remain calm. be kind.

Colin Powell’s Rule #10:  Remain calm. Be kind.

 

A few years ago, I ran into an audio engineer that I used to work with.  After introducing him to the people around me, he started to tell a story that began with, “My biggest memory of Todd was…”.  I remember thinking, “Oh, crap.  What is he going to say?!”  To my relief, here is basically what he told everyone:

 

We were in the middle of a service and a particular song started.  Pretty soon into it, Todd leaned over to me and said “strings!”  I responded by bringing up the fader for the strings, while mentally kicking myself for missing the cue.

While I was settling into the mix, Todd leaned back over to me and said “vocals”.  I had been so caught up in missing the strings, that I had forgotten to bring up the vocalist’s mic.

At this point in the story, I am wondering what the punch line is going to be…

I couldn’t believe how calm Todd was, even after I missed the second cue.  I so appreciated not being yelled at and berated.  I was already feeling awful about messing up, and Todd’s response helped me to move on and continue mixing.

What a relief!

As a leader, this situation reminded me of 2 things that matter to me in situations like this and that follow this particular rule of General Powell.

Remain Calm.

The first time I saw the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters that are now everywhere, I couldn’t believe it.  I have been in the habit of saying this to myself for years and suddenly its on a coffee mug.

People look to the leader to see how they respond when all hell is breaking loose.  Am I going to lose my cool, or am I going to calmly solve the problem?

In this example with the audio engineer, I can remember freaking out that we had missed the string quartet cue, but that me yelling at the guy at FOH would probably just fluster him  more than he already was in that moment.

I figure that most people want to do a great job.  He didn’t want to screw up, so telling him to not screw up doesn’t feel like the right answer.  Freaking out would not have solved anything.  In my opinion, freaking out usually just makes things worse.

Be Kind.

I have worked in a few environments where people were motivated to do their very best out of Fear.  Fear of screwing up.  Fear of disappointing someone.  Fear of being yelled at.  These all feel less than ideal to me.

As a production leader, I am pretty aware that I couldn’t mix as well as this particular engineer.  I was also aware that our team/church really needed him to bring his best to our services.  If he were living in fear of me coming down on him every time he screwed up, pretty soon he is working to just not screw up, versus bringing his best for the sake of bringing his best.

There might be more control associated with coming down hard on people, and a little less control involved with people bringing their full self to the table.  You name the day, and I would take people bringing the entirety of who they are and what they can do, and deal with the messiness that comes with it.  I want people to be motivated internally, not by some heavy hand that will squash them when bad things happen.

I know that I want to bring my full self to whatever I am doing, so how can I lead in such a way that encourages that from others?

 

Remain calm.  Be kind.

photo by: 4nitsirk

share credit

General Powell’s rule #9:  Share Credit

If you are a TD in the local church, this can be difficult.  If you are leading groups of technical artists to create life changing moments through the fusion of the technical and creative arts, you spend most of your time setting people up to win, rather than doing something yourself.

As a result, it is very easy to actually not get credit for anything, let alone be given the option of sharing credit.

time of affirmation

On Saturday night, the production team sits around and after debriefing the service, we have the  “Time of Affirmation”, where people talk about great things they noticed other people doing.  There are 2 constants in this part of the meeting.  The first one is that someone has to say “Best monitors ever.”  It doesn’t matter if they were or not, but we all feel guilty that no one ever says anything to the monitor engineer.

The other, less obvious constant, is that I never get affirmed.  If someone starts their affirmation with “Todd…”, it usually means that our amazing volunteer stage manager also named Todd, is in the meeting.

I don’t bring this up so that my team can start making me feel better by making up a bunch of crap on how my contribution made a difference in the service.  I bring it up, because it is secretly my goal, that lines up with this particular rule of Colin Powell.

the set up

As a leader, I view it as my job to set up my team to succeed.  My goal is to make sure the way is clear for people to do what they do best.  I don’t always do a great job of this, but when things are going right, I hope to never take the credit.

I have a pretty health respect for my own lack of ability and I know that most of what I am involved with wouldn’t be happening without the amazing people around me.  I am happy to share credit all day long.  Without a great team, it doesn’t matter how good I am; none of it would happen.

On the flipside, when things go wrong, it is probably due to the team not being set up to win, and therefore I take the credit for those things.

If you are a person who grasps at the credit for all the good things, people know it.  The people that work for you know that you hog the spotlight and the people that are above you will eventually see through your shallow grabbing at all the glory.

Also on the flipside, if you are taking the responsibility when things are not going well, the people that work for you will know that you have their back, and the people you work for will know that you aren’t the type to throw your team under the bus.

Not getting credit is the reality of a leader, especially a TD.  The best type of leader is one who is comfortable enough in their roll to keep giving the credit away.

 

Next up:  #10 Remain calm. Be kind.

check the small things

Colin Powel’s rule #8:  Check the small things.

At a certain point, I assumed that someone else would do this.  Checking small things feels like something that eventually I wouldn’t have to deal with.  I have learned just the opposite, over and over again.

During the first building project I was ever a part of, I assumed that the professional building people would take care of the the things that mattered most to me.  I figured that surely I wasn’t the smartest person in the room on some of this stuff.  They do this for a living, I am just the end user.  What do I know?

The reality is that I am the most knowledgeable person on the thoughts that pop into my head.  If nobody is bringing something up, but I am thinking about it, I need to speak up.  I notice that this mostly happens around small things, and if I assume that someone else is going to take care of it, I am wrong.

Don’t assume that what is running through your head is registering to anyone else.  Don’t move onto the next thing without voicing your opinion, if it hasn’t been voiced then probably no one else is thinking of it.  Don’t sit passively wishing that someone would bring up your concern.  It might be a small thing, but you might be just the person to bring it up.

Many times, it is the small things that make the difference between something good and something amazing.  It can also be the difference between success and failure.

Checking the small things must be done by someone.  If you are thinking of them, you need to take care of them.

 

Next rule:  #9 Share Credit

photo by: Brooklyn Museum

Funnel Vision

I had a vision the other day.  I’m not really a vision kind of a person, but I am still thinking about it a week later, so I figured it was worth writing down.

My vision had a big funnel in it.  Like the kind my dad used when we put gas in the tractor.  Stainless steel, pretty big, maybe the only difference is my vision funnel didn’t smell like gas.

In my non-gas smelling vision, God had opened up heaven and the funnel was there to catch God’s power, blessing and whatever God was pouring down.  The funnel was used to catch and focus His blessing and favor onto His people.  God doesn’t need the funnel, but for whatever reason He decides to use it as a way to communicate His love to this world.

The top of the funnel changes from larger to smaller allowing more or less of God in.  The bottom of the funnel is larger or small allowing more or less of God out.

I am the funnel.

The top of the funnel is how much I am willing to open myself up to what God would have for me;  how much I receive what God is throwing my way.  The bottom of the funnel is what I do with it.

Top of the Funnel: Am I opening myself up to God and allowing Him to speak into my life?  Am I trusting Him to do all He said He would do?  Am I filling up myself with God’s word on a regular basis and having it affect my daily life?

Bottom of the Funnel: Am I restricting what God wants to do in this world or am I freely giving away what He has given to me?  Am I comfortable?  Am I keeping all the knowledge, experience and perspective to myself or am I ready to give it all away to help someone else on their journey?   Are the choices I make affecting people around me positively?  Am I acting on what I feel God is calling me to be about?

Could the top of my funnel be bigger?  Without question.  But the top of the funnel is between me and God.  The top of the funnel involves me making time for Him; it involves filling my mind with His word; it involves me receiving from God.

My trouble is the bottom of the funnel.  In my vision, I was keeping the bottom of the funnel very narrow.  Because of my own insecurities and my own hang ups, I was choosing to limit what God wanted to do with my life and in the lives of the people around me.

If the world needs more of God than less, why would I allow my own issues get in the way?  Why wouldn’t I want the bottom of my funnel as wide as the top?  To not restrict God’s power, love and blessing flowing through me?

The people around me need me to stop being a narrow funnel.  My work place needs me to stop being a narrow funnel.  My church, my ministry, the world all need me to stop being a narrow funnel.

This is questionable theology, but it has me thinking differently about how to let the love of God flow through me without restrictions.

If you have made it this far, I’d love to know your thoughts.

so many choices

CP’s Rule #7 – You can’t make someone else’s choices.  You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.

This is an interesting one for me.  I have been a production person for most of my life now,  and much of that time has been about responding to other people’s ideas and then making them awesome.  In some ways this feels like someone is making my choices for me.  I am not getting to choose what I make awesome, just to make whatever it is awesome.

Part of this is great perspective.  I am not the one who is filling the blank page with ideas.  I am not the one who is figuring out the direction for our whole organization.  In many ways my job is to facilitate these ideas.

On the downside, as a Type 9 on the Enneagram (peacemaker), I have noticed that I defer to most everyone.  So not only am I a tech person that pulls off other people’s ideas, I tend to let everyone else’s ideas and opinions matter more than mine.  In some cases, I don’t even bother to have an opinion because life is easier to not formulate one.

So on one hand, I am in need of some serious counseling.

On the other hand, there are some helpful ways to deal with being in a position of helping pull off other people’s choices while still being responsible for your own.

Understand your boundaries

When you are engaging with other people’s ideas, make sure you are aware of what your boundaries should be.  How much time can you devote to a new idea this week?  What prior commitments have you already made for your team?  What is your daughter’s middle school girl’s volleyball game schedule?

Sometimes work can/should override some of these considerations, but it shouldn’t always take precedent.  You should be in the habit of regulating your boundaries enough that there is a good balance between having your job (or your volunteering) run your life, or you running it.  You should be weighing out the situation on a continual basis.

As Jack Welch would say,

“Your boss wants you to have a balanced life.  Your boss also wants you to figure it out for yourself.”

Embrace other’s ideas as your own

Once you have agreed to making someone’s idea awesome, pretend like it is your own.  Don’t wait around for someone to make the decisions that you are designed to make.  How can you put your fingerprints on an idea?

Nobody understands your expertise like you do.

Bring your ideas to the table.

Speak up.

Make it happen.

Once you have said yes, jump in with your whole self.

 

Rule #8 is next:  Check small things.

photo by: Matt J Newman

good decisions may cause side effects

General Powell’s Rule #6:  Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

In my last post, I talked about how I can tend to not make a decision based on my own worst imagination.  What about the good decision that needs to get made, yet you know that some not great things will happen?  There will be side effects.

Leadership is made up of decisions like this.  If the outcome of every decision were nice and pleasant, then more people would probably be leaders.  As a type 9 on the Enneagram (the peacemaker) I am always trying to make decisions that leave everyone happy.  This is not possible.  For those of you, non-9’s out there, you are saying to yourself “no duh!” (do people still say that?)

Much of the time, decisions are about picking the one that has the least number of down sides; the one that is the best of some pretty bad option; or the one that is the best for the organization, but not necessarily for individuals.

If you are a leader, the people that follow you need you to make decisions.

They need you to make good decisions.

Sometimes good decisions have some negative side effects.

Not making good decisions because of bad side effects is essentially the same as making a bad decision.

Wow…this was good for me to hear.  I love this blog!

 

Next:  Rule #7 – You can’t make someone else’s choices.  You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.

photo by: ljphillips34

the grass isn’t greener

Colin Powell’s Rule # 5 – Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

It seems like a “grass-is-always-greener” type of statement.  This rule also feels like a double edged sword to me.

Wishing for more

My first thought is that, generally speaking, most tech people are looking for a new piece of equipment that will solve all their problems.  Sometimes a new piece of gear is exactly what is needed to advance the ministry of your church.  Sometimes it only seems that way.

When Kensington met in a high school, I would often have set up and tear down volunteers say things like “I can’t wait until we have our own building, so we can leave all this stuff set up.”  I remember thinking that I agreed with them to a certain degree, since it would be nice to not have to wake up at 3:30am on Sunday any more.  However, I also remember thinking that when we have our own building we would suddenly have a space that people and ministries will want to use 24/7, 7 days a week.  At least right now, we only had one really long day.

From a ministry impact standpoint, Kensington was able to expand by having our own building.  From a production work load stand point, our workload just grew exponentially, and in some ways , the perceived need for volunteers diminished, making it more difficult to attract and retain volunteers to do all the work that had been added to our plate.

We got what we were asking for; I didn’t wake up 3:30 on Sunday morning any more, and we didn’t but now I was working on some kind of production most every day of the week.

When asking for more, are you being honest with yourself about the true costs involved?

Not even trying

Because I have seen some of the downsides of getting what you ask for, I have noticed that I am hesitant to dream about what could be, because I start imagining the downsides.  Suddenly, the negative outcomes become my first thought.

I don’t know what it is about my personality, but I am pretty wary of the color of grass other places.   As a real life example, the grass in my yard looks pretty good from across the street.  Once you start walking on it, the dead spots and the weeds are hard to miss.

I know that things aren’t always as they appear and I like the problems I already have, simply because I know what they are.  Who knows what kind of problems exist elsewhere?

To be paralyzed with the question of what might happen, isn’t a great place to live in either.

How can I balance out dreaming for the new with being more “realistic”?

 

This leads right into rule #6 for next time:  Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

photo by: nicolasnova

it can be done!

Colin Powell’s rule #4:  It can be done!

This past weekend, one of the producers would ask me if we could change something technically.  Each time they asked, I hesitated.  I then gave a very lukewarm, middle of the road, “maybe” kind of answer.

At one point in the day, this producer remarked that I kept saying “no” to their requests.  Afterwards, we had a conversation about how I didn’t feel like I was saying “no”, but that I was processing out loud while I was trying to get the answer out.  The producer understood my point and said we were all good.

Later on, the production team was debriefing the service and I had a change to give the stage manager.  I could tell he was slightly hesitant with how to answer, but what came out of his mouth was like music to my ears:  “Yep.  Got it.  No problem.”

As a leader, his get it done attitude was exactly what I needed from him.  I realized that he had some figuring out to do, but he had a great first response.

This was so eye opening to me.  This is the kind of response my producer needed from me.  This doesn’t mean that I say “yes” to everything, or “no” to everything with a quick answer.  It means that I respond with confidence and with something immediate.  The vague answers I was providing didn’t instill confidence in me or my team and weren’t a great way to get to a solution.

Colin Powell’s rule:  “It can be done!” slapped me in the face this week.

How are you responding to requests?  How can you look at life through a “It can be done!” lens? 

 

Next rule:  # 5 – Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

photo by: michal_hadassah

you are not your idea

Colin Powell’s rule #3:

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

Ouch!  How many times have I not lived out this rule?  As someone who is passionate about what I do, it is easy to believe deeply about my ideas.  It is also easy to get too attached to them along the way.

having my feelings hurt

Many times, it is easy to feel wounded after having an idea rejected.  The problem with this is that I am taking things too personally.  People aren’t making a comment on me as a person, they just don’t like that particular idea.  One problem with this is that when each idea is rejected, or not taken, it is easy to let this affect my willingness to share another idea when the time comes.

Henry Cloud talks about how some people respond to a given situation.  They take it Personally; they imagine it is Pervasive, that all their ideas are bad; and they make it Permanent, always tending to put themselves too close to their idea.

Having my feelings hurt sounds really childish, and when I think about it, I am embarrassed to even admit that this ever happens to me.

So how can I move past making a rejected idea not destroy my ego, and move onto the next idea?

not getting your way

Being a team player means that you fight like crazy for your idea, but hold it loosely enough that people don’t feel like they have to take your idea.

I have been in plenty of meetings where is someone wasn’t getting their way, the rest of the people were shamed into finally agreeing to that person’s idea, even though it wasn’t the best one.  That feels pretty nasty.

So what happens when you don’t get your way?  Do you push your idea through?  Do you clam up?  Do you try to subtly sabotage the idea that was selected?  Do you just half-heartedly go along with the plan that wasn’t yours?  Are you going to be a sore loser or can your rise above getting your way?

So many tech people I know can use this opportunity to bury their true feelings, to add this to the pile of disappointments that add up to become a passive aggressive, bitter production person.  This isn’t helping you or your team.  Learn how to “lose” well.

jumping on board with the idea that was selected

The tension of fighting for your idea, then holding it loosely is to be able to drop your idea and get fully behind the one that was chosen.  This is one of those tensions that Andy Stanley would tell us to learn to manage.  It will never go away.

This is one of those things that can be very difficult to do, but is something that bosses look for and that say a lot about who you are as a person.  Once another idea has been selected, your character can show through by you giving your very best to whatever idea the team has decided on.

If give the “not your idea” your very best, you will be seen as an amazing team player.  If it fails, like you said it would, and you gave it everything you had, it can’t be said to have failed because you gave it your very least.  AND if you keep your mouth shut and don’t say “I told you so.” you will be trusted that much more for the next idea.

 

How can you rise above your ego to support the best idea, whether it is yours or not?

 

Next post:  General Powell’s rule #4: It can be done!

photo by: urban_data

get mad, then get over it

This is part 2 in the series of blog posts about Colin Powell’s 13 rules.

In the last post, we talked about Colin Powell’s rule #1, which was “It ain’t as bad as you think.”  The title of this post is rule #2:  “Get mad, then get over it.”

For those of you who know me, it is difficult to imagine me getting mad.  (Maybe you should talk to my kids about this, though.)  But like many technical artists, my “mad” manifests itself in more of a passive way.

When working on a production, there are so many opportunities to get angry about something that isn’t going my way.  For the Leadership Summit a few years ago, we had created a set that made it very difficult for the audio team to do their job to the best of their ability.  Fortunately for me (sarcasm), the team didn’t hesitate to get mad about it to me.  Unfortunately (not sarcasm), by that time it was too late to change it, and we needed to just push through.

Once the event was done, we talked about it some more, and we were able to build trust that we would keep the audio team in the loop better next time.  The other thing that I communicated was that the needs of audio aren’t always the most important, and that the specific event is always going to cause us to compromise in some way.  There needed to be trust that I would fight for what they needed, and trust that I would take the heat if audio failed because of a decision I was making.

Don’t let anger build up.

This story is probably a backwards way of talking about this value of getting mad then getting over it, but what I loved was that someone did get mad about this situation and now we have gotten over it.  So often, tech people hang onto their anger and let it build up.  That build up get then cause us to get mad way more than is normal.

Express your anger at an appropriate time.

The other great part about this story is that they got mad at an appropriate time.  There weren’t any blow-ups in a rehearsal, in front of the whole team.  They didn’t show their anger to all the volunteers.  They talked directly with me, the leader.  We were able to talk about this on the side and figure out how to move on without dragging the whole team down.

Getting mad can help create momentum

There is nothing wrong with getting mad.  There are many times that getting mad helps move me from my complacency.  Sometimes getting mad helps me take a good risk that I might be too afraid to take.  Sometimes getting mad helps me stand up for what I need instead of just taking another one for the team.

The trick for us technical artists is getting mad, working it out, then getting over it. 

Staying mad about something that happened months or years ago, doesn’t help anyone.

It is what makes so many tech people cynical and bitter. 

For those of us doing technical arts in the local church, this is not what Christ had in mind when he designed you, or what he wanted His church to look and feel like.

Read Matthew 18.  It’s a great framework of how to get mad, then get over it.

 

The next post is about Colin Powell’s #3 rule:

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

photo by: thethreesisters
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