When I first started on my path to becoming a professional musician I didn’t realize that being able to listen well was going to be my survival skill.
I didn’t realize that it didn’t matter how many notes I could play on whichever instrument.
I didn’t realize that I could make or break a rehearsal or performance by how much I used my listening skills, thereby lengthening or shortening my career.
Fortunately for me, I learned to listen and listen well. And when I really think of it now, over the years, I have listened more than I have played, and that’s a good thing. I'll repeat that - I have listened more than I have played. Many thanks to my teachers and colleagues for telling me ( No, yelling at me) to "LISTEN!".
How about you? How many times have you thought about saying it to a colleague or employee: “I wish you would just listen more?”
The other night I took my kids to a large destination park and I was struck by how many different cultures there were in that one place. I hadn’t been there for a couple of years and that night I was truly amazed at what an amazing cultural mosaic Canada has become. As I stood there looking at all the different faces around me, it made me realize I don’t know as much about the world (and its people) as I probably should.
I’ve always had a strong interest in the different cultures that inhabit our world (especially their music) but sometimes I have trouble keeping all the details straight. For example, I sometimes forget what religion is dominant in a certain area of the world, or I can’t recall what might have happened historically in a particular region or what the native language might be. (I knew I shouldn’t have blown off history class in high school).
Why does that matter, you ask?
I’m curious. Do you have a story about your first day at work at a new job? Your first week? Are you like me in that it’s been a while since you were a newbie on a job? From what I remember, I walked around, kept my mouth shut, kept my head down and tried my best to get a handle on things. Some people were friendly and some, not so much.
In the 12 months to May of this year, employment increased by 109,000 or 0.6%, the result of gains in full-time work. That’s a lot of new faces walking around new workplaces.
There are some great things going on like workplace mentors and buddy systems. I even came across a piece of software that busts through the silos by helping new hires connect with people in other parts of the company who might be from the same school or share the same hobbies or interests called Parklet. Pretty cool.
Certainly, all that helps, but have you ever thought about what part you could welcoming people to your organization? You should because you could have a greater impact than you think.
Perhaps you are familiar with the famous Will Farrell and Christopher Walken skit from Saturday Night Live where Farrell plays the cowbell along with the “band” Blue Oyster Cult. In case you‘re not, you have to see it. Just Google - "more cowbell".
In this skit, he dominates the recording session by playing his cowbell louder than any of the other instruments (encouraged by the producer). As he does this, he annoys his band mates more and more with each take. Finally things come to a head and tempers flare, but in the end the band members resolve their differences. Farrell is allowed to continue his very over-the-top cowbell playing only because the producer wants – “more cowbell!”
This is a very funny skit, but what about in the real world? What happens when you have someone at work who is, shall we say, “insensitive” to the point of annoyance to others?
I think we have all experienced someone like that. Often it doesn’t end so nicely. Like in the video, this can cause a lot of tension, which usually leads to some animosity or dispute.
Pointing out annoying behaviour to a colleague is very difficult to do.
But it has to be done and here’s why:
I remember sitting with my bandmates in the Evergreen Club a few years ago in a planning session. (We’re an 8 member group and we play a set of beautiful instruments from Indonesia called a Gamelan, the music is exotic and wonderful).
We were trying to come up with ideas for the next couple of concert seasons. We’ve been around a long time and have done some pretty good gigs, but it still falls on us to create some kind of plan to move forward. We need to get pieces written for us, look for presenters for our current repertoire and festivals to play in. Like many of you in the corporate world, we need to brainstorm plans and solutions.
Brainstorming is tough for any group of people and I'd like to share some things I learned from that experience as well as share some research I've been doing on better brainstorming
This is a special blog post featuring my interview with on the Business Innovation Podcast hosted by Michael Martino and Vince Mirabelli. This episode is about how to collaborate more effectively. I wanted to share it with you because I think this topic is so important.
If you are not familiar with the Business Innovation Podcast they refer to it as a long form conversation with guests exploring innovative ways to improve and expand your business - with lots of laughs and entertainment along the way.
In this episode I share some stories and insights about
When you think about it most of us give feedback to someone during our day. Sometimes it’s a simple as saying Thank you with a smile (indicating to the person they did something we appreciate) or if you have kids, it could be telling them how to do something better, (cleaning up after themselves comes to mind), for my daughter it’s look over your spelling (she’s 8 btw so there’s still hope) or maybe you talked to colleague about how the latest sales quarter went.
But how often do you think about how you are delivering that feedback? Do you only concern yourself with this when you are in “official feedback giving” mode at work? Do you procrastinate when it's time to give feedback?
Now if you feel that giving feedback is not your thing you’re not alone. In a 2014 study done by Zenger Folkman through Harvard Business Review, they captured the results from 2700 respondents regarding various aspects of feedback.
Developing a positive attitude around honest feedback of any kind is a difficult thing to do. If we are the ones on the receiving end and if the feedback is poorly delivered (see blog on giving good feedback), it can be like a punch in the stomach, knocking the wind out of us. In some cases it can cause us to lose sleep at night. It can even make us question if we are working in the right organization. But good honest feedback is one of the most valuable tools for you and your organization.
As a matter of fact, a 2010 study by the Corporate Executive Board, as cited in a recent article from the New Talent Times, found that companies which encouraged honest feedback among their staff, and that were rated highly in the area of open communication, delivered a 10-year total shareholder return that was 270 percent more than other companies—7.9 percent compared to 2.1 percent.
As a musician I have a lot of experience both giving and receiving feedback (it is a constant in that world) but my whole perspective was changed a few years ago by an experience I’d like to share with you.
Recently I did a survey that asked people what one of their most common issues was when it comes to workplace collaboration. You’re probably not surprised to learn that one of the most common issues was that many people feel like they’re working in a silo. They feel disconnected from other departments or from the company’s overall direction. There is a lot of flow going up and down but none through and across.
It’s not surprising that working in silos is such a common problem. Often silos are built out of necessity, to group things together as organizations get larger, and it’s easy for the flow between departments to disintegrate.
I'd like to tell you about an experience I had during the early stages of my career as an orchestral musician and how I first learned about breaking through silos.