One could argue that theatre actors, unlike employees in a corporate, are highly motivated people who have chosen to be on stage based on their passion and interest for theatre, rather than for the money. (In fact, there is no money in theatre!). But my (limited) experience at stage acting has taught me that it’s not passion alone that drives actors to give it their all even in ‘bit roles’. During a production, every actor is usually made fully aware that he is on stage for a specific reason, and that the role is important no matter how inconsequential and unglamorous it may seem. The director and the other senior cast are quick to point out to actors that on stage everyone is on view. That the entire scene could collapse if the energy of even one person on stage drops and no amount of passion from the other cast would compensate for the disinterest shown by even one actor. In fact, it is not uncommon to see ‘senior’ actors pitching in for bit roles almost as if to underline the importance of these roles. It then becomes easier for others to understand and emulate this spirit. And this is further reinforced during the curtain call at the end of the play, where each and every member of the cast and backstage crew is introduced and highlighted to the audience irrespective of their centrality to the play.
It struck me that organizations could easily learn and adopt a few of these things from theatre Here are three ideas that come to mind:
Create ‘Why I am here’ notes
If the so-called ‘bit actors’ in a company were made aware of their ‘reason to be’, not only would they have clarity about where exactly they fit in, they would also realize how vital they are to the success of organization. A doorman at a hotel would perform the mundane, repetitive task of opening and shutting a door with greater zeal if he realized that he is the first point of contact between the hotel and the guest! A programmer writing code for banking software may look at her task differently if she feels she is helping money move faster. So how about appending all appointment letters with a separate note that clearly outlines why the particular position exists? Why can’t every employee have a small post-it that spells out the importance of his role in the larger picture? (e.g. check out this title!)
Here, let me do it
In a recent IPL senior pro Glenn McGrath hardly got a game, was seen enthusiastically playing substitute and cheerleader from the sidelines instead of sulking on the bench. Like in theatre or sport, senior managers would do well to roll up their sleeves occasionally and demonstrate their eagerness to take on the seemingly inconsequential tasks of their team members – like writing minutes, proofreading reports, or making an entry level sales call. Not only would the junior employee get a first hand template on ‘how to do it’, he would probably also feel more committed to the task.
When the credits roll at the end of a movie I am always fascinated by the level of detail they sometimes go into – the spot boy, the tea boy, the caterer, the travel agent, the banker, the assistants …. all captured for ever as contributors to the cause. So why can’t companies add a credits slide at the end any presentation? How about creating a ritual around informal curtain calls at the end of even minor projects?