What can a juggler or a mime teach a corporation? To most, the answer would be nothing — unless you looked through Carr Hagerman’s eyes. The former professional street performer sees the same dynamic in his trade at play in the business realm between managers and employees, employees and customers, and even trainers and trainees.
“The image of a street performer working with an audience is an exotic image,” said Hagerman, who is also a co-author of Top Performer: A Bold Approach to Sales and Service. “But the traits of a successful street performer are the same as [those needed to be] a successful business employee.”
A top performer on the street is one who engages the energy of the audience so that the performance becomes co-created and co-authored. That moves a performance from “average to rare,” Hagerman said. Coincidentally, the same is true in business, as employee success depends on interaction with the client, whether it be an internal or external customer. It isn’t about learning difficult new skills, but instead it’s about being authentic and honest in these engagements.
“The street performer is face-to-face with their audience, the same as a businessperson is to a customer,” Hagerman said. “[But with a street performer], we can see — in microcosm — engagement happen. It’s less about the material in their show and more about the connection and working with energy.”
Through songs, staged performances and interactive training sessions, Hagerman illustrates what makes a performer successful: claiming your pitch, building the circle, juicing the jam, mining the mess, developing insurance, choosing the close and passing the hat. These concepts can be used to better business interactions.
“The performer claims open space, and we fill that with our claim: our material and our audience,” Hagerman said. “In business, the word ‘claim’ means to take something as your own. When you look at any business leader, they are strong and successful because they claim it.”
As one can imagine, there’s a level of unpredictability in street performing. As the audience grows and the circle builds, performers have to be ready for unexpected problems or “jams.”
“The street performer declares their presence authentically — the better the commitment, the bigger the audience that will come,” Hagerman said. “The larger the circle, the more jams that come up. Then we can actually see the disruptions of the marketplace, such as a drunk walking into the stage, and that’s a great image for teaching people about flexibility. Great innovative companies recognize that problem as a gift.”
Finally, a performance’s success is determined by what’s in the hat.
“What if everything you did was dependent on what it was worth?” Hagerman said. “If your product is lousy, the hat never lies.”