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Want a high performing team? Ask Mao’s Last Dancer

Earlier this year HRM had the opportunity to sit down with Li Cunxin, autobiographer of Mao’s Last Dancer and the current artistic director of Queensland Ballet. He was at Sunsuper’s Game Changers event about high performing teams and we spoke to him about collaboration, his past, and the benefits of having faced adversity.

Li Cunxin is no stranger to adversity. Growing up, he explains, he used to watch his father leave early each morning and come home late at night from his job. He describes what it was like to watch the man. “He was carrying huge, heavy sacks of 200 kilos of grain on his shoulder, day-in and day-out, with very little food. He came home each day a broken man. But the next morning he’d get up and go to work again. Because if he didn’t do that the survival of his seven children would be really at risk.”

It’s from experiences like these that Cunxin learned that adversity isn’t just an experience, it’s a lesson and a motivation. The lesson is in perseverance, and the motivation is never to return to a situation where you have to cope with adversity’s “bitter taste”.

As part of his current role as the artistic director of Queensland Ballet, Cunxin regularly deals with some of the most ambitious, and most talented people in their field. Only the best of the best even get to audition, and then, from a field of hundreds of dancers, the company will select just two or three every year.  So how do you get people who are so motivated on a personal level to dedicate themselves to the mission of your company?

Cunxin advises tapping into employees’ ambition by linking advancement  to both individual success and adherence to the company’s core mission. He stresses the importance of being a team player, saying, “Without that, I don’t care how talented they are, we cannot achieve great things as an organisation.”

To hear more of Cunxin’s inspiring story and attitude, and to pick up extra tips on how to manage high performing teams, watch the full video.

Want to learn how to build effective teams, or advance your HR career by developing new leadership skills? Check out AHRI’s short courses on management.

Footage courtesy of Queensland Ballet. Filmed by Pixelframe.

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