Thursday, February 5, 2009

Acting, Directing, Effective Business Leadership

Based on my experience as actor, director, and aspiring effective business leader, I'd like to share a few thoughts after the Presentation Skills module over the last two days in Foundations of Management. It's safe to say: I love the AGSM partnership with NIDA and their Corporate Training element. Being trained by professional actors to use our bodies as effective public speakers makes perfect sense to me, as long as certain distinctions are made.

A difference lies between my world, where theater, film, and the MBA are a perfect match, and the real world out there were most of us come from and to which most of us will return. We've been taught the last two days as actors, essentially by directors. Moving forward we will apply that to a much more complex system of demands in business. I'll share with you my take on the similarities and differences between Acting, Directing, and Effective Business Leadership.

To establish credibility (or something like that), Louvst is a 90 minute film I wrote, directed, and eventually acted, as is often the case in independent film. (Need an extra body in front of the camera? No problem! The writing and directing is done and I'm just standing here, so heck, why not?) Louvst was an amazing experience that stretched me in various simultaneous directions, similar to others who have taken on a large project requiring them to learn new skills along the way.

Acting is being told by a director what to do. My definition of acting is a process of direct memorization of content, matched with a physical and emotional delivery convincing enough to solicit a mental and visceral response in the audience. It is an art form, bringing familiarity to the human experience, where the actor is given power by the director in order to gain the trust of the audience.

Directing is telling actors (and anyone else on a set) what to do. (Producing is making all the other crap happen to pull off a film, another responsibility I've shared with others, but that's another story.) This requires trust usually acquired by experience, and only for the length of time required to accomplish the film, play, or workshop. Directing experience is gained either purely by the audacity of having creative vision and making the time for it, or developing an opportunity to get paid doing it.

Effective Business Leadership, on the other side of the brain, requires the insanely long list of technical "hard" skills and social "soft" skills taught in an MBA program, practiced over a lifetime, and perfected hardly ever. I can't say much about that now, but one aspect is the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator or MBTI, and similar metrics used in "putting the right person in the right seat on the bus" as Brett Smith would say in his role as President of Counter Culture Coffee.

above: MBTI Personality Types for the AGSM MBA class of 2010

The trust given to an Effective Business Leader, lasting up to their entire lifetime, is earned as a result of mastering, to the best of one's abilities, the long list of various skills necessary. One of these skills is public speaking, for which we have been expertly directed by Natasha McNamara and Gerry Sont, professional actors who know their content. When applied along with the mastery of the course content, these skills may earn us the right to take a bow after our performance each quarter.

I'd love to talk more about this with anyone who can offer more insight from their perspective. I've been completely in my element for the Presentation Skills module, and offer whatever I can as a result. Be aware, on the other hand, that I will be the one needing much more explanation as we delve into the fat new binders on my bookshelf for Economics, Data Analysis, and Organisational Behavior. I leave you now with an entertaining moment from the whiteboard earlier, as we ponder the testicular breath mentioned in item 2 below:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Allora, No Telefono Cellulare

For those who ask for my number, I worked yesterday on getting a cell phone. I had discovered I need an Aussie Driver's license for a 24 month contract. With a 24 month contract I get a free phone like the Palm Treo Pro, which retails for around AUS$900. When I buy something omnipresent like a cellphone, I am willing to wait to get it right. Pre-paid plans are easy, but much more costly per minute. Longer contracts are about 10¢ cheaper per minute with other perks.

I went to the RTA in Bondi Junction where Driver's Licenses and License Tags are dispensed. I cheerfully brought the forms of ID I was told to provide, and willing to pay AUS$150 for a three year license. When I got there I discovered I can't get an Australian Driver's License until I've been in Australia for six months. I got here in December, so I won't be eligible for a 24 month phone contract for another four months.

Not to be discouraged I went into the mall at Westfield and found another Palm phone. (I need a Palm to maintain the electronic organization of my life I've had since High School.) Alana at the Telstra booth was very friendly. She just returned from a trip to the States where she watched Obama's Inauguration in the freezing snow! She pointed out I could buy a Palm Centro outright for AUS$200 and get a 12 month contract. This sounded like a perfect split down the middle.

I got the last Palm Centro in all of New South Wales, and we were working on the contract with Telstra. The phone was a return, and the funniest part of the story is that it had been activated by the previous owner in ITALIAN. Italian happens to be my strongest second language, but the fact is that after an hour of trying with help from people all over the mall to change the language back to English we couldn't. Once the language is set on a Palm Centro, it can't be changed!

I could have gone two ways: accept this as a means to polish my Italian everyday with my phone's language of choice, or decide I am not meant to have a cell phone for another four months until I can get the best equipment for free on a longer contract. I decided to wait, and with the money I saved I bought a AUS$65 ticket to the NIDA Parade Theater production of The Yalta Game in the last weekend of Sydney Festival.