Communication Takes A Lot Of Listening

October 27, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

Are you talking to your staff every day or close to it? More importantly, are you hearing what they’re saying back? When fostering leadership within an organization, it is essential to analyze and break down silos that interfere with open communication and collaboration.

In Leadership in the Performing Arts by Tobie S. Stein, the author speaks with leaders in influential theatre organizations to establish what it means to create a leadership culture and how an organization’s core values contribute to this culture.

Setting clear expectations is at the heart of creating a leadership culture within an organization. “Having a clear sense of mission or purpose is important,” according to Harold Wolpert, managing director at the Roundabout Theatre Company. “It’s hard to produce leaders if you’re not distinct about what you do.”

One example of an organization with apparent values is the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which boasts a meticulous “culture of work,” according to President & Chief Executive Officer Karen Brooks Hopkins. “If people don’t really like to work hard, then they’re not going to be happy at BAM,” she said.

On the opposite side of the coin, there are organizational cultures that do not value transparency and penalize employees for having ideas. It’s very unlikely that these kinds of organizations will develop real leaders. Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, shares that she doesn’t want a siloed staff. “I want to go into the conference room with my entire staff and push the ideas around until they take shape,” she said.

After establishing your organization’s core values, a leader might decide to undergo rebranding to match the public view of the organization with the newly refined core values. “Branding is the external projection of what the organization is in its bones,” according to Wolpert. By taking steps to collaborate with staff members to produce innovate results, a leader further contributes to a positive organizational culture.