“Despair Is No Answer”

Today’s title comes from the closing paragraph of David Remnick’s 11/9/2016 New Yorker article and I wanted to take a moment to examine the full excerpt.

But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do. But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.

Adaptistration People 136If there was ever a field that embodies the concept of struggling honorably, it is ours. So regardless how deep your feelings run in the wake of this election, Remnick’s words also serve as a good foundation for how stakeholders across this field can rise to the occasion and beat the challenges coming our way.

To that end, here are some areas you can channel your energy in a way that will not only serve shared missions, but continue being a positive example to those around us.

  1. If you work in a position of authority and are responsible for those reporting to you, promote collaboration, reward transparency, and seek out peer review.
  2. Regardless if you work on or off stage, conduct yourself with integrity and make regular efforts to engage colleagues outside of existing circles.
  3. Be the catalyst for creating an environment that inspires colleagues to make positive choices and acknowledge the generosity of those around you.
  4. Avoid getting caught up in the trap of quiet desperation; make your voice heard but genuinely listen to subsequent feedback. Moreover, be a voice people want to hear and not just someone who complains or is combative for the sake of it.

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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