Why Consistency Matters

Why Consistency Matters

I’ve come to find that most creatives don’t enjoy consistency.  In fact, most creatives kinda shudder at the word. I think it gives off the feeling of the mundane; we automatically go to thought of doing the same thing over and over again. Consistency has definitely got a bad rap when it comes to creativity and leading teams of creative people. Creative people by nature tend to look for what is new, what is fresh. So to lead a team of creative people, you have to actively and continually change the perception of consistency.

Trust is built with consistencyLincoln Chaffee

The former governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, summed up consistency in an elegant and easy to remember phrase: “Trust is built with consistency”. If we take a moment to pull out of our creative team and think about all of the volunteers it takes to put on a weekend service, the necessity of consistency becomes a bit more obvious. If you were to put yourself in a volunteer’s shoes, imagine coming in to serve on the weekend to find that things are in disarray, computers aren’t ready, equipment is malfunctioning, a musician’s avoim unit isn’t working, etc. If this was the exception and not the norm, there’s probably a lot of forgiveness. But for most churches I’ve visited and seen, unfortunately, this is the norm. Every time a volunteer comes in and things aren’t ready it says a few things to them:

  1. We aren’t prepared and you shouldn’t be either.
  2. We don’t value your time and you shouldn’t value ours.
  3. We don’t take this seriously and you shouldn’t either.

Read any book like Great by Choice, Crucial Conversations, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and you’ll quickly realize the obvious. The success of any team is built on trust. When a volunteer comes in week after week, giving up their time and energy to serve in your department, and everything is ready for them, meaning they have what they need to succeed on the weekend, trust begins to form.  And when you have a team that fully trusts each other, watch out! There’s not a challenge the team can’t conquer.

Conversely, when we are consistent in having things ready for our volunteers it says a few things to them:

  1. We are prepared and you should be too.
  2. We value your time and you should value ours.
  3. We take this seriously and you should too.

Imagine now taking the same ideas of consistency to your creative team or those that you lead. Imagine your coworkers or direct reports knowing what to expect when they come in to work. Imagine a fully prepared team all pushing in the same direction because trust has been established through consistency. As creatives we have to move from understanding consistency as a hindrance and seeing it as one of our best allies.

Team Culture

Team Culture

This weekend, Jed Walker, one of the pastors on staff at Milestone Church, used a Peter Drucker quote that I’m sure most of us have heard before that got me thinking about how a production team operates in a church.

Culture Eats Strategy Over BreakfastPeter Drucker

As an analytical person, by nature I tend to lean toward well thought out strategy.  I don’t particularly enjoy implementing something new unless it’s been thought through to some extent and a good strategy has been put in place.  That’s partly because I’ve been a technical director for so long that I’ve seen things go terribly wrong, live, in service, when things aren’t thought through and strategized.  So strategy is very important.  Let me say that again, strategy is very important.

However, Culture > Strategy.  Always.

As a Technical Director in a church, your church could have the best looking/sounding production around, but if the culture of your team, your production team, is not healthy and life giving then your days of being the best are numbered.  Often, I meet many Technical Directors that enjoy shouldering all of the weight of the team.  This usually comes out of a fear of volunteers not being able to do things as well as they can.  The problem is quite obvious – culture.  You will never succeed as a Technical Director by shouldering all the weight.  You can only get to where you want to go if you build culture on your team.

How is a great culture accomplished?  That’s a great question.  I would assert that the answer to that question has many different answer.  Each situation is different.  For us, it’s intentionally getting together with the team before services and checking on everyone and praying together.  On the off hours, checking in with one another to see if we can help each other.  Then every once in a while, getting together as a team to celebrate where we are and where we are going.  What I do know is that good culture is set intentionally.  No team stumbles across good culture.  It’s something that is developed and and done on purpose.

So, its for you to decide what good culture looks like for you and your production team.  But it’s up to you as a leader to intentionally walk down the road of good culture.

Lessons on Leadership – Tim Cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently did an hour long segment on the Charlie Rose show.  Here’s the link. Naturally, since the company just released it’s new flagship products, Tim does a bit of bragging on their products.  But after the first 10 minutes or so, Charlie starts to ask some different questions.  If you sit down and really watch the interview, there’s some great things to be learned.  Tim talks about everything from their executive team and how he likes to put that together, to company mistakes and how those come about.  He also talked about stepping into a legacy that was left from Steve Jobs.  First of all, just sitting and listening to the interview was fascinating to me in that it provided a candid look into Tim and how he thinks and operates.  To be CEO of one of the most successful companies (if not the most successful company) in America, you gotta know your stuff.  Tim obviously does in many areas.  I love learning, so here’s a few things I learned about leadership from part one of Tim’s interview.

  1. Mistakes don’t just happen, there are a lot of lead ups to mistakes.  Charlie asked Tim about the blundered maps application roll out.  Instead of trying to cover up the mistake, Tim blatantly said that they messed up.  He owned up to it almost personally.  And then he alluded to the overarching principle that rarely does a mistake ever just happen as an organization, but rather there are all these indicators that line up that allow the mistake to happen.
  2. Surround yourself with different thinkers.  Charlie asked him about his executive team and how they operate as they have recruited some new faces to the team (beats acquisition, new head of retail, etc).  Tim responded that his preference is to surround himself with people that think differently that he does.  He alludes to the fact that the similar culture has to be there in order for that to work. However, finding people that compliment you as a CEO (or leader) is really important to putting out great work.
  3. Be Yourself.  This one seems obvious enough, but when Charlie started asking questions about filling Steve Job’s shoes, Tim provided some information about the candid conversations he had with Steve before he passed away.  Even Steve recognized the fact that Tim was a different person than he was, but still thought he was the one for the job.  The obvious case and point being that he picked him to replace him as CEO.  But he encouraged him to make decisions not based on “what would Steve do”, but on what Tim thought was right.
Stage Backdrop Cheap

New Stage Backdrop On the Cheap

Most pastors would probably agree that when you preach on a subject, you often find yourself tested that week or soon there after on the same topic you just preached.  And then you have to ask yourself the question, am I going to practice what I preach?  A while back, I did a blog post on taking pictures during worship.  And the first point I made was that pictures will only look as good as the real set looks.  Soon after I wrote that post, I found myself taking pictures of one of our venues.  When I got back to the computer, the pictures were just blah.  It was very obvious to me at that point that the stage needed a overhaul.  So I decided to practice what I preach and deal with the problem head on.

Here’s the before picture.  I’m almost embarrassed to show this picture because of how unappealing it is.  But for the sake of transformation, you gotta see where it was to appreciate where it is now.

Old Stage Look

And here’s what it looks like now

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So here’s what we did.  We used rolls of screen door material, we got it at home depot down the street, but you could probably find it cheaper online somewhere (link here).  The Screen material was $30 for a 4’x25′ roll. We used about 5-6 rolls.  Basically, you crinkle the screen material as much as you can (might recommend using gloves), attach the material to a pole, hang the poll (we hung with plastic chain from the I-beams in the ceiling), and put a weight at the bottom of the screen (for us that was another pole).  Altogether the project was simple, and only cost a few hundred bucks.  Granted, we already had the LED bars.  But look at the pictures again, and see how much more effective the LED bars are now that they are hitting a lighter reflected surface.

Here’s a picture without stage lighting on:

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You can see the seams of the rolls when the stage lights aren’t on.  But we never host an event in that venue when the stage lights aren’t on, so that wasn’t a problem.  The result is a lot of mood setting color, the screens feel new as they pop much more, and the room itself feels like a new room.  We are quite pleased with the result and excited to see what it can do to the worship atmosphere of that room.

New Stage Design Cheap

Family United Sermon Series

Family United Sermon Series

The last graphic our previous designer Josh Tate (who now works at Niche) made for us at Northwood Church was for a sermon series called Family United.  The graphic is on the screen you see above.  I snapped a picture during service so you could see the EP, lighting, and backdrop that we chose to coincide with it.  There is one important thing to really look at when it comes to live IMAG:  Never let your background be brighter than your subject.  In this situation, blues and purples aren’t that bright of colors, so naturally they sit a bit darker.  But if you have to use colors like orange, yellow, or other “hot” colors, you might need to look at the levels at which those are lighting your background.  So if you go with hotter colors, look at dimming them down a bit so your subject really stands out.