Triangle – Tetrahedron Tension
Blog schedules be darned! This big eyed fish explored a new bowl and so the editorial staff has done a switcheroo.
Who out there noticed?
Ok, maybe this is my way of telling you 1) we plan 2) there’s a “we” 3) this post has a lot going on and it’s possible the dots are not all connected.
This weekend, I was slapped across the face. Literally. In front of my dog & pony dc co-ensemble members and a collection of artistic collaborators. By a man who we invited into our ensemble as part of a training. There are many other details I could share, but let’s open with this simple telling of the story.
Being an ensemble member is hard.
“Team membership” brings with it immense power and responsibility. My guess is many few of us outside of the military and professional/life-practice team athletics truly knows this. In my world we tend to call it “ensemble member” or “ensembleship.” The variation between military or athletics, and ensemble, for us at least, is: the agency we endow individuals within the group; the equity with which we seek to operate and realize; the responsibility we share in manifesting shared vision and values; the trust we place and hold in the collective.
The thing about run-of-the-mill colleagues is that in most situations, they can easily avoid making choices, they can kick-back within hierarchy, they can maintain a narrow focus of impact, and everyone’s actions to superiors are either gestures of obedience, pledges of loyalty, or both.
The thing about run-of-the-mill leaders is that in most situations, they can give and take the semblance of power, they can tip over scales, they can give/ take/ reward/ punish/ spotlight/ ignore behaviors, and everyone else needs to have their trust earned by you.
But in our ensemble at least:
Every member of the company has an impact on the work and processes of every other member.
Membership in the company is a constant exercise in awareness, both of one’s own “orbit” within the company, and awareness of all the others. It requires personal flexibility to balance the work of the whole.
- Agency can be taken or ignored.
- Equity can balance despite variance, or it can remain disturbed and partisan.
- Responsibility can be embraced or shrugged off.
- Trust can be given and accepted, or withheld.
Reverse to #1 to launch into #3
So I was slapped across the face. Literally. In front of my co-ensemble members and a collection of collaborating artists. By a man who we invited into our ensemble as part of a company training.
Everyone physically remained in the room. I made a joke shortly afterward; transmitting a coded message to the ensemble (which turned out to be too coded). We processed through the moment, whether to engage in the exercise or not. I told everyone I was totally fine, and not to worry, transmitting another coded message to the ensemble members. (A number of them received it!) For the rest of the afternoon, many of the ensemble members were keenly aware of one another and the other collaborators in the room. Afterward there was informal processing in all sorts of small, private groups. There was some individual processing with me.
What stinks is that as a leader of an ensemble I’m keenly aware of how I must strive to epitomize our values and, sometimes, suck it up and ignore both ensembleship and me. However: I am still 1) an ensemble member and 2) an individual person. These three identities—Ring Leader, dog & pony dc ensemble member, Rachel—are a shifting triangle. When I add to that being female, white, young-ish, small statured, a loud talker, et cetera, the identity intersections I’m navigating at any given moment are mindboggling.
(What’s even more !KA-POW! is: everyone else is also navigating their own identity intersections. But, I’ve digressed. The point is…)
Back in company training this weekend, after the slap, I wasn’t fine. I’m not fine now. All the “processing” I engaged in didn’t take away the fact that I was slapped across the face in front of my co-ensemble members, because my leader-ensemble member-individual triangle held tight with “leader” at the apex for 36-hours. Should it have? Should I have re-triangulated within the group because ensemble? (aka “trust in the system”) Should the ensemble have recalibrated in such a way that encouraged or even forced that to occur? What does “leadership” actually mean within ensemble?
My initial simple telling of the story was inadequate. It was a moment bursting with complications that continue to spill out and spread across the floor. This writing is a necessary step in my clean up process. I’ve returned safe and sound to my bowl, and now am attempting to discern what I learned. And so, I leave these questions with you
What roles do agency, equity, responsibility, and trust play in your communities?
How can we all lead and follow by example?
How do you negotiate triangulating within a tetrahedron?