Over my 25+ year career (yes, I?m that old?), I?ve received a few pieces of really good advice. Advice that has shaped how I do what I do. Advice that kept me sane. This particular bit of wisdom probably shaped how I approached my role as a technical director (TD)?more than anything.
Several years ago, I was working on staff at a mid-size church in western New York. I was paid to work 10 hours a week as the TD, and 10 hours a week as the Student Ministries Media Coordinator. We were doing three services a weekend?one Saturday and two Sunday?plus a mid-week rehearsal. The technical systems were a mess and the tech team was in disarray.
Student ministries had Jr. High on Mondays, Sr. High on Tuesdays. And we shot a new, original video about every three weeks. It doesn?t take PhD-level math skills to realize that?s more than 20 hours a week. And after about six months on the job I was drowning. Mainly because I was also working four full days at a video production company.
Late one night after rehearsal, I was in my office working on something. My boss, the worship pastor, stopped by on her way home. She asked how I was doing, and I told here I was buried. I had no idea how I would possibly get everything done. She gave me one little bit of advice that seems so simple, yet is so profound. ?You have to figure out what it is that only you can do, and focus on doing that. Give everything else to someone else.?
That was a pivotal moment for me. It had already become clear that the to-do list would never be to-done. I would never get caught up. But there were key tasks that had to be completed each week?and someone else could do many of those.
I looked at my schedule with new eyes. Some things, like setting up for rehearsal, could be easily handed off. I found a retired congregant that wanted to serve. He was a retired engineer who had some technical knowledge, but didn?t want to commit to the time to learn to mix a weekend. But he was happy to follow a stage plot and input list and set up the stage each week. I suddenly found one-two hours a week!
I had been creating all the worship lyrics each week as well. I spent a few weeks training our presentation team how to do it, then handed that off. Another hour found. And so it went. After a few months, I was able to get focused on the big picture tasks: re-tuning the PA, re-wiring the video distribution network, building custom stage snakes, installing in-ear monitors, and organizing back stage.
I accomplished more in the next twelve months than I ever thought possible in 10-ish hours a week. And I even managed to fit in a weekly day off!
Do the Hard Thing
It?s probably one of the hardest things we do as TDs?handing things off to others. Often, others don?t do things quite the way we would want or up to our level of excellence. But if they?re getting things done, and it?s good enough, we have to let it go. If we get so focused on every single detail of our jobs, we will ultimately be ineffective. There?s no way you can do everything, and the sooner you figure that out the better. You have to determine what things only you can do and what things you can hand off.[quote]There?s no way you can do everything, and the sooner you figure that out the better.[/quote]
Once you hand them off, check in once in a while to make sure things are going as planned. But for the most part, keep away. Make sure to properly train and empower people before handing off. It will seem like a lot of work up front, but it pays off in the end. If you fail this step, you will find yourself doing more work to correct whatever someone else did.
It?s easy for us TDs to develop martyr complexes and feel like only we can do everything. I can tell you from first hand experience that this is a quick road to burnout. Look at your schedule impartially and harshly. Figure out what only you can do, and focus on that. You may even have to give up things you enjoy doing to do things that you simply must do.[quote]Figure out what only you can do, and focus on that.[/quote]
The good news is; it may only be for a season. Sometimes, we have to focus on something to get it working right. After that, we can hand it off and get back to things that are fun for us. But you?ll never get there until you prioritize well and delegate.