Management lessons from a “nattiya” guru

I was invited for a “Bharatha nattiya arangettram” of my friend’s daughter. Five very young children – should be around 7-8 years of age – performed their maiden apprearance on the stage.

Though not a connoiseur of classical dance, I could appreciate the coordination, their skills, and their attitude. However, I was disturbed whenever one of them went our of sync or struggled in a karana or when a hasta was not perfect. They were visible; sometimes glaring. And something about their guru, Giridhar, was disturbing – he was smiling all along, the smile growing into a grin when the mistakes are more visible. I thought it was too early for them for this arangettram. Then came Radhika Shurajit to fecilitate the children. When she spoke, I was open to a totally different, radical perspective.

While glossing over the imperfections, she insisted that the arangettram is only a beginning of learning. Any learner has to go through four stages, the fourth being expeinece. No shortcuts for this. as you gain experience, you perfect your skill. I realized that I’m judging them against a greater standard. I should have considered their age, and their experience.

I could not stop thinking in a different direction now. I now know they did really well. Five young children dancing for almost two hours, all smiling all along. They were playful, they were smiling. They certainly deserve appreciation.

Now it’s time for me to realize why Mr Giridhar was smiling all along. Now a lot many things started to fall in place. There were management lessons to learn from this event!

First, don’t expect the trainee staff in your team to perform like you. You have so many years of experience; they’ve just begun their careers. Judge their performance against their experience, not yours.

Second, if things go wrong, don’t panic. If you fail, don’t worry. If your team did not perform to your expectations, don’t curse them. Laugh at yourself, find out what’s happening, and come with alternatives. If everything goes fine, you need not be there. Every problem is an opportunity, not otherwise.

Third, count on the blessings, not problems. Appreciate people for their small successes; don’t wait till the end. Your team needs appreciation as a souce of motivation, not as a reward. I’ve failed in this aspect spectacularly in my early days of leading. My trusted team members pointed me to this and I have corrected myself. You too can.

Fourth, don’t try to teach them all that you know. Teach the basics well and instill the interest in them to learn by themselves.

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