April 5, 2016

There are lots of topics under M including Marketing, Media, Meetings, Mindfulness, Mission, Money and Motivation. Of course, there’s the obvious heading “Management” but one that doesn’t turn up in management text books very often but one that I think is extremely important is:


Maybe it’s because I was brought up to be a polite young girl by the nuns. Maybe it’s because I have an allergy to being yelled at. Whatever the reason, I think ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ all have currency in the work place.  As Grayling says in his version of the Epistles (2011, p.579) “[n]o less necessary than either ancient or modern knowledge therefore, is knowledge of the world, manners, politeness and society.” If you are nice to people, they will usually be nice back. Stewart (2009, p. 131) notes that this “a timeless precept, grounded in ethics, barely rising about tautology, and emerging naturally from the experience of being a human surrounded by other humans” but that doesn’t mean that people are always nice to each other in the workplace.


The starting point is respect amongst people in the workforce. You don’t have to be friends but you should acknowledge and value each other’s contribution to the organisation. Adams says that you win people’s respect if you say what you mean, do what you say, are good at what you do and inspire confidence (Adams 2007, p. 159). An Australia Board Chair says that she will not work with people who don’t respect people “no matter how brilliant they are, if they treat people poorly, if they are rude or if they have bad manners” (quoted in Sarros et al 2006, p. 37).

Technically if you’re the boss, you can direct someone to do a task but why not say ‘please’ in the process? What starts as an order turns into a request. The answer may simply be ‘sure’ but it gives the receiver a sense that at the very least, communication could be two way with the possibility to ask questions about the requirement.  The result could be a better defined task or a clearer sense of the timing of the outcome which lead to a better result for both parties.

One of the most profound tools in the manager’s kit is a well meant ‘thank you’. James Button (2012) in a book about working as speechwriter for Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister in the 2000s, tells stories about the man who said thank you and the man who didn’t. Rudd’s Departmental Secretary regularly said ‘thank you’ if he liked someone’s work, whereas the Prime Minister’s habit seemed to be one of being  “rude and contemptuous” towards his staff (p. 65).  This presumably, was one of the reasons why Rudd was removed as Prime Minister by his own political party.

In a study conducted by Gina and Grant, “the effort of call center employees increased by 51% during the week after an external manager paid them a single visit to express appreciation for their work” (Anon 2011). Our organisations don’t usually have the negative organisational cultures of call centres but some us do have the potential for similar environments in our ticketing and subscription departments. The old fashioned model of management by wandering about is part of the process of people seeing that they work is noticed, understood and valued. Gestures of appreciation don’t have to be expensive, just heart felt. I was in the habit of finding a gift for everyone on the company at Christmas. That meant over 100 items so it was obviously never an expensive gift. One year it was a small diary, next year it was a book from my collection. But each gift was given with a personal note because without all of them, I didn’t have a job worth doing.

The other word in the manner’s collection is ‘sorry’. Because you will make mistakes. But you’ll also have to take responsibility for other people’s mistakes. When you delegate tasks, the results are still your responsibility. And when things go wrong for your organisation due to external pressures that you can’t control, you are still going to have to say ‘sorry’.  “Accept your role as apologist-in-chief,” say Rosner & Halcrow (2010, p. 70). “You’re the boss, which to your employees makes you the voice of the company. That means you’ll be called upon to apologize for things you have had nothing to do with.”  

Somewhat ironically, the Prime Minister who didn’t know how to say ‘thank you’ to his staff, did understand the importance of saying ‘sorry’ and one Kevin Rudd’s  most rated moments in the role was when he said ‘sorry’ to Australia’s Indigenous people in 2008.

On of Drucker’s  (1990, p. 115) “don’ts” in his list of what to avoid when managing non-profit organisations  is “[d]on’t tolerate discourtesy…..manners are the social lubricating oil that smooths over friction…..One learns to be courteous – it is needed to enable different people who doesn’t necessarily like each other to work together. Good causes do not excuse bad manners.”

The times when I felt the most belittled in the workplace is when I’ve been yelled at. Apart from the fact that each time, I wasn’t at fault and each time, someone else was trying to cover up their own inadequacies, the point is that it didn’t improve my work or my attitude. So as a manager, the best thing you do is to be polite in the good and the bad times, control yourself and in Grayling’s (2011, p. 579) words:

“To be well-mannered without ceremony, easy without negligence,

Steady and intrepid with modesty, genteel without affectation,

Cheerful without noisiness, frank without indiscretion, and able to keep confidences;

To know the proper time and place for whatever you say or do, and to do it with an air of condition.””


Adams, J  2007, Managing People in Organizations: contemporary theory and practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Anonymous 2011, ‘The Problem with Financial Incentives — and What to Do About It’, Knowledge@Wharton,, http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-problem-with-financial-incentives-and-what-to-do-about-it/ [accessed on 9 December 2014]

Button, J 2012 Speechless: A Year in My Father’s Business, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne

Drucker, PF 1990, Managing the Nonprofit Organizations, HarperCollins, New York

Grayling, AC 2011, The Good Book, Bloomsbury, London

Rosner, B & Halcrow, A 2010.The Boss’s Survival Guide, 2nd edn, McGraw Hill, New York

Rudd, K 2008, ‘Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech’, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/kevin-rudds-sorry-speech/2008/02/13/1202760379056.html [accessed 2 February 2015]

Sarros, J, Cooper, BK, Hartican, AM &Barker, CJ 2006, The Character of Leadership, John Wiley & Sons, Milton QLD

Stewart, M 2009, The management myth,  W.W. Norton & Co, New York




March 29, 2016

My topics under the heading L include Laughter, Leadership, Learning, Listening & Love.

You probably want the answer about how to be a good leader. Unfortunately there isn’t one, but laughter is a useful aspect of a well led organisation.

LAUGHTER – extract

A volunteer once asked for an appointment to speak to me and her demeanour was so serious that I thought she was going to leave us. But her story was much more of a shock. She wanted to tell me that in all her working life until now, she hadn’t been in an organisation where laughter was the norm – as it was at MTC – and how much pleasure she was getting out of the experience. I find it hard to imagine a workplace without laughter. Admittedly, I have often worked for organisations which manufacture comedy as part of their output but that but that doesn’t guarantee laughter off stage.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Beard (2014, 130) says the workplace needs laughter: “[l]aughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.” Research on care-focussed service non-profits in Great Britain, also provide examples of what make employment experiences positive amongst the stress of such work. When asked why an employee loved her organisation it was because of the laugher. “For her, employee satisfaction manifests itself in the fact that they work and play well together. The staff has fun”  (Lewis & Plas 2001,p. 68).

Even the UK Department of Trade and Industry in a survey exploring the influence of inspirational leaders focuses on the importance of fun: “employees are able to have fun at work and the importance of a light-hearted attitude is paramount. Business is seldom effective when everything is taken excessively seriously, and employees who work in a relaxed, more fun-filled environment are less stressed and more productive” (quoted in Adams, 2007, p.226).

There are pragmatic ways to engender happiness according to researchers. For example, Cropanzano & Wright (2001) believe that because it’s such a subjective state, as long you’re providing people with a sense that their work is meaningful, that they’re supported and that their work makes a difference then you’ve at least contributed some of the precursors to happiness. Of course, those researchers were interested is in exploring whether happiness at work results in more productivity. As a manager, one does want people to be more motivated and thus contribute to the needs of the organisation but it’s also just nicer to go work with people who are happy.

In a recent discussion with a successful and caring arts manager, they talked with pride about the good organisational culture that had helped create. To do this, the organisation had a staff workshop and simply asked what would make for a happy workplace. The answers were wonderfully pragmatic and included things like making sure that time accrued was taken off, regular as well as annual performance appraisal, giving everyone a pay increase (even if it was modest), promising and trying to deliver honesty and transparency and good HR practices. Laughter wasn’t on the list but I’m sure it was another organisation where it could be heard.


Adams, J 2007, Managing People in Organizations: contemporary theory and practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Beard, A 2014, ‘Leading with Humor’, Harvard Business Review 92(5): 130-131

Cropanzano, R & Wright, TA 2001, ‘When a “happy” worker is really a “productive worker”: A review and further refinement of the happy-productive worker thesis’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research 53(3): 182-199

Plas, JM & Lewis, SE 2001, Person-Centered Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks CA



March 21, 2016


Currently, I’m doing a lot of reading around the subject of critical thinking and one of the books that I’m finding fascinating is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast & Slow. In the process of doing so, I’ve been reminded about how much I don’t yet know about so many topics surrounding the notions of management and leadership. So it seems only appropriate that this week’s letter is an extract from K for Knowledge.

There must be someone in Melbourne who thinks that they’re going to gain some knowledge by reading The A to Z of Arts Management. Within a couple of days of the book being put on the shelves of the University of Melbourne’s library, it had been stolen. Should I take that as a good sign or not?

Here’s some of the words that the book thief will have found under K:

“Knowledge can be described as a “dynamic collection of information and skills” and wisdom as a combination of knowledge plus experience and good judgement (Sommerton 201,p. 155).

Starting with skills, arts managers in the Ireland came up with the following list (in order):

  • Ability to effectively schedule time, tasks and activities, to organise resources and to establish a course of action to accomplish specific goals
  • Ability to express confidence and to be decisive
  • Ability to listen to others’ viewpoints, negotiate sensitively and take account of other’s needs
  • Ability to quantify and organise needed financial resources and to monitor their expenditure accurately
  • Ability to make effective written presentations to others
  • Ability to make effective verbal presentations to others
  • Ability to develop and maintain networks and formal channels of communication with the outside world
  • Knowledge of funding resources
  • Ability to influence people and “win the day”
  • Ability to stick to a plan and not get side-tracked
  • Ability to assign tasks to others and to monitor their performance
  • Ability to conduct effective group meetings
  • Ability to keep abreast of relevant local, national and international political, economic and cultural developments
  • Knowledge of local, national and international structures
  • Knowledge of legal issues (Clancy 1997, p.360).

These are mainly pragmatic skills which can be gained through formal learning and experience. And experience is a good teacher. At various points in the arts management subject I teach, I ask students to reflect on their positive and negative work experiences about, for example, the leaders and managers they’ve had or the elements of the environment that have motivated or depressed them. After getting the resulting key words on the whiteboard, I suggest that they take a photograph of them: because that should be the document that accompanies them into their employment future. People know from their own experience what makes a good leader, what motivates them, what a good cultural climate feels like, the results of working in an effective team. And equally they know what’s wrong and what doesn’t work.

Clancy, P 1997, ‘Skills and Competencies: The Cultural Manager’ in Fitzgibbon, M & Kelly, A, From Maestro to Manager, Oak Tree Press, Dublin 341-366

Sommerton, J. 2010, ‘The place of practical wisdom in cultural leadership development’  Kay, S & Venner, K (eds), A Cultural Leader’s Handbook, Creative Choices, London, 114-119



March 8, 2016

My Advanced Arts Management class started last week and I have 60 students, both local and international. The A to Z is their text book and we’re going to start off each week seeing if there is anything that surprised them or that they disagreed with in the sections that I recommend. I’m looking forward to some robust debates.

There is only 1 heading under J: Job Satisfaction. Please let me know if you can think of other issues that I should have discussed under J. In the meantime, here’s an extract from the Job Satisfaction section:


“Adams (2007 reviewed 600 academic papers on job satisfaction and organisational productivity and concluded:

“When employees are encouraged to work autonomously, and are given greater control over their tasks, resources, time, interactions, and goals, they will perform substantially better, resulting in greater organizational performance. Consequently, managers need to learn how to encourage employee development by acting in a supportive, coaching or mentoring role, rather than as an overseer or administrator” (p. xvii)

Other researchers collected data from workers in 100 manufacturing plants in three countries and they also concluded that the closeness of the relationship between the employees and their supervisors was a significant enhancer of employee morale an important factor in worker satisfaction and productivity (McKnight,  Ahmad, & Schroeder 2001). By ‘close’, this doesn’t mean that you have to be your staff member’s best friend. But you do have to have an open and honest communication pathway and be capable of playing the role of mentor and advisor as well as boss.

One outcome of a lack of job satisfaction is absenteeism – why bother going to work if you hate it? Absenteeism tends not to be a problem in arts and cultural organisations because there is high commitment to the company. There will always be areas where some absenteeism occurs more often such as casual workers in more mundane jobs where the emotional connection with the company may not be as strong. But if you start to see unexplained absenteeism amongst regular staff, then you need to investigate.

The commitment of arts workers is often extraordinary. Actors for example, will often go on when they should be home in bed. I remember one actor who had food poisoning but was determined to perform. I came to the theatre, said I was willing to cancel the show (even there was a house of 800 people) but she insisted that she was ok. I went on stage to warn the audience that we might have to stop mid-show and offered them a refund if they wanted to leave but all them decided to go on the roller coaster. The actor arranged to have buckets on either side of the stage and another actor had a copy of the script and was lined up to walk on if required…which she was when the sick actor had to leave mid-sentence. A doctor in the audience raced off to the nearby hospital, came backstage at interval, re-hydrated her and the actor went on to finish the second half without missing a beat. This example could be considered an extreme version of employee involvement which tends to improve job satisfaction and organisational commitment (McShane & Travaglione 2003).

Whilst not every job is rewarding, every day, creating an organisational climate and culture in which people can want to come to work and get satisfaction from their job seems both ethical and practical.”



Adams, J  2007, Managing People in Organizations: contemporary theory and practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

McKnight, DH, Ahmad, S, & Schroeder, RG2001, ‘When do feedback, incentive control, and autonomy improve morale? The importance of employee-management relationship closeness’, Journal of Managerial Issues 13(4):466-482

McShane, S & Travaglione, T 2003, Organisational Behaviour on the Pacific Rim, McGraw Hill, Sydney






February 29, 2016

I was rather slack last week and forgot to post my next alpha letter. My excuse is that I was preparing to both teach and be taught. This semester I’m teaching Advanced Arts Management at the University of Melbourne and both Effective Business Communications and Human Resource Development at Central Queensland University. But in addition, I’ve just spend the weekend starting my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Ironically, in the current Australian adult education world, I can teach at post-graduate level without a Cert IV but not in the Vocational Education and Training system. Still, having written about Humility in my last blog it was entirely appropriate that I re-experienced the life of a student. Luckily, the presenter was good and my class mates helpful so we all survived two intense full days of learning with more to come.

Today’s extract is about Industrial Relations. To a degree, this topic has many points which are specific to the Australian system but any reader who deals with unions and industrial agreements of some form will appreciate the impact that industrial relations has on the workplace.


“Industrial Relations (IR)  involves the activities of governments, industrial tribunals, employer associations, trade unions and the impact of industrial law, awards, terms and conditions of work, grievance procedures, dispute settlement, advocacy and collective bargaining in determining the rules about employment relationships (Stone, 2013) but apparently it’s very old fashioned of me to even use the phrase. In writing a book about what I would have called IR when teaching it in the 1970s and 1980s, both Balnave et al (2009) and Bray, Waring & Cooper (2009) decided to call their books ‘Employment Relations’. A couple of years later, Teicher, Holland & Gough (2013) found that even that phrase failed to capture the interconnected stories of HR management, government intervention and the voice of the un-unionised and so chose to call their book ‘Workplace Relations’.  However, even though IR is consider to be negative  because of sensationalist reporting of conflict and the role of unions that is seen to be at the heart of it (Bray, Waring & Cooper 2009), as my particular focus in this section is about the impact of government legislation on employment relations, it still feels appropriate.

There are different approaches to Industrial Relations – unitarist, pluralist, radical or Marxist, although you don’t hear much of the latter these days.  In the unitarist world (which is often the world of the human resource expert), workplace conflict is a temporary aberration. Life is about teamwork and mutual cooperation, with direct communication between management and employees based on common objectives. If conflict does occur it’s because of poor management or workers that don’t fit in or trade union interference.  It’s a view to be found on the right wing of politics but ironically (because many arts workers tend to be left-voting), it’s a view that most arts managers would rather like to think was the case in their organisation. Because people actively choose to work in an arts organisation, there are shared values and shared objectives, teamwork and mutual cooperation. And sometimes it does feel as if unions interfere with the smooth running of the company. However, just because employees are committed to the art form, doesn’t mean that they feel they have power in the relationship or are comfortable without the support of a trade union.

The truth of the matter in countries like Australia with a democracy, a strong (if fading) tradition of trade unionism, a legal structure that supports the rights of unions, facilitates group bargaining and provides conciliation and arbitration processes, we have a pluralist system where trade unions are legitimate representatives of employee interests and managers have to learn to negotiate with a collective rather than individuals with the State as the umpire.”


Balnave, N, Brown J, Maconachie, G & Stone, R J 2009, Employment Relations in Australia, 2nd ed, John Wiley & Sons, Milton QLD

Bray, M, Waring, P & Cooper, R 2009, Employment Relations, McGraw-Hill, Sydney

Stone, R J 2013, Managing Human Resources, 4th edn,  John Wiley & Sons, Milton QLD

Teicher, J, Holland, P & Gough, R 2013, Australian Workplace Relations, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne




February 17, 2016

The topics I write about under H in the A to Z are Hiring, Holidays, Hours, Human Resource Management and Humility. I think that people were rather surprised at the Book Launch when I chose to read an extract from Humility. It’s the not subject that instantly comes to mind when one is thinking about managers or leaders but I think it’s a valuable virtue.


 Managers and leaders can have many good characteristics but I want to spend a couple of minutes on humility because one of my favourite writers on management, Chris Grey (2005), recommends it as a useful quality. Why? Because the world is an uncertain place and if we take on the responsibility of managing people we need to have care for them and not believe that our voice is the only one that should be heard. Sinclair (2007, p.30) makes the often unstated point that while conventional wisdom is that leadership is a good thing, it can also be a bad thing. Humility may help overcome tendencies to the dark side such as narcissism and grandiosity.

Humility in the workplace can be defined as:

“…a capability to evaluate success, failure, work, and life without exaggeration…humility enables leaders to distinguish the delicate line between such characteristics as healthy self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-assessment, and those of over-confidence, narcissism and stubbornness” (Vera & Rodriquez Lopez 2004 quoted in Sarros et al 2006, p. 99).

In their analysis of effective leaders in the US corporate world, Collins & Porras (1994) came up with a list of qualities that were somewhat unexpected given the traditional view of leadership. Their successful leaders were described as softly spoken, gentle, good listeners, modest, thoughtful, serious, rather shy – and humble.

Servant leadership is a model which seems to fit well with mission-driven non-profit organisations. The characteristics of such a servant-leader include “asking questions in order to seek solutions, rather than giving orders; earning respect and understanding through engagement; acting as a broker or match-maker, rather than being at the central point of all decision making; and seeking to find real common understanding between people rather than just wanting consensus to deliver outcomes “ (Norbury 2010, p.53). Being a servant to others takes considerable humility. Even if that’s not your preferred management style it’s still worth noting one of Drucker’s (1990, p.23) leadership competencies: “willingness to realize how unimportant you are compared to the task.”

One of the managers I enjoyed working with in the past, Peter Brokensha (2007), talked about humility as a quality, along with empathy, that had helped him come to wisdom over three quarters of a century. He learnt this initially through his mother who as always humble and considerate of the needs of others and then through his first job at a petrol refinery:

“Although I had just finished a university degree in engineering I soon realised I didn’t really know much at all about the important things; about people and work and getting things done. I soon found that I could always learn something from everyone no matter what their position was”(p. 155).

In Sarros’ el al (2006) book on the character of leadership, a corporate director offers good advice on putting humility into practice:

“I think humility is really important. I know that I don’t know it all, and I know that for all the things I get right, I’ll get an equal number of things wrong, and stuff them up. You can learn from your mistakes, and that comes back to the importance of honesty. You can be honest when you stuff up and say, I didn’t quite get that right or I didn’t quite understand what you said” (p. 106).

You can improve your humility by facing up to your weaknesses, acknowledging your failings, taking feedback graciously and remembering that you are there to serve the stakeholders and the arts makers.


Brokensha, P 2007, Getting to Wisdom Slowly, Peacock Publications, Adelaide

Collins, JC & Porras, JI 1994, Built to last: successful habits of visionary companies, HarperBusiness, New York

Drucker, PF 1990, Managing the Nonprofit Organization, HarperCollins, New York

Grey, C 2005, A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying organisations, Sage Publications, London

Norbury, C 2010, ‘Relationships are at the heart of good cultural leadership’ in Kay, S & Venner, S (eds), A Cultural Leader’s Handbook, Creative Choices, London, 50-57

Sarros, J, Cooper, BK, Hartican, AM &Barker, CJ 2006, The Character of Leadership, John Wiley & Sons, Milton QLD

Sinclair, A 2007, Leadership for the Disillusioned, Allen & Unwin, Sydney

Vera, D & Rodriquez Lopez, A 2004, ‘Strategic virtues: humility as a source of competitive advantage’ Organisational Dynamics, 33(4): 393-408



February 10, 2016

My topics for G were Gender and Groups but it shouldn’t be surprising that I would want to share some thoughts about gender issues in arts management.

GENDER – extracts

In their Cultural Leadership Handbook, Hewison & Holden (2011,p.31) say:

“Although we do not believe that gender is a significant factor in being a leader, we have noticed than women are often better at silent leadership than men. That is because they are not just thinking about themselves in relation to the organization, they are ready to enable and empower people by genuine delegation, and they are ready to nurture other people’s talent. This is why, when they want to achieve change, they also produce general agreement about the need for change and the direction to go in. The result is a much more stable organization, where people do not just feel proud of the success of the organization, they feel they own it. Whereas a transformational leader is definitely seen as being out in front of the organisation, the relational leader will be at the centre of it.”

When Kate Macneill & I (2009)  interviewed the artistic and management leaders of Australia’s major performing arts companies, we discovered that the Managing Directors required a sophisticated set of management skills and qualities that were both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in order to have a successful co-partnership with an artist and manage a complex organisation.

Because we were exploring co-leadership relationships, the language of marriage came up regularly as a metaphor:

….you end up being Mum and Dad in an organisation and I’m possibly the more nurturing, encouraging, more access to, … and AD’s much less effusive with his praise but when it comes, it’s more important and meaningful. [GM 7]

Bilton, Cummings & Wilson (2003, p. 213) in discussing the relatively high proportion of women in senior positions in arts organisations talk about the stereotypes of  “disorganised creator and omniscient manager take on a Freudian dimensions, with the boy-child’s artistic ego protected from reality by the  indulgent and controlling mother.”   Another gendered approach is to think of the Artistic Director as ‘dad’, off at work in the rehearsal room leaving problem-solving and relationship building ‘mum’, the Managing Director, at ‘home’ looking after the kids.  However, although the mum/dad metaphor might help explain the co-partnership model, it’s a very modern marriage with a disconnect of feminine and masculine roles and functions from the biological sex of the person in the specific position:

I don’t think that gender really plays a part in it – it might provide a convenient psychological paradigm for the rest of the company who might like to refer to “mum and dad”, but in the theatre of course one could have same-sex parents and it wouldn’t be that surprising.  [GM 2]

As evidenced by the quote above, which reminded us that families are not restricted to the male dad and the female mum, many of our interviewees rejected gender stereotypes. Our female interviewees did not necessarily consider themselves to be the “mother”, or even the “mothering” type – in contradiction with a gendered approach to the role of Managing Director as being the organising, administrating, facilitating and relationship builder. But when the women did talk about gender (which they didn’t do unless pressed) they had an active preference to work with reconstructed i.e. not traditional, men.

The intelligent, well-educated women under discussion may choose to work in arts organisations because of the nature of the people they are likely to find there as well as because they have a passion for the output.  Men who choose to work in arts organisations aren’t necessarily people who are chasing power or money, and the men that women get to work with are more likely to be collegial rather than competitive:

I guess you’d say that they’re fairly ideologically sound men or politically reconstructed men or feminist men or what have you. [GM6]

Many of the men whom we interviewed either described themselves, or were described, in words that imply that they are pro-feminist.

The male and female leaders we talked to were in co-leadership relationships and that may mean they require different qualities to men and women working alone as CEOs.   The binaries of masculine and feminine qualities were absent in the way the interviewees discussed their co-leadership arrangements. This is not to say that the interviewees were not aware of the manner in which attributes are assigned to each gender, but rather revealed a level of self-awareness and knowingness around questions of gender. There is a wealth of literature that supports the view that at heart there is little difference in management style between men and women, with both sharing similar aspirations, values, personality traits and behaviours (Billing & Alverson 2000). However this literature also notes that in leadership positions the attributes, skills and behaviour that both men and women exhibit remain ‘masculine’ and a number of our interviewees, whether men or women, described their management strengths with words that fit within a more masculine management set such as rationality and analysis. However, their leadership style also had to be focused on relationships, a perceived female leadership strength according to Benko & Pelster (2013) because of the organisational structure in which they worked.


Benko, C & Pelster, B 2013, ‘How Women Decide’ Harvard Business Review, 91(9):78-84

Billing, YD & Alversson M 2000, ‘Questioning the Notion of Feminine Leadership: A Critical Perspective on the Gender Labelling of Leadership’, Gender, Work & Organization, 7(3): 144-157

Bilton, C, Cummings, S & Wilson, D 2003, ‘Strategy as Creativity’ in Cummings, S & Wilson, D (eds) Images of Strategy, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford,  197-227

Hewison, R & Holden, J, 2011 The Cultural Leadership Handbook, F Gower, Farnham

Macneill, K & Tonks, A 2009, ‘Co-leadership and Gender in the Performing Arts Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management 6(1):291-404




February 1, 2016


Another topic that doesn’t see its way into management text books is Families. My other F sections are on Firing people (always, always a hard thing to do even when it’s absolutely necessary) and Fundraising.

Here’s an excerpt from the section on Families:

“Some aspects of the work that takes places in arts and cultural organisations is open to [family-friendly] arrangement but much is not.  Shows happen at night and over the weekend. Museums and galleries are open every day of the year except for a couple of religious holidays. Stage managers work for weeks during the day and then have to switch to nights. Freelance directors and designers have to travel to get gigs. Dancers and musicians will often have to go on tour. The gallery opens at a certain time and guides have to be in place. Everyone in the cast has to be in the rehearsal room at the same time. The bump in of the opera has to be done over a series of 18 hour days because of the availability (and cost) of the venue. The dance performance starts at 8pm.  These times, often outside of regular working hours, can be particularly challenging for people with young children because as Mendelssohn (2013b) points out unless people are  in the most senior of positions, people working in the arts tend to have salaries that equate with genteel poverty, most childcare centres close by six and nannies are expensive.

However, it’s not always formal work arrangements that be helpful for people looking to manage complex lives.. Where it’s possible to create even occasional time flexibility, people will be grateful for the personal consideration and rarely abuse the privilege. I love the description of working at Oasis, a care service organisation in Tennessee. In the words of Plas & Lewis (2001, p.75) :

“An undisputed reality at the center is that people do not criticized one another for dealing with family responsibilities during regular work hours. Co-workers do not complain, and management does not offer negative consequences. This people routinely bring kids and pets to work, take kids and pets to medical appointments, make personal day time visits to legal and government agencies, and even get the tires on their cars rotated during agency hours were necessary. ….Employees make their own decision about what needs to come first: work or family. If they decide in favor of a family responsibility, they also decide how work at Oasis will be covered in their absence.”

It’s not always easy to create such an environment because there are often situational tensions that result from work structure and the impact of people’s different personal situations.  For example, the day to day practices such as working from home, flexitime, altering start and finish times need to be negotiated with the team because if the dynamics of the team are badly disrupted or if people develop antagonism towards a member because of a perception of special treatment, then the result won’t be positive.

Another area of concern is the difference between those with children and those without. For example, there is evidence from the Netherlands (ten Brummelhuis, Haar & van der Lippe 2010) that the family demands of having young children have a disadvantageous effect on collegiality, whereas having children in itself did not diminish collegial behaviour. For better or for worse caring for young children takes a lot of time and energy and prevents employees from being fully involved in workplace social networks. So ironically, you can be trying to develop a family-friendly culture at work but anyone with a young family will find it hard to participate fully. The notion that people with young children aren’t as ‘available’ to their colleagues as those without shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The main issue is to ensure that any complaints or concerns about staff lack of availability because of these demands are heard and responded to quickly before they become a problem. Rosner & Halcrow (2010, p.305) advise that the best way of dealing with this tensions between parents and nonparents is to put the focus back on job performance:

“if you give people time to deal with their personal lives, it doesn’t matter whether they spend that time taking their kids to a soccer game, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or going to an antiques show; it’s their business, not yours. Measure whether work is completed on time and done well and don’t log every time Jane (sic) comes in late or leaves early.”

The odds are, even if someone doesn’t have kids, they have a partner or parents who will need some care and attention at some time. We now live in a world where many of us are caught between children and elder responsibilities in the ‘sandwich generation’ (Kumra & Manfredi 2012). Before the Australian government introduced regulations that redefined sick leave as family leave so that it could be used for more than just personal illness, we had such a policy.

Although we thought of ourselves as a family friendly organisation, there were times at MTC when this flexibility just didn’t happen. Our excuse was it was only ever about the art and not about the day to day operations of the company. But that’s not quite true. When it came to the bump in i.e. moving the set and costumes and actors out of the workshops and rehearsal room and into the theatre, the long days were remorseless. Every day of bump in was day that we weren’t putting the show in front of audience so the pressure was on to make the bump in happen in the shortest number of days. So in fact, the truth was that we drove people to work ridiculous hours because of money – rental cost and lost income. Over the years, we did give more and more time to the bump in process but it never seemed to stop the long hours. Luckily, the union recognised this propensity in all performing arts companies and there was a financial penalty built into industrial awards to try and stop people working unless they’d had a 10 hour break – double pay until they did.”


Kumra, S & Manfredi, S 2012, Managing Equality and Diversity, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Mendelssohn, J 2013b, ‘Why are so many arts organisations run by blokes?’ The Conversation, 10 May, http://theconversation.com/why-are-so-many-arts-organisations-run-by-blokes-13217 [accessed 23 January 2015]

Plas, JM & Lewis, SE 2001, Person-Centered Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks CA

Rosner, B & Halcrow, A 2010 The Boss’s Survival Guide (2nd ed), McGraw Hill, New York

Ten Brummelhuis, LL, Haar, JM &  van der Lippe, T 2010, ‘Collegiality under pressure: the effects of family demands and flexible work arrangements in the Netherlands’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(15):2831-2847





January 25, 2016


This week’s letter contains a number of topics that on the surface seem to be on the opposite ends of  a spectrum: for example, Economics and Emotion.  But each topic that I’ve chosen to write about is necessary to understand when you’re an arts manager. Other E topics include Empathy,  Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Ethics and Evaluation.

I’ve chosen to share some words on Entrepreneurship because of I’ve received a positive response to what I’ve written from a young Australian arts manager. So if it resonated for them, it might resonate for you too.

“One of the early definitions of an entrepreneur was proposed by Schumpeter in the 1930s (quoted in Beugelsdijk  & Masleand 2011, p.166). The idea is that an entrepreneur  is a leader with autonomous drive who’s willing to break through ordinary constraints in order to achieve new outcomes. Schumpeter said “…there is the will to conquer: the impulse to fight, to prove oneself superior to others, to succeed for the sake, not of the fruits of success, but of success itself.”  I don’t identify with any of that language although I do like his final point which is that entrepreneurship is  “about the joy of creating, or getting things done, or simply exercising one’s energy and ingenuity.”

In the arts and cultural world, the title of ‘entrepreneur’ has been applied to the impresarios of the past who risked their own money (and that of others) to establish new enterprises. They are the people who start businesses rather than the people who manage them. Beugelsdijk & Masleand (2011, p. 167) summarise a range of research and come up with a list of behavioural qualities for entrepreneur’s including opportunistic, innovative, creative, imaginative, restless, high need for achievement, risk taking propensity, self-confident, with a preference for energetic and novel activity.  They are described as people who want to be free to achieve as well as being comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. If one has to have all those qualities, then I’m clearly not an entrepreneur. I simply don’t have the appetite for risk that I see in my commercial peers. Obviously, I’m not completely risk-averse because otherwise one wouldn’t be able to work comfortably in an arts organisation where every creative activity is risky with the capacity to damage the company financially. I prefer Hagoort’s (2005, p.214) image on an entrepreneur: someone who has “a lot of energy and a large dose of persistence and imagination which, together with a willingness to take reasonable, calculated risks, enables them to convert something which initially begins as a very simple and unclear idea, into something concrete.”  That sounds somewhat more like me.

I suspect that a true entrepreneur in Schumpeter’s sense would be both bored and irritated by having to work in the framework of non-profit organisations with boards, rules and regulations and stakeholders to whom one has to be accountable. Perhaps a better approach to entrepreneurship is for the company to be entrepreneurial rather than the leader. Varbanova (2013, 20-21) provides eight characteristics of such organisations:

  • Evidence of innovation not just in artistic creativity but in strategic innovations that bring value to audiences and clients
  • The establishment of teams to work on generation and implementation of innovative ideas
  • An experimental “laboratory’ climate
  • Ongoing financial support for innovative projects
  • Generating revenue as a result
  • A flexible organisational structure
  • Adaptability to change
  • Ability to connect and network.

In this type of organisation according to Varbanova (2013, p. 19) employees are given “ongoing freedom, encouragement and support, including financially to create and develop new ideas.” This sounds to me simply like a well-run arts organisation. Perhaps I’m just trying to excuse myself for not being an entrepreneur at heart but I think there is room for both the more considered servant leader and the more flamboyant entrepreneur in the arts and cultural industry.”


Beugelsdijk, S & Maseland, R 2011, Culture in Economics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Hagoort, G 2005, Art Management: Entrepreneurial Style, (5th ed), Eburon, Deflt

Varbanova, L 2013, Strategic Management in the Arts, Routledge, New York



January 17, 2016

I must confess that the lure of the Indian Ocean and all those beautiful white sand beaches in Perth meant that I didn’t keep up my promise to update my A to Z extracts every week over the New Year period. But I’m back at “work” i.e. sitting at my study desk contemplating the comment that someone made last night – that I should write a version that is simply the A to Z of Management because there are plenty of comments and stories in the book that apply to the life of managers no matter what industry they work in.

My topics under the heading “D” are:Decision making, Delegation and Diversity all of which are relevant to every manager. The Delegation section is short but it’s one of the topics that comes up time and time again when my students talk about the bad managers they’ve had: people who micromanage and don’t know how to delegate.


The favourite management writer of a friend says that leaders have to focus on a “reasonable number of issues that will have the greatest possible impact on the success of your organisation, and then spend most of your time thinking about, talking about, and working on those issues” (Lencioni, 2000, xiii). This comment implies that there are going to be tasks that you either shouldn’t spend too much time on or that are more appropriately done by someone else.  That’s a good reason to delegate.

But an even better reason to delegate is because you’re not being fair to good staff if you don’t delegate some important work (De Pree, 1997). One way to motivate people is to give them the chance to undertake and to succeed in doing new work and meeting new challenges. You can delegate general functions such as budget control, people management, purchasing, strategies around service and performance (Hudson, 2009) and you can delegate particular tasks or projects or new initiatives. What you can’t delegate are the big ticket items such as policy making, crisis management, serious people management issues and of course both the rituals and requirements of leadership.

By delegating, you are making better use of your time, giving people development opportunities and using people’s skills effectively. As Drucker (1990, p.117) says, everyone believes in delegation so why is it seen to be one of the hardest management tasks? There are specific reasons why it’s hard in arts and cultural organisations. Managers are especially dedicated, believing in the cause, willing to work long hours and so the temptation is just to work that extra hour or two each day and get the job done. There usually aren’t enough staff anyway and they’re overloaded already. Sometimes there is only one or two other people in the office so who can you delegate to? All of those points may be true but there are ways around them. For example, in a small arts company, there’s always the Board. You can delegate upwards. Even if you and your staff are stretched, then delegating will help you to do your job more effectively and potentially make someone else’s job more interesting. And perhaps you can get a volunteer in to do some of the more mundane tasks.

In general, people avoid delegating because they fear that the person won’t be able to complete the task, that the person won’t want to take on extra responsibilities, that by delegating one loses control, that the staff member will take longer than you will to do the task. Again, all of these points may potentially be true but the trick to delegation is the set up: choose a good person, explain the task clearly, arrange to get regular reports and provide feedback (including praise) and make sure they have the relevant information. Don’t dump the boring or unpleasant jobs on people and don’t overburden them.  It requires clear understanding from both parties about expectations and a joint commitment to the task.

I suspect that that the main reason why people don’t delegate is that they are still accountable for the results even though they haven’t done the work. That’s scary – but you can’t do everything and so trust is a necessary part of the work environment.”


De Pree, M 1997, Leading Without Power, Shepherd Foundation, Holland, MI

Drucker, PF 1990, Managing the Nonprofit Organization, HarperCollins, New York

Hudson, M 2009, Managing without profit: Leadership, management and governance of third sector organisations in Australia, UNSW Press, Sydney

Lencioni, P 2000,The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco