The Pastor and the Comic

It is not every day you have a completely new experience. Especially once you hit midlife. (And often, in midlife, those new experiences are not mountaintop experiences, but instead new experiences like, “Wow, now I need to wear glasses if I want to read anything.” But I digress.)

Recently I had one of those completely new experiences. I spoke at an event in another city and shared the stage with a Stand-Up Comic turned Motivational Leadership Speaker.

Steve Rizzo has been on sound stages in LA and New York.

I have not.

He has been featured on television specials.

I have not.

He flies first class.

I do not. But I digress.

I met him when the car that was taking both of us (thank you Charles!) to our first event of the day pulled up. I walked out, hopped in the back seat and into my new experience:

My Pastor Meets Comic experience.

(Yes, I am a Pastor. I served as Senior and Executive Pastor of congregations in southern California, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon. Until I woke up one day and didn’t want to be paid for ministry any more. I seem to have too much candor and conviction and too little patience for the church. But I digress.)

Back to this week, this day in my life story. It was a great day.

I met a generous man with a big heart and a mission to make a difference and leave a wake of success in the lives of the people who cross his path. Steve spreads joy and laughter, as well as a bevy of tips and tales that help people to create success mindsets, so that they can find opportunity in the obstacles and options that lie before them.

Here are a couple of takeaways from my time with Steve (These are not quotes capturing what he said. These are things I saw him do.):

  1.      See the world through the eyes of the people around you as often as you can.
  2.      Act on what you see.

When I met Steve the first words out of his mouth after we were introduced were, “Why don’t you come sit up here and I’ll sit in the back. You are tall, and you need the room.”

I deferred and thanked him.

When we returned to the car after the first stop, he went directly to the back seat and sat down.

He didn’t ask. He acted. I enjoyed the legroom up front for the rest of the day. Thanks Steve!

When the leader goes first and acts with generosity, warmth and unrequested thoughtfulness, the leader earns something valuable: trust.

It was a small gesture with a big impact.  He demonstrated he cared about my experience, more than his own. It was kind, and I appreciated it.

People trust you when you notice and act on your observations about their situation.

I have a lot of stories that would make you laugh about my day with Steve Rizzo.

If you have a chance to hear him speak, do so! And know that a generous man is behind those words, listening to his audience, caring about how to best communicate what he’s learned about living a life that matters, and enjoying the moment we are living right now.

Leaders, we are at our best when we are generous advocates, both behind the scenes and onstage, caring about and equipping people to see and seize opportunities. We are at our best when we allow ourselves and others to savor the process of living our lives, as we travel through shared valleys of turmoil and turbulence to our next mountaintop moment.

So, be present. Notice others’ circumstances. Act on what you notice. And laugh some along the way.


Every organization has a culture, which either works for them or against them.  Sounds obvious, right?  This being the case, why do so many organizations ignore their culture’s impact on their long term results?

One school of thought is that today’s economics don’t support the “warm and fuzzy” Dr. Phil type of cultural “therapy.”  Some employees have become so shrill in guarding their incomes over the last 8-10 years that they are willing to accept doing more with less, working longer hours, and sub-standard leadership.

Organizations that are seduced into accepting this are deceiving themselves.  The proof will come when our cyclical economy creates better jobs, at which point they will pay the price in turnover for ignoring their culture.  There is an old business saying that states, “Culture beats strategy every time.”  In the long term, I believe that to be absolutely true.

The goal of the Game is to change from Anti-Culture to Shared Culture.

Anti-Culture sounds like this:

“It’s Monday, how are you doing today?”
“Well, I’m hanging in there”,
“It’s almost Friday”, or the sarcastic
“I’m living the dream!”

In our experience, this is symptomatic of the short term “Action to Results /Command & Control” management style outlined by Roger Connors and Tom Smith in Change the Culture Change the Game (see top half of the pyramid below.)  In this model, staff experiences “You’d better do this [Action] now because we need this [Result] now.  At times it is obviously appropriate.  Other times, it is less than effective when it becomes perceived as the normal Cultural Operating System.

A game changing Shared Culture foundationally looks like this:

·       What a Team Member Experiences over time drives their Beliefs.

·       Their Beliefs about their organization drives their Actions.

These Actions may or may not fulfill leaderships’ targeted Results.



What would Anti-Culture employees need to experience to change to a Shared Culture environment? 

It’s all about the Shared Experiences:

·       What is it like to report to you?

·       What is it like to report to your boss?

·       What is it like to work inside the walls of your organization?

Leaders who understand this challenge the conventional by demonstrating, over time, behaviors that create Shared Experiences with their employees.  For example, as an employee:

·       Am I heard at work?

·       Do we make joint decisions?

·       Is management fair?

·       Are rationales offered for the strategy and tactics employed?

Furthermore, as Connor and Smith point out, it only takes 3-4 shared cultural experiences among staff to form a new cultural belief.  When a new hire asks, ”What is it really like to work here?”, what do they hear in reply?  The honest answers to that question could have great strategic impact on long term results as Culture beats Strategy every time.