Secrets of Top Team Players: Insights from 30,000 Leaders & William Vanderbloemen

Thanks for joining us on the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking again with William Vanderbloemen, the founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, an organization that helps identify executive talent and matches value-based organizations with like-minded people.

When it comes to hiring the best people, what factors cause them to shine? How can you learn to identify these qualities in a potential hire? Tune in as William shares some common traits found in exceptional hires based on interviews with 30,000 leaders.

  • Twelve habits among the successful. // In the last 15 years, Vanderbloemen Search Group has interviewed over 30,000 leaders. By studying the best of the best from this group, William sought to discover what these people had in common. He debunked the notion that exceptional individuals possess some innate quality or talent. Instead, he identified twelve habits common in these highly ranked leaders—referred to as “unicorns”—habits that are completely teachable and coachable.
  • The Fast. // One of the most counterintuitive habits he discovered was the importance of being responsive. One study showed that the speed of response, for example to an email or web form, correlates with the likelihood of having a meaningful conversation or connection. People are terrible at getting back to each other, but these unicorns in the church world are quick to respond which makes them stand out.
  • Follow up. // Responsiveness is not just crucial in personal interactions, but it also plays a significant role in organizations. William notes that a big study on giving found that the current best way to follow up with a first time donor is for the lead pastor or preaching pastor to text that donor the afternoon of the day that they gave. Following up means the likelihood of that donor giving again goes up by three times.
  • Train to be more responsive with boundaries. // Creating a culture of responsiveness within a team requires clear boundaries and expectations for communication. At Vanderbloemen Search Group, they respond to emails within 24 hours and treat Slack messages after hours as more urgent. However, it’s also important to respect employees’ work-life boundaries. You can train your people to be more responsive, but it’s up to you as the executive pastor to create boundaries where people aren’t afraid. Defining communication commitments annually as an organization also helps reinforce responsiveness. Train both senders and receivers of messages to use the appropriate channels for what is high priority and what isn’t.
  • The Curious. // Another common habit of unicorns found in the study is called “The Curious.” Leadership requires curiosity. Most people accept the status quo and don’t ask why. The people who really shine in their work learn to ask great questions.
  • Be the Unicorn // You can read about all twelve of the habits that William identified from his research in the book “Be the Unicorn: 12 Data-Driven Habits That Separate the Best Leaders from the Rest”. People problems are one of the things that slows down the church and this book is a fantastic tool for personal and team development.

Take advantage of the roughly 4000 free resources at Vanderbloemen Search Group and grab William’s book “Be the Unicorn: 12 Data-Driven Habits that Separate the Best Leaders from the Rest” at the website www.vanderbloemen.com.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: CDF Capital

Since 1953 CDF Capital has helped church leaders and individuals bring light to the world through the thoughtful stewardship of their capital. The Church, including your church, requires more than just financial capital, it also needs spiritual and leadership capital. While separate in purpose, these three forms of capital are intertwined and inseparable for the cause of kingdom growth. Together, when we partner with the Lord to bring spiritual, leadership, and financial capital to a church, the results are transformational. At CDF Capital our ministry is simple: we lend money to churches.

CDF Capital, in partnership with Barna Group, conducted a research study to better understand what happens in churches after a new leader comes in. Barna Group interviewed 111 pastors online who have experienced a leadership transition within the last 12 years. Click here to get your free download of the study.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, everybody welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Man, we’re really looking forward to today’s conversation, a repeat guest, which you know when we have repeat guests, that means they’ve got something good to say. We want to bring him back to the table, hear what they have to say. Super excited to have William Vanderbloemen – he’s the founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group. This is a firm well-known to folks that are listening in, they’re really known all over the world for excellence in identifying executive talent and really matching values-based organizations with likeminded or with org… with likeminded people. (I think that makes sense.) Ah, super excited to have William on the the call. He’s also a sought-after thought leader in really company culture, talent retention, ai and future work trends. William, so glad you’re here. Thanks for being here today.

William Vanderbloemen — Thanks I’m feeling bad about my seating. I’m just sitting at my desk in my office and then I realize I actually have a seminary degree on the wall and this is the wrong podcast to have that hammer shot. So.

Rich Birch — Ah, love it. Love it. It’s true. That’s that’s good. Why do you fill out the picture a little bit the William Vanderbloemen picture, tell us a little bit of your story. Give us the fill out the picture a little bit for us.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, yeah, well I’ll I’ll try and keep you short. I’ll tell people I’m a recovering preacher so we go on and on. I know there are a lot of exec pastors listening. You’re like oh my gosh I thought we were getting out on time, but now no. But ah I, you know, I think, Rich, I probably was born with some malformed gene that’s made me a bit of a serial entrepreneur. And ah you know I was the kid that you know was a paper boy but but bought out the paper routes around me and redistributed them and made it mine more dense and sold off what I didn’t need just kind of. It’s ah it’s a dysfunction. I should probably be in counseling. But ah, and and honestly it’s what made me not want to go into ministry is I wanted to go do something where you’re building something where you’re…

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — And I grew up in a Presbyterian Church, very quiet, great church, but mainline custodial sort of setting, you know. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just is it what it was. I thought go in a ministry and you stand around, I guess you wear the robe all week? Or do you can you wear that to a grocery store, or do you like…

Rich Birch — Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — And you sit with people at the hospital and try not to make too many people mad and preach a good message, you know. And that was like uh-uh. But but God has a way of winning wrestling matches.

Rich Birch — Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — And ah and and we wrestled and he won. And so I went into, you know, Presbyterian Church Ministry, and then I got hold of one of my profs gave me a Lyle Schaller book. Great church growth guy who’s with Jesus now. But one of the the lines in his book that my professor had highlighted was “Jesus called us to be fishers of men, not keepers of an aquarium.”

Rich Birch — Oh good. Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — And ah it was like light bulb moment for me and that’s right when Willow and Saddleback were sort of hitting their stride.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — And it’s like, wow you can be a kingdom entrepreneur. I mean like I can say it cleaner now. I think I was like wow we could overpopulate heaven – that would be so cool.

Rich Birch — I love it. So good.

William Vanderbloemen — And um, so off I went, probably changed too much too quick at a lot of places, but had gracious people around me. And ah, pastored mostly as a senior pastor in the Presbyterian Church. Always had an odd group of friends though, you know, the Willows, the Saddlebacks, the non-denoms. And that was all very threatening. Um, but God was good and then after a divorce, which I would not recommend by the way…um…

Rich Birch — Sure. Okay.

William Vanderbloemen — You know, um I’ve found myself as a single dad with four kids, and in no shape to take care of anybody spiritually. Ah, the church had been very gracious to me. And I ended up taking a job um at an oil and gas company. Try new career, you know.

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — I’m like I don’t know that. And they said well you know people so we’ll start you in the ah HR department and a rotation, and then we’ll move you somewhere else, and when we rotate you around you can have a nice career here. First year I’m there, by the way I hated it.

Rich Birch — Okay.

William Vanderbloemen — I was not made for it. They were good people.

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — They were doing good work, they paid well, there were a lot of believers in the company, including the very top people in the company.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — So no knock on them. But it was just not what I was wired to do.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — And man it can be 15 years of search work to realize just because someone’s talented doesn’t mean they’re right for the job…

Rich Birch — Oh nice. Okay, good. Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — …at all.

Rich Birch — Interesting, right.

William Vanderbloemen — So and that was me I just you know… And so the CEO said um I’ve been here nine years. (I didn’t realize that’s like a lifetime for a fortune 200 company which is what we were.)

Rich Birch — Right? Yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — And so they hired a search firm to find a new CEO, ninety days later they had the new CEO.

William Vanderbloemen — First Presbyterian Houston, where I’d been serving, which is a fantastic church, and within the little world presbyterianism honestly, one of the best ones.

Rich Birch — Yep.

William Vanderbloemen — It took them 3 years to find me.

Rich Birch — Wow, right.

William Vanderbloemen — I was there not quite 6.

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — It took them almost three years to find my successor.

Rich Birch — Wow.

William Vanderbloemen — So they had a twelve year run…

Rich Birch — Wow.

William Vanderbloemen — …with half of it in search mode and half of it with a pastor.

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — And here’s an oil and gas company, now I live in Texas so we don’t believe this, but most of the world believes that the oil and gas world is the death star of the evil galactic empire, and like is the worst thing in the world.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — So why in the world, you know, [inaudible] me off with with what, you know, an old mentor of mine would have called a holy discontent. And and I I can say it now like cleanly, yeah hindsight gives you clarity.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, 20/20. Yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — Why does the business world have a better solution than the bride? That’s just…

Rich Birch — Right. Oh good. Yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — I went home, Adrienne and I just got married. We blended our families with 6 kids. We had a new house that we could barely afford; we didn’t have any money. And I said Adrienne I think I’m supposed to quit my job and start something new for churches. And she looked at me and she said, oh yeah, that’s because churches love new ideas, right?

Rich Birch — [laughs] They’re good with that. They like innovation and trying new things that we’ve never done before.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah [inaudible] he ended up nailed to wood.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — Anyway… long story short…Oh and and the kicker is it was the fall of 2008. Now if you’re not old, like…

Rich Birch — Right. Great time. Perfect time.

William Vanderbloemen — Well okay, then you know. I mean if you’re too young to know of, just Google 2008 economy. It was not good.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — So that was then. You know I got some mentoring from a really great guy. I learned as I went. I had very ah patient clients in the early years. And now fifteen years later we’ve completed 3000 searches um, you know, we’ve just we’ve we’ve gotten to work with some of the best people on the planet. You guys, your team being one of them back in the day.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely.

William Vanderbloemen —Um I’m just very, very grateful for what what doors God has opened.

Rich Birch — No, that’s great. Love hearing that story and and hearing your heart behind that. And yeah, this a part of what I like about you, William, is you ah, you, you are, you know, in the church’s corner. You want to help churches and you want to serve and you’ve built, I think, a great organization that does that consistently, which is is fantastic. I’m so glad to have you on today because I want to take advantage of that vant that kind of vantage point that you have over seeing so many different leaders in so many different contexts. And recently I heard that you did this study of, was it 30,000 leaders? That’s a crazy number.

William Vanderbloemen — It is crazy.

Rich Birch — Tell us about this. What what was this thing that you—I want to unearth this—what was this this study that you guys set out to do?

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, right, right. Well I think I think most massive projects like that, or a book, or anything come from [inaudible].

Rich Birch — Good.

William Vanderbloemen — You know it’s not because what research project can I do today? It’s usually like I got a question I got to know the answer to.

Rich Birch — Yes, got to dig that out.

William Vanderbloemen — And I don’t know, Rich, have you ever have you ever have you ever like been in a meeting—it’s only happened to me a handful of times outside of my job now—but you’re in a meeting, or maybe at a social function, or a church, or whatever. You meet somebody and within 5 minutes you’re like: winner. Absolute winner.

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, yeah. True.

William Vanderbloemen — This one’s different.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — I mean I don’t know if you’ve done, had that happen.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally. Totally.

William Vanderbloemen — I think most people have.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely.

William Vanderbloemen — And I have [inaudible] for the longest time, I mean I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m not super gullible. So why in the world does this person win me over in 5 minutes?

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — What is it about them, you know? And when I was younger I used to just hire ’em all, and that’s dumb because back to the point of, you know, I was an idiot. I knew everything because I was 31 and that’s what you do when you’re 31…

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — …you do everything right. I would try and hire them and they weren’t a fit for for the company. A lot of times they weren’t even as talented as I thought, they just reminded me of me and I like me, you know.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — So and then then there are other times where I’d I’d meet great people and not realize I was in the middle of a great conversation. My first conversation with Chris Hodges, he was getting ready to plant his church. John Maxwell introduced the two of us – we were on a golf course. And he said, this is my friend Chris, getting ready to plant, he’s at Church of the Highlands…

Rich Birch — Yeah. Yeah, monster [inaudible] absolutely.

William Vanderbloemen — …which is arguably one of the best churches in North America. And I’m like you you know anybody in Alabama? He’s like, nope, I don’t know anybody. I’m like well good luck buddy. You know?

Rich Birch — Wow. Yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, it’s I was an idiot. I missed it.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — So the question in my mind is, what is it that causes these really special people to shine, and could you find a way to identify really special people when you miss it, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

William Vanderbloemen — For for 14 of our 15 years we’ve just have been very blessed with a lot of growth. And you’ve been in a growing church. Your listeners are hopefully in a growing church. If they’re not they ought to hire you to help them grow. Well they should.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — And ah you know growth doesn’t leave a lot of time.

Rich Birch — Right. Right. Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — You know, yeah it it’s yeah, it’s more fun than not growing, but it’s not like this it’s like people talk about the luxury life of travel. Only until you’ve traveled…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, absolutely.

William Vanderbloemen — But um in the pandemic, every one of our clients closed…

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — …um indefinitely, which by the way, my religion and philosophy degree did not teach me much about P and Ls, but if all of your clients close indefinitely, it will change your balance sheet, right?

Rich Birch — Yes. Exactly. Things are going to change. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — So, it also it also ah freed up our calendar. And so we realized, so when we do a search like we do a search for your camp or whatever the thing is that we’re doing virtual, and maybe there are 1500 people that could be considered.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — And then you get serious about it and it gets down to maybe there’s 150.

Rich Birch — Yep.

William Vanderbloemen — And if you’re an exec pastor, you’ve done this, you do your initial phone calls, you do research, and down down down down down. When we get down to the final, call it 8 or 10 somewhere in there, ah really really talented people, they get a an in-person, face-to-face interview with us. And we realized in the pandemic, you know what we’ve done 30,000 of these now.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — And that was three years ago so I don’t even know what the number is.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s more now.

William Vanderbloemen — And the good thing is I quit hiring people like me. I hire people that are not like me, that are detail-oriented and they’ve kept track of all those people.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — And we have records of the interviews, and we have…

Rich Birch — Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — …so we were able to say like, okay 30,000 – can we figure out who the best of those are?

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — Like the best of the best? Yep, we figured out who got the job, who kept it, who got promoted, who brought multiplication and growth, who brought discipleship to things.

Rich Birch — Oh love it, love it.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Okay, that makes sense.

William Vanderbloemen — So so then okay, we got the best of the best. We know who they are. Then the question was do you have anything in common?

Rich Birch — Right. What is what’s what’s the commonality? Who was what are the things that these people have what are the traits that they have in common?

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

William Vanderbloemen — And and the answer was yes. And the answer was nothing I’d expected. It was…

Rich Birch — Really? Interesting.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah. I would have thought, like for instance I would have thought um maybe they all have a high IQ.

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — Ah maybe they all got to go to really good schools where they received some degree of finishing, you know, like interpersonal skills. And…

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — Nope, nope. Maybe they’re all one type of job position. No, it’s not that. Like you know…

Rich Birch — Fascinating.

William Vanderbloemen — …ah you executive pastors, you know how long it takes to interview a pastoral care candidate, like they just want to sit and take care of you. I’m like oh my gosh, much prefer interviewing executive pastors. They get it done quickly.

Rich Birch — Yes, love it.

William Vanderbloemen — Well, they do.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — So it was none of these qualities. What we did find was there were twelve habits…

Rich Birch — Okay.

William Vanderbloemen — …that overwhelmingly were common among these, we call them, unicorns, right.

Rich Birch — Yep.

William Vanderbloemen — And the coolest part was we didn’t see this coming. We were frankly doing a very selfish study to figure out how do we identify these people and not miss them when you have something like my interaction with Pastor Chris. And the cool byproduct of the study was every one of these 12 habits is completely coachable, completely teachable.

Rich Birch — Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — So now instead of spending my day saying, I know how to spot a unicorn. We’re actually able to say, I know how to teach you or help you teach your team how to become unicorns.

Rich Birch — I love that.

William Vanderbloemen — And man, in in a day where the church is is, a lot of people would say, losing relevance, or it’s noisy, or people aren’t coming, and there’s a lot of pessimism, I’m not quite as pessimistic… But how cool would it be if instead of having one person on your staff that’s like that, you had a whole team. And then when a visitor comes within 5 minutes they’re like, these people are like unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Rich Birch — Love.

William Vanderbloemen — And ah so it it led, you know, what was a research project led to okay, let’s make it a resource available to people. Let’s make it a book. And I’ll I’ve spent a lot of my year working on that.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes, love it.

William Vanderbloemen — Fortunately I’ve got a great team that does all our search work. But yeah…

Rich Birch — Well I’d love to you know, unpack that a little bit more. first of all I love the you know the insight. You didn’t quite say it like this, but as you were saying that it it, you know, I got thinking about what your firm does, what you do. There’s a part of it where you’re trying, what I what I hear in this project, this “Be the Unicorn” book, is really trying to demystify what can be kind of a mysterious thing. You’re talking to candidates, you’re talking to leaders, you’re trying to figure out, and is it like some sort of magic that you know we’re looking for, or should I be looking for habits, or should I be developing them in my people? I love that. Well why don’t we talk about is there a habit or two that you found the most surprising that are like the most kind of counterintuitive in the 12 um, that are like, hmm that’s that maybe pushes in a different direction.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Is there something there that we could unpack a little bit?

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, there a few, there are a few. Honestly if somebody’d given me the chapter list, like just the table of content this book, I’d say duh. Everybody should try and do all those things. That’s easy. What idiot wrote this?

Rich Birch — Sure, sure. Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — Ah the difference is this is not William’s 12 opinions. This is actually data-driven.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — Like this is evidence based research that hopefully comes out really simple. Like you listen to Tim Lucas preach, and it sounds like the simplest thing for him to do. It sounds easy. And the only reason it sounds that way is because he’s practiced it 9,000,000 times.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, he’s worked on it.

William Vanderbloemen — So they’re they’re not a lot of I would call um ah plot twists in the 12 habits.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

William Vanderbloemen — But but one that um that I never would have seen coming had I not started our business is we call it “the fast”, but I probably should have titled it “the responsive”. Very few people… and and every one of these 12 habits was incredibly common among the unicorns and incredibly uncommon among the rest of us.

Rich Birch — Oh okay, okay.

William Vanderbloemen — People are terrible at getting back to one another. They’re just horrible at it.

Rich Birch — It’s so true. Yep.

William Vanderbloemen — Well I mean I I can walk you through study after study. We looked at like inbound marketing for instance, you know, where you use a HubSpot, or an Infusionsoft, or or Church Community Builder, whatever it is, to have somebody fill out a form and say please send me more information or have someone call me.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes

William Vanderbloemen — Car dealers use it, [inaudible], inbound Marketing.

Rich Birch — People respond to those things? This is the problem.

William Vanderbloemen — There was a massive so so there was a massive massive study done…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — …of tens of thousands of companies that pay for inbound software. And the question was how what’s the correlation between how quickly you respond to those forms when they come in and how likely you are to actually have a conversation with the person that wrote in. Make sense?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — So so the study showed some really interesting stats. Like for instance, somebody writes and then fills out a form. If they get a human response, not a chat bot, not an ai, but a human response within 60 seconds, there’s a 98% chance that you’re going to have a conversation with that potential customer, visitor, whatever the thing is.

Rich Birch — Wow, Wow Wow.

William Vanderbloemen — 98%. Slam dunk, no problem. You wait 20 minutes, it drops to 60%.

Rich Birch — Wow. Amazing.

William Vanderbloemen — You wait 24 hours, it’s less than 1%.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s convicting.

William Vanderbloemen — Now now now the real punchline is they went on to figure out of all these companies that did the survey what’s your average response time when someone writes in on your company form? Average response time for these people who are paying all this money for this software? 42 hours.

Rich Birch — Wow. Crazy, crazy.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, we contacted the people at eHarmony which is like ah OG of of Tinder or you know…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes. [Inaudible] dating apps…

William Vanderbloemen — …whatever the… Yeah. And we asked them like, what’s the response time when people have a potential match?

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — You’re talking about it a website that is full of lonely people that are trying very hard to meet other people.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — You know, the response time is terrible. The unicorns respond quickly…

Rich Birch — Quickly interesting.

William Vanderbloemen — …and and it makes all the difference.

William Vanderbloemen — I stumbled into this when we started the business and I had six kids in the house and no money and all that. Man, if you wrote me in said, can we talk about you finding this for me? It didn’t matter if it was a dogcatcher, I was calling you right away because I needed to go buy groceries, you know?

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

William Vanderbloemen — But I kept hearing you got back to us! Nobody gets back to us. Well research shows exactly that. So for instance, XPs, I just read a big study on giving. And ah one of the things that found was guess what the the current best way to follow up with a first time donor is? And the answer is lead pastor or the preaching pastor of the day texts that donor that afternoon…

Rich Birch — Yes, love it. Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — …that Sunday or whatever day your services are.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yep, yep.

William Vanderbloemen —The likelihood of that donor giving again goes up by like 3X if that happens.

Rich Birch — Yep. Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — And it’s the same sort of thing. It’s just responsiveness.

Rich Birch —Well yes. I I love that. So, you know, I so I this idea, let’s stick with this idea of responsiveness. You know this is true. You can think, from an organization point of view I can name on one hand the organizations that I would say are responsive—your organization’s one of them—where like hey you, you know, those people actually get back to you quickly. There’s another one where I know if I email that guy, he’s going to call me in 30 seconds. Like it is you know there and I’m just a little bit of like are they just sitting around waiting for me to to email? But you know, as ah as a client I love that. I’m like because I know when I’m if I’m going to take action on that, they’re they’re ready for me. They can they can handle that, which is fantastic. How do we inculcate that as in our team.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, carefully, carefully.

Rich Birch — So how do we, you know, it seems like we’re struggling to get people to respond in a day to emails, you know…

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …but how do we how do we try to help that in our cultures?

William Vanderbloemen — I think super carefully. Now the the cool thing um our study did turn into a book and each chapter is on one of the habits. And so then here’s what we’ve learned and like the data. Here’s what unicorns are saying about how to implement this. And then here’s some tangible steps that you can do. So it’s a very almost like a workbook type book. Ah so so there’s some great examples in there, but I would say um, what’s not as much in the book about responsiveness is how do you build guardrails where you don’t kill your people’s work/life balance. So, yes, respond. But can we have some house rules for what that actually means within a team? When we were 3 or 4 people as a company, you know, whatever. Yeah we were we’re all in each other’s business. We’re in one room where I could hear everything.

Rich Birch — Yeah, there’s a hunger, there’s a hunger, there’s a hunger there. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, and we were all together all the time so it didn’t matter. We got almost 50 people now – that’s a whole different thing, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

William Vanderbloemen — So for us, for instance, inside the office um, it’s it’s known that for our communication if you email me after work hours, I am the message you’re sending me is please get back to me within 24 hours.

Rich Birch — Yes, yep.

No problem. Okay, um if you slack me, which is our interoffice messaging platform, if you send me a slack after hours, okay, now we’re at like DEFCON 3. Like now we’re at I don’t know what Canada’s DEFCON is but that’s…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s high.

William Vanderbloemen — So okay, this is kind of important where I’m having dinner with the kids now, but I’m not I’ll deal with it once I get a quiet minute, right?

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

William Vanderbloemen — If you text me after hours as coworker, that’s DEFCON 2 and I need an answer pretty dang quick.

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — And if it’s if it’s a phone call after hours, you pick up.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep, yep, yep.

William Vanderbloemen — And that requires a whole lot of boundary management.

Rich Birch — Yep.

William Vanderbloemen — Like I really miss our text string during Game of Thrones – that was kind of fun, but…

Rich Birch — Sure sure.

But you know you can’t do… So I would just say you know you can train your people to be more responsive, but I think if you’re the Exec Pastor particularly it’s on you to create some boundaries where people don’t aren’t afraid…

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — …of that. I I just wrote an article on this or actually I was interviewed ah for this by ah The Business Insider. Do you know this magazine?

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

William Vanderbloemen — So they said, are you okay, if we kind of make this a little bit of a clickbait title? I said as long as you tell the whole story.

Rich Birch — Sure.

William Vanderbloemen — Because not every job requires this level of responsiveness.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

William Vanderbloemen — A controller? Whatever.

Rich Birch — Yes, Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — You know, ah a kids pastor? Maybe.

Rich Birch — Yep, yeah.

William Vanderbloemen — But like first time visitor person? Absolute response needed, right?

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, you need to jump on it right away.

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, yeah, yeah. In our world like…

Rich Birch — I think a part of that is what you’ve done there is is even defining for people. We do that annually as an organization. We we go through exactly that same thing. Hey let’s just talk about our communication commitments again as an organization. And we have very similar – email within a day, you know text within an hour, call please pick up. Um, and, you know, and it’s training on both sides. It’s saying, hey if I’m sending you a message I’ve got multiple channels I can send it through.

William Vanderbloemen — That’s right.

Rich Birch — Each, don’t send the message that I don’t need to know until next week. Don’t text me or call me, send me ah send me an email about that. Or you know vice versa, if I’m calling you, hey there’s something that I need an answer for right now. Um, please don’t send me to voicemail because I’m just going to call you again. You know, so how do we communicate that that’s good. What are the…

William Vanderbloemen — Yeah, yeah, well and and what I’m trying to learn is how do I encourage the entire team to be responsive, realizing not everyone has to get back in 60 seconds, you know?

Rich Birch — Right.

William Vanderbloemen — They’re different departments of your church, or your camp, or your school, or my company that just don’t requires immediate response. But my my EA, Brian, that requires immediate response…

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — …cause I’m probably not gonna be you’re not gonna reach me, but you’ll reach him and he’s gonna make you so happy that you heard from him right away.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

William Vanderbloemen — And like that’s so he… So like if I’m interviewing for that position, or a sales marketing position, I borderline entrapment.

Rich Birch — Sure.

William Vanderbloemen — I’ll I’ll send a text I will I’ll send a text at 10 pm or I’ll have someone from the company that Brian doesn’t know text him at 10pm said, I heard you were interviewing with us – sorry I missed you today. I’d love to catch up sometime.

Rich Birch — And see what happens.

William Vanderbloemen — And let’s just see how it goes. And if he didn’t respond right away, whatever. It’s not the end of the world. But if he happens to respond right away.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, there’s something here.

William Vanderbloemen — Oh he’s got the same kind of dysfunction we have. That’s good.

Rich Birch — Love it. So you know, there’s so there’s a whole bunch of these, friends. And we want to encourage you to pick up a copy of the book. You can get Amazon. We can we’ll give you all those links in a minute. One of the ones that stood out to me was the curious. So number 8 the curious tell us a little bit about this. Ah curiosity as I think it might be as I age I realize, man, this is like a it’s a secret weapon in um, in leading, but talk to us about what did you find about the curious.

William Vanderbloemen — Most people aren’t curious. Most people accept status quo, most people just do the same thing every day, most people don’t ask why. Oh there’s a wonderful talk. It’s been viewed a bajillion times with Simon Sinek. And he said the minute my career changed was when I started asking people questions. And then I started talking about my beliefs rather than what I do.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

William Vanderbloemen — And it just changes everything because very few people go to that place. It’s like the start with why. That’s such a game changer, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

William Vanderbloemen — But very few people do. The people that stand out are the ones that ask really great questions. In fact, I don’t do a lot of search work anymore. There are a few here and there if it’s in longtime friend, or if it’s a really complex issue or something like that. If I’m involved in a search, my team will take it most of the way home, and when we get down to the finalist, I’ll have an interview with him. And it’s for good or bad. It’s the interview with the guy whose name is on the door so people are all, oooh what am I going to get asked?

Rich Birch — Sure.

William Vanderbloemen — I I kind of only ask one question: hey Rich, you’ve already gone through the life story, and personality, and job history with the rest of my team. You don’t need to tell me all that again. That’s fine. I think the best way we can use this time I know the client you’re wanting to land a job with or interview with. I know I’m really well. Ask me anything. I’ll give you the real answer.

Rich Birch — Fascinating.

William Vanderbloemen — And that’s the interview.

Rich Birch — Yes I love it. Love it. So good.

William Vanderbloemen — Because the really great candidates ask amazing questions.

Rich Birch — Yes. Right. Super insightful. They’ve you know they give you a sense of they know the organization, they’re they’re you know they’re they’re looking the 201, 301, dig a bit deeper, hey what’s actually happening, you know. That’s cool. Love that.

William Vanderbloemen — How many times in scripture was Jesus asked a question and he turned around and answered it by asking another question?

Rich Birch — Yeah, all the time. Yeah, all the time.

William Vanderbloemen — All the time. All the time. He did it more than he did answer the question.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, infuriatingly so.

William Vanderbloemen — Right. So you know, the the answers are often within you if you just ask the right questions. And I’m finding very few people ask the why. Very few people go underneath what’s just asked to say… You gotta be careful with that. You might get a renegade. He asks great questions – why are we doing it that way? Why can’t we do it this way? Why can’t… You know, two year olds say why a lot. That’s often not appealing. I don’t know if you remember your kids being two, but like will you quit asking me why.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — But but ah, your listeners are smart. How can you interview in a way that allows a candidate the chance to show whether or not they ask good questions?

Rich Birch — Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — Because for me you you can train your team to get better at all these things but it’s far easier to build a team that’s already good at these things.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

William Vanderbloemen — So so yes, this is a training tool but it’s also like a matrix for how I interview as an exec pastor for this next sound engineer or whatever thing it is that you’re looking for.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well I want to I want to encourage people to pick this up. When I saw this I thought, man, this would be a great tool. We’re coming to that time of year where it’s like you know, maybe we buy copies of this for our team. Maybe it’s a Christmas book, or it’s ah hey let’s work on this together. You know, let’s go through through this as a team – that kind of thing. That’s what really struck me, you can obviously get it at Amazon. You can you know drop by your your website. Ah so it’s the book’s called “Be the Unicorn: 12 Data-Driven Habits that Separate the Best Leaders from the Rest”. What are you hoping, what’s the kind of seismic shift that you’re hoping happens? You know you spend a lot of time writing a book. You spend a lot of effort trying to promote it. You do that because you want to see something change, something what what kind of change are you hoping for in the organizations that really take this in and and and chew on it?

William Vanderbloemen — Ah I still want to overpopulate heaven, Rich.

Rich Birch — Love it.

William Vanderbloemen — I still want to overpopulate heaven. I want to I want to have to have a conversation with Jesus about we gotta have a building program and build a little more heaven because you guys have introduced too many people to me.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

William Vanderbloemen — That that is what I would like to see happen and so if if if we can help the church go farther and faster toward knocking down the gates of hell…

Rich Birch — So good. So good.

William Vanderbloemen — …then that’s the shift. And I don’t know anything that slows the church down more than people problems.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

William Vanderbloemen — So if if this book can help solve some people problems, help your team get a little better, that’s going to help introduce more people to Jesus and move us toward overpopulation.

Rich Birch — So good. That’s great. Well, William,I really appreciate you I appreciate your you’re one of those leaders in my life that we haven’t interacted a ton over the years, but that every time we are together you say something that sticks in the back of my brain, and and it comes up time and again. And I’m sure that that’ll be the case with this book. It’ll be the kind of thing that as people read ah it’ll be super helpful for folks as they’re they’re leading. so again friends that’s “Be the Unicorn: 12 Data-Driven Habits that Separate the Best Leaders from the Rest”. I appreciate you being here today. Anything else you want to say just as we wrap up today’s episode?

William Vanderbloemen — No, ah, just that after 15 years we’ve been writing free content forever. And if your listeners haven’t gone to our site, there are about 4000 completely free resources there…

Rich Birch — Yes.

William Vanderbloemen — …on building and running and keeping a team. And some of you guys and gals have been through business training and you know how to do this. A lot of people don’t. So if we can help close that gap for you. It’s kind of like what you’re doing: stuff they didn’t teach me at that seminary with that degree back there.

Rich Birch — Yes, true.

William Vanderbloemen — So it’s there for the taking. Please use it, go do the best you can, and thanks for your service.

Rich Birch — Love it, and the great thing about the name Vanderbloemen you don’t just spell it somewhere close enough and ah or at Google will will figure it out. It’s a great little hack there of SEO. William, I appreciate you being here today. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for what you’re doing to serve the church and lots of organizations. Ah, thank you for being here today.

William Vanderbloemen — Thanks Rich! Always a joy.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.