Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Let Me Think About That

'no?' photo (c) 2009, Gail Williams - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve learned a lot of things while working in church tech for the last 20 years or so. You might think those lessons would all be technical in nature; and you’d be half right. But I’m sure I’ve learned as much about myself and how to relate with others as I have learned about technology itself. 

Some years ago, one thing I learned (or perhaps more correctly, noticed) about myself is that I had a tendency to say, “No” to requests for various technical things. To some extent, it didn’t matter what the request was, my default answer tended to be, “No” and we would negotiate from there. The funny thing was, after I said, “No,” I would often find a way to accommodate the request. 

At some point, and I honestly don’t remember how now, this was pointed out to me. I began to consider this attitude and why I was behaving this way and I came to a surprising conclusion (at least for me); I realized that I didn’t actually mean, “No,” what I meant was, “Give me a minute to think about how to accomplish that.”

One thing I do know about myself is that I pride myself on coming up with elegant solutions to problems. I don’t really like “Git ‘er done” approaches; though I may fall back on them in a pinch. I much prefer to come up with a solution that works, and works well. Often those solutions take a minute or two (or an hour or two) to come up with. 

As I thought about it, I realized I was really just saying, “No” to buy time to come up with a solution. Sadly, it wasn’t received that way. Most people took my, “No” as—and you’ll find this shocking—a no. Finally it occurred to me that I could win more friends and influence more people if instead of answering, “No” all the time, I changed my answer to what it really was, a request for more time to think of a solution. Amazingly, it worked. 

My strategery (thank you G.W. Bush for giving us that great word) now  when someone asks for something is to pause for a second or two before answering. In that brief moment, I am parsing the request to see if it’s something I can answer quickly or if I need more time. After a pause, I answer. Some requests are easy; “Can I get more piano in my monitor, please?” Sure thing! 

Some requests take more thought; “Can I try in-ears instead of the monitor this week?” This was a real-life request I took a few weeks ago. A few years ago, my default would have been, you guessed it, “No.” And that no would have really been more of a, “If I had known about it before I set up the whole stage, yes, it would have been easy. But now, you waited until the last minute so it’s hard. So no.” But I’m a changed man—or at least a changing one. So instead I paused.

In that brief silent pause, I thought, “Hmmm, we’re already 10 minutes into sound check, switching will take 10 minutes, what are the ramifications of that?” OK, this is going to take a few minutes to run the scenarios.  I responded with, “Give me a second to think about that.” 

After thinking about it for a few minutes (while continuing on with soundcheck), I had an answer; “I could set you up on ears, but it will take me about 10 minutes to connect everything and patch the M-48. That will halt rehearsal, and since we’re already behind, I’m thinking we should wait until next time. I’ll set you up with it next time you’re on, OK?” 

The singer’s reaction was just what you’d hope for, “Ok, sure, no problem. Next time would be great.” Instead of shutting him down completely with a quick no, I processed the request, weighed the options and came up with a measured response. In addition to explaining why we couldn’t do that now, I gave him a promise of accommodating the request at a future date, building good will. 

You’ll be amazed at how much trust and respect you can build with your teams if you take some time to consider your answers, give people options and explain your responses. I know I have.

How do you typically respond to tech requests? What is the reaction? 

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11 Comments

  1. jim_christenson@hotmail.com

    Wow — this one hit me right between the eyes. Thank you for sharing this. I fall into the 'No' trap as well and this is a very thoughtful way of taking the edge off.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  2. jim_christenson@hotmail.com

    Wow — this one hit me right between the eyes. Thank you for sharing this. I fall into the 'No' trap as well and this is a very thoughtful way of taking the edge off.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  3. chris@behindthemixer.com

    I tend to answer the difficult questions by first taking a long deep breath. And if I need more time, I'll add a long "hmmmmmmmmm" while I stare at the ceiling. I try to be accommodating. Sound check is usually an hour or so before the church Sunday school classes so I have extra time if I need to work with one person. If it's going to impact the whole band, then it's first discussed with the worship leader.

    What I absolutely hate / detest / loathe is when I get handed a BURNED CD or BURNED DVD RIGHT BEFORE THE SERVICE STARTS and I'm asked "can you play this during the service when it's needed?" When I don't have time to check it in our system, I'll reply with "I can try but since i haven't had time to check that it will work in the system, I can't promise anything."

  4. chris@behindthemixer.com

    I tend to answer the difficult questions by first taking a long deep breath. And if I need more time, I'll add a long "hmmmmmmmmm" while I stare at the ceiling. I try to be accommodating. Sound check is usually an hour or so before the church Sunday school classes so I have extra time if I need to work with one person. If it's going to impact the whole band, then it's first discussed with the worship leader.

    What I absolutely hate / detest / loathe is when I get handed a BURNED CD or BURNED DVD RIGHT BEFORE THE SERVICE STARTS and I'm asked "can you play this during the service when it's needed?" When I don't have time to check it in our system, I'll reply with "I can try but since i haven't had time to check that it will work in the system, I can't promise anything."

  5. Jeff

    Right on, sir! I can remember the very same transformation in my career. Although, to be honest, I still slip into "No" mode a little more often than I'd like.

    Great post, I'll be linking to it, and maybe expanding on it a bit.

    Thanks

  6. erik@jerde.org

    I think your spell check changed strategery to strategy. GW gave us the first, not the second.

  7. erik@jerde.org

    I think your spell check changed strategery to strategy. GW gave us the first, not the second.

  8. bennettjensen@gmail.com

    Interesting, I usually have the exact opposite problem! I will say yes before actually thinking threw what I just agreed to, ending with ether having to embarrassingly go back and change expectations or killing myself trying to get everything done.
    It would save me and others a lot of pain if I would just think before speaking and come up with a solution that is mutually beneficial.

    Thanks for a great article like always Mike!

  9. bennettjensen@gmail.com

    Interesting, I usually have the exact opposite problem! I will say yes before actually thinking threw what I just agreed to, ending with ether having to embarrassingly go back and change expectations or killing myself trying to get everything done.
    It would save me and others a lot of pain if I would just think before speaking and come up with a solution that is mutually beneficial.

    Thanks for a great article like always Mike!

  10. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Erik,
    You're right. It tried to change it once, then I changed it back, and then when I put it into the post, it apparently changed again. But I got it this time!
    mike

  11. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Erik,
    You're right. It tried to change it once, then I changed it back, and then when I put it into the post, it apparently changed again. But I got it this time!
    mike

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