I’ve thought a lot lately about the “culture” of organizations. I’ve only recently even used that terminology as I have read articles on this subject and heard it spoken of that way. Companies and business people are talking about the importance of their “culture” and the relationship it has to productivity. In our organization, which is a non-profit arts organization, specifically a theatre, I can testify that I have seen a direct relationship between “culture” and productivity… we like to call it creativity.

Before this realization, I just thought of “our culture” as a collection of comments by actors and other creatives we work with. Comments like, “I love working here, it’s different”, or “it’s like a family here”. Just a few days ago a young actor who was in a recent show with a large cast told me, “I found my people.” That one got me choked up.

So how does this “close-knit, family type culture of creativity” develop? From where does it generate? Here are twelve ideas about what makes a (theatre) culture into an atmosphere that fosters creativity, backed by 30 years of experience doing it:

[This first statement is at the top of the list for a reason, because it has the most impact, but the rest could be in any order.]

1. Seek and give honor to God, who made us creative… in His image. He is worthy.

2. The overriding belief that everyone has purpose and destiny. Look for it, and call it out.

3. Be honest, even when it’s costly. It really saves you in the big picture.

4. To quote author Jon Gordon (The Power of Positive Leadership): “Sometimes you are the star…sometimes you help the star.”

5. Creatives do their best work from a place of vulnerability where they feel free to take risks. An atmosphere of emotional trust and safety is important. This starts at the top, be trustworthy, and encourage that in others.

6. What we make together has value.

7. Doing it only for the standing ovation is not enough. Find a deeper reason.

8. Don’t build a company/organization/theatre… build people. The rest will come.

9. Always be looking for growth and treasure in each other. Celebrate it.

10. Sow excellence, reap excellence.

11. Creativity thrives in an atmosphere of joy and hope. Make that happen.

12. Once your culture is established… be a vigilant guard over it.

Every one of those statements or ideas reminds me of faces and of the people who exemplify those qualities. Just as I arrived at the theatre tonight, two of our actors were trimming trees and edging the sidewalks. Amazing! They wanted to surprise us. Yes, these are my people!

What are your thoughts?

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