Follow the Leader

It's almost always during a crisis that you see what kind of leader a person is. Lincoln put his stamp on leadership history during the height of the civil war. Churchill became a leadership icon in the throws of World War II. Rudy Giuliani showed some masterful leadership in the days after September 11th. There is something about a crisis that reveals a leader's true mettle.

This week is Camp Sonshine (Baptists read "VBS") at McKinney Memorial Bible Church. This year the children's ministry leadership decided to hold Camp Sonshine at the Lockheed-Martin recreational facility, which is a pretty sweet complex near the Lockheed-Martin facilities in North Fort Worth. The grounds are complete with basketball courts, several pools, and ammenities that beat the heck out of the piecemeal playground and blacktop pavement we had at VBS growing up.

The only thing missing at the Lockheed-Martin recreational facility is cover from rain.

So yesterday morning, when we woke up at 6:30 to rain coming down at a rate of about 2 inches per hour, I figured it was going to be a crazy day. The kids were scheduled to show up to Camp Sonshine at 8:30, and at 7:30 word came that camp would be moved to the church building. Even if the rain stopped, we were looking at 3 or 4 hundred muddy kiddos.

I drove to the church expecting chaos, but instead I found a very organized group of about one-hundred volunteers working quickly, efficiently, but in an orderly manner to move Camp Sonshine - and hundreds of kids - to a brand new location. This meant hiring some entertainment at the last minute, organizing new games, logistics, and activities for the day, and figuring out a way to get the word to parents and volunteers in a matter of less than an hour.

At the center of the chaos was the Children's Director, Nita Menshew, who has been on the job at McKinney for almost two years.

As I walked into the foyer, expecting chaos, I saw Nita standing in the middle of the room, answering her phone, solving problems, and pointing volunteers in the right direction without skipping a beat. She wasn't panicked. She was smiling, laughing, and calmly making decisions in a split-second that would have normally received a week or two worth of attention.

The volunteers followed their leader, and the entire day went without a hitch. So much so that when my alarm went off this morning at 6:45, and I heard the rain pounding my window, I leaped out of bed - not because I felt like they would need me at the church, but because I wanted to be there to watch a leader at her best.

Great job Nita and leadership team.


Seth Godin has another great post today about a genius fast-food promotion:

Freaknomics points us to the greatest fast food promotion in memory. Beat the cashier in a game of rock paper scissors and save a buck.

What I absolutely love about this idea, other than its obvious remarkability, is the way it humanizes the previously automatonized front line worker. Instead of making them invisible, it makes them part of the deal. "Tell your Starbucks barrista a really funny joke, get a free biscotti (knock knock jokes not valid in some states.)"

Why not do this with your accounts payable people? Or give the customer service people the ability to give a prize to the nicest person who calls in each day? What's the worst that could happen--they might use a little judgment, might enjoy the day a bit more, might even start to care.

If you let them.

I love the idea for several of the same reasons. I guess I've always had a soft spot for the guy in the check-out line because I've been there/done that.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the people who go through the checkout line yacking on their cell phone without so much as a "hello" to the guy behind the counter. They're people too - not robots. I love the idea of reintroducing them to the customer, and rewarding the kind of behavior that treats the checkout guy as an individual who is involved in the process rather than a machine who cranks out change.

We don't have a California Tortilla in Fort Worth or I'd be there Wednesday to support the idea... despite the fact that I stink at Paper Rock Scissors.

Culture Shock

As most of you know, Fort Worth and Dallas are only about 20 miles apart in proximity. But I told someone the other day, sometimes I feel like someone airlifted me into a foreign culture and dropped me off. It's a different world over here.

I snapped this picture at a barbeque restaurant some of the guys took me to the other day in Fort Worth. This sign reflects the sentiment of most of the people in Fort Worth.

I've recently discovered that I no longer live in "Dallas/Fort Worth." That name is an insult to people in Fort Worth. Fort Worthers don't care to be identified in the same sentence as Dallas. When they find out you moved over from Dallas, they're quick to point out a more laid-back atmosphere, the lack of traffic, better food, and lower property taxes. In fact, on more than one occasion when I've mentioned I just moved over from Dallas, the response has been "What took you so long?"

It is a little more laid back over here. There isn't traffic like in Dallas. So far, the food does seem to be better. But those are not the only difference between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Fort Worth thrives on industries like Lockheed-Martin, Alcon, and the railroad industry. Dallas thrives on smaller, more entrepeneur-type industries. As a result, the people in Dallas have a much more independently creative type mindset while people in Fort Worth think like engineers. That's reflected in our church big-time. The worship services are more structured, rigid (in a good way), and to-the-point than most of the worship services I've been a part of in Dallas.

It's interesting that both the church I served at in Dallas and the church where I'm currently serving in Fort Worth are functioning at an extremely high level, but neither would work in the other culture. Fellowship Bible Church North would not function well as it is in South Fort Worth. McKinney Church would not function well in a Dallas atmosphere - even though they're only twenty miles apart. And I think that's a good thing. Both churches have such a laser focus on the culture they're attempting to reach that if they were ripped out of that culture, much of their effectiveness would be lost.


Great post from Seth Godin today about coachability:

A friend is wrestling with his ability to be coached. For the coachable, "Turn right at the light" is seen as a helpful suggestion for someone lost in a strange town... the advice goes in, is considered and then acted upon. For someone wrestling with coaching, though, it's like surgery. It's painful, it has side effects and it might lead to a bad reaction.

Coaching happens all the time. Most often, it's not from a boss or a professional coach. In fact, the best insights and advice usually come from informal or unexpected sources.

In fluid marketing and organization environments, where the world changes rapidly, coachability is a key factor in evolving and succeeding. Not because all advice is good advice. In fact, most advice is lousy advice. No, the reason coachability is so crucial is that without it, you don't have the emotional maturity to consider whether the advice is good or not. You reject the process out of hand, and end up stuck.

Symptoms of uncoachability:

- Challenging the credentials of the coach
- Announcing that you're being unfairly singled out
- Pointing out, angrily, that the last few times, the coach was wrong
- Identifying others who have succeeded without ever being coached
- Resisting a path merely because it was one identified by a coach

Years ago, at the great Bolshoi Ballet, auditions for the troupe were conducted among 8 year old girls. That's because it took ten years to become great. How did the auditions work? The teachers weren't looking for the best dancers. They were looking for the dancers who took coaching the best. The rest would come with time.

The great Howard Hendricks from Dallas Seminary always calls this trait "teachability." I would argue that without this trait, our lives and ministries are destined for obscurity. I don't know where Seth is spiritually, but the main focus of his blog is secular marketing. I don't know why, but it never ceases to amaze me that good wisdom in one's spiritual life and ministry always translates to good wisdom and practices in the "secular" world.

It's a topic for a future blogpost, but I think the major reason is that from God's perspective there doesn't seem to be a dichotomy between secular and spiritual in the same sense that we draw the lines.

Why do you do what you do?

I've compared this week - the first on the ground at the new church - to being airlifted into a foreign culture where you know almost nothing. You have to learn a new language, new traditions, new customs, even a new clothing style. It isn't easy to figure out why people do what they do, they just do them; even in ultra-contemporary type churches who try their hardest to spurn tradition and customs... they have an identifiable culture too.

Slowly but surely, I'm learning the culture at McKinney, and beginning to observe some of the things that make things tick around here. I'll try to identify a few of them over the next couple of weeks and talk about them because they're interesting, to me at least.

Today I had a conversation with the executive pastor, and he mentioned a little about the philosophy of ministry that pastors work by at McKinney. I'd heard it before, but he put it especially succinctly today.

"You see it two ways: Some pastors believe people exist to help them have an extraordinary ministry. Other pastors believe they exist to help people have an extraordinary ministry. We want to be the latter."

That's good stuff that most pastors would nod their head in agreement with (at least any pastors who are familiar with Ephesians 4). But how many of us is really comfortable in that kind of role? I know a lot of pastors who are interested in making a name for themselves - for all the right reasons. They love God, love people, and truly want to do great things. But along the way they use people to help their own ministries be extraordinary. As a result the pastor's ministry isn't nearly as extraordinary as it could be, and the world suffers from a limited number of extraordinary ministries.

It works in corporate America too. You see a lot of corporations that exist to make a CEO look great. Those corporations will always be limited by the vision, gifts, and personality of the one leader in charge. But when the CEO exists to help employees have extraordinary influence, that corporation is unlimited in its potential.

So what kind of leader are you? How do you view the people around you? Why would they say you believe you exist?

Every had a day like this guy?

Wow. I've argued balls and strikes before. But I can't imagine ever losing it to this degree. Phil Wellman, manager of the minor league Mississippi Braves went bonkers on Thursday, and put on a show that is worth watching. At least he didn't say "buns."