Shin Tip: Episode #5 – Managing 101 (Newbies, Divas, Absences and other Difficult Aspects of Managing a Fire Group)

Shin Tip: Episode #5 – Managing 101 (Newbies, Divas, Absences and other Difficult Aspects of Managing a Fire Group)

One of the most difficult aspects of being a Shin is managing all of the fundamental duties needed to run a performance of this magnitude. As Shin, you are expected to wear several different hats, quite frequently at the same time. The Shin might be a…

  • Production Manager – making personnel decisions, determining disciplinary action, coordinating practice times and locations, etc..
  • Choreographer – coming up with the overall theme and group routines, and making sure each unit is practicing.
  • Secretary – tracking communications and relaying important information, attending meetings, writing reports, meeting deadlines, scheduling practices, tracking tickets, fb groups, etc…
  • Safety Coordinator – developing, training and supervising all safety personnel  with regards to fire performance.
  • Therapist – assessing personalities and adjusting teams accordingly, acting as counselor when personality problems arise, administering disciplinary action as needed, and sometimes even managing break-ups within groups.
  • Videographer – figuring out the performance layout for filming, as well as overseeing the filming itself.
  • Costume Designer – overseeing the overall look of the performance, as well as individual groups.
  • Prop Designer – creating or sourcing large fire props should your group choose to include them in your dance.
  • Accountant – figuring out how to pay for group items such as practice fuel, costuming, cost for large props, practice spaces, etc..
  • Location Scout – finding  legal and appropriate places to spin fire.
  • Cat Wrangler –  coordinating rehearsal times, filming days, on-playa meetings, etc..

As you can see, there is a lot to be responsible for. What we would like you to realize is that although as Shin you are responsible to make all these things happen, you are not expected to do them all yourselves. In other words, delegate, delegate, delegate! If choreography isn’t your thing, find someone who does it well within your group or hire a professional from your local dance studio to come out and help throw together some ideas one night. The same goes for filming your submission video, and costuming. Find the people who do these things well and add them to your group.

Managing Personalities:

Another difficult area is figuring out how to oversee different personalities. From the perfectionistic practice fanatic to the comedian who disrupts practices, seasoned divas and enthusiastic newbies, determining how to motivate all personality types can be a daunting task indeed. Talking to other, more experienced Shins may go a long way in these situations. Be sure to consult with your Shin Assist(s) to make collaborative decisions moving forward.

When dealing with extremely difficult people or situations, try sourcing answers through the internet. Here are a few articles that might help:

This article published in Psychology Today entitled “20 Expert Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People” outlines the tactics that professional crisis intervention teams use, and covers defusing difficult situations including angry and unreasonable people.

Another article entitled “The 5 Toughest Personalities and how to Manage Them” looks at some of the more common personalities you may encounter in your groups, and how to motivate them to be more productive.

Managing Absences:

Absenteeism is a very common problem throughout conclave groups. How do you keep people motivated to come to practices without burning them out? Especially once you finish filming and have been informed that you have made it into the Great Circle (which is when you should be perfecting and polishing your choreography).

Some helpful tips that have been used in the past are:

  • Setting a limit on the number of absences each member can have.
  • Setting consequences for absences (ie: withhold performer tickets, replacement in group, etc..)
  • Maintaining a wait list of potential members in case someone leaves (or is asked to leave!).
  • Research each member’s commitment level regarding making practices up front and plan accordingly. If they know they cannot make practices on a regular basis, utilize them in smaller roles, or as safety personnel.   

The Social Contract:

“A social contract is an agreement, either implicit or explicit, governing the behavior of individuals and organizations within a certain context such as a workplace, a culture, a nation or a social media site.” 

Remind people that by showing up they are agreeing to a social contract. There are rules to follow but also a destination and a shared goal to reach. The group is a community, and you will all benefit if you all work toward the same goal. You as shin need to not only set the rules but be sure to set an example as well. 

Adopt a New Leadership Style:  Stop Managing, Start Leading:
Depending on the makeup of your group, there may be times when your typical style of managing just doesn’t work. In the TEDx Talk below, Hamza Khan explores a new managerial contract: co-creation. The idea that creating an environment for community and intentional engagement can be more effective when you are dealing with a team of artists who have their own unique style and ambitions. Get your team to emotionally invest in the process. To bring out the best in them, you need to bring out the best in yourself. Coach. Motivate. Impower.

Sourcing Help:

Remember, you are not alone. The Shin List and Discord  are great places to further discuss ideas on how to manage your group with other Shins and find out what works for them.

Also, the Fire Conclave Council is here to help. If you have any questions or concerns regarding managing your group, feel free to contact us!

For more information on managing, refer to the Fire Conclave Handbook.

The Fire Conclave Council,

Crimson, Tabasco, Wrangler, Scorch and Natalie

Photo Credit: Vimala Faith