Photo courtesy of Flaxe

Photo courtesy of Flaxe

Back in the day, Heinz ran an ad campaign for their ketchup called “Anticipation.” If featured all sorts of people eagerly anticipating something, which of course, ran parallel to their eager anticipation of the delicious red sauce coming out of the bottle. It was clever, and by licensing the classic Carly Simon song, memorable. 

The Mac Dictionary App defines Anticipate with the following two possibilities:

1) guess or be aware of (what will happen) and take action in order to be prepared: they failed to anticipate a full scale invasion.

2) look forward to: Stephen was eagerly anticipating the break from the routine of business.

Heinz was referring to the second definition. Today, I want to focus on the first; to guess or be aware of what will happen and take action in order to be prepared (especially the last part).

I am becoming convinced that one of the keys to being a great tech leader is to anticipate. We need to be aware of what will likely happen, and prepare in advance for that eventuality. This is not nearly as hard as it sounds.

For example, take a look at the service order around Wednesday or Thursday. See an interview on the list? You know that means you will likely need a handheld or two prepped and ready to go for service. Don’t wait until 5 minutes before service starts for someone to tell you that they will need two handhelds for the interview. You know what is going to happen, and what will be required. Prepare ahead of time.

If your worship leader sometimes (but not always) stops and prays between songs, get in the habit of dumping the effects on her voice at the end of a song so if she does pray, there won’t be 3 seconds of reverb at the beginning of the prayer. Prepare in advance.

If you always do a big Christmas production that requires extra wireless mics and lights, start booking them in late October; don’t wait for someone to tell you about it in early December. 

When I was a TD, I was told on many occasions by my boss that he appreciated the fact that he didn’t need to manage me. I hear from a lot of tech guys that they hate how much “management” their boss exerts on them. The reason I didn’t have that issue is that I anticipated what needed to be done, and got it done it before he had to say anything. Thus, he never felt the need to track my movements and monitor my time. I just got it done, and he didn’t worry about it.

If you want to enjoy the same freedom, anticipate the needs and deal with them before someone else has to tell you to do so. This works in concert with one of my earlier posts, Do a Good Job. If you learn to anticipate well, and then do a good job, you will enjoy a level of freedom in your work that will make your job a real joy. Fail at those tasks, and expect to have a lot of micromanaging in your life. The choice is yours.


Try New Things

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

One thing about working in the church is that it happens pretty regularly. Every week, in fact. That can be good because you get plenty of opportunities to practice and hone your craft. But it can also be bad because it’s so…routine. For the most part, church services don’t vary much. Most churches get into a rhythm and stay there. Three songs, announcements, offering, message, dismissal. It’s a formula, but it works. People know what to expect. But it isn’t necessarily a breeding ground for growing your skill set. That’s why we as technical artists have to stay self-motivated to grow. And the best way to grow is to try new things. 

Can The Best Get Better?

When I was in high school, I really liked the band Rush. Still do, in fact. I remember listening to Moving Pictures, Exit…Stage Left, Signals, Hold Your Fire over and over again. I saw them live during the Moving Pictures tour, and was blown away. Neil Peart, the drummer, was particularly notable. I’ve always been fascinated by drummers, and Neil is arguably one of the best in the business. The guy is simply a monster and has a seemingly unbelievable ability to disconnect his arms and legs and play four completely separate rhythms at once. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s amazing.

While watching a documentary on the band a while back, I learned that about 15-20 years into his career, a time when most would consider him one of the best rock drummers in the world, he decided he wasn’t playing up to his potential. He found an instructor and started taking lessons. He changed his entire technique and sure enough, became a better drummer. It takes a rare mix of drive and humility to want to improve when you’re already that good. 

We Have To Try

The thing that struck me the most about Neil’s story is that he was willing to try to get better. It’s completely possible that it wouldn’t work. It’s possible that messing with his technique would make him a worse drummer instead of better. But he tried anyway. He tried something new, and he grew. 

I have found that most times, when I try something new I grow. Not everything I try ends up the way I thought it would. I’ve tried mixing techniques that have failed miserably. But I learned from them. No matter what the outcome is, we always learn when we try something new. Sometimes all we learn is to never do that again. But that is a lesson. 

Some friends of mine recently had a baby. We visited them the other night and it was fascinating to watch her crawl around the floor. She tries everything. Usually, she tries to eat it. But she’s learning at a tremendous rate. The other night, I think she learned that a remote control has no nutritional value, but is fun to chew on. That’s something. 

We should have the same innate curiosity as a baby. Try a new audio effect. Try a new lighting look. Try a different font for your lyrics. If we are serious about getting better at our craft, we should be constantly seeking out new ideas to try and trying them. Simply reading about something on this or any other blog but never trying it defeats the purpose. 

I am a demonstrably better audio engineer than I was 5 years ago because I’ve spent hours talking with other audio engineers and trying things out. 

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t ever be afraid to try something. It might work; it might not—that’s not the point. Try, learn, grow, repeat. Do that for a few years—or better yet, the rest of your life—and you’ll be better at whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re not getting better at what you do, what’s the point?

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Necessary Endings--Personal

Image courtesy of natalie

Image courtesy of natalie

Today wraps up our series on Necessary Endings, inspired by the book of the same name by Henry Cloud. So far, we’ve talked about processes that need to end, and people who need to be transitioned off the team. Today, we’ll talk about what might be the hardest ending of all—when you realize you need to end your time in your current role.

For Example

Sometime in the winter of 2011-2012, God told me that my time at Coast Hills was going to come to an end in the spring of 2014. Now, it wasn’t an audible voice, but I remember like it was yesterday the day, time and place I knew that. I had been struggling that season, and was contemplating what was next for me anyway. So in a way it was comforting to know there was an end, but frustrating that it was two and a half years away. Those were a tough two and a half years for me. They were also a great two and a half years. 

I didn’t realize until later that it would have been really unhealthy for me to stay there past my end “date.” At the same time, we had some great times, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. But, when it was time to move on, it was time to move on. 

The Change

I left the church staff and moved into the integration world, where I still work today, albeit at a different company. This is a path many of my peers have also taken. But I’ve also seen guys stay in a situation they shouldn’t, and have seen the negative effects of it. I’ve counseled people to leave their position, but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Months later, the whole situation blows up and they are usually in a really hard spot. 

One of the greatest gifts God gave me was the foreknowledge that I would be leaving. I think He did that because normally, I have a very high tolerance for pain, and tend to stick out difficult situations because I said I would. But what we miss when we do that is all the negative side-effects. It breaks my heart when I see guys stay in a situation too long then get blown up and find themselves out on the street with no plan. 

The Point

If you are in a situation that needs to end, end it. Start making a plan to end your current employment and start something new. How you do that will depend on your specific situation. But if you know your time is done at your current gig, head out. While we as technical leaders tend to develop a little bit of a messiah complex (“If I leave, this place will fall apart!”), you are doing more harm than good by staying there. You’re harming yourself and keeping the church from moving on.

This is a hard saying, to quote the Apostle Paul, but it’s the truth. I’m not going to try to come up with a ton of examples for this, because if you need to leave, you know it. You simply have to act on it. Yes, it takes courage, and more importantly, faith. But I promise you that nothing good comes from overstaying your call to a place. I’ve seen pastors do it as well, so it’s not just us. And the consequences are even more dire. 

Depending in your relationship with your boss, you may or may not want to tell him of your plans to begin to exit. Don’t leave anyone hanging, but don’t get yourself fired before you have something else lined up either. Again, I think those of you who know it’s time to go know what you need to do, you just need permission to do it. 

We all go through seasons, and it’s perfectly normal to end a job and start another. Most of us will serve at several churches over our TD career, and if we do it well, everyone wins. But no one wins when we drag it out. 

I really do encourage you to read this book, Necessary Endings. It’s one of the better books I’ve read in a while on this subject. We all have endings and beginnings in our lives, and this book helps you navigate them. It’s even been helpful in my family life, as we’ve had to navigate some life changes and relationship status changes. And the cool thing is, we’re seeing some very positive results. Endings usually precede beginnings, but you can’t get to the next thing if you’re stuck in the present thing. If you need permission to move on, consider this your go-ahead. Greater things are coming!


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Necessary Endings--People

Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks

Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks

Last time, I introduced you to a book I’ve been reading, Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. We talked about how sometimes we need to end a process we’ve been doing for a long time because it no longer serves a purpose or makes sense. And while some processes become sacred, those are a lot easier to deal with than the next item on our list. People.

Sometimes You Need to End People

OK, maybe that sounds worse than it is; you don’t really need to end them, but their role in the team needs to end. Something about what they are doing is causing more harm than good and it’s time to create an ending for them. This can look different in various situations, but the key is to deal with it swiftly and clearly. 

For Example

Years ago, I had a young man on my presentation team. By all accounts, he was great at running Media Shout (it was a while ago, OK?). He was pretty much always on each slide, and had a great sense of timing. He could read the worship leaders and knew instinctively when they were going to change something up. In short, he was on top of it. At least, when he showed up. 

A few months into my time there, he started showing up late for call. At first, it was 15-20 minutes, and he would text first. I put up with it for a few months, because he could catch up and still do a good job. But then, he started showing up later and later. One weekend, he was close to an hour late without any word. I finally called him, he apologized profusely and ran in late. 

We had a long talk that night after service. I told him that I was glad he was on the team, and he always did a great job. But I really needed him to be there on time. His lateness put a lot of stress on me, which in turn, put stress on the rest of the team. He apologized and promised to do better. You probably know where this is going. 

The Change

The next time he was scheduled—and I even sent him two reminders that week—he was late. So late in fact, he never made it. I tried to contact him and he never responded. When I finally did get a hold of him, we talked and I informed him he was no longer part of our team. While I appreciated the job he did when he was there, it was unfair to the rest of the team to continually show up late or not at all. 

The bottom line is that while it was nice to have the position filled, eventually, his being late caused way too much stress for me and the rest of the team. When I had to do his job before he got there, I was not available to help out with the rest of set up, which stressed out everyone else. Not knowing when he might grace us with his presence was annoying, and I’m sure I got snarky with others because I was ticked at him. 

The Point

We hate to fire volunteers. But sometimes, they are doing more harm than good. Having a position “filled” by someone who is constantly late, not good at the task, a jerk or difficult to work with is worse than not having the position filled. It poisons the rest of the team, and keeps others who would be better suited to the task from stepping up and serving. 

If you have someone who needs to be transitioned off your team, do it this week. Harsh? Maybe, but you’ll be doing yourself, and probably them, a big favor. If you need motivation, ask yourself if in 6 months or a year you still want to be dealing with the struggles with this person. Is there any indication that they will change? If not, move them on. Sooner is better. 

Speaking of moving on, that will be the subject of the next post.

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.