Barriers and Decisions

The picture that accompanies this piece is of some things that at the time I was quite proud of. I’m not sure how much of the back story is necessary to flesh out this story, but I will try to balance my need to over tell and your need to know. Sometimes, I am quite suckful at that, but just this little reminder might be all that I need to get it right.

The things in the picture are barriers or barricades. They are free-standing wood pieces, each with two legs so that they are movable and portable. I had one of our resident woodworkers make them for me, as I had a real, logical, intended purpose for them. When they were finished and put in place, I received compliments from people about their appearance, their functionality, and that they fulfilled their intended purpose.

I had commissioned their construction for one reason and one reason only. They needed to stand in front of our musical ensembles in the church to shield the congregation from the maze of wires, water bottles, personal effects, and different pieces of equipment that can take on the appearance of a train wreck at times. It’s not easy putting quality music together, and I thought that I was sparing our fair worshippers from seeing how the sausage of music was made. Our bands perform up in the front of the church, off to one side of the altar, and are visible from every part of the sanctuary. The barriers served their purpose, it dressed up the area and we couldn’t see a lot of the stuff that musicians need in order to make music.

And, our musicians make great music. They enhance our worship and they are very good at what they do.

As you see the barricades now, they are in a storage room. In this wireless age, they aren’t as necessary as they were four years ago. But there’s another reason that they aren’t out front anymore. Unbeknownst to me (until recently), they were not so favored by the people who stood behind them. The musicians.

Magically one Sunday, the band showed up and performed behind the barriers, and no one had to see all their stuff.

This is probably really evident already to all you smart folks who know where I am going with this. My title is “Director of Operations” and it’s my job to see stuff and notice stuff and deal with stuff and make stuff happen – all so that the pastors, teachers, and people who do actual ministry can do their stuff without having to worry about facilities, heat, air conditioning, supplies and the stuff that allows them to do their stuff. So, I did the thing that usually is the right thing – I saw a need, figured out a solution, knew someone who could take care of it, and got it done. Magically one Sunday, the band showed up and performed behind the barriers, and no one had to see all their stuff.

I saw things from the vantage point of a guy out in the pews. What I didn’t do, was something that I have come to think of as “Thing One” when I am making decisions and mapping strategy now: talk with and get input from those who are directly affected by the decision that I am wrestling with. I never talked to a single musician about what I thought needed to be done. The musicians felt like they were performing animals who were being relegated to a fenced-in area of the back yard.

I don’t know what could have changed, or how the resolution might have changed or what the outcome would’ve been for this situation. Everything might have been the same, or maybe… the musicians could’ve given me some valuable insight or perspective from THEIR side of the barrier that would’ve made the resolution even better than it was. I didn’t get their input, and so I squandered an opportunity to have every voice heard. And so they accepted the barriers and sang and performed behind them for four years.

And when the barriers got shuttled off to the storage room, I heard some less than complimentary things about my genius inspiration. To their credit, the musicians all appreciate me and respect me for the work that I do, and I always make sure that I give them kudos and thumbs up for the great things that they do. Maybe this was a lot of to-do about nothing, but it could’ve been a big deal, feelings could have been hurt and morale could have suffered. It’s not hard to let everyone have a say, and it’s not always necessary to put up barriers.


Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

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