Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

Managing Expectations for the Creative Team

I?ve been asked on three occasions, over the last ten years, to build a creative team for a church?s new endeavor. Each time has been a lofty vision to achieve.

On two occasions, the team had to be transformed and built to take on a new multi-site organization. The teams had to create new processes for technology capture and transfer to those campuses. In another church, we had to build the entire creative team from scratch. That meant not only securing quality professionals for the team, but also establishing a creative process that met the needs of a virtual teaching platform. Another scenario required a new creative team built to provide a greatly needed professional element to an already extremely creative teaching pastor.

All of these churches asked me to add a new creative organization to an already existing church structure. It was daunting trying to navigate these new expectations. I didn?t, at first, realize the magnitude of problems that could arise.

Not only did leadership have expectations of my new creative team and the processes associated, but the existing ministry teams of the church did too. I would like to say we navigated those waters well, but we didn?t. However, I did learn. I learned I had to manage what others expected from my creative teams.

Managing expectations is a vastly underutilized leadership skill. Not everyone does it. But maybe if more did, we could avoid a lot of the day-to-day drama that goes on in every office. I know that I could have avoided much more drama if I had caught on early.

Leaders who know how to manage expectations are able to more seamlessly navigate the choppy waters of their new ministry endeavors. Why? Because they know how to communicate, organize, and direct conversations around things getting done.

This is what I learned. If I had followed these maxims, I would have had far greater success at managing expectations.

Assume Nothing

People often get into real trouble when they assume a team member, ministry leader, or church leader knows what they expect or even what they’re talking about. My first piece of advice is making sure you provide context.

Don’t fall into the sinkhole of assuming someone has the same understanding of a ministry situation, creative project deadlines, team member tasks, job descriptions, or creative processes that you do. You can avoid this pitfall by having a conversation in which you openly discuss what’s expected, how it might be accomplished, and how success will be measured. Remember to leave plenty of opportunities for questions. ?Question are good. Always.[quote]?Question are good. Always.[/quote]

This is also the time to agree and commit to what will be delivered and when. This is especially true when dealing directly with the lead pastor. One of the most common points of miscommunication happens around when something is supposed to be completed. Which leads me to the next thing I learned?

Communicate, Communicate, and then Communicate Again

One of the best ways to manage expectations is to make sure you communicate with everyone on a frequent basis. In the early stages of a new team, a new process, a new organization, or a new project and as deadlines approach, even over-communicate. Especially early in the inception process.[quote]One of the best ways to manage expectations is to make sure you communicate with everyone on a frequent basis.[/quote]

Sure, it might be more work on your part as the leader. But it’s extremely important if you have a new team that isn’t used to working together or new leadership that may not have developed a level of trust in the team’s ability to deliver. And this is a big priority when it comes to starting anything new and creative in the church.

By holding frequent communiqu?s throughout the course of an implementation, you will have the chance to provide real-time status updates and manage any miscommunication that you may detect. When you are proactive, honest, and transparent in your communication, you will have room for alternate plans if needed or the flex to make new decisions. This approach also minimizes wrong expectations.

Honesty, with love, is always the best policy when it comes to communication.[quote]Honesty, with love, is always the best policy when it comes to communication.[/quote]

Push Back. Be Real.

A big, big piece of managing expectations is the actual expectation a leader has for the creative team.

You have to be comfortable that the expectations are realistic and achievable. And as the leader, you have to figure this out quickly in the game. If the expectations are not, you can and should push back. This not only protects the team, but also the team?s image. Even more importantly, it protects the relationship between leadership and you and your team. This is important.

The key to pushing back is to balance the church?s organizational needs and your team’s abilities. Being open about what can be delivered and what the plan is can go a long way in instilling confidence. Confidence all around. If you can master the fine art and skill of pushback, you’ve won half the battle of managing expectations successfully.

How do you manage expectations with your creative team or ministry team? I’d love to hear your comments.

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