If you ever imagined yourself on stage in a big Broadway production, Hollywood movie, or TV show, being a manager in today’s workplace environment gives you a chance to read your lines in a starring role.

Managing today requires numerous skills including the ability to perform in front of an audience with multiple generations and diverse expectations.

Me and Mrs. Jones

I was in a grocery checkout line not too long ago when I noticed a familiar face, Dr. Roseann Jones, professor of economics at the University of Guam. We began to talk and she referenced a commentary I had given regarding the need to avoid the pursuit of perfection, that it was counterproductive. She said she found the information valuable.

I felt pretty good about that, given that back in the day, most of my college professors probably wanted to throw me out of class. To have one with her talent and standing say she liked my stuff, well ... that worked for me.

You never know when value will appear

As we continued chatting, I mentioned how I thought she and others who taught young adults, really had it tough. I could only imagine the difficulty of facing off with a room full of students, most of them in the Generation Z category, and trying to reach them in this age of distraction. Teachers are up against social media, YouTube, and everything else happening on a smartphone.

Then she said something which generated a big “aha moment” for me — that sometimes she thinks teaching is like performance art.

For people who wonder how I’ve been able to come up with a daily radio commentary on The Point’s Ray Gibson Show for the last two years, this is often how it happens. I have chance conversations with people — sometimes in a checkout line — and they say something that sets my mind to whirling.

Put those moments on paper as soon as possible

Roseann and I soon ended the conversation and as I ran to my car I was repeating the two words over and over that had really grabbed my attention: “performance art.” I wrote them down along with thoughts that were pinging back and forth in my mind.

For years I’ve told managers that their job is often like being on stage, that they would enhance their career by taking acting lessons. It always got a laugh. Dr. Jones’ words raised the game.

Great managers are great performers

Taking acting lessons is something one does to improve skills, build confidence and have fun. Performance art demands more. It screams for commitment, for us to pour ourselves into it, to give a more powerful experience to those who witness our art. Think about the impact of telling someone, “I’m taking acting lessons” or saying “I’m a performance artist.” There’s a significant difference, isn’t there?

If you glance upward at the opening I used these terms: “starring role” … ”multiple generations” … and “diverse expectations.”

The average manager typically has five to 10 workers who report to him/her. Five to 10 unique personalities, talents, levels of distraction, and communication styles. What he/she faces is the same as the teacher with a full class of students — they have to be reached and remain focused. A one-size-fits-all approach likely will not be effective.

Each person is an audience of one

For a teacher, it’s combining information that is interesting, with a delivery style that entertains. If you’ve heard the term “infotainment,” then you know the philosophy involved — learning has to be compelling. You can’t stand in front of the class and give a dry lecture out of a book. Not today, given what you’re competing with.

Managers need to get to know their workers as individuals and what makes them tick. That will help them learn what motivates each person and how to hit those hot buttons. If they can, better results won’t be far behind. I think Dr. Roseann Jones would agree that makes economic sense for every manager and organization.

Don’t just take “acting lessons.” Instead, convert your management style, position, and career into performance art. Everybody in your audience will know the difference.


Jerry Roberts comments on business and the workplace daily at 7:20 a.m. on The Ray Gibson Show on The Point, 93.3 FM. He can be reached at guamtraining.com, or email jroberts@guamtraining.com

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