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Casting Call... Will YOU get the Part...I mean Promotion?

Casting Call... Will YOU get the Part...I mean Promotion?

Have you ever drawn the connection between casting a part in a production and finding your next role?  I went to see a musical on Broadway last week and it was another reminder for me of how much the two worlds are alike.  The understudy for headline star was announced and many around us were disappointed (ok...I was disappointed too).  As we left the theatre many around us commented how incredibly talented the understudy was....maybe even more so than the headliner.  The point is...these artists…for the most part…are equally…if not more talented than the headliners and often are at the ready on a moments notice. So…what gives? How do some get the nod and others are left to support…or…not make the production at all?

As in the theatre…the business world has the same challenges. There are only so many “lead” roles – not everyone can be THE Star.  This is especially true the higher up the corporate ladder you go – the opportunities narrow and become fewer and fewer.  So then, what are the factors that get someone “cast” into a leadership position?  Here is what I came to….

  1. Base technical talent , skills or expertise
  2. Base leadership skills
  3. Relationships (people have to believe you have attributes #1 & #2) – what people say about you when you are not there is more important than what you say about yourself
  4. You have to fit the “part”.  People have to “see you in the role” and know that you have the right chemistry to fit in with the leadership team they are “casting” for.

I believe that all the leadership books I have read focus heavily on number one and number two in the list but don’t incorporate and do justice to how number 3 and four play into the equation.  How many times have YOU fallen into the trap that having the technical talent and base leadership skills would be enough to get you your next job?  This gets even more difficult when you don’t realize that you have been “type cast”.  Who among us cannot get past the fact that Bob Denver will always be Gilligan (Gilligan’s Island am I dating myself? Google him. You can always give me a better example if you like – this one just came to mind).  He was type cast and did very well in that role but he was never able to get beyond that character.  Now…he probably had a great life, and made a good living being the good natured nitwit but maybe he wanted to be more and didn’t realize how he could work through all four of the above principals. 

What we all need to do is look ourselves in the mirror to reflect on how we have been type cast. You may be known for playing the role of the good natured, hardworking, person who will always get it done but the company may be “casting for” a person with strong executive presence…who works the room…who’s opinion is sought out and who is viewed as someone who makes tough decisions. You have to be aware of how you are perceived and how that compares to what is being “cast” – regardless of if YOU feel you have the talent to do the job.

It is also my opinion that more often than not, I have seen leaders cast in their role because they fit the part and they have the relationships but they don’t necessarily have the technical or leadership skills to do the job. The leadership team casting them assumed that they had the base skills and leadership competencies.  Maybe it is too much to ask that anyone would do all four well.

Lastly, chemistry on the leadership team is important just as it is for leading players in the production. It may be that you have everything it takes to take “the lead role” but your chemistry or style does not mesh with the rest of the team. It doesn’t take anything away from your capabilities it just means you may be “cast” with another team whose chemistry and culture fits everyone better.

So…there you have it! Like actors in a play…we may not always get the part we want…when we want it…but we often get the part we need…when we need it…and it is our contribution that can make the overall production successful. You have to have stamina…be resilient…and be consistent. It’s no good to be good just that one time…you have to be good consistently and when it matters. The goal is to keep working at it…know your strengths and how you have been type cast to get exposure (or be an understudy) so when YOUR part becomes available…and it’s YOUR big shot…you will be ready to take center stage!

Leadership Questions of the week for YOU: “Do you think that placing people in leadership roles is like casting a play where it is assumed you have the base skillset and you are being placed more for relationship and chemistry/look?”  “Does the story prompt a better analogy that you can think of other than casting in a play?” “What do you think about the 4 things that you need to consider to get a leading role?  Would you add any?  Would you change any?”  “How important is it to be aware that you may be type cast and once you are type cast is there anything you can do to change that?”  “Is the only way to overcome or get a shot a changing to get a lead role to leave the company?” “How often does type casting damage or follow you no matter what you do because your references will not be able to endorse you or see you in a different light”?  “What advice would you give to someone who believes they need a shot at their next leading role when they suspect that the current leading cast member may be leaving the play to avoid a star being brought in from the outside?”

Thanks for reading... and remember...YOU make a difference!

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