My main role at Church Fuel is to create clarity. I’m the Chief Clarity Officer.
One thing I’ve learned the hard way is my team can’t read my mind. If I expect something, I have to clarify and communicate it. Because holding people to an uncommunicated expectation is not fair. I have to clarify my expectations.
Here are seven things I expect from everyone that works at Church Fuel.
#1 – Decisiveness
I want you to know you’re empowered to make decisions. In fact, one of the reasons you were hired is to make decisions. You’re better at your job than I am.
- You’re empowered to make decisions about customer payments, refunds and bonuses.
- You’re empowered to follow up with interested people.
- You’re empowered to reach out to potential partners on our behalf.
- You’re empowered to test a new technology or service.
- You’re empowered to make something better.
- You’re empowered to fix whatever is broken.
You don’t need permission and you don’t need to call a meeting. You can do it and then report back with what you did.
One of my favorite notes is “This came up and here’s what I did about it.” You decide and you communicate.
#2 – Improvement
Several years ago when I was pastoring a church plant, we decided to take an idea from Elevation Church in Charlotte and do an Egg Drop.
Instead of the normal Easter Egg hunt, we would drop some of the eggs out of a helicopter. It wasn’t our idea and a lot of churches do it now.
We planned for 2,000 people.
And on the day of the event about 5,000 people showed up.
It was a total disaster.
- Traffic was a nightmare and people couldn’t even get in the park.
- Parents were knocking over kids in order to get the prize eggs.
- We ran out of candy and eggs.
- The speakers weren’t powerful enough to give directions.
- Crying kids got separated from parents.
And the helicopter pilot kept flying over the crowd pelting them with eggs like he was experiencing flashbacks from Vietnam. I screamed “Nooooo” into the not-powerful-enough sound system only to learn later that those who could hear thought I was saying “Gooooo.”
Based on lack of success, there was no way we were going to do it again.
But after the eggshells settled, we decided we could learn from our experience and solve the problems.
- We pre-registered people, which also helped us follow up with people.
- We gave out empty eggs and let kids turn them in for candy, which also let us keep the eggs for future events.
- We created several sections for different aged kids, keeping parents off the fields.
- We changed a lot of small things and persuaded people to give it a second chance.
Attendance was way down the second year, but it was smooth. It went on to have a nice little run.
That first year turned out to be the learning experience. It wasn’t until we were able to learn from our mistakes, adjust, and implement change that we found a sweet spot. Today, I advise leaders to commit to do something twice before evaluating whether to make it a regular occurrence.
Whether it’s an event, a webinar, a launch, or a retreat, make sure you don’t pull the plug before you’ve had the opportunity to improve.
Now let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that we throw the first thing together and expect it to suck. I’m saying that we need to be patient and learn from our mistakes. We need to be committed to learn and improve, not just launch and act.
When we do something that doesn’t work well, it’s like paying tuition. We’re getting an education. And it would be a mistake to throw that education away. Tuition is what gives you the education and the education is what gives you the opportunity.
Therefore, we have to evaluate and learn from everything we do. It’s the only way to make version 2 better.
#3 – Responsiveness
One of my biggest expectations I have for our team is responsiveness. Quite simply, I want you to respond fast.
To each other and to our customers.
When our customers email, I want them to receive a quick response. When someone from our team posts in Basecamp, I want you to give a quick response.
Responsiveness shows value. It lets people know their issue or their request is important. It’s a simple but tangible way to demonstrate your priorities.
If a team member needs something, your mission is to respond as close to immediate as possible. If a customer emails something, the measuring stick is to respond within 24 hours.
Hire responsive people; stay away from resistant ones.
— Jeremie Kubicek (@JeremieKubicek) April 19, 2017
I’ve been in too many situations where I couldn’t do my next step on a project because I’m waiting on someone else to respond. I don’t want to be thereason someone else is being held up on something.
Responsiveness keeps things moving forward at the appropriate pace. It keeps momentum from slowing or projects coming to an unnecessary halt.
Now to do this well, we must set some boundaries. We can’t be responsive to all the people all the time. We need to choose when and how. I use a simple system for this:
- Basecamp – This is what we use for work communication. It’s our hub. This one tool allows me to interact with the team and replaces several other tools like email and slack. In short, work stuff happens here. From 8-5 Monday through Friday, I’ve got Basecamp up on my computer and phone. I have notifications turned on. One of the reasons I love using Basecamp is it allows me to contain work and choose to be responsive during those hours. On the weekend or a day off, I can simply click a button that says, “work can wait” and I won’t get notifications or work messages.
- Email – Due to the nature of our business, email is where I hear most from customers. I try to empty my Inbox every day and there are rarely more than a few messages in there needing a response. It bothers me when people boast about how many unread emails they have or tweet about how out of control their Inbox is. There are people on the other end of those messages. If they are customers, their request is important and we owe them a rapid response.
- Text messages – Because we use Basecamp as a team, that frees up text messages to be from friends and family. Of course, if there’s something I need after-hours or during the weekend (very rare), go ahead and send a text.
Diving in a little more to responding on Basecamp, here’s a filter.
No Expectation to Respond
- Automatic questions like “What are you working on” and “What did you do this weekend.” This is just water cooler talk. It’s certainly helpful but it’s just conversational. Don’t feel pressure to respond; just jump in naturally whenever you want.
- Chat – The chat is where we just talk about stuff like we were all in the same office. It’s low key. Don’t feel pressure to respond; just chat whenever you like.
Expectation to Respond
- Pings – These are direct messages between individuals, like work text. Always respond quickly.
- Message board. Unless it’s just an FYI or an announcement, chime in on these threads. We don’t just want your opinion, we need it. If you’re on the project, your voice is needed here.
- Automatic questions on your projects. If you’re asked an automatic question on a project you’re involved in, a reply is expected.
#4 – Communication
One of my favorite churches is in Nashville. I interviewed their creative arts pastors one time about their staff values.
And the one that stuck out to me the most was “use your blinker.” This value was all about team communication. Just like a car should turn on their blinker to let other cars know they are turning, humans need to use communication blinkers to keep others informed.
In Atlanta, we’re not great at using blinkers. And in business, we’re not much better. We tend to put our heads down, do our job with excellence and then dive into the next project.
In a virtual company like ours, communication is like oxygen. We can’t survive, much less thrive, without it. We need to use our blinkers.
Company communication isn’t small talk or generic replies to generic questions. It’s intentional. Here are four places where communication is craved.
When we gather for team meetings, be prepared to give status updates on big batch projects or small batch projects you’re leading. One of the automatic questions we ask on projects is “Are you blocked on anything?” This is an opportunity to provide a simple status update and ask others to help you move forward.
Reports and Insights
When a project is over, don’t close it down too soon. Run reports, look at what happened, capture insights. This is where we document what we learned and capture ways to improve. Many of the things we need to know we can’t know until a project is complete.
- How did the ad campaign perform?
- What were the open rates, click rates and revenue numbers from the week-long sale?
- What are the questions being asked in office hour sessions?
A simple one-page report goes a long way.
Closing the Loop
Another way to excel at communication is to close the loop. When someone asks you to do something, ping them back and say, “this was done and here’s what happened.” Don’t let them wonder if you got to it or not.
Staying in the loop about communication also extends to the messages we are sending out to our list. Everyone in our organization needs to know what we’re talking about publicly. There are two simple ways to know what’s happening.
First, the company-wide communication calendar has information about when we are publishing blog posts and sending emails. This calendar should be complete and accurate for the rolling 60 days.
Second, at the beginning of the week, we publish an announcement in Church Fuel HQ with this week’s communication.
#5 – Organization and Planning
The fifth thing that is very important to me is organization. It’s much more than a personality trait; it’s a requirement for effective operations.
There’s a phrase often attributed to Benjamin Franklin and invoked by professional organizers (yes, that’s a real thing).
A place for everything and everything in its place.
This phrase means that you should keep the kitchen scissors in the same drawer, always returning them after you use them so they will be there when you need them next. It’s also a challenge to kill the clutter, refusing to throw things you don’t really need in that kitchen junk drawer.
A Place for Everything
Even in a digital company like ours, it’s important to store things in the right place. We all need stuff to be where it’s supposed to be.
All our files are stored in Dropbox, assessable by anyone on our team. If something is meant for public consumption, it goes to Amazon S3 or Vimeo. If it’s membership content, it gets linked to our member’s area. And finally, it’s all inked in a document called The Content Matrix.
The Content Matrix is a hugely important document containing links to landing pages, video embeds, and files. It’s like the table of contents for all our content.
We’ve already talked about Basecamp, but that’s the place for all of our project data, company communication, and checklist templates. Basecamp is the place where we track our work and track our progress.
A plan for everything.
Not only do we need to have an organized place for everything, we need to create plans for everything we do.
- Before we run a product launch, we need to plan the product launch. We put all the dates and communication assets on a calendar. We create deadlines for everything that needs to be created. We plan what work needs to be done before we start doing things.
- Before we start working on a project, we create the detailed project checklist in Basecamp. It’s a lot quicker to think through all the tasks in advance than it is to get knee-deep in the work and try to remember what needs to be done.
- Before we write a blog article, we create a simple plan. Outline major points, people of authority and keyword possibilities. A few minutes of work on the front end produces a much better post on the back in.
Here’s an example of a plan. It’s what happens when a new contact comes on our list. It’s a flow chart showing what they get, when they get it and what we’re leading them to do. Before we create any of the content in this plan, we create the plan.
Always sketch out the plan and get feedback and make improvements to the concept before you start building.
Apply the 80/20 rule to everything you do. Spend 20% of your total time planning the project and the other 80% of your time will be exponentially more effective.
#6 – Process
There’s a book I love to give away in workshops called “The Checklist Manifesto.”
It’s written by a doctor who says we should create simple checklists for common things we do, not because we’re unintelligent, but because our brainpower is better used for higher functioning tasks. He writes about airline pilots, who are highly capable and highly trained individuals, who run through a pre-flight checklist to make sure they don’t miss anything. He writes about doctors, who are highly educated and extremely detailed, who follow simple pre-surgery checklists to remind them to wash their hands.
Checklists aren’t for the dumb. They are for the busy.
Because of reading this book years ago, our church staff created checklists and processes for dozens of actions. Those checklists eventually became a product called Docs and Forms, got sold to The Rocket Company that has since been sold to Ministry Brands, and is one of the tangible reasons I still create resources for pastors and church leaders.
Systems, processes, and checklists are important to me but they are also vital to the way we do business. There will always be a little chaos and not everything will go according to plan. But where we can create stability, we owe it to each other to do so.
Anytime we do something more than once, it’s time for a process or a checklist. There are two ways this can work itself out.
Frist, document what you do.
If you find yourself doing something more than once, make sure you document it. Chances are, you’re going to do it again and there’s no sense figuring it out again or trying to remember. There’s also the likelihood that someone else will one day try to figure out what you just did. When you create processes, you save other people time and help us collectively get better.
Second, create project templates.
At the risk of turning this into a Basecamp commercial, project templates are super helpful for projects that repeat themselves. Since we do some these things all the time, we created project templates with checklists already built in. It’s better to start from a template than start from scratch. They represent what others have already figured out.
If you add things to a project you created from a template that would be helpful the next time, you can make the change to the template. That way, we’ll keep getting better.
#7 – Celebration
When people ask, “What would you have done more?” in the context of pastoring a church, one of the answers I give is “celebrate more.”
I was so focused on breaking the next growth barrier or going to the next level that I rushed through some milestones that should have been celebrated. This is one of the struggles of visionaries. We’re always thinking of what’s next, often at the expense of what’s now.
I’d spend a month getting people ready for something, casting vision and planning and the minute it was over I’d be on to the next big thing. But I should have paused to celebrate more, tell more stories and mark milestones.
Truth be told, I’m a little sentimental about stuff like this. Little trinkets, photos and memories, and awards are fun to me. And I need to do a better job pushing that stuff throughout our organization.
Before rushing into the next campaign, I want to look at the results and talk about what we learned from the last one. But I also want to celebrate.