A Tale of Two Generations
The Oaks Fellowship in Dallas is growing. To cope with increasing creative demands of a growing congregation and one that is getting younger, Kelvin Co, their Creative Arts Pastor, has been growing his team. Kelvin is not just adding new team members; he is strategically building a younger team. He is raising up Millennials to join their ranks.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Kelvin (46) and one of his team members, Hunter (22), about the benefits as well as challenges of working together and building a healthy team culture with members from different generations.
Kelvin and Hunter, tell our readers about what you do at The Oaks.
Kelvin: I am the Creative Arts Pastor of our church and I oversee our live service production, art production, and communication. My most important responsibility in accomplishing those things is to build a healthy culture for our team.
Hunter: As the Creative Specialist, I help make our overall brand experience better. I do this by developing ideas and concepts for how we communicate more effectively – including the videos we produce, what we post on social media, and how things are communicated from the stage. I also support Kelvin in developing the creative culture of our team.
You two work very closely in leading your team and creative process. How did this come about?
Kelvin: I’ve had the privilege of working with Hunter on a creative project when he was in high school. He performed a spoken word he wrote as a special in one of our services. Even at a young age, he exhibited a solid work ethic and articulated very thoughtful creative ideas. My biggest takeaway from that experience was being able to work well with someone very different from me on an art form that is very foreign to me and to produce a great product. Over the years, he continued to grow in his character and creative skills. When Hunter graduated from college, recognizing that I am getting older and that the congregation we are serving and reaching are getting younger; he was exactly who we needed on the team.
You two come from different generations. You must have observed differences in how you do things. Tell me about how you approach the creative process.
Kelvin: My natural tendency is to create and work alone. For me, working in a team setting is mostly about getting stuff done. I tend to do creative work and thinking by myself. I prefer to figure things and find answers on my own, then bring it to the team instead of figuring things out with them.
Hunter: I am a verbal processor, so I prefer to work in teams. I need a sounding board – especially when starting something new. I need instant feedback. This helps me process my thoughts and develop better ideas. Maybe this is because my generation is used to the immediate response we get wherever we are and whatever we are doing through social media.
Speaking of social media, this is something that I think really highlights the difference between generations. How do you use social media?
Kelvin: My wife, Lucy, and I use social media to show and tell people about what’s happening to us. We also use it to capture moments and memories as a photo album or as our “refrigerator”.
Hunter: Even though I use social media similarly to tell people about what’s happening in my life, I apply it very differently. For me, social media is a lot more than just a collection of images and descriptions about my life. It is a projection of my identity. Social media is a source of validation and sense of self-worth for my generation.
Kelvin: One of the things I have learned in working with Millennials is that I am getting out of touch with the younger generation. I don’t and won’t truly be able to relate with them. What Hunter just described is a perfect example of that. I can download and use the new social media apps. I can even come across as being more proficient in it by learning and using the lingo, using emojis, having more followers or likes on my posts… But I cannot truly understand the context of social media being a source of validation. I understand the concept, but I can’t relate with that so I cannot authentically produce art that connects with that need. I need Hunter to help me create art that speaks to his generation.
How do you two approach change?
Kelvin: I know that one of my key roles as a leader is to drive and manage change. Even though I am very open to changes, I am cautious about making them. My natural tendency is to have most of the plan figured out before I make the decision to change, much less start the process of change. This tends to make the prospect of change daunting and can sometimes skew or cloud my judgment toward making a shift. I need to be sure I can pull it off before I move toward change.
Hunter: I am always in a mode of finding ways to make things better. If it fits the puzzle of what we are trying to do in a positive way, I am ready to adapt it. When a new iPhone comes out, because of 1 or 2 new cool features, right away I feel like what I hold in my hand is a dinosaur. Similarly, I know that new things will keep coming out. Even if the end goal hasn’t changed, I am always ready to drop everything and take on new things or ways to accomplish a goal.
What about problem solving?
Kelvin: My natural tendency is to approach problems by fixing it myself. If I can’t, I’ll do the research, figure it out, and learn it to fix it on my own. I tend to think that the problem is on me to fix.
Hunter: I want things to be better as quickly as possible. I don’t have to be the one to fix a problem. In fact, I prefer for someone else to because they probably know what they are doing better than me. And if I need to do it, someone else has figured it out already and can get me the shortcut to the solution.
How do these approaches affect the way you build a team?
Kelvin: We use the 4 C’s when vetting people: capability, capacity, coach-ability, and chemistry. I tend to favor capability and capacity when I evaluate a candidate. My key questions are: What have they accomplished? What can they do? How well can they do it? How much can they do and how fast can do it? How quickly and adept are they at figuring out what they can’t do or don’t know?
Hunter: When looking for people to work with, I favor chemistry and coach-ability. I believe that skills can be learned, but style can’t. And by having the right type of people on a team, the team attracts more of the type of people you want on the team. My key questions are: Do I like their vibe? Do I like their artistic style? Do I like spending time working and hanging out with them? Can they grow and get better?
Check out part two of the conversation here.