Monday, March 11, 2013

Conscious Limiting of My Success

I love this quote my friend Bob Kodzis uttered during a recent noshing together.  He used the term, "conscious limiting of my success."  What he meant was the recognition on his part not to let success or opportunity overwhelm and take over the occupations of his personal life and his family.

This is one of the things I have often feared about success.  Will I be sucked into a busy world that will take me away from my wife and my family?  I look at successful people and I remember from my time in L.A.  People can be so busy that their lives are all consumed with the busyness of the business.

But what a novel idea?  To make a conscious choice to put limits on the amount of time you will allow to be taken for your exploits.

I endeavor to be like my friend Bob and remain conscious of the choices being asked of me.  I choose to be aware to limit the extent of those choices and the myriad of possibilities and to keep a governor on those choices.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Wanna Get Your Vision Moving?

Tired of Chasing Your Dreams?  Why not Realize Your Dreams?  Time to let your dreams follow your desires and your Vision!

Turn those New Years Resolutions into the unfolding of Your Personal Vision.

Quantum Vision Workshops
Saturday March 16, 2013  12 Noon-4pm

For Information and to Register go to the Event Schedule Page (see "EVENTS" tab above).

Friday, June 01, 2012

Part 4 - Revelation Poolside

The last post ended with events on a Saturday in late February.  That Sunday I found myself reflecting in a way I have often over the past several years - cleaning the pool.  It actually isn't the place I go or the activity I engage in to reflect - I clean the pool out of necessity.  The dang pool always needs to be cleared of leaves and buds from the many oak trees in our yard.  So, by default, while cleaning, I think, I ponder, I consider, I noodle.  That day I could not get out of my head the previous day's heightened energy and emotional explosion.
I need to step up and be the Artistic Director of SAK with a renewed sense of energy.  Many things and excuses had resulted in most all of my time being absorbed with management drivel.  Many of those absorptions the result of not spending the time and energy on artistic things.
If I was going to share the wheel with the obvious creative core of energy at SAK I would have to step up my efforts as the Artistic Director to offer the opportunities they desired to innovate and express their creative energy.
At this point I encouraged myself to take the advice I recommend in the Quantum Vision.  When coaching someone who is struggling and frustrated with a vision that is stagnant and not moving forward I ask them to first look at their core values.  Most times, the culprit in a stalled vision without forward movement is the lack of alignment in vision and core values.  When this is the case, one or the other will have to change - either the vision will have to be modified (if possible) to properly pair with the core values, or the values will have to be reviewed for truth.  Maybe they are not your core values, only what you wish your core values were.  I should point out that this is rarely the case.  We tend to live and make default choices according to our values - they are the core and catalyst that drives us.  It probably means our vision will require some revision.
This was the case with me.  I realized my values revolved around my children.  At this point in my life my core values are to experience my children's adolescent years with them.  I love to be home at night for bedtime, homework, and school activities.  It is important to me to be present for this stage in the lives of my children.
It makes great sense that I have been challenged in my vision for SAK.  I value SAK very highly and I do indeed have values that relate to the vision I have for SAK, but I realize the priority of my values for family trump the values I hold for SAK.  The ultimate realization?  To be the Artistic Director of SAK demands the same schedule as to be the present and involved father of my children.  Both are nights - and weekends.  Not only to view and participate in shows, but to create anything new and innovative would require additional presence on other non-performance nights.  What the heck!  I can't do that!  Um... I haven't been doing that.  I haven't been choosing that.  I have been choosing something very different.  Wait a second - I can't be the Artistic Director of SAK!
I probably should have realized this inevitable conclusion a while ago.  I guess the defense is things were so hectic getting the next weekend of shows done there was too much preoccupation.  Well, in retrospect, I just couldn't stand the thought of me not being the Artistic Director of SAK.  I love SAK.  It's like a child of mine.  But clearly that can not be done by me if I am to stay true to my values.  Well, now I've done it.  No turning back.  To complicate matters, I realize I can't pass of the Artistic Directorship of SAK and hold on to the Managing Directorship.  If I am to consider this transition, it's got to be all the way.  SAK will be stronger if the same core of energy is handling both the Artistic side and the Management side, so the two will be working in concert with each other.  The creative core that will inevitably receive the keys to the car should have access to the resources available.
So that is what I decided at that point - and the pool wasn't even clean yet!  I wasn't going to share the wheel.  I was going to give them the car!  If accepted, I was ready to let this wave of creative power have the control they really wanted.  You can have the car.  What do you want to do with it?  Want to soup it up?  Want to paint it a different color?  Want to run it faster, farther, with a different driving strategy?  Go for it.  You can even have control of the resources to take care of the car.  Those will be dispensed a little more judiciously, but as far as the Artistic nature of SAK, you can go now.  You want to make changes?  Go for it.  It'll be up to you to make it happen, to put it together, to execute whatever is needed.
Well, that means more time opened up to clean this pool!

End of Part 4

Next installment - How will this transition work!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Part 3 - Explosion, Reflection, Epiphany

After the focus groups had met, our friend Bob put together a document detailing the information he had gathered.  A few comments he made from that experience still resonate with me - one was that he was surprised the amount of energy that the focus groups had opened up.  I think Bob was actually a little overwhelmed and somewhat taken aback by the magnitude of the energies.  The other was Bob's insistent suggestion that we (the SAK Leadership) respond quickly to the SAK family.  As we were processing the wealth of information, I remember even getting several reminders from Bob with the final one being "Hey, it's been 11 days since I delivered that information to you - folks are eager for your thoughts."

Of Bob's many suggestions and encouragements for moving forward, the core thought was 'Tell them what you heard, then go big."

We scheduled a day to respond to the SAK family and let them know that we heard them and what we intended to do about it.

I gave a lot of back ground information regarding the history of SAK the company and our mission as much of that information we unknown to a number of our people.  I was actually surprised how few of our people knew what the SAK Mission Statement was.  I will include some further information on those subjects in subsequent posts.

The most looming issues / wants were: More transparency, better communication, more leading, less managing.  These issues are actually not uncommon to many businesses.  Letting everyone know all that is going on and why and how decisions are made is a mountainous task, but surely one that needs to be done.  I realized we were not hitting the mark on those fronts.  The other resounding energy was "change or be changed," as Bob put it.

One of the focus group participants put it this way: "We aren’t frustrated because we dislike SAK in any way. We are frustrated because we love SAK and want it to succeed. We don’t need to be placated somehow. We need to be empowered, encouraged, and unleashed."

Near the end of this session is when the EXPLOSION hit.  After going through the "what we heard" and "what we're going to do," there was a challenge from several voices for more.  Our response was not as "BIG" as several had hoped.

After an emotional outburst from yours truly in response - (I had thought what I was offering was indeed some great steps), I pushed that challenge forward with a specific "Let me sit with you, and you, and you and you (the several individuals who were identified in Bob's summary as the most trusted and admired at SAK), to discuss how we can "Share the Wheel."  I am (we are) ready to do that.

[Incidentally, from the information tallied and compiled in Bob's report, my name was not on the Most Trusted and Admired List - a real eye opener that was, and frankly, a pretty heavy gut slug]

It was clear that not only did I need to make some radical moves to include those individuals and energies into the moving forward of SAK - I also needed to really step up as a Leader at SAK - as the Artistic Director - and lead more than manage.  I had gotten buried in the day to day Management junk of SAK and was not offering vision and leadership on creative and artistic levels, as well as not empowering others as much as could be to contribute in those areas.  I need to be there.  I need to lead.  I need to listen.  I need to share the wheel.

SAK has always muddled through the challenge of Artistic and Management Directorship.  With our tight finances and shoestring budget, SAK could traditionally not afford to pay a Managing Director and an Artistic Director.  I served in both of those capacities for a salary less than either would command in the market.  Of course, as many artists and creative types know and have known - we do this because we have to.  We make it work.  We do what needs to be done.

But now it was clear this model could no longer serve SAK.  From this day forward, SAK would be very different.  I did not realize how different it would be at that exact moment.  I had my version of how it would be very different, but on subsequent reflection and self-realization - the truth is SAK was going to soon be very, very different indeed.

This post was supposed to go from Explosion, through Reflection and Epiphany, but holy cow, it's already too long for a single post.  Reflection and Epiphany will have to be the subject of the next post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Part 2 - It all Comes to a Head

In the fall of 2011 it had become more and more clear that discontent was brewing in the midst of our continued efforts for the show to go on. In December, my friend and co-improviser Mary Thompson-Hunt was embarking on a thesis project for her Masters degree. She was assigned to do a project involving leadership and she approached me with an idea to utilize her knowledge and experience of improvisation and love of SAK. She asked me what were some of my thoughts towards leadership and asked about how I lead and run SAK. That conversation led to a question about what does SAK need most right now and my answer was - More audience. For her thesis and project she chose to center on that topic. Her project was entitled: An Assessment of Improving Audience Attendance at SAK. I let her know that as part of that question, I'd be interested to know both from the perspective of our audiences and the perspective of those who work and perform at SAK what we should do or need to do to build more audience. Mary administered an extensive survey covering that topic and several others.

Again, this exercise revealed more levels of discontent, unhappiness, disenfranchisement and lack of creative fulfillment. I fancy myself as someone who can work well to bring joy and inspiration to groups, but it was clear there was a growing gap between the leadership of SAK (for which I was ultimately responsible) and those who were tasked with making the funny happen on a daily and weekly basis.

In addition to that I received around that time an anonymous email. It was sent from a generic not-identifiable google email address, obviously made for the express purpose of writing to me in an untraceable fashion, which basically said "I'm not a fan of your leadership style," and included a link to a video tagged with "I think you should watch this..." It was a tongue in cheek talk about leadership entitled: "How to de-motivate your people."

Although I took umbrage over some of the viewpoints, thinking I do a lot of what the speaker was suggesting as the "right" way(s) to lead, I did recognize that I was, by many of my choices, inhibiting creative freedom, innovation and joy for many of those on my team.

So my choice was to grab the bull by the horns and dig deeper into the discontent.  This was like the Arab Spring - an Improv Spring if you will.  People were looking for change and advancement and opportunities for growth and joyous fulfillment.  How can you not want them to have that.  I chose not to crack the whip and crack down on the protests, however.  I chose to have lunch.

During a lunch with my friend and awesome associate Bob Kodzis, I spoke of my desire to find out more about what was missing or standing in the way of our forward progression. I shared with Bob the results of Mary's survey findings and he suggested a gathering of several focus groups made up of the different clusters at SAK - our Ensemble, Front of House, Lab Rats, Gen S, Staff, Leadership, etc. Thankfully Bob offered to facilitate those meetings which asked some deeply probing questions including: What do you love about SAK? What needs improvement at SAK? Who do you consider the Most Trusted? The Most Admired?  What needs to change?

From these meetings we were able to distinguish where some of the most toxic areas of discontent were centered.

There were a lot of questions and concerns about how the company was run as well as concerns about artistic stagnation. There was a great desire for more transparency in choices and policies made and instituted and an even greater desire for artistic and creative innovation and as individuals to be more a part of that process and decision making.

In fact, those sentiments were so strong that if left unattended, there would undoubtedly have been a large chunk of the SAK performing family uprooting and seeking creative fulfillment elsewhere.

Something HAD to be done about it, and fast!

End of Part 2

Next Post: Part 3 - Explosion, Reflection, Epiphany

Friday, March 02, 2012

Part 1 - How Did We Get Here?

This is the first in a series of several posts to offer some insight as to how to got to where we are today - Dave Gives the Car Away.

This current transition and opportunity for SAK actually goes back several months and begins with a restless creative energy at SAK. Over the course of time and even beginning in our new and awesome space at the CityArts Factory, a growing energy has been present at SAK to explore new creative thoughts and ideas and expand our creative horizons. Of course this is the dream and vision of every theater, so SAK is really no different on that front. Also, in that time, a core of creative energy has formed among the ensemble we feature in our performances - this core energy exhibits an interest to sow creative oats, if you will. A challenge develops when you have a dynamic like this, especially when paired with the challenges of running a business such as SAK.

As some of you may or may not know, I wear two big hats at SAK - Artistic Director and Managing Director. With the tight and unwieldy budget at SAK this has been an unfortunate necessity, as each position should be a separate individual. However, to make tights ends meet (that doesn't sound good), I made the choice to serve in both capacities for a salary below what either one would command in the marketplace.

Over time, philosophical differences have grown and become more pronounced and it has (had) become apparent to me that I'm like the dad and the core of creative energy is like the kids. The kids had their own ideas about how things should go and many times those did not mesh with how dad was doing things, especially on the business side.

Well, when these kinds of things happen, the family experiences problems and challenges - how do we reconcile these things? SAK has been working through many of those challenges for a number of months.

While in the midst of these challenges, however, the show must go on if we intend to keep our theater doors open. So, despite differences of vision, style and opinion, the SAK family has hung in there to get the job done and continue to entertain the audiences - which is one of the things everybody agrees on - we love our audiences.

End of Part 1

Next Post: Part 2 - It all comes to a head.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Dude, Where's My Car?

As many have already heard, I have decided to step aside as Artistic Director and Managing Director of SAK Comedy Lab. I have further decided to give the "car" to the "yutes." By "car" I mean the artistic reins and operational management of SAK. By "yutes" I mean a group made up of the most trusted and admired improvisers at SAK.

As this transition progresses, I will blog about the changes and challenges from my personal point of view, and will hopefully explain and discuss all the multi-faceted details of this radical move.

At the heart, I am very excited about the potential and future of SAK Comedy Lab and very eager to see what the next several months holds. Stay tuned here for updates, clarifications and blatherings.