As a company that was built on trailblazing new experiences and challenging the status quo, it's no wonder that Cirque Du Soleil has taken a radical approach to the way they manage people. Harnessing the power of energy and engagement, they've steered away from traditional and archaic methods that are built on utilitarian principles, and shifted towards starting open and honest conversations, asking for constant feedback, and promoting shared responsibilities amongst all members of the company.

"Somewhere along the way, we've forgotten that organizations are human living systems, essentially a bunch of people coming together every day," said Valerie Pisano, Talent Manger at Cirque Du Soleil, at a recent C2 Montreal conference. "We've significantly overemphasized our focus on system, process, policy, rule...and we've mostly disregarded everything that science, psychology, and neuroscience have figured out about how human beings function and what they need to be the best version of themselves."

Cirque's new aspiration is to create a truly unique employee experience, and has established these five principles that emphasize personal development in order to build strong, trust-based relationships and high performing teams.

1. Talent Dialogues

Cirque has completely moved away from traditional performance management systems with ratings and criteria. Instead, they've opted for what they call "Talent Dialogues". Every four months, everyone shares the responsibility to come together for an open conversation to discuss how things are going.

In these conversations, they ask five simple questions, both personally and as a team:

  • "Looking back on the past 100 days, what have been my contributions, within in our team, and possibly beyond?"
  • "What has been the most difficult? What have I struggled with?
  • "How have I been showing up, and what's been the impact of that on myself and the people I interact with?"
  • "Is there one thing I'm taking away from myself and that I want to focus on moving forward?"
  • "What are the priorities we agree to for the next 100 days?"

2. Conscious Leadership

"We know that our future success at Cirque is going to highly dependent [on our leaders] to mobilize and grow talent, so we want to make sure that they have the awareness, the tools, and the support to expand into the most authentic version as themselves as leaders."

Cirque firmly believes that leadership starts from within, which is why they've introduced a program that is anchored in intellectual foundation and analyzes the science of how people function.

3. Global Mindfulness

"We believe you have to train your mind like you do your body, which is why we've launched on-site and online classes to support this type of mindful learning." These programs are open to every staff member so that they can explore meditation and build a personal practice.

4. Peer to Peer Connection

Research has shown that financial rewards and gifts create an immediate happiness, but this is short-lived. Emotion is what creates long-lasting employees, stemming from shared experiences and human connection.

That's why they've introduced two types of programs, the first called "Cirque Jam", where a team stemming from different departments comes together to explore and experiment in work that goes beyond their role and responsibilities.

The second is called "Panache". This peer to peer recognition program includes initiatives like passing a white sculpture between each employee to contribute to, so it eventually becomes a communal work of art. Through these types of activities, staff are taught to voice their appreciation, understand that their input matters, and know the importance of giving and receiving thank you's.

5. Employee Feedback Tool

"We want the voice of our employees and hard objective data to guide our actions." That's why Pisano explains that they send a 5-minute survey out to everyone three to four times a year. They ask questions like what it's like to work at Cirque and what they care about the most. After this data is collected, each leader is given a personal dashboard so they can see the results, determine what needs to be changed, and commit to actions in order to make it happen.

Published on: May 31, 2017
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