Happy New Year and welcome to Awards Season! The Golden Globes were Sunday, and the SAG Awards are later this month. As a member of that union, I get to vote, so I have been preparing: watching movie screeners and video links sent by movie studios. There are some terrific performances this year, even in movies that weren't that strong (Julianne Moore is heart-breakingly brilliant in Still Alice, though the movie is rather predictable). One movie I loved months ago when I saw it was Boyhood. And I was thrilled that Patricia Arquette won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress Sunday night. Her performance was so nuanced, so true. It never felt forced, or "acted." Director Richard Linklater, filming the same actors over 12 years, created an extraordinary film. And for that, he won Best Director at the Golden Globes and Boyhood was named Best Picture-Drama. The movie focuses on Mason, the titular boy growing to manhood, but it is the character of his mother, Olivia, who provides the strongest anchor.
Arquette plays Olivia with an ease that I rarely see onscreen. And I know that it takes incredible trust to let yourself just be the character so completely. Of course, as actors, we don't have some sort of personality transplant to actually become someone else. But each of us constructs an inner life for our character, based on what the writer and director have given us. During production, we go live that life. It takes tremendous courage to trust that creation, to just let go. To ignore the nagging fear that we will be judged on our performance. Yes, we likely will be—but such thoughts intrude on the character's reality and make it hard for us to fully be there. We need to live in the moment; react to others around us. Be sensitive to what is going on. And pick up those unexpected treasures we happen to stumble across.
When my clients come to me for help giving speeches, making presentations, or leading meetings, I give them similar advice: "stick to your script," i.e. your preparation—the structure built on your intention and how you will achieve it. The paradox here (as in acting) is that when you are sufficiently grounded in that script (or game plan, agenda, etc.) you are able to let go and just be. You are a better listener, your answers are clearer, your reactions more strategic. You even feel free to improvise a bit, as long as you keep the foundation of that script in mind.
Most of us won't win any acting awards during Awards Season. But we can genuinely be there for our audiences the next time we engage in leadership conversation.