Taking Charge or Laying Low

Most of us techies are task oriented people. We probably are, or have the potential to be, productive managers. This is something that is a great benefit to the churches where we serve. We are known as people who get stuff done. If we took a strength finder test, achievement would be in our top five. This is how many of us are wired (If you’re not wired that way, that’s OK. Maximizing your gifts, and helping others flourish in their’s, is the path to success, after all).

Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Most tech people I know are detailed planners. We want all the details (all!) ASAP. Perhaps even before that. Our goal is to help the ministry be successful and to see people’s lives changed by the power of the Gospel. Our part is to make sure all of the technical ducks are in a row so nothing blocks what God is doing. There are always curve balls. We know and accept that.

By planning all of the details that we can control ahead of time, we give adequate time and space for the curveballs that come up right before or during the service/event/project.

That seems so obvious it shouldn’t be stated. Therein lies the problem. It is not obvious to some of our teammates.

I have often been part of a project that started to go off the rails because of lack of planning and communication (I like to say, “the wheels fell off the bus” as an analogy for failure that leads to more failure).

I see two extremes for handling this potential minefield: we can take charge or lay low.
The answer probably lies somewhere between the two extremes, and depending on the situation, leans one way or the other.

Taking Charge

This is my default setting.

On the worst days this is an aggressive attitude, that we are the only ones who do things the right way, which makes us very hard to work with.
On the good days this is taking a lead role so everyone has what they need and everything is done on time and on budget.

If I pause for an objective moment, I can tell when I am being too aggressive by the frustration that is building in those around me. I, too, get frustrated when someone encroaches on my responsibilities. I am not usually very aware of the feelings of others, which is why I have to pause, but knowing that this is my default setting has allowed me to have some awareness. It’s easier to just do it yourself, but that’s wrong and selfish and very limiting. It’s not Christlike.

Don’t circumvent a teammate because you see them as incompetent (or, more nicely, less experienced than yourself).
Don’t shoulder your way into a problem as the great savior and leave a wake of frustration and hurt feelings.

Allow people to develop by gaining experience by figuring out the solution themselves.
Make decisions that benefit the whole and are not just easier for you.

Laying Low

This is harder for me.

On the worst days this is standing back and watching something fail.
On the good days this is supporting others while letting them achieve their best results within their capability.

Taking an objective approach in laying low would require us to take stock of our motivations. Are we angry? Frustrated? Is this the last straw? All of those responses sound to me like they are coming from building pressures. This means there are frustrations and issues that have not been dealt with. We have to confront. We cannot allow 5 year’s worth of frustration to boil over on a Sunday morning. It’s wrong and it’s cowardly. It’s not Christlike.

Don’t adopt the attitude, in the middle of service, that you are going to teach everyone a lesson by letting something crash.
Don’t play the victim and withdraw from your responsibilities just because others aren’t keeping up theirs.

Allow people to grow into the roles they have, even if they are not good at it. Find ways to support them that create a win/win environment.
Accept responsibility for the outcome by fulfilling your role the best you can.


A lot could be said about this topic. Here’s my first stab at it.
Almost everything we do is a project. Proper planning can help the project succeed. As things slide off the rails, we have a choice in how we help.

What do you think? Do you have a default and are you aware of it and keeping it in check?


4 thoughts on “Taking Charge or Laying Low

  1. Mike,
    I like your take charge, and get it done attitude, but at what cost? You like to rescue projects, but sometimes it’s good to “let the chips fall were they may”. If people aren’t allowed to see the domino effect of not getting important things done in their lives or are not held accountabe, then how will they change?
    It’s important to know when to step in, and when to step back. (Lay low or take charge:)
    I know it’s hard to see people or projects that are important to you suffer, but I do believe allowing things to fail allows us to grow, and do better next time. In the book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, they talk about setting clear guide lines and boundaries, and sticking to them–even when it’s hard to do so.
    Hope you get a chance to read it. We own it, so you have no excuse!

  2. Ok. I am a little late to this party. But you haven’t posted anything new so I’ll just have to talk about this one.

    I have always thought it interesting to watch who lays low and who takes charge. Then ponder why they are they way they are.
    Though we are humans, we are no different than Pavlov’s dogs. We are shaped by pos/neg responses. What makes a person eager to jump in during a crisis. Or stand there like a deer in the headlights. lack of experience? fear of mistakes? lack of self-esteem? aversion to conflict?

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