Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Own Your Mistakes

I know it’s happened to you. Like during soundcheck; you finish up with the drums and move on to the bass. As you start turning up the gain on the bass channel, you notice not much is happening. Hoping to elicit a response from the PA, you turn it up some more. Then you realize, it’s not the bass channel gain you’ve been turning at all but the overhead channel instead. 

Or maybe a vocalist asked for more “me” in their wedge. You dutifully turn it up, up, up, up, up…wait, why can’t they hear it? Doh! You were actually cranking them in the keys wedge. Or maybe you hit “Next” too many times and landed yourself in the offering song snapshot instead of the pastor’s prayer. 

Those are pivotal moments. Each is a crossroads where we have the opportunity to prove what we are made of. Do you try to cover it up and reset the controls to where you think they were? Or possibly blame the equipment? Or just keep moving on, hoping no one will notice? Or do you stop and say, “Hey guys, I messed up. Can we go back to that…” Now, I don’t suggest you stand up during prayer and confess your snapshot sin, but you should be ready to own it during the debrief. 

This is a lesson I learned a long time ago; you build far more trust with your team if you own up to your mistakes in public and take immediate corrective action. If you try to cover it up, you will be found out and your team won’t trust you. It’s that simple. I tell my volunteers this all the time. You are going to make a mistake; everyone knows you made a mistake. Just own it and go on. 

At our Gurus panel last week, Andrew Stone related a painful story of being told by an artist he was working with that he needed to “own it more.” Her comment was, “I pay you really well to take care of this stuff, and when you make excuses for what happens, it makes you seem small.” And make no mistake, Andrew is not a small guy. But when we try to blame others for the stuff that we are ultimately responsible for, it makes us look petty and small. Just own it. You can hear that panel discussion here if you missed it.

Even if you are the volunteer—your job is to cover that technical position well. If something goes wrong, deal with it and move on. If you are a technical director or leader, never throw your people under the bus if they make a mistake, either. We’re moving into a season of having volunteers mix FOH at our church. I know they are going to make mistakes. When they do, the two of us will talk about it, figure out how not to have that happen again, and move on. But in debrief, I will take the heat. Ultimately I am responsible for the actions of my team. My leaders don’t want to know all the details of what happened and why, they just want to know we are on it and it won’t happen again. 

So I’ve shared some of my mistakes (yup, those examples have all happened to me…). What have you had to own up to? How did your team react?

Today’s post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

6 Comments

  1. chris@behindthemixer.com

    Oh, there was the Superbowl disaster. Usually the pastor hooks up the tv cables so I don't have anything to do. Well, with the digital box requirements, it wasn't working and I walked in to the Sanctuary that evening for our Superbowl party to watch the game on the big screen only to have to play Mr. Fix-it. I went through all my signal routing several times without any luck, even after adding in the digital cable box. I even drew out a schematic so I knew the right way to get the image on the screen and the audio through the mixer.

    But I made a mistake, I didn't re-check the DVD player. While I had told it at one point how it should route the signal, apparently that got re-set when I unplugged something. The crowd ended up watching the game on our flat-screen tv instead of the big screen. And did I mention the flat screen was placed right in front of the mixing booth?

    P.S. – Small world, I just posted up a similar article. http://www.behindthemixer.com/content/taking-responsibility-as-church-sound-tech

  2. chris@behindthemixer.com

    Oh, there was the Superbowl disaster. Usually the pastor hooks up the tv cables so I don't have anything to do. Well, with the digital box requirements, it wasn't working and I walked in to the Sanctuary that evening for our Superbowl party to watch the game on the big screen only to have to play Mr. Fix-it. I went through all my signal routing several times without any luck, even after adding in the digital cable box. I even drew out a schematic so I knew the right way to get the image on the screen and the audio through the mixer.

    But I made a mistake, I didn't re-check the DVD player. While I had told it at one point how it should route the signal, apparently that got re-set when I unplugged something. The crowd ended up watching the game on our flat-screen tv instead of the big screen. And did I mention the flat screen was placed right in front of the mixing booth?

    P.S. – Small world, I just posted up a similar article. http://www.behindthemixer.com/content/taking-responsibility-as-church-sound-tech

  3. stuart@churchtechy.com

    Absolutely 100% agreed.

    I've always lived my life that way and simply can't (and won't) understand those that don't do likewise. It's a sign of maturity and a sign that we are still teachable no matter our age. Very recent example from me – last w/end I was doing my martial art grading to red belt and failed. I messed up – simple as that. I shouldn't have and I'm still amazed on what I failed with but fail I did.

    But I've accepted that. I'll learn from that and I've moved on. It isn't that hard … honest πŸ™‚ Great post Mike.

  4. stuart@churchtechy.com

    Absolutely 100% agreed.

    I've always lived my life that way and simply can't (and won't) understand those that don't do likewise. It's a sign of maturity and a sign that we are still teachable no matter our age. Very recent example from me – last w/end I was doing my martial art grading to red belt and failed. I messed up – simple as that. I shouldn't have and I'm still amazed on what I failed with but fail I did.

    But I've accepted that. I'll learn from that and I've moved on. It isn't that hard … honest πŸ™‚ Great post Mike.

  5. gordmillar@hotmail.com

    Happened just last Sunday to me. Worship team came onto platform and as our worship pastor was greeting the congregation and having them greet each other he was trying to plug in his accoustic guitar. Noticed he was struggling a little so to be safe I turned off the channel. First 2 songs where full electric guitar driven songs, the suddenly song 3 and I realize that I can't hear the accoustic. Oops, forgot to turn it back on. I figured I would wait till the song was done to turn it on so it didn't suddenly show up in his ears. I turn it on at the end of the song when our lead pastor comes up to do announcements. At the same time I see the worship pastor go to someone and they are headed to FOH. The person, who has done sound in the past, says there is something wrong with the accoustic. As I have already turned it on I point to it and say that the problem was I had turned it off and forgot to turn it on but it is in now. I was tempted to say I would try and figure it out, but chose to be up front about my error. The situation was told to the worship pastor later and he was ok with it. Sometimes we make mistakes.

  6. gordmillar@hotmail.com

    Happened just last Sunday to me. Worship team came onto platform and as our worship pastor was greeting the congregation and having them greet each other he was trying to plug in his accoustic guitar. Noticed he was struggling a little so to be safe I turned off the channel. First 2 songs where full electric guitar driven songs, the suddenly song 3 and I realize that I can't hear the accoustic. Oops, forgot to turn it back on. I figured I would wait till the song was done to turn it on so it didn't suddenly show up in his ears. I turn it on at the end of the song when our lead pastor comes up to do announcements. At the same time I see the worship pastor go to someone and they are headed to FOH. The person, who has done sound in the past, says there is something wrong with the accoustic. As I have already turned it on I point to it and say that the problem was I had turned it off and forgot to turn it on but it is in now. I was tempted to say I would try and figure it out, but chose to be up front about my error. The situation was told to the worship pastor later and he was ok with it. Sometimes we make mistakes.

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