By Allen Haynes June 10, 2024

Listen to the podcast.

Suzy Gray (00:02):
Welcome to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast Reverb, a conversation that digs deeper into this month’s podcast topic, all designed to help leaders go even further faster. I’m your host, Suzy Gray. Before we jump into today’s content, Andy has a special message from our newest sponsor.

Andy Stanley (00:19):
Yep, I certainly do. We do have a brand new sponsor that I actually reached out to and asked if I could advertise for them, which is so strange, but I’m such a fan of their products. So please join me in welcoming our brand new sponsor. Ledbury creates made to order shirts that fit better, feel better, and honestly last longer than anything else in my closet. I’ve been wearing these shirts for years, and as a podcast sponsor, they have an offer just for our listeners, if you’ll go to leadberry, L-E-D-B-U-R-Y, and use code Andy shirt for 25% off your first shirt. That’s Ledbury, and use code ANDYSHIRT for 25% off your very first shirt. You will not regret it. And now let’s dive into today’s content.

Suzy Gray (01:07):
This month we’re continuing our conversation from last week on creating and sustaining momentum in your organization. By the end of this episode, you’ll understand the role that evaluation plays in sustaining momentum, as well as gain some super practical ways to implement evaluation into your organization. We would encourage you to listen to last week’s episode before diving into today’s, because they’re so complimentary. But Andy, to get us started, let’s define organizational momentum and give a brief overview of the three components to creating and sustaining momentum. Yeah,

Andy Stanley (01:39):
So momentum is a sense of energy and excitement that permeates throughout an organization. It’s the feeling that progress is being made, that progress is easy, that goals are within reach, that anything is possible, that we’re moving in the right direction, the wind is in our sails. And again, there are problems and challenges, but there are good problems and good challenges when you have momentum. Again, as John Maxwell says, it’s the leader’s best friend. And what’s your best friend when you lose it? Because when you lose it, it’s frightening, right?

Suzy Gray (02:08):
And you’re trying to find it back and you’re

Andy Stanley (02:09):
Trying to get it back. Yeah. Years ago I just came up with this little formula to help me keep it front and center and help our organization keep it front and center. That momentum essentially is created by anything new and improved and improving new, improved, improving. We’re looking for new, but it’s got to be an improvement. And then you have to do the hard work of continuing to improve it, continuous improvement. So anything new creates its own sense of momentum, positive or negative. If it’s improved, if it’s kind of a breakthrough idea, even if it’s not a new product or a new category of products, new and improved, that’s the key. And improving keeps you out in front of the competition.

Suzy Gray (02:46):
Well, in today’s episode, I’d like to drill down on what is needed in the third component, improving. We had a lot that we were trying to squeeze in on last week’s episode. And Andy, you mentioned last week that rigorous and ongoing evaluation is the main ingredient in creating an organization that is constantly improving, but that actually has to be built into the rhythm of the organization. And we didn’t get to really drill down on that last week. So let’s talk about that. Let’s start there and talk about why that’s true

Andy Stanley (03:16):
For me, because I’m a words person and I’m simple and I got to keep it front and center and I have a tendency to simplify. But memorable is portable. So essentially for us, it comes down to orchestrate, evaluate, and innovate. Or you could say orchestrate, evaluate, and apply or activate, but orchestrate, evaluate, innovate. Again, the question you’re asking is how do you build continuous improvement into the rhythm of the organization, into organization organiz. So this is the rhythm of the organization committed to continuous improvement. In my opinion, orchestrate is this is how we do it here that makes us predictable. Evaluate, is this the best way to do it here that keeps us evaluating and innovate or acclimate? This is the improved way to do it here. So this is how we do it here. It makes this predictable. Evaluate, is this the best way to do it here?

And then we’re going to apply what we’ve learned in the evaluation and activate that, and in some cases just innovate. So that process, when we get that right, it really ensures continual improvement because we’re constantly working through those three things. And that is language in our organization. Got to orchestrate it and orchestrate again, the best illustration is restaurant. Your favorite restaurant is just predictable enough that you like going there, but hopefully they’re changing the menu every once in a while to keep it interesting. So they want it to be great, but they want it to be continuously improving, but you’re not going to show up the next week and they’ve totally thrown out the menu and done something ridiculous that actually would kill momentum. But the challenge is this orchestration, this is how we do it here happens inside what Chris McChesney describes or calls the whirlwind in his book, the Four Disciplines of Execution.

I love the word that phrase, the whirlwind is just the activity of the organization to keep things running. Everybody’s job description. It’s what we do on Monday, it’s what we’re tired of doing by Friday. It’s just the stuff we have to do. So orchestration happens inside the whirlwind and the whirlwind is necessary because there are critical tasks. There are tasks that are absolutely critical to keeping the organization running, to keep the organization running. For me and my world, it’s content creation and content delivery. I create it and deliver it, create it and deliver it. Create and deliver it, right? Constantly

Suzy Gray (05:33):
Feeding the

Andy Stanley (05:34):
Engine. Constantly. Yeah, feeding the beast. You got to create it and deliver it. And everybody has their version of the whirlwind, whatever their job is, because for us, it’s here comes Sunday, here comes Sunday, here comes Sunday. So orchestration, which is absolutely critical, keeps us working in it. And if we’re not careful, we don’t pause and work on it. That’s evaluation and making things better. I mean, how should we be doing it here? And you got to work on it to ensure the work you’re doing is the right work when you’re working in it. What’s the best use of time, the best use of resources and energy, all that stuff. So the challenge is this. The whirlwind always feels critical and necessary. Evaluation does not. It just doesn’t get to that later. Yeah, well, by the time you need it, it’s too late. Definitely you have already peaked, you’re moving in the wrong direction and then everybody’s scrambling.

Evaluation never feels critical again until something breaks or there’s a noticeable decrease in momentum. Or again, this is a big topic or there’s the courage to acknowledge a decrease in momentum because we all have a tendency to look the other way. I don’t want bad news. I like momentum. And you get addicted to that. And then when things start to crack, you just are like, no, no, no, no, I don’t want to look over there. So creating a system, back to your question, creating a system of evaluation or blending it into the culture of the organization is absolutely critical to momentum. But it doesn’t feel critical when you have momentum because again, momentum is seductive. It deceives us. We think we’re better than we really are. And of course evaluation is going to take many forms. Some are very industry specific because sometimes there’s actually industry standards that people are living up to or having to be evaluated by and being benchmarked by.

But there’s actually a practical side, and this is kind of a subsection, but I think it’s kind of a takeaway because all of this seems a little bit intangible to me at this point. And that’s this leaders, whether a department leader, division leader, whatever it’s leaders need to evaluate or pay really close attention to their positive and their negative feedback loop. And here’s what I mean by that, because we’re talking about evaluation and continuous improvement. In most cases, leaders need to shrink or shorten their feedback loop. And here’s why I say that over time, leaders, especially really good leaders who get promotions and move up in the organization or grow an organization or division over time leaders, we get further and further away from the critical event or the critical events. Every organization has one or two or maybe three, what I call critical events.

The things that if you get those things right, everything goes right. If you don’t get those things, it doesn’t matter what else goes right, nothing goes right. Yeah. And so the problem is, as a leader in an organization, I move just by nature of growth and progress and success, I am moved further and further away from the critical event. But the critical event or the critical events in the organization are the things that must be constantly value evaluated and constantly tended to. But they don’t happen in the c-suite, right? Yeah. They don’t happen in the upper echelons of an organization, even a medium-sized organization, for example, for us as a network of churches, for us, the critical, believe it or not, is not the preaching. I’d like to think it is, but it is not survey after survey. It ain’t the preaching, okay? People will go for their entire life to a church with mediocre preaching and love it, and you cannot pry them loose.

That is not why people connect to church. So for us, the critical event is the first 10 minutes somebody is on one of our campuses, that’s the critical event. Now, how close am I to the first 10 minutes? A first timer is on our campus. I’m not, I’m far away. No, I’m in my green room getting ready to deliver the message that I’m sure is the critical event. That’s not right. People are already making up their minds before I ever get up to talk, before they ever really sample our complete menu of products. And again, by nature of what I do, I’m so far from those environments. So back to the feedback loop. So what I had to do, and what I have to do is I have to manufacture a feedback loop to get me as close to real time feedback as possible. And I’m talking about parking, guest services, the temperature, the signage, anything that impacts positively or negatively, the first 10 to 12 minutes a person is on our campus. So that’s what I did. So practically speaking, Sandra, my wife, she works on guest services. She’s like eyes and ears, guest services, Diane Grant, who’s worked with me over 25 years, my administrative assistant, she walks those halls and pays attention to those issues because I want real time feedback. If that environment isn’t welcoming and connecting, the

Suzy Gray (10:34):
Rest of it doesn’t matter.

Andy Stanley (10:35):
The rest of it doesn’t matter in terms of engaging new people. So the reason this is important, the critical events, whatever they are in an organization, are directly tied to momentum and they influence momentum. So when it comes to evaluating leaders, again, whether department, organizational, franchise, whatever it is, we have to understand what is creating or what’s essential to momentum, and then create the feedback loop that keeps us with our feet and our heart and our eyes and our ears firmly planted in that arena. Otherwise, we may create all kinds of tools to evaluate, but if we’re not evaluating that, again, we can deceive ourselves and seduce ourselves with all kinds of reports and surveys, whatever it might be, but we got to pay attention to those things. Does that make sense? Yeah.

Suzy Gray (11:24):
So the first thing you would say when you’re thinking about this topic would be, hey, you need to identify what are the critical environments? What are the critical measures of success? And then make sure there’s

Andy Stanley (11:34):
The critical event, whatever that might be. So

Suzy Gray (11:36):
Measure the critical event and then make sure that there’s short feedback loops so that how is it actually going? So that’s the first aspect and

Andy Stanley (11:46):
Say, lemme give you another illustration of this. About a year and a half ago we realized it took us six months before we knew when an elementary age student or middle schooler had dropped out of their small group. Now the leader in the group as a volunteer, they knew the child wasn’t there coming. Oh yeah. And they would send a card. But in terms of organizationally, we had not built in a mechanism because our feedback loop was months. Our feedback loop needed to be weeks. Well, when we recognized that, we changed it. The same with people who had consistently supported our organization financially. Our feedback loop was a year before we realized, oh, this person has disappeared financially. Well, they may have disappeared financially because they moved because they had a financial hardship. Hardship because we offended them, but we didn’t know. And if you wait for a year to contact that person, how would you feel?

You feel like, oh, you’re just now figuring out, you’re now figuring it out how you misses my money. So again, our feedback loops were out of whack in areas that were mission critical and momentum critical. So we fixed that, we closed that. So those are the kinds of things when you ask the question, what kind of evaluation do you need to do? I mean, you got to do evaluation for continuous improvement, but what kind it needs to be directly related to the critical events. It needs to be as short as possible. And the people who are most responsible for or most concerned about the momentum in the organization, they need to manufacture some sort of feedback loop that is as quick as possible. And again, shorten that time so they can pay attention. And so when they sit down with the other managers, they can talk about what’s most important to the success of the organization rather than just looking at p and ls and all this stuff that we have to look at that stuff. But sometimes that can be deceiving as well.

Suzy Gray (13:36):
And that feedback loop makes sure that you’re looking also in addition to the p and l at the things that are most critical.

Andy Stanley (13:42):
Yeah, we’ll get back to that in just a minute. But first, I want to tell you a little bit more about my favorite online shirt company. I have tried several online shirt companies. They are the best. leadberry was founded in 2009 with the goal of making shirts that fit better, feel better and last longer than anything in your closet. And they have succeeded. They deliver on that goal. So they have an offer Just for our podcast listeners, just go to and use code ANDYSHIRT for 25% off your first shirt. That’s L-E-D-B-U-R code ANDYSHIRT for 25% off your first shirt. And get this Ledbury 60 day guarantee means you can wear it and wash it and wear it and wash it. And if there are any issues, they will take it back worry free. These made to order shirts are made specifically for you and they are delivered in two weeks.

Again, just go to and take 25% off your first shirt with the code ANDYSHIRT. That’s L-E-D-B-U-R code ANDYSHIRT for 25% off your first shirt. And now back to today’s episode. So what is something else that you think is critical for improving? Again, a general principle we talk about from time to time, but again, it intersects directly with the conversational momentum. What’s rewarded is repeated, what’s rewarded is repeated. So once we know what needs to be repeated in order to maintain momentum, we need to make sure that we are rewarding that behavior or that response or whatever it might be. So you reward innovation, you reward cost savings, you reward, reward creative solutions to actual problems, not just I have an idea, but no, this is an actual solution to an actual problem. You reward simplifying processes. You reward efficiency because all of those things are critical to momentum because complexity stalls it, lack of communication stalls, it, lack of transparency stalls it like we talked about last time.

So if you get all those things again, those things reduce friction, which stalls momentum. And as I mentioned last week, we have to do an autopsy on our success. We have to evaluate our success. For example, last weekend actually, we had an unusually high attendance at our churches, and in part of it was we added some things that we thought would generate better attendance, and we promoted them for two weeks. So we did some good marketing and it worked. When we sat down the next day after that extraordinary weekend, we spent about eight minutes celebrating and 40 minutes tearing the whole weekend apart, asking why did that work? It worked. And of course the tendency would be to celebrate it, move on. And we did. We celebrated. We had the emotion. We went around, we bragged on each other and talked about the great things everybody did.

Then it was like, okay, good for us. Now why did that work? Because we want to do it again next spring, but we want to do it better. We want to improve on it. But by next spring when we’re planning it, we will have forgotten any lessons learned this spring if we don’t sit down and evaluate it, do an autopsy on our success. Autopsy is such a negative word if we don’t evaluate our success. But again, that’s just built into the rhythm of our organization. I didn’t have to say to Holly who was leading that meeting, Hey, don’t forget. We need to evaluate why it worked when it worked, or we won’t know how to fix it when it breaks. That’s just built in. It’s just built in. It’s just what we do. But having said that, that’s the positive side. It’s fun to take something apart that works.

That works. Yeah. It’s not so fun to take something apart that didn’t work because there’s ego, there’s all kinds of things, and there are people who think, well, I thought it worked. Everybody’s like, no, that did not work. That is not going well. Look at the numbers. So when you begin to evaluate something that isn’t working, that’s when it is more difficult sometimes, to be honest, to set our ego aside, to set our sense of ownership aside. In fact, you have a phrase I think that you came up with on your team, Susie, what is it again?

Suzy Gray (17:56):
We actually call it fearless feedback.

Andy Stanley (17:57):
Fearless feedback with

Suzy Gray (17:59):
Susie Gray. Are we caring personally and challenging directly?

Andy Stanley (18:03):
Wait, say that’s good. Say it again.

Suzy Gray (18:05):
Are we caring personally and challenging directly?

Andy Stanley (18:08):
What does caring personally mean in that

Suzy Gray (18:10):
Context? I care about you and I also care about the organization, and I care about what we’re trying to do together. And so because I’m coming at it from that posture, I’m going to challenge something. I need to highlight something. I need to bring something up. But it doesn’t come from a, you’re

Andy Stanley (18:25):
Not being

Suzy Gray (18:25):
Critical. It’s not being critical. We all care about this. I care about you and I care about what we’re doing collectively. So I’m going to step into something that might be a little bit hard because it’s going to make us all better because I care, but I’ve got to challenge you directly. I’m not going to go to somebody

Andy Stanley (18:41):
Else. This is in with the team. Yes. Yeah.

Suzy Gray (18:44):

Andy Stanley (18:44):
Do you use that phrase when you’re about, do you sort of set it up? Here comes my

Suzy Gray (18:49):
Fearless feedback.

Andy Stanley (18:50):
Fearless feedback.

Suzy Gray (18:51):
I wouldn’t say that. I would say, Hey, here comes fearless feedback. Ready, but mean? But

Andy Stanley (18:56):
It’s a value instilled in your team. Yeah.

Suzy Gray (18:59):
Every quarter we highlight a new value and really elevate it. And this quarter’s value is fearless feedback because I want everybody to feel free to bring something up that they’re like, Hey, this may not be in my area, but this seems off. This doesn’t seem like this is working. Well, you said this, but this is what’s really happening in my experience. Can you tell me about it? But not from a perspective of, man, you really stink. You got to fix this. But from a perspective of we all want to get this right, this is something I’ve noticed. And I think the more that you can model that and encourage that, it helps you continuously improve because people don’t know things and just sit on it.

Andy Stanley (19:36):
Yeah. And that again, it’s so easy to talk about these things, but when you’re sitting with four or five people, you have personalities, different ages, different levels in the organization, different experiences. I love that terminology when the team knows, okay, this is because we corporately care about what we’re doing. We care so much. We can’t stay silent. We

Suzy Gray (19:57):
Can not say something.

Andy Stanley (19:58):
We can’t continue to do what we’re doing. If it’s not working, we can’t work around. Yeah, that’s powerful. Again, momentum, new, improved. Improving and improving requires evaluation. And sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s not fun, but it’s absolutely necessary. And these things have to be built into the culture, the rhythm. That’s why orchestrate, evaluate, orchestrate, evaluate. Nobody’s surprised when we evaluate, everybody knows I get evaluated between services. Yes, you do. There’s nothing off the table. That’s the only way to ensure continuous improvement. New and improved.

Suzy Gray (20:33):
Yes. Well, Andy, that is all the time that we have today for this episode of Reverb. Andy, thanks so much for digging deeper into the topic of creating and maintaining momentum. And to all of our listeners, we want to thank you for joining us. And before we leave, we have one ask, and it’s the only ask we’re going to ask you on this podcast, and that is to subscribe. By subscribing you, help us grow the audience, which helps us keep improving, no pun intended, bringing you great guests and great content. And be sure to visit andy where you’ll find more resources to help you go further, faster.

Comments are closed.