Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Tech
Most everyone is familiar with the 23rd Psalm. I know I got a star by my name when I recited it from memory in my sixth grade Sunday School Class. It must have had an impact on my life as I still can recite it from memory and remember the day I did so in front of a room full of twelve year- olds.
The key message of the 23rd Psalm is not the valley, but that in the valley you are not alone and thus you should have no fear. But how does all of this apply to tech? Just the same as it does with all of life. In my previous two columns I talked about those who walk through the valley of tech alone, the “Lone Rangers” and the importance of forming a team of techs, so that as a team all could have reasonability, accountability, and easability.
The valley of tech can truly be a fearful place if it is ventured into alone or even as a team, if there is no one there to guide you through it. A guide can provide the team with assistance and encouragement because he/she possesses knowledge and experience. Someone who has been there, done that, knows the way: a leader.
The leader is the key to the success of any team or organization. But more importantly, the leader must be a person everyone on the team looks to as the example of what the team is all about. So before you consider forming a TechTeam, you must carefully consider who will be the leader of that team. Organizations tend to get it backwards: they put together a team, and then out of that team they elect a leader. In the world of tech, this is not a good way to select a leader. Let me explain.
To select our leader, we must define his/her job requirements and then pick the person that best meets those qualifications. The first and most important job requirement of our team leader is knowledge. I believe our leader must have more technical knowledge than the total sum of all the volunteer members of the TechTeam. The reason I make such a bold statement is because this single attribute assures a leader of credibility, and without credibility you simply cannot lead a team of volunteer techs. But even beyond that, the leader is the only place a volunteer tech can seek help, especially when that volunteer is in the valley of tech and needs help immediately.
We have all been there: something is happening and we don’t know the reason; or even worse – when something is not happening and it’s supposed to and “it’s show time.” This is when we look to our leader, someone with more knowledge than we have to get us out of this valley. But knowledge is not the only attribute for which we need to look, we also need to consider experience. In the above example, past experience may be more of a determining factor in resolving the problem than knowledge. But in either case it is the leader who is looked to for help.
So first look for some one with both knowledge and experience, as this is whom the TechTeam will look to in their time of need. But our tech’s lives are not always lived in the valley, so what other attributes do we need to look for in our team leader? Well, if we go back to the 23rd Psalm, we again get our answer. Our leader needs to have the ability to be sensitive to the needs of the TechTeam, to make them lie down beside still waters, to take a break from it all, to get refreshed. To have a sense of the tech volunteers’ personal needs as they relate to each other on the team and others around them.
Our leader needs to understand and manage the human side of our technical volunteer. He/she needs to be able identify technical strengths and develop those strengths into skills. The TechTeam leader also needs to understand the personality of the “typical” tech volunteer and help his/her leftbrain communicate with the right-brain people he/she is trying to serve. And finally, an effective leader needs to lead a team by example, with encouragement and appreciation.
It is the leader that sets the example, the attitude, the desire, and the level of excellence, which the team will follow. If the leader shows up on time for the Sunday morning rehearsal, wearing neat dress casual clothes, with a smile and a positive attitude about the task ahead, does it not make sense that the team will follow his/her example? I guarantee if the leader was late, the team would begin arriving late. If the leader were not neatly dressed, the team would follow suit (no pun intended). And if the leader had a bad attitude about the task… I think you get the idea. The selection of your team leader will not only affect your TechTeam, it will affect your church and its mission.
Let me close with an example of TechTeam leadership affecting the growth of a church. This church had grown to approximately 2,000 members and stopped growing. Its TechTeam was made up of two people who ran sound, and two more who ran the lights and image magnification. While the lighting and image magnification was adequate, the sound quality in this church was terrible. The Worship, Music, and Arts Pastor decided to do something about this problem and created a TechTeam headed up by a leader with the attributes discussed above. The TechTeam, under its new structure and leadership, solved the problems with the sound system. The church once again started growing. Today, this once stagnant church has over 3,000 members, and is now located in a brand new 2,500 seat facility. The key to this growth was improving the quality of sound in the old facility. Everything else stayed the same. The sound problems were corrected because of a qualified leader and a dedicated team working together. It is not the valley that makes us fearful and afraid. It is the fact that sometimes we find ourselves alone.
With a TechTeam and its leader in the valley together, there will be no fear, only strength and confidence that will result in technical excellence. Next issue: “Your mission, should you chose to accept it…”