When the managers of a car assembly plant of 2400 people tell you that they just saw their leadership model in action, that’s when you know you are on to something…
Classical music is no longer for arty-farty people. It can be the backbone of some serious management discussions. This time we had the honor to be eavesdropping on the very first Beethoven’s Pathetique rehearsal of the prestigious I Solisti del Vento ensemble, together with their experienced coach Etienne Siebens.
Have a look at the below video and – apart from enjoying the music – have a look at the exchange of communication cues and the resonance among the musicians.
It was striking how this ensemble demonstrated the difference between true communication and non-communication. Their coach explained it as follows:
Good communication is like breathing together. If you look close enough you will see that these musicians are constantly looking at each other for cues and resonance. This is how they communicate.
But the most important part of their communication is the ‘why’ part. The musicians communicate well because they have a shared purpose, which is to bring the most authentic and perfect interpretation of Beethoven’s Pathetique. The managers of the car assembly plant could easily relate to that: we communicate in order to build the perfect car. Seems like having a higher purpose helps to improve communication. Francis Pollet, the leader of the ensemble explained it by stating:
We are all soloists, and yet we are capable of listening to each other because we are being in service of something bigger: the great master Beethoven. But we could not have done so without growing into that attitude.
Rehearsing is Growing
‘Communication’ and ‘Community’ have a lot in ‘Common’. Got it? Rehearsing is about being there, being present and being involved in the discussions about the interpretation. As a result the musicians resonate with one another. Unfortunately, 1+1 does not make a top-performance. Instead, you need 1+1+blood+sweat+tears+time together.
Pollet continued by explaining that the rehearsals are more important than the performance. Rehearsals are moments of truth. As they are a project based ensemble, the rehearsals are restricted to an initial budget and time is precious. Therefore it is important for each musician to be present and to live every minute of every rehearsal.
Trading Places Improves Resonance
One of the practices that Etienne Siebens often uses as a coach is to scramble the physical position of the musicians. We experienced one of those scrambles where musicians had to trade places. Next, they had to play the exact same piece as they did before the scramble. The result was astonishing and the difference could be heard and felt by all people in the room – including the non-musicians like myself.
Siebens explained that this is a technique he often uses in order to improve the most important part of communication: the listening part. Time for us to wonder what a scramble would look like in our environment – whenever we sense that there is something wrong with the communication. Instead of pointing fingers, we could trade places and play the scores one more time. I’m pretty sure that would make sense and improve the resonance.
Finally, some wisdom and observations from the shop floor. For some managers of the car plant it was surprising to see that musicians clean their own instruments on moments they were idle. Cleaning the saliva, blowing some air, etc. To the musicians this seemed fairly logic. It’s their instrument after all! However, when we compare that to a production worker on an assembly line, there is no logical link anymore. We’d rather call maintenance for stuff we could be taking care of during idle time. Duh!
The Hunt for Leadership
The most puzzling part came when the managers had to debrief about the leadership they had observed. There was no way that they could pinpoint the ‘one and only’ leader of the ensemble. Was it the lead-player? Was it the coach? Was it an opinion leader among the musicians? There was no uniform answer.
The leadership and the decision-making was constantly switching thanks to direct communication and listening. This is the most amazing thing about observing this ensemble: you can almost see and hear communication and leadership as it happens – but you can’t attribute it to a single person or a single level. Is it an attitude? Or rather a process? Difficult to tell – but it did happen right there in front of us. That’s why Bizzarts is experience based learning.
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