The Teachable Moment From Mistakes

September 6, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

No one expects you to go out for drinks and be best friends with every member of the senior staff. However, it is important to develop some level of interpersonal relationships with all of your staff, especially senior staff, to make teamwork a priority in your organization.

In Tobie S. Stein’s Leadership in the Performing Arts, organizational leaders reveal their essential ideas to developing stronger relationships with staff, thereby making collaboration a priority.

Using a team approach is a popular method to foster interpersonal relationship and collaboration. According to Paul Tetreault, director at Ford’s Theater, he “is a manager of inclusiveness. Something will happen at the theater and I will say, ‘Let’s call a senior staff meeting.’”

He elaborated that while a problem might be a marketing problem, or a development problem, or a scheduling problem, that he thinks: “Why would you have all these great minds and not collectively ask for their opinions?” This style of leadership, equating an organization to a team, allows staff members to see the intersections and overlap of a problem and pitch solutions that may have never otherwise come up.

Allowing staff members to make mistakes is another way to develop interpersonal relationships. Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, recalls a situation where someone went into her office saying “Just tell me what to do.” Hitchens believes in allowing staff members to have a bit of a struggle, “I’m not going to let her drown but I want her to struggle with it.”

By allowing staff members to struggle with and eventually overcome an issue, it allows them to not fear making mistakes and empowers them to find their own solutions. Harold Wolpert, managing director at the Roundabout Theatre Company, uses a similar approach, “My leadership style gives my employees the confidence to make mistakes and learn from them. I want to give them the confidence to take a risk.”