I LOVE stepping. Believe it or not, this old head can still move something over 25 years after he first took the stage at a Greek show. I just don’t jump or kick as high as I used to. Back in the day, though??? Maaaaaan, I was one of those cats who started an Alpha Train as soon as I walked into a party. I wasn’t a step master, I was a step monster.
During my undergrad years, I got a chance to rip stages with a New Orleans citywide step team. We placed in Greek shows at the famous Bayou Classic, Southeastern Louisiana Univ., a Delta regional convention, and the wildly popular show at the Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette. I realized it was more than frat boy folly when my stepping experiences extended far beyond Greek show stages.
As you, my fellow Divine Niners, prepare for the next Greek show or stroll, put these insights into your career success tool kit.
You will not succeed if you will not take risks.
I was terrified about the first couple of Greek show routines I choreographed because I didn’t want embarrass the brothers. At the same time, I knew there was no way we would make any progress if we didn’t get out there. We had some rough shows and did some things that local audiences had not seen, but folks respected that we had the guts to try.
Taking career risks has stayed with me ever since. When I worked for Monster Worldwide, the risks I took created unprecedented growth in the territory I managed. As a public relations/marketing director at Southern University at New Orleans, I took risks that led to defeating a state proposal that would have subsequently closed the university’s doors. Taking risks, however, takes vision. If you don’t envision success, the risks won’t make sense.
Leadership is not a popularity contest.
Leaders have hard jobs. One thing that makes leadership so hard in the world of stepping is coming to the realization that your Greek show team is better by making cuts. These are your brothers or sorors so feelings get real. Until this day, I feel guilty about reducing the size of one step team. It happened, however, because we entered a big show that we wanted to win. When the team became dissatisfied with members’ actions, I was called on to reduce the size of the group.
HBCU presidents are great examples of how unpopular leadership can be. When we see our HBCUs lose funding or revenue, the presidents have to make hard decisions. Regardless of the difficulty, hardly anyone accepts presidents’ reduction measures as necessary. Even if a campus flourishes in the wake of these leaders making career-threatening decisions, people hold these leaders more responsible for the sacrifices than the big picture outcome.
Chapters put probate shows together in a week and wonder why it looks crazy. You can’t microwave a good show!
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 20, 2016
What people see is what they get.
I ran across a great tweet that read, “Chapters put probate shows together in a week and wonder why it looks crazy. You can’t microwave a good show!” When the audience sees a tight Greek show performance they know the team put in the work. If a team looks raggedy, their level of preparation is obvious to the audience.
One place where people’s preparation or lack thereof is exposed is a meeting at work. The meeting is where leaders expect results from the homework or project you were assigned. If you sound unprepared when called upon, it is likely because you are not prepared. The folks who walk into meetings prepared, however, earn loads of respect from their colleagues and leadership.
The details are a pain but they pay off.
I love how much more meticulous Greek show teams have become over the years. Seeing a row of Iota arms at perfect angles, Omega hops at the same height, Kappa canes twirling at the same speed, or Sigma hands with the exact same placement is a thing of beauty. Believe me when I say that it takes hours of work and lots of arguments along the way. You can’t argue with the finished product when the routine is tight. That’s what people pay to see!
The work that you’re putting into your papers and projects is just the beginning. If you think your professors giving you bad grades for ignoring the details is a hard knock life, just wait until you have bosses who threaten to show you the door for consistently slacking on details. Lawyers are excellent examples of people who go over details for hours to win cases. We don’t see the research they do but we admire what the results do for their careers. Perhaps former NFL player Mike Golic said it best, “Ninety-nine percent of winning is what people don’t see you doing.”
Know when to trust the team.
One of the best shows our step team did was actually a mess about an hour before we hit the stage. One of the brothers was sick as a dog and it looked like he had no chance whatsoever of performing. On top of that, the team decided to admit to me that they hated the intro I put together. About 10 minutes before we hit the stage, I decided to let go and trust my brothers. The sick brother had gotten better, the team’s new intro was much better, and we rocked it.
Throughout your career, you will have to know the people who surround you, and you also have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This is especially critical in community, professional, and non-profit organizations. Those settings are where people are often not bound by compensation so they tend not to be as committed or accountable. Involvement in those organizations, however, affect our careers. So, always be aware of the role you play in contributing to a group’s chemistry and determine your level of trust in them. That level of trust will often determine your success.
Bonus: Alpha Phi Alpha Gamma Phi Chapter – TU Homecoming 2015 Step Show Winners