How Transparent Are You?

How Transparent Are You?

I can’t actually remember when it was I first heard about Cirque du Soleil, but I’m pretty sure I first saw them when they toured Australia with Alegria in about 2001. I also remember thinking as I paid (what felt like a small fortune at the time) for tickets for my family of five “This had better be worth it!”

However, from the moment I spotted the Grand Chapiteau in the distance I knew that my experience would be different from any previous circus – in fact any previous shows – that I had ever been to see.

As we walked down the carefully laid out paths my excitement was palpable and building. My nerve endings were literally tingling as the sound of the music of the show played over the PA system and evocative images surrounded us.
As we entered the Grand Chapiteau my breath was taken away at the sheer size of the audience, the magnificence of the stage and all of the rigging. The mood was already established by the lighting and the handful of performers in the audience teasing them with a “prologue” of interaction.

And then the lights went down and the music started…

Just a short time later I was sitting in one of the front sections, about 3 rows back, with my mouth open and my heart singing. I was completely entranced and captivated, lost in the emotion and the experience, and frankly, oblivious to the rest of the world. I sat there literally hugging myself in delight at what was unfolding in front of me. My imagination had been captured…

It was right there and then that I first saw why “show business” had 2 words – there was the show, and there was the business.

After the show, as we walked down the carefully laid out path through the  merchandise section where some of the performers where signing autographs, I also had the insight you have heard me pronounce many times since – that every performance is a business, and of course, every business is a performance.

Recently I watched a documentary about the making of Corteo – Cirque Du Soleil’s 15th show. And it struck me as I watched the documentary, that even though they were opening the curtains and letting me peek behind them into the show – to see the awkward beginnings, the things that didn’t work, the difficulties they had, the personality conflicts, the  individual frailties, the temper tantrums, the long slow process of building and pulling it all together, and even the technical failure during the premiere that led to a 45 minute delay in the middle of the performance – I didn’t feel any less warm about them. In fact, I felt even closer, as if I had become part of their fraternity.

How much is this in contrast with “regular” business practice? I mean, we can’t let our clients see our secrets or our weaknesses can we? How would they feel about us if they knew we weren’t perfect?

When I was in executive search I remember the Managing Partner of the firm saying to me that we had to maintain the secrecy of what we did – that we couldn’t let our clients see what was inside our executive search “black box”. If we did, and they saw what we did and how we did it, the mystery would go and we couldn’t charge our high fees.

Really? Surely the skill and discretion applied to the activity is what is paramount, as well as the results.

I remember as a child watching a donut machine in operation. I saw the dough being mixed, the donut being squeezed out into the hot oil, flipped over mid-way to ensure even cooking, then removed from the oil and sent along a conveyer for dusting with sugar. Even though all of this was done automatically, I didn’t feel that the value of the donut was diminished and I was happy to buy one.

What is there to lose by being open rather than secretive? I believe that by pulling back the curtain to your business, by giving your clients and prospective clients more information about what you do, by engaging them in your processes, that you have a lot more to gain than to lose.

At the very least it will help your relationship with your clients. And that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

I work with women entrepreneurs who feel overworked and getting nowhere, so they end up frustrated and unsure of how to move their businesses forward. I help these women build a Higher Purpose Business so that their business works for them, rather than them working for it.

To know more about my approach to business, check out