An underlying theme of many of my posts has been about the importance of acknowledging that failure and mistakes are part of the artistic development process. A recent post by Justin Brady on The Creativity Cultivator reminds us that the same allowances need to be made across the whole of an organization.
Brady likens the situation to a type of corporate helicopter parenting:
He hired some brilliant people, but brilliant people are the result of many years of learning through failure. These brilliant employees weren’t aloud to perform the very human trait that made them brilliant to begin with: Judgement free failure and the freedom to fix and learn from that failure. Jim’s a great guy, and we all have blind spots, but his constant monitoring and willingness to “swoop in” and fix everything was making a culture where trust is more scarce than my dog’s obedience training when a guest comes over.
Employees pick up on patterns like this and begin to not even trust themselves. Upon the first sign of frustration they will just let Jim fix the problem. This creates a very “busy” culture, where Jim is constantly being pulled in every direction putting out fires. It also causes great employee to begin to resent their leader and each other.
Whether the back office is staffed by “true believers” of your discipline or not, the tolerant, patient culture has to permeate all levels of the organization and not stop at the studio/rehearsal hall door.
Encouraging those identified as artists/creatives to experiment and not be afraid of failure and holding everyone else to regimented procedures creates two classes of employees. Certainly different groups within the organization need to be treated differently according to their function, but if you view some jobs as disposable functions that anyone can do, then the result is likely to be disposable.
As I write this, I realize that one of the problems we are currently facing with two people who have rotated into our building is probably that they view their function as interchangeable with colleagues in other parts of the university. In fact, we keep telling them that the function they serve for us is important and noticed.
When you are hiring new staff, regardless of the position, you need to know that you are looking for the right person for your organization and you need to make the new hire aware of that fact as well. (Presumably those qualifications aren’t entirely a willingness to do the work of five for the pay of three-quarters of a person.) Then you have to do as Brady suggests and give them the room to fail and make things right for the organization.