You Must Ask for Critiques

A few weeks ago I was traveling up to the mountains of Virginia from Atlanta by myself for a few hours and made a few phone calls to pass the time. Over the last year or so I have found myself actually liking to make phone calls instead of texting. That has nothing to do with this story, but maybe a post for a later date.

On one particular phone call a buddy and I got into the discussion of that uneasy & terrible feeling you get when your boss, coworkers, higher ups, etc. are not sharing with you what they truly believe about your work performance. When days, weeks, and even months go by when you never hear anything specific about your work peformance. You may get the weekly “great job”, but you get that gut feeling there is something there that they would like to tell you. And I get it, confrontation is not fun. Telling someone how to improve honestly (for most normal people) is not a natural thing we do. So for many people they wait until the annual review to get the download of all the things they “could” have improved on during the last 12 months. And I did exactly that until recently when I decided to go after the critiques and ask specific ways to improve… weekly.

Basically I decided to go on the offense and seek improvement instead of being asked to improve. So I personally call my boss (production director) each Saturday night on the way home after our Saturday night worship experience and ask…

  1. What he thought.
  2. What can I/we do better.
  3. What do I/we need to do again the next day.

Fortunately I have boss who loves to talk shop so the phone doesn’t bother him (that I’m aware of). And with Atlanta traffic we both have some time on our hands.

So this week start asking your boss the three questions I ask each week myself. I promise you that you will only get better clarity on what you are doing. You may just find out you are better than you thought and you can relax a little with the worry. Or you may find out your not as good as you thought and you have some improvement. Either way it will be a win for yourself and your team.

“One” Step at a Time

Each year for the past seven years or so I have picked one word to focus on for an entire year. The My One Word challenge is simple: lose the long the list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you in the year ahead. This process forces clarity and results in focus.

Some years I’ve been better than others about sticking to the challenge. This year I am praying that I have my strongest year to date. I have gotten started by finally deciding on my specific one word today, only a little over a month late, but who is counting. And my one word for 2017 is… ONE.

  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Take one step at a time.
  • Invest in my wife (I have just one).
  • Invest in my son, Noah (I have just one).
  • Stop worrying about tomorrow and instead focus on today (one).
  • Focus on one chapter in scripture at a time.
  • Take one step at a time on the treadmill.
  • Eat one healthy meal at a time.

I can go on for quite awhile, but using the word ONE this year is to focus on the next right step and focus on being in the here and now.

Today for example I felt in tune with the word and God. I set my alarm for 6:00am and laid out my clothes, got my coffee mug and Bible ready at the table the night before. Then before I fell asleep I kept telling myself that my next one thing to do is to turn the shower on once I hear my alarm. I didn’t have to think about all that happens after that. I did not worry if Noah would wake up and end my reading time early. I did not have to think about making him breakfast or getting to my meeting at 10:00am. I just had to get my feet touching the floor and go turn the shower on. Once I got there I could continue to the next step, but before I did that I enjoyed my shower and time of prayer.

I encourage you to check out myoneword.org and even pick up the book. It’s never to late to start the process.

Listen, Evaluate, and Then Decide

Lately I’ve caught myself in conversations telling others to listenevaluate, and decide a lot. It may be coming across as advice to others because I have been trying to engage in feedback lately with those three words in mind.

Here is what I mean in short form:

Listen

Stop talking and just listen. If you are married you know what I mean here. It’s very hard to do this part, but it is the best thing you can do. So when someone approaches you with feedback you did not solicit go ahead and listen. Don’t justify your decisions. If you solicited the feedback once again don’t start defending your choices. Just listen.

Evaluate

You have now taken the time to actually listen to someone’s opinion. Other’s opinions are very important to improving your art/decisions/product. The thing to remember though is every opinion is just that… an opinion. So once you have taken the time to listen you must take the time to evaluate. You will base the evaluation on many factors that only you can decide on. The key here is to take the time and evaluate what you have heard from others.

Decide

Now that you have listened and evaluated you must decide. And this must be based around vision and values. If you begin making decisions based on wavering vision and values you will continue to make reactionary changes based solely on peoples opinions and not vision. This is extremely hard for church production environments. Lights, video and audio volume can be and should be decided based on vision/values and not just complaints/compliments. It’s difficult in the moments you must make a decision, but no matter what decision you make some peoples opinions will be opposite. And once again with vision you can make your way through those circumstances.

So this week as you create new art, scripts, music, policies, curriculum be sure to listen to others, evaluate what you have heard, and then decide based on your vision and values.

Five Things Not to Do During Annual Reviews

Over the last two weeks I have had the honor of sitting down with some of my staff to conduct annual reviews. This is always a good time because it gives us a chance to look into the future and not so much the past. And to most this unfortunately sounds wrong because they spend the time informing their staff members of how they have not met expectations and how they can improve on that.

Now I have only been in the position to conduct annual reviews for two years now, but I feel like I have learned a lot in these two years. I am still learning and pushing to get better, but there are a few things I have learned.

Here 5 things that may be causing you problems in your annual review:

1. You Don’t Prepare

Be sure to have some type of structure or review/evaluation sheet to use as you prep for the review. Usually your organization has some form of evaluation form, but if not be sure to create your own. Take the evaluation form and be sure to fill it out completely and spend a decent amount of time thinking back over the past year. This is your moment to “officially” pour into your staff. Do not forget to prep.

2. You Don’t Share Your Expectations Throughout the Year

If you do not share your expectations throughout the year, don’t expect the review to go very well. It’s your job as a leader to lead your staff throughout the entire year by sharing with them when they are meeting expectations/job requirements or not. Believe me, your staff would rather you tell them when they begin to move off course and not at the end the year. Trust that your staff wants to do their best and the way for them to do that is by having one-on-one time throughout the year. Do not forget to share your expectations during the year.

3. You Don’t Let Them Respond

I once sat in a review at an old job while in my early years of college and I was not given one moment to respond and ask questions during my review. The review went for the most part real well, but I did have questions about some of the expectations that I was not meeting. Unfortunately I was not able to get much clarity on the topics and left with not much vision or motivation. Be sure as you share both the strengths and the weakness (aka: opportunities for improvement) you let your staff respond, ask questions, disagree, agree, etc. The point here is to be sure there is a conversation happening during the review. Do not forget to let them respond.

4. You Don’t Let Them Share their Thoughts

This I guess could be part 2 of the above point. At the end of each review I have with my staff I now allow for 30–45 mins of time to be theirs. After we go through my thoughts and structure I open up the time for them to share how they feel. It’s their time to let me know how they feel I am doing & our organization. This may seem backwards during a review session, but believe me this is one of the best times you can have to walk out of your office on the same page. Your staff most likely are very passionate and smart people. They are also the people with their so-called “boots on the ground” in their specific areas. So listen when they show signs of worry, stress, hesitation, etc. What I have learned is just because I am higher up the org chart and been around longer does not mean I have the best idea in the room nor the real-time data like someone who works in the trenches each day. This does not mean you automatically take their ideas and run with them. Just be sure to give their thoughts the weight they deserve. They are most likely carrying out the work you will be putting into play. So do not forget to let them share their thoughts.

5. You Don’t Lose the Desk

This is a simple one. Get out from behind your desk. Move to a coffee table, couches, booth, picnic table, etc. Anything will work other than putting a desk in between you and your staff member. I learned this from my boss/mentor Chris Kuhne. The boss’ desk has some type of stigma with it and it’s best to tear down that barrier. Do not forget to find that coffee table.


This is my first time back at writing, so I apologize for the grammar (which I am terrible at), but I did want to start sharing my thoughts. My favorite author John Maxwell says Leadership is influence, and I want to share what I have learned throughout the years with others. I hope you find this article helpful and if so, feel free to share it with a friend.