Management & Learning

03. Mañana Isn’t An Option

A number of years ago I decided to hang out with smart people – not the cool and popular (although they’re good people) but the people who are really good at what they do and how they go about their thing. Since making this decision to hunt down the smarts in any room, I’ve enjoyed the results of better thinking, learning, growth and great conversations. It’s been a privilege to sit alongside some brilliant thinkers and doers as they share and unpack quality ideas and skills that changed not only my world but the world of others too.

The information highway has passed and today we’re entering the age of ‘concept’. There is something exponential in the power of sharing ideas and when you harness the power of one’s mind it is a beautiful moment. It’s good thinking, which brings me to the art of leadership.

Leadership is about your actions and reactions; about making decisions without deliberation; and about acting with confidence, but without recklessness. Leadership guru Peter Bains shared this wonderful insight and I couldn’t agree more. As a producer leadership is essential – you are the team lead – the leader … more often than not working within challenging time and budget constraints to get the job done. I always say we’ve advertised a date, place and time; tickets are advertised and on sale; one thing is a certainty – the audience is coming, and the gates must open on time. The flexibility to post-pone is not an option. Mañana (some unspecified time in the future) does not exist for us!

Teamwork is about achieving something that would be impossible for an individual; and to build an effective team you need a leader. The greater the project and challenge facing the team, the greater the leader needs to be – leadership matters.

Whether a leader is appointed or chosen, whether they are the leader of themselves or of a team of hundreds, a leader must surround themselves by the best and know how to achieve results by harnessing the power of the resources around them.

As good as the production pre-planning has been there’s always the pressure in the role as a producer of a crisis or two (some minor, others bigger) that will need to be resolved, trouble shot and re-vamped. I always same a quiet two-way radio and mobile reflects the level of your pre-planning, but experience has taught me there is always a little something something needing a solution regardless of concrete planning. The client may change something last minute or worst missed communicating a requirement. If outdoors weather may be an issue through to a product that isn’t working – the list  is endless with ‘what if’s!’ Importantly this will be your time to shine!

It’s times like this I lean on ‘The Crisis Clock’ – not the DOOMSDAY clock.

The crisis clock is a tool to identify, mange and focus resources during a crisis. In my line of work as a producer, especially on major event planning a crisis can range from a bomb threat to being short of decks to build a stage through to an artist who is stuck at the airport delayed due to weather. Regardless of situation and it doesn’t matter what the cause of the challenge is, a crisis is a crisis, and this tool developed by Peter Baines is my go to deal with a crisis and any challenge to support my team and navigate my way to an outcome.

Leadership Matters – Peter Bains

STAGE 1: FRANTIC – GET INTO IT

The first port of call is people before assets. We need to ensure our people are okay. Look after yourself and your team. Through controlled response, planning if there is time, a leader must consider the skill sets required to undertake the task ahead and steer the project forward through challenge. This is the moment when you clearly define what the team will consider – that is, what is in and outside the scope of the project or response. Assess the boundaries, scope the project, and don’t take too long.

You need to activate the team, get started, stop talking and start doing what you are there to do. Deploy your resources, monitor and communicate. In the deployment phase of your resources there needs to be control and appropriate communication.

STAGE 2: CONTROLLED – GET ON TOP OF IT

Frantic has abated and this is the phase to prepare strategically with a planned response and duration – how long is this going to take? You have processed what’s critical, just do what you’re there to do! The operational team have structure again, clear understanding of what they need to do and confident to keep pushing forward – in fact, they’re back at it – doing it!

Initial reaction may have been to tip a whole heap of resources into the situation but be gainful. Often, it’s not about as many people as possible, it’s about the right people, the right resources, the right moves with efficient, effective and quick action.

STAGE 3: WORKING – GET ON WITH IT

Manage the energy – the team will get tired. Never truer is the fact in the world of arts, events and entertainment the hours are long especially onsite. The tiredness can be emotional and/or physical. As the leader a producer must acknowledge and manage the onset of energy shift. As the producer you also need to recognise no matter your own resilience, there will be a need to leave. How a project is left can be more important than many of the achievements along the way, especially if you are working across a touring product – it’s physically impossible and you’re mentally incapable of being in all places at the same time. This is were reporting and communications is critical amongst all stakeholders – who’s in control, who are the decision-makers?

As the producer, project manager, commander at all times you need to be able to navigate your way through by communicating with others with comprehensive notes that support decision-making. Anecdotal, or evidence from one’s memory seldom suffices!

STAGE 4: EXIT – GET OUT OF THERE

When you’re a producer try as you might to remain emotionally detached from what’s going on, it is just not possible. BUT at some stage you will need to go home! Your team feel the same way and usually carry a significant attachment to the project as well. When you hand over the abaton a smooth transition between teams that is timely and prepared needs to occur. The thing to remember when preparing any sort of handover is that nothing is too simple to be included.

At the end of every project – always always always debrief – sit back and reflect. This is often a step missed but if there has to be time to acknowledge what was done well, what can be done differently and what was learnt for next time well basically it’s poor leadership and you are robbing your team!

What I’ve learnt throughout my career and experiences of building and leading teams in the arts, event, entertainment and tourism industries is that when a crisis occurs its not about the crisis, it is about being appointed to a certain position and it is certainly not ego – it is about leadership.

Be the leader you want to lead you!

Yolande (Lou) Smith

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