The Show Must Go On!

If you read my newsletter, you know I love all things baseball and hockey and incorporate a lot of examples of teamwork that I see and read about in my column and my daily work. I always seem to find examples of collaboration and teamwork wherever I am. Or perhaps because I keep an open mind, the examples find me. 

I love the theater almost as much as I love baseball and hockey. I just returned from a visit to NY, where I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see six Broadway shows in five days! [The Music Man, Company, Six, MJ: The Musical, Funny Girl, and Moulin Rouge] The number of people involved in a Broadway production, from the set design to the music to the actors and the support team needed to produce 8 shows a week, is remarkable. Attending various performances back-to-back made me think about how these companies or groups have to work together and rely on each other to create an experience for the audience. Isn’t that the same as what we do as business owners and managers daily?

The weekend I arrived home, I watched the Tony Awards. Like most award shows, there is a master of ceremonies, performances, speeches, and close-up photos of the nominees for a specific award category. This year there were tributes to the people behind the scenes who bring the Broadway magic to the stage. Broadway, like most businesses, has suffered the last few years, and ongoing COVID issues are impacting performances daily. During the Tony Awards, one of the performers on stage from the show Six was an understudy and had less than 12 hours to prepare for her Tony performance. Hugh Jackman, star of The Music Man revival, tested positive for COVID a few weeks ago and then again a few hours after his Tony performance. His understudy will perform his role for the next week or so until he is well enough to return. I am sure that some of the ticket holders for the week will be disappointed not to see Hugh Jackman perform. Still, the cast and his understudy must deliver a seamless and stellar performance because that is what the audience paid for and expects.

Similar to Broadway, when it comes to business and your team, many managers and owners focus their attention on the “stars,” the performers who make things happen. But what happens when one of your stars has a medical or family emergency or resigns and takes another position? Do you have an “understudy” waiting in the wings to step into the role? Do they have the necessary information and training to take over a position at a moment’s notice?

One of the silver linings of COVID is that many of the “understudies” in your company were able to step up into a role that had to be filled quickly. After all, the show must go on! These people were no longer in the shadow of the star performer. They had the opportunity to step up, sometimes out of their comfort zone, and step into a role with a different level of responsibility. Hopefully, you took some time to shine the light on these performers and recognize their contributions to your company when they had to take over quickly. 

Granted, not everyone can know every subtle detail about another person’s role or what they bring to the role, but have you taken the time or had follow-up conversations on implementing better knowledge-sharing practices? Were those changes seamless for your company, or was it a bumpy ride when the understudy stepped in? Is your team culture open and trusting, or do politics get in the way of knowledge sharing? Is your team feeling empowered by how they handled this situation or has it left you and your team drained and worried about the future? Hard questions, I know, but don’t wait to review what worked and what didn’t work.

It takes substantial effort, commitment, and a trusting culture to bring a Broadway show to life. Some shows are successful, and others limp along or close after a few weeks. The same is true for your business. What do you need to implement today to help your team the next time your “star” is unavailable? If you are struggling with these questions, contact me to chat about the steps you can take to put a plan in place to ensure your show goes on!