Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Precision: "the quality of demanding exactness"

Master the Art of Precision

By Dan Coughlin

In the midst of the media frenzy over our current economic condition, it recently dawned on me that those who are experts will no doubt survive any recession. People who become experts in their fields have harnessed the power of precision. And this is available to everyone, including executives, employees, and entrepreneurs alike. Achieving precision is the most effective way for any individual to succeed, especially during tough economic times.

The Noble Calling to Be a Precisionist

In Webster’s School & Office Dictionary, the word precision is defined as “the quality of demanding exactness.” A precisionist is a person who has mastered the art of demanding exactness. The precisionist operates among the very best performers in the world within a given area of focus and constantly works to improve his or her performance.

When customers and employers are hit hard in the wallet they become extraordinarily discerning about where they place their dollars. They become highly selective both in terms of what area they invest in and who they invest in. They develop a laser focus about only going after the type of people they absolutely need. This results in recruiters seeking out only the best of the best within that target.

If you want to fall into the extremely small slice of professionals that others will always seek out, then I challenge you to become a precisionist.

The Challenge We All Face

Finding examples of precisionists is not very hard to do. So why does becoming a precisionist remain such a great challenge? Well, we get a little busy with our lives and before we know it today is over with and we’re on to tomorrow. Needless to say, we haven’t exactly made very much progress in becoming more precise in what we’re doing. In other words, our high–paced agendas take over our best intentions.

I think it’s time, especially in such a tough economic period, for us to step off the train of constant activity and make real progress toward becoming true precisionists within one area of focus.

The Process of Becoming a Precisionist

There are four steps to mastering the craft of precision:

Step One: Select an Umbrella

Your umbrella is the area of focus you’ve decided to achieve precision within. This is the area you’re committing to operate in over the long term.

Walt Disney was not a great golfer and Tiger Woods never made great family films. They each operated within their own umbrella: Disney in family entertainment and Woods in golf. However, within each umbrella there was plenty of room to maneuver and create.

Walt Disney made family films and television shows, he created theme parks, he licensed products, and he started amazingly popular communities like The Mickey Mouse Club. Tiger Woods plays in professional golf tournaments, he designs golf courses, he promotes golfing products, he hosts his own professional golf tournament, and he created a foundation that has introduced golf to millions of kids who otherwise may never have played the game. Having one area of focus isn’t a limiting factor; it’s actually a freeing factor. It allows you to operate with extraordinary freedom within a given umbrella and that enhances the synergy between everything you do.

What is your umbrella? What is the area of focus that you are going to consistently work within to become a true precisionist? Answer these questions carefully.

Step Two: Maintain a High Degree of Focus for at Least 15 Years

Tiger Woods played competitive golf at age seven and won his first Masters golf tournament at age 21.

Walt Disney started making animated shorts at age 19 and made his first full–length animated film at age 35.

Steve Martin did his first stand–up comedy routine at age 18 and began selling out major venues at age 33.

Harrison Ford set out at the age of 22 to become a great character actor. He received his first major part in 1977 at the age of 34 as Hans Solo in Star Wars. He became Indiana Jones in 1981 and now at the age of 65 he is starring in the fourth Indiana Jones movie. He’s a precisionist.

If you want to be a precisionist in any field, remain committed to constantly improving within your umbrella for at least 15 years. It doesn’t matter whether your focus is to be a great entrepreneur, singer, executive, leader, writer, or manager.

You might be wondering how pursuing precision can help you slice through a recession if it takes at least 15 years to become a precisionist. Here’s how it works. The moment you commit yourself to a specific umbrella, a specific area of focus, you begin to attract people and opportunities that help you hone your craft within that arena. In doing so, you become more attractive to people outside the field. They know what you are focused on and they admire you for pursuing excellence in that field. They may not say that to you, but that’s what happens. You probably won’t make a million dollars, at least not right away, and that’s ok. You are on your way to becoming a precisionist in a field that you have passion for and that sense of adventure is worth a great deal.

Step Three: Leverage Technology

I used to think that technology meant computers, software, and electronics. I wasn’t even close. In Webster’s School and Office Dictionary the definition of technology is “science used in a practical way.” The definition of science is “systemized knowledge obtained by study, observation, and experiment.” Consequently, technology means “systemized knowledge obtained by study, observation, and experiment that is used in a practical way.” I LOVE that definition. That’s exactly what precisionists do.

Tiger Woods is a student of golf: the history of golf, the great players from the past, and the different holes on the different courses. He experiments with different types of shots until he’s able to use them in a practical way during a professional golf tournament.

Walt Disney constantly observed people and experimented with different ways to tell entertaining stories in practical ways. He was one of the first to use color in films, he embraced television when others ran away from it, and he created the first ever theme park.

We all have the ability to leverage technology in order to increase the exactness with which we perform. The key is to constantly study, observe, and experiment within our selected umbrella, and then use what we have learned in practical ways that add value to other people.

Step Four: Embrace Simplicity

Over the past 11 years, I’ve noticed that highly paid, intelligent, and hard–working individuals often times subconsciously make their work infinitely more complicated than it needs to be. In order to justify their salary and prove their commitment to the organization, they put themselves through the ringer. They work 80 hours a week on ridiculously complicated processes that generate small increments of improvement.

If that statement applies to you, I have one piece of advice: stop doing that.

Instead, I encourage you to embrace simplicity. Hone your processes until they contain three to seven steps that you can execute within a reasonable number of hours a week. (And 40 hours a week is a good place to max out at.) And then be ok with achieving great results with simple processes. Don’t fall into the trap that says, “If this simple process generated great results, then a really complicated process would generate even better results.” It doesn’t work that way.

Last year I bought an $1,800 computer that required five steps to assemble. I also bought an $18 toy for my daughter that required assembling hundreds of pieces with dozens of steps. Which company do you think provided me with the most value?

Select your umbrella, maintain focus at learning and experimenting and observing and improving for at least 15 years, leverage your body of knowledge in practical ways, and embrace simple ways to deliver value to other people. With this method, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert – a true precisionist.


Dan Coughlin is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, and author of “Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum”, which made it to #4 on the Barnes & Noble Business Bestseller List. He has been quoted in USA Today, the New York Times, and Investor's Business Daily. Dan's clients include Coca-Cola, Toyota, Boeing, Marriott, McDonald's, AT&T, American Bar Association, the St. Louis Cardinals, and more than 100 other organizations in over thirty industries. He speaks on entrepreneurial habits, quality, leadership, branding, sales, and innovation.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Worship, Websites, Conflict Affect Growth in Congregations

View “FACTs on Growth” online as a pdf document

HARTFORD, CT (December 11, 2006) – Contemporary worship, geographic location, a website and the absence of conflict are key factors in why some congregations in America are growing, according to the latest national survey of U.S. faith communities.

The survey, sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, found that wanting to grow is not enough. Congregations that grow must plan for growth: “Congregations that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were much more likely to grow than congregations that had not.”

The survey findings are available in “FACTs on Growth.” The data was taken from the Faith Communities Today 2005 (FACT2005) survey of 884 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey updates results from a survey taken in 2000, and is the latest in CCSP’s series of trend-tracking national surveys of U.S. congregations.

David A. Roozen, Director of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership and Professor of Religion and Society at Hartford Seminary, said that, “If you are at all interested in research on ‘church’ growth, this brief report is must reading. It tests the continuing salience of long ‘taken for granted’ principles of growth (e.g., location, conservative theology) as well as the more recently proposed (e.g., contemporary worship, spiritual practices and purposefulness).”

“Perhaps most importantly, it suggests several newly emergent dynamics to consider (e.g., the potential for growth in downtown areas and within multi racial/ethnic congregations)...,” Roozen said.

Among the findings in the FACTs on Growth report:

  • Congregations that change worship format and style are more likely to grow. More than half the congregations that use contemporary styles of worship have experienced substantial growth since 2000. Frequency is important as well: The more worship services a congregation holds, the more likely it is to have grown.
  • Congregations located in new suburbs are more likely to experience growth. But surprisingly the second best area for growth is the downtown of metropolitan areas.
  • Congregations that have experienced major conflict are quite likely to have declined in attendance. The strongest correlate of growth is the absence of serious conflict.
  • Congregations that have started or maintained a website in the past year are most likely to grow. The effort to have a website indicates that the congregation is outward looking and willing to change by non-traditional means.
  • While most congregations in America are composed of a single racial/ethnic group, those that are multi-racial are most likely to have experienced strong growth in worship attendance.
  • More important than theological orientation is the religious character of the congregation and clarity of mission and purpose. Growing churches are clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing – “purpose-driven growth.”
  • Congregations that involve children in worship are more likely to experience significant growth. Also, important to growth is the ability of congregations to attract young adults and families with children.
  • Almost all congregations say they want to grow, but it takes intentionality and action for growth to occur. Congregations that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were more likely to grow than congregations that had not. Particularly helpful in achieving growth are sponsorship of a program or event to attract non-members or the existence of support groups.

The report was written by C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

View “FACTs on Growth” online as a pdf document

David Roozen, Director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary,

C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at Episcopal Church Center, New York, or (212) 922-5331.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Great Leaders Value Good Timing

Reggie McNeal has this to say about that:

"Timing is very significant in spiritual leadership. Indeed, timing played a major role in shaping Jesus' ministry and death. Not only would Jesus not go to the cross for the wrong reasons. He didn't go until it was the right time ("Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father" [John 13:1; NIV]).

"Great leaders understand the importance of timing, specifically when it comes to making decisions. There are right times to consider issues and right times to make moves. Conversely, even the right issue tackled at the wrong time faces certain defeat.

"There is no formula for great timing. It is part instinct, part intuition, part paying attention to surroundings, part prayer life, and all of the above. But it is not guesswork. Leaders who have a good sense of timing seem very wired into their situations while, at the same time, wired into God for a perspective that transcends just what the leader and his or her advisers can see.

"Leaders adept at timing know how to read audiences and situations. They have practiced this over the years, testing out their hunches and intuitions. They have learned how to monitor their own internal sensors and when to pay attention to the voices around them and the voice within. Leaders with great timing know how to test the water, sniff the wind, and commit just enough to gauge reaction before committing it all. They risk, but they do not gamble.

"The pastor of a large urban church defied conventional wisdom: he consolidated the number of worship services to just one when the congregation moved into freshly renovated space. After a year of being dislocated from their worship center, he felt the church's sense of community would be well served by being together. The spirit of the services went sky high. The atmosphere for the next months was electric. Four months later he announced a move back to multiple services. He wanted to do it before people's new routines became set. Both calls were made by a savvy leader who is a pro at understanding timing in leadership.

"Sometimes the leader is ready to make a decision, but other people need time to catch up.

"Leigh knew that her ministry role was coming to an end in the organization she had joined six years earlier. She was not distressed with her current assignment; she simply felt called to another city to become a part of a ministry there. Yet she knew that timing was going to be important. For two years she prayed about when to leave. Every time she felt the urge to announce her departure, she resisted it. She discerned that though she was ready to move on, some facets of her world were not yet completed, either in the organization she was leaving or in something God was preparing for her. Leigh's decision to hold off was confirmed when an unforeseen crisis emerged that she was uniquely qualified to handle. After the crisis, Leigh sensed that the timing was now right for her to resign and move. When she did, she almost immediately discovered a group of people who had only recently begun to pray for God to send someone with Leigh's technical skills to launch their new ministry. The timing was perfect—God's and Leigh's.

"How have you observed the importance of timing in your leadership? How do you know when the time is right to implement a big decision?"

Excerpted from, Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders by Reggie McNeal (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006).

Reggie McNeal is the missional leadership specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas, Texas.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New General Superintendent Stresses Vigorous Church Planting

George O. Wood, who now heads one of the nation’s largest Pentecostal groups (1.6 million members in the US and 57 million adherents worldwide), is a by-product of church planting.

Generations of Wood's family are believers largely because a 24-year-old minister felt a burden to a plant a church in Jeanette, Pa., nearly 100 years ago.

Back then, however, there weren't any resources or financial backing from churches or denominations like there are today for ministers freshly starting church plants. But when a young minister, Ben Mahan, still took the risk and began holding worship meetings on the streets of Jeanette and later established a church, Wood's grandmother and father accepted Christ.

"This is what church planting does," said Wood in a chapel service at the Assemblies of God national headquarters in Springfield, Mo. "Not only was my dad saved but his family now. All of us children [are] serving the Lord and most all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren."

Moreover, there's a strong church today in northwest China with 15,000 believers – a church that Wood's parents helped establish.

"It all happened because somebody had a burden to go plant a church," said Wood.

"All across America there are people that are like my dad that if we can reach them, we'll not only reach them but everyone coming after them."

Wood was elected in August 2007 as general superintendent, succeeding Thomas E. Trask. Now as head of 12,311 Assemblies of God churches, he preaches a critical core value to the Pentecostals – "vigorously plant new churches."

"We know that planting new churches probably in our culture is the single most effective means of evangelizing a community," said Wood.

The Assemblies of God launched this year an aggressive church planting initiative called MX9 that aims to establish 1,000 new churches by 2009.

As the denomination tries to double their current church planting rate in the coming years, Wood doesn't want to see church planting done the way his parents or other ministers decades ago had to do it, where there was no support or sometimes jealousy by neighboring ministers.

"We need to be a fellowship that is a giving fellowship, that is a supporting fellowship, that is an encouraging fellowship," he said. "We are meant to strengthen and encourage one another and be fellow workers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Barna's Update on Giving Patterns

(Ventura, CA) While theologians debate whether or not the practice of tithing - donating ten percent (or more) of one's income to churches and charitable groups - is a biblical responsibility of Christians, Americans have pretty much made up their minds on the subject. Their views are discernible through their behavior. The giving patterns of Americans are described in new research released by The Barna Group, based on an annual tracking survey conducted by the firm regarding religious behaviors and beliefs. The results of the new research can be compared with outcomes from prior years to follow the trend line.

Tithing in 2007

Whether they believe in the principle of tithing or not, few Americans give away that much money. In 2007, the research revealed that just 5% of adults tithed.

Not surprisingly, some population groups were more likely than others to have given away at least ten percent of their income. Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (24% of whom tithed); conservatives (12%); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12%); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11%); and registered Republicans (10%).

Several groups also stood out as highly unlikely to tithe: people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals, and downscale adults. One percent or less of the people in each of those segments tithed in 2007.

Among all born again adults, 9% contributed one-tenth or more of their income. The study also showed that Protestants were four times as likely to tithe as were Catholics (8% versus 2%, respectively).

Tithing Since 2000

The percentage of adults who tithe has stayed constant since the turn of the decade, falling in the 5% to 7% range. The Barna tracking reported that the proportion of adults who tithed was 7% in 2006 and 2005; 5% in 2004 and 2003; 6% in 2002; and 5% in 2001.

Giving to Places of Worship and Other Non-Profits

In 2007, 84% of all adults donated some money to churches or non-profit organizations. That figure has also remained consistent in recent years.

The median amount of money donated during 2007 was $400; the mean amount was $1308. Those averages are higher than was revealed earlier in this decade, but represent a decline from the previous year. (The mean sum of donations per person in 2006 was $1348.)

The Barna study pointed out that one-third of all adults (34%) gave away $1000 or more during 2007. Nearly one-fifth (18%) had donated $100 or less.

Evangelicals Christians distinguished themselves in their generosity. More than four out of five (83%) gave at least $1000 to churches and non-profit entities during 2007, far surpassing the levels reached by any other population segment studied.

Almost two-thirds of the public (64%) donated some money to a church, synagogue or other place of worship. The median amount donated to those religious centers was $101; the mean amount was $883. Those figures were up slightly from the previous year.

In all, one-quarter of the people who gave any money to religious centers (25%) donated at least $1000. A whopping 96% of evangelicals gave money to a church in 2007; 81% of them donated at least $1000.

Christians Give the Most

Christians tend to be the most generous group of donors. An examination of the three dominant subgroups within the Christian community showed that evangelicals, the 7% of the population who are most committed to the Christian faith, donated a mean of $4260 to all non-profit entities in 2007. Non-evangelical born again Christians, who represent another 37% of the public, donated a mean of $1581. The other 42% of the Christian population, who are aligned with a Christian church but are not born again, donated a mean of $865. Overall, the three segments of the Christian community averaged donations of $1426.

The Christian giving was divided between Protestants (mean of $1705) and Catholics ($984).

In contrast, Americans associated with non-Christian faiths gave away a mean of $905 during 2007. Atheists and agnostics provided an average of $467 to all non-profit organizations.

Ancient-Future Facilities?

Source: Baptist Press

New research showed that people who don't go to church may be turned off by a recent trend toward more utilitarian church buildings.

By a nearly 2-to-1 ratio over any other option, unchurched Americans prefer churches that look more like a medieval cathedral than what most think of as a more contemporary church building.

When given an assortment of four photos of church exteriors and given 100 “preference points” to allocate between them, the unchurched used an average of 47.7 points on the most traditional and Gothic options. The three other options ranged from an average of 18.5 points to 15.9 points.

“Quite honestly, this research surprised us,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and LifeWay Christian Resource's missiologist in residence. “We expected they’d choose the more contemporary options, but they were clearly more drawn to the aesthetics of the Gothic building than the run-of-the-mill, modern church building.”

Stetzer suggested that the unchurched may prefer the more aesthetically pleasing look of the Gothic cathedral because it speaks to a connectedness to the past. Research showed that younger unchurched people, between the ages of 25 to 34, were particularly drawn to the Gothic look.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How to Boost Attendance on a Tight Budget

Charles Arn's advice:

Growth in worship attendance falls into one of two categories:

  1. Increasing attendance among those who already attend.

  2. Increasing the number of people who attend for the first time.

For those already attending:
  1. Renew membership vows. Every four years, ask members to recommit, in a public ceremony, to the vows they made when joining the church.

  2. Set personal attendance goals. Members often are asked to make faithpledges with their money. Why not with their attendance? Experience has shown attendance jumps by at least 10 percent.

  3. Preach to answer people's questions. Take a survey and ask three questions: "What do you wonder about most?" "What do you worry about most?" "What do you wish for most?" Then give them God's answers.

  4. Tell people they were missed. When regular attenders miss a Sunday, drop them a card or e-mail and let them know they're an important part of the church—and are missed when they're gone.

For new attenders:
  1. Add a new service. According to Lyle Schaller, half of all churches in the U.S. should add a new service—and most will experience growth as a result.

  2. Hold more special-event Sundays. We all know what happens at a special event—more people come. So, plan 15 to 20 per year!

  3. Improve your website. More than 60 percent of people visit a church's website before they visit their physical site. Put a "Visitors & Guests" link prominently on the home page.

  4. Increase your community visibility. Conduct 3 to 4 "Entry Events" each year— high-visibility events of interest to unchurched people in your community. Get names and addresses and then invite them to relevant "Entry Paths," where they can make friends and build relationships.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What Can Obama Teach You About Communicating?

How to Inspire People Like Obama
By Carmine Gallo

Public speaking skills are critical to the success of every leader. Over the past several years, I have been interviewing, observing, and writing about business, academic, and political leaders who have the ability
to influence their audience – leaders who fire up the rest of us. Whatever your political leanings, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is one of them. For a look at what makes Obama’s public speaking skills so effective, I outline four techniques this Presidential hopeful has mastered and explain ways to use them in your own repertoire.

1. Hold Out Hope

Like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama speaks in the uplifting rhetoric of hope. After his defeat in New Hampshire, Obama’s political oratory was so hopeful he sounded more like a winner than a runner–up. Obama knew a hopeful message would embolden his supporters. In a speech on Jan. 8, 2008, Obama said, “We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change… We have been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”

You are the leader people want to believe in. Your customers and employees are bombarded by bad news – the credit crunch, a housing slump, an economic slowdown – but they are eager to hear something positive. That doesn’t mean leaders stick their heads in the sand – far from it. Inspiring leaders acknowledge the situation but also remind people of reasons to be optimistic.

2. Use Rhetorical Devices

Many observers say Obama sounds like King. This is because he uses some of the same techniques that made King an electrifying speaker.

Parallel structure. We can thank the ancient Greeks for this rhetorical tool – they called it “anaphora.” It simply means repeating the same word or expression at the beginning of successive sentences or phrases. One of the most famous examples is King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…. I have a dream that… I have a dream…”

Obama uses the same device frequently. In his Iowa victory speech on Jan. 3, Obama said, “You have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this new year.”

Anaphora’s sister technique is called “epistrophe.” It is the repetition of a word or expression at the end of successive sentences or phrases. For example, in Obama’s New Hampshire speech, the expression “Yes, we can” rallied thousands of supporters when used like this, “It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can. It was sung by immigrants as they struck out for distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.”

Alliteration. Both Kennedy and King were fond of this device that strings together words starting with similar sounds. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote speech that brought Obama to prominence, he said, “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?” In 2005, during a commencement speech at Knox College, Obama described America as “a place where destiny was not a destination, but a journey to be shared and shaped…” When speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in August, 2006, Obama proclaimed, “The history of America is one of tragedy turned into triumph.” In January’s New Hampshire speech, Obama used alliteration again: “We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics.”

Rich Imagery. Persuasive speakers have long understood the power of imagery to stir emotions – the creation of mental pictures through the words. In his 2004 speech, Obama described what he meant by the audacity of hope: “It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs, the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores, the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta, the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds, the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.”

3. Exude Confidence

In debates Obama appears unflappable, answering tough questions while maintaining strong eye contact. He doesn’t fidget or shake his head when listening to sharp attacks from his opponents. While seated, he leans slightly forward. People will make an impression of you after only a few seconds. Pay attention to what your body is saying. Communicate confidence, competence, and control.

4. Use Dynamic Vocal Delivery

A monotonous speaking style lulls the listener to sleep, regardless of the power of the content. Obama knows how to enhance his delivery. Consider these three aspects of his delivery.

Pacing. Obama varies the speed at which he speaks. Very few sentences are delivered at exactly the same pace.

Volume. In his victory speech after the Iowa caucuses, Obama raised the volume of his speech with each sentence in the following paragraph: “We are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come.”

Pauses. Nothing is as dramatic as a well–placed pause, and Obama knows it. He pauses at key moments to make a memorable impact.

Obama connects with millions of people thanks to his public speaking skills. Consider learning from him to influence your own audience.


Carmine Gallo is a communications coach for the world's most admired brands. His book, "Fire Them Up!", contains insights from top business leaders who inspire through the language of motivation.