The power went out. The UPS failed too.
That Monday was my first full day as a briefing and demonstration manager. Darn excited! Executives from a major company were visiting and a lead executive from our organization was presenting at the briefing.
The place was prepped and polished, as was I. A perfect way to start things! Except that none of the technical systems worked. Later I learned that the power went out with a storm on Sunday night and our UPS backup system went with it. And it just so happened that our engineer and other staff leads were away at a trade show. I was on my own except for our briefing coordinator who had less technical experience than I.
“When in doubt, restart.” Wise engineers I’d worked with offered that simple solution, so that’s what I did. I frantically restarted everything I could find that had a power button. Mostly it went well, except for an arrow-shaped mouse cursor that was stuck smack in the middle of the projection screen. With 10 minutes until we started and numerous attempts to remove it, I had to leave it.
Our lead executive had arrived and I thought it wise to let him know about the cursor as it would appear in the middle of every one of his corporate overview slides. I intercepted him in the lobby.
“Good morning, I’m Corey Hansen and I’ll be facilitating the briefing. I wanted you to know about this cursor….”
I quickly explained the power outage and backup failure. I wanted to preempt any uncomfortable moments during his talk. I finished and he scowled at me.
“And I need to know this for what reason?” he demeaned, then pushed past me to enter the briefing room.
Demeaned. That’s how I felt. Granted, this was a very busy leader with the weight of thousands of employees and shareholders on his shoulders. But what he did to me was just plain mean.
What we do to people, how we treat them is summed up in what great theatrical actors do to create compelling drama. They play Actions toward other characters. Whether instinctively or by technique, they carry out their roles with very active choices in every scene. It’s why we watch them, imagining what we would do if we were their character. The stronger and more varied the Actions, the more we’re engaged. And we play Actions all day long in the roles of our lives.
My instinct as facilitator told me to get ahead of the mishap and prevent distraction during the briefing. I know damn well if I hadn’t said anything, this executive would have at least been distracted, and knowing now the Action “To Demean” is in his playlist, he probably would have had my neck (or my job) following the meeting.
In your list of Actions, “To Demean” is most likely in your “Never Play” column. At its core is meanness, something for which you probably don’t want to be remembered. And just think of the other Actions our executive could have played! As perturbed as they may have been, an “Ok, thank you” would have at least done something to me rather than leave me feeling devalued, debased, degraded.
Those are a few more Actions you’ll probably never play toward Audiences in critical performances on your personal and professional stages. But when the “curse of the cursor” strikes or any other stressful situation presents itself, take a millisecond to realize you have a choice in the Action you play.
It’s your stage. Your performance. And armed with effective Actions, you’re on!