Leadership Stuff

If you know me, you know I’m a “Raving Fan” of Chick-fil-A. I’ve always been a fan – the food is great, the atmosphere is so positive, and like I’ve told my wife, I’ve never even had a “not great” experience there. When we go there and we’re fumbling around with the kids, their stuff, our stuff, trying to order, find a seat, and all that – it’s nice to have a smiling face and even nicer to have the food brought to the table.

When I first came to Rancho, I had this crazy idea of pulling our entire staff together to encourage them and remind them that we (church/school) are one team, with one vision and mission. I had just heard Dan Cathy speak at the Saddleback Worship Conference, and was blown away with his presentation; and, I remembered that Chick-fil-A had brought lunch to our VBS about a month earlier, so I called them up with two requests:

A. How does one go about getting Dan Cathy to speak at an event?
B. Would they be interested in feeding our staff?

Well, number two was easy for them as they just had to cook up 180 Chick-fil-A Sandwiches. Number one was a little bit harder – Dan Cathy lives in Georgia, so getting him out here was not that easy. However, Andrew (his son), works in Southern California and was available. He came and spoke and really made the day inspirational – talking about “Operational Excellence, 2nd Mile Service, and Emotional Connections”. We were so appreciative of Andrew and our local (Temecula) Chick-fil-A.

 

There was a time when I was a frequent blogger, posting at least 5-7 times a week. I usually blogged on churchy ideas, worship stuff, funny stuff, design stuff, and family stuff. Then I got rid of my internet and resigned my position at my church. Then I got a new position, at a new church/school, and still didn’t get internet – so no blogging. Then I got a new position at the same church/school, and decided it was time to get internet again, at home that is. The whole time I’ve been wondering if I’d ever really blog again – the answer is still up in the air. Anyhow, that’s the intro for this post.

Over the past year my main job has been in customer service. I’m the Admissions & Family Relations Director at Rancho Christian Schools (I also am designing, brainstorming, and doing odds & ends for the church, but that’s another story). A huge part of my job has been and continues to be helping our parents (and sometimes staff) when they “hit walls” at our school. Maybe they can’t get the information they need, maybe they are in a conflict and need a mediator, maybe a staff member hasn’t been as courteous as we’d like them to be, maybe they have an idea and just need to be empowered, maybe we’ve just made a mistake and we need to own up to it.

So I thought I’d begin sharing some of what I’m learning when it comes to “Customer Service”. For those more churchie people, this would be framed around acting Christ-like (humbling yourself, walking the extra mile, washing feet, the one-anothers, etc). These are just some cool quotes that I found and thought I’d share, to inspire myself and anyone who’s reading:

From “Spreading His Gospel of Warm and Fuzzy“:

  • “You do not have to be the very best in your business to be people’s favorite,” Ms. Salgado explained. “It’s all about how you make people feel.”
  • Mr. Meyer, who serves up labels and analogies as readily as foie gras, calls his approach the Virtuous Cycle of Enlightened Hospitality: Employees focus first on pleasing one another — creating a warm-and-fuzzy energy that fuels the staff as it tends to patrons, the community, suppliers and, ultimately, a company’s backers. Meyer restaurants offer employees a variety of rewards, from bonuses to birthday cakes; employees, in turn, have discretion to give customers free extras.
  • Mr. Meyer always looks to hire what he calls “51 percenters” — people whose job skills are 51 percent emotional and 49 percent technical. Managers can teach technical skills, the theory goes, but cannot recalibrate someone’s emotional makeup.
  • “Skunking,” for instance, refers to “spraying contagious, negative energy into the workplace.” But because skunks spray when they are frightened, as Ms. Salgado explained, co-workers are encouraged to make a “charitable assumption” — Meyer-speak for the benefit of the doubt — and approach the fragrant employee with respect, trust and perhaps an offer of help and support.
  • The “jazz level” refers to how excited one is to be at work, while A.B.C.D. means “always be connecting dots” — collecting clues about what a customer wants. “In hospitality,” Mr. Meyer has written, “one size fits one!”
  • “It has now become almost impossible to distinguish your business based on innovation or execution for more than about two seconds,” he said. “In this next economy, if you want to distinguish yourself as being the best and being the favorite business within your category, the only thing left is the hospitality experience.”
  • “Ten or 15 years ago, we were the only place to get a Mac fixed, and now there are lots of choices,” Mr. Lerner said. “It’s not enough to do a perfect repair if the customer feels you were grumpy or you kept them waiting too long.”
  • Lakythia Ferby, who directs the center, said she created a staff-appreciation program in which co-workers take note of each others’ high performance and nominate them — using a form headed, “Kudos, you were caught doing good!” — for a reward of a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

From “Compete for Customers, not Against Them“ (a novel concept!):

  • Have you ever sensed an adversarial, “us vs. them” mentality from employees of service organizations?
  • Always compete for customers, not against them. You’ve probably heard the saying: “You never win an argument with a customer.” It’s true. Even if you have signage to point to or a policy to support you, if you’ve offended a customer then you lose—maybe a little or maybe a lot.
  • The next time that you draw a line in the sand between you and your customers, consider inviting them to cross the line. That way, you can be on the same side.
  • PS – Check out the authors blog and follow him on Twitter.

There’s some powerful concepts in those articles. We’re working through some of these very issues so the questions on my mind are:

  • In what ways do we find ourselves competing AGAINST customers? Let’s stop doing those things.
  • In what ways can we compete FOR customers? Let’s start doing those things.
  • How can we create that “warm and fuzzy” environment in our staff; what are some practical things that other organizations do to accomplish this?
  • What are the best ways to confront staff (and help them realize) who struggle with being “grumpy” or “skunking” people?

This is a picture of the Governor of California. He’s got very large muscles. That has nothing to do with this post.

I’m reading “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity” and just sharing my reflections here. I love the book. I love reading about stuff like this. And I love thinking about how it applies to my world. In this case, how it applies to our church/school organization at Rancho Community Church and Rancho Christian. Here we go. (part 1 is here).

Chapter 1: The Case for Connection at Work

…connection is invisible, yet has a very real effect on the behavior of people.

…unless the people in an organization have a strong sense of connection – a bond that promotes trust, cooperation, and esprit de corps – they will never reach their potential as individuals, and the organization will never reach its potential.

We have so much potential, could a lack of connection be a barrier to our potential?

Employees in an organization with a high degree of connection are more engaged; more productive in their jobs… feel energy, empathy, and affirmation.

Connection transforms a dog-eat-dog environment into a sled dog team that pulls together.

(research shows that) 75 percent of workers do not feel engaged or connected at work.

The state of many organizations today is like that of a bodybuilder who exercises only one arm. The result: one bulging bicep and three skinny, underdeveloped limbs.

What are some of our strengths & weaknesses?

Widespread disengagement is a waste of human talent and energy. It’s not healthy…

So What? Increasing connection in the workplace is a significant opportunity to improve the performance of individuals and organizations.

Do we feel a need to increase connection in our organization?
How significant is connection at our church/school work environment?
How are we seeking to improve the performance of individuals? Ex: maybe we need more accountability in our workplace to help people reach their potential. If we simply impose new accountability measures without first making personal connections, we cause people to distrust, act fearfully, defensively, become suspicious of or all-together reject change.

I’m making my way through “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity.” So far, I’ve found it to be an incredibly powerful book with some real applicable leadership principles. After I got about half way through it, I recommended that our executive staff at Rancho Community go through it. Rather than all reading it, I’m now leading our staff through a weekly short synopsis of each chapter. So I thought I’d just share my notes here on the ol’ blog for anyone interested. These are just some powerful quotes and a few of my thoughts intermingled (my thoughts in italics). If you like this, then you should get the book, seriously.

Fired Up or Burned Out: Introduction
People generally enter their organizations fired up, over time most work environments most work environments reduce that flame to a flicker. Solving this problem needs to be one of the highest priorities of today’s organizations.
Do you thrive or survive? Which term describes what your work culture is doing to you? How would the people who report to you answer that question?

We Must Connect with Others to Thrive
Connection meets the basic human psychological needs for respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth, and meaning. When these needs are met we thrive.
Lack of connection will gradually burn us out… environments where connection is low or absent diminish our physical and mental health.
Connection makes us better problem solvers, more creative, more trusting, and more cooperative. Trust and cooperation are the lubrication that make the tasks of organizations run better.

The Competitive Advantage of Connection (Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks, JetBlue pg. xxii) – This is an interesting part of the book where the author talks about how some of these companies that are taking steps and putting for major initiatives to connect with people. One story is of Southwest Airlines and their supervisor to worker ratio of 10 to 1, which is off the charts, compared with other companies that are much higher like 40 to 1. I love hearing about companies that take the extra steps to make connections like that, especially with their employees – you just know creating that kind of culture builds trust and keeps the team aligned in vision and focus.

…connection is a necessity to any organization that aspires to achieve sustainable superior performance.

It is possible to thrive at work and be a catalyst for positive change.

That last line means a lot to me because I want nothing more than to be catalyst for positive change – that’s the world I live in. I’m all about change – I find it fascinating. Our level of connection is proportional to our tolerance for change – if we are disconnected, un-trusting, and unsure, change scares us, even offends us. So I’m learning to create more connections, to build trust, collaborate, and listen more than ever now.

How connected are you in your organization? What are some creative things you’ve done to build connections with your teams, with your customers, clients, or congregation?