Author Topic: Perfectionism  (Read 1754 times)

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adekker

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Perfectionism
« on: Oct 14, 2020, 11:04 am »
Hello!

I am very new to stage managing, and have a question for those who are more experienced. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I have a tendency to want to do things my way so I know they are done right when I work in groups. As a SM, obviously you have a lot of responsibility, but you can't do absolutely everything yourself. This is why we have wonderful ASMs! However, I am nervous that I would hesitate to give my ASMs an adequate workload because I would want to make sure their jobs are done right the first time around. I would rather take on those jobs myself.

For those who are more experienced and maybe also perfectionists, how to you battle these feelings? How do you assure yourself that you don't have to do everything yourself? Any advice?

Thank you!

adam.chamness

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Re: Perfectionism
« Reply #1 on: Oct 15, 2020, 01:44 pm »
Although I am not very versed in stage management, I can say that I have a lot of experience with being a perfectionist in a collaborative work environment. In the past when I've been in positions in which I have more experience and authority than some of those working with me (similar to the relationship between an SM and ASMs), I have also found it difficult to give jobs to people for fear of having the jobs completed inadequately without my supervision. One of the biggest things I've done to overcome this is that I've made it very clear to those that I am working with that if they have any questions about anything, or perhaps need directions repeated, or require a more detailed explanation of something, they can always come to me. It doesn't completely reduce my anxiety that some jobs will still be done incorrectly, but it does provide me some comfort in knowing that they will be less likely to attempt something they don't know how to do, which significantly reduces the potential for things to be done incorrectly. The only problem with this is that I become busier than I would otherwise be, since I have to take the time to answer questions and re-explain things. However, since I was already of the mindset that I may as well do everyone's work myself, I am by comparison much less busy than I could be. It also gives those I'm working with an opportunity to learn and improve more efficiently rather than through trial and error. Things will get done correctly the first time, though at a bit of a slower rate. In the future though, these same people will be very unlikely to make the same mistake again. So in the long run, it's a much more efficient process, I would say. I can't be certain that this will work with ASMs, nor can I guarantee that they will have the humility to come to you with their questions (some people just won't ask for help when they need it), but it's certainly a start.

I'm sorry I couldn't provide a more specific suggestion, but I hope this helps at least a little bit!

Maribeth

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Re: Perfectionism
« Reply #2 on: Oct 15, 2020, 06:36 pm »
There's a really relevant article on HowlRound about this. "Hold, Please - Addressing Urgency and Other White Supremacist Standards In Stage Management." I particularly like the viewpoint of this paragraph,
Quote
One antidote to this mindset is focusing on completion, not competition—a mantra passed down by stage manager Deb Acquavella. Each member of the stage management team is working to achieve the same goal of a safe and smooth production. Having multiple points of view and avenues to turn to for information doesn’t reduce this goal but rather expands it. If an ASM knows an answer right off the bat, why wait for the PSM to dredge up the information just because they’re the designated one voice? We need to stop viewing the ASM as working below the PSM and instead put value on each person’s unique duties and expertise. We then become a collaborative team where everyone is valued for their contribution, rather than bolstering egos.

I struggle with delegating sometimes, as someone who often worked as a one-person SM team. I'm used to doing things myself and sometimes it's hard to let things go. One thing I've found helpful is to think of the stage management team as a whole unit, rather than the SM/PSM as one person, and all the ASMs as extensions of them. An ASM and a PSM are doing different jobs, and likely have different skillsets. Your team will accomplish a lot more as a whole if everyone is contributing, rather than the PSM taking on all important tasks.

It's worth considering the idea of what doing things "right" means. Is it "right" because that is how you would do it? Or does it need to be a certain way for a particular reason? If something has to be a particular way for a certain reason, like fitting requests have to use XYZ format because that's what the costume shop requires, that's one thing. But if an ASM makes their prop list in landscape orientation instead of portrait, maybe that's an individual preference that is not a problem- even if it's not how you would do it.

You can also experiment with laying out some expectations clearly in advance. For example, if you delegate prop tracking duties to an ASM, it's reasonable to ask for a current copy of the props preset at certain intervals (weekly, whenever there's a new copy, at the beginning of tech, etc). It gives you the chance to assess how things are going and make adjustments if needed.

Educational/college theater is supposed to be a place to learn, so it's inevitable that people are going to make mistakes. (That's not limited to college, but it's certainly true there.) So it's worth considering what happens when mistakes are made. How do you address it? What steps do you implement to prevent it from recurring? I can tell you a lot of mistakes that I've made (both in and out of college) and I wouldn't have grown as a stage manager (and as a person) if I hadn't been allowed to make them.

It's great to have a system for checking in with your team, like a daily touch-base at the top or end of the day, which can really help in terms of managing everyone's workload, and can also provide a forum for making adjustments if someone needs help. Sitting down for longer meetings before major events like first rehearsal, move to stage, etc can be really helpful for setting expectations for the next stage of the process and keeping the team on the same page.