Sustaining Extraordinary Performance

Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 | No Comments

Businessman Standing In Room

There are moments in time that touch us so deeply that they reinforce the essence of what it means to be human.   Saturday night my husband and I had the privilege of seeing one of the final performances for Once on Broadway and that was how I felt.  It was breathtaking. I sat in the mezzanine with tears streaming down my face, as the actors took their bows, completely overcome with emotion.

I took my parents to see Once over a year ago and felt the same way – deeply moved, inspired, and alive.  It was a Wednesday matinee and I had expected a “matinee-performance”, the warm-up for the evening’s packed house.  Instead, the actors gave us everything they had and more – fully committed.  Playing full-out the entire time.

Yesterday afternoon marked the final performance for Once on Broadway.   Not including rehearsals or concerts, they played 1,167 regular performances and 22 previews.  It is a remarkable thing to behold, such intense, sustained, commitment.  Imagine if we could replicate that in our organizations – such extraordinary performance over the long-haul?

One of the things I loved the most about being in the theatre is that sense of communal commitment.  We were all in it together 100%.  For actors, it’s not just the energy they put out that makes the difference.  Not just their time.  Not just their focus.  It’s their heart.  They fully commit with their hearts.  They’re all-in.

In the acting world to not fully commit everything you’ve got – your energy, time, focus, and heart – guarantees a poor performance.  You can spot an actor who is holding back or protecting themselves in an instant.  They read false or they’re not interesting, thus typically they’re unemployed.  In a world in which only 2% of actors make a living wage – to not commit means to not make a living.  The cost for not committing is too high.  Imagine if everyone in the corporate world were to invest as much of themselves at work.

So often we hold back.  Sure, we’ll give our time – most of us are putting in long hours.  We’re working hard, often at great personal sacrifice.  But the very thing that makes the difference – in our experience and in our results – we hold at bay – fully committing our hearts. I don’t think it’s an active choice.  It’s not like we walk out the door thinking, “No.  Not going to do it.  Not going to bring my heart to work today.”  We’ve all got our reasons.  Some of us are protecting ourselves.  Some of us are too cool to let people know we care.  Some of us are just so used to letting our heads do all heavy-lifting, that we can’t imagine doing work any other way.  We get so focused on solving problems and knocking things off our to-do lists that we forget why we’re doing it in the first place.

Your why lives in your heart.  No one can tell you why you should care.  No corporate training.  No mission statement.  No HR leader.  Only you know why you care.  Or why you once cared.

The beautiful thing is that caring is a renewable resource.  When you fully invest yourself, energy comes back to you ten-fold.  It’s the law of reciprocity.

The world of the theatre and the corporate world are really not that different.  In the end, it’s all about getting the best performance.  I would argue, that nothing great can happen unless all the players involved are fully committed.  Not just with their energy, their time, and their focus – but also with their hearts.  And that takes courage.  It takes courage to be all in.  To do what you do for a reason beyond your paycheck.  Because you care.

And that, I believe, is the only way to sustain extraordinary performance over the long-haul.


©OnStage Leadership, 2015

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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.  Click here to read what people are saying!  If you’re interested in more information, or in having Kimberly come speak to your group on topics around Authentic Leadership, Influence, Presence, Engagement, Purpose in the workplace, or Presentation Skills we’d love to hear from you!


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