The Art of Making Mistakes

Mistakes… Awkward.  And in a weekend service environment where everything is supposed to be smooth, worshipful, and not distracting, even more so… awkward. Those awkward moments will keep even the most even keeled Technical Director or Worship Pastor up at night thinking about what should have happened or what should have been done to prevent the mistake in the first place.  But as we aren’t perfect by nature, I think there are three very important things to think about when mistakes happen.

1. Mistakes never happen by themselves. What I mean by that is that there’s always something that leads up to the mistake. One of the most short sided thing a leader could say would be to blame it on the moment.  Maybe some of these sound familiar to you: “The battery just died”, “They were late”, “They didn’t do/say what they were supposed to”, or my favorite “The equipment just did it on its own”.   In all these situations once you step out of the moment, there’s always something that lead to mistake.

For instance “The battery just died”. What’s the process for changing batteries? Who’s thinking about changing batteries? Are we using the right batteries? Who’s double checking the batteries before every service for duds? If the batteries die, what’s the plan to replace the microphone or pack as quickly as possible?

What about “They were late”? What does your team culture dictate about being timely? Are you, yourself late from time to time?

“The equipment just did it on its own”. Do you know everything about the equipment? Are you taking good care of the equipment? What’s the maintenance procedures and time tables for the equipment? And the big one, what’s the back up for when technology inevitably fails?

As leaders in the church, it’s our responsibility to slow down after a mistake happens, and think critically about why it happened. Then move on to point number 2.

2. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.  We’ve all heard the famous quote. How often we forget the meaning. Mistakes are going to happen, what doesn’t have to happen is enduring the same mistake twice. It’s important to move from knowledge of how the mistake was made to action on preventing it in the future. You may not be able to fix the mistake in the moment, but you can take notes, learn, and make sure it never happens again.

3. Remember what its all about.  As church creatives who are naturally passionate about what we do, it’s always humbling to step back and remember why we do it. Sometimes I like to think that making mistakes is an important step in staying humble. Sometimes its a pleasant reminder that your still human, that this whole worship service is made up of a bunch of imperfect humans worshiping a perfect God.  And after the dust has settled over the most awkward moment, you as a church creative get to step back and say, it was never about the microphone, or the lights, or the “insert your mistake here”, it was always about the one we gathered to worship in the first place.

To end this, I’ll leave you with a video that at the time of me posting this has over 25k views. That’s 25k people like you and me, who have messed up in a church service once or twice, looking to the team that arguably does production and creativity the best in the world, and yes, they are humans too.

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.

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.

Customer Service in Church?

A week back or so I posted a video from Lee Cockerell’s talk about Job Performance in Church.  He also talked about a couple of his books having to relate to Customer Service and valuing guests, customers, members, etc.  Lee’s background includes VP of the Disney World Parks, so I would say he’s got a couple good things to share about Customer Service.  I just finished his book “The Customer Rules“.  First of all, a definite recommend.  My wife and I have small business (Heart Box Weddings), so I enjoyed it from that perspective, but it was interesting to take a few nuggets from what I learned in that book to apply it to the church world.  Now, I understand that church is not a business, but that shouldn’t keep us from learning everything we can about treating people better, valuing people, and in turn making a greater impact on people’s lives.  So here are a few notes I took from the book.  Again, I totally encourage you to grab a copy of it yourself.

  1. “Great Service is not just about what we do; it’s about what we are. You can have the best policies, procedures, and training in the world, but if the people you entrust to carry them out don’t have what it takes – forget about it.”
  2. “Being comes before doing”
  3. “Time and time again, customer service has been shown to be the best way to distinguish an outstanding organization”
  4. “Customer Service encompasses the entire experience, from the moment a person logs on to your website or walks through your front door until the moment they logy off or walk out.”
  5. “You win customers one at a time and lose them a thousand at a time”
  6. Each of your employees need to measure up to the 5 basics: Cleanliness, Personal Appearance, Clear Communication, Thoughtfulness, and Knowledge
  7. “Greet people with eye contact and a friendly smile”
  8. “If your appearance is professional, they will assume that the service you provide is professional.”  Perception is reality.
  9. “Professionals show up- on time and ready to go”
  10. “Customers can sense a lack of passion from a mile away”
  11. “Experts serve their customers quickly”
  12. “Consistency is vital”
  13. “A cheery hello and a sincere good-bye can leave a customer with a memory of a positive experience regardless of what happened in between.”
  14. “Do unto your employees as you would have them do unto your customers”

I just realized that I have pages and pages of notes from this book.  I should stop here and just suggest you check it out for yourself.  Again, people that come to church are NOT customers.  They are members of your family, members of the body of Christ.  But there are some important lessons to be learned in the area of customer service for every church.  How much more important is it that someone finds Jesus than Disney earn another customer.  In the church world, we need to be experts at customer service.  People matter too much.  The cause of Christ matters too much.

Job Performance in Church

A while back I wrote a couple posts talking bout some things I learned from this year’s seeds conference. The content from all the speakers was very insightful. Specifically, Lee Cockerell, knocked it out of the park. You can learn so much from a man who went from a military cook to Executive Vice President of Disney World. While I was re-watching it, another statement jumped out at me. He said “I’ve always wondered should I say that – can churches deal with people who don’t perform?” His answer – you have to. “If you aren’t working on the hard things every week, you are working on the wrong things.”