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Tuning in: Key insights from our Listen and Lunch 

We’re delighted to see that the second event in our Power of Listening series seemed to hit all the right notes for our lunchtime crowd at SEI last Wednesday, where we combined musical demonstrations and expert insights to reframe conversations around creativity, communication, and community building. We have captured some of the most resonating ideas in the hope you too can put them into practice.

Being the ‘conductor’ of your team

Conductor Caitlin Downie taught us that leadership requires a clear vision for your team, and an awareness of how you communicate it. A conductor – through gesture, body language and expression – models what the choir should be doing as they do it – getting louder, enunciating more, steadying the tempo, etc. Are you modelling behaviour for your team? Have you made sure this is visible to them? Sometimes, the leader can change tempo just to check the team is paying attention.

The second role of a conductor is nurturing trust among and with the choir. This is a two-way street. As much as the choir rely on the conductor for direction, the conductor relies on them to come in and sing the first note. The confidence of the choir to do so is built largely in the atmosphere the conductor creates in rehearsals – the praise and encouragement. In a similar way, leaders have to trust their teams, but must first empower them to act independently and create some level of psychological safety such that they can aim for success without being distracted by fear of failure.

Think like a musician and collaborate

Most musicians don’t make music for themselves. All the hours of practice and evenings when they could have been doing something else, are geared towards coming together with other musicians, or in front of an audience. Musicians – like many people in your teams – thrive on feedback and connection. If you can create a beat, you have an easy way to connect people in a room: clap out a rhythm and have everyone repeat it back to you. Increase the complexity, add in some metaphorical stomping. The joint effect of everyone keeping time boosts not only connection to your neighbours, but also the energy and attention of the room. It’s a similar ‘hack’ to one our coaches use in team development workshops.

Jazz flautist Lincoln Abbots put forward a strong case that creativity is not something you have or not, but something you do – and everyone from manager to CEO can do it. Creating time to think, applying your expertise to a new environment, or changing up your meeting structure are all examples of creativity.

Panning out into the community

Finally, Musical Director of Endurance Orchestra Marlon Hibbert spoke on how he builds community in his steel pan ensembles. As we touched on earlier, people react positively to being a part of something. Highly performing teams have these characteristics in common: members have power to make their own decisions, they are made to feel safe when learning, the expectation is moving forward rather than perfection, and they buy into the overarching team goal. One way of doing this is through encouraging leaders to showcase vulnerability and share their story, whatever this may be.

The event was a fantastic showcase of the different approaches to these topics, and of the personal context brought by Caroline, Ed Johnson of Pushfar and Tessa Marchington of Music in Offices from their separate businesses. Caroline set the scene with musical taste as a metaphor for accepting different communication styles, and holding silence – the rests between the notes – equally as important as speaking in good conversations. 

A final bonus was discovering the secret musical lives of some of our colleagues on faculty, our coachees, and old friends in attendance. Many are committed members of choirs, dabble in orchestras or are frequent concert companions of the above. We were so pleased to build this extra level of connection in our relationships and see the excitement and engagement which talking about music brings out in people.

Huge thanks to everyone who brought their curiosity on Wednesday, and a big hand, please, to our talented musicians for leading the way: Caitlin Downie; Marlon Hibbert; Kishan Shorter; Lincoln Abbots; Tom Hewins and Rob Farrer.  Do look into the exciting things they are getting up to across the City and further afield!

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