Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Whose job are you doing?

One of the things I like about working as an actor is that everyone has a defined role - actors and crew. This is true of most creative ventures. Everyone has a defined role and generally the team allows everyone to perform their defined role without interference. The Director doesn't try to do the work of the actors, the actors don't interfere with the lighting rig, the stage manager doesn't take over from the producer.

It's a great example to consider for teams in other settings who may struggle with a leader who likes to "get their hands dirty" or the control freak who tells other people what to do. Working in these settings also provides a great lesson trust: trust that everyone else will do their job effectively.

This week I've been working on a project with a mix of actors and nurses. The nurses are "playing the role" of nurses. I've noticed that they are mistrustful that others are doing their jobs. I'm used to waiting where I'm told by whoever is in charge of the production and then moving when they tell me to. One of the nurses was consistently telling me where I was supposed to be. I later noticed that she was also perpetually worried about where people were and who was in charge of one of the sound effects. The sound effect had malfunctioned a couple of times during the day. My response is to make sure I know what my alternative queue is if the sound effect fails. This particular nurse's response was to round people up and question what was happening with the sound effect as we were walking out to start the scene. Upon suggestion that she just needed to focus on her job, she became very tense and responded that she just needed to be sure that there was someone doing it and that they would do their job properly.

I found this fascinating. While she was focusing on other roles, it meant that she wasn't paying attention to her own.

This kind of behaviour could be a cancer in a team and, as with many behaviours, it's often created by the leader. I've noticed that when a leader has been promoted from their area of technical expertise into their leadership role they often drift back to the comfort zone of their expertise. This is often described to me as a virtue - they're prepared to "muck in" with their team and work alongside them. There's nothing wrong with that if it's a conscious choice and the consequences of this choice are understood.

My next question is usually "When you're "mucking in" who's doing your job?"

Leadership is a role within a team or organisation. If the leader is busy on operational matters, then they aren't leading. This choice, like every choice a leader makes, creates behaviour within the team. Is it useful behaviour or is it unhelpful?

Back on set with the nurse I suggested that she relax and just focus on her assigned role and let everyone else do the same. She looked at me like I was crazy.

Do you trust others to do their job? Are you focused on your job or are you worried about everyone else?

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