Monthly Archives: August 2012
Creating an Atmosphere of Collaboration
It’s unusual to start a rehearsal stretching on the floor.
And yet there were all eight of us as the director wove his way through the maze of actors sharing his thoughts for the scene we were about to create. It felt like we were in some pseudo, combined production of FAME and a boot camp reality series. But alas we had just begun rehearsing Shakespeare’s, The Comedy of Errors, as Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in Chicago.
The theatre itself is based on the old Globe Theatre in London where most of Shakespeare’s plays first premiered. It boasts a long skinny thrust wrapping a very close audience around the performers on three sides. There isn’t much room for failure.
When I was cast, I was told that this production was going to be “physical”. Maybe a couple of fight scenes. Maybe a pratfall. But all this stretching on day one was leading me to believe that my agent hadn’t told me everything.
As I stretched my quads, my heart flooded with anxiety.
A stagehand walked out and whispered something in the director David’s ear. David nodded and just moments later, the same stagehand plopped a 14 foot, wooden A-frame ladder in the middle of the stage.
“Braden, Anthony? Will you please set the ladder up?” David asked.
We all watched from the floor as this looming piece of hardware stood before us. It creaked and cracked and wobbled on its hinges before Braden and Anthony were finally able to secure it to the stage.
We sat in its shadow as David began to speak.
“This is the scene where Dromio and his pals are trying to break through the door to get at the girl on the other side. The ladder will act as the wall and also as the door. Here is how the sequence is to go: Blaine, you will be hoisted up on someone’s shoulders. Then you will walk across the rest of the group’s shoulders without using your hands until your reach the ladder. Next, you will climb to the top of the ladder.”
“The part where they tell you not to climb?” I mumbled.
“Yes. You will climb to the top of the ladder. While on top you will feign as if you are falling forward, but instead you will fall backwards in a blind trust fall into the arms of your colleagues. After that they will convert you into a human battering ram, which they use to attempt to break the door down. They will not succeed, become frustrated, leave you in a pile on the floor. When everything is quiet the girl will simply open the door and everyone will have a laugh.”
We exchanged a few looks between us as we sat in silence. That sounded amazing. It was also impossible. No one said a word.
Then David smiled warmly.
He had this glimmer in his eye and while this was only my first production with him I could already tell this guy was jokester.
“Does that all make sense?” Do you understand what I’d like to see?” he asked.
I smiled, knowingly. I knew his kind. Practical jokes like this were my absolute favorite.
“You’re smiling, Blaine. Does this all make sense to you?”
“Of course.” I smiled back even bigger adding a “I totally get you” nod.
“So then how do you think we should begin?”
I wasn’t smiling anymore.
“How do you think we should begin?” David said again.
This was very much not a practical joke.
“Uh…um…so you want us to really do all the things that you said?”
“That is for this team to figure out.”
And for the next two weeks we did. Everyday from nine to five, we stepped into the rehearsal room as one team with a very clear (albeit odd) goal. While David was in the room every single morning, he never said much. Because he wasn’t in the scene and because the scene had never been made before, he could only add a few helpful pointers when he saw something that we couldn’t. But other than that, it was our team grinding away at solving this ridiculously challenging human puzzle.
During those two weeks we really got to know one another. Our habit of rehearsing together consistently formed an incredible bond that is still present.
To this day it was my favorite rehearsal process.
By the end of the two weeks I was walking across shoulders, falling blindly from fourteen feet in the air backwards into the arms of my fellow teammates, who then proceeded to ram my head into a door.
When the girl came out from behind the door, the laughter was deafening.
David was right.
As I’ve contemplated that story for a number of years now, I’m struck by its simplicity. We were asked to do an enormously complicated thing – essentially make something from nothing. And were asked to do it with a finite number of resources (none of us were gymnasts) and time (we had two weeks before the show opened).
We weren’t special. We were just like everyone else who makes anything. Limited resources, limited time.
Most of us live in this world every single day. We’ve got unreasonable expectations to meet in ungodly amounts of time (or lack thereof).
So then how are we to create?
Or more pointedly, how are we to collaborate?
Often the tendency when we’re short on resources and time is to isolate. Often we call it “delegating”.
You go do your thing. I’ll go do mine. Let’s meet back in an hour.
While I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with delegation (it can save a “create by committee atmosphere” from forming), delegation can often lead to isolation – which is the most destructive force to collaboration.
So let me reiterate the question I asked David and the one you might be asking yourself now, “How are we supposed to do this?”
I won’t be as evasive as David was, but he had already done half of the work for us.
For collaboration to work, your projects must begin with clear vision.
Twyla Tharp writes in her book, The Collaborative Habit,
“A clearly stated and consciously shared purpose is the foundation of great collaboration.”
Had David said, “So I’m thinking about doing a scene with a ladder and some funny bits along the way,” our show would have been a disaster.
Our leader knew what he wanted to see. He stated explicitly. He shared with fire in his eyes – all with the expressed purpose that we would catch the vision and make it our own.
You’ll notice that Twyla doesn’t end her quote after “clearly stated”. Almost anyone can clearly state a vision. But, it takes a special kind of leader to get their vision to be consciously shared.
If you want to lead great processes, you simply must find a way to make your vision find its way deep into the hearts of your followers.
The Habit of Collaboration
Next up is the habit of collaboration. Our team met from 9-5 in a sweaty, stinky rehearsal room everyday for two weeks. We left for breaks and lunch only.
Now I’m not suggesting you create a boot camp for collaboration, but I am suggesting you put some structure and routine behind it.
“Collaborators aren’t born, they’re made. Or, to be more precise, built, a day at a time, through practice, through attention, through discipline, through passion and commitment – and most of all, through habit.” (Tharp)
Every book you’ll ever read on the creative process that’s worth anything will say that the professional artist, writer, dancer, whatever, must have habit or they will never succeed.
But, people don’t fall into patterns of work – they create them.
The same must be said for your teams.
If David hadn’t given us great and clear vision we could then buy into, along with a precise way for our team to create a ritual and a habit, we’d still be trying to figure out how to throw me against a door.
What do you need to do to cast better vision and create better structures for habits to form?
Article art by Joe Cavazos
About Blaine Hogan:
After 12 years as a professional actor, Blaine now acts as the creative director at Willow Creek Community Church. He lives just outside Chicago with his wife, Margaret, and their daughter, Ruby.
Remember in 2002, when computers like the Apple iMac G4 were the sleekest on the market?
Internet users were just starting to use high-speed broadband access, instead of that slow dial-up. Gone were the days of waiting. We could download a whole song in 10 minutes!
Fast forward to 2012: Computers are even more polished, and the Internet is faster. Ten years ago, Internet usage was more of a leisure — today, it’s practically as important as water or oxygen.
What Successful People Do With The First Hour Of Their Work Day
How much does the first hour of every day matter? As it turns out, a lot. It can be the hour you see everything clearly, get one real thing done, and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list.
Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called home room, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up home room every day. You should too.
The first hour of the workday goes a bit differently for Craig Newmark of Craigslist, David Karp of Tumblr, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, career writer (and Fast Company blogger) Brian Tracy, and others, and they’ll tell you it makes a big difference. Here are the first items on their daily to-do list.
Don’t Check Your Email for the First Hour. Seriously. Stop That.
Tumblr founder David Karp will “try hard” not to check his email until 9:30 or 10 a.m., according to an Inc. profile of him. “Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive,” Karp said. “If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.”
Not all of us can roll into the office whenever our Vespa happens to get us there, but most of us with jobs that don’t require constant on-call awareness can trade e-mail for organization and single-focus work. It’s an idea that serves as the title of Julie Morgenstern’s work management book Never Check Email In The Morning, and it’s a fine strategy for leaving the office with the feeling that, even on the most over-booked days, you got at least one real thing done.
If you need to make sure the most important messages from select people come through instantly, AwayFind can monitor your inbox and get your attention when something notable arrives. Otherwise, it’s a gradual but rewarding process of training interruptors and coworkers not to expect instantaneous morning response to anything they send in your off-hours.
Gain Awareness, Be Grateful
One smart, simple question on curated Q & A site Quora asked “How do the most successful people start their day?”. The most popular response came from a devotee of Tony Robbins, the self-help guru who pitched the power of mindful first-hour rituals long before we all had little computers next to our beds.
Robbins suggests setting up an “Hour of Power,” “30 Minutes to Thrive,” or at least “Fifteen Minutes to Fulfillment.” Part of it involves light exercise, part of it involves motivational incantations, but the most accessible piece involves 10 minutes of thinking of everything you’re grateful for: in yourself, among your family and friends, in your career, and the like. After that, visualize “everything you want in your life as if you had it today.”
Robbins offers the “Hour of Power” segment of his Ultimate Edge series as a free audio stream (here’s the direct MP3 download). Blogger Mike McGrath also wrote a concise summary of the Hour of Power). You can be sure that at least some of the more driven people you’ve met in your career are working on Robbins’ plan.
Do the Big, Shoulder-Sagging Stuff First
Brian Tracy’s classic time-management book Eat That Frog gets its title from a Mark Twain saying that, if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you’ve got it behind you for the rest of the day, and nothing else looks so bad. Gina Trapani explained it well in a video for her Work Smart series). Combine that with the concept of getting one thing done before you wade into email, and you’ve got a day-to-day system in place. Here’s how to force yourself to stick to it:
Choose Your Frog
“Choose your frog, and write it down on a piece of paper that you’ll see when you arrive back at your desk in the morning, Tripani advises.“If you can, gather together the material you’ll need to get it done and have that out, too.”
One benefit to tackling that terrible, weighty thing you don’t want to do first thing in the morning is that you get some space from the other people involved in that thing–the people who often make the thing more complicated and frustrating. Without their literal or figurative eyes over your shoulder, the terrible thing often feels less complex, and you can get more done.
Ask Yourself If You’re Doing What You Want to Do
Feeling unfulfilled at work shouldn’t be something you realize months too late, or even years. Consider making an earnest attempt every morning at what the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told a graduating class at Stanford to do:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
“Customer Service” (or Your Own Equivalent)
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark answered the first hour question succinctly: “Customer service.” He went on to explain (or expand) that he also worked on current projects, services for military families and veterans, and protecting voting rights. But customer service is what Newmark does every single day at Craigslist, responding to user complaints and smiting scammers and spammers. He almost certainly has bigger fish he could pitch in on every day, but Newmark says customers service “anchors me to reality.”
Your own version of customer service might be keeping in touch with contacts from year-ago projects, checking in with coworkers you don’t regularly interact with, asking questions of mentors, and just generally handling the human side of work that quickly gets lost between task list items. But do your customer service on the regular, and you’ll have a more reliable roster of helpers when the time comes.
What do you do with the first hour of your workday to increase productivity and reduce stress? Tell us about it in the comments below.
For brands, 2012 should be the year of the image.
Whether you make cookies or work for the Secretary of State, pictures are driving conversations, social shares, and engagement among Web audiences.
And this year’s hottest social network—Pinterest—is all about images.
Pinterest, a website in which people post, share, and comment on images, is the third most-popular social network in the U.S. Although it launched in 2010, the site surged to popularity in 2012, reaching nearly 12 million users in January, according to comScore.
The site and its female-dominated user base drive more online purchases than Facebook.
Despite Pinterest’s popularity, the vast majority marketers have yet to embrace the site’s potential. In fact, many are paying it no mind.
According to a new survey by The Creative Group, a mere 7 percent of advertising and marketing executives said their companies are using Pinterest for business purposes. Ten percent said they plan to start using it, while 17 percent indicated that the site has caught their eye, but they are hesitant to embrace it.
Meanwhile, 44 percent have no interest in using Pinterest for business purposes and 18 percent said they’ve never heard of the site.
“Pinterest has attracted a huge following quickly, but companies may be waiting to see if its popularity will last and what the potential business uses are in order to determine if a presence there makes sense,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group.
The survey noted that larger firms were more active than smaller agencies and corporate marketing departments. Nearly a quarter of agencies with more than 100 employees, 30 percent were either using Pinterest for marketing purposes or planned to launch an account.
Six reasons why traditional marketing strategies are not delivering online
They’re all over the place and they’re droning on rather loudly. They just don’t know they’re dead yet. Sadly, neither do the businesses that listen to them and buy their services.
They are the old guard of the marketing sector; those advertising and PR executives who have emerged from their creative and journalistic antecedents and who believe truly in the adage, “there’s no such thing as bad advertising”.
They measure success by eyeballs, column inches and brand recall, and they are convinced that if they drive up website visits and Facebook likes that they have delivered to their client a secret recipe for sales success.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Traditional marketing strategies are simply not delivering what the old ghosts of marketing believe they are delivering. This is why:
1. Traditional media audiences are not as large as social audiences
The average flat ad on Facebook filtered only to Australians over the age of 18 is 9.7 million. (Source: Facebook – available when any user tries to buy an ad on Facebook). The highest audience numbers in Australian television history are less than 4 million.
2. Traditional media reach is diminishing
Circulation of traditional news media and magazines are reducing. Audience numbers for free to air television are reducing, and even among high rating programs, there’s a rising tendency for audiences to ‘tune out’ of ads (switch channels, leave the couch, swap to an alternative content source such as a mobile phone or tablet, or even simply wind back the concentration and memory recall functions of the brain during ad breaks).
3. Implied third party endorsement through PR in news items isn’t supported in research
In spite of years of classic PR belief that a news story on a brand will add credibility and encourage trust in brands, there is little empirical evidence to support this theory (PDF). In fact, there is growing evidence that a brand mention in a news story will trigger doubt about the impartiality of the story.
4. ‘Broadcast’ approaches are untrusted
Messages that arrive to audiences without supporting referrals from friends and trusted sources in a network are treated as less trustworthy than endorsements from trusted sources in a network.
5. Website page visits are pointless without conversions
A high number of visits to a brand webpage may be exciting (not least because it puts a strain on the server), but it is irrelevant unless those page visits convert to actions. A high conversion ratio is more useful than a high page visit rating.
6. Facebook likes are meaningless without engagement
It is simple for individuals to ‘Like’ a brand on Facebook (in order to enter a competition or to jump on the bandwagon of a popular meme) and then to promptly hide all status updates and content from the brand.
So even if a brand is growing Facebook fans sharply, unless those fans engage regularly with the brand, fans’ trust and impression of the brand is likely to be unexceptional. Again, high engagement ratio (1.0-5.0% for organisations with under 150,000 fans; 0.2-1.0% for organisations with >150,000 fans) is more useful than a high number of Likes.
And even when you get engagement with brands on Facebook or other social networking channels, unless these engagements are also linked to sales conversions, or business optimisation savings in tasks such as product development, distribution, and/or customer service, then the actual return on investment may be limited.
In Australia, we are less likely than any nation on earth to believe advertising and brand messages, and we are more likely to trust one another in brand endorsements. If traditional PR and advertising isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly not worth what most Australian organisations have been paying to generate business revenue. Unless businesses are prepared to acknowledge the shift from passive consumption to active engagement, and the need for brand referrals in social channels, then more businesses will fail.
It’s time to exorcise the ghosts of Australian marketing. Advocates of reach-oriented marketing strategies ought to be eliminated from the sector, and ROI measurement based on reach instead of conversions and cost savings should be quietly buried. Because until we commit to this wholesale purification of the marketing sector, the risk is that Australian businesses will market themselves into relics.
Joanne Jacobs is the Sydney-based Chief Operating Officer of international Word of Mouth agency, 1000heads.
Barriers to Transformation
John Ortberg answers the question: What are the biggest barriers to transformation in the church?
Our understanding of Jesus
John Ortberg answers the question: How is our understanding of who Jesus is helping or harming spiritual transformation?
The importance of Relationships to transformation
John Ortberg answers the question: Why are relationships important to transformation?
Helping your congregation grow
John Ortberg answers the question: How can churches help people with spiritual practices?
Helping your church enter a life with Jesus
John Ortberg answers the question: How do I help my church entering into life with Jesus?
Leadership and Spiritual Formation
John Ortberg answers the question: As you lead your staff how does their spiritual formation factor in?
The Role of Teaching in Spiritual Formation
John Ortberg answers the question: What role does teaching have in the role of transformation?
Back in the day, Heinz ran an ad campaign for their ketchup called “Anticipation.” If featured all sorts of people eagerly anticipating something, which of course, ran parallel to their eager anticipation of the delicious red sauce coming out of the bottle. It was clever, and by licensing the classic Carly Simon song, memorable.
The Mac Dictionary App defines Anticipate with the following two possibilities:
1) guess or be aware of (what will happen) and take action in order to be prepared: they failed to anticipate a full scale invasion.
2) look forward to: Stephen was eagerly anticipating the break from the routine of business.
Heinz was referring to the second definition. Today, I want to focus on the first; to guess or be aware of what will happen and take action in order to be prepared (especially the last part).
I am becoming convinced that one of the keys to being a great tech leader is to anticipate. We need to be aware of what will likely happen, and prepare in advance for that eventuality. This is not nearly as hard as it sounds.
For example, take a look at the service order around Wednesday or Thursday. See an interview on the list? You know that means you will likely need a handheld or two prepped and ready to go for service. Don’t wait until 5 minutes before service start for someone to tell you that they will need two handhelds for the interview. You know what is going to happen, and what will be required. Prepare ahead of time.
If your worship leader sometimes (but not always) stops and prays between songs, get in the habit of dumping the effects on her voice at the end of a song so if she does, there won’t be 3 seconds of reverb at the beginning of the prayer. Prepare in advance.
If you always do a big Christmas production that requires extra wireless mics and lights, start booking them in late October; don’t wait for someone to tell you about it in early December.
I’ve been told on many occasions by my boss that he appreciates the fact that he doesn’t need to manage me. I hear from a lot of tech guys that they hate how much “management” their boss exerts on them. The reason I don’t have that issue is that I anticipate what needs to be done, and do it before he has to say anything. Thus, he doesn’t feel the need to track my movements and monitor my time. I just get it done, and he doesn’t worry about it.
If you want to enjoy the same freedom, anticipate the needs and deal with them before someone else has to tell you to do so. This work in concert with one of my earlier posts, Do a Good Job. If you learn to anticipate well, and then do a good job, you will enjoy a level of freedom in your work that will make your job a real joy. Fail at those tasks, and expect to have a lot of micromanaging in your life. The choice is yours.
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Imagine church without sound.
I do not mean removing things that make noise – sound systems, music, people. I mean imagine experiencing your church as it normally is but not being able to hear anything. Would the non-audible elements be enough to minister to you?
If you were to take away sound, would people still be ministered to?
If someone saw a muted video of your church service, what would they think?
- Would your environment create a sense of awe for the Creator like the churches of the Renaissance?
- Visually, how does your worship music seem? Authentic? Passionate? Like a rock concert? Worshipful?
- When you take away the words, are the greeters authentic?
- Is the tone and subject of the message evident in the preacher’s body language?
- What about the sermon branding?
- Is the life-changing power of Christ evident on the congregation’s faces?
- Is there a sense joy, hope, and love?
- People can spot a fake smile. People can discern authenticity. If someone who was not a Christian watched your congregation worship, would they want what they have?
Albert Mehrabian’s research shows that communication is influenced only 7% by words, 38% by tone of voice, and 55% by body language. All too often, we focus on the 7% of words and forget to invest in non-audible influencers, such as body language and environment.