this article is courtesy of 4ward consulting
3 Leadership Lessons from the School Talent Show
There is no better start to your day than an elementary school talent show.
Before I had a child, I imagined sitting in an auditorium for three hours, listening to budding virtuosos attempt to play Three Blind Mice on the violin. #StrangledCat
The talent show experience at my daughter’s school , Cannon School, is much different. It’s well-organized, well-rehearsed, entertaining, and to top it off, these kids –all these kids– are really talented.
So when this year’s talent show rolled around, I was in. All in.
For an hour we were treated to an incredible array of performances: a budding piano star, so small his feet didn’t reach the pedals, playing a classical piece of music flawlessly… and without the sheet music (!); a dancer who defied gravity, leaping gracefully around the stage performing an Irish Step Dance; first generation Chinese and Indian students performing traditional dances; miniature gymnasts displaying incredible strength and flexibility; and sweet little voices singing pop songs and show tunes.
And we learned a lot. Not just about the kids’ talents. There were some very valuable lessons to apply to business.
Lesson 1: Pay attention and listen. There was a palpable buzz in the auditorium. The kids were energized and ready to perform. The audience was animated. With all that excitement, how would anyone ever get control of this raucous crowd? Not a problem. Mrs. Alexander, the head of the school, stood at the lectern and raised one hand above her head. In seconds, the auditorium was silent. By paying attention, the audience was then in a position to listen when they needed to.
When it comes to running your business, pay attention to when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to get down to work. Having set times or places in the office to socialize helps keep the party from creeping in to work areas. If there’s not a line between work and play in the office, you run the risk of missing something important. Or maybe even losing a customer.
Have you ever had to ask multiple times for a glass of water in a restaurant? Somebody’s not listening. Does the same thing happen in your own workplace, or are issues always solved on the first go round?
We’re so eager to do –to solve problems– that sometimes we don’t take the time to listen to what the problem is in the first place. Pay attention and listen.
Lesson 2: Know Your Strengths. There wasn’t one introduction at the talent show that sounded anything like this: “Second-grader Jimmy Smith, is a black belt in karate. But today, for the first time ever, he’s going to play the electric guitar.”
The idea is ridiculous. Yet it wasn’t that long ago that management and leadership gurus advised spending time improving your areas of weakness. For instance, they might suggest if you’re not a numbers person, take an accounting class. Again, it’s ridiculous; when we focus on our weaknesses, we weaken our strengths.
So do what you do best. Do what you –and only you– can do. And spend as much of your time doing it as possible. At the same time, surround yourself with people whose strength is your area of weakness. Find that numbers person or HR expert and let them do for you what you cannot do yourself.
And guess what? The people around you want to see you do what you do best. You are most productive and provide the most value to your customers when you know your strengths.
Lesson 3: Be prepared so you can try your hardest. There is no doubt in my mind that days and weeks were invested in that talent show by the performers, stage crew, emcees, music teacher, Mrs. Pfitzner, and the other faculty. Think about that: weeks invested for a one-hour event.
My daughter and her friend rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed some more. They didn’t want to miss their chance. And when the lights went down and the curtail came up, it was clear they were ready for their big moment.
Have you ever gone into a meeting without having read the report? Have you ever showed up for a sales call without knowing much about your potential customer? We’ve all done it. We sometimes rely on our experience and expertise to compensate for our lack of preparation.
But if we are unprepared, we might miss our chance. Sometimes there is only one big moment. If you are going to seize that moment, be prepared so you can try your hardest.
Bonus Lesson: Celebrate the Victories. Not every child in the talent show will go on to be a professional performer. Chances are most of them will not end up as a singer, dancer, or musician.
But you would never know it by listening to the audience’s reaction. After every performance, there was thunderous applause and cheers. Not just from adoring parents –students in the audience were cheering on their classmates.
Several years ago at work I started a practice called celebration day. The day after a big program or event, my team would stop for a moment to recognize and celebrate the individuals who put in all the hard work. We didn’t worry about the next big thing on our schedule; we didn’t even hold a postmortem to analyze what didn’t go as planned. It was our day to celebrate the victories.
There will always be time to think about what didn’t go well. In fact, it may be in the middle of the night when we’re racking our brains, trying to figure out what we could have done differently.
But the time to celebrate is fleeting. So take advantage of it in the moment.
If you have a chance to see an elementary student perform, don’t miss it. You’ll learn a lot.