My husband and I did a bridal photo shoot for our future sister-in-law last weekend. My husband is more technically proficient on the camera, so I was directing our model for most of the shoot, which sparked a lot of thoughts on managing well. I believe a manager’s job is to get the best work out of their people, not just delegate or revel in their power. If an employee is performing below average, I would first take a look at their manager. Sure, there are mitigating circumstances, but I’m willing to bet the sub-par adequacy can largely be traced to poor management. So, what did the photo shoot teach me about managing well?
Have a plan, and share it with your employees. We’re new to shooting with more than just each other, so having a plan was crucial! We went on a recon mission to map out locations, figure out the lighting, and generally know what we were getting ourselves into prior to the shoot. Once we arrived, I told my future SIL where we planned to shoot and the general flow of the afternoon, which made the shoot much more smoothly. Sometimes managers have no idea where they’re heading. Other times, they have a long-term plan, but they just keep that information to themselves. No wonder their employees can’t effectively prioritize their projects or integrate ideas into the big picture!
Preempt the pitfalls. We knew our model would sweat her make-up off, that the sun would go down, and that it was a little muddy in some places, so we used our plan to preempt the pitfalls. While my husband was shooting, I was walking around looking for the next pose, making sure the hair, dress, and veil stayed perfect, and generally making sure things were going well, so that he could focus on getting the shot. Managers should do the same thing for their employees. Is trouble brewing among the top executives? Managers should curtail the effects on their subordinates so that their employees can focus on delivering great work. Is a huge project coming down the pipeline? Managers should start re-arranging the project assignments to ensure the right people are available for each task. Good managers will think a move or two ahead, and work to create an environment that is free of undue stress or unproductive drama.
Be enthusiastic. It’s summer in Texas, which means it’s stinkin’ hot outside, even at 6 pm. Add to that the insane mosquitoes that graced our shoot, and things could get real annoying, real quick. So, what did I do? I did a jig. I did spirit fingers (don’t judge, you know what those are if you’ve watched Donnie Darko!). I gave a sassy hip pop, I laid down on the ground or scampered up a ladder, and I got all up in my model’s space. All of my excitement rubbed off on her, kept her in good spirits, and ultimately, we got the shots that we needed. These over-the-top strategies work in management as well. Think about it: do you want to work with a depressing, boring person who mopes about when you have to stay late to meet a deadline? Or, do you want to work with someone that makes you feel a rush of adrenaline and pride at a job well done? Employees mirror their manager’s attitude, and your enthusiasm is infectious. So do a little jazz square every now and again, climb on a desk if you’re so inclined, and give a joyful yell every so often… you might just make work fun!
I loved working on this shoot with my husband, and I think we learned a lot about managing a shoot and directing a model, and I love translating the lessons from the shoot to the office environment. What are your tips for managing well?