Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Geese Fly Further Than Eagles

Storyteller and dramatist Bob Stromberg recalls this story from his childhood:

What I witnessed that day as a child
has been going on with geese in the wild since the very first autumn.
You see, their bodies are streamlined,
the neck like a spear,
slicing the wind,
breaking the air.
And from the ground it's impossible to see,
but their wings aren't flapping randomly.

When the head goose grabs the wind,
air is displaced,
which then rushes up to reclaim its place,
only to see the smiling ace
of the bird flying behind,
whose wings just happen to be in the downward position -
a very dangerous condition,
which doesn't last for long,
Because the upward rush
gives them a push,
and they're right back where they belong.
This goose then grabs the air again,
causing another upward wind,
which lifts the bird behind.
And so ans so it goes on down the line.

So the head goose breaks the wind,
and all the rest are carried by him,
with very little effort I've heard,
on the part of any one bird.
When the head goose has had enough,
he or she simply drops back
and depends on another bird for strength
when strength is what is lacked.

So that's how I found out
how the goose can fly from up north
to way down south and back again.
But she cannot do it alone, you see.
It's something that must be done in community.

These days it's a popular notion,
and people swell with emotion and pride
when they think of themselves on the eagle-side:

But what we are,
That's something we cannot choose.
Though many would wish to be seen as an eagle,
God made most like the goose.

Yesterday at Elevation Pastor Steven used the geese flying in formation story as a reminder of the importance of community. We're kicking off a new season of community at Elevation, and our eGroup has 7 new people dropping by tomorrow night for the first time.

Getting connected with others who share similar interests or passions is one of the best ways to truly build community. God always intended for us to encourage, challenge, inspire and care for others. Spiritual growth, discipleship, serving, and relationships are all a part of our eGroup experience.

What does community look like in your church?

Friday, January 28, 2011

History, Repeating Itself?

A continuation in a series of posts on "the new old" (here, here, and here)...

Amy Hanson is probably one of the best sources and resources available for ministry opportunities with aging adults. Her scholarship includes a master’s degree in gerontology, followed by a doctorate in human sciences from the University of Nebraska. She has worked in congregations and retirement communities, has a deep commitment to her faith—and now has distilled a wealth of research into a handy new book "Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults over 50." 

A section from the opening chapter of the book really caught my eye. Here's a brief summary: read it, and then ponder the single question following.

In the mid-late 50's millions of baby boomers were nearing adolescence. Never before had there been such an influx of young people who ere drastically shaping the culture. And the church was unprepared. Youth ministry expert Mark Senter writes "The post-war baby boom caught the church without a strategy for dealing with the sudden influx of people whom the media began to call 'teenagers."

The young baby boomers represented a huge untapped resource for the church, and some people began to work at convincing church leaders that youth ministry was vitally important. These entrepreneurs created a sense of urgency among churches to reach out to this young generation before it was too late.

The idea caught on - and expanded. Youth ministries, youth ministers, activity buildings, age specialization in church ministries, para church activities and programs, leadership training for those specializing in youth - the list goes on and on.

Nothing wrong with that.

Flash forward to 2011: those baby boomers who revolutionized youth ministry are now entering their fifth and sixth decades of life. They are marching into their later years of life in unprecedented numbers, healthier and more active than any segment of population before them.

And the urgency of ministry with them is just as great as when they were young - perhaps even greater.

There is much to be gained or much to be lost. It starts with whether or not ChurchWorld chooses to ignore or embrace this aging reality.

As a leader in ChurchWorld, how will you respond to "the new old"?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Redesigning Life, Reinventing Retirement

There's a move underway to make life safer, easier, and more healthy - and who do we have to thank?

Baby Boomers - because they're getting older.

When January 1 rolled around this year, the first Baby Boomers turned 65 - and will continue every 7 seconds for the next 18 years. I fit that category - I was born in 1958 - so you might say I have a personal interest in it! Here are a few noteworthy developments:
  • Boeing, the airplane manufacturer, is improving in-flight design and comfort for aging passengers. Pete Guard, cabin-experience strategy leader, says "As Boomers age, their vision, mobility, and hearing may become a challenge, but the last thing we want is to make them seem less than capable - they're an independent group." On-tap: easier-to-open lavatory doors, redesigned overhead compartment latches, and thinner, lightweight seats allowing more leg room.
  • Volvo, already known for making one of the world's safest cars, is studying the driving habits of the aging to develop cars that will keep them - and other drivers - safe. Thomas Broberg, senior safety advisor, says "Because Boomers are living longer and healthier than any previous generation, there will be more of them driving longer. The misperception is that older adults are involved in more accidents; they're not - they just have different reactions." One solution? Build cars with senses: they recognize a potential collision and apply the brakes if necessary.
  • General Mills is boosting Boomer's health by creating engaging and interactive communities online. Marc Belton, EVP of global strategy, growth, and marketing innovation says "People like to talk about themselves and be a part of a story. One of our websites asks consumers to submit their favorite unhealthy recipes, and our team will healthify them."
It's really impressive to see Corporate America step up to the line and lead the way in innovation for the huge segment of our population known as the Baby Boomers. But their motives are at least in some part driven by the enormous potential market share - as a group, the Boomers have over $2 trillion worth of annual spending power.

What about ChurchWorld?

Amy Hanson, noted speaker, consultant, and author in the area of aging adult ministry, has some great thoughts about what she calls "the new old."
  • The new old are reinventing retirement - a recent survey by Merrill Lynch found that 76% of Boomers want to keep working in some fashion during retirement. They want their retirement years to include a component of work that is significant.
  • Not all older adults are Christians - think of the characteristics of adults who are 50 and older: caring for aging parents, concerns about their own health, financial worries, and continually evolving relationships with their own adult children and grandchildren. These life transitions provide communities of faith huge opportunities to reach out, engage, and share the Gospel with them.
  • Aging Boomers have the potential to make a tremendous Kingdom impact with their lives - they have time, experience, and resources and they want to participate in purposeful endeavors that will benefit others.
The challenge is there. The corporate world has stepped up and is gearing toward innovating and engaging the new old.

Where are you, church?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

MIT Engages the Boomers

Yesterday I introduced the first of a series of posts about my favorite generational cohort - the Baby Boomers. It's only my favorite because I am one - I'm connected to one generation above me and three below me, but the Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) are once again front page news.

All because beginning on January 1st this year, the first Boomer turned 65 - followed by 77 million, one every seven seconds, for the next 18 years.

At the MIT AgeLab, research fellow Rozanne Puleo and research scientist Lisa D'Ambrosio are leading the research into the changing needs of boomers:

D'Ambrosio: "The fact that we're living longer than ever before has a significant implications for how we live as a society. The generation approaching retirement now (Boomers) is not planning on being relegated to the couch. They see it as retirement from a job, not life."

Puleo: "it's a matter of learning what works best and what's most user-friendly - not just Boomer friendly. We have to find solutions that transcend age."

Using scientific research methods, scientists like these two are leading the way in investigation and innovation into the life - and lifestyles - of the Boomer as they approach 65.

But it's not retirement - at least not like my parents view it.

Amy Hanson, consultant in the area of older adult ministry in the church, has made the term "the new old" a popular description of this age group. She finds several key issues for the church to consider. Here's one:

The new old are approaching aging in a much different way than preceding generations. Churches frustrated by sixty-somethings shying away from "senior adult ministries" need look no further than the name. Boomers do not like the word "senior" and they reject just about anything that smacks of old age.

(Well, there was that one time I got the senior pricing at the movies without being asked...)

Whatever the format, today's ministry with Boomers approaching retirement needs different names, fresh ideas, and a whole new approach.

What's your church doing in the areas of aging "the new old"?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Build a Better Mousetrap...

As the title of this blog indicates (27 years is the average age between the four male generations in my family), I think studying generational differences is very informative for ChurchWorld. We're living, working, and ministering in a world where 5 generations are active. But as I am a Baby Boomer, I've always been a little partial to that particular cohort.

When 1/1/11 came, the first of 78 million Baby Boomers turned 65 - and will continue to do so, every 7 seconds.

Welcome to senior adulthood - NOT.

According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 adults are turning 65 every day, and that by 2030, almost 20% of our population will be over the age of 65.

Amy Hanson, a consultant and author specializing in this age group, calls this group "the new old," describing them as "adults primarily between the age of 50 to 70 who view the later years of life in a completely different way than their parent's generation".

The new old are active, involved, and anything but "old."

Corporate America has noticed: as this group begins to reach "retirement" age, their $2 trillion worth of annual spending power is driving companies to rethink aging.

Marc Hottenroth, an industrial designer, leads GE's team as they learn to design better appliances for older Americans. They hold empathy sessions to help their design team understand what an aging adult goes through every day:
  • taped knuckles to represent arthritic hands
  • kernels of popcorn in shoes to create imbalance
  • weighing down pans to simulate putting food in ovens
According to Hottenroth, "They won't give up style or performance, and they won't buy something made specifically for the aging because that's not how they see themselves." But if it's easier to use and it speaks to their needs, they'll love it."

What about ChurchWorld?

Are you ready to rethink aging?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Julia...and Bob

For Christmas, Anita gave me a set of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," the classic cookbooks by Julia Child. You may remember a movie from last year: "Julie and Julia," the story of a writer who cooked her way through Child's cookbook in a year, blogging about the experience. The movie was part of my Christmas gift to Anita. Tonight, we kind of re-created it:

Tonight, I cooked my first meal from the cook book for Anita and me:

Boeuf Bourguignon
Oignons Glaces a Brun
Champignons Sautes au Beurre
Gratin Dauphinois

It was fun shopping for the ingredients, going though all the preparation, and delivering a wonderful meal. I banished Anita from the kitchen, only revealing everything when we were ready to eat. We set up a table in the great room and watched "No Reservations."

It was wonderful.

Now that's a date night...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bridging the Digital Divide, Part Three

Our leadership brains are dealing with a digital divide in organizations today: team members of different generations think differently. First, there's the digital natives; then come the digital immigrants. Bringing up the rear (literally) are the digital dinosaurs.

Author Marilee Sprenger, writing in "The Leadership Brain for Dummies," makes these observations about the digital dinosaur:

The Digital Dinosaur
Natives speak the language of their birth; immigrants are learning to translate the digital language of the natives, and then there are those individuals or organizations who are hopelessly out of date - the digital dinosaur.

You may think that Traditionalists (born before WW II) fall into this category, and many do. But anyone or any organization can be a dinosaur.

Digital media is transforming organizations everywhere. If your organization appears to be incapable of change, those who embrace digital technology won't find it appealing. If your clients are changing their minds and getting plugged into the latest technology, you don't won't to present yourself as stuck in an analog world.

Take a close look at what your competition is doing digitally. If they are still dinosaurs, make some changes so your organization can be the first to enter the global age. Rather than feeling safe because they aren't doing anything that you're not doing, get out of that reptile brain and use your thinking brain to take some risks to get updated.

Note to church leaders: if my use of the words "client" and "competition" bother you, sorry - you have a whole different set of problems! The people who come to your church are your clients, and you do have competition - but it's not the church down the street from you.

A closing thought: leadership is all in your head - literally. When your brain is at its best, you will be at your best as a leader. Understanding how your brain works is just the first step. Put your leadership brain to work today!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bridging the Digital Divide, Part Two

The brains of those who are digitally connected are different from those who are not. Here's how Marilee Sprenger, author of "The Leadership Brain for Dummies," sees this divide:

The Digital Immigrant
Some Traditionalists (born before WW II), many Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), and the early Gen Xers (born 1965-through the 70s) fall into the category of digital immigrants. They didn't grow up learning the second language of the digital world and speak it with varying degrees of fluency.

Many digital immigrants:
  • Insist on paper bills even though receiving copies via email
  • Print out emails and attachments
  • Rely on printed newspapers, books, and so on
  • Are somewhat leery of paying bills online
  • Believe that methods taught years ago should work for everyone
  • Don't understand the informal language used in emails and texts
  • Believe a social network consists of people he meets with for parties

Digital immigrants have much to offer to your organization. Wisdom derived from years of storing patterns in the brain gives them the ability to see the big picture, predict accurately, foresee future consequences, and draw on mental templates to help store new information.

Challenging tasks activate more areas in the frontal lobes of the brains of digital immigrants than in the brain of digital natives. The immigrants have little choice because their brains change as they increase their skills with technology. The natives may need to practice more skills that their brains haven't used very much, like building rapport face to face.

How do you lead digital natives and immigrants to work together?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bridging the Digital Divide

Using the Leadership Brain to Understand Generational Differences

Marilee Sprenger, author of "The Leadership Brain for Dummies," does a good job of outlining the differences in organizations that have multiple generations involved - like the church.

This post isn't about that - read her book here on page 223 to understand those differences. Instead, let's take a look at the the digital divide.

The brains of those who are digitally connected are different from those who are not. Since your organization has different kinds of brains working together, maybe you should understand a little about it.

The Digital Native
Today's world requires a new language and a new literacy - digital literacy. The late Generation X'ers (born in the late 70's) and the generations that follow them are digital natives - they speak the language well. These people have grown up with video games, cell phones, computers, the Internet, and other techno toys. The ABCs of learning have been replaced with the the XYZs of technology.

The digital natives grew up communicating in a very different and fast-paced way from their parents and older siblings. They're proud of their ability to come up with hard data quickly and easily. It's a wide learning gap between these generations and the prior ones.

The digital natives who believe that their world isn't complete if they aren't constantly connected are always trying to multitask (you can't, but that's another post). They're always working hard, switching from one task to another and back again without skipping a beat.

Former Microsoft executive Linda Stone called this problem continuous partial attention.

Not truly giving anything complete attention has a number of negative effects, not the least of which is the inability to accomplish anything! Efforts to stay connected may prohibit you from bringing deep thought and closure to any one project, which may lead to stress. Elevated stress leads to distraction which starts the cycle over again.

Recognize yourself?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Setting goals and the leadership brain

Goal setting is vital to the success of every team - and the process also increases brain performance. According to neuroscience consultant Marilee Sprenger in " The Leadership Brain for Dummies," the brain sees goal-setting as an extension of itself - it takes ownership of the goal and the accomplishment.

But what do you do when your team has different kinds of "brains" trying to set goals? Could it be that you need to consider two kinds of goals?

The SMART approach to goal-setting is linear, logical, and very left-brain oriented. Those teams that think in a left-brained format appreciate this type of goal setting because it is easy to track and measure. SMART goals are:
  • Specific - each goal specifies your target exactly.
  • Measurable - each goal must be measurable so you know when you've reached it - or not.
  • Achievable - a goal that is within reach increases motivation and those brain chemicals that keep you motivate.
  • Realistic - a realistic goal is one your team has the resources to realize.
  • Time - specific time frames provide clear deadlines for action.
But what about teams that aren't as left-brained? How do they set goals? Consider SAFE goals. Approaching goals in a nonlinear manner appeals more to the right hemisphere of the brain. If your team members are creative, visual, and right-brain dominant, consider SAFE goals:
  • See it - see yourself working toward the goal; then picture it already achieved.
  • Accept it - accept that you can achieve the goal, and picture what that looks like.
  • Feel it - adding emotion to your visualization is very powerful: feel good about your accomplishment; enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • Express it - visualize yourself telling others about the accomplishment of the goal; make presentations at team meetings about your contribution to the success.
The SAFE method is especially good for those brains that need to have the big picture in order to accept the fact that they can in fact accomplish their goals.

So, does your team need SMART or SAFE goals? Or a combination of both?

As leader, it's your job to know the difference and lead accordingly!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Brain Science and Decision-Making

Making good decisions under a variety of circumstances is a critical leadership skill. Your brain works differently to decide when you have little time than it does when you can consider your options.

Marilee Sprenger, author of "The Leadership Brain for Dummies,", offers the following ideas to help you make the best decision when you have the time to research the situation:
  • Clearly define the problem - exactly define the challenge
  • Gather all the data related to the problem - enlist your team's help
  • List all possible solutions - even the crazy ones
  • Consider the consequences of each solution - with a little thought, the right solution may turn out to be a disaster in waiting
When you're making decisions with little time:
  • Consider previous situations - the decisions you made in that situation probably apply to the current one
  • Look to the future impact - even when pressed for time, considering the ramifications of your choice is critical
  • Gather as much information as you can
  • Listen to your instincts - as well as your logic
Making good choices is a matter of gathering input from all areas of your brain. Understanding how your brain processes information - even in a time crunch - will help you make better decisions.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Feed Your Brain

I always thought Cherry Coke and a Hershey's bar was brain food, but neuroscience is proving me wrong.

Marilee Sprenger, author of "The Leadership Brain for Dummies," thinks that our leadership brains can be nourished so that they excel. You can provide great leadership and brain "nourishment" for your team by:
  • Providing training opportunities - on the job, onsite, offsite, virtually - you name it. Learning never stops, and the brain thrives on it.
  • Conducting personal meetings - by letting team members know you value their contributions, they are secure and will be more productive.
  • Keeping stress levels low - high stress interferes with the brain's functions; offer coaching, mentoring, and partnering programs to help your team thrive without stressing out.
  • Celebrating successes - big or small, celebrations help teams bond. Make them regular and special; after all, humans are social animals.
  • Connecting teamwork and the organizational goals - help your team's brains make pathways to work more efficiently.
  • Promoting life outside of work - emphasize exercise, rest, and family time; without breaks, the brain can't work at its best.
Tomorrow: Using Your Leadership Brain in Decision-Making

Friday, January 14, 2011

I like Dummies...

... the books, that is.

I've been a big fan of the "Dummies" books for a long time. I own at least 10 - they serve as great introductions to a new topic and help chart a course for expanded learning later on.

I guess you could say they are like Cliff Notes on steroids - or is that mixing too many metaphors?

For instance, when our 18 year-old son decided to give rugby a try after 14 years of playing soccer, it was "Rugby for Dummies" to the rescue. From a brief history of the game to key terms to strategy, after a few nights reading I felt somewhat knowledgeable about the game and could appreciate the fact that my son was a hooker. That's another story.

About a year and a half ago, I became aware of a book by John Medina entitled "Brain Rules", a fascinating study of how the latest studies in neuroscience were helping us understand more about our brains. A series of posts beginning here took a look at a few of the key learnings from the book.

Enter "The Leadership Brain for Dummies." Author Marilee Sprenger translates the recent abundance of brain science into into leadership principles which help your team keep operating at its best.

Applying Brain Science to Leadership

When you lead with the brain in mind, you address the structures of the brain and its needs. Scientists commonly consider the brain as a structure with three separate "brains" that have their own specialized jobs. Understanding how these different brains work and what they need enable you to better relate to and lead your team.
  • The survival brain wants safety and security. In a nutshell, its job is to keep you alive, and so it's always on the lookout for changes in the environment that might put you in jeopardy. You address this brain's needs by providing a predictable ans stable workplace - agendas, schedules, information, and procedures.
  • The emotional brain deals not just with emotion but memory. You help keep this brain moving along by being socially aware (noting your feelings but not letting them rule you), and you put it to work for you by giving your team an emotional connection to training. Any information that is connected to an emotion has a better chance of becoming a long-term memory. Also, remember that your emotions are contagious - whatever you are feeling will spread to your team.
  • The thinking brain handles the brain's executive functions: decision-making, future planning, judgement, and emotional control. The brain learns through feedback. Change your team's minds by providing immediate, constructive feedback.
Tomorrow: Feed Your Brain

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Christmas We'll Never Forget

It's been a crazy week for me - due to hectic holiday schedules, our children and their families couldn't get together until last weekend for our Christmas. With much anticipation, we eagerly awaited the arrival of one crew from New Mexico on the way back to West Virginia, another from Boone, and our daughter from grad school.

Christmas for my wife and I was a little slower paced; we took our two still at home to Tennessee to visit family for a few days, and then came back for the New Year. After that, we had another week to get ready:
  • Last minute gift-buying (intentional this time, since we could take advantage of after-Christmas sales)
  • Decorating the house and tree (you can get a really good tree free on December 31)
  • Menu planning (we always like to experiment with new goodies)
  • Cleaning and rearranging the house to accommodate three families on different schedules with little ones (a 3 year old and a 3 month old)
  • Hosting some friends who haven't seen the WV crew since the baby was born
  • Arranging a family photo with a professional photographer
When Friday night rolled around, we were ready - or so we thought.

Let's just say it was a Christmas we will never forget, and one we don't want to repeat!
  • A "bug" of some kind accompanied our cross-country travelers, almost derailing their flight in Dallas; our daughter-in-law arrived almost dehydrated
  • Snow hit Boone before our kids could get out; they had to wait till Sunday afternoon to come to Huntersville
  • The "bug" begin an insidious journey, traveling through four of us, no more than one at a time, a day apart
  • I was the second one down, and left my poor wife in the lurch by mid-day Sunday
  • The next one was our budding chef, who was on tap to prepare most of the snacks
  • A three year old's schedule can be easily put out of sort, and time doesn't mean anything
  • 6 inches of snow falls early Monday morning, with ice projected to arrive beginning Monday afternoon
  • Murphy reigns supreme
We decided to call it a day, canceled the photo shoot, divvied the food up, and quickly packed the travelers up so they could get on the road and home before the ice hit and they were stranded.

Everyone made it home safely, everyone seems to be on the mend, and no one else has gotten sick in the past two days. We have decided that the new Christmas scent of 2010 was Lysol! The snow and ice pretty much shut down much of Charlotte till this morning, so it's back to school for Aaron and back to work for Anita and I (though we were able to work from home yesterday).

We're already making plans for Christmas 2011...

...not that it will do any good!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Excuses Allowed

In Mrs. Soeesby's Senior English class it was simply called "The List." In letters large enough to see from anywhere in the classroom, it started above the door to the class and went all the way round the room. Each item was numbered. By the time she retired (between our second and third child's journey through Senior English), the list approached 100 items.

The list was excuses she had heard over the years for student's not turning in their work on time.

Ever the efficient teacher, she simply required the student to write the number on a blank piece of paper and turn it in.

At Le Bernardin, one of New York's premier four-star restaurants, co-founder Maguy Le Coze and maitre d' Ben Chekroun give new service staff a list, too - 129 details, aka "Monumentally Magnificent Trivialities" to keep in mind at all times.

Here are a few samples:
  • Acknowledging guests with eye contact and smile within 30 seconds; First Impressions count!
  • Not thanking guests as they leave; Last Impression!
  • Not opening the front door for guests
  • Being too familiar or excessively chatty
  • No sense of humor
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Not having total focus when talking to guests
  • Not really listening when spoken to
  • Appearing stressed or out of control
  • Not establishing rapport with the guests
  • Inability to answer basic questions
  • Poor personal sanitation practices
  • Standing around doing nothing
  • Pointing
  • Walking past dropped items/trash on floor
  • Excuses for anything-anytime
It's a constant battle to keep everything consistent and up to the established standards.

Do you have a list for your Guest Services team?

You should...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Invisible Perfection

What the Diner (Hopefully) Doesn’t Notice

At Le Bernardin, one of New York's premier four-star restaurants, excellence happens best when it's not seen at all. A meal there is usually so relaxed and gracious, it's hard to imagine the military precision with which the dining room is run.
  • Before meals, the area is prepared according to checklist
  • During meals, all staff adhere to strict training guidelines
  • A florist makes a daily flower change on all the tables
  • Silver and flatware get a weekly polish in a burnishing machine
  • The concept of "mise en place" - put in place – extends to the dining room as well as kitchen
When we succeed, it looks effortless, but it’s not. It’s all codified into different organizations. It’s totally controlled – and the guest should have no idea - Executive Chef Eric Ripert

Can you say the same about your organization and its interactions with guests?
Why not?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Elements of Service

The center of attention in a four-star restaurant may be the food, but it's the service before, during, and after that creates the experience.

At Le Bernardin in New York City, the service is as much the creation of Executive Chef Eric Ripert as is his exquisite dishes. Along with the restaurant's founder Maguy Le Coze, Ripert has created the elements of service that keep Le Bernardin at the top of its class.
  • Hiring - while they prefer staff with a two- or three- star background, they have been known to go with their gut instinct and hire the people they like, those that have the demeanor and willingness to please.
  • Training - the standard of perseverance and constant training is set at the top and carried throughout the organization. General manager David Mancini and Maitre d' Ben Chekroun want each hire to know what goes into every other job on the floor. The constant cross-training that goes on enable the entire staff from the captains to the busboys to operate in a seamless, fluid manner.
  • Knowledge - The level of service expected by customers at Le Bernardin is matched and exceeded by the knowledge the staff constantly pursues. From the technical side (knowing the menu by heart, how each serving is prepared, the correct place settings, etc.) to the human aspect (learning to watch guests for clues, anticipating their needs), the staff is always learning.
  • Attitude - over the years the atmosphere has become less formal, but Le Bernardin's staff will provide what you are looking for: to celebrate, to eat, to do business, to entertain the family. Their goal is for you to enjoy the experience and leave happy with a smile.
  • The Sixth Sense - Chekroun says that the ability to read a guest is the key to providing four-star service. "You can tell if someone is used to a four-star restaurant or it's their first time. It's our job to put them at ease no matter the situation. Intuition is very important on the floor - before a guest can ask "Where's my waiter?" you must be there."
  • Teamwork - At Le Bernardin, service is like the proverbial chain - a weak link will compromise the whole thing. Anyone on the chain, from the time you make a reservation till the moment you leave, can ruin the experience. It's all about functioning as a team; even though the service is broken into sections, that's merely strategic. The entire team is expected to understand the ebb and flow of the service and step in before needed.
  • Presentation - The hallmark of the food at Le Bernardin is the exquisite simplicity of the food, which calls for adding the final touch at the table. The sauces for the meal are served at the table, which provides several advantages: warmer service, better flavors, and eye-catching presentations.
Hungry yet?

Okay, let's step away from the elegance of Le Bernardin and visit your church. Is it too big a jump to imagine that your guest services need to have the same elements of service as a four-star restaurant?

I think not.

In each of the areas above, why don't you brainstorm how you can deliver four-star hospitality to your guests?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Dining Experience... a four-star restaurant provides excellent lessons for hospitality in the church.

With one son who is a chef and kitchen manager and another who is contemplating attending culinary school, I have a serious interest in all things food. My waistline also shows that, but that's another story.

One of my favorite genres of books is that of the food industry, especially those that give a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the kitchen and dining room.

During a recent visit to my older son's house, I was perusing his bookshelf and took a look at "On the Line", about the famous New York restaurant Le Bernardin and Executive Chef Eric Ripert. It's a well-written and beautifully photographed look at the inner workings of the world-famous restaurant.

It's also full of great lessons for churches that want to have world-class guest services.

Your church will not be serving exquisite meals that diners pay big bucks for - but your church can learn that the meal is only a part of the total dining experience.

The Dining Experience
One of the things that diners remark upon after eating at Le Bernardin is that the service is almost invisible. By the end of the meal, you’ve been helped by as many as seven people, but you can’t quite identify them. Although friendly and available, they work out of your field of attention so that you can focus on the food, and companions, in front of you.

While it might seem effortless, it’s a rigorous ballet that requires training and focus. The men and women juggle a plethora of details in their heads while projecting an air of gracious calm.

“We have to perform to give you an illusion of effortless perfection. For you to have the right food in front of you at the right time, excellent and at the right temperature, and obviously having clean china – all those little details you’d never think of are vital” - Eric Ripert.

This week, let's think about the guest services practices at your church - by starting with your version of "The Dining Experience."

Tomorrow: "The Elements of Service"