Sunday, December 26, 2004

Fast Company's Lessons from the Rockettes

Fast Company, whether in its online or paper-based magazine formats, has become one of my favorites. Here are their five lessons for leaders and managers from Radio City Music Hall's Rockettes. Two observations:

1. It's easier for groups to maintain focus and avoid personality conflicts when they have specific, defined tasks that are fulfilled on a date certain. This fact may explain why life among the Rockettes is relatively friction-free and why so many participants want to come back to the show year after year.

But this insight has special application to volunteer organizations, I think. So often, volunteer leaders recruit persons for membership in nebulously-defined committees with open-ended time horizons. That's a prescription for volunteer frustration as conflicts arise and mission drift makes everyone feel that they're tethered to a raft going over Niagara Falls.

The answer, from my perspective, is for leaders to rely much more heavily on task forces. The result? High morale stemming from a clearly defined purpose toward which all task force members are working and an openness to taking on other, sometimes more demanding, tasks later on.

2. In established organizations, the best thing for leaders to do is blend the old traditions with innovations that promise to work better than current practices. This is less threatening to those with ownership of old ways of doing things and demonstrates the leader's respect for past practices and the people behind them.

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