How to treat your team like a group of talented artists

Leading by example and inspiring others means embodying your company’s vision and its underlying values. Gerald Leonard, author of Workplace Jazz, offers five ways to treat your team like a group of talented artists

Donald Robinson, a Grammy-nominated producer, composer and pianist who worked with Grover Washington Junior – a hugely popular saxophonist often credited as a founder of the smooth jazz genre who collaborated with Bill Withers on Just the Two of Us – called it the ‘burning bus tour’.

Grover’s band was near Denver on its way to the Aspen Jazz Festival. The tour bus was going up and down the mountains. Then one of the brakes started smoking. The band members were sleeping in back while the bus pulled over and the driver ran outside. The band started to stir, hearing the driver hustling around looking for a fire extinguisher. The driver sprayed the tires but they caught on fire. The band, now fully awake, scrambled off the bus.

Turning a bad situation into a good one

It burned down in 10 minutes, just as the sun was rising. By the time the fire department got there, the bus was pretty much gone. Later, some vans arrived to take the band to a retirement home where they waited for transportation to Aspen.

At the retirement home, Grover pulled out his horn and started playing. Then Donald started on an upright piano while the older people were getting up, dancing, and having fun. Grover’s band turned a bad situation into a really good one. The retirement home loved it, and the band loved it.

Leading by example

Finally, the band arrives in Aspen where the air is thin, you have to really control your breathing. Walk a block leaves you winded. Due to the altitude, the concert venue has oxygen tanks on the side of the stage. When you get a little dizzy, you go put the oxygen on, then go back out.

Grover was playing hard, with passion and joy. He’d play, run to the side and grab the oxygen tank, then come back out and play some more. Then more tank. Even though it was difficult, he just kept playing. His stamina and drive was infectious. It kept the whole band energised.

Like Grover, the head of an organisation must lead by example — not only in their vision, but also by demonstrating that vision in action and the underlying values that support the vision.

Five ways to inspire your team

Do you want to inspire your team in the same way that Grover inspired his band? If so, how can you treat your team like a group of talented artists?

1. Provide expert guidance: expert guidance is required when your team seeks growth. They want to be led by someone who has real-world experience as well as strategic and innovative ideas that they have gained from continuous study and working on their craft. Think of going on a safari. Who would you rather have: someone who gives you a brochure or someone who has been there and can show you all the risks, issues and dangers to look out for as well as the beautiful scenery to observe?

2. Share your background and experience with your team: world-class athletes and musicians continuously seek advice from coaches who have a well-rounded background. They find someone who has a lot of coaching experience and who has already worked through and corrected many of the challenges they are facing.

3. Listen, collaborate, and communicate to connect and increase trust: when you are working with an experienced coach, you have someone to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of.  Take advantage of having someone who can help you obtain a different perspective because of their experience and knowledge, which in turn gives you a competitive advantage.

4. Set an example that accelerates the change and performance you want to see: reap the benefits of focusing on things that will make the most significant impact on the change that you are seeking.  By picking a few things to work on you can accelerate the time it takes to achieve your goals.

5. Demonstrate your desire to increase your team’s capacity and capabilities: coaching increases the capacity of the person being coached. It helps them accomplish more and improves their ability to get more done in less time. By having a dedicated professional coach or engaging in peer-to-peer coaching, your team will be able to accomplish more, compared to a team that is not being engaged this way by their manager or leader.

Gerald Leonard is a professional bassist and the CEO at Principles of Execution, (dba Turnberry Premiere) a consulting practice with 20+ years’ experience and past and present clients that include Verizon, Medicare, and Hewlett-Packard (HP). He is the author of Workplace Jazz: How to Improvise and Culture Is The Bass: 7 Steps To Creating High-Performing Teams.

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