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?

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Customer Service is Never Out of Date – or Out of Place

Epiphany at the Gas Pump

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

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

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

My father.

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

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

It seems that good service is never out of date.

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

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

And a closing reminder:

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

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

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

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

 

The Influence of a Father: Servanthood

The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.

–  Eugene B. Habecker

 My father was born in 1927 into a rural family, the youngest of six children. It was the eve of the Great Depression, and he was helping out on the farm from an early age. As soon as he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After his discharge, he came back to Tennessee and built a gas station, which he operated for 44 years. His life was that of hard work, long hours, and low pay.

When you think of servanthood, do you envision it as an activity performed by relatively low-skilled people at the bottom of the positional totem pole? If you do, you have a wrong impression.

Servanthood is not about position or skill – it’s about attitude.

What does it mean to embody the quality of servanthood? John Maxwell thinks a true servant leader:

  1. Puts others ahead of his own agenda
  2. Possesses the confidence to serve
  3. Initiates service to others
  4. Is not position-conscious
  5. Serves out of love

All week long I have been reflecting on the life of my father by looking at some of his character qualities including passion and integrity. This final post is a look at servanthood, and that quality, among all others, epitomized my father.

My father would not describe himself as a leader, but he was. He led quietly – to the high school boys who worked for him over the course of four decades, to the customers who came to him looking for more than just gasoline, to the church he loved and served all of his life. He was a servant leader.

Good leaders do good things. Their lives matter. Servant leaders do great things. They help others’ lives to matter by serving them. Servant leadership is great leadership.

If you want to lead on the highest level, be willing to serve on the lowest.

H. D. Adams

08/09/1927 – 02/25/2012

He made a living by what he got; he made a life by what he gave.

reflections following my father’s death two years ago, and revisited now as my mother begins a major transition in her lifestyle

The Influence of a Father: Integrity

My father had his act together.

Over the last few decades, various surveys and case studies have consistently identified honesty or integrity as the most desired characteristic in leaders. It makes sense: if people are going to follow someone, they want assurance that their leader can be trusted. They want to know that he will keep promises and follow through with commitments.

As I continue to spend this week looking back at the life of my father in his various roles of father, businessman, church leader, friend, and community leader, I have been reminded time and again that his actions matched up with his words: if he said it, it was as good as done.

My father was a product of a time and place (the Depression in the South) in which honestly was a common trait. It had to be for people to get along and survive. But I think it went beyond that: he knew and practiced the combination of ethics, morality, and integrity.

  • Ethics refers to a standard of right and wrong
  • Morality is a lived standard of right and wrong
  • Integrity means to be sound, complete, and integrated

A person can have a high or low ethic; they can also be moral or immoral. Those are choices. But if you want to have integrity, you must choose your ethics and live to match them.

My father followed the high and holy ethics of the Scriptures. By living and working by those biblical standards, he made a commitment to a certain morality. His integrity demonstrated that his actions matched his words. There is no substitute for a man of consistent Christ-like character.

Integrity doesn’t demand perfection. Even the most ethical and moral committed person can blow it. Integrity doesn’t guarantee a perfect life, but it does require an integrated life. People with integrity have a moral center that integrates their behavior. When they violate that moral center, they recognize that violation as sin and treat it as an aberration. They confess it, make restitution, seek forgiveness, and reconfirm the standard.

Where do you find yourself on the integrity scale?

Integrity is something that is earned over time. It does not come automatically with the job or the title. It begins early in our lives and careers. People tend to assume initially that someone who has risen to a certain status in life, acquired degrees, or achieved significant goals is deserving of their confidence. But complete trust is granted (or not) only after people have had the chance to get to know more about the person. The integrity foundation is built brick by brick.

The integrity of leadership is what determines whether people will want to give a little more of their time, talent, energy, experience, intelligence, creativity, and support.

High integrity earns intense commitment from others. When people perceive their leaders to have high credibility, they are significantly more likely to:

  • Be proud to tell others they are part of the organization
  • Feel a strong sense of team spirit
  • See their own personal values as consistent with those of the organization
  • Feel attached and committed to the organization
  • Have a sense of ownership for the organization

Wouldn’t you like to be the leader of an organization like that?

Get your act together.

 

reflections following my father’s death two years ago this week, and revisited now as my mother begins a major transition in her lifestyle

The Influence of a Father: Passion

My father never worked a day in his life.

Do not misunderstand me: my father was a hard worker. He was born on the eve of the Great Depression, the youngest of six children. He grew up on the grounds of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, where his father was the stock keeper. He moved a couple of times before entering high school. Upon graduation, he entered the Army Air Corps and served until the fall of 1946. Upon returning home he worked in a factory for two years, when at age 22, he opened a Gulf Service Station with his brother. He continued to operate that gas station for the next 44 years, mostly by himself. The hours were long: 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.

He dealt with steaming hot cars in the summer, and worked through cold wet winters as well. His gas station opened up as a full-service station, and stayed that way for the entire 44 years. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means my father pumped the gas into the cars – and washed the windshields, and checked the oil in the engine, and sometimes checked the air in the tires. That’s for every car that pulled up to the gas pumps.

Looking back over my years at home, and in the years following my going off to college, starting a family, and all the way up until the close of the gas station upon his retirement in 1993, I realize now that my father never worked a day in his life.

No, he followed this advice: find something you like to do so much that you would gladly do it for nothing; then learn to do it so well that people are happy to pay you for it.

That’s what my father did: his passion for serving people by pumping their gas was his career.

Following your passion is the key to finding your potential. When a person doesn’t have passion, life can become pretty monotonous. Everything is a “have to” and nothing is a “want to.”

John Maxwell had this to say about passion:

Passion is an incredible asset for any person, but especially for leaders. It keeps us going when others quit. It becomes contagious and influences others to follow us. It pushes us through the toughest of times and gives us energy we did not know we possessed.

Passion fuels us in ways that the following assets can’t:

  • Talent…is never enough to enable us to reach our potential
  • Opportunity…will never get us to the top by itself
  • Knowledge…can be a great asset, but it won’t make us “all we can be”
  • A great team…can fall short

Passion is a real difference-maker.

For 44 years my father lived off of the energy that came from loving what he did and doing what he loved.

To most people, there is a big difference between work and play. Work is what they have to do to earn a living so that someday they can do what they want to do. Don’t live your life that way. Choose to do what you love and make the necessary adjustments to make it work in your life.

And you will never work another day in your life.

reflections following my father’s death, and revisited two years later as my mother begins a major transition in life

The Influence of a Father: Mentoring

In the days following the death of my father and his memorial services, I have been thinking a great deal about his legacy and influence on my life: past, present, and future. 

I realized that his influence has impacted not only my life, but hundreds of others as well. In his honor, I will be posting thoughts this week about that influence, and how it challenges me. Along the way, there will be applications for ChurchWorld leaders as well.

Mentoring

As we move through this thing called “life,” don’t we all wish we had a guide, a coach, a model, an advisor?

We’re looking for a mentor.

My father would not have used that word, but he did better than that: he lived and practiced being a mentor for decades.

After he was discharged from the Army Air Corps in 1946, he returned home to Mt. Juliet, TN, and began working with his brother to build and open a Gulf Service Station. After several years of work, Adams Brothers Gulf opened in 1949. 

For the next 44 years, my dad – known as “Doc” to friends and family – operated the gas station as a full service station providing not only gasoline but also preventive maintenance and tire services. He operated the station 6 days a week, 12 hours a day – and he was the only full-time employee.

Doc’s secret? He hired part-time boys in high school, with their hours being after school and Saturdays. They began working in their early teens, and could only work until they graduated – at which point they were “fired.” 

According to my dad, when you graduated from high school it was time for a “real” job or college. And so over the years, about fifteen young boys (including my brother and I) worked for my dad pumping gas, changing tires, sweeping, cleaning, painting, etc. – whatever was required. We all received a paycheck, but the life lessons we learned were far more important than the money.

At the funeral, as many of “Doc’s boys” as we could find served as pall bearers and honorary pall bearers. Some were only a few years younger than my dad; others are barely in their forties. All have gone on to lead a successful family and business life. To a man, they each expressed their heartfelt gratitude for what Doc meant to them. They wouldn’t say it, but they in turn have, and are, influencing others the same way.

If you are a leader, you should be a mentor.

How are you going to influence others today? How are you going to continue to influence others beyond today?

Here are a few other posts on mentoring you might find helpful:

 (a reposting of a previous series on Mentoring, while I am away on vacation)

Family Air Force History

My son, serving in the Air Force, worked with my wife to create this picture, which they gave me on my father’s birthday yesterday.

 

When my father entered the Army Air Corps in 1945, he was assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron, part of the 3rd Air Force. He was not part of an air crew, but served as a mechanic. The squadron’s plane was the C-47.

The planes depicted show the succession over the years since the C-47.

I think it’s pretty cool that my son would honor the memory of his grandfather by working on this and sending it to me. I have a large print framed (thanks to my wife) hanging on my office wall.