Notes on Directing: 130 Lessons in Leadership from the Director’s Chair (2008) explores the parallels between directing the stage and managing projects. The shared themes include ad hoc teams, one-off goals, tight time frames, limited budgets, nebulous chains of command, shared objectives, etc.
Compiled by writer Russell Reich from the notes of British stage director Frank Hauser, this tome contains 130 meditations on casting actors, rehearsing, stage-setting, supervising the production units, and handling critics.
Organized temporally from a director’s initial encounter with the play’s script to its final production, this slim volume is so much more—it’s not just for stage directors.
- #7: “Learn to love a play you don’t particularly like. You may be asked—or may choose—to direct a play that, for any number of reasons, you don’t think is very good. In such cases it is better to focus and build on the play’s virtues than attempt to repair its inherent problems.” Idea for Impact: Focus on virtues and strengths, not weaknesses. Spend more of their time reinforcing the good performers than dealing with untrainable performers—i.e., you can never remediate grievous weaknesses. Position the person somewhere else where her talents are a better match.
- #33: “Every scene is a chase scene. Character A wants something from Character B who doesn’t want to give it.” Idea for Impact: Productive relationships with balance and joy call for continuous concession and managing one another’s expectations. Work hard to ensure that all sides feel contented with a negotiated compromise.
- #73: “Know your actors. Some like a lot of attention; others want to be left alone. Some like written notes; some spoken. Get to know them. It doesn’t have to take long. It’s a good investment that will pay enormous benefits later.” Idea for Impact: Embrace individualized management. No two employees are alike—their temperaments, qualifications, experiences, and backgrounds shape them into thoroughly unique people who’re persuaded, challenged, and inspired in different ways. So why treat them all the same way?
Recommendation: Read Notes on Directing. It’s a worthwhile meditation in managing people, projects, and yourself. Anyone who must get things done through people will find insightful meditations on getting to the core of the narrative, handling people with diplomacy and nuance, and navigating conflict.