What Your Team Can Do When There’s Friction with the Tech Team
Breaking up fistfights, silencing a yelling match, counseling through disagreements every week…
No it’s not the latest episode of a daytime TV Soap Opera, those are all experiences I’ve experienced between a tech team and a band. Okay, full disclosure: I wasn’t there for the fistfight. But I heard it was epic, and I wish I was! Not since the Hatfield and McCoy’s has there been so much tension between two groups of people. It’s unfortunate. We should all be on the same team, working toward the same goal. But so often the band and the tech team just can’t make it work.
Much like Murphy’s Law (if something bad can happen, it will) it’s only a matter of time before some friction occurs between the worship team and the tech team. There’s no formula for avoiding friction 100%, but let’s look at some immediate steps we can take when friction occurs and then some proactive steps you can take in the long term to create a healthier environment.
The very first thing you can do when friction occurs is to embrace it. This doesn’t mean to seek it out or make it a goal, but instead, merely embrace it when it comes. Your goal as a leader is not to avoid friction but to be the first one in to investigate what’s going on when it shows up. As a leader, you need to learn to lean into friction. Learn from it and investigate it. What caused it to happen? Be the first person to uncover friction points and discuss them. Want further help on this? No better place to look than Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace.
One of the most important and immediate steps to take when dealing with friction between members is to handle and address it directly. Don’t skirt around the issue. Don’t casually make snarky comments or jokes about the issue. Deal with it. Call it what it is. Don’t be passive aggressive. Be honest and be aggressive in dealing with it. And that leads me to the next way to deal with friction…
Deal with it Immediately
Don’t wait for a week until you have your next staff meeting. Don’t think it’s going to be fine and that you can move on. Have a conversation immediately. As soon as rehearsal is over, seek that person out. If they leave before you can talk to them, call them. If they don’t answer, leave a message and let them know you want to talk as soon as possible about the issue. Talk to that person directly about the issue. Don’t “gossip in Jesus’ name” to someone else about the issue. Go to the person that wronged you and go to them quickly.
Bonus tip: Don’t do it over email or another written form of communication. Do it in person. Take my word for it. I once dumped my girlfriend via email on her birthday. Thankfully she’s nicer than me and decided to forgive me and now we’re married – happily married I should add.
In that conversation, work to clearly define the problem and discover what caused it in the first place. Why are you frustrated with the sound engineer? Why is the production director frustrated with you? Does there need to be more communication? Does there need to be additional or better preparation? Work to clarify the problem and then you’ll be able to start working toward a solution. I have to say the majority of issues I’ve seen stem from a lack of communication and a lack of understanding of the other person’s perspective. Typically a few small changes, more detail on Planning Center, or an occasional conversation outside of church and work will do wonders.
Okay take a deep breath. You’ve worked through that issue. Now what can you do to avoid another issue like this in the future?
Understand Their Perspective
Step away from your perspective and role, and try to serve in their role. Help your sound engineer setup and teardown before and after service. Ask to volunteer or shadow them on a weekend you have off. One of the most valuable things for me was to spend a summer working for a production company. It was easy to put myself in the tech team’s shoes, because for a summer I woke up and my shoes became theirs. It taught me how to see things from their perspective. I felt the feeling of being the first one in and the last one out. I knew how it felt to work with musicians that didn’t acknowledge your presence until they needed something. And man, did it change how I began to interact with the tech team.
Put Them on Your Team
Make the tech team part of the worship team. Whether you realize it or not, they already are. You’re leading worship vocally; they’re leading worship by pushing a fader, turning a knob, or using a computer. Just because they likely aren’t visible in the moment while they’re doing their job, they are still an incredibly crucial part of the team. Take practical steps to call them the worship team. Invite them to pray with you before and between services. Call them worship leaders; it will begin to change your interactions. Here’s a crazy thought: Invite them to help plan the service. Pick songs, verses, and things to say. You’ll be amazed at how much more unity there is.
Check Your Communication
Evaluate how you’re communicating. While working on this article, I was part of an event where I was leading a discussion at a worship conference with a band about this very subject. While discussing ways to improve communication between the sound engineer and the band, the sound guy brought up a great, practical example: Use a talkback mic. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s a mic at the soundboard that only goes to the in-ears of everyone on stage. The example in comparison was of the band yelling at the sound guy for adjustments for their in-ears. Although they weren’t having a conflict, the means of communicating didn’t make it a pleasant situation. It’s easy to understand how someone could walk into the rehearsal having a bad day and as soon as someone yells at them, they’re immediately frustrated. Evaluate how you’re communicating and, like I’ve mentioned in a previous article here, make sure you communicate early, often, and in a language your people speak.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, be a human. Don’t be a robot. Essentially, be nice. Say hi when you arrive and bye when you leave. Get to know the people on your team. Learn what they like and what they don’t like. Start to talk to them and if you can, talk to them outside of church. Become friends. It will do wonders for your relationships.
Remember: Friction is inevitable. As a leader, keep an eye out for friction and when you see it, bring it to the surface. Deal with it. In doing so, your team will become so much better, so much more unified, and everyone will be better for it. It’s your responsibility to surface it and work through it. If your goal is a unified, fun productive team, then friction is actually a means for getting that.