Episode #263: Charlie McMahan – How To Build A Tribe From 50 To 5,000

Charlie McMahan has been the Lead Pastor of SouthBrook Church since 1992. He is focused on developing future leaders and spends many hours a week mentoring others (including me).

Charlie has led SouthBrook from a small church that originally met in an elementary school to now hosting more than 5,000 members per weekend.  He has a deep understanding for how to build a loyal tribe of people.

We recorded this in front of my teammates at Brixey & Meyer.  You can watch it here:

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The Learning Leader Show

“The Process: Teaser, Tension, Truth, Take Home, Together.”

Show Notes:

  • Sustaining excellence:
    • Integrated people – They aren’t chasing a bunch of different things
    • Consolidated on the self mission
    • Focused – Not distracted
  • Family
    • Charlie’s dad was gone 25 days a month (he later found out he was in the CIA)
    • The reason he turns down big opportunities is because he doesn’t want to travel and wants to be with his family
    • Levels of communication with kids
      • Don’t spend money on stuff, spend money on experiences — Their place is Hilton Head
  • Process for Charlie’s performances (his speeches/sermons)
    • The word entertainment means “To hold people’s attention”
  • The Process:
    • Teaser – Something that grabs you
    • Tension – The inductive part of speaking that you have to do today. So the listeners know “this is important.” If you don’t do this, people will leave
    • Truth
    • Take Home – The practical “do”
    • Together – “Isn’t this the kind of person we want to be?”
  • Most preachers were trained to be deductive… You can’t do that now. You need to help them draw their own conclusions.
  • Finding a way to weave stories and science together
  • The Medici Effect – The renaissance happened because seemingly disconnected entities were connected.
  • “I’m always figuring out how disconnected entities connect”
  • “The upside of stress”
    • “Emotions are like waves. You can’t choose which ones come, but you can choose which to ride.”
    • Choose to embrace stress, it can have a positive impact on you
  • Create a habit of how you look at life:
    • How long did it take you to put this message together? “30 hours and a lifetime.”
  • The intersection of the reality of the struggles with Charlie’s kids and applying it to the lives of the people you serve
  • What is it like to be the children of someone as successful as Charlie?
    • “Our kids had so much pressure on them.  We didn’t appreciate how much it was.”
      • “The Famous Father Syndrome” – Kids choose to differentiate from their parents because they can’t win that game
    • Advice give to parents:
      • “When you walk in the room, the temperature will go up for them.  Kids need stress to grow.”
      • “The stress free life is the dying life”
      • “When we walked in the room, the temperature went way up for my kids. The same heat that drove me, burned them.” –> “Most parenting things you learn 5 minutes too late”
      • PLAY – Personality type, Learning style, Ability level, Yes factor — “You don’t have to cave under the pressure. It doesn’t have to destroy you”
  • Growing a church from 50 people to 5,000 per weekend.  How?
    • Has to be a commitment to excellence that is YOU — Has to be in ALL areas of your life. “Excellence is a habit.”
      • “Excellence is expressing my worth… Ennobling others because I care. Perfectionism is trying to earn my worth by being perfect… And that is dangerous.”  Be careful to not think, “I have to be perfect or I”m not worth anything.”
      • “Maturity is way underrated”
      • “Excellence comes out of peace. In excellence the process is as much of importance as the product.”
      • “I don’t have grammatical errors on the manuscript that nobody else ever sees.”
      • “Excellence is the right people doing the right things for the right reasons.”
      • “The right motivations are not so compulsive.”
      • “The constant burden of leadership is the constant interception of entropy.”
        • “There is constant gravitational pull to become like everyone else.”
      • “Our church is for someone who doesn’t like church.” Why? “Because I didn’t like church.”
      • How do you handle the immense value of YOU as the leader? And the success moving forward without you?
        • “We’re constantly in process of finding the next leader.”  “When you’ve been some place a long time, you become in the way.”
          • Level 5 leader helps a place be better after they are gone
  • How to build a tribe?
    • Max DuPree – What are your unique tribal speaks?
      • The 5 S’s of SouthBrook:
        • Solitude, Scripture, Service, Support, Significant Events
    • A Tribe is where story and strategy meet.”
  • What is it like the minute before you go on stage?
    • “I used to panic. It took me 10 years to get over the “what am I doing!?”
    • “Leading is so presumptuous.”
    • “I’ve never stepped behind a microphone where I didn’t believe that I could save people’s lives. I truly believe every word I’m saying.”
    • “I can’t wait to share this.”
    • “I didn’t think about public speaking until I had to give a three minute speech my junior year in college.  Something happened at that speech. People leaned in.”
    • “Hitting the 10,000 hour mark has helped me. It’s easier to prepare.  I’m a huge believer in putting in the time.”
  • Charlie writes 3,500 words per week. Then put on the iPad and have it while on stage… “I memorize that by Friday.”
  • “I’m a master at self condemnation.”
  • Why be so critical of yourself?
    • “It can be a safety mechanism. If we self criticize, we won’t get as much criticism. And it does connect with people.”
  • Developing future leaders
    • “The test of leadership is the ability to reproduce yourself in others… The good parts of yourself that should be reproduced.”
    • “The path from direction to delegation”
    • “If I don’t succeed in succession, then I will have failed.”
    • “You can’t be a farmer, you have to be a rancher who raises up other farmers.”
  • Ron Howard and Sam Jones — Why Wall Street leaders hire former athletes?
    • “We like to hire athletes because they lose so much. They are forced to respond to failure.”
  • “I lose every day. I’m not good at having an accurate understanding of myself. I need people around me.”
  • “I was a world class (basketball) shooter. I shot 96% from the free throw line.”
  • Charlie was national player of the year.
  • “Grit is the only talent.  Those tough moments are the character builders.”
  • Charlie’s biggest challenge today? — “Figuring out a way to build a succession plan and not leave too soon. I live in that tension everyday.”
  • The importance of hobbies
  • How does it take a toll on your when you can’t please everybody?
    • “Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can handle.  You cannot sustain trying to please everyone. “
  • The importance of continued growth and having an apprentice
    • PB&J
      • Have to have people ahead of you, stretch you, challenge you
      • Need people alongside you, your peers, in it together, consolidate over shared stories
      • We grow most when we have people to teach. To pour in to…
  • “Writing makes a person exact. If it’s hazy in the podium, it will be foggy in the chair.”
  • “If you can’t listen, you can’t lead.”
  • “There is no other leader than The Learning Leader.”
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“If you don’t keep growing, you will become irrelevant.”

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More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 234: Jocko Willink — Why Discipline Equals Freedom