When Trust is Broken
Most church people take their Christmas production very seriously. At The Oaks, as Christmas approached, the excitement and buzz around what to expect for the year’s Drummer Boy presentation was palpable. My first Christmas as Creative Director at The Oaks, I decided to stir things up with what I thought was a brilliant idea…and I let everyone down.
With a good fine arts program across the church, I had a treasure chest of underutilized creative talent available to me. I had the idea to showcase and incorporate as many of those talents as I could into one piece. I had a storyline in my head that would cast a powerful vision about sharing God’s love in the midst of hard times during the holidays. I developed a script that involved theatrical elements, live musicians, dance, a choir, a big drum section, videos, etc. The cast of almost a hundred involved kids, students, and adults. It was the biggest Drummer Boy ever. I did a great job selling the idea. I worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in producing and directing the piece. I was proud of myself.
The result, unfortunately, was somewhat disappointing.
How could that absolutely awesome and excellently executed idea fail?
Here’s what I discovered. People simply expected to be “wowed” by a powerful musical experience. And what I did was too complicated. There were too many things going on. I went too far of a different direction with it. The sum total resulted in an underwhelming overall experience. Bottom line: I did not find out what the goal and expectations were, then I over-promised and under-delivered.
It was humbling. Admittedly, it affected me in a much bigger and deeper way than I let on. Unlike a mistake on a Sunday morning that I can fix the following week, I had to suck it up for twelve months before the next opportunity to redeem myself. Throughout the year, I cringed whenever the topic of Drummer Boy came up.
I needed to regain the trust of my leaders, my team, and myself. This is the process I went through to overcome my failure, and the broken trust with leadership.
To win the war against failure, first you must win the internal battle against yourself.
Gary Molander in his book “Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.” helps us understand a couple of key things about being artists. First, as artists, the ideas we put forward are very personal to us because we pour so much of ourselves into each one. Second, Gary helps us recognize that we experience higher highs and lower lows than other people. And because everything we do is so public, we are more exposed and vulnerable to the pain of rejection, criticism, and disappointment – the lows.
The Bible says in Exodus 35:31-32, “He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to make artistic designs…”
God is the one who selected, gifted, and called you to do what you do for His glory. It’s not about you. It’s all about Him. And because this assignment is from Him, He has already supplied the grace you need to overcome failure. Humbling yourself in the low places enables you to embrace the God-given grace that’s available to you.
Understanding that you are vulnerable to making mistakes and focusing on your divine assignment will help you better manage and go through the low lows when failure strikes.
Regain Your Leadership’s Trust
After a mistake, regaining your leaders’ trust is crucial for you to move forward. Regaining that trust is a 3-step process.
Step 1: Humility – Ask for forgiveness and take ownership of the problem.
Step 2: Assurance – Give your leaders peace about letting you try again. Here are some key questions you need to answer and act upon:
- Am I clear on the goal and objectives?
- Do I understand what my leader was expecting?
- Can I identify what I misunderstood about his or her expectations?
- Do I know how to prevent the mistake from happening again?
- Is my leader convinced I can achieve the goal and prevent similar, future errors?
Step 3: Proof – A tender moment and a good presentation toward a solution mean absolutely nothing if you don’t deliver. Prove that you’ve learned from your mistake by producing results.
Humility opens the door toward regaining your leaders’ trust, but installing assurance is how you gain the opportunity to prove yourself again.
Bring Others on Board
Once you have yourself and your leadership on board, you need to bring others along. Sometimes people are hesitant to join in on a new project because of past failures. Either they were embarrassed by it or are afraid of failing again.
You need to overcome this fear and remove doubt.
The quickest way to overcome this fear is to share with them what helped us bring our leadership on board. Doubters, whether consciously or not, come from a place of superiority. They can be disarmed and won over with the same approach we took with our leader.
I’m not recommending trying to appease and please everyone. It is however strategic to identify the key stakeholders, because they can influence perception and others’ confidence toward the new project.
I’ll be honest. The process isn’t easy. The fact is: overcoming failure can be messy and complicated. It takes a lot of work. It has to be treated like a muscle – it needs to be developed through regular exercise over time. Rest assured that with each encounter, God’s grace is available to us to help us not only overcome, but also grow to be a better artist…and a stronger leader.