Listening

How I learned to lead by being at the back of the band

How I learned to lead by being at the back of the band

When I was kid, I never aspired to be the leader. I was quite happy to not to be the kid who got to choose all the players for the pick-up soccer game at recess. 

I’m not sure why. Maybe I was shy, maybe it’s because I wore glasses that could have been props in Revenge of the Nerds, or I didn’t fit into my view of what I thought a leader should look like: muscular, square-jawed, cape, tights and a cool utility belt. 

I never liked sitting in the front row or raising my hand first for something. I always liked to assess the situation before diving in.  This strategy worked very well for me. Very well, that is, until I became a drummer. 

Once I started, I was addicted to how great it felt - the power, the physicality - but what I didn’t expect from drumming is what it would teach me about leadership.

Simple secrets that will help you smile more at work

Simple secrets that will help you smile more at work

Like many of you this time of year, I recently got back from a summer holiday. 

One of the constants for our family while on holiday is eating in restaurants. And aside from enjoying a great meal, I find restaurants to be a great place to see engagement and collaboration in action all built around the biggy – customer service. 

One night, a particular place stood out for me, not just because of the great food but because of the amazing service. 

The star of the night (other than the food) was our waiter.

Supremely confident, knowledgeable, and obviously unflappable. I couldn’t help but notice how happy he was. He was laughing, smiling and carrying on, having great interactions with every table. I had to know how he got through these nights and more importantly I had to know his secret to be being so happy at work.

5 ways to become a better listener

5 ways to become a better listener

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?”

5 ways to make someone feel like part of the team.

5 ways to make someone feel like part of the team.

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.    

When you have a colleague who always plays "more cowbell".

When you have a colleague who always plays "more cowbell".

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:

3 Ways to Brainstorm for Awesome Results

3 Ways to Brainstorm for Awesome Results

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

 

How to collaborate more effectively with others - My Business of Innovation Podcast Interview

How to collaborate more effectively with others - My Business of Innovation Podcast Interview

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

How to receive feedback like a Japanese shopkeeper

How to receive feedback like a Japanese shopkeeper

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. 

How to make your workplace silos more connected.

How to make your workplace silos more connected.

 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.