“We’ve always done it this way!”
Don’t you love that phrase? There’s also “Younger people don’t want to do anything in our company!” “They don’t stick around; they don’t commit.” You’ve either heard these phrases or, worse still, said them. I simply don’t believe them to be true. Younger people do want to be involved in the management of their theatre company but they don’t want to be their parents or babysit old ideas. They have valid thoughts and experiences that can propel a company into a new future.
I find working with younger people energising, frustrating, joyful, fun, interesting and educational. I find working with older people energising, frustrating, joyful, fun, interesting and educational.
The generations are different for good reason. The skill is to understand and embrace each other’s differences. But how do you do share your ideas without sounding like that person – the one who is going to show the current managers how it’s done? How do you have an impact in your company and share your ideas and skills?
Move your bloomin’ arse!
Don’t sit around whinging to others, whipping up dissent and feeding your own, probably wrong, beliefs about the current management. Offer to help and don’t expect to step straight into a glamorous role (not sure what that is in community theatre). Nothing annoys people more than an arrogant attitude of entitlement.
- Serve and assist.
- Become known as someone to be trusted.
- Don’t gossip.
- Be teachable.
Share the joy
Bring the fun back. Remind everyone of the joy they once got from community theatre. Often, existing management:
- have forgotten how to have fun.
- treat others like staff because they are too busy.
- wrongly believe that they are irreplaceable.
Check yourself regularly to make sure you are staying true to who you are. It will be very easy to conform and you won’t even notice it happening. Before you know it, you’ll be having dinner at 5:30pm and calling everyone ‘love’ or ‘dear’. Don’t let anyone tell you that your opinions and thoughts aren’t valid just because you are younger. Your experiences and knowledge of your generation can lead the company into its future with a whole new audience.
Have your eyes wide open
Understand that the current management are going to feel threatened by you until they know that you respect their efforts and are sincerely there to help the company, not just blow your own horn. They will be condescending and defensive in everything from how they order their coffee to their knowledge of social media platforms. Suck it up and deal with it. This will be a make or break point for you. Give it time.
Do not take offense
This is the hardest part of the process and, OMG, it is difficult. But if you determine before you begin that you will keep your sense of humour and respond in a positive, respectful, and assertive way, you can allow the other person’s dignity to remain intact and still get things done. Know when to pick your battles and when to relax so you don’t burn yourself out. When you lose your cool (and you will) apologise and start again. Find a mentor who will let you vent and then give you the advice you need.
“You can’t change a culture with revolution or you’ll destroy the good parts. You must create value on the fringe and, if it is good, it will gradually take over. Increase the new culture and it will envelop the old culture.” Joey Bonafacio.
Joey Bonafacio teaches on leadership and shares this brilliant concept about organisational change: “A healthy organisation will understand and actively seek to maintain the balance between economics, enjoyment and excellence.”
Economics + Enjoyment – Excellence = Mediocre
The company that has money and just wants to have fun but has no intentional focus on the excellence of their shows or business practices, ends up mediocre. These companies:
- produce shows that are not great but everyone’s having a good time so who cares?
- have no growth because they can’t attract people with more skills. Who wants to be involved with mediocre?
- have no inspiration or strong leadership. They’re just not going anywhere.
- are badly organised.
Economics + Excellence – Enjoyment = Burnout
The company that has money and works hard to create great shows and expects excellence in all areas of theatre. These companies:
- burn out their volunteers.
- have developed martyrdom into an art form.
- treat their volunteers like staff.
- let money come before people.
Enjoyment + Excellence – Economics = Poverty
The company where everyone is having a great time and working hard to create a great show but management don’t have a clue about business or how to manage money. The company can’t sustain itself. These companies:
- have a high level of conflict about management decisions.
- are unable to fulfill their goals.
- either collapse or limp along, demoralising everyone.
If you have a passion for your company and want to see it influence your community, make a choice to start speaking encouragement and joy into the situation. The ideas and passions you have aren’t there to pack away in a box until later. Later is too late for your company. It needs you now, so unpack your servant attitude and joyful outlook and get stuck in.