As a technical leader, you have many responsibilities. In addition to making sure all the technical aspects of the service are in order, you are also responsible for leading your team. And chances are, there is someone responsible for leading you. In all of that leadership, there is something that is often overlooked, but very critical—consistency. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I have worked for leaders who are fair and consistent, and it was a very enjoyable experience. I’ve also worked with leaders who are all over the map, and that’s a whole lot less fun.
Some time ago, I pulled a quote from a book written by Lazlo Bock a Sr. VP at Google. The book is Work Rules!. This quote has stuck with me, and it seems fitting to reprint it here:
“It’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.”
The Perils of Inconsistency
Many churches have volunteers who serve once a month. As they are not there every week, it’s very important for them that the system and expectations are consistent. One of the most frustrating things for a volunteer is to have a different target to hit every time they serve. One week moving lights around is great! The next time, don’t move the lights! Loud is good! No it’s not!
You can imagine how difficult it would be to try to volunteer under those circumstances. In fact, it may be one reason why some churches have a problem keeping volunteers for the long run. Now, it’s unlikely that anyone would ever tell you that it’s due to a tremendous lack of consistency in leadership that they are leaving the tech team, but think about it? Could that really be a reason?
The Box of Freedom
We had such a problem at my former church a while back. I’ve written about this before, but it fits here nicely. Our lighting guys were frustrated because it seemed like every week they were being told something was wrong. And it could be that something that they didn’t hear anything about last week was a problem this week. This was coming from people above me, so I took radical action.
I got my boss and our whole lighting team in the room and we talked about lighting. We talked about the goals, desires and purposes for lighting during worship. We collectively created what we called the Box of Freedom. As in the Bock quote above, we gave them a set of parameters to operate within. As long as they stayed in the box, they could do whatever they wanted. This took away a ton of stress from our lighting guys and from me.
Protect the Box
I will say I occasionally had to step in and protect the box. Sometimes, the guys would do something that was out near the edge of the box, and I’d hear some pushback from people above me. I had to remind them that we were still inside the box, and it was OK. If they didn’t like that, we need to change the box. But if we’re not going to change the box, the look stays. Every time, the leader backed down.
We need to be consistent with our teams. They may not tell you they need it, but they do. They are not in the mix of all the conversations and discussions and debates that happen on a church staff all week long. They don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes—though they are behind the scenes. We as technical leaders have to everything in our power to create a consistent world for them. If you do, I can almost promise you your volunteer retention will go up.