To make it to the big leagues, you’ve got to have talent.
To make it as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to have grit. To make it as a musician, you have to have a marketable look and auto-tune (which have nothing to do with actual music, so yeah, that’s a jab).
And to make it as a communications director, you have to have the right attitude. But not just one attitude, you have to have five of them.
I think these five attitudes can make you successful as a leader over communications at any church of any size.
An Attitude of Patience
When that department head ignores everything you’ve said and goes ahead with a bad idea. When you have explained why five different fonts can’t coexist on the same graphic and it shows up on Sunday anyway. When you feel like your life is a toilet.
The time will come when you are trusted. When you are asked what you think. When you feel like you’re making a difference. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Keep doing what you can do, choose carefully which hills are worth dying on, and always remember that empathy for those you serve can go a long way.
Patience, even when you’re shown none, is the mark of a wise person.
An Attitude of Detachment
When I was a kid the house next-door caught on fire. Fire trucks showed up, sirens blaring, as my parents rushed outside to hook up a hose and tried to help put the fire out. There was a lot of commotion.
Or so I’m told. I slept through the whole thing.
There’s a certain kind of freedom and peace to that level of detachment from the world. In communications, we’re going to passionately fight for the things we think are important, but we can’t take those arguments personally.
It’s when you’re stewing over a conversation you had earlier that day that tells you you might have an issue. You have to detach enough personally from the work, that it can stay there and you can still look a co-worker in the eye after a heated disagreement and say “I love you” and mean it.
An Attitude of Kindness
Growing up I was always told to kill people with kindness. Wouldn’t that be the best way to go? Death by compliments sounds awesome. “Seth Muse passed away today as he was surrounded by friends and loved ones who told him he was great until he died.” Great byline. (rimshot)
Kindness is not really a way you’re “wired.” When people tell me they just aren’t wired to be very kind my response is usually something like, “yeah, sometimes God just wants us to be jerks. It’s in the commandments.” Sounds like Scripture, right? Thou shalt be turds to one another.
Kindness in the face of adversity is something that takes years of maturing to perfect, but it’s something you should pursue (says the guy who just said “turds”). Department heads are not going to understand why you won’t put their “biggest event of the year” (of which many departments mysteriously have several) in the video announcements or all church email.
They might go around you. They might go to the pastor and try to undermine you (I like to call this “mommy-daddying” because it’s how children operate) but you have got to remain kind. Why?
Because we’re commanded to be. Ephesians 4:32 literally says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Kindness isn’t an option, it’s a skill, and Christ is the example of it. He forgave us while we were killing him, not after.
An Attitude of Friendliness
Friendliness is different from kindness in that kindness is about being nice and friendliness is about being present. If you’re an introvert and you hate small talk, sorry, you’re going to have to stretch here. I wrote a blog for That Church Conference on this subject you can take a look at it.
You have to deal with every department of the church as a communications director, so when they think about you do you want them to cringe or smile? I know it’s a lot easier to motivate myself to help my friends than it is for those I don’t know. I imagine a lot of people are like that. Seth? Oh yeah, I love that guy. He probably would rather I….
An Attitude of Love for the Process
It’s so frustrating how little kids don’t know anything. I mean, I’ve shown you how to tie your shoes, why can’t you do it!? Parenting is tough because you have to teach and teach and teach and correct and correct and correct so many times before they can finally do anything (see Patience, above).
Communicators love to look at results. We got 10% more likes on Instagram this month! Our giving was up by one million dollars this weekend! These are measurable things and they are easy to see success. But, like parenting, the most important successes in communications aren’t always so visibly measurable.
When someone starts to get the system and it streamlines their workflow in their department. How do you measure that? Since we really can’t, we have a hard time celebrating it. But that’s HUGE!
So here’s the attitude of all attitudes that can save your life: Fall in love with the process, not the results.
That’s how you know if you’re going to make it as a comms director. If you could do this all day, winning some and losing some, you’re headed for the gold. This became an odd Captain America/boxing metaphor somehow. But I digress…
You won’t survive the long game if the bottom line is the only way you measure success. Make your process better. Make your departments better at social media. Get the emails that go out from different ministries to be written better without your help. Cut printing costs and move to digital solutions.
Fall in love with the process and you’ll be just fine. Fall in love with stats and you’ll always feel behind.
What else would you suggest? Let me know in the comment section. Thanks for reading and please check out The Seminary of Hard Knocks podcast for more on church communications and social media!