Reinventing the workplace through music!

April-May is a great time here in the Twin Cities area. Of course, it’s spring time with the nature playing with its palette after the long amazing winters. But not just that. It’s at this time of the year that almost all the professional development organizations here, like the Minnesota OD Network (MNODN), Twin Cities HR Association (TCHRA), Minnesota Recruiters (MNREC), Performance Excellence Network (PEN), Leading Edge HR network (LEHRN) etc. have their annual special events and conferences .Needless to say, it’s one of the best times for great learning, listening to speakers and thoughts from different parts of the world and expanding your network. Attending all of them is not always possible for me .But I did attend a few and would be attending a couple more this year. So I thought it would be a great idea to share a few of my learning from these events with you all.

MNODN had their final event of the 2015-2016 year on May 5th/6th this year and it was on “Orchestrating Excellence: Leadership Agility for Challenging Times” with Gary Muszynski, the founder and Chief Orchestrator of the Orchestrating Excellence (OE) Program. Most of you might have heard of them, but for those who haven’t, Orchestrating Excellence is a world class provider of team building and leadership development programs and tools in a very unique manner, leveraging the power of music. Yes, you heard it right, MUSIC! When I first read about them, I was also very curious on how Gary and team actually do this, that too at such a level of perfection and wide acceptance with a huge client list including the likes of Bank of America, JPMC, GSK, Cisco, World Bank and many more. ‘Reinventing the workplace through music’! Really, is that possible? That’s what I thought first.

So Team OE uses music as metaphor and as an experiential leaning tool for workplace leadership, collaboration and change management. The session at MNODN was focused on leadership and Gary drew amazing parallels between an organizational leader and an orchestrator. An orchestrator, as we all know ,get together a variety of musicians and instruments of different wavelengths and pitches and bring them to harmony, producing excellent music. As Gary puts it across, orchestration is the ability to audition& select right talent, set the stage & context and direct, harmonize & integrate across silos. Isn’t it the same any leader in an organization should do too? An orchestrator cannot focus only on the individual music produced. What is more important to him is the overall appeal of the entire orchestra which if not managed properly can result in utter dissonance. Yes, the systems thinking perspective! Similarly each musician in an orchestra not only has to focus on his part, but also on what his/her fellow musicians are playing to harmonize in the most beautiful way and it’s the duty of the orchestrator to facilitate this, not just by being a good manager, but a great leader too. If each musician decides to go ahead and play what he can do the best, rather than what is best for the orchestra, you can imagine how bad that music can turn out to be. Can we have a better comparison than this for an organizational teamwork?

Gary proposes a musical view of leadership to achieve agility during challenging times which is as below.

  1. Listen: A leader needs to have an excellent talent for listening. He talked about 3 levels of listening –Self, Social and Systems. A great leader should keenly listen and understand things at these 3 levels to understand the nuances and combine them to have a bigger picture while not undermining the subtleties. Listen at 3 levels to know when to follow the below steps, ie. to orchestrate, collaborate & improvise.
  2. Orchestrate: As already mentioned before it’s the ability to identify the right people, bring them on the same page, provide a common vision or goal and then bridge the gaps and connect the silos.
  3. Collaborate: A leader needs to be a social architect and co -create the community; the community of his/her team. Connect & convene the dots .Facilitate the individual interactions and coach them to perform better as a team.
  4. Improvise: To improvise implies that a leader should be ready to take risks and encourage the team to do the same. Playing the same tune again and again can affect the charm of the orchestra. Likewise innovation is very important to a team. A leader should delight & surprise his team.

Another important point which Gary mentioned and I found striking was to pace the workplace at the right rhythm for people to be engaged. If the workplace is very fast it can result in chaos and weariness on the employees and if it’s too slow, they may get bored. So having things done at the right speed is extremely important to keep up the momentum and the engagement levels.

At the end of the key note session on May 5th, Gary performed with a team of 2 musicians to show us a sample of what was going to be there on the full day workshop the following day (which unfortunately I had to miss). It was a marvelous experience to listen to them musically .And not just that ,in that short span of 10 min itself they could very well demonstrate conversations happening, conflicts arising, changes being introduced, negotiations going on between individuals, pausing and reorienting and finally all three of them harmonizing into a wonderful musical experience for the audience.

It was really an eye opening session for me .We all know about the innumerable magical qualities of music like curing chronic diseases, improving mental & physical fitness, enhancing brain development and concentration etc. But using it an organizational context was a totally new learning. Thanks to Gary and MNODN for bringing this opportunity for those of us in the Twin Cities.

You may find more details, videos and interesting anecdotes about Orchestrating Excellence on their website. Do it check it out when you get time, here is the link.


The Ardent HR


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