Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Guy Richards, CEO of Abiah and author of the book “Talkable“, via skype. We are both speaking at the upcoming Momentum Conference on May 14th and 15th in Chicago.
Part 3 of Guy Richards Interview- “Doing Something Worth Talking About
Matt: It stands out. Part of, like you said, that authenticity, to me it seems like is linked to knowing what you really value, knowing what you really care about. It starts to get kind of jargon. People say things like, “Well, what’s your core value?” It gets real buzz‑wordish. But all I’m saying is what do you really value? Do you think that being “talkable” and authentic and all those things are aligned with first really, really knowing… Like you were saying with the pastor.
I have a feeling he probably knows himself really well, has a lot of great experiences, knows what he wants to put out into the world. Do you think those things are linked, whether people talk about you and what you really want to contribute in terms of value?
Guy: Yeah, totally. Your values are going to dictate your message.
Guy: Live those values.
Guy: If you’re a pastor and you have your own spot that says “Pastor” and you have a Mercedes and on the license plate it says PASTOR and you come into church…
Guy: I don’t see… I probably won’t give you the same attention. You could preach the exact same message as someone that I saw whose car was in the back of the parking lot who was driving more of a frugal car. Because, see, you dictate the values by the lifestyle and the habits of someone. Now, if you’re a businessman who was a bazillionaire, gave all that money to a church and you still were driving a Mercedes…parked in the back of the…
Guy: Now, I still give you respect. It just comes down to understanding where people put their values because you want to trust that their behavior matches what they say. When you put someone in a teaching position, they need to be further along in their teaching than what the people are listening for them to follow. Because if they’re not, it doesn’t engage well. That’s why I can answer your call to a different level of any teacher.
Guy: It doesn’t matter if you’re a schoolteacher. If you’re teaching me math but you don’t know the problems yourself, I’m not going to take it that serious, you know?
Matt: Right. At the same time though, sometimes we can get off the path from what we originally started with, can become a little bit loose with what we originally valued because things grow and things change. Do you think that there’s certain tricks to just staying close to what you really value? Especially at an organizational level. It’s very easy to come in and say, “Let’s try this and let’s try this and let’s try this,” and get diffused. Are there tricks to keeping things close to what you originally really cared about?
Guy: Now, I think it’s in personalities. Different personalities can tend to shift and jump from one idea to the next. They have an organizational nightmare until they eventually burn their people out. People are coming to church because they’ve had an experience and they think, “Well, maybe serving in the church or coming on staff is that next step in the experience.” They realize that these people are passionate teachers but horrible leaders.
Guy: What I would say is a trick that I’ve noticed in myself is that ‑ and I said this this morning to my friend, it’s hilarious ‑ one of the most gifted speakers. Oh, he’s phenomenal. He’s the one that gets a standing ovation.
Guy: This morning, he wanted to start a Christian school. He’s just about to go out of retirement. I said to him, “A good example of something that becomes successful is focus.” I’ll tell you why, because when you have a house you want nice shrubbery. The funny thing is, you can define nice shrubbery in a new house because they’re small. You can see them.
Guy: If they don’t have mulch around, you know, whatever. But then if you go to a house that has been groomed 20 or 30 years, the trees are humongous. It feels nice. You couldn’t even buy that stuff.
Guy: The small bushes blend with the big bushes. It’s beautiful. But it didn’t happen overnight. It was compounded focus over years. I have a friend who says it takes five years to get your processes in place. It takes 10 years to start to become established. It takes 15 years to become an overnight success.
Guy: It’s taking focus. We didn’t gain Billy Graham in the first year. We didn’t gain ECFA in the first year. We didn’t gain Bible League or Moody or Ravi Zacharias. Those all came four or five years down the road. What happened was we proved that we were good at something. I think all these people looked from the outside. People that look at a church or that look at a pastor, your pastor’s kid’s on their little league team and they watch his behavior when a call doesn’t go right. They watch.
What happens is like what you said with critical mass.
Guy: They will gain… They will make the next step once they see other people starting to step. Then, the momentum gains. I would say that dictating an idea to…determining the success of an idea too early is a sure recipe for failure.
Guy: Believe wise counsel of experienced people who went through the same situation that can give you a case study of what they did, how they did it, and what happened, and when in the process of your timeline does that happen.
Guy: Gain confidence for that leader so that they can stay focused and on the path, because it’s easy to hear an idea at a Catalyst Conference and go, “You know, I just heard this idea from Andy Stanley and these guys are doing this.” Or you know that young pastor who had one of the fastest growing churches, Steven Furtick.
Matt: Right, right.
Guy: ”Steven Furtick has got a rapper on Easter morning. We need a rapper.”
Guy: That kind of stuff is… It starts to become, people see it as not you and trying too hard. It’s like, you know the old adage, “When you chase the girl too much…”
Guy: It could be like… I wouldn’t say…
Matt: [laughs] Yeah.
Guy: Even if the most attractive guy or vice versa chases them, it’s a turnoff. That can happen when you’re too anxious as a leader to try different things, because they know you just want to fill the seats.
Matt: Well, like you said…
Guy: Not prepare them.
Matt: Exactly. Chasing is inauthentic, and you can detect that right away. I like that you talked about Pinterest earlier, because I tried to hint or make the point that we all look at that like, “Oh, they just showed up overnight.” They didn’t. The Internet produces things very quickly. But it also pushes things down very quickly. We don’t acknowledge that. I always talk about how the media likes to tell the end of the story and you don’t see that other 15 years. I think that’s good the way you said it.
What do you think are some of the things that… When I talked to Pastor Bob Bauer as part of the Momentum Conference, he mentioned one thing that there’s two groups of churches. One is on an upward trend and they have some certain things going on, and then churches that maybe are either stagnating or on a downward trend.
Have you had any sense of what would put someone in one category, another of kind of on an upward trend or a downward trend?
Guy: Yeah. I’ve been a part of a church that was at a plateau, incline, and at a decline.
Matt: You’ve seen it.
Guy: Yeah. I’ve lived through it the last 10 years. I could say that what I’ve noticed is that the glitter doesn’t mean sustainability. I think the glitter pushes the numbers and can push the tithes, but ultimately it’s the people who they just have, they just care.
Guy: But they do these things because they care. It’s a balance between knowing who you are, so that you could say, “You know, we can’t do that because that’s not who we are, even though it could bring in maybe another 50 people.”
Guy: ”We’re not going to do that and we’re going to do slow growth.” I’ll tell you, there’s a story of a company named TOMS shoes. Do you remember that?
Guy: TOMS shoes comes out about five years ago. They take off. Within the first year they end up on a commercial with AT&T. They end up in Bill Clinton’s conference that he does for these nonprofits. They end up speaking everywhere. Spoke at Bill Hybels World Leadership Conference…
Matt: Yeah, he did.
Guy: All these different things. Right? Well, why did he blow up? He didn’t blow up because he was selling slippers for $50. Because his idea was so unique. It was emotionally packaged. No one else was doing it, nobody else. But now, what happened?
Matt: He blew up but then kind of died out.
Guy: Yeah. Basically what happened was is that because it was so unique, because no one was doing it, because it was emotionally packaged, that it was able to grow at such a fast pace. What happens is that people gobble it up.
Guy: Once they’ve gobbled it up. They’re like, “Hmm, oh, tried that, seen that, cool.”
Guy: Flash in the pan. The problem is with church you never want to be a trend because trends gain a lot of people quick, but whenever you gain anything quick it dies. Think about all the little plants in our environments. The ones that grow the fastest, die the quickest.
Guy: The ones that take the longest to grow and mature, last the longest. You just use those examples to say growth shouldn’t happen too quickly. If it is, it should be a scary sign.
Matt: Yeah. If I could just summarize, what I’m hearing is that there’s kind of a relationship between the growth pattern on the up and the down. Right? It’s sort of that physics rule, what goes up at one rate has to come down at another rate. You have to be really careful, right, that you want to protect that. Yeah.
Guy: That’s good. I think I’m going to use that one.
Matt: [laughs] Feel free. Yeah, feel free. There’s no TM on that. We should probably close up here, but I appreciate your time. I’m just asking everyone who is a part of the conference to just, your own opinion. If somebody is feeling stuck right now as a leader, especially a leader who is in ministry, what would be some things, not a perfect solution but just some advice that you would give?
Guy: Yeah. I went to the conference from CLA last week, which is a group of people like myself that love the Lord who are leading in some capacity. The best thing at any conference, hands‑down to do, to refresh your batteries, is to get around people who are doing the same thing you’re doing or struggling at the same things you’re doing, and then put them in a room. It’s great to get outside for a session. You learn just as much from if not more from being around other people you… [It’s a fresh perspective]. That’s what I love about being in a community of people that are doing the same things and have the same goals.
(You can download the full interview here )