Work like an artist--Being in the moment

This is the second article in a series of articles that help professionals use artistic habits for business success!

Artists relish the process of creation as much as the idea of their finished product. For an artist, there is an inherent acceptance that there is a rehearsal process that cannot be shortchanged to get the results that they want. And when an artist takes as much pleasure in the creation of a work of art, they are also learning about the way that they create — tucking away insights that will help in their next project. Actors, musicians, dancers and visual artists, enjoy their work — they simply love doing it — because they have learned to love the process. And the same love of process is available to business professionals as well. But, sometimes, to be “in the moment” we need to take a step back and acknowledge where we really are so that we can truly enjoy our work.

Recently, I was working with a company that wanted to roll out a new educational initiative for veterans as part of their philanthropic efforts. They were focused on making their announcement before the end of Q4. But, the plan for the initiative had been drafted months ago by a different team. Now with a recent reorganization, the new team was working with someone else’s plan and under someone else’s timeline. And they’d hit a joyless dead-end. They weren’t making any progress, and all they could think about was the looming deadline.

We worked together through individual and team coaching and began to focus on what the actual needs of the moment were. Where they were now was, what mattered, I told them. And if they were struggling, they needed to take a good look at why. Acknowledging that discontent was actually their way forward ¾ and the only way to truly help the overarching goals of the project.

No one likes to run into roadblocks, but artists expect them.  An artist knows that when she hits a dead end, she’s actually found the new information that will help to further the project. A dead end is a chance to evolve new adaptations and find new solutions.  And, for an artist, those opportunities can be the most engrossing and rewarding part of their work—and a chance to make their project better. But, when I started working with my clients, all they could think to do was to put their heads down and muscle their way through a project that they didn’t truly believe in. Even though they weren’t the original creators of the project, they needed to get the job done. And to do that, they knew they had to assume full responsibility and re-envision the project.

So, upon further exploration, we realized that the team’s actual working “goal” was the announcement of the project—not the project itself. Obviously, they were having a hard time being in the moment and taking care of all the unfolding details—because all they were really thinking about was getting the project done. They were spinning their wheels.

When we took a step back and spent time being “in the moment” we realized that we needed to invest time on their internal mission statement related to the project. We developed a mission inquiry statement for the team which was:

In what ways can our educational initiative best serve the community?

THEN the team coalesced behind the initiative. In this case, when the team was working in-service of something larger than themselves — the community and the project made sense. And in creating this fresh perspective, the team enabled themselves to be where they really were: at square one. From that point on, with the whole team on the same page, something truly remarkable started to happen: they allowed themselves the freedom to explore the project from the beginning as opposed to a perceived end. In doing so, they began to think outside the box and uncover ways that their initiative could serve an even larger community.

Now that the team believed in what they were doing, they began to find joy in their work as well, which allowed the project to take an entirely new direction. In the end, the team decided on taking the program online and delivering the content not only through one-on-one workshops but through an interactive online platform, none of which was part of the original plan. And, with new and exciting ideas that had taken the project to another level, they chose to push back their roll out date so they were able to execute all their plans.

I was impressed with the similarities I found between this team and artists with whom I’d worked previously. The team found a way to make bring themselves back “in the moment” and watched as possibilities that they could never have imagined emerged. Once they took their focus off the end goal and acknowledged their frustrations, they took ownership of their project, opening up an opportunity to work with more engagement and joy. Then, working as an ensemble, when “opening night” finally came around, they truly had reason to celebrate!

Alexandra Phillips