Introverted Leaders

Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts

Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts

Introverted leaders. Does that sound like an oxymoron? One of the biggest challenges technical leaders face is that most of us are introverts in culture that favors extroverts. As more churches call on their technicians move from being doers to leaders and developers of teams, we have a big, steep hill to climb. But there is good news; we are in good company. In fact, I would suggest (and I’m not the only one to do so) that Moses himself was an introvert. 

Consider this; he spent most of his adult life wandering around the desert. By himself. He seemed perfectly content to not interact with anyone but his flocks. Of animals. Who didn’t talk back or ask him questions. Sounds like a dream come true, right? OK, maybe not, but my guess is many of you (and I) would much rather spend our days in a quiet, empty tech booth wiring, programming, mixing or editing than surrounded by a large group of people. 

When God called Moses out to lead His people, Moses’ first response was, “I am slow of speech…” (Exodus 4:10). Moses wasn’t stupid; he was introverted. He didn’t think out loud; he processed his thoughts internally then spoke purposefully. Again, sound familiar? Extroverts tend to think introverts are either slow or aloof because we’re spending more time thinking than talking, but I know so many of you, and it’s not true. You’re smart and caring; you just display it differently.

So how do we, fellow introverts, survive and perhaps even thrive as leaders in an extroverted church culture? Well, I have a few ideas. Much of this comes from a book I read last year, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh. I highly recommend it. There is treasure trove of content in that book, but I’ll pull out a few principles that have already helped reshape my thinking. 

Know Who You Are in Christ

McHugh writes, “We cannot find freedom in our introversion until we embrace our primary identities as sons and daughters of God.” Regardless of our introversion or extroversion, our Myer’s-Briggs profile, our SHAPE or our strengths, we are children of God and therefore significant, important and most importantly, called. We are called to do what we’re doing, and when God calls someone into a task, He equips them. Therefore, you have everything you need to lead your team successfully; you simply need to lean on Christ as the source of your strength. Trust Him to lead your leadership.

Re-Think Leadership

Many tend to picture leaders as the loud, outspoken, charismatic ones that people naturally follow. And sometimes that’s true. But perhaps that’s just the loudest voice getting all the attention at the moment. McHugh says this about leadership: “Leaders give people a lens and a language for understanding their work and experiences in light of larger purposes.” You don’t have to be a charismatic public speaker to lead people if that is your definition. Giving people a lens is something that you can do every weekend when the volunteers show up to do their jobs. You don’t have to do it in big groups, nor do you have to lead a thousand people to make a difference. 

Re-Imagine Your Impact

At times, we introverts can feel inferior to the extroverts around us because our circles of influence are smaller. But instead of feeling like our introversion is a liability to leading others, perhaps we should consider it an asset. Again, to quote McHugh: “At times I have compared myself negatively with my extroverted counterparts who have more widespread influence. But I have come to see this ‘limitation’ as an opportunity to have a deeper impact on the people I do influence.”

Generally speaking, technical teams tend to be smaller, which favors our strength. While we may not influence hundreds or thousands, those we do influence will get much more from us. We have an amazing opportunity to make a lasting impact on those on our teams. Our natural ability to listen, get to know people and speak wisely will have a radical effect on our volunteers. 

As introverts, we have a great opportunity in front of us. What some perceive as a weakness is actually a significant strength that has potential to be a transformative force in people’s lives. But we can’t allow our natural tendency to prefer alone times to isolate us from community. While we may not count dozens of “close” friends, we should have a few, and we should be intentional about investing in a small group of people. Pray about who those people should be, then begin pouring into their lives. Your impact will be profound!

“Gear

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Trust God. And Do Your Best

Image courtesy of dkwonsh

Image courtesy of dkwonsh

I have had the privilege of getting to know hundreds of technical leaders from all over the country the past few years. While everyone is different, there are a number of common characteristics we share as technical artists, not the least of which is that we like to plan. We want to know what is coming up not only this weekend, but the next two or three. I know a guy who was getting anxious toward the end of October last year because his input list for Christmas wasn’t done yet! Ok, that was me. I may be a fringe case…

Still, we love to plan. And most of us work really hard. We work hard not simply because the work is hard, though it is sometimes; we work hard mostly because we care so deeply about the results. We work like we have the opportunity to see lives changed—and we do! But what’s tricky about the work we do is that while we do indeed have an important role to play, the final results are up to God. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading through Proverbs 21 in the Message. I love how practical Eugene Peterson made the entire book of Proverbs. The last verse in the chapter stood out to me, and as I read it, I thought, “This should be on a plaque in every tech booth.” It reads: 

“Do your best, prepare for the worst—then trust God to bring the victory.” 

If that doesn’t encapsulate what we do, I don’t know what does! Our entire role as a technical artist can be summarized in that verse. 

Do your best. This is not about excellence, perfection or punching a perfect show. It’s about doing your level best, giving it all you have and going all in. What that looks like will be different for all of us. But we can all do our best. 

Prepare for the worst. Stuff happens. Mic’s will fail, lights will burn out, equipment will break at the most inopportune time. Have a plan for when it does. This is not an “if” scenario, it’s a “when.” Bad things will happen. If you have a  plan, you can recover more quickly and do so more gracefully. 

Trust God to bring the victory. So often we feel like the results are up to us. If 10 people don’t get saved in a service, we beat ourselves up over the mix or the lighting or the visuals. But that part is not up to us. Our job is to present the Gospel in as clear and compelling a manner as possible, then trust God to use it as He sees fit. He is the one who changes hearts. He is the one who draws those who are far near. He will bring the victory. 

A friend of mine said it this way recently: “Pray like it’s all up to God; work like it’s all up to you.”

We live in this tension every day. It’s as challenging as it exciting. Which is probably why we love it so much.

Roland

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Making Cat5 Cables

I’ve done posts on making your own XLRs, 1/4” cables and Speakons. I’ve even shown you how to make your own BNC cables. But it occurred to me the other day that I’ve never done a post on making Cat5 cables. Honestly, I don’t like making Cat5 ends up. They’re very finicky and I find myself re-making them more often than I’d like. Part of it is the design of the connector itself, and part is just finding good parts. But even that is challenging. I was talking with a friend the other day who swears by the Cat5 ends at Home Depot. I’ve had nothing but problems with them. I bought some from TecNec a while back, and they came with a cool loading bar. I thought this would make it easier to terminate. And it did. Except almost none of them worked. 

But, as more and more of our jobs become networking, we need to know how to make a Cat5 cable. And for the purposes of this article, when I say Cat5, I mean Cat5e, Cat6 and probably Cat7. The process is the same, the components are different. So let’s get started.

Cut the Jacket Carefully

Sorry for the bad focus; the iPhone had a tough time with these...

Sorry for the bad focus; the iPhone had a tough time with these...

The jacket on category cable protects the four twisted pairs inside. When you cut it, be careful not cut too deep. The solid copper wire is fragile and if you score it, the conductor can easily break while you’re manipulating it. I like to run my blade over the jacket, then bend it at a 90° angle. This usually breaks the jacket and you can pull it off cleanly. 

Organize the Wires

Once the jacket is cut, splay the pairs out in the right order. This will be helpful as you untwist them and get them lined up in the right sequence. Once the pairs are ordered, untwist them and begin the straightening process. I like to take each wire and pull it through my fingers a few times to get it straightened out. As I do this, I start lining them up in order. 

Know Your Standards

Most of the time, we want to wire Cat5 cables using the USOC 568B standard. That means the wires will go in this order when you view the connector from the bottom (where the actual contacts are):

  • White/Orange
  • Orange
  • White/Green
  • Blue
  • White/Blue
  • Green
  • White/Brown
  • Brown

568A is similar, except it swaps the Orange and Green pairs. Most equipment will work fine with either, but when I ask manufacturers for recommendations, they usually suggest 568B. So that’s what I do unless the documentation specifically states otherwise. When you have the wires lined up right, it should look like this.

Cut To Length

Again, focus. Ugh...

Again, focus. Ugh...

Over the years, I’ve learned to strip the jacket a bit long, straighten the wire out and get it lined up, then cut it shorter to fit in the plug. It’s easier and it makes sure the wires are all the same length. You may have to experiment a little get a feel for how short to make your final cut. There’s probably a standard somewhere, but I eyeball it and it’s usually about 1/2” or so.

Insert the Wire Into the Plug

This is the hardest part of the job. There are little groves in the plug that the wire is supposed to slide into, but if you haven’t done a good job straightening the wire out, one wire may jump into the wrong groove and get out of order. So make sure you take your time, get the wires relaxed and going in the right direction. If you can’t take your fingers off them and have them stay in the right order, you’re going to have problems getting them in the plug. 

Make sure you push them all the way to the front. There are only two little IDC (Insulation Displacement Contacts) teeth on each connection, and you don’t want to miss them. Many a cable fails to work because one wire didn’t get in all the way. 

Crimp It Down

cat5-7.JPG

Once you’re all set, put the plug in the crimping tool and give it a good squeeze. I like the ratcheted crimpers because I know I’ve made a full press. But I’ve also used non-ratcheted ones for years and they work fine. Take the connector out and you should be all set. When you’re all done, visually inspect the end to make sure the wires stayed in the right order. It should look just like this one. After you do the other end, it’s best to test the cable with a two-part tester (assuming the ends are far away). You can find the testers almost anywhere at varying price points. 

 In case you’re wondering, this is a shielded connector, and we use those for video over Cat5. 

So that’s it. They’re not hard to make, just a bit of a pain. Personally, I’d rather make BNC cables all day long than a handful of Cat5 connectors, but that’s just me. The world is going Cat5, so we better know how to use it. 

“Gear

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