Jan
24

A Lesson From Director Robert Altman

By Merna Skinner (Words at Work) - No Comments

Great film directors, like great business leaders, work effectively with their teams, in part, by being great communicators.  Last evening I attended a “Live Talk, Los Angeles” discussion with actor and director, Tim Robbins and at one point he talked about what he had learned from Director, Bob Altman while shooting the film, The Player. (Robbins would shortly thereafter direct his first film and so studied Altman carefully during shooting).

As Robbins explained, Bob Altman was a true auteur who had a clear vision of what he wanted from his films, but he used collaboration rather than proclamation to get there.  As an example, Robbins described numerous instances wherein crew members or actors would approach Altman with a question.  Altman would respond with, “I don’t know.  What do you think?”

Robbins noted that by Altman simply turning the tables on the questioner, the questioner became more invested in the discussion and Altman gained insight about his team.  In the end, Robbins said, laughing, “Altman very likely carried out his original vision,” but everyone felt included in the process.

January 25 is Better Business Communication Day.  Take a note from Altman.  Rather than always doling out your ideas when others look to you for answers – turn the table and first ask them what they think.  The best questions start with what, how or why?  

And, as a side note – find out about live discussion groups in your area.  Often sponsored by libraries, local colleges, universities or public broadcasting outlets, these discussions offer you opportunities to learn from a broad spectrum of leaders, thinkers, authors and artists.

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