Being a great production manager has a lot more to do with managing people than managing equipment. That was the message from Justin Firesheets in October during a leadership session at WFX 2013 in Dallas.
Firesheets is the production manager of Birmingham, Alabama-based Church of the Highlands. He offered event attendees 12 solid pieces of advice for being a better church production leader.
1. Put Your Character First
A title may give a leader authority, but it's his character that gives him influence. Firesheets suggests production leaders remember this lesson first and foremost. "People don't really care how much the leader knows about production until they first know that leader cares," he says. "If leaders want to see change in their teams, they should first adopt the change in themselves."
2. Set the Ego Aside
When hiring people, look for people smarter than you. Rather than feeling threatened or intimidated by bright, knowledgeable team members, embrace them as your best assets. "Leaders always work for the betterment of the team rather than their own personal benchmarks," Firesheets reminds managers. "The greatest leaders are those who can create more leaders. So, be sure to provide training and coaching for even your best team members."
3. Focus on Teamwork
A leader understands the direct correlation that exists between leader performance and team performance. "If the team doesn't perform, the leader can't reach his goals," Firesheets says. "And if the boss doesn't do well, the team won't be able to get things done right."
Leaders promote the spiritual and relational growth of his team in order to maximize overall productivity. They do this, Firesheets advises, through "constant feedback and motivation."
4. Learn to Listen
A good manager is one whose door and mind is always open. Leaders will promote critical thinking and be able to hear and respond to challenging ideas. "Leaders should promote talking things out," Firesheets says. "They shouldn't be afraid of tough conversations."
5. Treat People as Individuals
Production leaders should try and "disciple" willing team members. "Coaching and training individuals can be an effective way to boost and motivate the right talent," Firesheets says. He warns, however, that leaders shouldn't change standards to meet coaching goals. Rather, they should "try changing the approach."
6. Praise in Public; Correct in Private
The golden rule in management applies: praise in public, chastise in private. "Consider praising team members publicly to set examples and motivate," Firesheets suggests. "But criticism should always be done in private."
The best bosses are those who offer clear, transparent processes for employee and team evaluations. Team members are updated regarding their performance, and any shortcomings they have are given the chance to be overcome. "Past challenges shouldn't hinder future growth," Firesheets says.
7. Share Ownership
Keep the focus on "us" and "our" efforts. These aren't your ideas that the team is executing; they are the team's ideas that you're managing. "The team should feel ownership of all ideas and initiatives," Firesheets says. "A good leader will always accept feedback and suggestions.
8. Keep Authority in Check
Consistency and quality should be the goals of a production team. That requires a team effort. Too many oppressive, top-down "orders" could undermine this effort. "The leader knows the occasions when only top-down decisions will work," Firesheets says, "and leaders will only use authority wisely. The primary trait a leader should possess is the ability to stay calm, even in the most pressurizing situations."
9. Offer Insight
When incorporating a change, don't just levy an order. Explain why the process has evolved. Show the benefits of the change to church. Doing this, Firesheets advises, will enable team members to have "the big picture." They will more readily adopt the new method.
10. Figure It Out
When a problem is presented, it's not enough to "live with it" or circumvent it. Solve it. "Leaders derive solutions," Firesheets says. "Admit weaknesses and ask for help focusing on the issues."
11. Keep Learning
The development of skills and management techniques should be ongoing. "The leader's ability to learn and grow will set the standard for his or her team," Firesheets says.
12. Be Principled
"The best teams are those that are proud to stand in line with their leaders," Firesheets explains. "Successful leaders lead by serving the team well." This requires a transparent, consistent approach built on real principles and communication.
Geffrey Oldmison is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and editor.