10 Things Being a Pastor Taught Me About Marketing, #6-10

Here is the second half of “10 Things Being a Pastor Taught Me About Marketing”…screenshot_Henry Ford quote

Taking the time to write out what I have learned at one job as I roll into the next job, or even just reflecting on the things I’m learning in my current job–this has been a great exercise for me over the years.

Here are #6-10 on things I learned that have helped me to be effective at marketing (#6-10 here)–

6. No is also a powerful word: Pastors also have the challenge to help people know how to say, “No.” No to the cultural message that “you can have whatever you want.” No to the “new car purchase that buries you deeper in debt and anxiety.”

Marketing—true marketing—doesn’t appeal to the lowest view of human desire, but to the higher view of the human person. It is aspirational and lends a helping hand to help people by addressing their fears and worries, for example.

Especially in my work at a financial advisory firm, we develop marketing messages that develop wisdom, and don’t play on people’s greed to earn better returns than our competitors.

Instead we tell our clients, “No, no one can guarantee you higher returns. But we can help you choose the right strategy that is aligned to your goals.” No is powerful and it is a key to marketing with integrity.

7. Your job is an assignment, not your identity: Pastors have to resist the challenge to see themselves defined by the work they do, that their identify as a person is more than their job. Frankly, we all do well to see ourselves first as a brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife, friend, etc, than by our role and title at work.

How much easier it is to do marketing when I don’t wrap my identity up in being the VP of Marketing at a successful firm.

8. Servant leadership is the best approach: As a pastor, I discovered Robert Greenleaf’s Servant as Leader essay. And later (like many of you) I found wisdom in Jim Collins’ Level 5 leader profile, a modern version of Greenleaf’s leader.

As I transitioned eventually from pastor, eventually to head of marketing positions in the for-profit world, I discovered that the servant leader model is just as powerful as in the church and non-profit setting. These servant leader principles have guided my approach in leading marketing teams: listening, empathy, awareness, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, building community, etc. I look for leadership teams who are practicing this approach, or who at least are open to this specific leadership model.

9. Core values are the language of the heart: As a pastor, the Bible provides a grid for corecore values-4 values, and importantly it’s the living out of those core values that is the heart of the matter. From this experience, I have learned that people need to live for a higher purpose than just their paycheck. What specifically is that higher purpose?

That’s where transcendent notions become a part of each day: integrity, service excellence, love, freedom, responsibility, learning, collaboration, sharing, giving, courage, innovation, diversity, humility, and many other possibilities.

Look closely at your organization’s DNA–you’ll see your core values embedded right there.

10. It’s not about me: As a pastor, I knew it wasn’t about me. God’s agenda, the people’s needs and hopes and dreams–that part was easy. Well, maybe not easy, but at least straightforward. The tough part was in keeping an eye on my motivations. Self awareness is what the leadership and management gurus call it.

I call it the “It’s-not-about-you” principle of leadership. In this environment, good things grow: honesty, authenticity, kindness, generosity, friendship, and…yep, profit. Self awareness and humility are also good for the bottom line.

screenshot_typing laptopWhat are your experiences? What have you learned from different jobs and roles you have had?  (Email me here: marc@marcfey.com with the subject line: What I learned).

10 Things Being a Pastor Taught Me About Marketing

screenshot_Henry Ford quote

I often get the proverbial “tilt of the head” when I talk about this part of my work history: “And then, for 7 years I was a pastor.”

“You were a pastor?” people ask, the question now rhetorical.

“Yes, and you wouldn’t believe all the things I learned that apply to good marketing.”

Today, I work in marketing, but it’s been the privilege of serving God and people in the role of pastor that gave me the grid I have today for the work I do.

Maybe many of you have also worked in different fields or roles in your career. Certainly, you have worked in different environments, some with strong cultures, others maybe not. And, you’ve done different kinds of work (great fit or not, inspiring or not), and you’ve had different kinds of supervisors (skilled or not, supportive or not). And, you too have learned wisdom along the way.

Taking the time to write out what I have learned at one job as I roll into the next job, or even just reflecting on the things I’m learning in my current job–this has been a great exercise for me over the years. As you read my list here, consider, “What are 10 things being a [one role] taught me about [next role]?” And then, would you consider sharing these discoveries with me? (Email here: marc@marcfey.com with the subject line: What my job taught me).

So, for those 7+ years I spent as a pastor, here are the first 5 (of 10) things I learned that have helped me to be effective at marketing (#6-10 in next blog)–

  1. The story is the most important thing: Hospital rooms, weddings, funerals, and many, many times around the dinner table, our most important values are revealed in these places. It’s where the real story happens and gets talked about. Marketing—true marketing—is about understanding people’s stories, what they care about, what they have experienced, and realizing how sacred every person’s story is.Being a pastor taught me empathy, shaped in me a commitment to honor people’s dignity and the mystery of each life. In marketing—true marketing—we bring this same respect to the people we are serving with our products and services, and it makes all the difference in the world.
  2. Commit to truth: I’ve seen pastors maketruth-1 courageous decisions—standing up for the underdog when it cost them a popular board member’s allegiance–and their monthly tithe check. Authenticity, courage, and candid exchanges about real results–I’ve learned these are the only meaningful bricks on which to build a strong foundation. Marketing—true marketing—avoids posturing and posing, and instead digs deep into the data to find out what is really happening, honoring that truth every day.
  3. Give—always: The vast majority of pastors I have known in my life are really good at giving, First, from a salary standpoint, pastors typically make 50% of what they could make in the for-profit world. They share their time, their dinner table, and many holidays with folks who might not have anywhere else to go. As a pastor I learned to– give credit to teammates, give compassion to employees who are going through a tough season in life, give time to others by looking them in the eyes–to really listen.books-3
  4. Value creativity at every step of the process: I was amazed over the years in m role as pastor what incredible talent and creativity resided within the church community. Artists, children’s workers, thespians, singers, musicians, and poets—I was blessed to lead in churches rich in creativity, and to serve on leadership teams who valued this creative energy.As a result, I saw the transformative impact of creativity on otherwise normal ideas and activities. Marketing—true marketing—values creative input at every step of the challenge, not just at the conceptual stage but through to the problem solving, optimization stage.
  5. Yes is the most powerful word: A big part of the life of a pastor is getting people to say “yes,” and, for the right reason. Yes to volunteering in the youth ministry, yes to contributing to the financial needs of the church, yes to reaching out to less fortunate members of the community, yes to living for others instead of oneself. These are important challenges, and frankly, are the key to ushering in a new way of seeing and experiencing life. For wise pastors, helping people say “yes” was about helping live in a story larger than themselves.There’s an art of helping people say “yes” for the right reasons. It’s a big skill I use in my work today in marketing–carefully honoring each person’s own motivations and values. Maybe marketing 20 years ago was about manipulating people (remember all those discussions about subliminal advertising?). Today it’s about serving people with the products and services that fit them.

Here’s the preview for #6-10…

6. No is a powerful word too

7. Your job is an assignment, not your identity

8. Servant leadership is the best approach

9. Core values are the language of the heart

10. It’s not about me:

screenshot_typing laptop

What are your experiences? Consider sending me your answer to this question: “What are 10 things being a [one role] taught me about [next role]?” (Email me here: marc@marcfey.com with the subject line: What I learned).

blog looking back

Look Back, Look Around (Overcome Worry, part 2)

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Some of the best humor comes from the most stressful moments. Here are few examples I’ve come across:

  • I’m not tense, just terribly, terribly alert.
  • When you’re stressed you eat cake, brownies, and cookies because “stressed” spelled backward is “desserts.”
  • Stress balls work really well when you throw them at people.

Humor aside, stress—not worry, mind you—has a number of positive effects. Researchers point out that a good shot of stress can:

  • Increase your brain’s effectiveness: brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) encourage the growth of neurons in the brain, thus increasing productivity, concentration, long-term memory, and mood.
  • Strengthen your immune system (albeit, short term only): Interleukins are chemicals the brain produces preparing the body for injury or infection, and therefore strengthening the immune system
  • Inject a burst of energy: The fight or flight instinct triggered by stress can provide short term bursts of energy and heightened awareness. While not the best ongoing hormone to live by moment to moment, at certain times adrenaline can be a life-saver (literally).

In fact, you athletes who are reading this blog know exactly what I mean: physical training is essentially the act of intentionally putting the body (and mind for that matter) under stress in order to develop the resiliency to overcome the stress.footbal players

That’s why, as a high school football coach (back in the day), I demanded 100% in practice from my players, so they would learn to perform when their stress was highest—specifically, Friday night against the opponent, who was hell-bent on imposing their will on our team.

Worry, on the other hand, is a negative response to stress. Worry focuses on what might happen. We “worry warts” know that it can negatively impact our sleep, our most important relationships, and in general, our quality of life.

Seriously though, unchecked worry can lead to potentially addictive and destructive behaviors–like cigarette smoking and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

To counteract the potentially negative effects of stress leading to worry, consider employing 2 strategies—retrospection, which is “looking back” and circumspection, which is “looking around.” These 2 strategies will not only neutralize worry, but also lead to you becoming a more resilient person in the face of (potential) worry:

look backLook back (retrospection): Because worry is a negative response to a potentially positive opportunity (stress), consider reflecting on your life in the following ways with the following 3 questions:

  1. What “worse case scenario” are you playing over and over in your mind? Rarely is this scenario actually likely to occur, but it dogs us nevertheless. They arise from fears, most of them linked to experiences in our childhood, and even though we might reason with them as adults, they resist logic and common sense. Perhaps it is the threat you feel that you might lose your job, or end up bankrupt and penniless. Or, the fear that a spouse will leave, or worse, will be there physically yet absent in every other way.
  2. What idealized views of the past do you play over and over in your mind? You can recognize these by their quixotic interpretations of past successes—more fanciful and extravagant than realistic and balanced. Example: about 10 years ago I worked on a big initiative at a non-profit called “The Truth Project.” And while it was true that I led the initiative, and that overall the initiative was very successful, if I don’t stop and think carefully about my involvement, I can quickly forget the some tough times I had to slog through, and overlook the fact that many of the successes that were flat out “blessings,” having nothing to do with what I or the team did or didn’t do. “We’re just not that smart” is the phrase that comes to mind here.
  3. What positive outcome do you NOT let yourself believe will come to pass? This is the curious and complicated one—where we resist our own success, strength, or authenticity. Look back on the times when you came close to succeeding. Did you do anything that might have sabotaged your own success?

Look around (circumspection): Because worry is a negative response to a potentially positive opportunity (stress), consider looking at the current circumstances of your life right now with the following 3 questions:

  1. Who is my biggest champion in my life right now? Many times we buckle under pressure because we feel alone. Take a minute to consider one or more persons who are “for you,” and give them a call even if it’s just say hello. The simple act of reaching out to another person will chase away the threat of isolation and give you a fresh view of the stress in which you find yourself.
  2. What are my top 3 personal core values, and, can I say I am living by them to the best of my ability? The term “circumspection,” of course, comes from the word “circumference”—the visual being “encircled.” Our core values come from what we hold most important in our lives. There is dissonance that comes from living in opposition to those values and can be very jarring and disorienting. Right now, name those 3 values and ask the question, “are there any people or memories that come to mind which illustrate I am not living consistently with my core values?
  3. When do I give myself time to reflect on my life—looking back and looking around. The fastest way to achieve a fully-blown case of burn-out is to leave this practice out of your life—reflection. For each of us reflection looks different. Some of you might read a fiction novel, suspending the pressures of day-to-day, and letting the vicarious narrative of a novel diffuse daily pressures. Others might write in a journal, regularly get together with close friends and engage in honest conversations about your life. And some of you write blogs (ok, so I betrayed one of my best coping mechanisms). Whatever you do, do it. Your life may not depend on it, but your inner life certainly does.

What strategies do you use to turn stress into meaningful exercises in resiliency, rather destructive experiences in worry and anxiety?

 

 

 

Overcoming Worry

Walk in His truth...Confession: I am prone to worry. I can be unusually preoccupied by the circumstances right in front of me. It is a battle for perspective. A struggle to keep the big picture in view.

Worry is one of the biggest enemies of vision. Because vision connects us to our calling and purpose in our work (and life in general), I worked hard to deal ruthlessly with worry—treat it like an undercover spy threatening state security or the suave sociopath asking for just a little help on his next project.

Worry does that–it threatens the good things we have going on.

Which reminds me of a funny—if embarrassing—story that illustrates this specific consequence of worry, namely the loss of context and perspective.

About 5 years ago I joined a work-sponsored city league softball team. Sure, it had been 10 years since I had played in a men’s softball league. I didn’t have any illusions that I would be tearing it up on the field (albeit a few concerns I might tear up my hammy). However, I did expect to contribute, play my part, to at least approximate my abilities, even if they were mostly in the past.

I had some reason for my confidence. As a Little Leaguer I was always selected for the all-star team, as a high school baseball player I competed at a high level, then later as a high school teacher, I coached baseball, always mixing it up with my players on the field through hitting and fielding drills. And, for about 10 years after college I had played centerfield for our city league softball team, where I tracked down deep fly balls and turned singles into doubles as I competed against other weekend-warrior 20 and 30-somethings, all of us in trying to recapture a glimpse of former glories.

In fact, I figured I had enough experience under my belt to jump right back onto the field, and frankly, do “more than my part” for the team. Call it confident expectation.

Pride comes before the fall. Or, more to the point, “Pride comes before the dropped fly ball.”

Here’s how it played out: I had spent my workday like most workdays writing and editing an article that I was finishing up. As a policy analyst (one of many varied jobs I’ve had over the years), a big part of my workday was spent staring at a computer screen. Certainly not a physically taxing way to spend the day. But there was a downside, which you’ll see in a moment.

The first game arrived, and with not a little bit excitement, I went straight from the office to the field. Parking quickly and grabbing my mitt and cap, I jogged to the field, my cleats clicking on the asphalt parking lot. I saw the familiar bright green grass under the glow of the evening lights, heard the laughter and cheering from across the diamonds, and that familiar “tink” of the bat as a player swung from his heals and legged out the hit. I could even see the glisten of the evening dew on the grass.

Yes, I had missed playing softball with buddies. I hustled onto the field to warm up, and before I knew it, the game had started.

Then, I jogged out to take my place in left field. And that’s when the wheels fell off.

The second batter lifted a “routine” fly ball to the outfield. I heard it, knew in my gut it was headed my way, and scanned the sky to find the ball ascending and descending in my direction, destined for the soft leather of my awaiting glove.

Only, I couldn’t find the ball.

In those split seconds, as I drifted toward the blur that I thought I saw in the dark night sky, panic rose up in my gut… “Where is it? Where is the ball?!” And then in a flash, that ball came down from the heavens like a meteor afire diving to the earth.

And not into my mitt.

dropped fly ball 2

I scrambled over to retrieve the ball, then flung it in frustration to the shortstop. I shudder to imagine all over again what I must have looked like trying to catch that fly ball.

Sure, I tried to blame it on my fuzzy eyes, as I sheepishly jogged to the dugout at the end of the inning: “Wow, I think I need to wear glasses to play softball…” But there was no getting it back. I was that guy who looked like he had never played an inning of baseball beyond little kid sandlot pick-up games.

Because my eyes had become more comfortable focusing on what was right in front of me, I just couldn’t focus on objects at a distance—certainly not objects moving fast through the night sky. Fixing my eyes on circumstances right in front of me day in and day out affects my perspective, making it difficult to see the bigger picture. You could say that I “lost sight of the forest” as I fixed my attention “on the trees”—

cant see the forest-4

There is a physical condition for this, of course, called myopia. Short sightedness. It’s like having blinders on, suffering from a narrow point of view, a one-track mind, you might say. All these describe a lack of perspective, physical and otherwise.

And like my experience on the softball field, worrying is exactly that—staring at the circumstances right in front of me, losing sight of the big picture.

Recently I have started organizing my days again around my top priority, and I am finding these 3 ideas helpful in staying committed to the big picture: context, retrospection, and circumspection.

Context specifically is “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea.” It makes up the “terms of which a thing can be fully understood and assessed.” Worrying occurs when we don’t take the time to consider the context. We don’t seek to understand fully or realistically the setting. We stop taking in data, understanding the bigger picture.

  • A preoccupied manager doesn’t notice his colleagues’ subtle references to how unpredictable the incentive compensation is, undermining the motivating effect it’s supposed to have, while he focuses only on weekly results.
  • A well-meaning but anxious CEO loses count of how many times she has changed direction, leaving her leadership team with whiplash of sorts, never stepping back to see the cost of changing direction over and over and over.
  • A worried dad forgets to affirm his son for the hard work he’s doing in the classroom, focusing instead only on the 3% of missing or late assignments.

Research on literal shortsightedness—myopia—is instructive for us in understanding this challenge of perspective. Researchers point out that shortsightedness is a phenomenon of the 20th century. Pointing to findings among the Inuit Native North Americans’ older generation who had next-to-no cases of short-sightedness, they contrast this with today’s rates between 10-25% of the Inuit children needing glasses.

“Short-sightedness is an industrial disease,” says Ian Flitcroft at Children’s University Hospital, Dublin. “The research points out that while our genes may still play a role in deciding who becomes short-sighted, it was only through a change in environment that these kinds problems began to emerge.”

glasses on child

Here is the kicker–Researchers point to children being indoors, away from horizons and large-scale perspective, as the cause for the increase in myopia among children.

I think the same is true of our generation when it comes to worry. We stare at what’s right in front of us, lose our ability to “see” the bigger picture, and as a result, learn to live with worry.

A recent poll called this generation the most stressed out. On a 10-point scale, Americans ages 18-33 reported an average stress level of 5.4 compared to the national average of 4.9, and 52% said stress made it hard for them to sleep at night in the past month. If any adult should be sleeping well at night it’s an 18-33 year-old, but that’s no longer the case.

Like my long days spent inside staring at a computer screen, and my ensuing inability to track a fly ball soaring into the sky, I need to get outside, see the horizon, gain some perspective on the context of my life.

Here are some practical ways that I have found to do just that, which makes me  a better leader and team contributor–

  1. Make an effort to see through the eyes of the people I am leading at work: Slow down, look the person in the eye, listen beyond the words being said in the moment for the subtext of the conversation. I do this by reminding myself that we all have roles in our lives–spouse, parent, neighbor, friend, classmate, daughter…
  2. Reflect on the consequences of my decisions over time on the people around me. Every decision has an impact. While all or most of us are good at considering the impact of a decision in the moment, few of us look back and learn from that decision, and still fewer connect that specifically to the people who were affected by the decision. This is the big view of decision making.
  3. Revisit my goals monthly. Looking at my personal and professional goals every month puts the day-to-day challenges into perspective, keeps me from losing context for why I am pushing hard through the things that make me anxious. Just looking at your goals regularly, research says, makes you 90% more likely to achieve your goals.
  4. Ask the person who reports to me to share one goal with me. Hearing about other people’s goals also provides good context for our perspective–pulls us out of the echo chamber of our own anxiety.
  5. Develop a discipline in how I evaluate circumstances by looking also for what’s going right, what’s getting done: Then, affirm the person (and yourself for that matter) for positive results. Resist the temptation to focus strictly on what needs improving.

Of course, there are thousands of details to the context of our lives, and thousands more strategies to focus on that context so that we don’t suffer from a proverbial myopia. To the degree that we seek to take in the bigger picture, pay attention to the broader view, and step outside of ourselves to see the grander view of the sky’s horizon, we step back from worry and toward a better view of life, of others around us, and of ourselves.

Research shows that stress and anxiety can lead to mental toughness and increase clarity about life’s challenges and opportunities. It can also result in greater appreciation for one’s circumstances, and contribute to a sense of confidence . This confidence becomes a foundation you build every time you overcome an obstacle, and this is the best, most long-lasting kind of confidence you can have. Hard fought and well earned, indeed.

In the next blog, I’ll take on the importance of retrospection and circumspection.

Question: What do you do to keep focused on the bigger context in order to maintain good perspective in your life?