I am a big consumer of podcasts.  I love their range and where they can take me in sixty-odd minutes during a long run or a car ride.  I can look underneath the political (un)reality, through the highly attuned café chat of three brilliant youngish economists in Vox’s The Weeds; in This American Life I can get glimpses into the stories of America, as we are and aspire to be.


I have listened to This American Life for many years, before the App Store and the whole world of podcasts exploded.  And, a few weeks ago, I was reminded of why I keep coming back.  In one story, a young girl in a talent show practically flails herself to joyful exhaustion in an interpretive dance to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”  The correspondent, Hana Joffe Walt, describes the girl’s performance not as “good” in the classic sense, but as “super confident” and, yes, “real.”  “The audience lost it,” Joffe Walt says.  “It was her.  The stage gave her a place to perform something that she is interested in, something that she really is, something that is true.”  She was all in.  It got real.


We often see our kids get real in ways we long to as grown-ups.  They ask the questions they want answers to, push into new situations with curiosity and raw fear, and cry when they are sad.  And then, at a certain age, that changes…. they begin to imagine what they think others see.  Real becomes dangerous.


Ok, now for the talent and leadership connection if you didn’t see it coming….

In our workplaces, our own obsession with performance and managing the situation to its rightful outcome can disconnect us from our deepest longings and reasons for doing the work we do.  We begin to believe that getting real is too dangerous.  It doesn’t get us promoted. It looks bad.


This is what the work of leadership and talent is really about—creating the conditions that allow everyone to show up, and then keep showing up over and over and over again.  It is why I care so deeply about diversity, equity, and inclusion, why our team is consumed with creating workplaces that advance crucial missions through the fullness and diverse perspectives and experiences of their teams.  It is why the term “performance management” is a bit of an oxymoron—it is so much less about managing performance than about amplifying it, about knowing that people, in all of their flaws and unrefined interpretive dances, are the ones we have been looking for.


– Mikaela Seligman, Principal