Are your team members aligned with the company vision or does it seem as if everyone on the team is working towards different goals?
Do you experience stable, long-term professional relationships with your employees? Or are you experiencing high rates of churn and staff turnover?
Do you believe your strategy is understood and implemented across all departments? Or is there poor communication between different areas of the leadership team?
Interpersonal skills in the workplace take time to develop. While the challenge of teamwork is no easy obstacle, there are tools and techniques for improving team communication, workplace collaborations, and implementing effective, company-wide strategies for growth. At Illustrious, some of the tools we reach for most are visual maps and metaphors.
I recently consulted with a client where I drew several pictures of musical instruments on the wall – a microphone, guitar, drum set, bass guitar, keyboard, saxophone, and turntable.
I asked the group, “What instrument in the band are you playing?” and asked them to stand next to it.
What followed was a rich conversation about what those instruments represent, how those players have an impact on the business, and how this framework can improve your collaboration in the workplace.
The Microphone - Most people think of the lead singer as someone who wants to be in the spotlight. You like to hear yourself talk, and you love being on stage. You are a gifted storyteller and we can find you holding court in any sales pen, boardroom, or pitch session. Singers lead with their voices, not their hands. When their voice gets amplified, people respond.
Lead/Electric Guitar - You may not use your voice to lead, but you make this instrument (and all of the tools around you) sing. People may refer to you as a “whiz” or a “rock star.” When the tools of the business are in your hand, you are like Eddie Van Halen – wailing away, getting amazing results, and driving the audience (your clients) to their feet. You also take care of this instrument, making sure your data is clean, and that your tools and dashboards are finely tuned.
Keyboard - If you take the more classical, grand piano approach, the keyboard player can be seen as the organization's advocate for traditionalism and conservatism. You may study the Old Masters like Bach, Beethoven, Drucker, or Covey. Or you may resonate with the modern synthesizer and its ability to emulate and modulate new sounds. The synthesizer can mimic a piano, trumpet, or violin. It can also sample existing sounds or create soothing white noise – providing a sense of psychological safety for the business culture.
Bass Guitar - The low end, the big bottom, the vibrant pulse of the rhythm section. The bass guitar doesn’t play chords, it primarily plays one big, round, root note. It’s this note (not the sounds created by the guitar, keyboard, or drums) that the singer is listening for so that they can lock in and know they're singing in pitch. You might seem like the silent type or as if you’re operating in the background, but you can also be the “person behind the person” - a trusted expert or advisor.
Saxophone - Frank Zappa once said, “On a sax, you can play sleaze, on a bass you can play balls. But on a guitar, you can be truly obscene.” From the orchestra chair to the busker on the street corner, the saxophone works as a solo instrument because it’s gritty and compelling. You keep it real – it’s the only way you know how to do things. You connect with an audience and (from Talent Acquisition to Marketing) can draw people in with your passionate energy. And, if you don’t think Kenny G is sleazy, you should probably re-listen to Kenny G.
Drums - If the bass is the pulse, think of the drums as the heartbeat – providing the stability, framework, meter, rhythm, routine, and cadence for the group to follow. From meeting flow to finance, you may be someone who’s into consistency, systems, or operations. Music is a series of numbers that repeat and you have those numbers so deeply ingrained in your head that you’ve become unconsciously competent.
Turntable - If you are looking around at all of the instruments and can’t decide on just one, or if you are thinking that all of these instruments are a thing of the past, it may be that you are a remix artist. The turntables, mixer, and sampler are for those who need to take something old and make it new. Like turning two vinyl records into an incendiary mashup, you may take old ways of thinking (see Drucker and Covey) and bring them into the modern age. You may long to chop up that old VHS training video and repurpose it for TikTok or YouTube. You are usually the innovator, dragging the business kicking and screaming into the future.
In case you missed it, being in a band (and a business) requires lots of listening, responding, and effective team communication in every direction.
Everybody's listening to the drummer to keep up with the tempo. The lead singer is listening to the bass player to stay on pitch. The bass player is listening to the drummer to create groove (a swinging energy) and pocket (room for other players to contribute). The guitar player is listening to the keyboard player to make sure they haven’t fallen out of tune.
Communication at work is a journey, not a destination. It’s a circuitous relationship that requires both active and reflective listening from moment to moment.
Learn more by downloading the first three chapters of my Visionary Leadership book here:
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.