I had the good pleasure of attending Cavalia’s Odysseo in Atlanta yesterday evening and the performance was riveting! Our tickets came with a tour of the stables and an opportunity to ask questions of the show’s Equestrian Director, Benjamin Aillaud, and my thoughts this morning center around an answer he gave to a member of the audience who asked about their training regimen.
M. Aillaud spoke about the training for the riders and acrobats, but it was the training for the show’s 35 stallions and 36 geldings that most piqued my interest. The training apparently took 1-3 years, depending on the horse, the greatest challenge being not teaching the tricks and sequences, but in maintaining their interest in performing. He mentioned – and here is what fascinated me – that 1/10 of their training time is spent practicing the routines and learning new cues and 9/10 of the time is spent on developing and refining the horses’ attitudes…a ratio that is I imagine required when working with 35 stallions in such close quarters.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels to an area in which I spend much of my time and energy: management. As a manager I find that most of my time is invested in fostering an environment that is conducive to the encouragement of positive, stable, nurturing and inspiring attitudes in those with whom I have the privilege of working. I’ve come to realize over the years that when you and those with you have the right attitude, anything can be accomplished. Moreover, accomplishment can be equated with fun…a rare relationship in this day and age.
When you surround yourself with high performers, with people who have dedicated themselves to excellence, there tends to be a lot of creative and kinetic energy floating around the office. That energy can spiral out of control very quickly, so it is important (as I imagine it is with the stallions at Cavalia) to manage it wisely. How to manage it is as much an art as a science. Here are a few approaches you might want to consider if your find yourself in the situation of managing a team full of star performers:
- To keep them interested, you must provide them with work that challenges them. Boredom is the root of many ills in both horses and people. This is especially true of high output, high energy people.
- How you handle the busy times is just as important as watching the low energy, potentially boring times. High energy people are particularly good at riding the waves of energy that move through an organization, but you have to be careful not to let the energy spin them out of control. They can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
- Look to balance the high energy people in your organization with the “steady-Eddies.” Both are essential to maintaining balance (did you notice the ratio of stallions and geldings?) and to creating noteworthy performances.
- Involve your high performers in the training and mentoring of others in the organization. This is one of the keys to overcoming the gravity of mediocrity and the siren’s call of entropy in organizational development.
If you get a chance to see the show, I would highly recommend it. In the meantime, if you would like to hear more about how we are working as a group of companies to create a spectacular working environment, feel free to stop by for a visit some time!