excellence from top to bottom, one that any organization could learn from.

Whatever your end product is – a worship experience, sermon, leadership class, playtime with kids, etc.

…it all starts with making sure you have everything in its place before beginning.

Poetry in Motion: Efficiency Defined by a Fine Dining Experience

Recently my wife, son, and I were treated to absolute poetry in motion. A group of trained professionals were executing their craft, each one knowing his specific responsibilities as well as supporting the rest of his team. Months – no, years – of practice was evident in their graceful moves, focused intensity, and clarity of purpose. We had front row seats, and the show was excellent.

No, we weren’t watching a ballet or dance company, or an athletic event – we were eating dinner, celebrating a special occaision.

This was not just any restaurant, but Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, where the “open kitchen” concept reigns.

 

Roosters3

courtesy of Rooster’s Kitchen

The kitchen is right in the center of the restaurant, and we had reservations in the prime observation spot – the Chef’s Counter – where all the action was just a few feet away.

The food was excellent: fresh ingredients, prepared in such a way to bring out the natural flavors, served by a warm and friendly wait staff. But this isn’t about the food, as good as it was. It’s about two fundamentals of the restaurant business that can be applied to your organization: efficiency and mise en place. Today let’s look at efficiency; tomorrow, mise en place.

Rooster’s doesn’t have a large kitchen, but it is designed to function with efficiency. The sauté station anchors one half of the center; this is where constant motion is an understatement. Sauté is where the chef is juggling eight or ten pans at a time, making flames, making things jump.

Around the corner at the rear of the kitchen is the namesake of the restaurant: a wood fired grill and oven. The chef here grills all the meat dishes called out, sending them to the front to be paired with side dishes – some from the saute’ station, others from the other half of the kitchen center – the salad, soup, and fry station. To call these dishes “sides” is an injustice – any one of them (we had five among the three of us) could stand alone as a signature dish.

The front area is grand central station: here the expediter calls out the orders as they come in, checks on orders in progress, and makes the final touches as they head to the guest. The final touch is important – it may be the finishing touch of sauce, or a garnish, or a quick wipe of an errant splatter on the plate.

The corners of the kitchen: pastry chef, preparing delicacies to finish out a wonder dinner; meat chef, taking larger cuts prepared on the grill and finishing them to order; and the support staff, taking out dirty pans and bringing in clean ones and bowls, plates, cups and saucers for the chefs to cook and plate food.

A picture doesn’t do this justice – you would have to have a video camera to catch all the movement involved above. But I want to drive home the point:

courtesy of Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy of Rooster’s Kitchen

It’s all about efficiency: no wasted movement.

Everyone in the kitchen knew what was going on, what their job was, and how they can support the rest of the team as needed. The pastry chef would slip around the sauté station, helping the chef plate items as they came off the stove. Once, she literally held out a plate to her back, out of sight, and the chef plated the dish, while she was moving another one with her other hand.

The sauté chef helped out on the grill; the expediter helped out on saute’; the pastry chef started an item on the grill when that chef had to step away for a moment.

That is more than efficiency – it’s the solid work of a team that knows individual and team roles, to the point that they are one.

Can you say the same about the teams in your organization?

Read Part 2 here.

The Adams Family Pizza Quest Comes to an End…

Pizza may not fit your definition of comfort food, but it comes close in our family.

A semi-tradition for many years in our family has been Friday Night Pizza and a movie, usually consisting of whatever local pizza store (almost always one of the national chains) had the best deal going on. On the same trip, we would go by the video store and pick up a DVD to watch.

Netflix and then Amazon Prime changed part of the equation, but the pizza part remained intact.

As the years went by and our family dwindled, pretty soon it was just Anita and I – functional empty nesters, as our youngest son was a full-time culinary student and worked in a restaurant, or was out with friends. Along with that change came a realization that there were a lot of pizza restaurants in and around Charlotte – 371 by my count on Urban Spoon in 2011. I pondered (and my wife Anita humored me): what if we go out for pizza on Friday nights, and try a different place every time?

Thus was born the Adams Family Pizza Quest.

pizza

I lead the Adams Family Pizza Quest, a weekly pursuit of the quintessential pizza. My family and I  (well, mostly me; the rest just humor me) utilize a 5-slice rating system that measures menu selection, crust, base ingredients, toppings, overall pizza goodness and ambiance of the restaurant. I actually have a nerd version that has 35 points, but after a round of boos and garlic knots thrown in my direction I hastily retired it.

After almost three years of weekly excursions, only 1 pizza has earned 5 slices. That would be The Sicilian – Red sauce, sausage, cappicola, salami, oregano, basil, pecorino-romano and fontina – accompanied by an Italian Chopped Salad, from WaterStone Wood Fired Pizza in Lynchburg, VA. Anita and I stumbled on it by accident, walking downtown along the river.

Several others have earned 4 1/2 slices, many have earned 4, and a lot have earned 3. We’ve only encountered a few 2 slices, and in all honestly, not a single 1 slice rating (maybe we just naturally steered away from those joints).

Our favorite local pizza place is Zio’s Casual Italian off Providence Road. It was one of our early discoveries, earning a strong 4 3/4 slices; somehow we have found our way back there several times, taking friends who haven’t heard of it.

Other top restaurants are Mama Riccotta’s, Luisa’s Brick Oven, The Brickhouse Tavern, and Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven.

I could go on, but I won’t, as the Adams Family Pizza Quest comes to a close (sort of). After over 100 different visits in the greater Charlotte area, and a few across the country, my sense of adventure for pursuing the perfect pie has waned. Mind you, my taste for pizza hasn’t – I’m sure we will still be eating pizza on a regular basis.

But, it’s a new year, and time for new adventures.

Stay tuned…