Know Your Audience

One of my favorite TV shows is The Good Wife.  In fact, I’m committed to watching it.  I’ve got a slightly vested interest.  Behind the scenes of that show are the costume designers, and the head of costume design, Dan Lawson, is a family friend.

This year Dan received the Young Master award for his work on the show at the TDF Irene Sharaff Awards, an event that honors the best costume designers in the business.  The award was presented by Juliana Margulies (THE Good Wife), who plays the lead, Alicia Florrick.  And Christine Baranski, who plays power lawyer Diane Lockhart on the show, ran from her Lincoln Center rehearsal to be in the audience for the presentation.  Without a doubt, it IS Dan’s job to make these actresses and the rest of the cast “look good.”    And he excels at it.  The outfits worn on the show even catch my husband’s attention – not a man who focuses on style as a rule.

What an honor to be recognized by your stakeholders.  Sadly, too often in organizations, the “actors” don’t always know who their stakeholders are.  Who do they have to please?  Who, if anyone, do they have to “make look good.”

Great leaders and great employees recognize that there are multiple stakeholders in every organization, whether it’s for profit or not for profit.  Stockholders, members, community groups, and customers are just a few examples.  Great HR leaders recognize that they have to include as stakeholders the employees and managers they support.  Great employees want to serve the organization in a way that fulfills its mission and lives its values.  All of the parts and stakeholders are interconnected.  Motivated employees will seek intrinsic value from their work – do their best because they gain a sense of personal satisfaction in addition to adding to the value of the organization.

I once had a boss (his first role as a manager in a large corporation) who liked to profess that we (coworkers in the departments who reported to him) all worked for him.  I got under his skin when I asked, “Excuse me, don’t we all work for the company?”  That was a long time ago, and I’m happy to report that he’s grown a great deal since then.

But recently, I heard about a colleague’s former boss – someone in a responsible, senior role, who would chide her if she attempted to help other departments accomplish their goals.  “Remember, you work for this department, not those others!”  Like me so many years ago, her reaction was the same as mine: “Don’t we all work for the good of the organization?”  Yet this boss appeared only to be concerned about “looking good” and having those around her make her “look good” – literally and figuratively.

Great leaders get past the politics in the organization and have the vision and courage to foster an environment and culture where everyone does his or her best for the good of the whole.  They recognize that the whole is greater than their part.

Dan Lawson’s job on The Good Wife is not about making just one actress look good, it’s about making the whole cast look good – literally.  But without their talent and contribution, and the talent and contribution of all of the other individuals employed to make this show go on, it wouldn’t be a “hit” entering season five!  And as a dedicated audience member, I’ll continue to watch it and be entertained.

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