Presenting work to best advantage.


A common complaint these days is that new entrants into the workforce don't want to put any effort into learning new skills. To see just how unfair this criticism is, just head to the South bank of the River Thames in London, adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall, where dozens of skate boarders practise to perfect their techniques in a richly-graffitied underpass.

On any day - and often late into the night - initiates can be seen working harmoniously alongside highly skilled exponents as all try to achieve new personal bests by finding the necessary balance between their own physicality and that of their mobilising instrument.

This symphony of movement takes place in an area of heavy footfall along one of the most beautiful stretches of urban riverside in the world. Passers by of all nationalities and from all walks of life are drawn to pause, look on and wonder at the dexterity and commitment on display.

Directly above this hive of enterprise sits one of the worlds most prestigious classical music strongholds where performers - who put in equally strenuous hours of practise to gain mastery over their own physicality and their instrument of choice - draw audiences who look on and wonder at the dexterity and commitment on display.

Four things are common to both groups of performers.

1. As soon as one manoeuvre has been perfected from a seemingly endless stock of impressive routines, exponents immediately set to work to achieve excellence in another.

2. To gain the best possible results, all performers are dependent on the quality of their chosen instrument.

3. Though individuals are intent on becoming self sufficient they remain constantly alert to performers alongside them, aware that any unwanted dissonance or any unintentional collision could seriously damage the skill base each has striven to attain and prevent their moving up the hierarchy of achievement. 4. Both groups create a good deal of public nuisance and noise as they practise over and over to get things right.

So how is it that present day managers are unable to tap into so obvious and zealous a work ethic?

Is it because management concepts stemming from the first to last decades of the 20th Century (from Taylorism to Leanism) still inform organisational thinking as we move into the second decade of the 21st Century?

Orchestral managements around the world attest to the fact that allowing employees the license to work alongside colleagues with a variety of abilities and giving each one the license to execute manoeuvres in a way that best suits their physical and mental capacity whilst also being part of the big picture, creates more successes than failures.

What's more, orchestral managers reward employees for putting up with the regimentation their work entails by ensuring that each player gets the opportunity to perform in new works; each is allowed to pay for a suitably trained deputy to stand in for them on occasions and each will at some point get the chance to run with the tune.

Within many other industries, however, management still believe that best productivity is gained by separating employees into units where skill sets are exactly the same, where machines used are of a set standard and where the possibility of being involved in the whole production process is nil. In such organisations the indefinable value of allowing expertise simply to rub off of onto someone less skilled by setting them to work alongside someone already highly skilled has long been written off in some bar chart.

But young employees simply will not accept having to earn so blinkered a living. They are from a generation that from birth has had the ability to clamber around the world wide web and delve into mysteries as great as that of the infinity of space if it so chose. No wonder they desire to see themselves as integral to company policy from the get-go.

Only organisations that find ways of fulfilling this desire are going to be able to harness the commitment of these deft initiates. And only those managers who stay alert to the possibility of further change are likely to retain their services as they become accomplished performers.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.