Doing Excellence

I’ve posted about excellence before on this blog. I recently spoke about excellence to a group of students at Baptist Bible College Asia in Manila, challenging them to achieve excellence in their work. But what is excellence? How can you define it? Sure, you can look in the dictionary (modern translation: google it), and it will say things like “superb, extraordinary, special”. But what is the magic of excellence? A lot of people know what excellence is, but not many people achieve it. I think it largely boils down to this:

The real work of excellence is actually doing what others only talk about.

Plenty of people have good ideas. But the reality of bringing those ideas to fruition takes time. This investment of time, for most, is too much. Thomas Edison said it best with his “99% perspiration” quote.

So, what should you get to work on?

Excellent Coffee

Excellence is important to me. My home church (fbt.org) believes in excellence in ministry (Ecc. 9:10). Focus, which I posted on earlier, is a part of excellence. Without focus, without intentional limited direction, you can’t achieve excellence. You can’t do everything. Do one thing, and do it well.

No where is this clearer to me than in the coffee war between McDonald’s and Starbucks. You are aware of the McCafe launch and its attempt to dethrone Starbucks. Despite their efforts, I think its now common opinion that they’ve largely failed in that bid.

I think I know why: focus and its affect on excellence.

I don’t want to be the guy who drinks Starbucks just because it’s cool. So I have been drinking McDonald’s regularly for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that Starbucks just has the best coffee in the world. Period.

But why? How?

Starbucks is focused on one thing: making great coffee. McDonald’s is focused on….well…I can’t say really. They have dozens of different products from hamburgers to parfaits to salads to ice cream to wraps…..get the picture? And consequently, the employees of each are equally focused or not focused.

A Starbucks barista is a pro at mixing my drink by hand exactly like I ordered it. A McDonald’s employee, who has to know how to prepare 3 dozen different things, sometimes has a hard time figuring out if the automatic espresso machine is making my drink correctly or not. I’ve gotten some horrible drinks from McDonald’s as a result; never one from Starbucks.

Focus affects excellence. Excellence affects your product. When your product is ministry, specifically church, that can affect lives.

How do you strive for excellence in ministry? Any specific stories or examples?

Walt Disney on Leadership

I recently completed the Walt Disney biography by Bob Thomas titled “An American Original”. You can buy the book on Amazon here.

I have always been a fan of Disney, and after reading this biography, I have a better understanding of why. He was a man of vision, an extraordinary leader, and one of the biggest risk takers of all time. Here are 7 principles of leadership from the life of Walt E. Disney.

Walt Disney was…

1)      A Dreamer Disney coined the term “imagineers” to describe the creative element of his studio. Imagine + engineer = imagneer. Or, to spell it out: the team at Walt Disney Pictures dreamed big dreams and then went out and made them reality. Leaders should always take the time to stop and think. They should take time to dream about tomorrow and what they want to build.

2)      A Worker If there was ever a company that was built from scratch, it was Walt Disney Productions. What we now know as one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world began in 1946. That year, Walt boarded a train for Kansas City. He wanted to try his hand at cartoons and he had $6 to his name.

3)      Confident As Disney (the company) began to grow, no one could deter Walt from his intended vision for a particular product or process. He would not accept “no” from anyone trying to tell him that an idea wouldn’t work. If he had, the following would not exist as we know them today: cartoons with sound, color cartoons, full length cartoon features, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World.

4)      Intentional This is perhaps the most amazing part of the story. On reading his biography, one can see that every invention, innovation, and idea not only broke new ground, but intentionally led to other areas of expanse. The intricacy of decisions laying ground for future decisions, on purpose, is literally mind boggling. This, I believe, was the true genius of Walt Disney. He was a visionary, always looking forward, always planning for the next step. What seemed to others as random, creative decisions were calculated moves as part of a grand vision.

5)      Aware of his strengths and weaknesses Most people would never guess, but Walt Disney was never a good artist. He wanted to be. He even tried to be. But soon he realized that the other animators around him were better. So he delegated that task. What he was good at, great at in fact, was telling stories. He did not delegate that, but oversaw every story board that the studio created in the early days. The stories that Walt Disney crafted and oversaw are the same ones that engage children to this day.

6)      Committed to excellence Everything that Walt Disney produced was excellent. “Why would you want to build a theme park? They are all so dirty”, his wife said to him. “Exactly”, Walt said, “mine won’t be.”

7)      Family Oriented This one may seem out of place on this list, but it’s not. Walt was a family-man, always involved in his children’s activities and often taking his wife with him when he had to go away on business. He never sacrificed his family for success. His home life kept him grounded after he became the most influential entertainer in the world.

I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of the Bob Thomas biography. As a leadership exercise alone, the time spent would be invaluable. And with all of the Disney quotes and stories throughout, you are sure to be, well….entertained.

Question: Do the above seven characteristics describe you as a leader? What can you change to ensure they do?

note: the links above are Amazon affiliate links.

Have a Ministry, Don’t Hire One

The Bible clearly teaches that Christ equips the local church for effective ministry:

Ephesians 4

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

If an outside resource is used (Financial Peace University and Reformers Unanimous being excellent examples that I can highly recommend), it must become a part of that church. Cookie cutter ministries won’t last long, because there are no cookie cutter churches! Someone in the church must be responsible for adapting the particular ministry to the local body of believers. We must have ministries, not merely rent, hire, or test them out.

And if Christ leads your church to adopt a ministry strategy, He has equipped your church with just the person to lead it!

Maybe….it’s you!

What ministries does your church utilize effectively?

Attendance Champions

I saw a billboard recently that announced a local minor-league baseball team as the “attendance champions”. I think I laughed out loud.

What that billboard said to me, as a leader, was this: We didn’t exactly complete our main goal (to win the baseball championship), but we want to celebrate something and make our fans feel good, so we are celebrating…..ummmm…..attendance!

If this team had won the real championship (regular season or playoffs….), do you think they would have put up this billboard?

Set goals. If you meet them, celebrate. If you don’t, do not move your target and say you hit it.

Reload, and shoot again. Then, you will make progress.

How do you measure progress in your church?