Why does the work of some of the most talented people in a corporation stays under the radar?
Why do people who have seemingly less talent, education or experience than you, are wildly successful in your field, while you are just ok?
Why does seemingly ordinary performance receive such accolades at work sometimes?
And should you really participate in all the “talent show” hoopla, or would you be better off just focusing on your work?
If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you know that I’m big on metaphors – they provide perspective, and hence, clarity. Here’s what we can learn from your kids’ school talent show about getting your performance noticed:
1. Show up and do Something. The kids who were brave enough to get on stage at the school’s talent show pulled off quite a performance: they wowed, amazed, and entertained. They didn’t have to do it. Neither do you. You can sit out and not participate. No one needs to know that you’re working on something special – you’re working on it, and it’s enough, right? Not exactly. By showing your brilliant work to the world, you are giving the world a gift. You are not doing it to show off, or to get praise – just to share who you are. And that’s a gift. Think of seeing a beautiful work of art, or being moved by a well-performed song: someone had to put it into the world. So, show up, show off and put your work into the world.
2. The simplest things need stage time, too. In our boys’ school talent show, a first-grader went up on stage and performed “twinkle, twinkle little star”. With one finger. A judging voice in my head popped up: “Is this really talent show material?” (Yes, guilty, I know, I know). And then, a miracle happened: the kids started singing along. At first, just a couple of them, and then the whole school. The boy received a standing ovation; the kids loved his performance. Your “simple thing” may be exactly what your team needs, but you might not know that until you put it out there.
3. Don’t worry about having “the best voice”; just put your heart into your performance. Sometimes having the best voice doesn’t equal getting the most acknowledgement, or the best performance. In the above-mentioned school talent show, there was a girl whose singing voice could easily be one of the best on America Got Talent. Yet, she got a bit nervous, and didn’t do as well as she could have, even though the audience still cheered her on. There were other kids with less vocal training and perhaps less natural talent, but they shined very brightly at the show because they just loved being on stage, and their energy was contagious. Just do your thing, your way. It’s not always about your talent, it’s often about your energy.
4. “Great craftsmanship” and “great show” both have value. There was a kid at the show who played acoustic guitar. He was excellent. Except that he played without a mike, for a large audience. Most of the people couldn’t hear him. Then, another kid played an electric guitar. He looked very impressive, was heard in the back row, but his craftsmanship was not as high as that of the kid who played acoustic. If you were to ask the audience members which one was better, their opinions would split. So, don’t be so quick to judge a “good show” even if the craftsmanship is so-so; there’s still an audience for it, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
5. You don’t have to stick to your niche (and don’t worry about “what people expect of you”).I’ve had a chance to watch the same kids at this school perform over the past four years. Some kids showed amazing progress as they honed in their skills in one area, say, gymnastics or piano, year after year. Others switched from one genre to another: signing one year, dancing another year, reading poems the third year. Both types of performances were interesting experiences. Experiment as you share your work; the proverbial “people who expect something from you” will adjust. Plus, they might enjoy getting surprised. And at the very least, you’ll enjoy being surprising.
6. You are as good as your last show. Even though I’ve seen most of these kids perform for the past four years, what really stuck in my head is their performance earlier this week. There was a boy who was an excellent dancer, but for one reason or another, he sat out on this year’s talent show. I was hoping he’d dance again, and now I’m not sure now if he still dances at all. Show your work, again and again. Show that you are still getting better at what you do.