“The Thank You Economy” for Churches and Non-Profits, Part 2

“…(T)he dominant obsession for any leader running a company in the Thank You Economy shouldn’t be the competition, nor should it be customer service. It should be your employees” (The Thank You Economy, p.89). That’s Gary Vaynerchuk emphasizing that The Thank You Economy is not just about outreach with Social Media, it’s also about treating your “employees” better than anyone else.

How are churches and non-profits doing on this front? It’s just as much about “inreach” as it is about “outreach.” Just because someone works for a church or non-profit doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have needs. Show me a well-cared-for worker, employee, or minister, and I will show you a worker, employee, or minister who loves his job, sticks around, and goes the extra mile (…OK…maybe not always…but more often than not).

Gary Vaynerchuk says there are two things that make employees happy and make them want to stay:

  1. Being treated like an adult.
  2. Feeling his/her individual needs are met.

Vaynermedia recently carried out these two things by establishing a new vacation policy: there is none. More than that, around basic parameters, employees for Vaynermedia can extablish their own daily work hours. I understand that this may not work in every church or non-profit, but what if employees actually could, within parameters, decide how much vacation time works and what their daily hours would be, as long as “they are doing their job 110 percent at all times, and they’re meeting their objectives” (p.91).

In other words: What if workers, employees, and ministers were treated like adults and felt his/her individual needs were met?

I know that realistically churches and non-profits would find it difficult to take work day hours and vacation time to this extent. However, what if churches and non-profits would do even a little better treating workers, employees, and ministers well.

Our church and school are far from being perfect examples of treating employees “like adults,” but we have tried to take baby steps in the direction of enabling our people to feel as though they are appreciated and their needs are met. Here’s what we’ve done:

  • The principal of our school welcomes each of our teachers to a brand new school year with hand-written notes and a candy bar or small treat.
  • Each March, during what seems to be the longest part of the school year, a solicitation is made to our congregation for monetary gifts. This money is used to provide gift cards to stores or restaurants for each teacher in our school.
  • As another token of appreciation, I (as pastor) take each of our teachers out for lunch once during the school year. After lunch they get the afternoon off to go home for some rest and relaxation.

No, it isn’t quite setting your own hours or determining your own vacation time, but it has meant a great deal to our “employees.” In the end, it’s really about one-on-one interaction and building relationships with people and treating them “like adults.” We have a long, long way to go in meeting individual needs, but at least we’ve made a start.

What ideas do you have for treating non-profit and church workers, employees, and ministers “like adults” and meeting individual needs?

“Scoring” Life

When I go to baseball games the first thing I do is stop at the stand right inside the ball park doors and buy a scorecard. I love to score baseball games. It slows the game down (I know, I know…some of you are saying baseball is sloooooow already; well I disagree; it’s a game of skill, strategy, and quick thinking). I enjoy the information it gives me in the later innings of the game. And someday I’m going to have a priceless keepsake when I score a no hitter or a have the chance to record some other momentous record.

In her wonderful autobiographical book, Wait ‘Til Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin writes about what a joy it is to score a game. Her father faithfully teaches her how to score a game so she can do so as she listens on the radio. Finally, she has the chance to go to a game at Ebbets Field. It’s one of the highlights of her entire life:

I experienced that night what I have experienced many times since: the absolute pleasure that comes from prolonging the winning feeling by reliving the game, first with the scorebook, then with the wrap-up on radio, and finally, once I learned about printed box scores, with the newspaper accounts the next day. But what I remember most is sitting at Ebbets Field for the first time, with my red scorebook on my lap and my father at my side (p. 51).

“My red scorebook on my lap and my father at my side.” I know you are picturing that in your mind right now. And I know you are feeling it in your heart. Would that we could all feel that way at the end of every day.

What if someone spent a day “scoring” your life? What if there were a booth just inside your front office door, and people could buy a card, sit back, and pencil in the home runs, hits, doubles, triples, and strike outs? It might help to have a spectator watching what you do every now and then. It would be humiliating to record a strike out; but just think how awesome it would be to hit a home run! The person “scoring” your day would get to fill in the whole square.

Even if someone else doesn’t “score” your day, what if you did. What if each “inning”/hour/segment you recorded the “score” by jotting down a home run, hit, double, triple, or strike out? It might:

  • Slow down your day by putting it into manageable increments
  • Provide help in strategizing your next “move,” objective, or goal
  • Give information later in the day to help see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you hope to go
  • …Or maybe even be a keepsake of a momentous day where everything came together for a “big win”

More than that, maybe you could spend your last few minutes at work with your “red scorebook on (your) lap and (your) (F)ather at your side.” You could prolong that winning feeling, re-live the highs and lows of the day, and boost your productivity the following day. Your Father would be sitting there with a grin on His face, and you would be feeling a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

How do you “score” your day? Any insights?

The Last Shall Be First

I don’t think it’s what Jesus had in mind, but I just finished reading Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work, and a major takeaway is that “the last shall be first.” Pressfield encourages the reader to determine where it is you want to end up with your project, weight loss, book…or whatever…and then plan how you are going to get there. Start at the end and then plot your journey. Set your goal. Get there. Do not pass go. Do not collect $100.

Resistance will get in the way, try to stop you, do everything It can to keep you from getting to the end goal. But it is your job to keep plowing through, don’t stop, don’t quit, don’t listen to the voices that will most certainly drag you down or keep you from crossing the finish line.

Seems to be to be a great way to start each day. Where do you want to be at the end of the day? What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to be? Now go get there.

Start with the last and the first will be easy to determine. With the goal in mind the first steps are more obvious and easier to take. At the end of the day, the month, or the year you will find yourself right where you always knew you were headed.

The very One who said “the last will be first” is the One who already knew in eternity what the end goal was and had to be. In the manger  the end was already in sight. On the morning of Good Friday it was already known what the end would, could, and should be. With His eye on the only goal He came to accomplish, Jesus began with the end in mind and went ahead and accomplished it for the world. The First became last for you.

He was perfect and we, of course, are not. Our nature often keeps us from following through and making it all the way to the ends that are important for life and faith. But He promises to be with you always, even in seeming minutiae. He is there to help you plow through, keep going, and overcome the voices that would overtake. He wants what’s best for you. And what is often best for you is to follow through all the way to the end…to do what needs to be done for your own good, for the good of others, and for the good of the Kingdom.

I challenge you today to make the last first. Where do you want to be at the end of the day today? Get there. Where do you want to go this month? Get there. Where do you want find yourself at the end of this year? Write down the end, envision what the final scene will look like, and allow yourself to have a taste of the final feast. Now go take the first steps toward getting there.

How can putting the last first make a difference in your life?

The Confidence of a Confidant

I’m certain you’ve never had a difficult week, but this one has been particularly so for me. There have been any number of personal and professional frustrations, difficulties, disappointments, and failures. The easiest thing would be to throw up my hands, crawl into a hole, and raise the white flag.

Unfortunately, that’s just not possible. Life has to go on. There is work to be done. There are mountains to be climbed and enemies to be overtaken. Frustration may try to win the day, but surrender is not an option.

I would have been lost this week without the perfect confidant: the person that calms, supports, listens, and even fiercely defends against any and all enemies. For me it is my wife. I have the confidence of knowing that my spousal confidant will be the resting place for words that need go no further than her ears.

Since I am a pastor, I have taken a vow to never divulge the sins confessed to me. And I never have. But as a human being there are plenty of other things that ought not remain bottled up inside. They need to be released, given wings, and shared with another. Burdens are never meant to be borne alone. Bearing burdens alone is to be buried under darkness with nary a ray of light to be seen. It’s quicksand, a whirlpool, a cyclone that floods that floods and drowns the soul.

Jesus Himself recognized the importance of sharing the bearing of burdens, of finding confidence in a confidant. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30). There is no One greater with whom to share one’s burden.

But He also provides flesh and blood people to be His ears, His shoulders, and His defense from the quicksand, whirlpools, and cyclones of life. I don’t know what I would have done this week had I not had the listening ears and support of someone who loves and cares for me. The Navy seals, who raided Osama bin Laden’s compound, took two helicopters on the mission because, they say, “Two is one. One is none.”

If you don’t have a confidant with whom to share confidences, please do whatever you can to make sure that you do. It will be good for your psyche. She will lift the burden. He will be the rope that brings you out of the quicksand, the lifesaver tossed into the whirlpool, and the high ground protecting you from the floods of frustrations.

Who has been the confidant with whom you share confidences?

Decompressing a Pinch Point

If you’ve ever experienced a significant bout with back pain you know that it affects everything you do. That’s been the story of my life this past week. Five years ago I suffered a herniated disc. It was pain so excruciating that I never wanted to suffer it again. But last Monday, while running, I felt a twinge in my back, and here we go again!

Today I went to the Physical Therapist and he showed me what’s going on in my back. It seems that two of my vertebrae are pressing on a disc, squeezing it out like jelly out of a donut, and then pressing on a nerve that causes pain all the way down my left leg. For the first time in my life I was put in traction. It’s a weird sensation, but seemed to do a bit of good.

The reason for the pain in my back is a good explanation of what happens in some organizations. Some issue, idea, or argument becomes a “pinch point” that irritates a small corner of the kingdom, and before you know it, the pain spreads to the rest of the organism.

The pinch point:

  • Affects everything that goes on in the organization.
  • Restricts the flow of energy and ideas.
  • Focuses all the attention on just one area.
  • Takes time and effort to work through the pain.
  • Diverts attention away from other things that could create a happy and healthy organization.

My Physical Therapist is trying to alleviate the pinch point by “decompressing” the vertebrae and alleviating the pressure on the nerve at that place. Sounds like a good idea for an organization experiencing a pinch point of its own.

When pinch points happen:

  • Discover the source, or pinch point, and treat it instead of the symptoms.
  • Acknowledge that other people in the organization may be hurting and in need of “treatment” as well.
  • Allow energy and ideas to flow into and out of every other area of the organization as a way of combatting the pinch point itself.
  • Use every resource available to ease the pain, “decompress” the personalities involved through the love of forgiveness, and take the time to make sure that it is lasting healing.
  • Provide specific times of healing that promote a healthy organism.

“Decompression” can provide health in an organization experiencing a “pinch point.” Now let’s hope it does the same for my back.

What examples do you have of “decompression” helping an organization through a “pinch point”?

Bach’s Birthday (and Mine)

J.S. Bach and I share a birthday (March 21). It rolls around just about this time every year. It’s the first day of Spring which is, I suppose, appropriate for me, since I detest Winter. We’re on our way to warmer weather.

And it’s appropriate for Bach, because spring is a time of new creation. Bach was a creative genius. He didn’t introduce new forms, but he took old forms and interjected new things into them. He was a master at the contrapuntal technique. He brought organized motifs into his music. He took forms and textures from Italy and France and adapted them into his own music to create something brand new.

I’m in no way claiming to be a creative genius, but I believe that Johann and I have some similar characteristics and experiences:

  • Bach came from a musical family, and learned his craft from an early age. My dad is a creative spirit who is a writer, director, and music lover, all of which I have received from him.
  • As a young man, Bach sang in a well-renowned choir. As a young man I had the privilege of singing in Eldon Balko’s Schola Cantorum. My parents saw to it that I went to this Saturday morning music school every week. I actually loved it, and count it as one of the formative experiences of my life.
  • Bach had an adult mentor named Johan Adam Reinken. Bach loved Reinken’s music so much that one summer he walked 48 km in order to hear him play the organ. I had mentors outside of my family that taught me to play the guitar, encouraged life skills in the Boy Scouts, and affirmed my affinity for singing. Glad I never had to walk 48 km to be with them!
  • When he was about 18, Bach took on a job as a servant and private violinist in the chapel of a Duke. He learned the importance of earning an honest days’ wage while perfecting his craft. As a young person I worked as a caddy, a bus boy, in a pharmacy, and in a one hour photo shop (remember those?). Those jobs taught me a number of things, including the fact that my education was important so that I didn’t have to have jobs like those for the rest of my life.
  • Early in his career Bach took a leave of absence to learn from Dietrich Buxtehude. He came back to his home church and introduced some newly learned techniques, much to the chagrin of his congregation. A year-and-a-half ago I was granted a three month sabbatical. I came back and introduced some new ideas, thoughts, and creative techniques…hopefully not too much to the chagrin of my congregation.
  • At one point in his life Bach had to write one cantata per month. I can’t imagine writing a cantata every month. But I suppose some people can’t imagine writing a sermon every week, either.
  • Bach was a Lutheran. So am I.

J.S. Bach showed that creativity and musicianship are the result of passion, pursuit, and practice. I’d like to have more of each of them in my life. That’s what I plan to celebrate on my next birthday. And J.S. Bach will be there to remind me.

I’m curious: With which famous person/people do you share a birthday? What have you learned from them?

A Day in the Life of a Debit Card

Life is rough when you give until you can’t give anymore. But that’s who I am. It’s why I exist. To give everything I have so that people can get what they need…and sometimes what they greed.

Some days I’m busy. Other days I just sit. But today was an eventful day, to say the least. When I woke up I was at the mall. In the wallet. Out of the wallet. Sliding through the slot. Pin number punch-in. Giving away funds. Back in the wallet. Time for a rest. Woops. Back out of the wallet. Sliding through the slot. Pin number punch-in. Giving away funds. Back in the wallet. Time for another rest.

I enjoyed the scents of the mall while my cents were being depleted. It’s one of my favorite places to go. I get to taste and touch such variety.

My owner gave me to her daughter to do some shopping, and I was enjoying the ride. We went through department stores, specialty shops, and a big book retailer. We tested perfume, tried on sweaters, and looked through magazines. But my senses really perked up when I began to sniff the deliciousness of P.F. Chang’s. Mmmm. One of my favorite restaurants. I could sit there all day and simply bask.

One more time. In the wallet. Out of the wallet. Sliding through the slot. Pin number punch-in. Giving away funds.

But this time…NOT back in the wallet. I stay in the hand. We walk out the door. It seems like it all happens in slow motion. I hear some giggles. I feel myself in the hand, but waving in the air. The next thing I know I am fluttering in the wind, falling to the street, coming to rest on a yellow line. Just when I think the ordeal is over, something black and round runs over me, and I am down for the count.

After that I don’t remember anything at all until I feel my limp body being picked up by an unfamiliar hand. I’ve heard horror stories from my comrades about being in the wrong hands, hands other than owners’ hands. I’m terrified. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want my owners funds to be completely depleted.

Just when I think my life is about to end in shreds I hear a voice speaking to my owner. “I found it in the street and didn’t want anyone to pick it up and use it….yes, I know where that is…yes, I’m not far from there…I’ll bring it to you in just a little while.”

While I’m still a bit nervous, I’m starting to feel more safe. Hmmm. I enjoy this car. It’s kind of nice. And it it’s taking me back to my owner…even better! There she is!

I get picked up, placed into her hands, and I’m home…safe and sound. I hope I never have to go through that again.

Even those who give, and give, and give some more get lost sometimes. They need respite, rest, and rescue.

You who give so much…what do you and where do you go to get respite, and rest, and rescue?

It’s Not OK to Be OK…OK?

Last night 60 Minutes had a segment on The Equity Project, an innovative charter school in New York City (video here). It’s a school that “auditions” teachers from all over the country and hires “the best of the best.” When teachers are hired they are paid $125,000, and get no tenure. Out of all the interesting things the school is doing, and the creative ways they are being done, one teacher’s quote struck me more than any other. When asked about being a teacher in such a school, he answered: “It’s not OK just to be OK.”

In other words, excellence, innovation, creativity, passion, and hard work are expected from each and every teacher at the TEP School. So how do the teachers at the TEP School avoid being “just OK”? They prepare; they learn excellent classroom management; they creatively focus on taking students from Point A to Point B; they videotape their classes so that they can evaluate one another (can you imagine?); and they work hard. When they fail to live up to the exacting standards of the school they either work harder, or walk away (or get let go).

Tim Rice knows that it’s not OK just to be OK. You may recognize the name. Tim Rice is the other half of the duo (which included Andrew Lloyd Weber) that wrote such smash hits as Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Rice had great success until he wrote the musical Chess. I bet you haven’t seen it (except you, Dad). That’s because it was a huge flop.

Rice admitted that it wasn’t very good. “In fact,” he says, “it was terrible!” So did he quit? Did he give up? Did he stop writing? No. He knew that it’s not OK just to be OK. So he worked harder than ever. He re-worked the musical. He says that it is now far superior to the original version, and it is slated to open again in London’s West End.

It seems that Tim Rice’s hard work has paid off. In addition to re-working Chess, he wrote, amongst other things, the musical The Lion King and has garnered three Oscars, four Tonys, and six Grammys. He has also been “knighted” and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Tim Rice has experienced both success and failure. But he still realizes that it’s not OK just to be OK. He’s not resting on his laurels. He could easily retire and never have to work again. But his craft, his art, and his passion all converge, so he’s happy to work hard every day. His new project is a musical called From Here to Eternity.

So what do TEP School teachers and Tim Rice have in common? They are passionate about their “art.” They chase after innovation. They do their homework. They are intent on getting better. And the key to it all is that they work hard. There’s no substitute for hard work. None.

If you really believe that it’s not OK just to be OK, what do you do? Go the extra mile. Stay later than anyone else. Pursue your craft. Use spare minutes to do the things that stir your soul. Read. Write. Do your homework. Evaluate. Don’t procrastinate. Finally, deliver.

How do you pursue being better than “just OK”? I’d love your thoughts and ideas.

College Carpe Diem

Ben went back to school today. Back to Music City. Back to warmer weather. Back to the place that inspires him and the people that support him. Back to a place that is a passing point along the way, but a place that he increasingly calls “home.”

He was home for spring break with a few friends. They came. They played. They conquered (lots of food).

He went back to the place where possibility floats through the air like pollen on a spring day. He goes to a school where monumental talent surrounds him. The location provides opportunity almost unequaled. Across the street is Music Row. Down the road is the world-famous Bluebird Cafe. Downtown is the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame. ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC all have offices there. Recording studios and music companies dot the urban landscape.

Ben loves music and music loves him. He has written. He has recorded. He has formed a band called “My Red and Blue” (ask him the story behind that name…). He has hard copy CD’s of his EP (acronyms, acronyms…) called, “I Might Miss This.” He has been given opportunities to shop his music up and down music row.

I’m not sure how well Ben knows that he stands at a major crossroads in his life. College time seems to move faster than almost any other time of life. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. It’s a life filled with both responsibility and freedom. It’s a place where dreams are hatched and ideas take root. But nothing is yet written in the cement.

Some seize the day. Others let opportunity slip away. It’s never too early to start living your dream and shipping your goods.

Funny, isn’t it, how children sometimes inspire their parents?! If only the wisdom of “age” could be coupled with the energy and ideas of youth.

Ben went back to school today. May he seize the day.

What is it that inspires you enough to seize the day and ship your goods?

Re:Creating Leadership

Dan Cathy is the incredibly energetic and creative CEO of Chick-fil-A. His rapid-fire approach made it a bit more difficult to take notes during his talk than the other speakers at re:create 11.  Nonetheless, Dan’s talk was very inspirational and filled with all kinds of leadership nuggets.

Dan encouraged us as leaders to engage others in the skills that God has called them to do. When that happens, a team finds itself moving forward with joy, creativity, and passion.  He encouraged leaders to “get used to scary thoughts coming into your mind.”

Then Dan pulled out a leather bag filled with leadership “object lessons.”

  • Ear Plugs: Your ears pop when you’re in the swimming pool and you go quickly from the top to the bottom. Good leaders work both at the top and at the bottom.
  • Shoe Brush: Good leaders serve others…like Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.
  • Relay Baton: Dan has learned that it’s not necessarily the fastest team the wins the relay, but the team the gets the baton around the track first.
  • Oxygen Mask: Flight Attendants remind us, in the event of an emergency, to put our oxygen mask on before we put a child’s on. Good leaders take care of themselves first.
  • Conducting Baton: Like a conductor, orchestrate remarkable experiences.
  • Railroad Spike: Good leaders stay on track.
  • Jar of Peanut Butter: The freshness seal reminds leaders to “stay fresh” in their thinking.

Leaders of excellent organizations create raving fans! In business, the first mile is the transaction. The second mile is relationship. An example Dan used was a Chick-fil-A restaurant hosting a “Daddy Daughter Date Night.” Another example was of a Chick-fil-A restaurant providing caring and presence for a man who lost his wife and two of his three children in a car accident. Being “human” goes a long way as a leader.

Dan Cathy backed up my belief that going out to eat is one of life’s greatest pleasures. He said that the word “restaurant” literally means “a place of restoration.” An evening spent going out to dinner certainly restores me!

Creatives and leaders can learn valuable lessons from a fast food restaurant like Chick-fil-A. When we treat people with honor, dignity, and respect, we are restoring hearts. As Ben Franklin once said, “The handshake of the host effects the taste of the roast.” Stay engaged with people beyond just the initial transaction. Dan is taking his own advice to heart and encouraging participating restaurants to give customers a “back stage look.”  It’s all about the personal touch.

Dan spiced up his talk by giving each of us a slinky. He demonstrated how slinkies can “walk” down the steps. He proceeded to tell us that there’s a lesson in that for leaders:

  • Nothing happens until leaders go first. When you go first as a leader it might be awkward. On the other hand, when leaders go first exciting things can happen that have never been done before.
  • Leaders develop followers. They intentionally endear themselves to others. Leaders ought to lead in a direction people naturally want to go. Be authentic with people. “Sleep with the troops.”
  • Followers become leaders. If followers don’t become leaders, slinkies will never go down the stairs. When followers become leaders great things happen.

Dan closed his talk with some great advice:

  • Take a trip. Go taste, smell, feel, hear…discover something new; and take someone with you!
  • Build a team. Teams bring both harmony and dissonance. Don’t surround yourself only with people who agree with you. Bring in people whose strengths are your weaknesses.
  • Find a successor. Who will take your baton?

What lessons of leadership have you learned? How are they different…or the same…as Dan Cathy’s?