Bringing your whole self

For the last few years I’ve been to see different live classical duo’s with my Grandma. Despite our large age difference, we both love live classical music, and this is a great opportunity to connect with her and make some memories. This year, as with the last year it was a pianist and a violinist playing in a cocktail lounge at sea. The pianist was exceptionally accomplished, but I found myself drifting off during her solo performance and I had to really concentrate to keep my attention with the beautiful music in the room. I didn’t particularly have a lot on my mind so my thoughts drifted at random but this bothered me, I had enjoyed and been captivated by the music the year before so what was different this time? It certainly wasn’t her talent or her personality, she had a fantastic personable way of connecting with people between her pieces and between sets. I drew the conclusion that she favoured Chopin so that was the majority of what she played and perhaps I hadn’t realised before but I just wasn’t really that into Chopin.

On my return I had tickets to see Tokio Myers, the pianist who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2017, but due to illness I was gutted not to be able to make it. To make myself feel better (or maybe torture myself even more) I decided to find some of his performances online and watch those. As soon as I watched him play the initial notes on the piano instantly the hairs on the backs of my arms stood on end. My whole body was captivated and swept up in the beauty of the music and I was left even more regretful that I hadn’t got to see him live.

I was curious so I found some Chopin online too, and again, watching it I was captivated. So what was different? It struck me, that watching Tokio Myers and the Chopin performances online in both cases the performer was feeling every note they played, they were emotionally connected with the music. Remembering back to the performance I saw with my Grandma the performer was so accomplished at playing these pieces she could even hold short conversations with the odd passer-by and at times she looked like she was stargazing herself, all without missing a beat. The passion was missing! The performance lacked the performer and however accomplished, was worse off for it.

I have recently been working on a big roll out management development programme so I’ve delivered the same two days of material several times over the course of several months with different groups of people each time. This has given me a great opportunity to really think about how I make the material accessible for the participants. The feedback from the participants has been consistently very good but I know some workshops impacted the participants greater than others. VA Consultants programmes are notable for their experiential, interactive style, as a facilitator you’re in the programme not objectively teaching the programme. Obviously from group to group you get a different level of engagement from those there but in terms of how my performance influenced the programme I noticed a clear link between how much of myself I brought to the programme and how deeply people engaged. How much I used real life examples, worked through my own real life issues and discussed these honestly and transparently affected the atmosphere for development and the depth of learning. It was tempting at times to reuse a real issue from a previous workshop, that was no-longer live for me, or to use old examples instead of fresh recent ones and although they worked and people related, reflected and grew, my “performance” was missing ALL of the “performer”.

  • What does it mean to you to bring your whole self to work?
  • What do you hold back and why?
  • What can you do to stretch and challenge yourself to bring more of you into what you do?
  • What can you do to encourage others to be themselves and bring themselves to work?

Written by Becky Viccars, Head of Corporate Services and Consultant at VA.

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