Standing on the Sidelines

Inspiration comes from many places but I seem to get much of mine from observing beauty and talent that surrounds me when we go to the ballet or the symphony or the theatre! I know I am extremely fortunate to live where I can take advantage of world-class performance but wherever you live, I hope you look for similar experiences –there’s nothing like having your breath taken away by watching a live performance!

I recently was inspired by a performance of Swan Lake by the American Ballet Theatre Company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. We were fortunate to attend a performance when the amazingly talented Misty Copland performed. Her electrifying dancing is beyond words. Her ability, grace, and strength have earned her a role as a Principal Dancer and her engaging personality, smile, and warmth come through from the stage to everyone lucky enough to see her perform.

But, amazing as it was to see Misty perform, I wanted to write about the other talented dancers who perform with her and the other stars on stage. There are several scenes in Swan Lake where dancers stand on the side of the stage for long periods of time. They are part of the scene as they wait and watch the principal dancers take center stage. They stand still. They hold their pose in perfect symmetry. They don’t call attention to themselves but their presence adds to the scene—it wouldn’t be right without them.

This got me thinking about the different roles we play at work. Not everyone can be the “star” player – the one in the center of the stage with the focus on them. Most of us play supporting roles—roles that don’t get standing ovations but roles that are critical to the success of the organization none the less.

Sometimes it’s not easy to stand and wait but I think it depends on your attitude about what you’re waiting for. If you role is, like the dancers in Swan Lake, to support your manager, your CEO, or your executive director, then the only way to play your part is to do whatever is requested of you (of course, as long as it is ethical and moral) so that it’s a win for your organization. If, however, you’re not the star yet but think you should be and you spend your time second guessing or sabotaging the person in the center of the stage, then you’re probably not doing yourself much good in your quest to get ahead.

Difficult as it is sometimes to stand on the sidelines, use those times to learn and to observe the people or person who is center stage. Take what you learn on the sidelines so when your chance comes, if ever, you’re prepared and can do your absolute best to shine. Even Misty Copeland doesn’t always have the starring role—we saw her last year dance a supporting part and in doing so, she told the world she’s a member of the troupe and can support whomever has the lead role.

Can you say the same for how you work in your organization? I hope so!

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