Well, hello there. Fancy seeing you here.
Day 4! Day late again, but fuck it. Symphony Let’s make it happen!
I had an amazing interaction with my team from my “9-to-5” yesterday. Technically, I’m on PTO (paid time off), but the school year is quickly approaching and our individual time-off plans overlapped such that we wouldn’t all be able to get together until just before the school year. That just wasn’t acceptable to me, so we all coordinated to find a time. A train ride and a short walk later, I met up with them at a dive bar / taqueria. I pick the best meeting places.
One significant challenge for this meeting: I am transitioning from point-person / leader / vision-keeper to consultant / coach. In short, I was previously the conductor of our baby symphony. Now… I don’t know what I am. So, I do what I’ve come to do in these situation: be brutally forward, honest, and open.
“Guys, as we move forward, you might get some mixed messages from me. I’m mediating my own reactions as they come up. I’m going to do my best to be plain and clear — ‘Such-and such is an area in which I am flexible’ or ‘This is non-negotiable.’ Though, frankly, upon consideration, non-negotiables might become flexible, too… We’re just going to have to figure this out together.”
That is a terrible paraphrase of a longer monologue interspersed with questions from the team, but you get the gist. What followed was a fantastic example of why being vulnerable as a leader is valuable, and how prioritizing openness and frankness in communication pays dividends. It has taken time to smooth out the rough edges, get in sync, and there are still dissonant notes, to be sure. This conversation had a few hiccups — but we were all present for it. And, frankly, dissonant notes in a melody yield some of the biggest payoffs in a piece of music. There is one particular member of my team who does not shy away from conflict, effectively making us the melody and counterpoint that weave through any piece we all make together. And as the individuals on the team have grown, so too has there presence in any particular piece. Yesterday’s conversation marked the most involvement and presence of each member of the group out of any past interaction we had had.
What was incredibly powerful for me was how our meeting concluded. Let’s call me a guitar, cuz why not. Let’s call him a piano. Let’s say I was the melody, and he the countermelody, and the others were harmonies. As the piece built to its climax, suddenly the piano took the lead, and the guitar faded into the background. I had very little to say as he took charge of the conversation and elucidated our next steps. I was so proud, my heart was singing along… I might have vocalized a few “YES!”s and “Exactly!”s, too…
I realized that, moving forward, we were more likely to find ourselves in jam sessions, collaborating and responding to each other on the fly, making some beautiful music, rather than in the past where I attempted (sometimes utterly failingly) to orchestrate all the parts. I’m sure in the very near future, I’ll just be the tambourine — keeping time and adding some flavor — until I’m just the guy on the side, humming and clapping. I think that’s going to be a beautiful, wonderful, happy, exciting moment.
Consider, in every group with which you interact, in every conversation in which you take part —
- What do you value? No, what do you REALLY value? And, is what you value contributing to the consonance or dissonance of the piece? (Remember, every piece needs both!)
- What are you prioritizing? Are those priorities moving the piece forward? (This one works for LIFE, too!)
- How prepared are you to play melody? countermelody? harmony? rhythm? percussion? How do those parts play to your strengths? develop your weaknesses?
- How much are you willing to RISK?!
I am very excited about this next phase of my life. I have learned SO MUCH from these wonderful “musicians” about what parts I am prepared to play.
Go make some startlingly sonorous music! Or don’t… Sometimes it’s nice to be chill. 🙂