Are you a Boss or a Leader?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

It’s easy to say “I’m a leader because I’m the boss,” but that’s not what makes a person a leader. True leadership doesn’t come from the title we carry, but from the influence we have with those around us.

As you evaluate your own influence with those you lead, which side of the equation do you think you fall on most often? Are you a BOSS or a LEADER?

Can’t see the infograph? Try clicking here.

When Email Makes More Enemies Than Friends

Recently, I received an email from a colleague who had not taken the time to write the email properly. I responded by explaining that I was confused and needed clarity. I didn’t hear back from him for more than a week. When he finally did respond, he gave a quip and unhelpful response without answering my questions or explaining anything further. I could only surmise that he was in a hurry and didn’t really read through his email to me or my response to him.

Had we been sitting in the room together discussing the issue, this would never have happened. He would have been a lot more focused on me and how he was presenting himself. 

As pastors and leaders, it is important we pay attention to WHAT we communicate via email as well as HOW we communicate it. I have made it a habit to follow these four email best practices. I recommend you give them a try.

Four Steps to Communicate Kindly in Email

1. Reread the email before you hit ‘Send’.

It’s super easy to do, and well worth the time. Just read it one more time. Eight times out of ten I bet you’ll find something that wasn’t clear and tweak it. You will never regret taking the extra time to reread an email before clicking ‘Send’, but you will sometimes regret when you didn’t. You can’t ‘take back’ an email!

2. Keep it to one topic.

I’ve discovered that people (myself included) are often guilty of just skimming an email before replying. If I try to address 2 or 3 issues in the same email, sometimes the reader will only respond to the first issue, leaving me hanging for the rest. Try to keep emails to one topic at a time – and include the topic in the subject line. If you have three separate things to say to someone, send them three different emails. It might seem a little weird and redundant – but it works!

3. Respond within 24 hours.

Waiting two, three or more days to respond to a legitimate email is the equivalent of ignoring someone while they are talking to you. It creates unnecessary drama and for some people it is quite offensive. Responding to the multitude of emails you receive each day can be daunting. If you know you can’t properly get back to someone right away, try replying with a very short note saying something like, “I’d love to get back to you on this, but can it wait until next week?” Bottom line, don’t leave people hanging!

4. End with a genuine sign-off.

We are all familiar with the typical boiler-plate sign-offs included in email signatures, like, “Sincerely,” or “Thanks.” Although this is common, it is also fairly impersonal. An extra 10 seconds for every email can turn your detached and sometimes inappropriate sign-off into a friendly one. I don’t say, “Sincerely,” to my wife, but I might for a formal letter to a company. For many of my friends and colleagues, I often close with “Be Blessed!” or “Blessings!” Sometimes, the most appropriate email sign-off is, “Thanks so much!”, “I really appreciate it.”, “Great job” or even, “Have a fabulous day!” Whatever it is, why not make it unique for every email? It will set a positive and authentic tone to the end of your conversation. Another idea: include the person’s name as well, “Have a great day Tim!”

What other email habits would you add to this list?



Bonus: Check out this infographic with more email tips at the bottom!

mbti_sendmail_infographic

Teach Yourself to Smile

[This post is also available at www.guestfriendly.org.]

That’s right. I said, ‘Teach Yourself’. Just because you have a face and positive emotions doesn’t mean you have a good smile. Don’t believe me? Check out my post, “The Problem With Your Face!” When I realized that my habitual smile looked more like a scowl than anything else I realized I needed to fix it. Here are a few steps I recommend to get you started:

STEP 1: EVALUATE YOUR ‘REAL’ SMILE.

First, it’s important for you to get a good, solid evaluation of your smile. I’m not talking about the pasted smile you put on when you are taking a picture. I’m talking about the smile you use every day at home, work, in the store, etc. You’ll need input from more than yourself too. This will require a good dose of humility on your part.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look in the Mirror
    As long as you aren’t embarrassed being with yourself too much, this one is really easy. The next time you are alone in the bathroom spend some time smiling at yourself. The best way to do this is to just ‘pretend’ you are in different scenario’s and smile like you would at those times. While doing this, ask yourself, “Is this what I want people to see?” The first time I did this I became very frustrated. I found that I didn’t really know how to smile except when I was getting my picture taken or was laughing. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with my facial muscles and worked on retraining them.

    But don’t stop there. Just because YOU like your smile doesn’t mean others do!
     

  • Ask Someone You Trust
    This means you have to admit that you might have a problem and need help. I know enough about us leaders that this one hurdle may be bigger than the smile itself. Assuming you can get over whatever pride you may be carrying, find someone you trust to give honest feedback. You’re not looking for someone who is afraid to hurt your feelings. That’s totally counter-productive. Find someone who will honestly evaluate your natural smile and ask them their opinion and thoughts. Then, as they give you feedback, just listen, ask clarifying questions and resist the impulse to defend yourself if the evaluation you receive is less than you expected.
     
  • Ask a Stranger
    OK. Maybe that’s going a little too far. You’ll have to decide. But consider this, your most trusted friends are used to seeing your face every week. It’s possible they will not be capable of giving you an objective opinion. So ask a stranger. Next time you are sitting in a waiting room or standing in a line, humble yourself and ask the person next to you for some feedback. You might start by simply smiling at the person before saying something like this: “Excuse me. I know this might sound really weird, but I am a public speaker and recently I’ve been wondering what kinds of first impressions I make when I smile. If it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable, could you just rate your impression of my smile just a moment ago as well as right now while I’m talking on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being that I seem really mean and 5 being that I seem very friendly and approachable? Again, just let me know if you’d rather not. I know it’s a very strange request.”
     
  • Ask a New Acquaintance
    Finally, you can ask someone you have recently become acquainted with. Perhaps it’s a pastor or leader from another church, a new attendee in your church, or a next door neighbor. You could use a similar approach as above and solicit their feedback.
     

STEP 2: DEFINE YOUR NEW SMILE

Next, you need to begin working on your new smile (assuming you need to). This isn’t something you will accomplish in one sitting. It will likely require a concerted effort on your part over a period of days, even weeks before you find the smile you are really looking for. Here are more suggestions:

  • Focus on Your Muscles
    Ask yourself what muscles you are using when you are truly smiling. There are over 50 muscles in your face. It’s highly likely that there are some that you almost never use and don’t even know are there. In fact, a good 20 minutes of ‘smiling’ could leave your facial muscles feeling sore. That’s a good thing. Find and consciously discover the new muscles you are using. You’ll need that knowledge later when you want to smile but don’t have a mirror in front of you to make sure you’re doing it right!

    A lot of research has shown that great smiles use the orbicularis oculi muscle. This is the muscle that surrounds your eyes. Good smiles will produce a slight squint in your eyes that help transform the smile from a ‘fake’ smile to a genuine one – sometimes called ‘laugh lines’. 
     
  • Ask Yourself How Your Face Feels
    This sounds weird but it works for me. I’ve discovered that when I’m smiling properly my cheeks touch the bottoms of my glasses and I can feel a different kind of pressure on the edges of my mouth. Again, that’s great knowledge to have when I’m out and about. About the only time I can genuinely ensure I’m smiling while talking to people is during a Skype call where I can see myself at the same time as the person I’m addressing. Since you and I don’t live on Skype we need some ‘help’ making sure we’re getting it right.
     
  • Get More Feedback
    You’ve developed a new smile and you like it. So you begin turning on the charm everywhere you go . . . and people start running. What gives? Try going back to Step 1 and get more input. For all you know, your new ‘smile’ still says things you never intended (and never said before). The last thing you want is for your first impression to be, “I’ve lost my marbles and hope you know where they are!”
     

STEP 3: PRACTICE

You spent most of your adult life perfecting that grumpy look. I guarantee you won’t ‘fix’ it in just a couple of weeks or even months. They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit, but in this case I suspect we’re talking more like 6 months. Practice, practice, practice. Check out your smile in front of the mirror often. Look it over every day. Until you know you are representing the ‘real you’ stay on your guard whenever you respond with a smile.

 

The Problem With Your Face

[This post is also available at www.guestfriendly.org.]


Your face probably lies . . . a lot!

You think you know what your face is saying, but it’s very possible you don’t. I discovered this the hard way. For years I thought I was expressing a kind, friendly expression everywhere I went.

Here are two examples:

  • A few years ago I was driving to work and passed by a church attendee walking in the parking lot. She saw me and lifted her hand in a brief wave of greeting. I made eye contact as I passed by, moved my mouth muscles into what I considered to be a ‘greeting smile’ and nodded. Immediately, I got the impression I should ‘check’ what my smile looked like. So I looked up into the rear view mirror and repeated the smile, only to be horrified to see a scowl looking back at me!
     
  • I remember sitting in my office across from a young couple in our church. The young man was interested in a job and had brought his wife along to discuss details and options with me. At one point in the conversation, he made a great comment that solicited a positive emotion inside of me. In a purely automatic response I again, moved my facial muscles in a modicum of a smile and nodded thoughtfully. A few moments later, I remembered the ‘scowl’ from the parking lot and realized that I had just frowned at him when I should have been smiling!

Most people smile at least a few times a day without even thinking about it. At least, they smile on the inside. Something happens that brings a small measure of joy into our hearts and we respond, either intentionally or unconsciously with a smile or nod.

The problem is, for MANY of us, our outward reactions don’t even
come close to our intention or genuine feelings.

This was true for me. One day my wife mentioned something about my ‘frown’ and I finally started paying attention. I was appalled and embarrassed. What I thought was a thoughtful or gentle smile was a total frown. I’m not exaggerating. My mouth automatically turned down on both sides creating a perfect frown. Ugh!

Since then I have been having an almost daily battle with my face – forcing it to truly express what I think and feel instead of what it (as if it has a will!) naturally expresses.

As a pastor, public speaker and Jesus follower with a strong desire to encourage and strengthen those around me, this became a very important issue for me. I’m afraid to think too much about the number of people I have given a negative impression about me, or worse, Jesus Christ, because of my expression.

The Scary-Mad Man

A while back our church hosted a national speaker and pastor for a conference. He brought one of his pastors and associates to assist him during the conference. Since I was sitting behind him, I engaged him in some breif conversation before the service. My first impression was less than nice. He seemed extremely unfriendly and antisocial. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was mad at me.

What shocked me was when the national speaker got up and introduced him as one of the kindest, passionate man with a huge hunger for God. I realized I had fallen for his scary expression. He seemed to be constantly frowning, even when it seemed like he should be happy.

It’s sad to say, but this has happened to me more often that I want to admit, and often from pastors and christian leaders that are, or should be, held with a measure of respect and esteem.

In his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki said, “What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if it prevents you from connecting with people. While smiling sends a very clear message about your state of mind, not smiling creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger – none of which helps you enchant people.”

It turns out little orphan Annie had the right idea, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

How is your smile, really? 

Check out “Teach Yourself to Smile” to learn some great tips on how to smile!

Tips for Getting More Done Every Day

I ran across this infographic not too long ago and thought it did a great job of summarizing some keys to remaining efficient and productive in both work and life. Check it out!

Tips for Getting More Done This Week!

productivity

What Do Your Guests Really Experience At Church?

Back in the 90’s I was hired by a company to be a mystery shopper. The idea was that I would show up at a restaurant, order and eat my food and then give a very detailed analysis to my employer about my experience at the store. The point of this exercise was to help restaurants improve and get some outside input on the guest experience. The employees and leaders were just a little too close to the everyday activities to truly get, or give, an outside perspective.

A few years ago I decided to offer similar services to local churches. As a result, I have helped a lot of church leaders identify and address issues that were hindering first-time guests from having an optimal ‘welcoming’ experience. I’ve also had the privilege to meet some wonderful people and attend some great churches both large and small.

How This Works.

Here’s how this works. You hire me to come and visit your church. On a weekend of my choosing I show up, unannounced and incognito (no, I don’t wear an overcoat or a wig.) And YOU don’t tell any of your leaders that you’ve hired me or that I’m coming. In other words, I get to experience a ‘normal’ Sunday service.

During my visit, I take note of several key experiences as a first-time guest. 

  1. I check out the website to see how well it provides directions and information about the service.
     
  2. I evaluate the ‘Street to the Seat’ experience, beginning from when I get out of my car and ending when I sit down for the service.
     
  3. I take special note of how I was greeted and treated by both recognized hosts (like ushers/greeters), as well as by regular attendees.
     
  4. I also evaluate the overall service experience through the eyes of a guest (worship, announcements, offering, speaker, etc.).
     
  5. Finally, I evaluate what happens as the service ends and I make my way to my car to leave.

Mystery Guest Church Evaluation Includes:

  • A Mystery Guest Visit.
    Most of the time, I will visit the church myself. On occasion I may send a trained mystery guest team member to visit the church in my place.

  • A Detailed Mystery Guest Written Assessment.
    I will write up a detailed assessment of the Mystery Guest experience, including a ‘play by play’ of what took place as well as observations and recommendations for your leadership to consider.
     
  • One 90 Minute Coaching Session.
    I will also meet with the pastor or ministry leader to discuss my assessment and provide further details about the experience, answer questions, and offer practical recommendations on what the church might consider as next steps. 
     

About the Cost:

There are two costs associated with a Mystery Guest Church Evaluation.

  • Professional Fees: $500
    This is the basic cost for performing all of the above services. If a church cannot afford to pay the standard rate, please don’t hesitate to ask me about discount options.
     
  • Food & Travel: TBD
    Based on your location there may be additional costs associated with travel and/or overnight stays. In these cases, I will work with you to determine these additional costs before we finalize our agreement.

Signup Today! 

How much time do you spend on your yard?

It is absolutely dumbfounding to me how much time and money American’s spend taking care of their lawn.

According to the article ‘Statistically Speaking: Lawns by the Numbers,’ we spend a whopping 30 billion dollars keeping our grass green and trim. The reason we are so focused on the yard is quite simple. It’s what everyone sees when they drive by! Really, if we all took care of our lawn like we did our garage or basement, I suspect it wouldn’t look quite so nice.

As much as we try, people tend to make judgement calls by what they see. People’s perception is their reality, even if their perception is false. So we spend a lot of time making sure our lawns look nice (among many other things) so people will have a good perception of us.

What bothers me about this is that many ministries forget to take care of their “other” lawn. I’m talking about their virtual lawn – the church or ministry website.

Sometimes I am really embarrassed when I see some church websites. Often, it is the equivalent of an unkempt lawn with weeds sticking out everywhere, shrubs that are way overgrown and tall grass in places that should have been trimmed with a weed wacker long ago. No church would want to leave their front lawn in that condition on a Sunday morning!

What’s even more scary is that some church leaders either don’t care or don’t realize their website needs help. So the many virtual guests who ‘visit’ the church each week stop by, take one look, and put the pedal to the metal. They figure, “If that’s what the front lawn looks like, there’s no way I want to stop by for a visit!”

I HAVE TO BE HONEST. This really, really, really bothers me. And it’s why I started my own website business several years ago – to specifically help local churches and ministries with their virtual presence. I believe your church website holds one of the keys to increasing guest attendance each week!

MY OFFER TO YOU

I would love to have the chance to give you my opinion of your church or ministry website. I promise to be honest with you (no gimmicks and no tricks.) I’ll tell you if I think it looks great or if it needs a facelift, an overhaul or a funeral. If it needs a facelift, I’ll make some recommendations. If it needs more, I’ll let you know and also give you a quote for what I would charge to fix it for you.

Please consider taking me up on the offer. You have nothing to lose!

The Secret Ingredient Behind Critical Thinking

The first time I read 1 Kings 3 I was both awed and inspired. It’s the conversation between Solomon and God about what Solomon desired the most. He didn’t ask for riches or a long life, he asked for wisdom. I vividly remember praying that same prayer as a new believer those many years ago; and I’ve prayed it many times since then.

Here’s what Solomon prayed:

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:7-9

He confessed, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” Who hasn’t experienced that feeling of being inadequate and lacking in understanding? I suspect it’s actually an important element in every leader’s life. Some might call it humility.

When I read that sentence, I can’t help but hear Solomon saying, “I don’t think like an adult yet. I need help!” Here’s the man who is now known primarily for his great wisdom, who seemed to have a natural skill for critical thinking, saying he still thinks like a child. 

Of course, we know God was very pleased that he asked for this instead of long life and riches. In fact, Solomon later proclaimed the virtues of drawing on God’s wisdom in Proverbs.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:1-11

I wonder if Solomon was thinking about that prayer in 1 Kings 3 when he wrote that first sentence?

The New Testament also reminds the believer to look to God as the source for wisdom.

Solutions ARE available when we choose to seek the Lord. This doesn’t mean solutions will fall out of heaven into our laps. It means God will give us the tools and ability to discover solutions as we apply ourselves to find them.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” James 1:5

In my experience, critical thinking is a skill that must always be mixed with the favor and wisdom that only comes from God. Too often I have been guilty of trying to figure things out on my own; and although that type of thinking can still bring good results, I don’t believe it always leads to God’s very best. 

“Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regards to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” 1 Corinthians 14:20

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” | “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom…” 1 Corinthians 1:20, 25

Critical Thinking – Step 1. What’s the first step in becoming someone who can tackle problems and find great solutions? Two words.

Seek God.

 

photo credit: Davide Restivo via photopin cc

Looking For An Exceptional Greeter?

I love to tell the story about a large church in New York City that invites anyone who wants to be a greeter to join them Sunday morning. In the back room, before people begin arriving for church, all volunteers are asked to line up and smile. The pastor in charge then points to different people down the line to be the greeters for the morning, encouraging everyone else to work on their smile before coming back.

The fact is, just because someone is a nice person doesn’t necessarily mean they would make a great greeter. The best greeters are those that help attendees feel both welcome and at home as they arrive at church. They will help ease worries, reduce tension and are an important part of a first time guest’s first impression.

The Exceptional Greeter Workshop.

I’d like to introduce to you, ‘The Exceptional Greeter’ workshop, where I share some basic principles that are so easy to implement, but sometimes difficult to remember. Turn your ‘ho-hum’ greeters and ushers into ‘amazing’ greeters and ushers. 

The Exceptional Greeter is available in two formats: DVD or Thumb Drive. It includes video teaching as well as a participant’s note-taker. The 2 hour workshop is designed to be split into several 10-20 minute teaching segments, each followed by a group oriented question to facilitate workshop discussion & interaction throughout.

ORDER TODAY! 

How To Know If Guests Will Want To Return

I visited a popular Mexican Restaurant with my 14 year old son a while back.

He was convinced I would love the place. I was doubtful, which means I went into the experience already critical of what might happen. As you might expect, I had a terrible experience while my son loved it and was left scratching his head why I hated it. Here’s my short list:

  • The line was long, so I had to stand and wait for 10 minutes.
  • The floor was a simple, and dirty, concrete floor.
  • They didn’t serve ground beef, which is what I love on my taco salad.
  • They didn’t have any normal lettuce for my taco salad.
  • I had to pay extra if I wanted some nacho’s (where I normally go they are free.)
  • The ice machine was broken and the soda was warm (really.)
  • The place we chose to sit at was dirty and I had to clean it off myself first.

Most people reading that list will agree with me that I had a right to complain, and not want to return. And yet, there was a line of regular customers (like my son) who loves the place and will come back over and over, despite some minor (or even major) problems with the overall experience.

Why is that? Because loyal customers don’t need to be treated extra special to remain loyal. But that’s not true for first-time guests! Successful organizations will know how to roll out the red carpet for new people, and they will know how to invite them to return for a second visit!

THE SAME IS TRUE FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH!

How to know if your guests will want to return.

There are several proven strategies that, when embraced by local churches, will ensure most 1st time guests will be likely to come back for another visit. Here are just a few.

VIP Treatment the Moment They Arrive

The best greeter teams are those that know how to identify and host guests. From the moment guests arrive on the scene (as early as the parking lot in some cases) there are people available to kindly direct them to others who will then explain where things are, what to expect and, if necessary, help them find a seat. The most anxious first-timers will begin to relax and focus on God when their worries and fears are dealt with within the first 2-3 minutes after they arrive.

A Warm & Welcoming Environment

The moment churches forget they are hosting guests is the moment they stop caring about the floors, windows, bathrooms and rest of the building. That’s the moment when the church has decided to hold outsiders at arms length and just focus on insiders. This will be immediately obvious to visitors and may play a much larger role in deterring their return than just about anything else. First time guests should never be distracted by a dirty or run-down facility. 

Handling Kids With Care

Church leaders and greeters will do well to always treat the children and teens of first-time guests with the utmost respect and care. They will over-communicate where they will go and what to expect and they will exceed those expectations. Many long-standing church attendees around the world will confess in private that the real reason they came back was because of their children. Alternatively, ignore children and offer them a bad experience and your guests are almost sure to never return again.

Friendly Attendees

It makes a huge positive impression when the regular attendees are genuinely friendly and reach out to first-time guests. The subtext behind this environment is, “People are really nice here, and I can use friends who are nice to be around. Maybe I should come again.” I’ve visited churches who would label themselves as friendly, but who treated me like I was invisible. And I’ve visited those who are so obviously friendly towards outsiders. The difference between the two might be compared to the difference between the winter weather in the northern versus the southern United States.

Strategic Follow-Up

Unless your first-time guests are already committed ‘church goers’ it’s unlikely that your guests will think of coming back anytime soon. After all, they hold no loyalty toward the church or God yet. For the truly unchurched guest, church attendance might be viewed as something to do on a rainy day, when they think about it or simply when time permits. So churches need to strategically follow-up with their guests, preferably within hours or a day or two of their visit. And they shouldn’t forget about their guests after their ‘obligatory follow-up’ either. Rather, churches should consider methods by which they can occasionally invite past guests to upcoming events or sermon series that may potentially draw them back to the church for another visit.


What other ‘first-time guest’ strategies would you recommend?

(don’t forget to check out my webinar on this very topic later this week!)

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