Joe Patti, my Inside The Arts blogging cohort, posted an absolutely fascinating piece on 1/15/2008 which recounts his recent experience attending the "Learning to Lead" session at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Annual Conference. Although the post is relatively short, it is chocked full of meaningful observations into the root of negative learning cycles endured by nonprofit cultural organizations…
I found the following statement from Neill Roan’s every bit as interesting as Joe did:
"Someone who is rationally satisfied behaves no
differently than someone who is rationally dissatisfied. People behave
differently when they are emotionally satisfied…the pathways back to
learning are different where there is emotional satisfaction…I think
in our field and in the performing arts, there is so much emotional
satisfaction…that is actually a barrier to our need to understand and
There’s nothing more I could add to Joe’s post
that expands on what he identified as "The idea that emotional
satisfaction, which is probably what allows people in the arts to
tolerate low pay and long hours, is actually inhibiting progress…"
However, this concept becomes even more intriguing when applied
directly to the orchestra environment and labor relations.
Labor relations tend to impact those involved within orchestral
organizations more on the emotional than the rational. As a result, if
it is true that most employees on the administrative side of the
equation are subjected to emotional satisfaction then it begins to
become clear why contentious labor relations have such a crippling
impact on any given outfit.
For better or for worse, managers and staffers can work hard
and – according to Roan’s observations – even if the institution isn’t
meeting goals they still develop a certain sense of overriding
satisfaction. But that internal balance is torn asunder when rhetoric
flares between musicians and administrators. As a result, is it any
surprise why wounds run deep, perhaps deeper than if the same scenario
played out at a for profit institution, and the idea that the internal
environment can be patched up in short order just doesn’t happen?
There’s some real meat here in this discussion and although it
isn’t revolutionary by any means it’s intriguing to examine it under