Classes in Leadership: Dad’s Garage managing director Lara Smith departs after a 10 years

Lara Smith

By Matthew Terrell

For several years, I would joke with Lara Smith that she was one of the “Great Leaders of Our TIme.” Even though you may possibly not right away identify her identify, Lara has been the running director, aka: the company brains, driving Dad’s Garage Theatre for near to ten many years.

In my role as communications director I have found firsthand how considerably Lara has accomplished to establish up Dad’s Garage, and the greater Atlanta arts community, though also beating many obstacles to good results. Just after quite a few several years in her function as taking care of director, Lara will be stepping down this August to pursue total time consulting work with the organization Intent Attainable. I’d like to acquire some time and celebrate this amazing leader, and how substantially she has finished for Dad’s Garage and our group.  

A lot of people frequently marvel what is the mystery to our success at Dad’s Garage. How have we been able to improve from a smaller and scrappy improv troupe in a dilapidated making, to just one of the swiftest expanding and most recognized theatres in our location? Really, I believe that Lara’s excellent management abilities are central to our good results. In her time as handling director, we have doubled our budget to $1.9 million (pre-pandemic) purchased and renovated an previous church to be our “forever home” improved gender, racial, and LGBT+ variety at all stages of the group together with board, team, artistic, and volunteers and finished it even though even now protecting our model picture as a youthful, no cost-spirited, and good improv troupe. 

None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for Lara’s challenging function at the helm of this group. To rejoice Lara’s departure, I’d like to share with you some of the tricks to how Dad’s Garage has thrived so a lot above the final ten years. 

In this article are 10 items I uncovered about Management from Lara Smith:

  1. “Be conscious of the tale you notify on your own.” Almost certainly 1 of the to start with management mantras Lara informed me… very often… was that your outlook and interpretation of the environment will affect how you knowledge lifestyle. It’s the difference among paranoia (experience like individuals are out to hurt you) versus pronoia (sensation like people are out to enable you). 
  2. Birthdays subject. Specifically in little businesses like ours, it’s important to celebrate your teammates on their birthday. Lara retained a listing of everyone’s favourite birthday treats like doughnuts, key lime pie, and pistachio baklava (mine) and designed confident to carry it to that week’s personnel meeting. And, as tacky at it seems, we would generally go all over the room and say what we take pleasure in about the birthday man or woman. This is a wonderful way to build bonds among coworkers. 
  3. “Being a chief is not about obtaining the finest thought, it’s about currently being able to figure out the finest plan in a place and support it.” This 1 initially came from Kevin Gillese, our former artistic director, but it’s one particular that Lara quotes him on. I consider that also speaks to the fact of the quote—and how vital it is to see the knowledge many others all around you can offer. 
  4. Celebrate wins and fails. The begin of each and every all-workers assembly at Dad’s Garage is a celebration of wins and failures—it’s a opportunity for us pat ourselves on the back for positions perfectly accomplished, and choose a minute to openly discuss our oopsies and how we can do better subsequent time. Given that failure transpires to all of it, this strategy can take the dread away from failure and actively turns it into a beneficial lesson to be figured out. 
  5. “We assume very good intentions and act with them ourselves.” This is composed at the leading of just about every agenda and is one particular of our guiding rules as an business. 
  6. When vital, phone a “Beer O’clock.” This commonly takes place on frantic days main up to opening a major demonstrate or placing on a massive fundraiser—times when the theatre feels entire of nervous, anxious energy. It’s at people moments Lara would get on the intercom and talk to all personnel to fulfill in the lobby for a refreshing beverage and some cookies from a regional bakery. 
  7. Guide a foot massage for right after the fundraiser because self-care is vital. Our “BaconFest” event was a extended, tiring day of entertaining countless numbers of patrons with improv and serving a literal ton of bacon. To avoid soreness and burnout in the nonprofit entire world, self-care is vital. Even a foot massage is very important to longevity of leaders. 
  8. Assist some others by sharing your platform and capabilities. What lots of persons really do not notice about Lara is that she is a tireless advocate for the entire of the arts neighborhood and has expended hundreds of unpaid several hours making sure other arts business have the help and sources they need to have to triumph. We’re all in this jointly, as Lara would say. 
  9. Be ready to pivot. We have succeeded at Dad’s Garage in excess of the pandemic due to our skill to pivot as an business. We switched all of our giving to electronic inside of days of shutting down. Lara pivoted to getting a expert in making sure our artists and employees would have obtain to unemployment, emergency funding, and important means to make it by means of a shut down. A excellent leader can pivot to do the operate that wants to be accomplished. 
  10. “Friends” is a wonderful word. It is a positive, gender-neutral term that can generally address a broad team of folks. Most likely Lara’s most used phrase. 

So there it is, ten secrets to our achievement at Dad’s Garage as demonstrated by Lara Smith. I hope that people looking through this may possibly choose away a number of lessons to their very own workplaces, or any where they provide leadership.