Do You Make These Mistakes?

It should come as no surprise that we create our own demons but avoiding the bear traps gets a little easier when someone takes a moment to point them out. To that end, Holly Mulcahy published an update at Neo Classical to her wildly popular series of parody fueled articles from 2008 and 2009 about the Top 10 ways stakeholders alienate the audience.

noThere are no sacred cows here and even though she comes at the topic from the perspective of an orchestra musician (she’s concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera), her own stakeholder group receives the same amount of attention as executives, music directors, and even other audience members.

The updated list includes three new entries for each group but since we focus on the admin side of things here, let’s take a quick peek at the executive offenses (my personal fav is #1):

  1. Want to look like a savvy and witty executive? Nothing says “I’m a successful leader” better than a good stiff drink in one hand while the other hand flags down a waiter for the next drink. Everyone knows that alcohol gets the lips loose, and in your case you prove that your wit mixed with a good G&T is exactly what the richest donors want to see and hear! So have a double, and another. Be sure to not eat, that would be cheating.
  2. Casual Friday should be every day. A relaxed and comfortable executive team invites a sense of calm. Don’t ever wear a suit or a dress, don’t even bother with a name tag badge at events. Assume your donors and patrons will see that keeping an informal and laid back appearance will bring your whole organization a sense of tranquility. Everyone wants to be tranquil, right?
  3. Complain to and blame everyone: People need to understand just how hard you are working and just how underappreciated you feel. Be sure to blame anything and everything on anything you want! You want to appear like you’ve put thought into your position, and complaining and blaming just proves your commitment.

In the full version, Mulcahy steps outside the sarcasm to offer some real-world insight that could have come right off the pages of Emily Post’s Guide to Orchestra Etiquette (assuming such a book ever existed).

Be sure to check out what Mulcahy has to say about the other stakeholders but in the meantime, do you think she missed anything for the executive list?

FYI, here are the original posts from 2008 & 2009:

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Do You Make These Mistakes?

  1. When people call to speak to you or send you an email, have someone else on the staff return their call. Make sure your phone extension and email are not available on your website.Better yet, don’t return calls and emails at all–make others contact you two or three times before responding.

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