Art Matters as Much as Tech, Brand and Sales

Mind Tools' Managing Editor Charlie Swift shares some surprising insights from our recent webinar with David Zinger.

Written by Charlie Swift
Published 30 November 2021
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Art Matters as Much as Tech, Brand and Sales

Be honest. What was your reaction when you saw "art" in the title? Frustration, cynicism, eye-rolling despair? I wouldn't blame you.

You're busy with an overwhelming to-do list, your organization is struggling through a never-ending crisis, and everyone you know is afraid, angry, exhausted, or all of the above. By mentioning art at a time like this, hasn’t Mind Tools lost its L&D mind?

Why we are talking about art and artistry

If we ignore the occasional mural adorning the office, or our acts of corporate sponsorship, art is generally absent from our working world.

Instead, art is one of the finer things of life, created and consumed by those with time on their hands, the expressive, exotic, too often the elite. It can be a mysterious gift to be revered (or jeered), or a revolutionary cry to rally around.

Art is irrelevant to the daily grind, right?

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to engagement expert, David Zinger. We need an artist's observational skills, creativity and attention to detail now more than ever. But not to decorate the physical space. Rather, to draw out (pun fully intended) the best in each of us, wherever we work, whatever our role. Only then, says David, can we "do good work well with others every day."

No business can afford to go without this kind of consistent engagement, performance and resilience. But such high-quality behaviors are rarer than many of us would like to admit. So how can our personal and corporate aspirations be met through something as apparently esoteric as what David calls "people artistry"?

People artistry creates engagement with our day, our tasks, and one another

David Zinger was Nahdia Khan's guest for Mind Tools for Business's latest webinar, and they discussed the power and practicalities of his people artistry model.

I was lucky enough to be part of the production too, and to experience, along with our live audience, the significant rapport that the pair quickly built with one another and with attendees.

David's warmth and humor were evident, and his long practice as a clinical psychologist came into play, too, enabling a safe space in which to meet. He was also demonstrating one of the key attributes of people artistry, and that was caring about what the rest of us care about.

He emphasized that "caring about" isn't the same as always "agreeing with." But it is about curiosity, humility and listening.

Now imagine if your co-worker, boss or supplier displayed these attitudes and skills with you... How would you feel? What level of work could you achieve together? How likely would you be to persevere, problem solve and innovate?

Similarly, what would be the impact on you and on your work if you could craft your job to match your strengths and interests and to stretch you?

And what could you and your colleagues achieve if you designed your days to maximize your energy and focus?

Who is the people artist in your life?

David Zinger presented fascinating glimpses of people artistry throughout the event, including what we can learn from his daughter’s dog, Benji! And more of his thoughts, experience and guidance are contained in two books, PDFs of which he generously made available for free to audience members. 

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The books are as beautiful as they are fascinating and challenging, thanks to the inclusion of many paintings by co-author Peter W. Hart, a skilled visual artist.

The thoughtful atmosphere that David and Peter create on the page was recreated in the webinar when David invited us all to share the roles, and then more powerfully, the names, of people who have drawn out the best in us in our own lives.

Wise and kind parents and grandparents abounded; inspirational grandchildren, supportive teachers and friends featured too. Sadly, very few workplace connections were mentioned. Sadder still were the findings of a snap poll that David ran on our own people artistry practices. (Watch the recording now to find out more.)

Manager, leader or artist?

I was still thinking about the webinar long after it finished. And here's what's stayed with me.

Management is often thought of as a technical, logical, quantitative skill. After all, an MBA is a Master's in Business Administration. So, we can too easily look for an itemized instruction manual to follow, “for safe operation and best results.”

Meanwhile, leadership is still imagined as visionary, charismatic and inspired – almost otherworldly or a form of magic.

With the word "management" we're giving ourselves the message that we have a resource to organize or control, a problem to cope with or thwart. And with our picture of "leadership" it's all too easy to pass up the opportunity for lack of owning a presidential or guru-esque gene!

What David Zinger brought us was something different. He reminded us that work is still, even with the advent of AI, about people, and ordinary people at that. And that spending time on valuing and drawing out the best in ourselves and others is key to both our sanity and our success.

So, despite those doubtful first impressions, people artistry turns out to have its feet firmly on the ground and to be highly applicable to professional life. Not a luxury or distraction but something we all need to practice, every day.

Download FREE copies of David's books here:

'People Artists: Drawing Out the Best in Others at Work'
'The Ennoblement Imperative: People Artistry at Work'

You can find out more about David and his work here.

And Mind Tools for Business offer an enormous library of complementary resources. Find out how to get full access here.

About the author

Charlie Swift

Charlie Swift

Managing Editor
Charlie has 25 years of editorial experience in the science, education, non-profit, and L&D sectors. He's been part of Mind Tools' in-house Content team since 2015, and is responsible for researching and planning new resources. He collaborates daily with internal and external experts to ensure the highest standards and to gain the best insights.

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