Responsibility and delegation

by Erik Glas, writing from Cirkus Cirkör

This week started on a boat. A friend of mine and I were going to Finland for a residency. We were supposed to rehearse a show that had been on pause during the pandemic. It was a precious show, and the team behind it had decided we needed a proper ending. And so, we are resurrecting it, in order to play a derniere this summer. A great adventure coming to an end on our terms.

At the boat, I spent a lot of time looking out at the water. This is a good moment for reflection and restarting, all the more so because there is no cellphone connection. All is peaceful.

We arrive to Vasa by midnight. There is a heavy mist, and all you can see of the harbor is parts of cranes sticking up and red blinking lights. It looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie.

At the border control, we are stopped and our papers are examined. A guard gets a concerned look on her face and asks us to wait next to her booth, keeping our passports to herself.
 

After many calls, policemen arriving, conversations in Finnish and lots of headshaking. It turns out artistic work is not a valid reason for entry.

We are escorted back to a cabin by two polite but stern border guards. They stay awake. Guarding our door all night. Sending us back with the first boat next morning.

A frantic day of rescheduling followed, and by next evening we had pretty much everything solved. We managed to rearrange all our schedules and change the timeline of the shadowing at Cirkör so that I could start immediately. And so here I am, writing this first blog post.

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Image: "L1014431_v1" by Sigfrid Lundberg. Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Now that the immediate fire has been put out, I’m reflecting on how we can avoid similar situations in the future. The person I had trusted to get the permission for artists to enter Finland had not done so. I am frustrated with that person, but also with myself. I could have double checked the certificates and the restrictions to see if they were sufficient, but I had not, and I’m trying to decide whether I should have.

 

This will be the first topic I investigate at Cirkör. Responsibility.

 

In the last couple of years, I have often opted to solve problems I encounter by myself. It seems that figuring out and solving a problem often takes less work than delegating it. Especially as I tend to think of delegating something as explaining what I see as a problem, what else hinges on it, and possibilities for a solution.

This has worked fantastically for a while; I’ve learned a lot and have a better understanding of many things. But I’m getting to the point where the work seems like more than I can handle alone.
 

Jumping ahead to Cirkör. The organization has clearly undergone a lot of changes during the last few years. I’m estimating that almost half of their employees came to their positions within the last two years. Many of the people I talk to also mention a collaboration with Tuff leadership training.
From what I’ve understood of it, it’s about clearer communication, bringing problems to the surface rather than letting them remain hidden, and creating a sense of shared responsibility and ownership within the organization.

A recurring topic for discussion in my meetings with the Cirkör staff has been, how to create an organizational culture where people feel personal responsibility, take active initiatives and work towards the same goals? What is the role of hierarchy and co-ownership?

Ideally, co-ownership, trust and responsibility will help create intrinsic motivation for the work performed. I have seen that working very well in myself, when I’ve been given trust and autonomy to work on a project, I tend to invest more of myself into it and just generally enjoy the work more.

However, a problem with ownership and responsibility is that a person taking a decision needs to have the relevant information for that decision. And within an organization the size of Cirkör, the amount of relevant information is massive.

It seems to be the same issue that I struggle with but at a greater scale. Deciding what is the necessary understanding and information when delegating a task. And then taking a leap of faith even if it means more work in the moment, helping a co-worker take autonomy and responsibility for a task or project will make that person grow. Hoping that it will benefit the person in question, the person delegating the responsibility as well as the organization as a whole.

 

The more time I spend thinking about it, the more I realize that this is a huge topic and I’ve only scratched the surface. I will keep exploring the topic responsibility and try to connect it to events that happen over the next couple of weeks.

Published on 3.06.2021

NHLP has been made possible with the support of Nordisk Kulturfond and Nordic culture Point, Nordic Council of Ministers, and Lund Municipality