In the business world, we often hear that it is the bottom line that counts. I want to suggest that the front line is even more important. By front line I mean the person I actually deal with in your organization. They may be the person at the door, the sales counter, on the phone. If they don’t see the big picture or care about keeping me as a customer, your company loses.
I am in the middle of one of those situations with Tracker Marine, the company I bought my boat from last year. After becoming frustrated with the local service department I called corporate. And of course the woman I spoke with was very apologetic, agreeing that the local guys shouldn’t have lied to me twice. She got on it, and it seems my problem is being resolved. But in a way, it is too little too late. I already have a bad taste in my mouth. The negative impression is now there. They will have a hard time rebuilding my trust, or having me recommend them to friends.
As usual, I want to apply this to churches. It doesn’t matter how much your leadership believes in good hospitality when it comes to welcoming guests, if the rest of the people don’t see that big picture, or care how the guest feels. There must be a culture of hospitality that runs deep throughout the congregation. Otherwise, one rude comment or inconsiderate action can ruin the whole experience for a first time guest.
Peggy and I just finished a brief e-book called “First Impressions – Why First Time Guests Return to Some Church but Not to Others”. As the title suggests, it deal with this very issue. I haven’t yet decided how to distribute it (and am waiting copyright approval). But, if you are interested in a pre-distribution copy let me know. Just promise not to duplicate it while I figure out the rest of the process.
In previous posts on Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” I have covered the “Cul-de-sac” and the “Cliff”. When we find ourselves facing either of these situations the right thing to do is to quit. The third situation is different. This one is the “Dip”. The dip comes when you are on the right track but suddenly things get difficult. Instead of coasting along, you are now having to power up hill – and the hill is getting steeper. What do you do?
This is the time to try even harder! Redouble your efforts, lean in, pour all of your energy into it. Why? Because a lot of other people quit when they hit the dip. If you push through, you will be in the rare group who made it. If you are in a competitive field, much of your competition will have dropped off. If you are working on a project, yours will be one of the few that make it to completion. If you are running a marathon… well, you get the idea.
Very few people push through the dip. Those that do are the ones who succeed. Just about anything worth doing will have a dip. If this weren’t the case, the top would be crowded – but it’s not. Most people give up at the first signs of trouble. Many back down to the early resistance. They figure that there must be a smoother road to the top. There isn’t! Stick to the hard road. If it is the right road.
So, to summarize: What is your biggest challenge? Ask yourself three questions:
- Am I going around in circles, not getting towards the goal? If so, quit now.
- Am I heading to a crash – like the coyote in the Road Runner cartoons? Is so, stop! Turn around.
- Am I facing a difficult challenge with a prize on the other side? Keep pushing. Work harder. Get over it.
One of my heroes, the Apostle Paul, wrote:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3.12-14
What has “taken hold” of you? Press on toward the goal!
I recently reread Seth Godin’s short book called “The Dip” http://www.amazon.com/The-Dip-Little-Teaches-Stick/dp/1591841666. This is a great book for people facing big decisions about business or ministry direction in the future. He basically describes three different situations that individuals and organizations find themselves in: a cul-de-sac, a cliff and a dip. In my next three posts I will look at each of these situations separately.
So, first let’s look at the cul-de-sac. This term is actually French for “bottom of the bag.” In common usage Merriam Webster defines it as “a street or passage closed at one end”. It’s like a dead end, but with a circle at the end. These became popular with the development of suburbs.
The picture Godin is portraying is of someone driving around that circle over and over, never making progress. For an individual, a church, or a business, it is not always easy to identify when you are in a cul-de-sac, because after all – there is movement. You appear to be making forward progress, even if that progress gets you nowhere. You can speed up, but you still end up in the same place.
Seth’s advice when you find yourself in this situation is to quit. Quit spending time and resources on something that is never going to get you where you want to go. His premise is that we don’t quit soon enough and often enough in life because we have always been told to do just the opposite. We are told to persevere, to keep pushing, and never give up. But, when you are going around in circles, this is bad advice! All of that energy can be used for actually getting somewhere.
Next time: The Cliff