Have you ever watched a nature documentary on birds of paradise and their mating rituals? Every time I sit in a meeting people start to look like birds of paradise. There are expected intricate behaviours unique to each environment and each individual. I have always found the pleasantries and rituals of business culture odd. It is like learning a second language of buzzwords, behaviours and pecking orders. But it works and gets people doing jobs in an organised way.
Have you ever felt that it gets in the way sometimes?
Indulge me in a personal story here from my days as a composer. I studied composition with orchestral musicians so getting them to try new things with their instruments took a lot of persuasion. Many ego’s were patted and a lot of support was provided. It took time. I was shortlisted for a prize in the Netherlands (seen by many as the hub of leading contemporary music) and got to work with a great quartet. They were rising stars in contemporary performance. I went along to a rehearsal.
It felt like I had walked into a family domestic, cursing accusations were flying. At first I thought this was extremely unprofessional. So I sat quietly at the rehearsal. The four players spoke their mind openly to each other venomously exclaiming when someone played wrong. Then it hit me.
There was no room for error.
All four players knew each other’s part intimately and how they should work together. On top of that any mistake was dealt with immediately. There was no fudging of notes. They repeated each section until they could play through the entire work. Then the magic happened. They refined each section arguing how it relates to the intention of the music. These four players had achieved more in an hour than most players achieve in a week.
I’ve never worked with anyone quite like it again, in music or in business. In fact I think business worries more about being “professional”. It’s engrained right down to email signatures and sentence structure, our words are expected to dance in a certain way.
At the end of the day those four players were all working towards a great performance. They had achieved a singularity of vision and the most effective communication I have ever seen. Relate that to how your teams work together and see if they are as productive. Would some honesty helps things move quicker? Take away the pomp and circumstance and leave them with the goal. Just the goal. They will discover the best fit communication for them.
And if the air turns blue you know people are passionate about it. They are also comfortable enough with their colleagues to stray from the polite. Everyone is searching for high performance teams. Maybe if we stop thinking about what they need to perform and think about what is stopping them from performing we will all get along better.