TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp Round-Up

by Chris Shuff

in Events

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Follow-Up Workshop:
The TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp culminated at the National Conference with a final morning workshop held on June 21. Of the original 15 pairs of Emerging and Established Theatre Leaders, 23 leaders traveled to Boston to continue their leadership learning. Richard Walsh, Senior Faculty and Executive Coach from the Center for Creative Leadership led the session. Leaders thought about the following questions:

How can I be more confident/not question myself so much?
How can I establish more boundaries in small organizations?
How do you sustain energy long term around change?
How do you lead an organization through cultural change?
How do you manage confusion in the change?

The rest of the workshop focused on “boundary spanning.” There are five different types of boundaries:

V: Vertical boundaries are found across levels and authority. They are the floors and ceilings that differentiate groups according to title, rank, power and privilege.

H: Horizontal boundaries are found across functions and expertise. They are the walls that differentiate groups according to areas of experience and expertise, as well as when two organizations merge, or one organization acquires another.

G: Geographic boundaries are found across locations and distance. They are represented by the physical location of the structure, as well as by the technology connecting it across distance.

D: Demographic boundaries are found across diverse groups and differences, including the entire range of human diversity from gender to race and from personality to ideology. They are the people and groups that work within the floors and walls of the structure.

S: Stakeholder boundaries are found across external groups and interests. They are the doors and windows that are either opened or closed to the needs and interests of the external environment.

Leaders analyzed their current network (who they frequently go to for expertise and advice when solving a challenge) and their future network (others they need to connect with in the future to navigate their challenge) in regards to VHGDS. They pondered whether any boundaries were missing in their networks. Emerging and Established Leaders met together to compare notes about their challenges in regards to their “boundary networks.”

Leaders paired off to answer the following two questions:
1) How well is my current network helping me navigate the challenge I’ve identified?
2) What new boundaries may I need to span to build my desired future network and advance this challenge?

Richard Walsh told the leaders after conducting extensive interviews, he discovered that employees want leaders to: actively listen, be approachable, communicate and facilitate. Richard closed the session with a final powerful image. He challenged the leaders to take on the “biggest rocks first” which symbolizes the biggest tasks and challenges and then to focus on the “pebbles later” which symbolizes the smaller tasks that can be completed by the leader or delegated to others.

After the Follow-Up Workshop, TCG asked if Emerging and Established Leader participants would be willing to write testimonials about their experiences. Here are four of those testimonials.

The process of the TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp has been tremendous and has had a serious influence on how I collaborate with my fellow co-workers. From the initial Boot Camp in March to the follow-up sessions with my leadership counselor to the Pre-Conference Workshop in Boston, I have been given the tools and motivation to sharpen my leadership skills. I have been able to clearly set goals for myself and have been able to implement systems for achieving them. As I reflect on the last six months, I have identified three examples of how the Boot Camp has had a positive impact on me.

To begin with, I have made significant changes in how my department operates. When I returned from the initial Boot Camp, I immediately began to look at how our artistic department ran and assessed the areas that needed improvement. The peer survey was very helpful with giving me the initiative and confidence to do so. Many of my peers said in the survey they thought my ideas were good but that they wanted me to be more confident in my opinions. So I decided to set up monthly meetings with staff in my department. The meetings were designed for me to hear feedback from them and for them to receive feedback from me. I used the feedback techniques we learned at the Boot Camp to guide the meetings and this allowed me to set clear expectations for my department and the processes for maintaining them. In the last six months, I have seen a big change in my department, and we are on the way to becoming more productive and more economical with our resources.

Secondly, Triad Stage has gone through some majors changes in the past six months, and I have tried to be a leader through that change. The loss of several key staff members, a new marketing company and continuing financial difficulties have forced us to do some major restructuring of our office staff and redistributing duties. This has caused some tension among our staff, and I have tried to be empathetic with those who are having difficulties, but I have also maintained the direction our theatre leaders have set. Before the Boot Camp, I didn’t have the knowledge of how to do that or even the awareness that it was necessary. While at Boot Camp, we learned about the steps of transition and change. I have tried to stay conscious of those principles and use them to help the transition in any way I can.

Finally, I have been able to find a balance between my personal life and work that was missing before. In the theatre, our jobs often demand all of our time and attention and our personal health and wellness can suffer because of it. This was something I discussed in my follow-up sessions with my leadership counselor, Karen Jo Shapiro, and she helped me see how important balance was to my effectiveness as a leader. She helped me develop a plan for taking care of myself while maintaining a firm hold on my work responsibilities. She freed me from the guilt I felt for taking time for myself. I have now found ways of keeping a balance and my improved physical health has had a positive impact on my work as a leader and as an artist.

I have found it hard to articulate the impact the leadership Boot Camp has had on me. I think this is because the impact has been so far reaching, and I am still discovering the effects of it daily. I believe I will look back on this experience and count it as one of the defining periods of my evolution as a leader in the American theatre.
Bryan Conger (Emerging Leader)
Triad Stage, Greensboro, NC

Having experienced the TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp at the Center for Creative Leadership as a team, we can confidently say this program will have a positive impact on the professional theatre field as long as theatre administrators from across the country have the opportunity to participate in the program. With constant activity and change serving as the nature of our field, it was incredible to have the opportunity to step back from the hectic nature of day-to-day operations and analyze our management and leadership styles.

Finding the time to conduct analyses and assessments like those offered at the Center for Creative Leadership on our own would be nearly impossible. The 360º assessments provided an in-depth insight into each of our management styles, allowing us to fully understand our strengths and weaknesses as leaders. We each found the Leadership Coaching to be incredibly beneficial, as it was a unique opportunity to speak candidly about our work and life, and the appropriate balance necessary to continue being a strong leader within our organization and our daily life. We each gained a better understanding of our leadership styles, enabling us to better communicate with one another as a team, as well as with the rest of the staff at the theatre. Our ability to take the skills we learned at the Boot Camp and translate them to the office has benefited the entire theatre company in terms of communication and operations.

 Finally, we appreciated the opportunity to network with theatre professionals that we would not normally have contact with, allowing us to develop relationships and brainstorm over common problems and their possible solutions. We are grateful for the opportunity to attend the Leadership Boot Camp and hope this program will continue for many years to come.
Jennifer Bauer-Lyons (Established Leader) and Jordan Flowers (Emerging Leader)
Horizon Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the Leadership Boot Camp. The sessions and training I received has been invaluable to me in my ongoing development as a leader in the non-profit field. In particular, the sessions on management practices and counseling employees using Situation Behavior Impact guidelines has allowed me to work more effectively with employees that were not performing to their highest potential.

Also, the one-on-one coaching has been a tremendous boost to my self-esteem and health. A simple reminder from my coach to follow up on the goals that I set in our session has helped me create a better work/life balance. This has increased my productivity and our company as a whole is benefiting greatly.

I am grateful to American Express for their sponsorship of this program, and I feel it has benefited not only me, but my Emerging Leader, our whole organization and the community we serve.
Raphael Parry (Established Leader)
Shakespeare Dallas, Dallas, TX

For more information:
Check out the original Boot Camp story Spring Training for Theatre Leaders on the TCG Circle. For more information about the TCG/American Express Leadership Boot Camp visit our website and archives.

Chris Shuff, director of management programs, has overseen TCG’s research efforts, field communications and various professional development programs and events since 1998. Prior to TCG, Mr. Shuff was a consultant to the Saint Thomas Church Concert Series in New York City. He moved to New York from San Francisco, where he spent 13 years working in the not-for-profit performing arts service field. His last position was as director of ticketing services/community relations for Theatre Bay Area. He received his bachelor of arts in international relations from Lake Forest College and studied in the former Yugoslavia at the Filozofski Fakultet in Zagreb, Croatia.