This is the sixth and final post in a leadership series, Personalize Your Values, all based on what I learned watching Dan Cathy’s surprise visit to a local Chick-fil-A restaurant. In case you missed it, here are the previous posts:

There was much to be learned watching Dan Cathy’s surprise visit to a local Chick-fil-A location, but for me personally, this last observation might be the most important:

Leaders connect relationally.

It was quite astounding, but before Dan left the store, he knew everyone’s name. Literally. He personally engaged and learned something about every single customer in the restaurant. Whether this is his natural gifting or not, Dan has cultivated the act of service personalization. It was impressive, to say the least.

This might sound weird coming from a Lead Pastor, but for me, personally connecting is not a core gifting. I am introverted by nature. I prefer email to phone. I talk to 5,000 people better than 1 person. BUT… as a pastor and leader, I am learning how to be more personal and present. Dan’s display in the restaurant was so helpful to experience. He may never see those specific customers again, but that wasn’t the point. Dan did not connect because of what they could do for him (Eat Mor Chikin). Dan personalized the experience because he cares about people. And caring about people is of far greater value than profitability.

I might write this last installment for me alone. Here are the things I am trying to do now to connect with others:

1. Remember names.

People have names, and I need to remember them. I am not naturally gifted at this, so any advice you can give, I’ll take. Be sure to tell me your name when you do! I have the pleasure of leading a very large church within a much larger group of churches. Every number has a name, and I need to be more focused on the latter, not the former.

2. Ask more questions about others.

People love to talk about themselves. Don’t believe me? Just listen to yourself! Dan was masterful as he walked around the restaurant. As he refilled drinks, he asked people’s names, about their families, and more. And people responded, because people, at their core, want to be known. As leaders, we need to leverage this core human need.

3. Listen to their answers.

After I ask, I am going to listen. Not look around. Not check Twitter. Just look at them and listen. The most important person in the room is the person sitting in front of you.

4. Slowly walk through the halls (or auditorium isles).

Many leadership and business management thinkers have propagated the concept of “management by walking around.” It’s a powerful idea. My plan is to walk slowly through the church more often. I can’t do this all morning, but I can do it more than I do.

In remembering Dan’s visit, he did not rush through the store. He stopped at every table and engaged. That’s a great leadership lesson. We all need to simply slow down and engage personally.

5. Calendar relationship time

Sounds like overkill, but I bet your calendar looks like mine – full. If I am not careful, nearly every moment of my week can fill up. I am going to try calendaring relationship time. I’ll get back with you to share the results.

6. Start and end every interaction personally.

I used to begin every direct report meeting with “How can I help?” That’s better than what I experienced from some of my previous bosses, but it’s far from personal or relational. I am now beginning with a better question, “How are you?” “How is your family?” “Are you enjoying your job?”

Connecting relationally is important, but it’s not urgent. We all know that left unchecked, the urgent always trumps the important. By systematically beginning and ending personal meetings relationally, I am becoming a better leader.

7. Be authentic.

Too many leaders are afraid of being real. We all need to lose this fear. If we ever hope to connect with others, we must be authentic. There is a balance, but I have learned over and over that when I opt for honestly and transparency, my staff leans in relationally.

Series Conclusion:

When you think about your leadership, what do you value? Does your leadership behavior reinforce or erode your values? How do you evaluate? How personal and available are you? Watching Dan Cathy’s surprise visit to a local Chick-fil-A restaurant has given me a lot to think about. How about you?

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Hi Gavin,
    Our prior church, Mountain Lake, use to have us wear name tags (the kind you peel and stick). Even Sean (the lead pastor wore one)- everyone struggles with names, and this really helped “connect” people. Seemed a little odd to me at first, but I too struggle remembering names so I was always greatful.

    Once their name is triggered in your head then you can easier remember something about them, helps you, helps us… good luck!

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