Monday, February 28, 2011

The Discovery of DNA, the meaning of life...

...or how individual intelligence led to second place

Fifty eight years ago today, two scientists walked into their neighborhood pub in Cambridge England, ordered their drinks, and one of them announced to the patrons “We have found the secret to life.”

This was no lie – that morning, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, the biological material that carries life’s genetic information.

On the fiftieth anniversary of that discovery, Watson took part in an interview inquiring about the aspects of their work that had led them to solve the problem ahead of an array of other highly accomplished and recognized rival scientists.

Along with the expected answers – they identified the most important part of the problem, they were passionate about their work, they devoted themselves single-mindedly to the task, they were willing to attempt approaches outside their area of familiarity – came this surprise:

Watson said that he and Crick had cracked the elusive code for DNA primarily because they were not the most intelligent scientists pursuing the answer.

Watson went on to explain that the most intelligent person working on the project in those days was Rosalind Franklin, a British scientist working in Paris at the time. According to Watson:

Rosalind was so intelligent that she rarely sought advice. And if you’re the brightest person in the room, then you’re in trouble.

Watson’s comment describes exactly the error that many leaders in today’s organizations make: they believe that they are the best-informed, most-experienced, or most-skilled person in the group. They may be, but studies have repeatedly shown that the approaches and outcomes of groups who cooperate in seeking a solution are not just better than the average member working along, they are even better than the group’s best problem solver working alone.

Far too often, leaders – who by virtue of greater experience, skill, and wisdom, deem themselves the ablest problem solver in the group – fail to ask for input from team members.
  • Lone decision makers can’t match the diversity of knowledge and perspectives of a team
  • Input from others can stimulate thinking processes that wouldn’t develop on their own
  • Individual thinkers can’t parallel process – dividing parts of the problem among many members
Trying to discover the meaning of life? How about something much simpler, like a new funding initiative to increase service to one of your target groups? Or any problem facing your team?

Don’t forget the danger of being the brightest person in the room.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Window and The Mirror

This week I was talking with a church leader and the concepts of Jim Collins' "Level 5 Leader" came up in our discussion.

The conversation triggered a quick revisit to the book, and to this little gem by Collins:

Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck).

At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.

Every leader looks out the window and in the mirror.

What do you see?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Change is...


Organizations are not alive in a literal sense - but they have to change and adapt in order to stay alive.

Nancy Duarte, writing in "Resonate," talks about the life cycle of organizations - start up, growth, maturity, and eventually decline. But it doesn't have to be that way.

An organization should make continual shifts and improvements to stay healthy.

In order to do that well, leaders must excel at persuasion.

Movements are started, products are purchased, philosphies are adopted, subject matter is mastered - all with the help of persuasive presentations.

Presentations create a catalyst for meaningful change by using human contact in a way that no other medium can.

Go ahead - change the world.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Like a Two Way Mirror...

You see it used in all kinds of movies and television shows, usually the police drama type.

The good guys and the victim are on one side, the suspects on the other. Each are nervous for different reasons: one thinks "Can I be seen?" and the other "Will I be recognized?"

It's called a two way mirror.

We have them in ChurchWorld, too. And they are used a lot of different ways.

How about Simplicity/Complexity?

On one side, we should strive to make everything as compelling, seamless, and simple as possible. The way we welcome guests (facilities, processes, people); how we navigate inside (wayfinding); the worship experience (flow, communicating The Big Idea, call to action); gathering information (connection card, digital system). You get the idea. We want everything our guests and participants see to be clean, elegant, simple, and logical.

Then there's the other side of the mirror - the darkened room of reality where it's often chaos, confusion, last-minute changes, and sometimes flat-out failures. It's the hundreds of details that go into a simple print piece. It's weeks, if not months, of planning and work to make sure the worship experiences go smoothly. It's arriving early to set up, clean up, polish up, and look at your absolute best - because you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Guests and attendees don't need to see the complexity of the systems designed and implemented to give them simple, powerful, life-changing experiences.

But they wouldn't have those experiences without the complexity.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Defying the Odds

Twenty-year old Trevor Bayne (by a day-his birthday was Saturday),
driving in only his second Sprint Cup race (NASCAR's top level),
driving for the Wood Brothers (a storied race car team that predates NASCAR but has fallen on hard times over the last several years)
competing in the sport's biggest event (the season-opener Daytona 500)
on the 10th anniversary of the tragic and untimely death of the sport's favorite driver (Dale Earnhardt Sr, killed in the 2001 race),
competing on a newly-resurfaced track (requiring new strategies)


"Are you kidding me? What?" were the first words heard over the radio after Bayne took the checkered flag. Later during a post-race interview, he was still in shock - "If I try to put it into words, I wouldn't be doing it any justice, that's for sure."

Was it luck? Driver skill? Teamwork? Experience? Circumstances?

All of the above - and more.

Just like what it takes to have a "win" in your organization.

How Friendly is Your Church?

Just how friendly is your church?

Friendly makes an impact - It makes your guests return
Friendly is a quality - Like all qualities, there are varying levels of competency
Friendly is a degree -What’s the temperature of friendly in your church?


We need to create a friendly environment
     and train people to be friendly
          and be friendly all the time

Friendly has to be “on-purpose.”

The value of friendly is beyond measure. It costs nothing, yet it’s worth a fortune. It creates a church’s reputation and it creates your reputation.

It’s the most contagious disease known to man – catch it, and spread it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Respond to the Vision God Has for Your Life

Perry Noble, pastor of Newspring Church in Anderson, SC, filled in Sunday at Elevation Church for Steven Furtick, who was ill. It was certainly a God-timing thing, as months ago Perry had asked to preach on this particular date, but Pastor Steven was reluctant as we were scheduled to start a new series today. But when Pastor Steven begin feeling ill Thursday, and finally made the decision not to preach around Saturday noon, Perry was on his way an hour later.

In his unique style, Perry preached on Vision. Preaching from Acts 26:15-18, he gave the following four points about vision:
  • Vision begins with an accurate view of Jesus - when we recognize who He is, we will do what He says
  • Vision calls us to action - In Christ we are completely forgiven, valuable, and unconditionally loved
  • Vision will impact you personally - what would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew you could not fail?
  • Vision will lead to the supernatural - God doing the "super" through your "natural"
...and a final comment: God's not finished with me yet!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Leadership Principles: The Iceberg

My wife and I were enjoying a quiet evening the other night watching "Titanic." An object so central to the story, but one that never gets much PR, is the iceberg that caused the ship to sink.

The iceberg can be a good illustration for a leadership principle, too.

It's expressed as a phrase:

The tip of the iceberg

What it means in scientific terms is that the bulk of the typical iceberg (from 80-90%) is below the surface of the water. The visible part is only about 10% or so.

What's visible is important - but what's below the surface is critical.

Just ask the captain of the Titanic.

In leadership terms, Dr. Tim Elmore expressed it this way:

10% of a leader's makeup is skill
90% of a leader's makeup is character

So much of a leader's influence comes from qualities we can't see - the stuff below the surface. Elmore goes on to say that character is the sum of:
  • Self-discipline - the ability to do what's right even if you don't feel like it
  • Core values - principles you live by that enable you to make a moral stand
  • Sense of identity - a realistic self-image based on who God made you to be
  • Emotional security - the capacity to be emotionally stable and consistent
The bad news about icebergs is that it's what's below the surface that sinks the ship. Weak character will eventually damage our ability to lead. The good news about icebergs is that it's what's below the surface that supports the visible tip of the iceberg. In the same way, strong character will hold you up long enough to use your skills.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The 4 Principles of Customer Satisfaction

...illustrated by parking cars...

...for church... a rented facility.

A Perfect Product
Customers want defect-free products and services. You need to design your product or service so that it can be expected to function perfectly within foreseeable boundaries.

At Elevation Church's Uptown campus, we meet in a rented theater - the former First Baptist Charlotte's sanctuary, purchased by the city in the 70's and turned into a performance venue. It's a beautiful, intimate setting for our worship experiences - but it has no parking, other than a few spots along the street. Practically everyone attending drives from all over the city, so we have to provide parking to accommodate them. Our solution? We rent an adjacent lot for VIPs (our term for first time guests) and families with small children, a parking deck 1 1/2 blocks away for attendees, and a small lot about 3 blocks away for volunteers. All parking is free; we put up signage in a 1 block radius around the facility to direct traffic to the right place; we have friendly parking teams to provide the human touch; and our web site has a campus welcome page that includes video of where to park.

Application: Design the product (in this case, a service system) to get people from point A to point B, foreseeing all that is foreseeable. It's just parking, right? But when you're averaging over 50 new guests every Sunday, along with 900 other attenders, all coming into the same 2 block area in a short amount of time, you've got to remove as many barriers as possible. We walked (well, literally drove) through the process of getting to campus, and designed  systems to get people into the garage or lot, up the sidewalks, and into the theater. Once there, the rest of the amazing team of Guest Services (VIP team, Greeters, Ushers, and First Impressions) takes over - each with their own unique system of providing an audacious welcome to guests and attendees. It's an ongoing process, reviewed constantly to adjust to lessons learned.

Delivered by Caring People
Your perfect product now requires caring, friendly people to deliver it.

At the Uptown Campus, parking is concentrated into 2 primary areas, with the majority of that being in one parking garage - with only 2 entrances/exits. That simplifies the Parking Team a little bit (one of our other campus locations is in a mixed use environment, and has 5 surface lots, each with multiple entrances - but that's another story!). With an optimum team size of 5 people, it's our job to smile and wave at each car entering the lot, personally greet and hand a parking ticket from the dispenser to the driver, be visible inside the deck on multiple levels, and take the validated ticket as the car leaves.

Application: An interaction with just a single, caring, friendly team member can make a guest feel good about being there in the first place, and sets the stage through a powerful first impression about what's in store for the rest of the morning. We're the first face of Elevation - we take that responsibility very seriously.

In a Timely Fashion
In this fast paced world of instant results, our customers (guests) decide what is and isn't an appropriate timeline. A perfect product delivered late by friendly, caring people is the equivalent of a defective one. Ouch!

Application: I don't know about your church, but at Elevation's Uptown campus the intensity and volume of traffic increases incrementally the closer the worship experience start time approaches. For the 9:30 start time, traffic trickles in beginning at 9, picks up the pace around 9:20, and by 9:30 it's cars lined up the street waiting to get in. We move the cars through as fast as possible, and encourage those in a long line to drive around the block and use the other entrance. As we dispense the ticket, we remind drivers of the second entrance. In between services, we open two exit lanes, allowing the deck to empty quicker. Our team is always brainstorming ways to make it flow quicker and smoother. Valet parking? Nah, just kidding! Would it be easier for everyone if they came earlier and weren't as rushed? Sure - but it's not going to happen. Learn your own customer's definition of "on time", and structure the process to meet that definition - not your own.

With the Support of an Effective Problem Resolution Process
Everything described so far is great - in theory. But like most things in life, there's reality. Sometimes we are short-handed on our teams. Occasionally we have equipment malfunctions with the gates or ticket machines, or our validator in the lobby isn't working right. An occasional Uptown event (a Panther's or Bobcats game, the circus, a big convention) sometimes creates more traffic on a Sunday morning. We've even arrived to find the main entrance closed, along with the first floor of parking, due to maintenance that we weren't notified about. When these unexpected surprises occur, effective problem resolution is measured not when we have restored the situation to the status quo, but when we have restored customer satisfaction.

Application: It's almost become a game among our parking team to brainstorm what could go wrong with the process, and then come up with a solution to use when it happens. Main entrance blocked? No problem - in 5 minutes we can shift all the signage and personnel to redirect traffic down the block, around the corner, and into the rear entrance. Ticket validated but not working? The team leader pays the parking fee to get out guests out and on their way, and is reimbursed by the church. Lost ticket? Ditto. Guest have a flat tire, potentially blocking the whole deck? Pull off our best impression of a NASCAR pit stop to get them on their way. A guest wants to grab a quick cup of coffee? We have a map of nearby coffee shops and restaurants. Here's the real goal: Resolve a service problem effectively and your guest is more likely to become loyal than if they had never run into a problem in the first place. Why? Because until a problem occurs, the customer doesn't get to see us fully strut our service.

Want to learn how to provide extraordinary, loyalty-building customer service to your guests? The first step, as outlined above, is to learn what makes them satisfied. Customer satisfaction is based on the four predictable factors above. I've used just one part of the Guest Services practices of Elevation Church to illustrate the principles. Take these four factors, apply them in the context of your own place, and watch amazing things happen.

Check out "Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit" by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon for more big ideas you can put to use as you build a five-star service organization.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Incredible Value of Customer Loyalty

The path to customer loyalty begins with customer satisfaction, and customer satisfaction is based on four predictable factors:

Customers are satisfied whenever they consistently receive:
  • A perfect product
  • Delivered by a caring, friendly person
  • In a timely fashion
with (because any of those three elements may misfire)
  • The support of an effective problem resolution process
"Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit," written by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon, provides loyalty-building techniques pioneered by the world's most successful service leaders, including The Ritz-Carlton, Lexus, and Netflix.

"Few organizations realize how valuable customer loyalty is," the authors explain. "Many aspects of your business are out of your control, but the single most important process - creating loyal customers - obey predictable, stable rules that need to be mastered only once. Then the rules can be successfully applied over and over."

Regular readers of this blog know I am a huge proponent of guest services in the church; here's a post that sums it up. I'm looking forward to diving into this book and pulling out some of the key principles and sharing them with you.

How about it - are you ready to create loyal customers?

By the way, if you think a church doesn't have customers, I humbly suggest you're wrong.

And if you think a church doesn't need to use the vocabulary of customers, guest services, and the like, well, why don't you hang around and see?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking for LUV?

At Southwest Airlines, it is more than their stock ticker symbol. The ticker symbol LUV is more than an honor to it's first flight and headquarters (Love Field in Dallas); more than an ongoing advertising theme since 1971; it represents the loving character of the company.

On Valentine's Day, there's no better way to emphasize customer service than taking a quick look at the company that is the epitome of practicing love as a way of doing business.

The Greatest Need of the Human Heart
Southwest Airlines understands that the deepest need in our human existence is the need to be loved and accepted - and it doesn't change suddenly or mysteriously disappear when their employees walk through the door at work.

Here are some of the lessons Southwest has learned about love - and how they express them:
  • Love is action-oriented: at Southwest, love is something employees choose to do because they are committed to the well-being of others
  • Love is patient: employees at Southwest get in the trenches with people and endure difficulty or hardship, and they do it without complaining - that's expressing love
  • Love is kind and generous: Southwest employees don't look away; they involve themselves and sometimes inconvenience themselves
  • Love is courteous: at Southwest, love helps employees  believe in people and look for the goodness of others
  • Love is affirming: Southwest believes that when people receive affirmation, they develop the courage to change and the confidence to succeed when they try something new
  • Love is compassionate: at Southwest, compassion consists of the capability of identifying with the pain of another person coupled with the desire to relieve it
  • Love extends grace and forgiveness: Southwest has created a culture where the norm is to forgive and forget
  • Love doesn't guarantee approval: real love comes without conditions; it doesn't depend on anything else. At Southwest, employees are loved without approving of their performance
  • Love is tough and gutsy: Southwest believes that actions are motivated by genuine love, and that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for others is telling them the truth - even when it hurts.
  • Love embraces humility: Southwest employees believe that when you are okay with yourself and yet not caught up with yourself, you can focus more on the needs of others
How is your organization practicing love?

Want to know more about Southwest Airlines and the secrets of their success? The comments on love found above, along with hundreds of other insights, stories, and suggestions can be found in the book "Nuts!" by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Shall a Church Grow Its Own Leaders?

Ask any gathering of church staff what their #1 concern is, and the answer invariably sounds something like this:

How do I get more leaders to help in our church?

I've written about it before, but it's a question that keeps coming up. Interestingly enough, it's a question with a lot of history behind it, too.

The question is not just for today's fast-paced, multiple-ministry churches. It was also being asked back in the 1920s-30s. Gaines S. Dobbins, professor of religious education at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote the following in his book "Building Better Churches":

Varied places of leadership in the church call for a variety of leaders. In the main, types of leadership may be classified in four divisions:
  • Promotional - a church has nothing to sell, yet it has that which it would commend to the people, a message and a service of supreme value. Someone must take the lead in promoting publicity, attendance, special activities, service, and good will.
  • Administrative - a church needs men and women whose aptitudes and special training fit them to take the leadership in carrying out plans which have been made and approved. Such people know how to organize, systematize, routinize, delegate responsibility, prevent failure through wise counsel, check up on results, and utilize experience in making one effort contribute to the success of the next effort.
  • Educational - leaders do not succeed by magic - they must be given continuous training and supervision. Churches need a combination of directors, teachers, sponsors, assistants, trainers, and counselors to fulfil the complex education program of a modern church.
  • Inspirational - these leaders do not form an exclusive group, but emerge in all the other groups and from the congregation as a whole, furnishing the very breath of life to the total church body. Their spirt, zeal, devotion, loyalty, and character provide and sustain much of the motivation of the church.
Dobbins also suggests four ideas about discovering and developing leaders from within the church:
  • Leaders are made as well as born
  • Leaders emerge in response to need
  • Leaders grow under the stimulation of study
  • Leaders are inspired by confidence and appreciation
Some of the words and phrases may be a little dated, but the truths behind them are rock solid and pure gold.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, how are you producing other leaders?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Community Context

The community does not exist primarily for the church
but the church for the community.

This quote by Gaines S. Dobbins in "Building Better Churches" underscores the importance of understanding the context of the "place" a church finds itself in. Here is a sampling of some questions church leaders ought to be asking on a regular basis:
  • Has the church a plan for studying and knowing its territory?
  • Has the church a map or maps of its territory and outlying districts?
  • Has the church accurate information as to population statistics such as age, race, and occupation?
  • Is the church reasonably informed as to economic conditions in the community?
  • Has the church ever made a study of community health conditions?
  • Has the church any plan of active cooperation with the schools in the community?
  • Does the church take an active interest in providing or encouraging better cultural advantage?
  • Is the church aware of and making any contribution toward the solution of the problem of delinquency?
  • Has the church any program for the improvement of family life?
  • Is the church building wholesome community consciousness and developing civic pride?
  • Is the church promoting good citizenship?
  • Is the church promoting neighborliness?
Sounds like questions taken from the latest writings on leadership and vision, right?

Wrong - they were written in 1947, near the end of Dobbins' career as a professor of Christian education. For over 25 years Dr. Dobbins used knowledge like this to train young pastors as they prepared to begin serving in churches across the world.

We would do well today to remember his teachings.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Old School Thinking

Translating New Testament Principles into Present-Day Practices

I discovered a treasure in the form of the book "Building Better Churches" by Gaines S. Dobbins, prominent Southern Baptist educator from the 1920s-1950s.

He asks some great questions:
  • What sort of church would it be that undertook intelligently and fearlessly to fashion itself according to the basic principles of the New Testament?
  • On what vital functions would it major?
  • What would be revealed to be its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would it give up as encumbrances inherited from a traditional past but clearly of doubtful value in the living present?
His answers? He thought the church should be a
  • Regenerate body - an inward change growing out of a personal experience in which the shift of life's center has been from self to Christ
  • Beloved community - sacrifice for the common good is the essence of true community; love cannot flourish in an atmosphere where some assume an attitude of superiority over others as their inferiors
  • Company of worshippers - the object of worship is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ made real through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The practice of worship is in spirit and truth; the purpose of worship is to maintain vital unity between the worshiper and God through the mediator, Jesus Christ, and the illuminator the Holy Spirit. A church may do much else besides worship, but it will do little else of consequence without worship
  • Winner of believers - the process of intelligent persuasion began with Christ's invitation to "come and see." It continued throughout His ministry and Paul expanded it. There is no mistaking the proposal of the New Testament that believers be won to saving faith through persuasion
  • Teacher of disciples - preaching and teaching are indispensable means of leading toward Christ, to Christ, and into the service and likeness of Christ. A church is essentially a school with Christ as the Great Teacher; the Holy Spirit as His interpreter; the Bible the chief textbook; the minister the chief officer of the school with other leaders gathered around him as teachers and staff; every believer an enrolled student; and all others who can be reached are sought as learners to be led toward Christ
  • Server of humanity - the early Christians caught the spirit of Christ and like Him, "went about doing good." It must send regenerate men and women out into an immoral society to transform evil into good, wrong into right, injustice into justice, not so much by political measures as by the leavening process of Christian influence
  • Agency of the Kingdom - the Kingdom of God is a present and future reality. It is not an organization to be promoted, nor a movement to be advanced, nor a social ideal to be realized, but a relationship to be entered and a spiritual order into which others are to be brought through persuasive witnessing
Dobbins, after a lifetime of service to the church, but writing this in 1947, had this final thought which I leave for you to consider:

Ours is an age of revolution. Inevitably the churches are undergoing change. Why not seize on this opportunity to make changes back to the New Testament rather than farther away from it?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Facing A Changing World

In researching and working on some leadership development material for an upcoming seminar, I came across the following:

Christianity is a religion of change. Jesus' call in Mark 1:15 (the kingdom of God is at hand) was a call to change - change of mind and heart, of conduct and character, of self and society. By its very nature Christianity is a religion for a changing world and has always had its greatest opportunity during times of upheaval.

The Christan leader has no option; he must face a changing world. If the leader is to render maximum service, he must both adjust himself to the phenomena of change and address himself passionately to the business of producing and guiding change. Here are some elements that constitute the changed world in which the Christian leader today is called to fulfill his ministry.
  • Changed world outlook
  • Changed economic philosophy
  • Changed social consciousness
  • Changed family life
  • Changed community conditions
  • Changed moral standards
  • Changed religious viewpoints
  • Changed conceptions of the church
  • Changed media for molding public opinion
  • Changed demands made upon the leader
Pretty good list, right? Dead on. Taken from today's headlines.


The author was Gaines S. Dobbins, distinguished professor of Religious Education at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville KY.

Written in 1947.

As the introduction to the book "Building Better Churches: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry."

Dr. Dobbins retired before I was born, but I had the privilege of sitting under a couple of professors who were students under Dr. Dobbins. When I came across this book in a used bookstore recently, I bought it on impulse. After flipping through it, I realized it was a treasure of leadership wisdom.

Time to go back to school...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't Think You are in Sales?

Think again.

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere...
- Former Chrysler Chairman and CEO Lee Iacocca

To just invent something and have a great idea is a lot of work, but it is not enough. You need to know how to get people excited.
- Larry Page, cofounder of Google Inc.

While companies sell their products and services, people in organizations sell their ideas.

Your success depends on how well you sell.

But selling ideas - especially the kind of ideas that make organizations work - is a skill shrouded in mystery. The ancient Greeks considered idea selling to be one of the most critical subjects an educated person could learn. Oh, they called it "rhetoric," but that's what it was.

It takes real skill to push your ideas and initiatives through the dense network of relationships that exist in organizations today - organizations just like yours.

Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, authors of "The Art of Woo," have turned the mysterious, intuitive art of "winning others over" into a clear, systematic science.

Shell and Moussa have discovered that relationship-based persuasion follows a distinctive, repeatable four-step process that leaders can master to achieve their goals:

  • Step 1 - Survey Your Situation
  • Step 2 - Confront the Five Barriers
  • Step 3 - Make Your Pitch
  • Step 4 - Secure Your Commitments
A typical organization has many speed bumps, stop signs, and "wrong way" signs for people who want to sell their idea. Standard operating procedures, policies and procedures, and the like are often ignored - and everyone knows it.

To move your idea through the maze, you have to navigate by keeping your eye on the right people and avoid obstacles such as conflicting interests, hostile belief, cultural missteps, and political minefields that can come out of nowhere and derail you.


Simple to say. Hard to do.

How will you practice Woo today?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

Groundhog Day is a celebration of an old tradition – Candlemas Day – where clergy blessed and distributed candles for winter, representing how long and cold winter would be.

Groundhog Day is also a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray that popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over.

Many churches find themselves in their own version of groundhog day, living out a dream and vision that was once relevant, but now is long in the past. Unwilling or unable to face reality, they are simply repeating the past over and over.

Church leaders who find themselves in this situation have an excellent new resource in “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” by Sam Chand.

“Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” offers a practical resource for discovering the deficits in an existing church’s culture and includes steps needed to assess, correct, and change culture from lackluster to vibrant and inspirational so that it truly meets the needs of the congregation.

The book includes descriptions of five categories of church culture (Inspiring, Accepting, Stagnant, Discouraging, and Toxic) as well as diagnostic methods(including a free online assessment) that church leaders can use to identify the particular strengths and needs of their church.

One particularly useful section of the book deals with the seven keys of CULTURE:
  • Control – it isn’t a dirty word; delegating responsibility and maintaining accountability are essential for any organization to be effective
  • Understanding – every person on a team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, his or her role, the gifts of the team members, and the way the team functions
  • Leadership – healthy teams are pipelines of leadership development, consistently discovering, developing, and deploying leaders
  • Trust – mutual trust up, down, and across the organizational structure is the glue that makes everything good possible
  • Unafraid – healthy teams foster the perspective that failure isn’t a tragedy and conflict isn’t the end of the world
  • Responsive – teams with healthy cultures are alert to open doors and ones that are closing; they have a sensitive spirit and a workable system to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks
  • Execution – executing decisions is a function of clarity, roles and responsibilities, and a system of accountability

Understanding your church’s culture is not an easy task. “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” is a very helpful resource for the leader who wants to delve below the surface of church as usual and lead it to greater impact.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Leadership Network as a part of the blog tour for “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Forget 2012 - the end of the world is coming February 14...

...that's when an IBM computer named Watson will take on two Jeopardy champions for domination of the world - at least the game show world.

I first heard about it last fall, but now the real deal is only two weeks away.

Here's a quick summary from

IBM has spent four years and untold hundreds of millions of dollars developing Watson, a computer that can play Jeopardy. In fact, Watson answers questions so quickly and accurately that IBM challenged Jeopardy and two of the show's all-time champions to a match. Jeopardy's producers and the human contestants agreed. Taping took place January 14, and the three computer-vs.-human episodes will air February 14-16. Cynics may call it a publicity stunt, but the project has brought real advances in computer science. If IBM's previous (chess-playing) Deep Blue and (genetics-studying) Blue Gene supercomputers are any indication, advances in what IBM calls deep question-and-answer analytics could show up in the real world within three to five years.

For complete information, see the article here.

What's it mean for the real world?

From Doug Henschen at InformationWeek: As Director of IBM Research John Kelly noted, there could be no higher calling than the promise of medical breakthroughs and saving lives, so let's hope the teachings of Watson become elementary within a few short years. In the shorter term, the prizes at stake in the Jeopardy IBM challenge are $1 million for first place, $300,000 for second place and $200,000 for third place. IBM has agreed to give 100% of Watson's winnings and Jennings and Rutter have agreed to give 50% of their winnings to charity. Watson couldn't be more selfless.

Double Jeopardy, anyone?