Question by Mizz G: disbanding my theatre company due to ethical issues in leadership. What to say to members?
We started late 2008 when a businesswoman doing business near our campus (she also happens to pastor a wannabe church with her husband) invited all our class for lunch intending to recruit us to do a neighborhood christmas performance which could serve as a “promotional tool” for our campus’s new performing arts major. I wrote a storyline for it, not because I wanted to get involved, but because my classmates who kept harassing me about it accepted my terms that I will only do it if we’re allowed to perform about the birth of Jesus. To my surprise, my storyline was selected and I was appointed as both scriptwriter and producer.
The businesswoman connected us with most people she knew who might be able to support the production, but expected us to raise our own funds and pay the bills. She claimed that she was helping us becoming independent and facing the dynamics of real business when we later in life become real artists. Her wannabe pastor husband was frequently in the office to give us motivational talks and “teaching”. Together we projected this org to be a community where aspiring artists are equipped in commitment, character, and competence, so they will grow to become influential people who have the right set of values once they work in the entertainment industry, and get to build up stage experience in an environment which values integrity and accountability.
The production was relatively successful, considering that we did a 45-minute play (incl good costumes, make up, stage, lighting, props, decorations, music and kitchen sink) with only 6 weeks preparation. However, people got mad at me for pushing them so hard and setting a standard of excellence and discipline. So by post production evaluation we’d already lost 90% of our cast and crew. The businesswoman wouldn’t stop asking me to raise money to pay the outstanding bills about the equivalent of US$ 5,400. This production has also caused our formerly tight knit class of 40 to drift apart; and gotten us with trouble with our campus which wasn’t informed.
Long story short, the org remained active from January-July 2009. We tried organizing miniproductions and workshops to make money to pay the bill, but these were unsuccessful. As soon as we got a real TV cinematographer/performing artist on board to co-lead a production with me, it turned out that he was just interested in me because he’d been in love with me for two years and kept it a secret. Realising that this org was hardly becoming what we projected it to be, we called off the production and attempted to restructure the leadership to first educate them in a proper understanding of our vision, mission, and core values. We recruited a new HR but he turned the organisation into a bible study and neglected the performing arts side, and we didn’t know what to do with our non-Christian members.
In all this, the businesswoman left us although she kept her office open for the theatre company to meet daily at. She became busy with other things; amongst others, gaining political power in other neighborhoods so she can recruit other enthusiastic, talented kids to do for her what we did for her. I’ve had to MC for some of these events, rather surprised to find that she and hubby had cast the same vision on those other projects. I feel cheated because they should’ve invested in us–the committed ones–instead of throwing hype here and there with these new untrained people they can’t even follow up.
Wannabe-pastor hubby continued devoting once a week for what was left in the theatre company, giving motivational talks and convincing us that we are not working hard enough to fulfill our potential. We’re hitting a brick wall, but brick walls aren’t there to keep us from the dream; it’s there to separate us from those who don’t really want the dream badly enough.
By August 2009 I’ve had enough. I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to invite Mr & Mrs Wannabe Pastor for lunch or dinner AT MY PLACE in order to talk things out since May 2009 but they always cancel last minute because the Mrs had to show up in court or had other business. Otherwise, when I do get to spend time with them somewhere, they always have other people with them so I can’t say what I’ve been wanting to say. At this point I believe that “imperfections in the leader” is no longer the issue; the issue is the integrity and character they’ve been preaching about but don’t have themselves. They’re not helping us but using us to expand their business and ministry (which they can’t separate one from the other) on our time, money, and energy. And I don’t want to do that to the people I am leading, because life is too precious for that. Now I no longer talk to the couple and refuse to pay the $ 5400 bill because I never signed anything stating that it was my, or the org’s obligation.
I’ve kept these things to myself because I was afraid of what it would do to the dynamics of our team; or worse yet, our friendship. I tried looking for a new adult couple to mentor us–which both shares our vision but also can apply it to the performing arts–but it looks like it isn’t going to happen. And if it does, it’s probably not worth the wait.
Tomorrow is our final meeting where I will dissolve the organization and return any money my team members have ever donated to it. How do I do so without compromising my integrity? I said that I believed in the vision and will pay the price to make it happen, but now it seems like I’m the one walking out on it. And how do I present the facts without defaming our former mentor couple? While we are cutting ties professionally, I also don’t want to hurt any remaining personal friendships my teammates might still have with them.
Thank you. Actually, we did have an organization chart like Erika USAF Mom said, which we used to reeducate our leaders during down time. Unfortunately they weren’t interested in this and just wanted hype.
I will write a letter as CGBaker suggested, as no business should be left unfinished.
My fiance said that we are lacking experience and funds. I have a great vision and all the best intentions for this org, but I shouldn’t be leading such an org with great responsibility yet. I should first spend some years working elsewhere with similar projects and values, gain skills and insight, then lead an org like this.
Then again, I wouldn’t have been so passionately dedicated to this org if it had nothing to do with my life’s purpose: “Welcoming God’s children in God’s house and equipping them to fulfill their purpose”. Ventures breathed by this purpose is what I spend my life on, but now’s not the timing to go at this one.
Thank you for believing in what this org stands for. God bless!
Answer by Erika USAF Mom
There is no reason for your organization to disband. Your organization has a worthy cause, you just need campus backing and another leader.
As for your members – you need to work hard to regain their trust and friendship. There needs to be an organization charter with clearly stated goals and expectations for the organization and it’s leaders. That is what your organization was lacking and the reason it failed.
There is no need to bring up everything with the previous leaders – simply thank them for their time and make a clean and respectful break.
Ensure that your organization and its members do not speak ill of the pastor and his wife either – you need to focus on the postive to bring it all back together.
Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!