What’s Shaping the Minds of This Year’s Freshman Class, the Class of 2021

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Today, the Mindset List of the Class of 2021 was released.

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds who:

  • Are the last class to be born in the 1900s, making them the last of the Millennials.
  • Are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, or a research library.
  • Have always had emojis to cheer them up.

For those who cannot comprehend that it has been 18 years since this year’s entering college students were born, they should recognize that the next four years will go even faster, confirming the authors’ belief that “generation gaps have always needed glue.”

Here are a few nuggets from this year’s Mindset Class for the Class of 2021. You must read the entire list here!

  • They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.
  • Amazon has always invited consumers to follow the arrow from A to Z.
  • They have always been searching for Pokemon.
  • By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.
  • Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  • Ketchup has always come in green.
  • The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.
  • Family Guy is the successor to the Father Knows Best they never knew.

You can find the rest of the list here.

Read it now.

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Establish High Expectations for Your Guest Experience Teams

What might be going through the minds of your Guests as they walk from the parking lot and into the worship environment of your church for the first time?

Are they nervous? Have they been on campus before? Is it obvious where to enter the building and which door leads into the sanctuary? Are they having a tough morning? Do they see anyone else? Did they have trouble finding a parking spot? Is God about to do something HUGE in their life?

Think of the last three experiences you had as a customer in a non-church environment – how did it go?

Probably not very well, according to studies done by Experience International.

Could it be the teams delivering the experience were only serving to their expectations?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Experience, by Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church

Bring Disney-level customer experience to your organization with insider guidance.

The Experience is a unique guide to mastering the art of customer service and service relationships, based on the principles employed at the renowned leader in customer experience – the Walt Disney Company. Co-Author Bruce Loeffler spent ten years at Disney World overseeing service excellence, and has partnered with Brian T. Church in this book, to show you how to bring that same level of care and value to your own organization.

Based on the I. C.A.R.E. model, the five principles of Impression, Connection, Attitude, Response, and Exceptionals give you a solid framework upon which to raise the level of your Guest experience. You will learn how to identify your welcoming systems issues and what level of Experience you are currently offering.You can then determine exactly what the “Guest Experience” should be for your organization, and the changes required to make it happen.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In a recent study of 500 organizations, Brian Church, co-founder of Experience International, polled the 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.

This same trend can be found in churches when it comes to welcoming our Guests to our church campuses.

What can churches do in order to provide more than just “good” or “average” levels of Guest experiences?

With regard to the overall experience created by your organization, it is incumbent upon every employee, manager, and executive to (1) know where they stand, (2) know where they want to be, and (3) have a plan and a process to help them improve.

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.

C – 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.

A – 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.

Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church, The Experience 

A NEXT STEP

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

I-Impression – To the Guest, your Guest ExperienceTeams 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.

Based on this principle, IMPRESSION, here are some developed actions that become a baseline standard for your Welcoming Team.

Use the following actions as an example for your hospitality teams:

• 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 reflects in your eyes as a smile. When you look Guests in the eye, it demonstrates 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.

Gather your welcome or hospitality team to review all five principles of the I. C.A.R.E. model and do the following:

1. Make application to the local church as modeled above for IMPRESSION

2. Develop three actions for the teams from each principle.

3. Practice for a few weeks, and then review your 15 actions making improvements or adjustments where necessary.

Share stories and note the difference in your Guest’s experience before and after implementing these expectations.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #20-2, published August 2015.


I’m proud to be a part of the Auxano team, where our 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches form the basis of the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here.


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Create a Compelling Culture of Hospitality

Do your greeters truly welcome, or do they simply open doors and hand out bulletins?

A common picture at many churches this weekend would look something like this: a couple of people – maybe even a literal couple – stand outside the church’s main entrance. Depending on the weather, they may actually be inside the doors. As people approach the door, they open it and give a brief “hello” or “good morning” or some other similar platitude. Across the lobby, at the doors to the sanctuary or auditorium or large gathering room used for worship, the scene is repeated. Only, this time, the doors are usually propped open and an usher is standing there with a stack of bulletins, giving them out as people enter.

After all, isn’t that the purpose of greeters and ushers? Don’t they have a job description that outlines what they do each weekend?

Danny Franks, Connections Pastor at Summit RDU, gives a brief and compelling argument that hospitality teams serve more than just a utilitarian purpose. While acknowledging the importance of system and process, he challenges us to look at the beauty of hospitality:

The beauty of guest services is that it serves as a signpost to the gospel. Our planning and strategizing and vision casting and volunteer recruiting may indeed reduce combustion points and increase efficiency, but that shouldn’t be the reason we do it. Guest services should ultimately point to the kindness of Jesus. Our hospitality should be a catalyst.

What about your church? Your hospitality teams, in whatever form and name you give them, are literally the first face of your church as guests engage your campus and worship environments. What kind of gospel-impression are they making? How are they developed?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – It’s My Pleasure, by Dee Ann Turner

Businesses are built by growing relationships with customers. Culture is created by the stories those relationships tell. Two of the most important differentiators of a business are its talent and its culture. Talent energized by a compelling culture will drive organizational success and provide innovative growth opportunities for both the business and the individual.

Based on her more than thirty years at Chick-fil-A©, most of which have been spent as Vice President, Corporate Talent, Dee Ann Turner shares how Chick-fil-A© has built a devoted talent and fan base that spans generations. It’s My Pleasure tells powerful stories and provides practical applications on how to develop extraordinary talent able to build and/or stimulate a company’s culture.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The title of the book used in this solution is no stranger to a large, and growing, segment of the U.S. population. Made popular by eager and energetic team members at Chick-fil-A© restaurants, it is their response to a customer saying thank you, or some variation of that phrase.

But underneath that phrase is much more. It not only represents a value established by Chick-fil-A© founder Truett Cathy, it is also instilled as a company value taking many shapes, and most importantly, reflects the culture of Chick-fil-A©.

And it’s a good place to begin taking a look at the culture of your hospitality teams.

Creating a strong, compelling culture requires intentionality and vision.

Culture is the soul of the organization. It is the way we envision, engage, and experience others within an organization. Culture defines the values and behaviors that are acceptable and expected. Culture can be an elusive concept to describe, but at Chick-fil-A, we call it living life together.

It is far easier to create a compelling culture from the beginning than to rebrand a struggling culture later, so it’s an essential beginning to any organization.

To build a compelling culture, your organization must take several steps:

  1. A compelling culture begins with a clear purpose for existing.
  2. A compelling culture must have a challenging mission.
  3. A compelling culture must have core values.
  4. A compelling culture has guiding principles.

It’s never too late to help your team or organization strengthen your culture. Start your strategy with the WHY through defining your purpose. Continue with the WHAT in developing your mission and then focus your efforts day in and day out on the HOW through constant commitment to your core values and guiding principles. With unwavering focus and discipline to the process, you can create a compelling culture for your organization.

Dee Ann Turner, It’s My Pleasure 

A NEXT STEP

The minute you follow instructions, you’re no longer an artist.

– Seth Godin

For our purposes, take the quote above to the next step: There’s an art to connecting with people as a part of a hospitality team. Yes, you have to understand what you do as a greeter or usher, but there is a more important WHY behind those actions.

On separate sheets of a chart tablet, list Dee Ann Turner’s four steps for creating a compelling culture listed above, one per sheet.

During a designated leadership team session set aside just for this exercise, work through each of the steps, listing the comments of your team in response to the steps.

After you have listed them, go back and get a group consensus for each step.

Now, extend these steps to your hospitality teams inserting the phrase “of our hospitality teams” and ranking each of the four steps with a 1 (not present at all) to a 5 (always present).

At the next opportunity, review each of the four steps and their rankings with your hospitality team leaders. First, celebrate those steps your team has identified with a 4 or 5 ranking, and encourage your leaders to share your celebration with their teams.

Next, brainstorm how steps with a 1, 2, or 3 ranking can be moved to a 4 ranking. List the responses, and challenge the leaders to take the top three in each group and work with their teams in moving this ranking up.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #46-2, published August 2016.


I’m proud to be a part of the Auxano team, where our 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches form the basis of the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here.


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

Wednesday August 9 would have been my father’s 90th birthday.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful instilled in me by my father.

Tomorrow it will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter, and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book summaries, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent consultation with a client, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about Guest Experiences. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

 

I call these my SUMS Remix Book Towers. These towers contain 218 books, representing 73 issues, one published every two weeks. The format of SUMS Remix is simple: one problem statement faced by churched leaders, 3 brief excepts from books that provide a solution to the problem, and ready-to-use applications for leaders to try out immediately.

With a two-week production cycle, and a two week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on 4 SUMS Remix issues, which means there are 12 books on my front burner.

And that’s just for SUMS Remix reading…

Then there’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets and Facebook posts), other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading.

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station and I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest services. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

Does Your Church Expect Guests, or Just Accommodate Visitors?

When it comes to churches, more often than not we accommodate visitors rather than truly expect Guests.

It may be a little thing to you, seeming like mere wordplay, but there is actually a powerful first impression that needs to change if your approach is to accommodate visitors on Sunday rather than to expect to have Guests at your church.

Do you have Visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor’s Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the worship experience? And on and on…

The first step in creating a memorable Guest experience is to remove the word “visitor” from your vocabulary, never to be used again. Think about it, what kind of person is a visitor at your house, as opposed to a Guest?

It’s a small thing to be sure. But often changing one small word in your church’s vernacular can reflect a substantial mental shift, impacting the entire experience of someone new. One word change can draw someone back the next weekend, and one word can begin to close the proverbial back door of your church.

What would it look like to expect Guests this Sunday?

Guests come to your church, looking for a warm greeting, a smiling face, and an experience carefully crafted to welcome them and point them to Christ. This type of expectation does not require anything phony, manipulative, or in-your-face; just leaders who will welcome them as Guests with the most sincere, energizing, and loving experiences they can.

When it comes to understanding and welcoming Guests, the Disney organization has long been the “gold standard” – the best of the best. Instilled by Walt Disney in 1955 at the opening of Disneyland, expanded over the decades since at locations around the world, and refined today as both an art and a science, the Disney approach to Guest experiences provides a wealth of information that can help your church not just “accommodate visitors,” but to expect Guests.

 

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Be Our Guest, by the Disney Institute

Exceeding expectations rather than simply satisfying them is the cornerstone of the Disney approach to customer service. Be Our Guest outlines proven Disney best practices and processes for generating customer loyalty. One visit to a Disney park reveals that their Guest Experience extends beyond the front gates, and into the heart and mind of every employee at every level.

Be Our Guest takes you behind the scenes to help you learn new and creative ways to create and deliver a world-class Guest Experience.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

“Be Our Guest” has been the invitation the Disney organization extends to people long before the song from Beauty and the Beast became a box office hit. It underscores an important element in the Disney vocabulary that customers are not referred to as customers or visitors, but rather as Guests. In the Disney nomenclature, the word “Guest” is capitalized and treated as a formal noun. It takes little effort to extend this line of thinking to your church:

What’s the difference between treating someone like a visitor, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We clean up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs. We even open the front door for them – every time.

Does your church expect Guests, or just accommodate visitors? How does Guest expectation extend beyond the front doors on a Sunday morning, but even into the office suite on a Thursday afternoon?

Realizing that God is bringing Guests to your church has to be the starting point, the foundation on which all else is built. Exceeding Guest expectations is the standard call to duty for every leader at every level and on every day.

At Disney, every leader at every level and on every day is a part of the Guest Services Team.

Exceeding Guest’s expectations is Disney’s service strategy, and paying attention to every detail is the tactic by which it is accomplished.

Disney’s Quality Service Compass encapsulates the organization-wide model that demonstrates Quality Service. It is the production process through which practical magic is created. In its essence, the compass can be used to create a shared vision of service that aligns the major elements that every organization shares – its people, infrastructure, and processes – in a cohesive, comprehensive effort to deliver that vision.

The Quality Service Compass has four main points centered on our service objective: to exceed Guest expectations.

Guestology – the art and science of knowing customers.

 

Quality Standards – establishing the criteria for actions necessary to accomplish the service strategy, and the measures of Service Quality.

 

Delivery Systems – the systems that deliver service: employees, the setting, and processes.

 

Integration – combining and aligning delivery systems, creating a matrix to troubleshoot problems and benchmark practices.

– Disney Institute, Be Our Guest

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

At your next leadership team meeting, review the four points of Disney’s Quality Service Compass outlined above. Using the introductory questions suggested below, ask, “What is working within our Welcoming Teams?” “What is missing or confused?”

Guestology: Understand your Guest Profile

  • Do you know who your Guests are? Do you collect basic demographic information from Guests? What does a study of the last 12 months of this information reveal about your Guests?
  • Do you collect additional information about your Guests (through a website survey, etc.? Do you know about their attitudes, lifestyles, values, and opinions? What does a study of the last 12 months of this type of information reveal about your Guests?

Integration: Extend your mission to the Guest Services teams

  • How can you extend your church’s mission so that your Guest Services teams understand how their role is in alignment?
  • How is your mission seen through your Guest Services teams by the Guests they serve?

Standards: Define Guest Service

  • Do you have service quality standards that ensure the consistent delivery of Guest services?
  • Do your Guest Services standards reflect the values of your church?
  • Do your Guest Service teams use the standards as filters through which they prioritize the actions that contribute to a memorable Guest Experience?

Delivery: Establish systems that welcome Guests

  • Your Guest Service Team Members are the first and most important part of your Guest Service delivery system. They are the heart and soul of your Guest Experience. How do you select, train and evaluate your team members? What steps have you taken to create and maintain
a culture of hospitality that nurtures your team members and encourages them to deliver a memorable Guest Experience?
  • How does your Environment (the physical and virtual resources of your organization) contribute to the delivery of a memorable Guest Experience? Do you regularly evaluate your setting?
  • Do you have a Process (the various series of operations used to deliver a memorable Guest Experience) that your Guest Service Teams understand and follow? Is this process regularly evaluated and improved as needed?

Finally, lead everyone in the meeting to identify one next step to take in THEIR ministry area or leadership to welcome Guests.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #20, published August 2016.


I’m proud to be a part of the Auxano team, where our 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches form the basis of the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here.


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

How to Build a Front Line-Focused Organization

Smart organizations win by trusting their people.

In Judgment on the Front Line, authors Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy assert that too many organizations do too little to tap into the intelligence, creativity, and experience of their frontline workers.

Their thesis – supported by interviews with over twenty organizations – has been that organizations that have a sincere desire to maximize the contribution of all their employees need to invest in the development of good judgment among their people who occupy the frontline positions, where every organization most closely touches its customers and community.

Judgment on the Front Line delivers a practical process that will transform organizations of all sizes – even churches – by transforming the organizational dynamic from an increasingly outmoded hierarchical management style to one that fosters more trust and investment in frontline employees.

Doing so requires reverse engineering the organization from the front line back to headquarters, creating systems, structures, and organizational roles that are designed to support those who serve the customer.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Judgment on the Front Line, by Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy

Front line associates who deal directly with customers are the face of any organization. Not only do they have the most impact on how a brand is perceived, but they are also the most valuable source of insight into what customers want and how to give it to them.

Management experts Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy have spent years partnering with CEOs as they try to transform their organizations, which often entails working with leaders from top to bottom to help thousands of associates align with the organization’s vision.

Judgment on the Front Line shows how to build a front line-focused organization. DeRose and Tichy offer a five-step process that helps leaders identify how to generate dynamic customer innovation at the front line, and they give powerful examples of front line leadership in action.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Five-Step Process for Building the Front Line-Focused Organization

  • Step 1: Connect Front Line to the Customer – senior leaders set expectations for how the front line connects with customers.
  • Step 2: Teach People to Think for Themselves – the front line needs a method and language for solving complex issues.
  • Step 3: Experiment to Implement – frontline personnel see opportunities to create new products and services.
  • Step 4: Break Down the Hierarchy – liberating frontline capacity provides more time for thinking and innovation.
  • Step 5: Invest in Frontline Capability – failure to get the right talent will undo even the best efforts to create a front-line focused organization. 

> Starting at the Top

Building a front line-focused organization requires top-down support

  • Senior leaders set expectations for how the front line connects with customers.
  • Top leaders must clearly define the scope of frontline judgment authority.

Shaking up leadership at the top

  • Senior leaders may be the slowest to embrace change to a front line-focused organization.
  • Adapting frontline solutions locally requires organizational support and resources.

> Teaching People to Think

Accessing frontline intelligence requires teaching problem-solving skills

  • The front line needs a method and language for solving complex issues.
  • Decision-making can’t occur at the front line if people don’t know how to think critically.

Leaders must articulate, align, and refine the problem-solving methods

  • Common frameworks and language reduce hierarchy and enable frontline action.
  • Developing judgment skills requires experiential training, tools, and strong support.

> Experiment to Innovate on the Front Line

Frontline innovation ideas are an untapped reservoir of growth potential

  • Frontline personnel see opportunities to create new products and services
  • Most organizations lack a methodology for collecting and testing frontline ideas.

A culture of experimentation creates growth and commitment

  • Frontline leaders grow as the put their ideas into action.
  • When employees experiment, they emotionally commit to their customers and coworkers.

> Breaking Down the Hierarchy

Reducing hierarchy liberates frontline capacity

  • Hierarchies proliferate rules and bureaucracy that bog down the front line.
  • Liberating frontline capacity provides more time for thinking and innovation.

Hierarchies don’t disappear overnight

  • The more entrenched the hierarchical mind-set, the more radical the action required.
  • The ultimate goal is creating meaningful collaboration at all levels.

> Investing in Frontline Capability

Rigorous selection and training is critical to building commitment

  • Failure to get the right talent will undo even the best efforts to create a front line-focused organization.
  • Up-front investment in hiring can break the cycle of employee turnover.

Frontline supervisors create local environments that retain talent

  • Frontline supervisors lead most of an organization’s employees yet receive the least training.
  • Great frontline supervisor unleash employees and increase commitment.

Front Line Teams are uniquely positioned to create value in your organization. Are you doing everything you can to help them  – and the whole organization – succeed?

  • Generating value – your team can offer new ideas based on first-hand dialogue with Guests about their needs
  • Solve problems – when your frontline team is free to exercise its judgment to make good decisions for the Guest, they can solve problems on the spot
  • Avert crises – frontline teams know where the trouble spots are, and can help your organization avoid disasters by providing early warnings

More than simply asking the key questions, it is time for leaders to create organizational structures and systems that implicitly trust those at the front line – who often earn the least yet do some of the most difficult and frustrating jobs – to exercise good judgment, get closer to customers, and day in and day out, deliver great results for their organizations.

>> Excerpt taken from SUMS 33, published February 2014.


For most churches, the front line consists of your hospitality teams. Auxano has drawn from 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches to bring you the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here. Just for readers of this blog, a special discount: use the code Friend15 to receive a discount of almost $300. Hurry! This discount expires July 31.


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Create an Inner Circle to Help Develop Your Leadership

It has been said that the people close to us determine our level of success. Moses learned this lesson in the wilderness and so implemented a plan to put competent, godly leaders next to him. David had his mighty men. Paul had Barnabas, John Mark, Timothy, Titus, and Phoebe.

When ministers decide to be leaders, they cross a very important line. They no longer judge themselves solely by what they can do themselves; the truest measure of the impact of a leader is found in what those around them accomplish. In God’s economy, our personal development happens most as we are developing those He has called around us.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Developing the Leaders Around You, by John Maxwell

Why do some people achieve great personal success, yet never succeed in building a business or making an impact in their organization? John C. Maxwell knows the answer. “The greatest leadership principle that I have ever learned in over twenty-five years of leadership,” says Maxwell, “is that those closest to the leader will determine the success level of that leader.”

It’s not enough for a leader to have vision, energy, drive, and conviction. If you want to see your dream come to fruition, you must learn how to develop the leaders around you. Whether you’re the leader of a non-profit organization, small business, or Fortune 500 company, Developing the Leaders Around You can help you to take others to the limits of their potential and your organization to a whole new level.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

There are no Lone Ranger leaders. If you’re alone, you’re not leading anybody. Think of any highly effective leader, and you will find someone surrounded by a strong inner circle. Hire the best staff you can find, develop them as much as you can, and hand off everything you possibly can to them. When you have the right staff potential skyrockets. You see, every leader’s potential is determined by the people closest to him. If those people are strong, then the leader can make a huge impact. If they are weak, he can’t.

Most leaders have followers around them. They believe the key to leadership is gaining more followers. Few leaders surround themselves with other leaders, but the ones who do bring great value to their organizations. And in the process, their burden is lightened and their vision is carried out and enlarged.

An inner circle of leaders becomes a sounding board to me. As a leader, I sometimes hear counsel that I don’t want to hear but need to hear. That’s the advantage of having leaders around you – having people who know how to make decisions. Followers tell you what you want to hear. Leaders tell you what you need to hear.

I have always encouraged those closest to me to give advice on the front end. In other words, an opinion before a decision has potential value. An opinion after the decision has been made is worthless.

Leaders around you possess a leadership mindset. Fellow leaders do more than work with the leader, they think like the leader. It gives them the power to lighten the load. This becomes invaluable in areas such as decision-making, brainstorming, and providing security and direction to others.

John Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You

 A NEXT STEP

The following list of characteristics has been adapted from study material in John Maxwell’s Leadership Bible. The author developed the acrostic below for use when developing an inner circle.

On a chart table, spell the word “Inner Circle” down the left hand side of the page. After reading the following qualities, write down the name or names of individuals you know who exhibit those characteristics.

Influential – Everything begins with influence. If you want to extend your reach, you must attract and lead other leaders.

Networking – Who people know is just as important as what they know.

Nurturing – People who care about each other take care of each other. Your inner circle should prop you up.

Empowering – The members of your inner circle should enable you to achieve more than you could alone.

Resourceful – Inner-circle members should always add value.

Character-driven – The character of an inner-circle member matters more than any other quality.

Intuitive – While every person is naturally intuitive in his area of gifting, that doesn’t mean everyone uses his or her intuition.

Responsible – Those closest to you should never leave you hanging. If you ask them to carry the ball, they must follow through.

Competent – You can’t get anything done if your people can’t do their jobs. You don’t need world-class performers exclusively, but all of your inner-circle people must perform with excellence.

Loyal – Loyalty alone does not make people candidates for your inner circle, but lack of loyalty definitely disqualifies them. Don’t keep anyone close to you whom you cannot trust.

Energetic – Energy covers a multitude of mistakes, for it helps a person to keep coming back, failure after failure.

After you evaluate this list, ask yourself:

  • “How can I sharpen these characteristics?”
  • “With whom has God given me influence for this season?”
  • “Who on this list can teach me and inform my leadership?”

Now identify 2-3 members of your inner circle and commit to spend at least three hours over the next three months developing them with intentional conversations, observation, and measurable goal setting.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 44-1, published July 2016.


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 “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.