This is the second post in a 3-part series on business lessons from my recent stint on-stage. Yesterday, I talked about the importance of the director, and today’s post discusses aspects of working in an ensemble. This show had a cast and chorus of about 100 people, so there were a lot of moving parts! Most of my “big” scenes dealt with only a handful of people, usually 1-3 additional cast members. So, what’s my takeaway from all this ensemble work?
You gotta trust your cast mates. During one scene, I was flung to the ground, flipped head-over-heels, and thrown across the stage, such that I spun pretty well out of control for several seconds. That takes some trust! I have to trust that my fellow actress wouldn’t flip me off the stage, and she had to trust that I knew how to fall, flip, and spin without hurting myself. There’s a huge give and take in a stage production, with each actor relying on their cast mates to say the right lines, move to the right spot, and generally hold up their end of the bargain. This is so true in business, particularly in large companies where projects progress in phases. I have to trust that my colleagues will finish their portions on time, that they’ll give me accurate information, and that they’ll use the marketing pieces I give them properly. Without trust, the whole thing just falls apart.
Cohesion. Cohesion is closely related to trust. There’s a level of bonding that takes place when you spend several nights per week with someone, sweating and missing cues! Being on the same page when you step onstage for a performance is often the difference between stellar and mediocre. I’ve found that presenting a united front at the office makes a huge difference. I’m often the most junior person in the room, and many times, the four or five senior people are not on the same page when they come into the meeting. This makes for a confusing set of project requirements for me, and often requires additional meetings and time to finish the project.
Energy. You know how a yawn is contagious? That’s not what you want circulating around before the curtain goes up on a stage performance or a business performance! Energy is not just about “pep”, but also about the genuine excitement, passion, and belief in what you’re about to present. It’s not about getting enough sleep or eating a ton of sugar, but the ability to keep going when you’re “tired”. I think energy comes from the top down, and I’ve definitely seen both sides of this while attending tradeshows with my company. Some members show up and mope at the booth, because they were out late last night… and that’s infectious! It makes me feel more sluggish than the person who shows up, ready to walk the show, shake some hands, and make some sales. Energy is contagious, so don’t be a yawner, be a go-getter!
I’ve grown to enjoy ensemble (or “group” work as we refer to it in school and the office) work, and I’ve found that having the right partners can make or break a project. What have learned in out-of-office group settings that translates directly into your professional environment? Stay tuned for the series conclusion in tomorrow’s post!