A few weeks ago, my friend Jason Castellente posed a question on Facebook. He asked what were the three top technical skills a TD needs to have. My favorite answer was that they must like Star Wars, but other good answers followed. As I got thinking about that, I decided to back it up a step and think about the top three skills a TD needs, not necessarily technical ones.
As I see it, the role of the TD is changing. At first, churches hired technicians to man technical positions. At that time, it was expected the techs would be technically skilled. Over time, the role has morphed into more of a leader of technical teams, which requires a different set of skills than say mixing audio.
I thought through the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with other TD’s over the years, and based on my own experience, here are my top three skills a TD needs to have. These are maybe in order and this may or may not be an exhaustive list.
The most successful TD’s I know are all teachable. They never stop learning; learning about new products, techniques and ways to do things. For them, being a TD is a constant adventure in growing and learning. These guys never settle into a “this is how we do it” rut, but instead always explore and consider new ways to get better. This is true of guys I know in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and maybe 50's. The world of technology changes fast, and we simply must keep up. The day we stop learning how we can do our job better is the day we stop being as effective as we could be.
The Ability to Lead and Inspire Teams
While being teachable is easy for us tech guys, leading people is often harder. But I do believe that in order to be a truly effective TD, one must be able to lead others. And not just lead, but inspire them to greater levels of accomplishment. Getting a group of people to show up on time and sit behind a desk is one thing. Challenging, equipping and inspiring them to do great work is another. The guys I know that really have this dialed not only have great teams of volunteer techs, but those volunteers are now leading and training others. That is true effectiveness.
While it may be fun to sit behind the console every week, I don’t believe we are truly effective as a TD until we can step aside, let someone else mix and no one knows the difference.
Maybe I should point out that I’m defining an effective TD differently than I would define a great audio mixer (as an example—this concept applies to any technical role). I don’t think one is better than the other, but they are different. To be sure, some churches need great audio mixers on staff. But most need great TD’s.
Able to Communicate Up and Down
Another way to say this is the ability to translate between church leadership and the tech team, or between the musicians and the technicians. Church leaders are not usually technical. As such, they don’t speak our language. They tend to speak vision, mission, concept and creativity. A successful TD needs to know how to take that mission and vision and communicate it to the woman running ProPresenter. Likewise when a highly technical change is required, that need must be communicated in a way that reflects the mission and vision of the church and in language the leaders can understand.
Like I said, I don’t know that this exhaustive, but these are traits I see in the best TD’s I know. What would you add to the list?