Tagged: Thought

Scapegoat Symphony: Don’t Lay Blame for Broken Arts

blameIn my previous post, I got you thinking about how you feel about the work your arts organization does, and how effective it is. Since that last post, I think it’s safe to say that the question has been nagging at you and you are eager to investigate it a little bit further—or you wouldn’t be back here today reading this post.  You’ve probably been analyzing all the things that you encounter in your day to day activities that you can attribute problems to. When I ask people to tell me what they feel is holding their organization back, clients usually will name a person who they tend to blame for organizational troubles. Then, the next most popular answer is about not having enough money to do the work they want to do.

I told you at the beginning of this series that we were going to “bite our thumbs” at some of the traditions that PLAGUE are in use in arts organization today. We are going to start right now.

1. Don’t use scapegoats to explain your organization’s troubles.  Throughout this process, I encourage you to constantly analyze cause and effect, but with a spin. For every cause, I’ll need you to think of at least 3 effects, and for every effect, I’ll need you to think of 3 possible causes.  We are going to climb out from behind our desks and up onto a ladder where we can get a bird’s eye view of the entire situation.  Nothing is exempt from examination, or inspection.

2. Never, ever, forget that the stakeholders in your organization—your Board, your staff, your interns, your donors, and most of all your audience—they are all people. These are all living breathing human beings with emotions, feelings, goals, and aspirations, and goals of their own. As you look to repair, innovate, and build your organization, you will make human-to-human interaction a primary consideration for the actions you take.

3. Ask why? Ask it often. Ask it again and again. For everything in your organization you will ask why. Why is this necessary? Why do we need to do it this way? Why does this serve our mission? Why do we need to take this action? Why are we doing this kind of work? Why do we think we need this? Why do you think you are right? Why do you have an issue with this? Why do we do things this way?  Why does our audience need us? Why do we present performances this way? Why do we interact with our audience this way?  I know that is a lot of questions, but each one will help you to define what is necessary and what is working in your organization. When you pose the question, if you get a concise and strong answer, then you will know that cause and effect has been done. You can trust that you are headed in the direction you are intending and not backtracking in anyway.

Are you ready to do these things?  Whether you are an Executive Director, and intern, or somewhere in between, you can be a leader for innovation and change in the arts organization you serve. You can set the example—you can be the change you wish to see.  In the next post in this series, we are going to look at how asking why? can get help you de-clutter and streamline your work, ditch distraction, and fast-track you to effective change.

Stay tuned,




Do you believe in the work you do? Let’s talk about it…

happinessI’m going to ask you a question. I want you to pay attention to your very first, immediate, gut reaction and emotion to the question.  Listen to your thoughts very carefully and identify the first to come into your mind as an answer to the following:  “Do you believe in your organization’s artistic work?” What was your initial reaction to the question? If you said YES! immediately, then congratulations. Your organization is most likely doing in good shape.  But if you questioned, doubted, or outright said NO, then I hope that this series of posts can help you restore confidence in your organization.

The first step you must take is fully embracing the fact that you don’t have the faith or belief in the success of your organization that your should.  Be honest with yourself. After I asked you the question, and you had a negative response, you probably immediately also felt some sense of reasoning, self-assuring that no, your organization was on the right track. It’s likely that you also had some feelings of guilt regarding your response.  When I ask my clients the same question about the organization they are running, or about their personal careers, I often here justification responses like “I feel bad for saying that, I work there!” or “I shouldn’t say that, everyone is trying their best.” Or my favorite, “I may not believe in our effectiveness now, but it’s getting better!” When I dig a little bit deeper, I ask clients to support their justification statement s with facts or proof. How is it getting better? Do you like working there and why? Tell me how everyone is trying their best?  Nine times out of ten, I’m answered with a long thoughtful pause.

So, enough is enough.  In this series of blog posts, we are going to discuss how our dissatisfaction can motivate us to become arts leaders. We are going to turn up our noses at many long-standing traditions that occur in organizations—but we are going to do it in the best interest of those our arts organization serves.  Right from the beginning I want you to do two things with me.

1.  I want you to accept the fact that this process is not about you, your boss, your staff. It is about those you serve. It is about those who experience the artistic work of your organization. It could be your audience in the concert hall; it could be public school children who are taught by your teaching artists. This process is about doing what is best for them and no one else.

2.  You must take all your doubt, apprehensions, and negative feeling you have about your organization’s environment and bring them together. When you feel them together, then you’ll realize that it’s not just negative thoughts anymore, but a strong sense of intuition.  Throughout this process, we are going to learn how to focus our intuitive feelings like a laser beam.  Then we are going to turn that laser beam onto our organizational challenges.  Intuition will guide the process of improvement and adaptation.

Are you with me? Do you want to play an active role in leading your organization toward authentic success? Do you want to cut through the “clutter” that clouds your organization’s mission? But most importantly, do you want to bring better services to your constituency? Your audience? Your tribe? If you do, then stick with me through the next several posts. I’ll help you learn how to do all of those things, and to lead innovation in the arts world.

Stay tuned,