I’m performing my solo show. People are applauding me. I’m in my flow. I love it.
I wrote the show myself. I designed the website myself. I did all the bookings myself. I drove myself here, and I’ll drive myself home. I get all the money.
I’ve been a solo performer for years. I love it – ultimate control. My own boss; anyone in the same position will recognise how addictive it is.
However, there have been times in my life when I worked in a team to produce a performance. It was a different experience. At times frustrating, but also hugely creative and rewarding – bouncing ideas off of each other led to new directions that would never have been possible if I had been working on my own.
The same has been true in business. Whenever I have worked in a team, there have been frustrations but also much greater creativity.
More than the Sum of the Parts
I have come to recognise that I need both. I am a natural introvert, but I need the stimulation, input and resources that other people provide. It is a question of finding the right balance. As a natural soloist, my tendency is to try to do everything myself, but that is simply not possible.
There will always be other people that can do certain things better than me. And I really should delegate to them. There will be others who can sharpen my ideas. I really should be brave and share my tentative thoughts with them so that they can become better ideas.
Have a think about yourself. Do you gravitate towards working with other people, or by yourself?
Is There Fear Here?
Have you got the balance right? If you are a natural solo performer, what is holding you back from working with others or delegating certain tasks?
Is it the fear of responsibility for others mistakes? Fear of hooking in the wrong freelancer, and having some wasted expense? Fear of looking silly when you share your ideas with others?
Yes, you are more nimble when you are solo, but you are also limited. Are you missing out on the benefits of working with the team, because you are afraid?
Finding the Balance
Of course, working with others is not always the best way to go. We have all been in team meetings that have been a real waste of time. There is the ever-present danger of talking and not doing anything.
Recently I was a student on ACEVO’s New and Emerging Leaders training run by the excellent Kevin and Rita of First Position Performance Development. One of the sessions looked at meta programmes, those patterns inside of us that drive us to work in particular ways. One of them was the independent/ co-operative programme. We may naturally prefer to work by ourselves, tend towards working in a team, or we could sit somewhere in the middle, in the proximity zone: working with a group but maintaining our own autonomy and ownership of projects. I think this is where I am at the moment.
Ultimately, it’s all about finding the right balance for you, but consider pushing yourself slightly out of your comfort zone. Despite how annoying others can sometimes be, humans are naturally community animals, and we do need each other.
God grant me the serenity to accept that sometimes I need to work with others; the courage to work by myself when necessary; and wisdom to know the difference.
I love baked beans, I always have, ever since I was a child.
However, there were 15 years when I seldom ate them. The reason? My wife hates them. For the first part of our married life, whenever we went shopping, we never bought them.
I didn’t buy them because she didn’t like them. It took me far too long to get to the point where I realised I could buy my own baked beans and eat them by myself. It was like an epiphany. I suddenly realised I had agency in this area of my life.
My baked beans story is a little ridiculous, but there is a deeper lesson here.
You Are in Charge
You are your own boss. Even if you’re not self-employed, even if you don’t run your own company, you are still your own boss. You have the ultimate agency in your life. It’s worth reminding yourself of this every now and then.
Once you have this clear in your mind, you can then be honest about where you are. You can dream big dreams about your life. And you can plan strategically about how you are going to achieve them.
Meetings With Yourself
I was recently at the Professional Speaking Association summit, an excellent event, and there was a great session by Simon Hazeldine. He was talking to an audience of self-employed speakers and pointed out that we are our own CEOs and that we should have regular CEO meetings with ourselves.
He suggested that in these meetings we should cover the areas of:
Strategy: dreaming big dreams: where do we want to get to, how might we get there?
Risk: assessing our weak spots and what can be done about them. Contingency planning. Being honest about where we are now and what could be done better, and
People: working out what we can do ourselves and what we need to get done by other people. How are we going to get them on board?
A few years back, I had some training in being a charity Chief Executive. My trainer mentioned that you can often spot the CEO in an organisation because they are the one with their feet up on the desk. Not suggesting that they are being lazy. Instead, they are thinking, pondering, looking at the big picture.
Do you set apart regular times to think about your work and your life? Because this applies to your life as much as it does do your work. Do you build in regular reflection on your life, about your direction and vision? Your job, your money, your relationships?
Why not set up a regular CEO meeting with yourself so that you are always attuned to exactly how things are? After all, the only place you can start out from is where you are.
Be honest. Get the big picture, and be courageous.
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