3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Leading
This year is the first year that I have been a worship leader for over half of my life. Each life experience has taught me a lot, on and off stage, and as I think about all of the leaders God is raising up in the next generation, I have three words of advice I would give to the former me if I could.
Maybe you’re familiar with the tension of the squeaky wheels versus the quiet wheels. (The squeaky ones get the grease—that is, most of the attention)
I define the tension like this: the quiet wheels are your key, reliable volunteers. They show up on time and don’t get offended very often. They help your weekend services happen, and they don’t need a ton of acknowledgment of their awesomeness.
The squeaky wheels, however, often have last minute interruptions to their serving schedule, don’t get along with some of the other teammates, and often want to have conversations about negative things they see in the ranks.
If you’re not careful, you’ll use a high amount of your most precious resource - energy - on helping the squeaky wheels function at an ok level, and never get around to helping the quiet wheels achieve their superior potential.
So, how can you effectively handle the issues that come up with the squeaky wheels and still pour into the enjoyable, life-giving quiet wheels? First of all, remember that it’ll be best to focus on the quiet wheels, not only for you personally but for the ministry you’re serving as a whole.
Put the quiet wheels first. Honor them with recognition when you can, and commend their high-functioning teamwork. Schedule time with them, and prioritize it.
Train and help them however you can - isn’t this one of the lines of your job description that you got most excited about? Don’t let it get stolen by the tyranny of the urgent.
Second, when a squeaky wheel brings up an issue, immediately create boundaries around it. Communicate clearly. If they want to share a concern, tell them you only have a certain time frame free to discuss it.
Third, if a squeaky wheel has done something not-very-admirable, address it clearly and demand better in the future. If it’s a repeating squeak, don’t be afraid to do whatever you need to do to keep health on your team as a whole.
I’ve found that squeaky wheels shouldn’t get the bulk of my attention, and I’ve made it a goal to pursue team members who know how to self-regulate, act with wisdom, and stay positive.
You’re the leader. So believe it or not, the team wants to please you. If they know where you stand on an issue, they will be less likely to throw out other points of view.
If you’re leading a discussion, don’t share your thoughts on the subject first - let their brilliance shine up front, and take it in. They will feel more heard and be more honest.
It certainly took me a long time to learn this. In fact, I can recall more than one time where I’ve said to my team, “What do you guys think about this _____; I think this _____.” in the same sentence. Am I even asking what they think?? :)
Also, I’ve had a few situations that, looking back, I could have let work out on their own. I’ve learned to be less quick to jump in—observation is the best first course of action.
Whenever something has occurred that you have to address, and you weren’t there to observe it first hand, NEVER share your two cents before saying this: “Tell me more about what happened.” Get the whole story first - from everyone. Your opinion may change after hearing it.
If there’s someone you butt heads with, be aware of the number of conversations that happen around your differing opinions versus the number of positive ones.
Watch for moments where you ARE on the same page, and point it out. Let them know you’re on their team, and admire them for many things they do.
They more camaraderie you can build, the better chance you have of getting their buy-in and support on things, and the less tension will remain between you.
In general, most leaders should ask more, assert less. Be kind. Then when you do give an opinion on an issue, people will probably take it more seriously.
Approach your role as a leader with reverence. Part of why God put you in this position is to safeguard and protect the ministry you oversee (or help oversee).
Is there someone on your team, or wanting to join, that you feel uneasy about? Have you seen some red flags?
God may be telling you to tread cautiously. Never ignore your gut feeling about a person. Explore it and pray about it. Get to know them, and take things slow regarding their involvement and any potential responsibilities.
For example, I’ve known people with the talent, experience, vibe on stage, etc. and put them on stage quickly, ignoring their tendency to be cliquey, to gossip, or to not take rules very seriously. I can’t think of one time where the problem I saw at the beginning got smaller. In fact, it seems like it always got bigger the longer they stuck around.
So don’t be so afraid of confrontation that you let someone serve who you know shouldn’t. Also, pray for God to bring the right people, and send the wrong people away. Your team needs to be filled with people who GET IT - and know how to serve the Bride of Christ with maturity and integrity.
What are some things you’ve learned as a leader? What would you tell you from five years ago? Leave your comments below!
Andrea Hamilton Binley is the worship director at Inland Hills Church and singer/songwriter at www.HopefulAndrea.com. Follow her on Twitter @AndreaHamilton.
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