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How businesses can learn from the best musicians in the world

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“Every transformation is about people. If you put the people in the middle of the transformation project, the probability of success will dramatically increase.” - Helga Trölenberg, Strategic advisor.

Great leaders know that change is not easy, even the change for the better and they do not pretend otherwise. Yet leaders also know that embracing change with the right mindset, one that is open to learning and "unlearning" on-the-go, is paramount to creating an environment where change is not just a once in a decade occurrence to be endured, but an integral part of their organization's DNA to be embraced and enjoyed.

Whether you are leading a team of two or an organization of ten thousand, there are ways to alleviate any internal resistance to change, better seize its' opportunities and get more people on the ‘change wagon’ faster.

1. Identify and empower

Identify who will be impacted; this is one of the first steps to ensuring successful change. This is not necessarily just the senior team, but it often includes others throughout the organization. From here, consult and recruit people who are prepared to 'champion the change' for their functional area.

2. Engage

Engaging with people is the key; before, during and after the change. Set up calls, meetings or forums to discuss the upcoming changes and seek input from those not only at a senior level, but those who have more practical knowledge on the day-to-day working systems and processes.

3. Listen

A fundamental element to landing change successfully is taking the time to listen to employees' concerns or questions, take on board their ideas and, where feasible, incorporate these within the change process.

4. Communicate

“Communication in business is like music in a concert. It’s essential.” - Helga Trölenberg, Strategic advisor

Providing clear and frequent communications to your employees will ensure they feel more involved in the process. During periods of change, people look for clarity and honesty and communication should not just take place once a change has happened.

5. Think outside of the box

Thinking outside the box simply means that we are willing to consider different solutions and methods for reaching our desired outcome. That is to say: we want to get from point A to point B, but we do not necessarily need or want to take the tried and true route to get there.

. . .

With that being said, a business is probably not the first thing we would think about when hearing the word orchestra. But orchestras and businesses have more in common than people actually might think.

Perhaps the symphony orchestra could provide an insightful analogy and inspiration for leaders in organizations to achieve their own “virtuosity” in their environment.

Let us consider what contributes to a ‘harmonious outcome’ in the context of an organization.

“The most important challenge is to take your people along the transformation journey.” - Helga Trölenberg, Strategic advisor

1. Empower each individual while creating a team

Let’s assume that every person in a certain organization is passionate about what they do and that their greatest motivation comes from their own personal joy in performing. Leaders need to first engage that individual passion and transform it into energy that is motivated towards the goals of the team.

For example, in an orchestra, the musicians cannot play Beethoven’s Symphony on their own. Their access to this great work is only in being part of a team and yet everyone still has a unique voice and a role in their performance.

2. Create unity and direction

A leader needs to communicate and motivate the team constantly towards achieving the greater vision and to unite everyone’s focus towards one direction. In an orchestra, transcending and powerful moments only happen when the musicians are absolutely and completely unified and focussed on the same goal.

3. The team cannot flourish unless each individual does

“Transformation is about communication and leadership as well as the mindset and development of an individual.” - Helga Trölenberg, strategic advisor.

Every day we are impacted by the ideas and energy of others around us. Sometimes our own talents and capabilities are sparked or squelched in the presence of other people depending on how we engage with them.

Every individual can inspire colleagues to reach higher or create new possibilities through their personal leadership, standards, work ethics and ideas.

As a leader, you must be watchful and make changes — reconfigure or take away anything that is impeding the team’s ability to flourish. Your goal is to remove obstacles and redirect whenever they emerge.

4. Build a collective ego

Competition to get into the top orchestras is incredibly fierce. Every individual in a great orchestra is an extraordinary musician — truly a star in the business. In order to have the courage, confidence and boldness to perform at this level they necessarily have egos.

A great leader can transform this drive and passion by building a collective ego that energizes each person’s focus towards the success of the team, by recognizing and valuing the contributions of each individual.

5. Control the flow and sometimes let it go

“A leader is not a soloist, they cannot produce greatness for themselves, they need a team.” - Helga Trölenberg, Strategic advisor

The orchestra knows that unity can only be achieved when, at a certain level, they all relinquish individuality to the service of the music. However, there are many moments in the music when leadership from the outside is unnecessary, and the best thing a leader can do is to step back out of the stream and listen, let the team guide itself from within.

A way to empower the individuals within the team and to create an extraordinary team that transcends itself is to try to bring the organization to this potential as often as possible. Try not to micromanage, because when we do this, we take all of the energy out of the team and focus it back on us.

6. Create unity through awareness

A conductor’s most important tool is awareness and with its guidance focus on sound, details, relationships, and connections is formed. Our ears open up as each new awareness draws our attention.

When we create awareness in something, it literally grows in our minds. With its power we suddenly see or hear something we did not notice before, we become consumed with a detail that has opened up in our mind.

7. Whatever you are they are too

A conductor wants to empower an orchestra to be open and to share with each other so that they can reach their highest potentials in shared performances.

Leaders build pride, identity and recognition; they can be a good example. When we treat people with respect and support, this creates an environment where people will behave similarly. If the leader is passionate, the team will live up to that passion.

If the leader is hard working, the team will be as well. If the leader is creative and takes risks, he sets the expectation and the allowance for others to do the same. If he or she is patient and kind, the team will not only appreciate it, but will treat others with patience and dignity.

8. Trust

Every conductor wants the orchestra to “follow him” in every sense of the word. They want the orchestra to give in to their interpretation and to trust in their vision. In order for the orchestra to trust this vision, they need to respect what the conductor brings to the podium.

Building trust might just be your most important responsibility as a leader; employees who trust their leaders will move mountains for them and be more engaged in the business.

. . .

Businesses can often find valuable lessons by looking at unexpected, but analogous industries. In many ways, orchestra conductors exhibit all of the best qualities of a leader: creativity, tenacity, passion, and the ability to create an audience that falls in love with the orchestra.

Love what you do and share this with everyone, strive for the ideals you believe in, and your leadership will fall into place. Work hard and be authentic and “they” will follow you.

And in turn, you will follow them too.

Watch or listen to the dialogue “Orchestrating Effective Communications” on YouTube and Spotify

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