by Paula on September 14, 2012

Last night I attended an informal networking gathering hosted by Ovation Finance at which the speaker was Conductor & Composer, William Goodchild. William had been asked to talk for 15 minutes on one of his passions and chose to focus on conducting an orchestra.

At the beginning of his talk he pointed out that there are parallels that can be drawn between the set up of an orchestra and many businesses. There are pools of people (teams) with different instruments (skills) brought together by section leaders (team leaders / managers) and kept focused together on the overall outcome by the Conductor (Leader).

There are those groups of musicians who hold the rhythm and set the pace (manfacturers / service providers) and there are those who provide the melody that people buy into and remember (designers) and there are those the percussionists with their attention-grabbing instruments (sales / marketing).

The bit that really got me thinking though was when he said, “The leaders change and evolve according to the needs of the piece of music.” 

In business the managers and leaders are often very set in stone. They know their place, the people around them know their place and there are certain expectations of them that they must meet.

Set in Stone

I think back to a previous place of work. There was a clearly defined hierarchy and related responsibilities set in stone. When you moved up the ladder a new pre-written set of paragraphs were added to your contract to define the new additions to your role. These applied whatever your personality or skill-set, just because you were now “a manager”. Some people found the new tasks impossible and were constantly reprimanded and pushed to achieve, and some thrived on them.

How much nicer if the responsibilities were more loose and flowing and were assigned to the person most suited to achieve them and could move with the demands of different projects or business needs.

Project Roll-Out

I also have been working this week on a project where there is a big roll-out of software across a large number of teams. There is a certain “pay grade” of person who is responsible for managing the software needs on each site. In some sites the person has loved it, used it fully and is clamouring to use it more. In other sites the equivalent person is fighting it’s arrival and wants to stay using manual methods.

How lovely if the responsibility was not forced on one team member but instead given to the team to find the person most naturally able to take the lead with it depending on the needs of the specific project.

In our work places are we too rigid with our expectations, too quick to push the same demands on completely different people just because their job title says so?

Are we inflexible to the ability for people to take the lead at different times when their skill set and enthusiasm matches our current needs?

Are you struggling to get certain people to do things that others find easy? Is there a more flexible way you can look at things, relinquishing the “it must be done like this” and finding a way to let the leadership ebb and flow just as in an orchestra the musical needs dictate?



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