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Leaving Well—Good Times

By now, most of you know that I’ve recently left my position at Coast Hills. That transition was something that God had in the works for some time, and it was very clear this is the path He’s called me to. However, while it was clearly God’s call, there was still the opportunity for me to mess it up. I could have ignored it, or potentially worse, left poorly. 

Why You Leave

There are plenty of reasons to leave a job. Some are good reasons; you received another, amazing offer; you outgrew this position; you won the lottery. Other times, the circumstances are less than optimal. Perhaps the job is just not a good fit; or you really don’t get along with your boss or other superiors; or maybe there is something really wrong in the organization. Perhaps you were fired or “released to a new ministry…”

In today’s post, I’m going to focus on the good side of leaving—those times when it’s just time to move on to a new adventure. Looking back, this is not the first time I’ve left a job. I’ve actually left eight over the course of my career (not counting the three business I started and eventually shut down). So I do have a little experience here. Here are some suggestions on how to leave well under good circumstances, though I’ll give you the caveat up front that I have not always followed this advice.

Set Your Successor Up for Success

Chances are, after you leave, you will be replaced. When I left Coast, I tried to document as much as possible, to complete as many tasks as I could and leave a healthy team in place. Heck, I even designed and installed a completely new AVL system. You probably won’t always be able to do that, but make sure whoever comes after you doesn’t have to clean up your mess. 

It’s easy to spend the last few weeks coasting toward the finish line. Hey, you’re leaving anyway, what are they going to do, fire you? Don’t do it. I worked a 10 hour day on my last day because I wanted to make sure I finished what I said I would. My last weeks there were some of the busiest in the previous six months. I was cranking out documentation as fast as I could, training others to do my tasks and finishing up a few last minute projects. Some of that was noticed, most of it was not. But it doesn’t matter. I know I left as well as I could, and God sees what we do in secret. It doesn’t matter as much what humans see.

Stay In Touch

It’s easy to move on to your new adventure and forget all about the people you left behind. You get busy making new friends, working on new projects and maybe enjoying the new location you’re in. But don’t forget those you left. I have not always been good at this, and it’s to my own detriment. I have left a few jobs better than others, and the ones I feel the best about are the ones where I’ve kept in touch with my former co-workers. 

This is a pretty small industry, and I can tell you if people have good memories of you and will say good things about you, it will benefit you for a long time. But if you blow them off, leave them hanging or otherwise ignore them, it will come back to haunt you. The last impression is the one people tend to remember. Keep that in mind. 

When it Goes Badly

Like I said, leaving is not always a great new adventure. Sometimes it’s a desperate leap from a moving train headed toward a cliff. I’ve been there, too, and how we leave will either set us up for success for failure in our next position. More on that next time.

“Gear

Gear Snobs

Audio guys can be snobs when it comes to gear. But the reality is, we can’t always have our favorites. Sometimes, it’s a simple budget issue. For Coast Hills, we didn’t have the budget for Meyer, d&b or L’Acoustics. If I had held out for those brands because they have more cachet, we would not have a new PA at all. The money is just not there. But the church can afford RoomMatch. And having heard it, and after some considerable evaluation, I’m convinced we haven’t sacrificed that much. 

Is RoomMatch as good as a L’Acoustics Kara rig? Maybe not. Will the average person notice a big difference between those two? Probably not. Will the average person notice the upgrade from what we had to RoomMatch? Absolutely. I’ll take that outcome over no change at all.

Be Open

Lighting guys can be snobs, too. Some will say, “If it’s not Varilite, it’s not in my rig.” Or Martin. Or High End. Whatever. In the past, we’ve rented about 6 VL2500s for Easter. Those are great fixtures, to be sure. But this year, we rented 18 Elation Platinum Spot 5R Pros. Are they as good of a fixture as the VL2500? Not really. The panning isn’t as smooth, the color mixing isn’t as nice and we had one go flaky on us. However, we made a bigger visual impact with 18 of them than we ever did with the 6 VLs for the same money.

And you know what? If I were buying moving head fixtures for Coast Hills, I would probably go with Elation. No, they’re not as rugged as a Varilite. But, we can afford more of them, and they would be fine for what we’d need them for. 

Use What Fits

When I say “fits” I mean both budget and application. If you’re at a big church with big budgets and can afford the best gear, go for it. But if you’re at a smaller church with small budgets, don’t feel bad about going with brands with lower cool factor. Sometimes, the smaller companies innovate really well and come up with great solutions at great price points. Don’t discount them because they are not what the big church or big tour is using. 

I’ve talked with guys who are at smaller churches with all volunteer tech teams who are convinced they need a Digico at FOH and a Grand MA at lighting. Those are great pieces of kit, but they do have a steep learning curve, as well as big price tags. In a smaller setting with lower production demands, there are better options. Never feel bad about choosing the best option for your church; even if it’s not what all the cool kids are using. 

Get Good Advice

In my new role, I find myself helping churches decide what to buy. While I have my preferences on what I like, I have to set those aside and make sure I’m recommending what is best for them. I recently steered a church toward a Yamaha QL away from a Digico SD9. Personally, I would prefer the SD9 any day. But in this setting the QL makes much more sense. Not only is it considerably less money—and they were already at the top of their budget—it’s much more friendly to non-professional operators with zero digital console experience (and 20 years of analog experience). 

When purchasing equipment, make sure whoever is recommending what they are recommending knows your situation and how it will be used. Make sure they aren’t just giving you their stock solution. It would be a lot easier for me to have a “small church package” of gear that I can price and sell. But it would not likely be the best fit for everyone. So we stay custom for each church. 

I’ve always been a contrarian, so this concept is not foreign to me. But I write this to encourage those of you who are nervous about not doing what everyone else is doing. They used to say, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” That may have been true, but a lot of companies missed out on better options because someone took the safe route. 

Don’t be a gear snob. Get what works for your church. Everyone will be better off for it.

Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

Keep An Open Mind

Despite the grammatical challenge, Apple's campaign is a great concept for a company and for life. 

Despite the grammatical challenge, Apple's campaign is a great concept for a company and for life. 

From what I can gather, one of the traits of most successful people is the ability to try new things. Ability may be the wrong word—we all have the ability to try new things. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is desire. I love to try new things. I’m always on the lookout for some new technology, process, idea, whatever. Along the way, I’ve made some fantastic discoveries. 

Sadly, I have also had many conversations that go somewhat like this.

Other Person: So, what kind of PA are you putting in your room?

Me: Bose RoomMatch. We’re pretty excited about it.

OP: Oh, I would never mix on one of those. Terrible.

Me: Really? Have you ever mixed on it?

OP: No.

Me: Have you ever heard it?

OP: No.

Me: Have you even looked into the technology behind it?

OP: No. Bose=bad. That’s all I know.

Usually, all I can say at that point is, “Huh.” Now, we all have our biases. We all have things we know that we generally like. Given the choice, I’d probably choose a Heil mic over another most of the time. But if someone shows up with a new mic I’ve not used before, I’ll give it a shot. In fact, that’s how I discovered Heil. I had never heard of them five years ago, but someone showed up with a box full, and we gave them a try.

Try New Things

Alton Brown used to say, “Play with your food!” I tend to agree. Try new things. You never know what’s going to happen. Just because you’ve been doing something the same way for the last 10 years doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Talk to someone else and see if you can learn something from them.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons our stage is so efficient is because I’ve stolen ideas from a lot of smart people over the last 10 years. Every time I visit a church or talk with another TD, I try to pick out something that I can learn from them. It’s amazing how much you will know if you just talk with other people. 

Take Ideas From Unexpected Sources

I read all kinds of blogs and magazines and books. Some of them are directly related to my field, many are not. But I try to learn from all of them. I’ve picked up on some brilliant ways to automate my tech booth by reading computer articles. I’ve learned to be a better leader by reading articles on successful entrepreneurs. 

Even though Coast Hills is considered a big church, I’ve even learned many things from my fellow TDs at smaller churches. Don’t ever think you’ve learned all you will learn, or that whoever you’re talking to right now doesn’t have something to teach you. Some of the process we have in place at Coast were developed by someone who wasn’t even born when I started doing production. 

Don’t Pre-Judge

We all know prejudice is bad. However, we practice prejudice all the time. As I mentioned at the start of this article, some audio guys I know have a huge prejudice against Bose. That might be well-earned; their earlier stuff was not great. However, don’t let that blind you to new innovations. A few years ago, we all “knew” digital audio was inferior to analog audio. Today, most of us would not give up our digital consoles. But I have talked with some old guys who are convinced digital is bad; not because they’ve ever used it, know anything about it or heard it, but because analog is what they know.

If someone says, “Hey, have you ever tried this?” Don’t shut it down because it doesn’t fit your pre-conceived notion of what it should or should not be. Weigh the merits and try it. You might find a great new technique or product. 

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of how we do things. But rhythms can become ruts. And ruts are just graves with the ends kicked out. Stay out of the graves; try new things!

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by myMix. myMix is an intuitive, easy-to-use personal monitor mixing and multi-track recording system that puts each user in control of their own mix! myMix features two line-level balanced 1/4" TRS outputs and one 1/8" (3.5mm) headphone output, the ability to store up to 20 named profiles on each station, 4-band fully parametric stereo output EQ recording of up to 18 tracks plus stereo on an SD card. Learn more at myMixaudio.com

Church Tech Weekly Episode 199: Rapport and Raparte

Continuing our theme of leadership, this week we talk with Greg Atkinson about his new book, Strange Leadership. We learn how to delegate, what role the Holy Spirit plays and how to be innovative. 

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Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.