The school yard bully is quintessential in our memories. Creatives, even those that work in faith institutions or volunteer for a cause, face a bully of sorts. You see, often there exists a factory mindset that says conformity is unity as it cries fowl at innovation. Innovation means change. Change is bad. Creatives simply change things because that is the nature of creativity! Compliance to vision is actually not the question–status-quo worship is. I am going to use the sacred cow detector and list ten statements that bully us creatives as we serve the church. Some of these are more subtly expressed, but we hear them all the same.
- “Let’s not reinvent the wheel.” To that I say, what if a wheel is not the answer? Really, this is said because copying a known idea, even a mediocre solution, is better than an amazing custom-fit one. I refuse to think this makes sense! What would be better is for churches to identify honestly the things they do not want to change. Most do not want to share openly, “this is our sacred cow folks!” so they use spiritual and managerial code to silence those that point them out.
- “You express yourself way too much.” This comes because, even when creatives are not attempting to, we are sending messages by our actions as well as our words. “I need to control you” is what this means, because leading and loving take too much work. Being “edited” is an honor a creative needs to submit to, however, being controlled and bullied makes everyone lose in the relationship.
- “We are taking too much time talking about this.” Although this may be true in many cases, what this means is that the creative’s work requires constant thinking and adjustment. Apparently, that is something only done in a scheduled “brainstorming” meeting, not in real-time relationship. A little more relationship will allow freer, more productive work. Try it!
- “Your hair looks funny.” Or, this could be your hat, your speech, how you walk, how you snicker, or even the fact you have a messy desk. Really, I have seen the bully basically openly deride the creative in staff meetings. Yeah, humor is good. But, behind it comes prejudice as well if we are not careful. Being different is an asset. Some people are too immature to realize that because they value conformity over unity.
- “We need to put your process of how you do what you do in a spreadsheet.” A manager is there to help you improve efficiency. The problem is creativity is human-driven, not machine-driven. You are not cranking out widgets, you are designing experiences, writing content, and doing something “new” that is not reproducible but consumable. What helps is clear definition on the end product, not draconian micromanagement on the process.
In calling out these literal as well as symbolic statements the goal is to have open dialog. We need each other in the church–both the suits and the blue jeans crowd. Business management falters, I believe, when it cannot address people over process and mission over programs. No one wins, and in the church that is the worst-case scenario. We cannot afford to lose! So, let’s talk about this a bit, if you will.
How do you face bullies like theses? Are these statements things you have come across or have spoken?