Let’s hear it for the bird.

Managers – have you ever tasked a high-performing employee with an important project and then realized they were not up to the task? How do you handle a situation like that?

My senior year, Colton Ballet commenced a new production of Peter and the Wolf. That meant original sets, original costumes, and original choreography.

6 people were cast, I was the only high schooler – The Bird – all en pointe. I was pumped!

Let me tell you how that excitement came crashing down when I realized that I physically could not meet the demands of the role.

Midway through rehearsal one day, my legs and feet were throbbing, I couldn’t keep up, none of the other professionals seemed to be struggling, and I broke down in massive tears.

I’m not sure what I expected in terms of support, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the very curt instructions to go to the bathroom, clean myself up, and come back ready to go.

I spent what felt like an eternity in the bathroom, sobbing in a way that’s not fun to remember. All sort of thoughts…

I’ll just quit.
They should have given this role to someone else.
Why aren’t they giving me a pass because I’m younger – don’t they get that?

I made it back into the studio that day, finished out that rehearsal, and the director and I had to eventually have a heart to heart.

I would come off pointe and dance the role in ballet shoes. So disappointing, but it was the plan I needed. And come production time, I was a pretty charming bird if I do say so myself. I’m proud I didn’t quit, I was proud of my performance, but I would have been a disaster without a new plan. I needed a revised attainable goal.

In the Situational Leadership model, I was a D1 – an Eager Learner. I had a lot of transferable skills, – great performer, just finished a successful Nutcracker, I was enthusiastic, eager to learn. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I didn’t know that dancing a solo role en pointe for an entire production was a completely different goal from dancing 1 or 2 scenes in a larger production. I quickly moved to D2 – a Disillusioned Learner – discouraged, frustrated, ready to quit, overwhelmed, demotivated, afraid of making mistakes, didn’t know how to move forward,

The director’s plan and honest feedback eventually moved me to a D3, a capable but cautious contributor, and then finally a D4, a self-reliant achiever.

Managers – read more about this model here so you can recognize what development level your people are in on the tasks you’ve given them and manage them appropriately! EVERYONE GOES THROUGH EVERY STAGE. No one skips D2!

Don’t lose your high-performers over a lack of knowledge of this model.

Katie Wynn