I read in the NY Times about Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, etc.) getting a contract to develop 100 episodes of a TV series for Comedy Central. (Starting with 10 episodes, of course.)
I've never met him and don't know any of the parties involved, but what I do know is this:
He has no idea what he's in for.
How Do I Know?
In the NY Times article Jon said: "They kept asking me "Are you you ready for this?" I said, "I'm like, 'Should I be?' I haven't thought this through."
This heart-warming exchange demonstrates a common and dangerous dynamic in Hollywood.
First: A team of smart executives recognize a major talent and make a deal for the talent to take an ambitious and smart next step.
Then: While they actually do know the traps, obstacles and banana peels that will likely challenge this creative genius, they are unwilling or more likely unable to articulate, prepare or arm their bold adventurer for his or her journey.
Into The Woods
I'm not saying the creative genius isn't ready or shouldn't embark on this journey into the deep dark woods of TV production. And I'm not faulting the execs for their vision, their deal or their last minute warning/trepidation.
This dynamic is happening all over Hollywood whether it's Burbank, Studio City, Culver City, Television City or Manhattan Beach.
Whether you're starting something and feeling "in control" or joining something and "waiting for permission" here are some qualities to bring to the table that will help everyone be a better collaborator: regardless of their position in the food chain.
Take some risks, early. Reveal something unexpected. Confess to something you don't know. Be willing to ask the "stupid question." Be a profound fool.
Two: Your Gifts
What skills, awareness' or certified strengths so you bring with you whereever you go? What are the things you do effortlessly and always that you love to give and people love to receive?
You don't have to do them all at once or right away. Just know what they are and be generous with them.
What are you noticing, sensing or wondering about that's bubbling lightly under the surface?
Yes, you can continue looking for more data and wait till you're "certain" but intuition, when applied professionally, is the art of making a decision based on insufficient information. (ie. what we must do multiples times every day.)
Have read "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell? A great book about intuiton.)
What do you want to know from the members of your team? What do you want to know about your project? Your self? Your community?
Bring some burning questions into your work. It helps build passion and synergy.
What do you appreciate about the people you're working with? What makes your excited to be working with them? What skills and experiences do they have that you'd like to hear about or learn from?
Tell people what you appreciate about them.
Symbolically and literally, we all thrive and prosper with a touch of appreciation or mentoring. Try it out and see how people respond. See how you respond when someone appreciates you.
November 4th was the day of voting, counting and analyzing the data, but the change has been occurring gradually for years.
Election day was a snapshot/freeze frame of a living breathing transformation in progress.
Our world has been changing, our demographics have been changing, the economy has been changing and our careers and industries have been changing.
And it's on certain days and at certain times that we stop and register a choice, count the votes, articulate what's changed.
The political landscape has changed. The world's economic fortunes are shifting.
One of the many things that I believe Barack Obama's leadership will bring to Washington and the world is a new understanding of the nature of teamwork and collaboration in getting things done and making changes in our world and projects.
How will we help improve our global economy and our personal economy?
How will we change our actions and attitudes towards global warming and our reliance on oil?
How will we reinvent our careers and professional lives when the skills and jobs and money streams that once made us a good living are changing, shifting or outright disappearing?
The Big Change
The big answer, and the big shift, is that we'll be challenged to do it collectively: in teams, in partnership and in collaboration.
We're being challenged to solve problems that we've never faced before which will require answers and approaches to problem solving that we've never used before.
But now, working together with other people, brainstorming solutions, listening and being inspired by other ways of looking at and approaching problems are likely to be the best and perhaps only way out.
What are the essential skills, qualities and awareness’ that you wish you could magically clone and implant into your company’s future leaders?
The qualities are often silently embedded into the vision of a companies founders, their successful CEO, creative directors or leaders.
Know Your Team
Lacking the tools, time or sometimes simply the inclination to develop the next generation of a companies leaders often causes creative companies to rely on corporate leadership “instruments” and “assessments” that are expensive, time consuming, boring and ultimately ineffective for creative companies, departments or teams.
Creative companies are led, managed and inspired differently. Its employees are not motivated exclusively by money. For employees of creative
companies, what matters is their ability to do good work, collaboratively with other creative people, in an environment where creativity is
understood and respected.
Know How To Manage Deadline
Even the most ethereal of creative artists understand and respect deadlines. But when they are working in an environment of seemingly arbitrary
milestones, inane redundancies, and management inefficiencies, creative employees will flounder, lose interest and before long move to a company where they feel better appreciated and understood.
Know Creative Process
Yet the challenge of the modern entertainment company is how to manage creative talent in a way that allows them to do their best work and to have an entire team’s efforts focused into a symphonic crescendo of original creation, finely focused by a creative leader, into a successful
product that will be funneled into the market place at the right time in the right way.
Developing leadership talent for creative companies must start with an appreciation of the creative process.
Also essential are having both a clear vision of what the product will be, and the ability to articulate it, even though it will probably
Know Your Business
You must know your core creative and business values before you enter “The den of constant creation and change” or you will be lost forever, and worst of all, dismissed as simply a random, clueless “suit.”
The best creative leaders know what matters and what doesn’t. Know which battles to fight and which to give in on. And even know when to
give in when they’re right and the team is wrong (but may need to learn it for themselves.)
The best creative leaders know how to give supportive feedback when the process is veering off course. Sometimes they can tell right away and sometimes it’s impossible to tell until later. But knowing when, and how, to pull the plug on a creative exploration is the master’s stroke.
Know Your Self
Finding the right balance of compassion, sensitivity and certainty requires a leader to be grounded in an understanding of their own strengths, their own vulnerabilities, and their own aesthetic, business and market grounded ness.
Confident and knowledgeable enough about the creative process at hand, knowing the language and customs of the creative working, and when to
listen to, and fight for their own intuitions are seldom discussed, rarely well articulated awareness’s that the great creative leaders have.
They are respected, appreciated and loved. Their creative teams will work their hardest to make them happy if they trust that their work will be appreciated and their process understood.
Some of these qualities come naturally to some. Some come through training in creative disciplines, some through apprenticing a great creative leaders.
But the essential skills of creative, collaborative leadership can be learned, experienced and transmitted.
I wrote this on the topic/challenge of our great songwriters to stay lyrically relevant in the later stages of their careers. This was after watching “Amazing Journey” the great documentary about The WHO on the plane to NY. (Virgin America Rocks.)
Artists Getting Older
The problem with being an older songwriter, like Pete Townsend, or Paul McCartney, or Joni Mitchell, is that if you’ve lived long enough, you
start to understand the meaning of things and you want to write about what you’ve seen and understand, have learned.
The Kids Are Alright
When they were younger and brash and confused and running a full tank of hormones they were able to spew and spout and rail with more directness, and less consciousness of what they were saying.
Now, years later they look at the songs they wrote as brilliant artists and young men and women and can actually see and hear what they were thinking about, wondering about, and searching for.
What, Me Worry?
What they were drawn to like a moth to the flame, ran from like a bat out of hell, and angry about like a rolling stone.
But now, they’re cursed, or challenged, with self knowledge and worldly awareness and it’s a bit harder to pull out a good image without knowing it’s meaning in our canon of past work, our library of clip part from our past journey, demon’s, angels and all.
OK. I commit to give another listen to that recent WHO CD.
I had the pleasure of doing a web-radio interview last week on one of my favorite topics: Hollywood Leadership and the Writer’s Guild Strike. Hosted by Coach Tom Floyd, guests were Patric Verrone, President of the WGA, Jonathan Handel, attorney at TroyGould, Coach (and friend) Sherry Ziff Lester and me.
The Leadership Learning?
Of course I’m always listening for the leadership opportunities and ways we can do things differently in Hollywood. In the beginning of our conversation Patric was explaining the events and months preceding the vote and decision to strike. Obviously lots of frustrating time passed that led to the lengthy strike.
But Here Was My Question To Him
Patric, obviously, it was a successful strike and you got great things. With what you learned by the end of the strike —if you could go back in time now—what might have worked differently in July that you discovered in January?
Well, I think the key thing was the involvement of the CEOs. When we were bargaining from July through October, we were bargaining with what Tom referred to as the AMPTP (The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers).
Hi there, Just saw this interview with Oprah in The Hollywood Reporter. I’ve excerpted the most interesting parts.
What intrigues me is that she outlines the changes that occur when creative people start a business, that becomes successful and impactful. We’re all challenged with learning new skills and habits as our organization grows. Read on for what Oprah learned from her 29 meals with Nelson Mandela.
PS: I’ll be curious to see what any of you think about this. Agree, Disagree? I’m not sure I agree with her final comments about doubt. What do you think?
Hollywood Reporter: As you grew up, did anyone mentor you, especially in the business arena?
Winfrey: I didn’t have a lot of mentors, you know? I happened into being a businesswoman. It has never been a goal of mine, and I wouldn’t necessarily even say it’s a strength of mine.
But you’ve been so successful in business.
I have to really work at it. I have to work at disciplining myself. The business of the business tires me out. What I would rather do is just stand out there, in front of the camera — or not in front of the camera, ‘cause it doesn’t matter to me if I’m talking to a flight attendant or an audience of 10 million people — about concepts, ideas, principles that cause people to have these "Aha!" moments. That is what I am. At heart, I am a teacher. But I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
Just returned from the Network Chiefs Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. On the panel was Stephen McPherson of ABC, Dawn Ostroff of CW, Kevin Reilly of Fox, Ben Silverman of NBC, and Nina Tassler of CBS.
This annual event brings together the top creative executives of each of the broadcast networks and is truly has the potential to hear smart, creative, opinionated leaders discussing what’s happening in Television at this particular moment.
Unfortunately, the moderator of this event was Barry Sonnenfeld, film director and exec producer of “Pushing Daisies.” Here are my brief comments on the event.
1) Barry Sonnenfeld: Worst moderator ever. Here he was sitting in front of 1000 people moderating a discussion with among most powerful TV execs in Hollywood and he could barely get out a question. He talked primarily about himself, was not very knowledgeable about the business, and worst of all, barely gave the panel a chance to talk. Except for the occasional wisecrack or quip.
A journalist at my table said, half joking: “I love Pushing Daisies but now I almost want the show to fail.” I know what she means.
Who are the most effective leaders in Hollywood Right now?
What leaders at which companies seem to be the most leadership challenged?
What do we mean by Leadership anyway?
The Hollywood Coaching Leadership Salon is a facilitated conversation among Entertainment industry professionals.
We’re dedicated to growing the mystical and misunderstood art of leadership in Hollywood to a fine, masterful art.
We’ll do this by beginning a conversation about Leadership that will challenge you to think, wonder, pontificate, act and become more aware of the concept, role and power of great leadership in Hollywood.
If you’re a leader, in any industry, the chances are your effectiveness could be improved by bringing awareness to these three essential areas.
How are you doing in these areas? Here are the three mistakes most leaders make in leading a team.
One: Not Clarifying Expectations, Assumptions/Vision and How to Win/Succeed.
What’s the big picture vision? Why does it matter? How will group success be measured? How will individual success be measured? What obstacles can we expect? How will we handle unexpected obstacles? How will we work together? How will we work individually? How will we communicate changes in the plan? What if the vision/end goal changes? What will happen if someone screws up? Can I have a life outside of work?
Two: Not Establishing Trust and Open Communication.
Are you really open to the input of others? Do you want a team or a group of soldiers? Are you willing to be vulnerable? Are you able to listen at multiple levels at once? Can you handle the truth? Can you hear other people’s ideas and suggestions without feeling obligated to execute them? Do you know how to get the best from each member of your team? Are you willing to take chances to inspire magic?
Wow. I’ve been reading “Disneywar,” the fascinating account of Michael Eisner’s rise, reign and fall at The Walt Disney Company. Right now I’m at the part where Frank Wells has died in a helicopter crash, Jeffrey Katzenberg has left Disney and has started Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, and Mike Ovitz has signed on as something like President of Walt Disney.
However. On the night before Ovitz is to actually start his job, author James B. Stewart reports that both Eisner and Ovitz report to their respective wives that this will the “biggest mistake of their careers.”
It sounds so great on paper, but both men knew, at this point that it was a big mistake for all concerned, but neither was willing to stop the train wreck in progress.
Check out Oprah today for a one-hour show dedicated to the incredible “Challenge Days” program. I assisted at a Challenge Day a few years ago and got to support and witness 500 high school seniors go through an amazing transformation in about 8 hours.
Created by Yvonne St. John Dutra and Rich Dutra St. John this is truly a world changing, life changing program. If you missed it today go to HERE to see a clip and then go to the Challenge Day website to see how to bring a Challenge Day to your community.
FORIMMEDIATERELEASE: Los Angeles, California. October, 2006: “Hollywood is great at developing products, but not so great at developing leaders,” says David Brownstein, founder and president of Hollywood Coaching.
To this end, Brownstein announces Inside the Leadership Studio, his step-by-step coaching program, which develops essential leadership skills for executives, management teams and companies. To head writers, show runners and their teams, Brownstein brings the aptly named, War and Peace in the Writer’s Room. In the words of a recent client, “David is like a wrecking ball with heart; like having in one person, an Olympic trainer, a therapist, a dance partner, a guru and a member of the Spanish Inquisition.”
Designed specifically for the entertainment industry, Brownstein’s executive coaching and leadership development programs are changing the way writers, executives and producers define what it takes to be a leader in Hollywood.
I’m finally announcing my new program for Television Head Writers, Show Runners and Executive Producers called “War and Peace in the Writer’s Room.” It’s designed for teams of creative people to sharpen their leadership skills and get their team in sync.
It’s not for everyone, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts and welcome your support in getting this program to the hard working folks who’ll benefit from this. Thanks!
What is the COST of a dysfunctional writer’s room?
What could your team create if you dramatically improved your own LEADERSHIP skills?
Wouldn’t it be cool to spend LESSTIME AT THEOFFICE and more time with your family?
Transform your team, your career and your life with:
Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s fascinating film “Some Kind of Monster” takes the ultimate behind the scenes look at the hard rock band METALLICA as they reform and recreate themselves from the inside out.
Jason, their bassist has quit the band because James, their lead singer (who will soon walk out the door to enter rehab) wouldn’t let him play in another band, yet was refusing his creative input to Metallica.
Meanwhile we see Lars, their drummer and co-founder, come to terms with his supportive yet opinionated father while wondering what will happen to the band that’s been his life for 20 years.
Bob Rock, their long time producer, now sits in on bass as well as returning to the producer’s chair. And Q-Prime, Metallica’s management, has hired Phil Towle a “performance coach” to facilitate the band’s reconciliation, renewal and regeneration.
It’s the central leadership paradox for our industry. How do we create and configure true collaborations among members of a group, company, crew or team while still maintaining the essentially hierarchic format of the history of Hollywood?
Or to paraphrase my friend Rob Brezsny “How can we be both a charismatic star and a cooperative team player?”
Hollywood has always been, and probably always will be, fueled by Star Power. Whether it’s an “A-List” actor, a “name before the title” director, or a “mini-mogul” producer; films, studios and projects will always have a “star.” Star Power can fall anywhere on the spectrum between box office muscle to creative visionary to financial alchemist. The “star” is the driving force, the person without whom the camera does not roll and the phone calls do not fly, which generate the mounds of messages, paperwork, agreements, pay stubs or ticket stubs.
But what happens when the “star” is the “boss?” Should the key person, by virtue of his or her clout or deal making weight, be the one to call the shots and essentially tell everyone what to do?