A good friend was leading a workshop for leaders, and it caused me to pause. She enjoyed drama and theater, including music and dancing which we had discussed often… as hobbies. She was now offering training for managers on Improv, what they shortened “improvisation” to in Performance competitions. Perhaps from my days in Debate, where the Theater people were… “different” – a feeling they had about us also – I thought it was little off. What would Improv have to do with leadership? And then… I was called in to engage a team with…. no preparation…
Now, of course, this type of “Performance” training is commonplace in high-end MBA programs, and executive suites around the world. Learning how to get your message across and engage your audience no matter what the setting is required for leaders at all levels. There is even a more sophisticated name for the whole genre – Executive Presence – but let’s be clear, it is straight-up Performing.
As Black History Month winds down, there is one musician that is always called “The Performer” and has enough stories to fill these pages for weeks. And, I was challenged to tighten up my writing and focus, so I will take the challenge. It will be like learning the Time Step for the first time, which this Performer did when he could barely walk. Born to Vaudeville dancers in Harlem in 1925, there was really no career choice available to him, when you engage your first audience at 3, and the performance brings the house down. This video captures him at twice that age (7) but you can already see where he is going.
On the road for most of his life, he later admitted he never learned to read… and yet, his command of a room, a song, a dance step are still examples used in those same “executive presence” workshops. To him, it was simply mirroring his parents, godfather, and constant practice hours every day. And as a student of everything around him, his impressions were some of the best ever. So good that their 20 minute opening at Ciro in 1953 lasted more than hour, and they were the closing act the next night.
Performance – which is what all leaders and managers are after for their team is derived from… Perform. And as much as we like to think that it is not acting, those of us who have done it for enough years know that is exactly what it is. As we move out of the first part of the year, everyone is starting to engage more in measuring how we are doing in this week, month, or quarter. Whatever approach you are using to measure, let’s discuss what Perform has to do with Performance.
Starting out the week, take a look at your calendar and see how many scheduled “Performances” you have… and what will put you at your best for each “audience”. It is where all of this comes together… they turn to you and say …. What? And are you ready to engage? Here is a pretty good way to start the week … from the Broadway show The Pajama Game in 1954, their first hit that went to number 6. Listed as The Will Mastin Trio – soon to add his name to the title, and soon to completely dominate Performing for the next 30 years. Hey There… Sammy Davis Jr.