Achieving the Orchestrated Power of the Whole
A method for coaching organizational success.
One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think”. The transference of knowledge is highly beneficial across industries, particularly in today’s ever-changing professional landscape. The awareness and importance of incorporating artists in the workplace has risen. In particular I have observed that the visibility for dance as a platform in general has grown exponentially over the last five years. Having spent most of my life as a dancer and choreographer, I continue to have a strong inclination towards, the study of processes and interpersonal connections. Being able to translate these skills to mediate high level organizational shifts as well as improving existing structures is something that the dancer and choreographer in me truly enjoys. When examining relative perspective to share I hearken back to studying some of the greats particularly Martha Graham, Jose Limon, and Robert Battle. These leaders are excellent models for the rigor and deep internal and external processes to “Achieving the Orchestrated Power of the Whole” on which I expound. Below are three areas of insight for understanding and approaching the benefits of the methodology for business.
1. How We Get There
The Orchestrated Power of the Whole is what allows for optimal execution as well as the optimal received result by the end user or audience. When I say “optimal”, for business as well as in the performing arts I mean much more than just something being completed or on time. Even as part of the planning and execution process when addressing the scope it is not only the Kaizen or the Ishikawa and how many times we ask why, although those concepts are a part of the process but additionally the subtle nuances that make each individual organization tick or pause. This cannot be analyzed or improved as a one-size-fits-all mapping of solutions. Whether you have a company of dancers or a team of business executives and IT admins, it is important that you have selected choreography, a map, an approach, or school of thought that best enables your particular types of talent and incorporates their current strengths. This will allow that particular group and its’ mission to ultimately be the most successful while fostering growth towards the next “plateau”, “Mountain top” or area of desired mastery. In using the example of a dancer as the physical sense of arrival, the idea of balancing is useful. Balancing is not achieved by locking energy or holding still, but instead by a continuous growth of energy circulating upward through the body. An instructional leader does not teach or correct this skill without first understanding how the dancer is thinking about the task at present, where their understanding may be incorrect, as well as possible physical hindrances that may be blocking the student from the goal. Meeting people where they are at and targeted continuous observation is an important thing to gauge as a leader, even if the long term goal is a more complex form of professional development, or technological advance. Leaders must be focused on removing barriers and increasing self-awareness in order to be effective. This requires creativity. When choosing choreography, a group of dancers may be capable of various different styles, but in order to optimize results it would make no sense for a group of ballerinas to perform “Stomp” or Fosse’s style as tappers or classical jazz dancers, even if the desired outcome is to create a high brow impactful performance with talented people. The same is true for a group of executives when wanting to achieve a particular group of common organizational goals across industries. The process of “how we get there” as we all know is important but also somewhat individual to each organization. The approach should be observed, nurtured, and steered incrementally with an open mind throughout the process in order for your talent to be able to use their tools well to produce a desired outcome.
2. Strengths and Weaknesses
Addressing core strengths and weaknesses directly and transparently, allows the organization to move more harmoniously through pauses and barriers “ticking” around common understandings and goals. A necessary degree of transparency and a straightforward approach allows us to plan appropriately for the task. This does not mean attacking individuals for their recent procrastination or embarrassing people by having performance-related conversations in front of everyone. This is not what I mean by transparency or addressing things head on. It is about simplifying and being clear about intentions. Simple and clear intentions coupled with focused direction and lines of energy allow a dancer to go from doing three pirouettes to four or to successfully transition from the foundation of a pirouette into the progression of fouttes.
In the workplace we can be simple and clear by first drawing a table with two columns and listing “Overall Strengths” and “Perceived Weaknesses”. Second, taking the time to revisit the list a day later and assess why things are in which column. Could your perception be marked as inaccurate from a non-partial third party? If you have “raised the bar” with a weakness is it a core weakness or perhaps something that can be addressed as a subphase of strengths and weaknesses? By addressing it, are we demanding too much too soon when comparing other milestones at hand? Rather, is it something we can address incrementally that does not seem like an additional burden for employees? An example being, if employees are struggling with projects that are interdepartmental, this can alternatively be viewed as a subphase weakness. A solution may be assessing current use of communication channels and available tools possibly resulting in raising awareness of options or frequency of use. Perhaps broadly readdressing more appropriate protocol for escalation as a friendly reminder amongst team members or refining the escalation plan for your organization can be simple and effective. Small incremental tasks like this are easily attainable for team members to make small adjustments of their choosing around pre-existing structures that are in line with company goals. This also allows people the chance to improve or make desired changes independently without feeling overly dictated to. Positive results from a simple, clear incremental shift like this can potentially be seen right away, which can create an immediate sense of achievement. This can foster longevity and incentive for addressing larger more primary weaknesses and strengths that have long term results or more labor intensive achievements.
The balancing act of “How we get there” is an important part of Achieving the Orchestrated Power of the Whole. The transparent and direct approach in relation to high priority strengths and weaknesses does not exclude high level executives. It includes the group or organization as a whole and gives leaders an opportunity to think critically about how they encourage their team uniquely towards growth in perceived weaknesses while using, acknowledging, maintaining and growing organizational strengths. Transparency and simplified head-on clear directives are two attributes that assist in harnessing the power of directing organizational energy and focus toward achieving the necessary alignment needed for movement towards continuous goals. In working towards continuous goals, or improvement both personally and professionally, the conversation of “How we get there” and addressing strengths and weaknesses does not stop, but continues on to ways of being, to action based conceptual thought around company core values, to the mind-body connection, and effectively considering the organization and the individual within it holistically.
3. The Ego, the Group, and the Individual
Professional dancers are often trained to surrender their egos. In my experience this mentality is not as common in the workplace. This form of training has positive outcomes and is crucial for Achieving the Orchestrated Power of the Whole. Letting go of the ego is not something that one can do after simply reading an inspirational quote or understand after one conversation, it is something that has to be relentlessly reinforced. As a dancer I would often hear “we can’t get the work done with egos in the way”. Almost every day my instructors would tell us “Leave your egos at the door”. Seeing the same human quality at play in other industries, the importance of the message is even more evident. Letting go of the ego is not about devaluing the individual but rather to maintain a healthy focus and perspective on the desired result and reason for engaging in the task. This way, we are more satisfied as a whole and as individuals when outcomes are appropriately correlated under an objective. When being part of a team or an organization, think about how many times you have seen small or large tasks take too long or get hindered due to a conflict regarding who has been placed in charge of the task, or push back from “doers” because of a non-directive opinion about the work to be done. At some point in these types of interactions, it will often undoubtedly boil down to the interference of egos blocking the highest intention for the organizational movement. Our egos lead to placing disruptive blame on oneself or others. Our egos lead to a team member getting upset thinking they should do a certain role because of the one they did last time. Our egos lead to team members flying out the door because their exact perception of their needs is not being met. For example, if something used to be one way and then a change is implemented, it is the ego that will be resistant to change. Our egos often stand in the way of the process of fulfilling the project goal. Although as people no one is perfect, we do get better with practice. There is a need for the ego to be considered in the workplace and often times it is not. The ego is motivated mainly by achievement or congratulatory moments and if these moments do not occur it can affect performance in an ego-driven circumstance. Releasing the ego will allow the work to flourish rather than the “self” exclusively or predominantly being the driver. This doesn’t mean rewards; notable achievements or congratulatory moments don’t occur however in this case they are appropriately measured and internalized in correlation to the work. The monitoring or “loss of the ego” does not mean that there is no room for human emotion or conversations with management or colleagues.
4. The Coaching Mindset
The natural pieces of pros and cons that often come with the territory of working with others should ideally be nurtured, planned and executed with the same importance as creating the business case itself because the people are what bring the business plan into reality. This includes coaching your teams to think holistically about their work and their involvement by not separating a new incentive to eat healthy and exercise entirely from the office or cubicle experience and especially not the next milestone. How we speak as leaders is important. Giving consistent “gentle reminders” rather than using the accusatory tone of being incorrect when bringing team members back to the core of an overarching understanding or awareness is a good method for receptivity. If we are all aware that this quarter we are focusing on not “end gaining” then it makes all areas of focus increasingly easier to attain asynchronously and from there can be deepened in the direction of management’s choosing.
This of course means leaders must provide tools. In the example of end gaining offering a dialogue of literature and other resources or bringing someone to speak about the theme from a different frame of reference can be beneficial. In dance training unnecessary tension, whether physical or mental, can lead to injury. Guided physical exercises as simple as the process of sitting and standing that also enforce actionable focus on end gaining can be used both as an ergonomic solution for the workplace and be correlated to the importance of doing things correctly. A dancer can force their body incorrectly and put their leg up high, however when the same goal is reached with all best practices met along the way the end goal of the correct arabesque or a al seconde is fully achieved. This is similar to the Samsung phone that was recalled and caused fires but was brought to market vs. the iPhone or another more successful version of a Samsung model. Think of all the negative repercussions that occur with the latter although the same “exciting” or “impressive” goal is being attempted. The concept of end gaining is one in particular that can easily be re-enforced both through the individual as well as the working team around an overarching business goal and draws on mind-body awareness and interconnected success with work related goals. This approach fosters a broader holistic understanding that is beneficial for the work life balance even while working, and the optimal use of the individual as well as the group within the end result.
When team members are connected both individually and with one another as a group under a common goal the outcome can be compared to a beautiful core of dancers in Swan Lake or Revelations. The integrity and importance of moments of perfect unison required in juxtaposition to a solo or non-unison moments do not simply happen because performers are incessantly counting the music. It is a much deeper connection and overall thought process that fosters both the individual’s responsibility to the group as well as the importance and respect for the overall success of the outcome. Under this overarching common understanding the performers are deeply connected to the work, themselves and the group all at once as vessels for the artistic vision. Although those famous works in particular have been performed over and over again there is a strong common understanding regarding the execution of process and aesthetics including strong person-to-person connections when getting the job done. This happens both over large periods of time during the rehearsal process as well as in the moment during live performance. The connection of the group as a whole has a strong qualitative implication for the end result in the common workplace as well. One attribute to attaining this type of success is consciously monitoring the ego and coaching purpose-driven success to shine.
Simplified, the careful nurturing of process, commitment, and understanding through the mind-body connection as well as interconnectedness in both verbal and nonverbal communication are a handful of the attributes to “Achieving the Orchestrated Power of the Whole”. It is both an intellectual and emotionally intelligent process that is important for the success of every business.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on February 14, 2017.