This is part 3 of 6 of What I Learned in a Mega Church is learning to manage self and to deal with music staff. You can read about Pastoral Care for Musicians in a Mega Ministry here and get 4 Tips for Managing the Stress and Multiple Priorities of Mega Ministry here.
In various churches I supervised several configurations of music staff from sharing an admin (secretary) and one part time organist, to 8 music staff with a department administrative assistant and three organists working full time with multiple other duties and overseeing numerous members in active roles, and finally coordinating 27 fine arts groups (singing choirs, handbell choirs, bands, dance groups, writers, and visual artists) with 6 full and part time music staff along with 15 members in ministry sharing duties in leading many children’s choirs and activities.
All to support music and fine arts preparation for, in the largest ministry, three very different worship services weekly and up to 7 Christmas Eve services in addition to concerts, tours, and special worship services.
The 90/10 Rule
The Ballou 90/10 rule was that 90% of my job was music, and that 10% was what made music happen. Putting systems into place is hard work, however, once the system is created, then the leader is free to use their creative energy in making things happen. This is like learning music.
When I studied with Robert Shaw, I expected to get tidbits and nuggets and tricks for success. What I learned was massive. He knew more than anyone in the room and worked harder than anyone in the room. His passion was contagious. This one quote sums it up, “If you want the kitchen to be clean, then you must get on your hands and knees to scrub the floor.” He also said, “It’s critical to have the technical pieces in place so the spirit of the music can come out.” The bottom line is that hard work is essential to success.
Translated to leading multiple staff, this means spend time in planning and not just in doing. The leader influences everyone in any group by their presence. Conductors are perceived to be dictators when really we are influencers, especially with nonpaid ensembles and church members in committees. Paid staff show up for the pay check. They perform at a higher standard because they are personally fulfilled. The leader’s job is to get the most out of the ensemble, whether it’s a musical ensemble or not.
5 Principles For Leading Multiple Staff
Here are my 5 principles for leading multiple staff (paid and unpaid):
1. Be clear on the objectives This is equal to having the right music to rehearse. Define the expectations in writing and be sure that everyone understands the desired outcomes that you want and their role in creating those results.
2. Be a good example People will take their cues from what you do…if you are late, then they will be late…if you don’t complete your assignments…etc. This is like our children taking their examples for many things by watching us…we don’t really know how we influence then until we see them acting out. Sometimes this is a dose of reality that we are not expecting. The same dynamic plays out in any group whether church, family, social club, or another group. We influence people in the group system no matter where they are in the organizational chart. The leader sets the pace and defines the culture.
3. Address situations promptly When someone sings flat or plays a wrong note we address that issue promptly, however, when someone does something that’s not consistent with the plan or the culture, we don’t address it because we don’t want to hurt their feelings or we don’t feel comfortable making that correction hoping that it will go away. In fact, the situation typically gets worse over time and causes more problems than if we had dealt with it right away. Move toward the conflict calmly and address the facts and don’t get into the emotions that will create diversions.
4. Set regular gatherings We schedule regular music rehearsals, however, we don’t transpose this concept into nonmusical systems. Regular meetings create accountability, build relationships, empower systems, and strengthen communications. Regular is good, but only if we plan carefully and run the meeting like we run a rehearsal. We already know how to do this.
5. Allow others to shine It’s not about us, it’s about the vision. Get out of the way and the team members perform. This is like allowing the musicians to make music. When working with James Jorden, I was conducting the ensemble in the class and he stopped me, seeing that I was stressed, said to me, “Hugh, let them sing!” This was a great realty check! I realized that I was in the way! We must get out of the way so others can function. If we let them shine, then ultimately we look better as well.
There’s no difference philosophically in leading musical and nonmusical groups…we just don’t always stand on a podium.
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