Q&A with Michael Bobbitt

Producing Artistic Director, Adventure Theater

Tell us about your leadership style and how this contributes to your organization’s success.

The words that I think best sum up my leadership style and the success of Adventure Theatre MTC (ATMTC) can be attributed to these words: adaptability, enabling, inclusivity.

As a nonprofit arts organization, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of both the arts and the nonprofit world. Things are changing so rapidly. In order for ATMTC to survive and continue moving towards sustainability and growth, we must adapt. Our adaptability helped us to grow tremendously during the economic downturn, to survive Snowmaggedden and the Government Shut Down (for which we lost our performance venue for over 2 weeks) and lead us to a merger in 2012 and continued growth.

I try my best to hire capable people and then enable them to do their job. This means, putting in and improving on operational practices, procedures, controls, and reporting that help to keep everyone up-to-date on all aspects of the organization. This also means discussing and sharing the company’s core values, so that all are aware of what is most important to us and those we serve. This means, not micro-managing them and entrusting them to do their job. This means celebrating their triumphs and discussing failures. Most importantly, this means encouraging them to build a network and seek our professional development when needed. I believe that the company gets better and better each day, because of this.

Inclusivity is simply good for business. At ATMTC inclusivity is not only “belief”, but truly “action”. We work hard to make sure that our audiences, staff, teachers, and artists are reflective of our community. ATMTC has made great strides that have been recognized nationally. In every part of our organization, you’ll find people of all backgrounds. I believe this is another main reason why ATMTC has grown it’s audiences from 15,000 patrons to 75,000 since 2007. For me, inclusivity also means hearing from all parties as we arrive at decision. I have found that, as a leader, more people enroll in the decision, if they have had a say in how we got there. This has resulted in tremendous growth for us.

What advice would you offer other nonprofit leaders?

I think mentorship has become a personal core value of mine. I, for some reason, will always make time for someone in the business or nonprofit sector needing help. Probably, because I was the recipient of so much help as I was growing into this job. The things I find myself sharing with other nonprofit leaders are things that I experienced and still swear by today. They are:

  • Live Life: in order to be great at your job, you have to have a life. Your job is not your life, but your job. And even if what you were put on this earth to do is directly related to your job, it is still a job and not your life. So, live life. Spend time with friends, family, and travel.
  • Get away from your desk: especially as a nonprofit leader, building your network is so important. Simply put, people do business with people they know. Get out to Chamber events, networkings, meet-and-greets, galas, celebrations, and other community connectors. While it may not seem urgent at the time, somehow, it will pay itself off in the future.
  • Use best practices: Often, in the beginning of my leadership position, I would get very stressed, if I didn’t have the answer and would work hard to try to figure it out. And then, I realized that using “best practices” is a much better starting place than making it up or figuring it out on your own. In many ways, I find it freeing.

What does this award mean for you and your organization?

Beyond the acknowledgement of the tremendous amount of hard work that we have done, it also means a little relief. Certainly, finding funds for professional development is a tremendous task and usually the first thing that gets cut. Even though ATMTC has undergone a tremendous amount of transition, we are at the precipice of more. Having some funds to train, study, and prepare for this will be unbelievably helpful as we prepare for the next phase. I’d love for us to be so prepared that we can serve more people better, coming right out of the gate, rather than “catching up”. Our merger in 2012 would have benefitted from this, had we had the funds to train the staff for what was to come.

Learn more about Adventure Theater.