As technicians, we like to have everything planned out. For our team to believe in us, we need to know exactly how things are going to work and what the next step is. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way.
To have an effective plan, you need to think about what may go wrong and be ready for that, but you can't be prepared for every contingency. I believe the best technical leaders are only 70 percent sure of the next step. That may seem surprising, but if tech leaders were 100 percent certain, they would not have to rely on faith or be open to the potential of God changing the plan to fit His desires.
Since change is inevitable, we need to plan for margin in our lives. If you plan 100 percent of your day and your week and anything goes wrong at all, you will be constantly running behind and stressing out. Additionally, if you plan to spend 100 percent of your paycheck every pay period, you will always operate in the red because unforeseen things happen. Allowing for margin in our finances and in our schedule gives us the ability to flow with change.
We must be practical in life. Schedule break times and spots where you can catch up. Take a Sabbath day. Plan for emergencies, changes and financial issues by building a contingency fund. Instead of attempting to track all of this in your mind, write it down and utilize your budget to drive your life. Many people I have given this advice to say they just can't do it. However, after they write down a budget of their time and finances, they find that they do have areas that they can trim and use the time or cash for those times when life throws them a curveball.
Sometimes, even though people have margin in their lives, they still get stressed with change. Generally, change is difficult. But if it makes you angry, negative and hardened, assess why you feel that way and make sure your fight against change is not because you feel your kingdom is being threatened. Stress can take hold when your domain is altered in some way, but it shouldn't make you angry or push you to lash out at others. If our goal is to elevate God's kingdom, a sure sign that we are protecting our own kingdom is when change creates so much tension we can't get past it. If we revisit a leader's actions through gossip long after a decision was made, we're protecting our kingdom.
One way to prevent getting stressed over change is to let everyone else present their ideas before you do. If you stop and listen to each thought and idea, you will find that many times what you want to do will be presented before you even speak. You will also understand the problem better by seeing it through the eyes of the others looking to secure a solution. This is not easy to do. As leaders, it's so tempting to jump in and tell everyone how it's going to be done, but taking the time to hear every person out is very rewarding.
On the other hand, if you simply must make a decision counter to what everyone else is presenting, you will know it in advance and be able to address the concerns presented. Often, listening first will create more refined solutions. It builds the trust and confidence of team members and lets everyone know they've been heard and understood. They'll know their contribution is relevant to solving problems for the team. Most importantly, this process allows you to be a leader who is responsive to the issues presented by your team.
I always want people to feel that I'm reachable. In the words of Charlie Puth, "Superman got nothing on me. I'm only one call away." This doesn't mean I'm always answering my phone and never take a day off, but that I need to care for people, their problems and their ideas. For that to be true, I must be willing to listen to my team members versus just hearing them. Hearing is being aware of something going on around you, but listening means paying attention or giving consideration to every detail.
If you want the team to believe in you as a technical leader, take note of these principles. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and calm in your response. Always include margin for change while maintaining an attitude of faith that the situation will work out according to God's will and purpose. Live by these precepts, and you will find your technical leadership stride.
David Leuschner is the executive director of Digital Great Commission Ministries (audiovideolighting.com), a nonprofit organization that utilizes technology to reach the world for Christ. From 2006 to 2017, Leuschner served as senior director of technology and technical arts at Gateway Church. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (both @davidleuschner).
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