Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Conducting myself as a manager..

There are some conductors that have found a way to carve out happy niches for themselves and to happily work within the contexts of their organisations or own businesses - but happily employed or self employed conductors seem to be a minority.  Most often, when you talk to conductors working all around the world, there is an undercurrent of frustration; frustration about not having choice in or control over the programs they conduct and frustration about restrictions and rules and policies for their organisation or governing and funding bodies that get in the way of what they see as best conductive practice.  For years I have been advocating for conductors to step up and take lead roles in organisations providing Conductive Education, and for organisations to look to conductors to build, shape, and manage programs.

I can certainly confess that I was a frustrated grumbler in previous places that I worked - and though I am not sorry that I fought for what I thought was right for my participants and for CE, I am sorry that I was not mature enough, or clever enough to to find ways to thrive within organisations that were trying to support me and CE. When I look proudly back at what has been achieved by my baby, the program at Dimes Canada, I realise how impatient I was, wanting everything to be perfect and perfectly my way right away, and that I was not able to see how hard the organisation was working to bring about change or to appreciate how much behind me - and CE - they were and still are.   I now realise that I got too frustrated with the teething pains of a new program and too caught up in what I saw as the good fight to engage well with management or to step up and take the reigns even with ample opportunity.

Now, years later in another time and another place, after years of successful private practice, I find myself sitting in a very different position as a managing conductor in an organisation brimming with potential but working through transition. A exciting position within an organisation that has chosen to give a conductor the opportunity to build and shape programs; a tenuous position working with frustrated conductors dissatisfied with previous management; an unfamiliar position within an organisation and a program that I haven't personally built from scratch.      

I am emotionally unattached to the history and politics of the organisation but respectful and empathetic to the frustrations of the conductors I am working with and their relationship with what has been, and their resulting demotivation. I do not feel threatened or needing to fight with senior management or board members; I accept they do not necessarily think like conductors but appreciate that they are supportive of seeing our program continue to succeed and grow, and accept that part of my job is to liaise between them and the conductive team. It is an oddly mellow headspace to be honest, an odd combination of bustling passion and excitement and calm clear-headedness that I haven't experienced in any other CE job that I've had.

I have had the opportunity to reflect on how I conduct myself as a managing conductor.  As I've said time and time again, and as Andrew told me years ago, being a conductor is not about 'what you do' but about 'how you do everything that you do'.  In this job there are times when I'm working as a conductor, and times when I am working as a manager, but I know that when I am wearing my manager hat I still think and feel like a conductor.

I have a general manager that I love working with who I have been blessed to have as a mentor - DB is a compassionate and dedicated manager with vast experience in management, governance, and leadership in non profit, disability, and education organisations.   He has given me structure and space to grow and learn, and challenges me to find a way to take this role on my way, conductively, and is patient as I try to find my equilibrium as a conductive manager.  I dare say that he is in fact a 'conductive' manager.

I have stopped trying to see conducting and managing as different - in the classroom I conduct my participants, and I the office I conduct myself and my team -- and I assure you conducting conductors is by far the harder of the two.

As in the classroom, I find myself digging my heels in about believing in my team, about expecting the best from my team even when they are under-performing, about believing it is always worth trying to find a way forward even when my team do not see it.  I still strongly feel responsible for being part of the solution, and believe that it is possible to find a solution even if I'm not the one to find it.  When things haven't gone well I wonder what I haven't done well, what as a manager I should have done better; when things are going well I feel really proud of my team and enjoy their success and the levity it creates in our office.

Even after challenging days or minutes with my team I find myself falling back on an attitude of rugged positivity and tenacious determinism - the very same attitude I have always had with my participants.  Even after a challenging day I still come back in the next day ready to try again, and hoping that this might be the day when we find the break through that moves us forward.

I want to be able to find ways to motivate and inspire my team, to give them opportunities to grow and thrive, to figure out how to bring out the best in them, and to learn how to respect them for where they are at.  I feel badly when I am not able to create that conductive environment for them, or when they choose not to run with opportunities I think that I have opened.  I try to understand my disappointment in myself as a manager who isn't always able to provide an ideal environment or to lift my team in the context of my expectation that as conductors they should be able to create this environment for each other, for our program assistants, and for themselves.  I try to balance this by being transparent in my efforts to bring a conductive approach to my management style, hoping that they too will be conductive with themselves and each other outside of the classroom, and wondering if that is an unreasonable thing to hope for.

It has taken me a while to have the confidence to start to voice this.  I know that there are going to be days and moments that are better than others and I'm a lot more okay about that than I was a few months ago when I started this job, with bright eyes, bushy tail, and rose tinted glasses.  Reflecting conductively helps me remember that as long as I am doing my best in any moment, it is the best that I can do, and thus helps me reflect more kindly on my own successes and challenges. I am so proud to be a part of a profession that has taught me to do everything that I do conductively, and so excited to bring my conductive approach and mindset with me as I step up and into my new role here.