Did you notice that not one Academy Award winner stood in front of the audience and gloated that they beat their competition? Not one.
Instead, they thanked all those who contributed to their preparation, performance, and ultimate success, especially their immediate families.
A collaborative effort
They talked about how important the collaboration was on the journey of making their film.
They thanked their fellow cast and crew who each played a role in the overall production.
They thanked the director for inspiring and INPowering leadership.
And they all talked about their connection to and belief in the vision of their film project as conveyed by its founders, or producers.
Have you ever sat at the end of the movie and watched the entire list of credits naming every single individual who had a part in the production? Everyone gets credited, including caterers, carpenters, painters, accountants, drivers, electricians, and on and on. It’s a reminder that all endeavors are cast and crew achievements. No one is merely a hireling; everyone is a contributor.
INPowering leaders follow the Academy Award model.
I noticed the following three components Academy Award efforts have in common.
1. A unifying vision.
The story begins in the mind of its creator who is able to articulate it in a form that others can imagine and add to.
2. A focused team.
The producer assembles a team of talented contributors from many theatrical disciplines who can take the vision and translate it into reality. The director is tasked with helping the cast give the best performance they have within them.
3. Organic collaboration.
Every production encounters complex challenges for which there are no prepackaged solutions. Cast and crew bring their expertise to the set and find creative approaches that sometimes prove to be the defining difference that make their project Academy Award caliber.
Stop and think about all those who contribute to your success. Think of all the resources we rely on that others have provided.
Giving credit to all those
who make it possible for us
to accomplish great performances
makes us even more
There’s a fifth level to the traditional four-phase team formation model of forming, storming, norming, performing. The fifth level is Ensembling.
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / 4774344sean
In their recent book, Yes, And, Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton explain why we should strive to develop ensembles more so than teams. This perspective is inspired by their years of working as part of The Second City improv theatre of Chicago.
Their distinction is that teams are set up to compete against outside forces. An ensemble, however, is an entity unto itself and does not need a foe in order to have a purpose. Leonard and Yorton define it as, “an entity that is only its true self when its members are performing as one,” (p. 52).
“Building a great ensemble allows you to take individual differences–even divergent points of view–and incorporate them in such a complementary way that the ensemble functions even better than the individuals do on their own,” (p. 55).
No weakest link
We’ve always heard that no team is stronger than its weakest link. I never liked that analogy because it sets the strongest against the weakest–a storyline fit for Survivor, but not for building INPowering workplaces.
Instead, I prefer the perspective of Sheldon Patinkin, a long-time teacher and director for The Second City. He said that an ensemble is only as good as its ability to compensate for its weakest member (p. 71).
Ensembling is an, “all for one and one for all,” mentality that pushes no one aside, even when they mess up. They take what happens and go with it.
When one stumbles, the entire team responds as a unit to make up the difference and to help the one who stumbled improve. A compassion that fosters group cohesiveness. Everyone knows everyone else has each other’s back.
Sometimes, this compassionate collaboration takes the group in a new direction that ends up being more beneficial than their previous course. Serendipity at work–unplanned brilliance.
No outsiders. Everyone is in.
What I’ve noticed about ensemble behavior is that no one is ever on the fringe of the group. Everyone is completely and unconditionally included, warts and all.
Ensembles tend to want to include others and let the new arrivals decide whether they wish to join. Some do; some don’t; some come and go.
Neither is there a disruptive jockeying for supremacy. There is a natural give and take in which different members take the lead when their specialized talents are needed.
I believe Ensembling embodies the INPowered2 LEAD creed:
Today, and every day, I will
INCourage the spirit,
INLiven the heart,
INLighten the mind, and
INLarge the expectations of living in myself and in others.
Become an Ensembler, and you will be
Fools fascinate me. Fools are invaluable to our society because they have a knack for exposing the numbskulls who, for some incomprehensible reason, end up in positions of influence in our most important institutions.
I’m not out to bash our leaders wholesale. I am, however, out to extol the virtue of divergent thinking in the service of getting at the truth we must confront to make good decisions.
By NBC Television (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In medieval times, fool was a licensed profession of sorts. In some cases fools were used merely for entertainment. But some monarchs and rulers used the fool, or jester, to bring up the absurd counterpoints that others were too afraid to mention for fear of costing them their head.
Our current day fools are the comedians who spoof the actions of political figures, celebrities, and those at the helms of business, educational, and religious institutions.
Fools change the direction of our thinking
Why? Because the fools invariably see the truthful nuances and absurdities we either don’t see, or don’t want to see. Fools expose the disastrous effects of numbskullery on our institutions and on our freedom and tolerance.
Margaret Heffernan’s comment from her TED Talk, Dare to disagree, struck me as especially poignant (click here to view).
“The truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.”
Fools possess that skill, talent, and moral courage.
The stand up comic often finds himself or herself being a stand up leader who is INPowered2 LEAD, by speaking a truth through humor. First we laugh; then, we think. Sometimes that leads to action that changes the landscape.
“Steve Martin” by Towpilot – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Comedian, Steve Martin, defined a joke as, “complete knowledge in a nanosecond.” Like the time I heard a local fool in my community say of a hometown political kingmaker, “If you aren’t under his thumb, you’re under his skin.” Complete knowledge in a nanosecond.
Sometimes, a stand up leader must accept the brunt of a fool’s truth directed at them. Like the medieval ruler who was smart enough to recognize the truth veiled in humor, and act on it to change the landscape.
Everybody needs a fool
“It’s no accident that AHA and HAHA are spelled almost the same way.” – Mitch Ditkoff
Those who can make us laugh at ourselves are some of the best friends we can have. They help us relax the tension that comes from taking ourselves too seriously. When we loosen up, we release the creative juices to explore the possibilities we would otherwise squelch.
You have permission to be a fool for the truth.
The sooner you are,
the sooner you will be
Imagine the scene. You’ve tirelessly rehearsed your routine for the past month to polish it for the celebrity judges who now await your first steps onto the competition dance stage.
Your dance teacher whispers her encouragement, “You’re ready. Have fun.”
The music begins. Applause and cheers from a packed house of dancers and dance teachers, sprinkled with friends, parents, and grandparents pushes through the heavy downbeats: one-two-three-four.
This is your very first dance competition.
Sure, you’ve danced for audiences at recitals and festivals, but this is for judges who perform on television and in movies. They know talent when they see it. Will they see it in you?
Mom and dad are watching anxiously. All the grandparents who drove, or flew, for hours just to watch you do this now, hold their breath.
The routine goes perfectly. You hit every beat right in the center. You pivot for the next sequence; then . . . nothing.
The connection between what your body has learned through weeks of repetition, and the music it has learned it to, do not jive. You hesitate a split second, and now nothing will be in sync. They will see the disconnection. They already have. Everyone thinks you have forgotten–choked. What happened?
Eight beats pass. Now sixteen. You look for a place to pick up. Now twenty-four. 5-6-7-8, GO!
You piece together steps that you hope will get you to the end, and you push through. Smiling.
Meanwhile, in the audience, everyone who is seeing your routine for the first time feels your pain. The fear and humiliation of a six-year-old who blew her competitive debut. They explain it away, “Well, she is, after all, the youngest in the competition. It will be a good learning experience.”
But they don’t know what you know: that the music the technician cued and played was the wrong arrangement, not the arrangement to which the dance was choreographed. But that doesn’t matter. You were the one on stage, under the lights.
Two more dancers perform.
Your teacher tells you the judges will let you go again since the technician played the wrong music. The emcee announces to the audience that you will repeat your performance, but she does not explain why.
The music begins. The audience cheers your courage. After all, they think you blew it, and you are getting a charity do over. They know that most of them would have run off the stage in tears. Some would have quit and never gone onto the competitive stage again.
But not you. You believe in your talent, in your preparation, in yourself.
And you nail it.
What looks like bravery to some is your self-confidence shining through the adversity.
Prepare, perform, persevere.
Break a leg!