As a choreographer, my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day.
Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together
It’s a broken record. Everybody knows it. If you have the wrong people in your organization, on your team, you are in trouble. You will not accomplish your goals. You will not take your organization to the next level. And I’ve read the books; I’ve quoted the findings, the recommendations. They all make sense.
Getting the right talent is everything. “Do you have the right people on the bus?” goes the mantra-like question.
Well, let me put it simply – until you get the perfect person to fill that all-important seat on your bus, that all-important slot on your team, there is a better, more realistic solution, and Twyla Tharp gives us the insight:
my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day.
Twyla Tharp has worked with the very best (Billy Joel and his music; the music of Frank Sinatra; the dancing of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and a plethora of others), but she also has worked with many, many dancers who may not reach such heights in the reputation, or talent, department that these superstars represent. So, what does she do? She still churns out terrific work, because she views her task as this:
to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day.
Consider the lowly, seemingly lesser names of the Dallas Mavericks. OK, Dirk Nowitzki is a “superstar,” but his surrounding cast, the other members of the team? – Coach Rick Carlisle simply made the best possible work with the dancers he found in the room on this given day (in this season). And, lo and behold, they rose to the occasion, and they won it all. And, by the way, those lesser names – JET (Jason Terry), J. J. Barea, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, the practically ancient Jason Kidd, and the entire team– they’re not so lesser anymore!
So, fantasize about that perfect team all you want to (while your team fantasizes about that perfect team leader!). But take a look around you. There are people with talent – great untapped talent – ready to go to work. Work with these people. They are the ones in the room on this given day. Work with them to do the best this group can do on this day.
Yes, it might be hard work to make this happen. “The best possible work” is never easy. But, give it your best shot with the people on your team now.
You might be surprised!
Collaboration is the buzzword of this new millennium. For some of us, it’s a superior way of working; for almost all of us, it’s inevitable.
I’ve just finished reading The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp. (I’m presenting a synopsis of this book at Take Your Brain to Lunch, this week in Dallas). It is a good book. Not as good as her earlier book, The Creative Habit – one of my all-time favorite books. But still, a good book. And it is an absolutely wonderful collection of stories.
She tells, throughout the book, of her collaborations with dancers, company directors, and artists from Frank Sinatra to Billy Joel to Mikhail Baryshnikov… But there are plenty of non-dance stories sprinkled through the book. Her premise is simple, and concurs with the overall wisdom from books such as The Wisdom of Crowds and Wikinomics. Here it is:
We are greater than me.
And, as fads and approaches and changes come and go, and get refined, and are jettisoned, there is a deep need to focus on the wisdom and the efforts of us over the wisdom and effort of me. In other words, collaboration is not a fad – it is a lasting necessity.
Here are a couple of quotes:
We are a culture that consumes and discards in almost one motion. Just think of the bright ideas for more efficient and humane ways of working that have come and gone in the last few decades…
Reality’s tutorials can be harsh. You can run your life “my way,” struggling alone, or “our way,” struggling to make a group effort work.
Here’s a simple question, asked in different ways:
Do you play well with others?
Are you a good, effective, team player?
Do you collaborate well?
If the answer is no, it’s time to learn! Collaboration is the name of the new game in town, and those who don’t learn to do this well will get left behind.