One of the most fascinating things about people is that we are each an individual, and teams are made up of those individuals. A challenge that we are faced with is that crews are made up of people who have all kinds of backgrounds and experience. Some of the folks working in the shop are required to be there because they have hours they need to achieve for a class. So how do we get these people all pointed in the same direction? Here are a few things I do that work for me, but like I said we are all individuals.
1) Give a reason why. Something that I have noticed is people like to know why they are doing a task, no matter how grand or dull the project may be. This past Tuesday I had someone ripping quarter-inch luan into 48 one-inch wide strips. A pretty monotonous task. But when I explained that it was going to be a trim that would create a really nice art deco pattern on the stage, it became a project and no longer a task. You as the leader must also understand why. Without knowing, you won’t be able to give the relevant information that your crew needs. If you want things done well, your crew must understand why.
2) Ask, don’t tell. This one is pretty simple and can easily be overlooked. When you give someone a task, ask them to do it, instead of dictating them to. “Can you base paint this flat so that we can save the painters some time later on?” By asking this person to base paint the flat they may be more receptive to the task (I also snuck in why the flat needed to be base painted).
3) Get to know your crew. Understand why they are there. This can sometimes be tough in academia; a student may just need to get hours in shop and are there just to fulfill a requirement. You need to go beyond what the class requirement is and ask them what their major is, for example. If you have the flexibility, assign them to tasks that will directly benefit them. An example would be a performance major who has no interest in the shop, what you can do is connect the project to how it helps tell the story of the show it’s being built for.
These are just a few ways of many to help get people moving in the same direction. What are some techniques that you have used?
Theatre is a pretty incredible profession. Nowhere have I found a group of people who all collaborate to achieve one goal, to put on the best show that we can. Everything we do works towards that moment when the lights dim, the audience goes quiet, and the show begins.