What Tommy Tune Taught Me

He’s a Broadway legend. Tommy Tune. 

76 years old. Winner of 9 Tony Awards, the most prestigious award in commercial American theatre. Last Thursday, the American Theatre Wing announced that Tune will receive a 10th Tony in June of this year, for Lifetime Achievement.


I didn’t go to church or attend a seder on Easter Friday. I sat in a little cabaret room in Florida’s swanky Palm Beach, being entertained by Tommy Tune. About 100 of us, and a legend.

What do you think of Tommy Tune? I asked my friend Raul Rodriguez during the course of the evening.

He is a consummate professional, Raul replied.

Love the word consummate. Love the entire phrase.

What does it mean to be a consummate professional, in any line of work?

  1. You never “call it in.” “Call it in” is showbiz talk for going through the motions. Because you have performed a task so many times. Because you have done it once too often. Because you’re having a bad day. So what? Those of us who engage with you don’t care. A consummate professional chooses to be fresh, in the moment, every time.

  1. You show respect. In showbiz, the audience is sitting there, right in front of you. They have paid good money to be entertained. They deserve your unbridled respect. In business, everybody is our audience. The receptionist who greets us. The colleague who we partner with on a project. The janitor who cleans the lavatories. The CEO. Every single person we encounter, every second of every day, is a key actor in our professional sphere. A consummate professional offers respect. Indiscriminately, to everyone.

  2. You stay on top of your game. If you’re Tommy Tune, it means you take care of your singing voice. You keep your body in shape. You try new choreography. You do whatever you need to do to make sure your skills are razor-sharp. In business, it means we continue to study. We stay abreast of professional trends. We eagerly, joyfully evolve. A consummate professional hones essential skills, all the time.

  3. You claim IT. IT – that is your expertise, your assets, your wisdom. You claim what you know and put it in service of the job at hand. You don’t overplay it, but you also don’t play small. You find the sweet spot of the right-sized claim. The IT of a legend? 50 years of experience working with the most brilliant performers of his time. At one point Tommy Tune name-dropped. He mentioned the leading ladies of stage and film he danced with. My jaws dropped as the names tumbled out of his mouth. Tommy Tune owned it. Claimed it. Didn’t play small. But he claimed it with a sense of whimsy. Didn’t brag or gloat. Tommy Tune was in his sweet spot. A consummate professional claims all of his assets.

He sure worked hard, Raul said as we pulled out of Palm Beach. But this performance must have been a breeze for Tommy Tune. That’s another gift of being a consummate professional, isn’t it? We have put in the work. We embody the skills. We execute with a seeming lack of effort. Every moment looks and feels like a breeze. Thank you, Tommy Tune.