Friday, April 30, 2010

Adventures in Customer Service

From Tom Peter's excellent book "The Little Big Things" - a rant about customer service that just nails it...

  • My local Starbucks stayed open a few minutes late - and the barista fetched something he had already put away to fill my order
  • When I handed the barista at my other local Starbucks my thermos, she filled it up without question, even though at the time it was a nonstandard order. They undercharged me - a two cup price for what was probably three cups - and they washed the thermos before filling it, with my asking - or even imagining!
  • My local Whole Foods usually opens at 8 AM. But because several of us were waiting, they opened at 7:45 AM. Their folks define helpful.
  • Replying to my graduate school MBA reunion, I filled out the questionnaire and when I got ready to mail it, found that the questionnaire didn't fit the accompanying envelope. I tore it all up and tossed it. That's what's wrong with most MBA programs - lack of attention!
Do you bend over backwards to go "a little" beyond the book to help customers?

Do you authorize-encourage everyone (100 percent) to break the rules "a little bit" so as to stretch for the customer?

The 25 companies that made BusinessWeek's first "Customer Service Champs" list in 2007 are very, very, very, very serious about the "little things" and the frontline service providers who make or break a Little Things Movement.

And you?
Your team?
Your company?
How do you know?
For Sure?
What are you doing about it?
To encourage more of it?
To reward it when it happens?



Don't make the mistake of thinking this doesn't apply to you if you don't run a business - it does.

Church leaders - please take note of how important "customer service" is to your church - and do something about it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Just Whose Vision is it, Anyway?

At Elevation Church, Pastor Steven Furtick's sermon last Sunday was entitled " Why Do Dreams Die?" The short answer to the question: they die in the beginning, when doubt kills your dream; they die in the middle, when distraction kills your dream; and they die in the end, when discouragement kills your dream.

At our community group last night, we had a great discussion on the topic from many different vantage points - 20 somethings who are on the front edge of their dreams; 30 somethings who are in the first stages of doubts about their dreams; and 50 somethings who have dreamed again and again.

It brought to mind something I have been rereading this week: George Barna's "A Fish Out of Water." Barna was an early influence on my understanding of vision, and his comments from this book on the difference between God's vision and ours seem to be a fitting part of my group's discussion. Here's what Barna had to say:

How can you tell if a vision that moves you is from God or something of your own creation? Here are some hallmarks of God's vision:
  • Human vision is based on trying to maximize our resources and skills. God's vision is based on using us beyond our capacity.
  • Human vision is based on accomplishing the most appealing dream. God's vision challenges us to accomplish an impossible or improbable dream.
  • Human vision is often based on what brings us delight. God's vision is a reflection of what brings Him delight.
  • Human vision is dangerous because it inflates our ego. God's vision is dangerous because it demonstrates His power at work within us - and our complete inadequacy.
  • Human vision drives us to push ourselves to the limit. God's vision drives us to our knees in submission, humility, and obedience.
  • Human vision represents a commitment we develop and pursue until we tire of the battle. God's vision becomes an obsession we embrace until He enables us to fulfill it or He brings us home.
  • Human vision reflects our cultural obsessions: size, speed, status, and success. God's vision reflects biblical obsessions: people, holiness, love, and transformation.
What about your vision or dream? Is it yours, or God's?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If the Church Had a Draft System

Even though I like sports, I have the distinction of being the third true "fan" in our family of three still at home. My wife is a bigger sports fan (especially pro and college football) than either my son or me. My son has a wider base of sports interest and knowledge, and I bring up the rear.

So it was with great anticipation that we watched the first two days of the recent NFL draft in its entirety, and checked in throughout the third day. Being Carolina Panther fans, and living through the ups and downs of recent seasons, we wondered which way the Panther's organization would go.

As the entire first round went by, and 15 selections in the second, the improbable suddenly became possible. Jimmy Clausen, the highly rated quarterback from Notre Dame, was still available. Having recently released our quaterback from the last few years, and wanting to have a backup (and potential starter) in place quickly, the Panthers chose Clausen. Most fans were excited about the choice, and it seemed a solid decision for the immediate and longer-term future of the team. All the scouting, combine results, and just plain luck fell into place and allowed the team to draft a highly talented player for a critical spot.

What if church organizations had to "draft" their leadership?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Looking for Your Next Rock Star...

... or discovering the talent within your own organization?

That's the question that Chip and Dan Heath explore in the May issue of Fast Company.

The business world is oten obsessed with "talent" - hiring it, retaining it, rewarding it. People are pursued to come and work at a certain place, with high expectations of immediate success. If you move from one place to another, the high level of performance should stay the same.

Not really.

The Heaths discuss a new book by Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg - "Chasing Stars - the Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance." By tracking a group of professionals known for the portabilty of their talent - Wall Street research analysts - Groysberg demonstrated that the top analysts who switched firms paid a steep price for the move.  Their job performance fell off sharply and continued to suffer for at least five years after the move.

Based on this study, talent is not perfectly portable. Yet how often do we expect to "hire" a rock star or gunslinger to come in and make everything great from day one?

There are certainly different levels of talent in individuals, and we should recognize that. But what if there were a way to take control of increasing the talent in your organiztion?

How about growing it from within?

What if the next great talent you are looking for is already in your organization, waiting to be discovered, nurtured, challenged, and encouraged. Could that be the answer?

Creating leaders by developing them from within is a worthy goal for your organization. What steps will you take today to create a culture that actively grooms leaders internally, and moves them into areas of greater performance and responsibility?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Great Adventure Road Show

Today I am taking part in the National Church Purchasing Group's "Great Adventure Road Show." The NCPG is hosting the event in 19 cities across the country, bringing tons of great information to churches and their leaders.

Charlotte is their third stop, and the event is being held at Huntersville UMC, one of our recent projects. I will be manning the JH Batten exhibit and making a presentation during one of the breakout sessions.

My assigned topic - "Creating Leaders" - is part of an ongoing leadership development series that I am continually updating. Last year, I wrote a series of posts that I will be referring to today at the session. Take a look here to start the 5 day series.

I close with this visual to remind us of potential leaders:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Real Leaders Get Real About Leadership

Alan Webber, cofounder of Wired magazine and former editor at Harvard Business Review, published a great book last year: "Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self." Since this week's posts are about leadership, here is Webber's Rule # 41:

If you want to be a real leader, get real about leadership.

Leadership isn't attached to any single job title. It doesn't come with a diploma, a degree, or a program. Leadership is a way of thinking and acting, a way of being and doing.

If you want to get real about leadership, you can boil it down to four things:
  • How leaders are - confident and modest, authentic, and good listeners
  • What leaders do - attract and grow talent, lead by example, and challenge others to do their best
  • How leaders act - give others guidance, not answers
  • What leaders leave behind them - passion, a great team, and most importantly, more leaders
How are you doing at the real work of leadership?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

At Their Service...

Ask yourself daily:

What did I specifically do today to be "of service" to members of my group or team? Was I truly a "servant" to them?

Robert Greenleaf, writing in the classic "Servant Leadership" challenges leaders to be servants. To help leaders understand the concept, he had two "exam" questions that leaders should ask concerning the people on their teams:
  1. Do those served grow as persons?
  2. Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
Tom Peters translates these questions as follows:
  1. Leaders exists to serve their people. Period.
  2. A team well served by its leader will be inclined to pursue Excellence.
Use the word "Serve." (That's what you do.)
Use the word "Service." (That's what you provide.)
Use the word "Servant." (That's what you are.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ph.D in Leadership

from Dee Hock, founder of Visa:

Here's a short course for a Ph.D in leadership: Make a short list of all things done to you that abhorred. Don't do them to others. Ever.

Make another list things done to you that you loved.

Do them to others.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Less is a good thing...

Constraints are advantages in disguise.

Limited resources force you to make do with what you've got. There's no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.

If the most common words around your place sound something like "I don't have enough time/money/people/experience", it's time you learned something:

Less is a good thing.

Stop whining. Instead, get creative and you'll be amazed at what you can make with just a little. So before you sing the "not enough" blues, see how far you can get with what you have.

-from "Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Thursday, April 15, 2010


One week ago today, my daughter was involved in an auto accident. She was stopped, waiting to turn left and was hit from behind by a car. There was a third car involved, but it is still unclear who hit who before her car was hit. Her car was pushed forward about 50-60 feet before it stopped in the opposite lane. The result is below.

We are thankful that there was little personal injury-she had a bump on the head and was stiff for several days following. Because the bump was visible, the EMT's recommended that she go to the ER. That's where her friends came in.

Her first call was to her Mom (even after 3 boys, the words "Mom, first of all I'm okay" still make your heart stop) but her second was to her best friends on campus. Within just a few minutes they were there, staying with her during the police investigation and helping her get her belongings out of the car before it was towed. Then they loaded her into their car and headed off for the ER.

The trip to the ER wasn't too bad (ever the ham, we have a picture of our daughter posing in a hospital gown), and they were able to be back on campus a few hours later. Of course there was a stop at a pharmacy along the way (and a side trip to Bojangles, I later found out). All in all, things could have turned out a lot worse, and for that we are thanking God.

In the ensuing week there have been a lot of phone calls to three different insurance companies, the state patrol, and the towing company. We're really not much clearer about what happened today than we were that afternoon. But the shining moments of the whole episode have been from my daughter's friends.

In addition to carrying her around that night, they have checked in on her daily to make sure the bumps, bruises, and stiffness didn't become something worse. They talked with her professors about classwork and tests. They made a couple of trips for her as needed. They did what friends do: they were there for her when she needed them, anticipating needs, taking care of things, just being there.

Yesterday my business took me from one end of the state to the other, and I was going to end the day about 1/2 hour from my daughter's school. I asked her to check with her two friends, and if everybody's schedule worked out would they like to meet me for supper? Since college students rarely turn down a supper off-campus, the answer was yes.

I met them at a restaurant about 30 minutes from campus, and as soon as I saw them laughing all the way across the parking lot to the front door I knew why my daughter had a bond with them. Supper was a three-way non-stop conversation about school, summer jobs, the accident, and life in general, with an occasional interjection by me. The conversation was accompanied most of the time by the girls singing along with the music playing in the restaurant, including hand and facial gestures. The time went quickly - an hour and a half of friends being friends. Soon we had to leave - the girls for a stop by Dunkin Donuts on the way back to campus, me for the three hour trip home.

We're thankful our daughter wasn't injured. We're beginning to understand why people have negative attitudes toward some insurance companies in multiple car accidents. We're bummed that the car is probably going to be a total loss and not sure how we're going to replace it.

But the shining moment of the whole episode has been the beautiful reminder that we all need friends that are there when we need them. Our daughter is blessed with many friends, but especially a couple of girls who define what it means to be a true friend.

Thanks for being there girls, and thanks for the reminder last night of what it means to enjoy life.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

iPad-Window on the World

Kevin Kelly, writing in the April issue of Wired magazine, doesn't want you to think of the iPad as a tablet.

It's a window you carry.

Kelly finds that there are two things that distinguish the iPad from laptops and smart phones:

  1. They are mobile screens meant to move. Not just a full color, hi-res super ebook reader, it's about moving images, text, music, watching and making videos. The iPad is a TV you read, a book you watch, and movies you touch.
  2. The tablet window goes two ways. You watch, it watches you. It's made for interaction: swoosh your fingers to scroll, wave your arms (like a Wii), or tilt it.
In this window, we embrace the world, and it embraces us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Laptop Per Child

Some friends and members of our community group have been supporters of One Laptop Per Child for quite some time. The idea behind OLPC is simply brilliant:

The OLPC project aimed at building a $100 laptop, able to operate for at least five years in a developing country. To achieve this, the team of designers assembled by Nicholas Negroponte was able to embed in the XO-1, a light and compact object weighing just 1.5 kg, a concentration of innovative technological solutions, absent even in high-end laptops, including:

  • An open source operating system called Sugar, derived from Linux, specifically designed to stimulate learning in a collaborative environment, promoting co-production and sharing of multimedia content.

  • A wireless connection system, known as mesh networking ,which allows the XO-1 laptop to automatically connect with other geographically-close laptops, without any user interaction. To remedy the lack of internet connections, the connection of a single laptop can be automatically shared by all those involved in the mesh network, even miles away. The peculiar antennas located on the lid of XO-1, which remind the children of a rabbit’s ears, allow each laptop to communicate with others within a radius of 1 km.

  • The ability to transform the XO-1, with a simple twist of the screen, in an eBook reader. Each laptop can store hundreds of eBooks, and can share them with all other nodes in the network. What’s more, the screen is configured to switch from a high-resolution color mode, to a monochrome high-contrast mode, which allows one to read even when the screen is exposed to the sun and reduces battery consumption (in eBook mode the batteries can last up to 24 hours).

  • Unparalleled energy efficiency: with an absorption of between 3 and 6W, compared with more than 100W of a traditional laptop, the XO-1 is one of the most efficient computers, and can be recharged even where no electricity grid is available, using chargers that exploit the sun or other alternate energy sources.

  • The ability to operate in extreme conditions: the XO-1 has no moving parts (HD, fan, CD-DVD) or holes which could allow the infiltration of sand or dust, and can withstand a storm. The mechanical parts are designed so that the repair is very simple and can be performed directly by the little users, thus becoming itself a moment of collaborative learning.
The cost of this masterpiece of innovation is currently about $200: the number of orders, the devaluation of the dollar and the rising in raw material costs prevented its creators, for the moment, to lower the price below the psychological threshold of $100.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC, thinks that the changes being ushered in by the iPad are going to be a tremendous benefit to the nearly 2 billion kids in the world who don't have access to books, a library, and in many cases, no schools or electricity.

In the April issue of Wired magazine (of which Negropone was the first investor), he writes on how the iPad can evolve into the device that will push the OLPC idea toward reality.

Simply amazing...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Will the iPad Change Everything?

I haven't bought into all the iPad hype, but like many things Apple has rolled out, this one is going to be a game-changer.

Except on a whole new playing field.

From the rollout announcement last January to the huge amount of sales the day they became available on April 3, Apple's iPad has been dominating the news. On the surface, it's a simple product: an always-on tablet device that lets you browse the Web, read books, send email, watch movies and play games. That surface, though, is really one of what author Jeffrey Kluger calls "simplexity."

Apple has, once again, made a complex thing simple.

In an article from the April issue of Wired magazine, Steven Levy chronicles how the iPad is going to change things - from the way we read books to the way we play games to the way we do business - and everything in-between.

An illustration: my pastor used a brand new iPad for his sermon notes on Easter Sunday - and then gave it away to a new Christian high school student. It came preloaded with a Bible, study guides, and worship music from our band. In his sermon a week later, my pastor is using his personal iPad for sermon notes again.

Which brings me to my posts of the last few days. My grandson Jack (and my next grandchild, to be born in September) are going to be growing up in a whole different world than their parents did. Wired editor-in-chief had a great description of this world of the tablet: "Bigger than a phone, funner than a laptop, more cuddly than a Kindle."

Welcome to a new world.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mobile Technology and the Coming Educational Revolution

My grandson Jack is a typical boy - anything with wheels fascinates him.

On the other hand, one of his favorite toys is an old cell phone belonging to his parents. He's always carrying it around, making calls.

When he gets a little older, a phone may just be the device that turns our educational system upside down.

Anya Kamenetz is the author of the new book "DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education." A recent Fast Company article highlighted possible coming changes.

Mobile Phones have transformed communications around the world more swiftly than anyone could have imagined. The prospect of doing the same for education is a tantalizing - and troubling prospect.

The same possibilities that make these technologies so exciting make them threatening to the educational status quo. A system built around tools that allow children to explore and figure things out for themselves would be radical for most developing-world schools, which emphasize learning by rote. In the US, which is currently fixated on state curriculum benchmarks and standardized tests, it could be just as hard a sell.

The challenge of putting the kids into the educational driver's seat is so daunting it's almost unimaginable. Until you see a small child eagerly embrace a device that lets him write, draw, and figure out math problems. All of a sudden, maybe it's not just a dream anymore.

Here's one GrandBob that is hoping that's true.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kindergarten in 2013

This brilliant little boy is my grandson Jack. In three short years he will be entering kindergarten. What changes in today's educational system await him in 2013?

Anya Kamentez, staff writer at Fast Company magazine and author of the new book "DIY U", weaves a fascinating story of how technology could unleash childhood creativity while transforming the role of the teacher.


  • TeacherMate - a $100 handheld computer designed for use in schools; it helps children begin reading, writing, and math lessons.
  • Intel Classmate PC - at $499 each, a pricey upgrade packing an adult-sized processor.
  • XO - at $199, One Laptop Per Child's unit was designed primarily for use in developing countries. It has a "neighborhood" based network setup that connects all the XOs in a class. Coming in 2012: a next generation XO - a tablet PC with a touch screen

Web Sites

  • - one of the best educational websites for children 6 and under - and it's free. Today's parents (and younger grandparents!) grew up on TV's Sesame Street - will their kids make the move over to the web version?
  • - a classroom targeted site that costs $1,700 per school building per year. Oregon's board of Education recently approved this site as a K-5 science "textbook."

Mobile Apps

  • First Words - a series of pre-K apps designed for the iPhone. Different versions, costing $1.99, focus on animals, vehicles, and household items.
  • KidCalc Math Fun - designed for kids ages 2 - 8, and focusing basic arithmetic, counting, sorting, and number tracing.
  • Clifford's Be Big With Words - who wouldn't love the big red dog teaching kids aged 2 - 6 spelling, word building, phonetics, and vocabulary.

For the full story, be sure to read Kamenetz's full story here, or check out her book here.

As for me, well, I guess I'll be saving up for Jack's first iPad!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Coming: the Digital Classroom

My father was born in the late 1920s - just think how much has changed in his lifetime. Travel by air, only a couple of decades old at his birth, is now commonplace. We have even traveled off this planet to the moon.

Radio was new, and families gathered around a single radio set, providing entertainment for the whole neighborhood. Now we communicate individually, instantaneously, and around the world with each other - and don't think a thing about it.

The complex calculations provided by computers were years away when my father first entered school. Education for him was rows of seats, with a teacher giving instruction the same way for everyone, paper and pencil for writing, getting information from books.

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

Despite all the amazing technological innovations in our society over the past century, primary education remains largely the same. For the most part, my father's school, my school, my son's school, and soon, my grandson's school - will look and function remarkably the same.

Until now.

Anya Kamenetz, staff writer at Fast Company magazine and author of the new book "DIY U" raises the prospect of a new, technology-driven educational system.
  • Handheld devices that aid teachers and excite kids
  • Mobile apps that may replace traditional schooling in less-developed countries
  • How the iPhone, low-cost laptops, and netbooks are enabling a new wave of self-learning for kids as young as three
  • Can you say iPad?

Is it possible that this movement holds the beginnings of a more sophisticated, more effective, and more modern way of teaching?

Here's one GrandBob that can't wait!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Staying in the Game

For the final inning of our "spring training", the topic is staying in the game. Previous innings have included first impressions, connection cards, and follow up with guests. To close out the game, it's time to look at what Nelson Searcy calls "The Three Rs of Retention".

When first time guests walked through your front door, your initial goal was to earn return visits from them. When they did return, your goal evolved. you wanted to introduce them to environments and situations that would encourage them to build relationships. As they moved from first-timers to second-timers and new regular attenders, your thinking began to shift from Return to Relationships.

Now that they have made some friends and become true regular attenders, your thinking must once again shift - this time from Relationships to Responsibility. Responsibility will be the catalyst that moves them from regular attendance to membership.

How to you achieve responsibility? Searcy suggests that there are three effective ways to encourage your attenders toward membership:
  1. Through multiplying service opportunities
  2. Through teaching
  3. Through regular sign-ups
It doesn't matter how well the sermon is or how passionate your worship team is - if your newcomers do not find relationships and take on responsibility within the church, they will not stay for long.
  • Return
  • Relationships
  • Responsibility

If you want to stay in the game, these three words have to be drilled into your head, worked out in your own church situation, and practiced on a weekly basis.

For complete details, be sure to check out Searcy's book "Fusion" and look at the accompanying website.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Follow Up

I don't play golf, and my last game of softball was years ago, but there is a principle in these games that both you and I are probably familiar with: follow-through. The physics is pretty simple - you are swinging a club or bat with force, and when you make contact with the ball, the force is applied to the ball. If you stopped your swing on contact, the ball wouldn't be going very far. But the inertia and momentum of your swing cause you to continue your swing, and the ball travels further as a result.

In terms of Guest Services, think of this as follow-up. You have worked hard to make a great first impression. Your guests have made contact with you by completing a connection card during worship. Momentum is moving - are you ready for follow up?

Nelson Searcy at The Journey Church of NYC sums up the follow-up process pretty well in a set of three words:
  • Fast - don't underestimate the power of a quick follow-up
  • Friendly - reach out to your guests in a warm, personal way
  • Functional - meet your guests where they are and provide them with a relevant surprise

You've gotten them this far - don't stop now!

Friday, April 2, 2010

If you want to get a hit...'ve got to make contact.

Having the best team on the field means little if you can't make contact with the ball.

In terms of Guest Services, you have been successful in welcoming a guest to your services. They have been enthusiastically greeted and made to feel at home. As the service begins, you have a wonderful opportunity to get something from your guests: their contact information.

If you want to have any chance of an ongoing relationship, you cannot let them leave without knowing how to connect with them.

What's the best way to get your guests' information? How can you find out what you need to know without coming across as intrusive and pushy?

Nelson Searcy, pastor of Journey Church in NYC and author of "Fusion", has used one method that continues to prove successful time and time again: the Communication Card.

Well-organized use of Communication (or Connection) Cards will allow you to gather the pertinent information on roughly eighty percent of your first-time guests. What a great return, but especially when you consider it is coming from getting personal information from unchurched people.

Want to know how to use a successful Communication Card system? Check out Searcy's website here or get a copy of Fusion.

Swing batter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Elevation Prayer Walk

One of our prayer groups outside Time Warner Arena as we prayed for our Easter service.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Winning Teams...

... start with winning players!

A winning Guest Services team begins with making sure the right people are on the team. As Jim Collins said:

The old adage "People are you most important asset" turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.

Guest Services team members are the first face of your church - and as such, need to be chosen with care. They need to know how to connect with people, and they need to enjoy doing so. They need to be wow-makers.

Mark Waltz, Connections Pastor at Granger Community Church, uses the acronym SHAPE (developed by Saddleback Church) to discover and deploy Guest Services team members:

Spiritual Gifts - Spiritual gifts are divine enablements given by the Holy Spirit to equip each believer for significance and purpose and to be a witness of God's grace to the world. The gifts of hospitality, encouragement, administration, and leadership can be invaluable assets on your Guest Services team.

Heart - The H in the acronym is for heart, or passion. Every member of your Guest Services team should be passionate about relating to and connecting with people.

Abilities - There are literally dozens of skills that contribute to a successful Guest Services team: listening, communicating, question asking, counting, guiding, directing, and perceiving are all helpful abilities.

Personality - While an extrovert may seem to be a natural choice for a Guest Services team, that might not always be the case. Your team probably has a wide range of tasks, and the team member's personality needs to match the task.

Experience - Work experiences, former church ministry experiences - even painful experiences - all are helpful when encouraging people to serve on a Guest Services team.

When you help each person find the right place in which to serve, everyone wins.

Want to know more about the Guest Services team at Granger? Check out these resources by Mark Waltz: First Impressions and Lasting Impressions.