Dale Carnegie once said: “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
Attitude is contagious. Good ones uncover possibilities and bad ones cast shadows of doubt over everything.
People desire hope. Often we create hope in our art, but are we living hope in our attitudes? It’s not easy. We shouldn’t have to “fake it”, but we have to remember that the attitude we have is setting tone. Attitude sets the climate for how people react, feel, process, act and believe. The only person who wants to be around negativity is a person who is negative. But people who are positive are like magnets. They bring out the best in others.
Sometimes we have to work a little to find the silver lining but it exists, and it is worth the effort to uncover it:
• We get to do this
• We get to create
• Some of us get paid to create
• We are part of a movement that is changing our community, city, state, and country…WORLD!
• Most of us get to work with amazing people. (I am SUPER blessed to work with an amazing team)
We all get upset and frustrated from time to time, that is natural, but choosing how we deal with issues matters. We tell our team all the time: “We are going to choose to respond not react”. Responses are thought through and deliberate while reactions are filled with emotion and often are not what we really mean.
Attitude even trumps talent, eventually. The lie is that talent permissions people to act how they want because if they are really good at what they do people will put up with them being difficult, for a season. Then, eventually, the balance of talent and attitude will shift and people will get tired of dealing with jerks. You can’t be a jerk and have longevity. At some point, some day, someone will decide they are done dealing with jerky attitude and ask you and your talent to move on…but what would happen if you took your immense talent and you were nice. You would be lethal.
Our attitudes matter. Today. Now. What is yours saying? Let’s choose to break the stereotype of cranky artists and be nice, speak life, and allow not only our art to speak for us, but our attitude as well.
What if our only goal was to create surprises?
When we’re surprised it usually means we’re getting something we didn’t expect. Sometimes it can be negative, but what if we set out to create great surprises?
What if when someone requested a service from us not only did we give them what they asked for, but we gave them so much more?
What if instead of being upset because we have so many requests we got excited by so many opportunities to surprise?
Surprise is a reaction. It’s something we can create. Surprise says you went above and beyond. Surprise deters all the jaded, status quo attitudes that tend to creep into our spaces. Surprise lets us turn forms, maps, stages, etc all into art.
Too often we wish that our cultures “understood” or “desired” more creativity. When we choose to create surprises with every project we work on, we build that culture.
It’s about opportunity and what we do as artists with these precious moments. You can create just what was requested…or we can create some surprises!
In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, author and professor Bruce Nussbaum beautifully articulated the power of creativity in our world today:
“Creative competence is like a sport. You can train for it and increase the capacities of yourself and your organization.”
But in our churches and with creative teams mostly filled with volunteers, how do we train effectively?
The fact that we’re in an organization that even sees the value of a “creative team” is a gift. In 2010, IBM did a now famous survey of 1,500 CEO’s and asked what the most valuable skill would be moving forward for organizations. The winner? Creativity. But only 9% of those CEOs have been able to put creativity into practice.
I think our churches get this concept. We are trying to be innovative and creative in service programming, user experiences in our lobbies, and in how we’re communicating. But is that enough?
- The first way to exercise creativity in our churches is to empower those who are in the trenches. Because most of us “wear more than one hat,” we see what needs to be adjusted and changed early. We can identify when what we’re doing isn’t working. That may not mean we have the answer, but we at least can identify the problem and get with others to start to problem solve. Responsibility without empowerment leaves us with a problem, but not the ability to adjust.
- Second, we have to trust. Not just trust blindly, but trust with data. When we identify areas for improvement, it’s important that we share the data then trust our “creative brokers” – those entrusted with and connected to the resources necessary to move the needle on creative ideas; to make the best decision. It may not always be the decision we think is best, but we have to trust they’re filtering all the data to deal with the most important issues.
- Third, it’s so important we’re seeking a blend of youth and seasoning. When we fail to backfill our organizations with young creatives, we’ll lose our ability to be innovative. Further, when we cut out the people who have some miles, we won’t have the wisdom necessary to actually execute the amazing and innovative ideas that the next generation are ready to share. It’s a fine and humbling balance. It takes trust both ways and a willingness to work together on a bigger goal.
- Fourth, are we creating engagement? If we’re not creating engagement to what we are doing, it isn’t working. For years, user experience was king. But regardless of how good the experience, if people aren’t connecting, using, and sharing that experience – or engaging it – we’re just making wall art. It has to share and has to be easy to engage with.
- Finally, have the conversation. If we’re going to employ these exercises, we have to set the expectations. With our teams, our volunteers, our boss – whomever. A big part of setting the expectation is defining the win in this conversation. When we know the target, we’re able to identify if what we’re doing is working or if we’re spinning our wheels.
So today, in your church or organization, what can you do to find ways to perform these exercises? We have to get better each week and these exercises can start us on the path. I would love to hear how you are going to start this process practically this week.
You are creative. Not just creative, you create and the stuff you create matters.
Being creative has left you confused, unsettled, and at times frustrated beyond belief. You wonder why you have to put up with the responses you get sometimes. But being creative is a gift that allows you to usher in the future. Being creative is a responsibility that requires you to not give up when you’re frustrated, but to lean in and understand the things that frustrate you are actually birthing the culture, the feel, and the future of your organization.
You see, as someone who is creative there are a few things that you understand that others don’t or won’t.
You remember that you’re successful because you love what you do so much that you invest your life in it, What you create will matter because the passion you bring to work with you every day will change everything.
You understand that the responsibility of being creative requires you to criticize by creating.
You refuse the temptation to complain and embrace the opportunity to make things better.
You trust the people, the systems, and the decisions around you and empower your team to do its absolute best work – even when it makes you nervous.
You understand that every single experience you’ve ever had builds on itself to create who you are today and the tool box that you bring to work every day.
You understand the need to collaborate and you fight to surround yourself with the best people possible.
You understand that anything worth making is going to have people who love it like crazy and hate it equally as passionately. You know if you don’t have haters you aren’t doing anything that matters.
But most of all, you understand that when you are scared and when you hear those voices in your head that haunt you like crazy and you feel that you’re about to fail miserably, you’re not only on the right track but that it’s time to run as fast as you can towards your fear. In your fear, you will find your future.
Are you ready to be your best you?
Focus can get blurry. Probably not intentionally, but it happens. No one sets out to create busywork just to keep idle hands busy but it happens sometimes. As creative leaders it is our responsibility to make sure our teams are working at optimum efficiency. None of us has time to sit back and take inventory of every project in every department every day…but we all have 30 seconds to ask a few questions to make sure that we are doing work that matters. If we ask these questions and we get stumped, it possibly may not be right for our teams.
- Why should we execute this idea?
- What is the vision that will drive this idea?
- Have we allowed assumption to get in our way?
- What are the wins in executing this idea?
- What are the risks?
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- How can I delight the end user?
- Will this idea connect with our audience?
- Does this idea have the ability to increase momentum?
- What would happen if we did the opposite of this idea?
- Why are we fearing doing this?
- Has anyone ever tried this?
- Have we measured expectations?
- What if we took something away?
- Could we add to this idea?
- What if we used a different medium to share this idea?
- Does this idea require more resources than it’s worth?
- Who should we be allowing to contribute to this idea?
- Do we have an expert in this field in our circle?
- Is this idea on mission?
- Will this idea move us forward or create sideways energy?
These questions will help us identify the priority of each project we are working on and help us stay focused.
What are some questions you ask in order to keep yourself and your team focused?
One of the best things about my life is getting to be in community with amazing people. People who are passionate about what they do and are chasing the dreams and calling God has placed on their lives. It is so much fun watching them achieve milestones that will have an impact on the lives of so many others. Today, I get to interview Jenni Catron. Jenni is not only my friend, she is also my boss (see Question #10). Jenni is the executive director at Cross Point and the way she leads our team is inspiring. A week does not go by that I do not learn something new about leadership by watching and serving with her. Jenni just released her first book, JUST LEAD, co-authored by Sherry Surratt. You should check it out.
Ok, so Jenni…here we go!
1. As a women in leadership, what is the hardest part of leading men?
- You didn’t start with a soft ball! I think the hardest part in leading men is taking the time to build healthy relationships of mutual trust and respect. Sometimes we as women hinder the forming of these relationships because we allow our insecurities or fears to get the best of us. We often try to overcompensate and prove ourselves more than is necessary because we assume men won’t accept our leadership. I think we make a lot of assumptions about how men perceive us rather than opening the communication lines to start dialogue which leads to the building of those trusting and respectful relationships.
2. Why do you think people have surprise or issues with women in leadership?
- We all have a tendency to be fearful or tentative of something new or unknown. If you didn’t grow up with women in leadership, you may discover you have questions or uncertainties that you haven’t confronted. I think that is where most surprises or issues come from.
3. Who are your biggest heroes in leadership?
- Oh, wow… I have so many! My favorite leadership heroes from the Bible are Deborah and Nehemiah. From history they would be Queen Elizabeth I, Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, and William Wilberforce and Ronald Reagan. From my life, it’s been a series of mentors and bosses who poured into me and drawn the best out of me.
4. When you feel stumped, where do you go to be inspired?
- The beach. Somehow on the beach with an endless view of sand and water, I can breathe again. The world doesn’t feel like it’s closing in and I start dreaming again. But on a normal day when I can’t get to the beach (which is most of the time), I usually go for a good run which helps me release some tension and find some space to think.
5. Do you find it harder to lead creative people than it is to lead analytical people?
- Honestly, no. I truly love leading creative people. Perhaps I just like the challenge ☺. What I love about leading creative people is that they always see possibilities. They don’t get tied down to routine or predictability, they want to dream bigger dreams and they want to do greater things. The bigger challenge is in helping creative and analytical people work together. Helping them both appreciate one another is a secret mission of mine.
6. What is one thing you have done as a leader and looked back and said, “I don’t know how we did that?”
- I think Cross Point’s story to this point is the giant answer to that. I would have never dreamed that God would allow us the opportunities, the influence and the growth we’ve seen in 10 years. It’s truly one of those things that you can’t take credit for… you just have to say, “thank you, God for allowing me to be a part”.
7. What is one thing you have done as a leader and looked back and said, “We should not have done that?”
- There have been several times where I have pushed forward with a decision in spite of the fact that I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. In hindsight I can see that God was trying to get my attention, but I wasn’t listening to that voice of discernment. I was pushing forward with my own agenda. Those memories are reminders to slow down and seek God.
8. What is the biggest obstacle for women in leadership?
- Confidence. Unfortunately a lot of women get bogged down in fears, insecurities and question marks about their leadership abilities, which stalls and sometimes completing inhibits their influence. That was the primary reason that Sherry and I wrote Just Lead! – to encourage women to overcome some of the hurdles that are holding them back.
9. If you could tell a room full of college girls 1 thing about leadership, what would it be?
- To just lead! Each of us has a sphere of influence where our leadership is needed. There is someone just a couple steps behind you who is desperate for you to pour into them. If we learned to seize these opportunities for influence early, we would be such stronger leaders later in life.
10. Who is your favorite employee?
- Today, you are for featuring this interview ☺
Don’t forget to go and check out JUST LEAD.
Where is one area in life that it is time for you to “just lead?”
When we are looking to add to our teams, we always need to be aware of the necessary flavors that create great teams, but when we are in the hiring process, how do we know that we are building great, quality teams?
Here are a few clues:
1. Surround yourself with people you like to work with. There is nothing worse than being in a high stress situation and not enjoying the team that you are doing life with.
2. Find people who care passionately. If members are renters and not owners, it will breed frustration.
3. Respect the unique. Each person brings a different and unique tool box to the job each day. Respect the difference. Diversity creates better creative concepts.
4. Individuals united under one vision. Know where we are going, make it clear, repeat it often, and make sure everyone can buy into that direction. If not, they should move on.
5. Be clear. Define roles and expectations so everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them.
6. Trust Matters. If we can’t trust each other we will always start to wonder if intentions and motivations are pure.
7. People who can talk. We have to have teammates who can communicate, be clear, and be willing to have real and sometimes uncomfortable conversations without it becoming personal, unless it’s personal.
8. Identify people who understand the opportunity in front of us and have a sense of urgency without having a sense of panic.
9. Learners. People who desire to learn. Learners find out what is coming, better ways of doing what we do, and make creative teams much more creative.
10. Talent matters too. You can have all nine of the above traits, but without talent, everyone will become frustrated.
11. Look for people who are result oriented not excuses oriented.
What are some of the clues you look for when creating a team.
Daniel Bashta is a tremendous songwriter and worship leader. He recently released his new album, The Invisible, is available now on iTunes. We got a chance to chat about worship, art, and songwriting.
Why worship music?
- There is this part in Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell says when he runs he feels God’s pleasure. I really do love every form of true art, but there is something that happens in me when I start to lead worship. There is something so mystical and powerful something that no amount of branding or marketing could ever quite define. It all comes down to the presence of God. I’ve traveled the globe and I have seen the most miraculous things take place when the presence of God shows up. Do I believe that the world needs another worship song or worship recording, actually I don’t I honestly think God could care less, but I do believe that God is trying to say fresh things at timely moments, so my desire is that hopefully in someway I am able to be a piece of His raw heart beat to see a generation discover and encounter the real Jesus.
Who inspires you?
- Honestly any form of art and culture that is going against the grain. It doesn’t even have to boil down to the brand of Christianity. I love raw passion and unique expressions. Unfortunately that almost always falls outside the lines of Christianity. I truly believe with the ultimate and most majestic Creator and Dreamer living inside of us we should be the most creative people on the planet. I just think sometimes it comes down to believability and guts and unfortunately I feel like the church is somehow bent on duplication and replication rather then creating. To create usually means to live your life basically saying piss off to the status culture, which is what Jesus did. So far me inspiration always is something that leaves me saying wow, why are we not representing our Creator with these forms of expressions of art. It’s like I have this angst inside of me that just desires something more. Probably because there is so much to Jesus that I have only seen in part and I know there is so much more. Inspiration I feel like is always haunting and inescapable it leaves you wanting more and at the same time makes you uncomfortable because it is something fresh.
What’s your process for writing songs?
- I wish there was a perfect formula. Ha so does every song publishing company, but honestly there is not a perfect formula. I tend to really be motivated about writing when I hear a new or old record or see something that is wow why didn’t I write that or wow that is gorgeous. I go through seasons of being opposite of the quote and I’m 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration. Then there are times when I have this small sound byte of an idea and I have to really work and sweat to make it complete. I write in the most random places. I also have a group of people around me that I respect and I’ll show them a new idea just to see if they think it’s something worth working on. Sometimes ideas flow like a river and other times I feel like the stream is desolate. I never try to force something, I think you can sense in you guts when something is special. I always try to be opened handed as well. I try not treat every idea or song like it’s my special baby. I wish there were a perfect special formula because that would make this whole thing so much easier, but then again if it were easy we would have nothing to work for and I think that’s where true art shines through and when we write from our pain and our own story it goes from being make believe to gritty reality and I think that is where beautiful songs are birthed. I do think too that sometimes there is just something so special about a song no matter how simple or complex that God just breathes on and it’s just special.
Who would you most like to work with that you haven’t?
- Keith Green. Bob Dylan. Jonsi. Paul Meany(MuteMath). Bono. Daniel Lanois. Brian Eno. Brandon Flowers and King David.
What’s your secret to creating worship sets?
- I believe at the end of the day I am a worship leader not a worship artist. Which means I am meant to lead worship and not just create a vibey atmosphere. I want at the end of our worship time people to see and be fascinated more with Jesus then with me. So…. no matter what, every time I lead worship it is different. I try to think of a few things even every Sunday when I lead at my own church. What songs can we sing that people will connect and actually sing to doesn’t matter how old or new. How can I stretch heart perspectives in who Jesus is and maybe stretch their experience to get them outside of their normal comfort walls and lastly create an environment for the spontaneous. I do believe that when the Holy Spirit shows up we must allow Him to work and create space for Him to do so. I don’t want to get so caught up in my own schedule, play by play agenda. I want Him to have His way no matter what that looks like.
Where do you see worship going in the next few years?
- Hopefully back to the start. I feel like we are basically worship-FULL. Meaning we have everything we need and are not lacking anything. We have our vegas churches we have our production teams we have our HD projection. Now don’t get me wrong I love all of these things. I absolutely love visuals, but I feel like we have substituted the presence of God abit for production. I am guilty of this too. I do feel like there is a shaking going on in the worship community. A group of people are starting to be fed up with the baby food and the hype and there is a sound rising up that will be more about action and motion in our worship then in empire building.
- I want my worship to be marked by a mission. I want worship and justice to kiss and to see the church begin to transform their communities out of their worship. Yea so instead of trying to build the biggest walmart on the block, churches will begin to actually see transformation happen in cities and out of that I think worship leaders will begin to pen songs for their communities and gatherings that will help be a catalyst of change and reformation.
- I think that was the beauty of the song Heart of worship it was a very personal song for a gathering that was happening. It was birthed from a journey full of conviction not production. I think less people will care less about CCLI charts and more about the stories of healings happening all around the community.
- It’s exciting, I think this is where true art and life actually come alive.
- There’s this ultimate dream called the Great Commission. I think corporate community worship is a massive part of this dream. I love the church and we know that God loves the church so I love the fact that worship is a epic ingredient to building His church not ours.
What’s better writing or leading? Why?
- That’s hard to answer because I truly love both. For me I just love to worship and out of that sometimes a song flows out of the overflow of that worship. I think the key is when your write a song and sing a song out of conviction then something special happens corporately. Once and a while we see God breathe on a specific song and no matter in what environment that the song is sung in, something powerful takes place.
What scares you the most about art?
- Well… I strongly dislike that the church loves to follow trends of culture instead of culture following the church. I don’t know it’s like in the mainstream world everyone wants to be apart of the underground fresh sound that is so unique and inspiring. In the church most people just want to be associated with the biggest stage. It’s like no one wants to pioneer with the unknown everyone wants to be associated with what’s already massively established. True art will cost you your life. I think if pioneering was easy everyone would be doing it then we would have to coin another word. Just look at history, the truest forms of art usually got them killed. True art was meant to haunt you. I remember hearing a story while my wife and I were visiting the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, when the pope first saw Michelangelo’s art, the pope fell to his knees in repentance because he had never seen such art that was so haunting and convicting. I guess the scary part of art is that true art should always reveal something. So in our worship true worship should always reveal something in the presence of God. So I guess the scariest thing about true art can’t not be produced or boxed in. It’s uncontrollable. Which probably scares most church CEO communicators. So I guess the true question should be instead of what scares me what excites me, because I do believe that’s what we were created for. The Church is beautiful and therefore we should be a part of a art revolution that fascinates the world by fascinating them with the beauty of the real Jesus. When the real Jesus shows up everything will bow!
It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses. – William Arthur Ward
William Ward was right. When our energy is not focused on solutions, excuses – regardless of how valid – will overtake our ability to be productive. As creative people, we are always fighting the invisible force that is on a mission to keep us from doing our best work. “The resistance” lives inside of excuses and the minute we give in is the minute we stop being effective.
In order to create amazing stuff, we have to learn to live a little counter-culturally. Doing so requires us to look at things differently. One would think that would be easy for people who fancy themselves as creative. Sadly enough, some of the best artists in the world succumb to the beat down of excuses and resistance every single day. So here’s how we can start living counter-culturally.
- Be Comfortable with Messy – Refuse the habit of editing. Messy minds often create the best art. Throughout life, we’re always collecting; we’re gathering ideas, experiences, feelings, and emotions – all of which become tools for our creative work. When we edit or attempt to remove or replace the mess, we actually start to throw away the paint that our canvases will need to create our next masterpiece.
- Embrace Constraints – Constraints instantly get pinned as negative. The truth is identifying what we “can’t do” helps us clearly identify what we should do! Constraints also help us understand where the canvas ends. Masterpieces never get painted if we don’t know the limits of the canvas.
- Welcome criticism – Criticism, when processed correctly, is an amazing teacher and can become our best friend. Learning through our mistakes, or even just the opinion of others, helps us be better. It’s very dangerous when creative people stop embracing criticism because the minute we do we start to limit our ability to grow. Welcoming criticism isn’t easy. It’s scary and will hurt but, when we do it, we position ourselves to become amazing.
- Understand the fable of margin – There is no margin. Ever. Deal with it. There will never be enough time. We will never have enough money, staff, or resource. If there was enough margin, we wouldn’t feel the pressure necessary to ship our art. Early in my creative career, I learned that “the song is never done.” Well neither is the design, the edit, the screenplay or the novel. Margin is a cheap excuse to keep us from doing what we know needs to be done.
I know these four points to be true because I’ve failed in all of these areas. When we learn to live counter-culturally, we position ourselves to be part of some amazing things. Are you ready to be amazing?