Leadership is a Craft

Posted on December 13th, 2019

Leadership is not a burden or a right. It’s a craft.

Design + Context = Purpose

Posted on November 24th, 2019

Where design and context are aligned,clear purpose can be found. As a designer, we are the answer for how we can improve the world. Bring beauty and care to the context of the situation. Make it better.

Algorithms and Intuition

Posted on October 22nd, 2019

A combination of strategies I choose to utilize in my work as a Creative Director is creating algorithms for human intuition to be maximized as I help coach and reveal beauty to enhance story and experience. This is a key part of the "process architecture" that I put in place for our teams to use in our planning process: A series of questions and process guides to begin with as well as a timeline with both back burner space for peace as well as checkpoints and prototyping deadlines that each can yield an "eureka idea" to add to the plan. It’s a magical thing when both both logic and instinct are allowed to team up as part of the creative process.

Prototyping

Posted on October 18th, 2019

I was asked recently about what prototyping looks like in my design process. It varies. It depends a lot on the timeline of the project, but I really do love to bring both my team and the client along with the idea. Even if only for myself, I like to play with the idea in tangible space. Sometimes it’s as low-fi as a sketch and some card-stock that I cut out for shapes that I play around with in a scale model of a stage. Sometimes a 3D rendering is helpful. If possible (especially when designing for a build for multiple locations) it’s great to build as near to a actual size prototype that we can play with in the lighting and context of the actual stage

We wanted to see how the arches and ramps would let us see performers through and atop of the beauty; and get a sense of what the layers of design would feel like from various angles.

The pastors of this old church wanted a way to update the look of their space that for low cost could help give their congregation more than just a fresh coat of paint but see a vision for the future

We wanted to talk about a road into the mountains where the narrater could take the audience on a journey along a dusty road; but that on a cue, the mountains could literally move to reveal a live band that could add to the experience. I began with a sketch; I then moved to playing with the model. Then, we built prototype flats to test how the rolling worked. We learned that putting them on rails was key to the success of everything being in the same exact place for lighting and blocking every move. We also had a main campus to show how the texturing with paint as well as light was so crucial to realism. A bonus that you might notice in the bottom left image is that you can see how I even added a bit of screen material to show what a scrim might be placed in the mid depth to help add to the forced perspective and picturesque scene.

Success is rented daily

Posted on October 3rd, 2019

"Success is never owned, it is rented and the rent is due every day."
—unknown

A friend read me this quote. I like it. It’s a reminder to be about the daily work of living out your vision with purpose and commitment.

Do you have a Vision and Values document for yourself? If you don’t yet, please reach out to me. I would love to talk about what a coaching relationship might look like.


Maximize the Potential of the Wind

Posted on September 23rd, 2019

Know what your "ship" is; know who your "crew" is. Understand what they are capable of. Define a high standard and point in the right direction. Then adapt along the way to maximize what the "wind" offers. It doesn’t even mean changing course; it only means changing tactics. Enjoy the journey. "Sailing" is fun. The stories are treasures.

The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects the wind to change.
A leader adjusts the sails.
—William Arthur Ward

Greatest Intersection of Stewardship and Creativity

Posted on September 15th, 2019

Excellence is not to be confused with perfection. Excellence is beautifully imperfect; as it recognizes the continued pursuit of improvement. The iterations will always continue; so make the most of the time and resources we have. Recognize when it’s better to leave one project at good and refocus by encouraging each other and developing another project until it’s time to call that one great. (Even though we have such high standards that we know what we wish we could keep tinkering further...) Then celebrate! Especially after big projects, remember that "We get to be a part of this!" Then next week, begin working on v2.0!

I used to struggle with perfectionism. I remember in high school when I couldn’t understand my best friend who could just rip through homework and turn in something that was barely 80% effort. Instead I wouldn’t turn something in because it wasn’t worthy of what I knew it should be. I’ve come a long way since then. I now can present something if it’s the best I believe it can be with the recourses justifiably allocated. I can reconcile that. It has actually become a core value for me. A Maximizer shall get greatest value out of resources…. I still want for perfection, but I also find beauty in excellent. I can coach that now. I’ve come a long way.

I just read a Forbes article written by Victor Lipman that included five tips for taming perfectionism. I thought I’d share.


These five tips may not be perfect, but then again, what is? Guess that’s part of the story here…
Pursue excellence, not perfection – There’s a vast difference if you’re able to frame the endeavor this way. Excellence is attainable, perfection isn’t. Excellence is an admirable goal, perfection a potentially destructive one. As the definition in Psychology Today notes, perfectionists view life "as an endless report card on accomplishments."
Try seeing yourself through the eyes of others – The irony is that the accomplishments of many perfectionists, from the uniquely talented Ms. Kearney to many C-Suiters, are exceptional by any objective standards. Easier said than done I know, but if you can find the perspective to view yourself as others do, it will be a constructive lens to look through.
Step back and take (well-deserved) pride in what you’ve accomplished – And where exactly do you want that lens to focus? Instead of dwelling on outcomes and projects that haven’t gone perfectly, step back and spend some time reflecting on past accomplishments you’re genuinely pleased with. No doubt if you’re a CEO, there have been more than a few to bring you to this point in your career. Compared to what most of us mere mortals have, a bronze medal at the Olympics, let’s say, seems a pretty pleasant outcome. (Wouldn’t mind having one myself – would look quite nice on the wall in my study.)
If you feel perfectionism has become seriously debilitating, you may want to consider counseling or therapy – BTW, I completely understand if your reaction to this suggestion is, Hey, I’m a high-functioning hard-edged executive and I have neither time nor inclination for this sort of thing. Fair enough, totally get it. But just in case you’re interested in this level of introspection to better understand the roots of the behavior and find additional ways to address it, I’ve included a link to Psychology Today’s database of therapists. (Full disclosure: I also write for Psychology Today, which is why I’m familiar with their offerings.)
Laugh - Cliche though it is, laughter is good medicine, a natural mood changer. Find time if you can to not take yourself too seriously and remember to laugh. We’re all on the same ski slope so to speak, all just passing through the great bumpy freestyle mogul of life, and if you can find a little more time to see the humor and "enjoy the ride" – well, that’s only a positive thing.
"Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good." It’s derived from a similar phrase in the writing of Voltaire and it’s a sentiment I always felt had real relevance when I was in the business world… about the need to keep the wheels of commerce turning rather than being concerned with getting everything absolutely right.

Ideation Fibonacci

Posted on September 6th, 2019

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."
—John Steinbeck

Care well for initial musings; the flow of ideation will pour out as fruitful bounty.

Culture

Posted on August 28th, 2019

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"
—Peter Drucker

I like this quote. I’m a big fan of strategy. But I know that ethos is even more important.

Ward Planning Process

Posted on August 18th, 2019


As the Creative Director, I’m responsible for leading us in the tactical now, the strategic near, and the vision of what we’re steering toward.

Now - Every weekend we have another event! I’m responsible for everything that is presented in each of our 3 venues.
  • I directly lead the Worship Directors to lead the art and presentation in each of their venues.
  • I lead the Production Department to support and enhance the art and communication with excellence - not only for the live experience, but also the broadcast audience web streaming and listening to radio.
  • I am coaching the hosts and teachers in navigating transitions and delivering their content with authenticity, tone, and clarity.
  • We’re always iterating and we’ll make any audible to the plan necessary to better tell the story and inspire life.
Near - We have Production Meetings every Monday. We break the meeting into three parts:
  • 3-Weeks-Out - PCO (our online production order and scheduling tool) 60% - The production order is mapped out with at least placeholder elements ("Song 3" or "Focus") in place to estimate timing of the day. Casting roles band/vocal positions are slotted.
  • 2-Weeks-Out - 85% - Order is filled in with specific song names and intended feel of moment in Producer column. Casting of band/vocalists is scheduled.
  • Week-Of - 95% - Order is detailed with who is leading each moment and talking points are outlined. Arrangements for every song is uploaded with accurate detail of what will be rehearsed. (If a change is realized during rehearsal; that’s totally fine, but we communicate any alterations by noon on Thursday) Musician backline support requests are fully detailed with what they want from Ward and what they’re brining.
Far - In the winter and spring, we begin mapping out the following year.
  • We try to maintain a road-map that is over a year in advance. I have created a master document for every event (weekends and special event) that happens in our main venues.
  • By 12-weeks-out, I work with the lead teacher for each event to write a paragraph of vision for the narrative of the experience, the angle of the teaching, and the hope for response. I’m also working with our Executive Staff and key Directors to make sure that we know any necessary elements, promotions, or calendar notes that must be factored in to the planning.
  • I have lead us to be 12-weeks-out in that "treatment" that we can plan from. I lead our team in a meeting where we look at each sermon series and we brainstorm ideas we might plan. We fill up the whiteboard with ideas, sketches, stickie notes, and optimism.
  • I followup with our Worship Directors and Lead Teacher and we hone in on what we want to develop. Storyboarding, writing, "braintrusting", re-writing, producing, designing, ordering, shooting, editing, prototyping, etc.


Eric Wolfe

Creative Director and Coach. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Visual Artist and Leader. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. Eric shares thoughts here about all of the above. He would love to connect to partner in coaching and revealing beauty to enhance story and experience. Please do reach out!