Monday, 18 February 2013 18:30

Teaching and learning from experience

I saw this redrawing of Maslow's hierarchy of needs whilst researching for classes I am teaching and it made me think about how the internet has become such a basic need for us all and it made me laugh - Maslow created this framework in 1943 as part of a theory of motivation - and it is still in text books today and resonates with people when you talk about it.  This version makes a serious point about how people feel about access to the internet at work.



I am always interested to hear passionate people talk about their work, and particularly when you can see the fruits of their career actually realised.  On Thursday I went to albareh art gallery to listen to Camille Zakharia talk about his work.  This is a two part talk - the first is an overview of his work and the second is for people who are starting out (in terms of building a portfolio) to position themselves and to get advice about how to present what they do.  I think this is a really important skill to have whether your portfolio is an actual one that contains your artwork or one that represents your career and  your potential.


People often talk about the art of management and I think that some of the same principles apply to being a great leader or a great manager as they do to being a great artist.  So as I sat and listened to Camille I was interested to look for themes.  I have heard him talk before and I have followed his work with interest over the last 5 years so this wasn't too hard to do.  So these are the five themes that I think a great artist and a great manager will share.


'Stance' and being serious about what you do

I think the first thing that is important is to know where you stand and what you stand for - not to have all the answers or to be 'right' but to be confident that you know what you are doing and to be interested in what others are doing and thinking.  

From the view of the artist I think this clarity is what makes work stand out and what makes individuals magnetic.  From the view of a manager being clear about what you know, to communicate the possibilities that you see and to express this with passion and interest so that people want to go forward with you. And know that you are open to their point of view.  

Camille talked at the end about the power of standing by your view and your work - not to play small about any of it.  That this 'taking yourself seriously' means that others take notice and respect what you are doing.


Discipline and commitment

Camille has two jobs and so he gets up every day early enough to do three hours work in the morning and works again in the evening on his art.  This level of discipline and commitment coupled with a clear vision of what he wants to achieve and how he wants to work shines through.  He is obsessive about the work and I think this level of dedication must bring with it the exclusion of many other things.  So how does this map across to art of people management?  I think this is about doing what you say you will, holding yourself and others to account for the work that needs to be done.  To put in the hours with your team, to take enough interest to know what each team member needs from you and to do your best to give this.  

To demonstrate your values through your actions on a daily basis, to have high standards for yourself and to expect wholeheartedness from others.


Generosity and selfishness

I think that being an artist encompasses both elements.  You have to be intensely self interested to dedicate so much time exploring your own vision and point of view - in addition you can be generous with your experience and expressive about your views.  After all, artists usually want an audience and need a response to their work and so they need to engage and offer their work to a market.  I think that as a leader or manager you need to be both a generous soul and manage and develop yourself so that you remain current and interested.  

I think like artists your work needs to be in service of something - and as a manager I think you need to be in service of your people and the business.  And you also need to take care of yourself, develop yourself, make progress and find work rewarding in the broadest sense.  Otherwise it is just a treadmill, you will lose heart and this will show.


Have a vision and see it realised

This is harder as a manager - you can't capture this on film or canvas.  If you don't take time to create a 'picture' of what you want to do or take time to have a personal vision about your own career when you look back it is hard to measure and assess your progress.  This seems to something that people 'don't have time for' and it is a bit hard to do on your own but I was very struck when I was listening to Camille that he knows why he is doing his art.  He has solid foundations that he builds on - an extraordinary body of really high quality work that has brought him to this point makes it easy for him to know where next, he can see it and he can share it with others.  

As a manager it is important to reflect on personal and team achievements.  I have worked with Julian Burton in the UK whose whole business is about developing shared pictures through a process of dialogue and engagement and these pictures become touchstones for the teams and leaders he works with.  The process of visual dialoge is very powerful and I think would work well here in the region.  The elements of the story, the artistry and the discussion resulting in an artefact that all have shaped and now can see is very exciting.


Challenge yourself and move forward in your field

This is the part that I found the most inspiring from Camille's talk.  He wants to keep challenging himself, to move his work forward and to find his particular gift.  He was asked which pieces are most personal and he was able to stand back from the work and to recognise that some of the work he has done isbe done better by other artists but that the work he has done over the years with collage is pretty unique and because of his particular gift and dedication he can do this exceptionally well.  Knowing this about your work is powerful and must be very satisfying.


And I think that this is the key to being a great manager.  To know what your particular gift is, to be able to spot talent and develop people and to create enough space and time to do this really well.  To apply high standards to it all and to realise that your work has impact and can inspire others and that the way that you work is completely connected to what you achieve.  And that this is a journey with many ups and downs.


Albareh Gallery are being very active with workshops and exhibitions this month- and Camille's part 2 is next Thursday evening at 6.30pm.  It made me think and made me want to learn more and more importantly inspired me to do better, what more can you ask from two hours.
























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