Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Business’

4 Steps To A Better Crew

In Leadership on February 10, 2015 at 9:01 am


During graduate school I worked at a Chick-fil-A in Arlington, TX.  Because of my school schedule I normally worked the night shift which meant I was the leader for mostly teenagers.  The day shift was the “adult” shift and the night shift was the “kid” shift.  At first, I wasn’t sure if that would be a blessing or not.  It was!  As with any job, adults or teens, those in management have responsibilities to keep order and focus.  It did not take long for them to learn my style.  They had grown accustomed to “doing” their task and then going home.

I remembered my first job.  I worked at Wendy’s on Lake Road in Dyersburg, TN.  My view of management at the time was like animal planet where they are on the Serengeti watching the Lion sit while everyone else buzzes around trying not to disturb his pondering.  Periodically they would emerge from the office only to call out everything we had done wrong and then scurry off to the back.  There seemed to never be interaction, instruction, or involvement.

I wanted this team to be better.  I wanted this location to be the best job they ever had.  While I am fully aware that a high school job is hardly a life changing experience please don’t kill the dream.  I worked alongside them.  I talked with the crew.  I laughed with the crew.  I also inspected the crew.  Every place has standards and it was a part of my job to make sure that those standards were being met.  I told them, especially on Friday nights, the more we work together and do it right the earlier we can leave.  With a job well done I blessed them with early exit.  We read in Exodus:

So the people of Israel followed all of the lord’s instructions to Moses. Then Moses inspected all their work. When he found it had been done just as the lord had commanded him, he blessed them.

God had given Moses a job to and told him who needed to do it.  Once the job was done, Moses inspected the work.  When he found it was done right he blessed them. Our culture likes to skip and/or dismiss a step in this process. Often I find those who want to be blessed for showing up, tipped for doing inadequate work, or given a raise for time served.  Accountability is difficult, but necessary, work. Holding someone accountable requires that management and worker run in tandem to accomplish the necessary tasks of life, work, and home chores.  A few thoughts for those who lead others:

  1. Have well-defined roles through job descriptions. The easiest way to help a person understand your expectations is to express them in a job description.  This description is to be written clearly and with the ability to evaluate using it as a guide and tool.
  2. Clearly define tasks and responsibilities with measurable aspects. The tabernacle and its pieces had specific measurements and products to be used.  It was not hard for Moses to inspect.  Defining the tasks for your crew helps everyone know the expectations.
  3. Inspect regularly. At the end of every shift, we had a checklist.  After a week at camp, we have a checklist of cleaning duties.  My staff has quarterly evaluations.  This allows for focus to be maintained.  If we waited to check it every year things could get really skewed.  Course corrections are made along the way.
  4. Bless based on job performance. I am tired of the notion that simply because you clocked in that we should somehow praise you.  Those servers who want a tip forget that it means “to insure promptness” and was given ahead of the need.  Now we give a tip after the job.  I tip if they are deserving.  Give raises and bonuses to those who have earned the blessing by a job well done.  It was only after inspection that Moses blessed.

Those under your care and leadership might not always like the accountability and inspection.  I have found that those moments will occur when they know the job wasn’t done right or well enough.  We cannot expect perfection every time, or often.  Yet, we can provide guidance to exceptional.  Moses had a very cranky crew at times, but that was who God wanted him to lead.  You may not have the greatest crew to watch over, but those are who God has for you.  Lead well.

Drill, Baby, Drill!

In Chrisian Life, Faith, Suffering on November 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

Drilling The Sunset

All over my area you can see oil rigs in the process of set up or tear down.  In both cases, the promise of oil is definite.  It seems the oil boom is on again and times will be good for everyone! In the pasture behind our house a few months ago came three large vehicles all in a row.  We had felt rumbling in the house all morning but were not aware of what it was.  Then we saw the trucks pull up and stop, then the rumble came.  They moved 100 feet and stopped and the rumble came again.  These were the seismologists taking readings.  Someone thought there was something valuable underground and decided to do a little research.  If conditions seems right the drillers will come and set up a new rig to drill down for the oil.  Once the drilling is done, a pumper is put into place to continue to retrieve the oil and pump it to a storage facility.

I was recently reminded that the pains we face in life can be handled in a similar way.  Not every pain is bad.  Not every poor circumstance is awful.  There are times that God allows pain in order to deepen faith.  Sometimes God puts us in awkward, or painful, positions to test our resiliency.  Often, we cannot see this during the trial.  But, to increase our joy and deepen our faith it is a good practice to do the research and drill down for the “black gold”.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

Research – All companies begin with research.  The pain you are in is probably not isolated to you.  Others have faced these circumstances.  Others have experienced this pain.  What have they done?  How have they fared?  Did their faith deepen?  Did God speak to them?  What happened?  When looking for examples of others, be certain to speak further with those whom you find to be what you desire to become.  If you want to be bitter, that will be easy.  If you want to be better, do the research.  Find those who are better as a result of the pain or poor experience.  No one should blindly start drilling without having done the research.

Drill – Once a suitable site has been found a drilling company will be hired to drill a hole  through the earth until it finds oil.  Not all drilling sites will find oil.  However, those who have done the right research are more likely to find oil at the bottom of their pipe!  James says that we are to let endurance have its full effect.  In other words, do not stop in the middle.  What company begins to drill and stops in the middle?  Other than those who go bankrupt, none.  What if you drill and find nothing?  Look around the area.  Most companies, if they find a dry hole, will drill close in the area again because the cost of research has already been spent.  Was the pain for you or for someone else?  It is possible that God allowed the pain to help someone else.  Are you willing to be used by God?

Pump – Now that you have found God’s hand in the process, let the joy pump into your soul.  Letting endurance come to its fullness is like pumping the reservoir as long as possible.  The pain you once felt because of ignorance can now be replaced with peace and joy.  The circumstances you are in now can be seen in a different light and with a different perspective.  It is no longer about you, but about how God is working in and through you.  Let the Holy Spirit do the work to deepen your faith.  Let the Holy Spirit work in you for the benefit of someone else.

Deposit – The royalty checks begin to come in at this point for the company and for those who have mineral rights on the land.  You can cash your spiritual checks of joy, love, peace, and patience also.  God will begin depositing these and other items into your life.  Whether it is coming to terms with the movement of God in the past or being inspired about a current issue, God will bless you with His presence, power, and peace!

Drill, Baby, Drill!


In Leadership on August 8, 2013 at 10:05 am


I had driven the old car about as far I needed to drive it.  I was constantly taking it in for service and pouring money into it.  It doesn’t take a genius bar to arrive at the conclusion that something needed to change.  I began looking through the paper.  (I am that old!)  I would purchase a newspaper on the weekends and physically look through pages and pages of car ads.  There were so many choices.  I began to narrow down wants and needs and finally went to the car lot.  I went alone full of confidence that would soon be shattered.  Being in college did not provide a lengthy tenure at any job.  I had little to pay down and a short credit history.  I left without a vehicle that day.  They told me I needed someone who would help me borrow the money.  I needed a co-signer.

In his book, One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season, Tony Larusa talks a lot about co-signers.  As the skipper for 3 major league teams for over 30 years he developed a system of management that helped him to win 3 World Series Titles and 7 Pennants. Although he was the skipper, he needed others to assist him in leadership of the organization.  He re-purposed the term co-signer with reference to this management style.  He would bring together veterans and rookies from the club who had garnered trust and provided influence to the decisions being made.  How can this help your organization?

1.  Enables change.  Because of the co-signer I was able to buy a much-needed vehicle.  What I had was not going to last for long driving 90 miles round trip 2-3 times a week.  I needed to make a change but was unable to do so on my own.  Your organization probably needs change.  Any organization that refuses to change in today’s culture is signing their death certificate.  I believe this is true for a couple of reasons.  First, the fickleness of people is on the rise.  Second, there is no commitment to you as an organization like it used to be.  We must adjust to meet t he need of a new breed of consumer.  However, change is often resisted.  Having co-signers, those who buy in, can help in spreading the message and purpose of necessary change.

 2. Increases trust.  This was my first buying experience.  Still, I knew better than to look for a new car.  I went searching through used car lots.  I had found a car I really liked but soon realized that I could not get that kind of vehicle.  On my own, my credit was not established enough for the finance guys to trust me.  One of the first questions was if I had someone who would co-sign the loan.  Frankly, they did not trust me.  My parents were not in a position to help me in this capacity.  I found myself in the workshop of my girlfriends Dad one weekend.  As we talked he asked me about my vehicle that carried his daughter around.  I could tell he was not exactly impressed!  I told him that I was looking for something better but was having trouble.  He looked up at me over his half-glasses with that look.  You know the one!  Quickly I assured him that I had the money and the income, but did not have the credit history needed.  He ended up co-signing the loan and I walked away with a better car.  I could not have done that by myself.  When I approached the finance guy this time, I had the signature of someone they trusted.  So much of what needs to happen in our organizations cannot be done alone.  Coupled with low trust levels, we need others to buy-in to the vision, plan, and purpose.

3.  Spreads accountability.  When I drove away from the car lot in the “new” vehicle I was ecstatic!  However, the payments would come in 30 days.  By having a co-signer the bank insured the loan through extended accountability.  If for some reason I did not pay the note, they could go to the co-signer for explanation and/or payment.  In every organization there must be a “buck stops here” person.  That may be you or the CEO or the Chairman or some other titled leader.  When the questions, concerns, critiques, and challenges come it is good to have help.  Bringing in others to assist you in decision-making spreads the accountability.  The leader may have other pressing needs.  In this moment, the co-signers take up the reigns of leadership, influence, and answer those issues.

I paid every payment for that car until I traded it for another one (on my own this time) while in graduate school.  Without a co-signer, I would not have been able to get that car.  In today’s economy, you might be able to get the car but the interest rate will rob you of everything you have.  Having a co-signer enables change, increases trust and spreads accountability.  Since we married, my wife and I have been co-borrowers on everything we have purchased.  We buy together.  It is not mine or hers with regard to houses and cars.  I need co-signers every day in the organization I lead.  I am sure you do as well.

Finalize plans with counsel, and wage war with sound guidance.  (Proverbs 20:18, HCSB)

A New Beginning

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Courage sometimes skips a generation, thank you for bringing it back to the family.
–Charlotte Phelan, The Help

What Charlotte could not do, her daughter did.  She stood up for what is right.  Though it would cost her socially, Skeeter acted.  Because of her actions, there would be a new beginning for many.  What have you done lately that brings a new beginning for others?  How have your actions brought positive change to someone?

How can I help someone?  How do I bring about positive change?

  • Love them.  Love them without hypocrisy.  Love them to their face and love them behind their back when you speak about them to others.
  • Raise their value in the eyes of others.  Talk them up because it raises their self-esteem and shows your support.
  • Be patient.  Anyone who has ever sought change knows it takes a while and a few trips along the way.  Helping others experience a breakthrough from the past to a preferred future can be messy.  Yet, it is worth it every time.
  • Share your story too.  One of the best ways for someone to gain strength and courage is to share your story with them.  Transparency brings a unique bond of friendship.

Have the courage to invest in someone.  In the end, two lives will probably be changed for better.


Going Up the Food Chain

In Decisions, Direction, Leadership, Parenting, Suffering on May 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I was sitting in Kansas City taking a few days with my wife.  We had recently purchased a new car and it came with a trial of XM radio.  The trade-in also had XM and we loved having it.  The subscription was overlapping the free trial we were getting in the new car so I called to try to figure out what could be done.  While my wife was in a store, I decided I had a little while to make the call.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  The service agent I received had a difficult time understanding what I was describing.  After an hour, we had not sorted out everything.  I asked to speak her supervisor.  After spending some time with her it seemed to all get fixed.  I got off the phone after almost 2 hours.

Then I got the next statement. I was now being billed for two accounts.  I climbed all the way to a VP before I was done.  I had free months and refunds.  Sometimes you just have to climb up the food chain.  The agents on the first level are well-meaning and fairly effective, but some questions and issues simply need higher authority and greater power to make necessary decisions.

1 I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?

2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121

David recognized that the help he needs, true help, only comes from the Lord.  There are many things we turn to in times of need:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Friends
  • Family

God can certainly use all of these to help you, but we cannot turn to these without God.  We must realize our need to go up the food chain.  How often do we use the customer service agents listed above?

John gets into a jam financially and looks to the graphs, charts, and budgets.  He reviews where he’s been and going.  Maybe he goes to the bank and gets a second or third mortgage.  Maybe he goes down to the local “finance” company and get a quick loan to make it through the week, or month.  Maybe he goes to the family and borrows money.  Why not call out to God?  Why not obey His Word?  Cut back, tithe, and watch God work. Why not go up the food chain?

Paula’s marriage is falling apart so she looks back at how her parents handled the divorce and proceeds accordingly.  She has a girls night out with her friends.  They empathize because they, too, are divorced or separated.  The advice they give is toxic to rebuilding a relationship.  She gets angry.  She seeks revenge.  She needs to go up the food chain.  God brings peace, love, and help.

We could share story after story just like these couldn’t we?  Maybe your life is a mess right now.  It’s possible that you have been stalling out at the customer service.  Your education isn’t bringing peace.  Your experience isn’t bringing a solution.  Your family and friends are getting tired of helping.  Where can you turn?  Where does your help come from?

It’s time to go up the food chain.

Showing Appreciation

In Appreciation, Volunteers on April 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Appreciation is underrated. You might think it is over-rated, but I would beg to differ.  If you are the one who has moved your family and worked hard, appreciation is welcomed.  In an age of produce or your gone, the turnover is so quick we do not have much time to show appreciation.  We woo hard, but marry weak.  We love the newness of staff and employees. We love the search, the interviews, and the hire.  We love welcoming someone new into our presence.  However, many organizations struggle with the appreciation of the effort, time, and sacrifice someone makes in service to the organization. We are happy to see a new unit, group, or division begin.  Are we as excited 1 year, 5 years, 10 years later?  We wonder why people leave for other places and organizations. We are amazed that people are not as enthused to volunteer like they have in the past.

Could it be that we leave them feeling abandoned on the lonely island of service and volunteerism?  Could it be that our lack of appreciation coupled with the view of the goodness of other places cause them to leave?  Could it be that a show of appreciation is undervalued and underrated?  10 words and a hand clap is not enough.  A slap of the back is not enough.  We must show appreciation.

49 When they had finished distributing the land into its territories, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them.

Joshua 19

The Israelites were grateful for the leadership of Joshua.  They gave of themselves to show Joshua how they felt.  How can we show appreciation today?  Here are a few ways to show appreciation for your people in your organization for National Volunteer Week usually celebrated in April or May.

  • Have a party and give awards or prizes to volunteers.
  • Plan a group activity or outing, such as a picnic in the park, or a movie night.
  • Invite volunteers to share stories about volunteering with your organization, and feature those stories in your newsletter or on your Web site.
  • Have staff members talk about a great experience they’ve had with volunteers, and share this experience with everyone.
  • You probably have some of your own ideas percolating now too: great!
  • Have a “Just For You Day” and offer to serve them through car washes, lunches, and more.
  • Appreciation Dinner
  • Write a hand-written note and say “You make working here fun.” Include a really good joke.
  • Look him in the eye and say, “I don’t know what I’d do without you around here.”
  • Thank the employee publicly.
  • Say, “Nobody has your unique set of talents and skills. I’m glad we get to use them.”
  • Send a hand-written note to the employee’s spouse or partner singing praises of the employee, and thanking the partner for their support.
  • Say “Bob, you’re really good at what you do.”
  • Say “I’m glad you’re on our team.”
  • Say “Your customers love you.”
  • Thank an employee privately.
  • Do something out of the ordinary.
  • Give the employee more responsibility.
  • Take the employee out to lunch with you and your boss.
  • Buy a pair of tickets for the employee and her spouse to a movie or concert.
  • After a huge accomplishment: Have a limo pick up the employee at home and bring him to work.
  • Buy her a book you know she’ll love.
  • Send her to lunch with three of her friends who don’t work for your company. Pick up the tab.
  • Take his car to get it washed, or have a mobile car wash visit your parking lot.
  • Send the employee home with a thick, fresh Porterhouse steak.
  • Buy a subscription to a magazine the employee would love.
  • Prepare lunch at the employee’s desk for the employee.
  • Get the autograph of the employee’s kid’s favorite sports hero and give it to the employee to give to his child.
  • Buy a coffee for the employee every morning for a month. Bring it into work with you.
  • Have some plants sent to the employee’s home.
  • Take the employee and his kid fishing.

Thank you to Skip Anderson for much of this list!

Those who work for, or with, you are valuable assets that need to be appreciated.  Do so liberally and often.

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