From the P₃ Files – “A Day at the Circus – Talent Management under the Big Top”

April 2, 2012 From the P₃ Files – “A Day at the Circus – Talent Management under the Big Top”

From the P₃ Files:  “A Day at the Circus – Talent Management under the Big Top”

 

On Friday, March 16th we ventured off to the UniverSoul Circus in Richmond, VA. We were looking forward to an afternoon of relaxation and fun; however what we experienced was an interactive entertainment explosion.  We laughed, we danced, and we cringed during the Bone Breaker Act. We were inspired by the beauty and poise of the ballerina and the aerial ballet acts; and thrilled with the animal performances.

The UniverSoul Circus brands itself as, “a highly interactive combination of circus acts, theater and music that spans genres including Pop, Classic R&B, Latin, Hip Hop, Jazz and Gospel.”  It encompasses acts from around the globe to include, but not limited to, Russia, China, Brazil, Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States.

Reflecting on our day at the circus, I am reminded of how we often refer to organizational chaos as “this placed is being run like a circus”.  Such a myth could not be further from the circus operational framework.  Logistically, the circus operates as a truly integrated, well-coordinated, perfectly timed  organization (production).  Just imagine the number of daunting challenges involved in moving the circus from site to site either domestically or internationally.  The requirements to ensure each act stays within their allotted time.  Constant monitoring of  the performance arena, the audience, snack-stands and egress avenues for safety concerns.  All this must be accomplished in an environment where the goal is to maintain audience focus on either the funnel cakes, entertainers on stilts, center stage, laser light show or all the previous mentioned items.  As a member of the audience; there was not a moment where we were not being entertained.  As we danced and sang along with the ring master, the circus hands were preparing the tent for the next act.  Intermission provided the opportunity to have your photo taken while riding an elephant.   Each interlude was filled with entertainment distractors which allowed for an interactive experience for the audience, while enabling smooth act transitions for the circus crew.

As I considered the journey of mainstream organizations towards globalization focused on market segmentation and international mergers and acquisitions, I wondered if there are lessons to be learned from the Circus Industry.  It appears that in this case, the Circus has developed a proven and workable model to address such challenges. It has evolved from the traditional three-ring circus of the most renowned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (a 1919 merger) to various market segmentation and product differentiation such as the Circus Circus Enterprise, Cirque Du Soleil and the UniverSoul Circus.  Each designed to attract a different audience.

Diversity was prevalent in all aspects of the show.  How does the circus industry deal with diversity and inclusion?  Most companies struggle with diversity and attempt to address primarily race and gender issues through the creation of initiatives and programs built on a platform of equality and respect.  The concept of inclusion is the elusive act that few have mastered.  Given the number of international performers in the circus, I imagine that the Inclusion agenda is underpinned by challenges in the effective execution of a global business strategy that addresses cultural differences, language barriers and the various employment laws and customs. Challenges which will impede international diversity agenda’s for any organization.

During the performance, I marveled at each act.   I was intrigued by the level of trust amongst the team members.  It was clear that each member of the team understood the unique capability they brought to the performance and its importance in achieving a quality performance.   The trust factor was apparent.  While we focused on the key performer executing the act, the performer’s attention was focused on its team members, receiving both verbal and non-verbal cues.  I am reminded of how often in organizations we spend a great deal of time and effort on our key performers and are in dismay when they derail themselves at the next level.  It is because we advance our key talent without ensuring that we incorporate the right level of support to ensure their success.  In addition to recognizing technical capability, high performers need coaching, effective communication skills, and the ability to lead and be a part of a team.  Like the circus, it’s the background support coupled with team member assistance that enables the success of  key performers.

There is a lot to learn from the circus, but the most important lesson is – Have Fun!

So, the next time you are told, this organization is run like a circus, take a moment to revel in the compliment.

DB Latimore Professional Services Group , LLC sends a huge hummingbird  salute (see our logo description on the home page) to the cast and crew of the UniverSoul Circus  for an entertaining afternoon.  “A Day at the Circus – Talent Management under the Big Top”;   an example of Productivity Powered by P.E.O.P.L.E. ™