How singing in a classical choir presents a compelling analogy for a good corporate culture.
I was in London earlier this summer, as the Copenhagen Chamber Choir Camerata won the prestigious London International A Capella Choir Competition. It was an amazing experience, and once again I am amazed by what can be achieved with this group.
The victory has also led me to reflect on how you can achieve something truly remarkable with a group of very different people. I believe much of the same could apply to a working environment. Sadly, that’s not always the case.
But if the recipe for our success could somehow be copied into a corporate culture, this is the place I’d like to work. So how did we do it?
- Know your material
An essential and obvious starting point: we all need to be able and willing to learn, acknowledge the need for practice, and correct ourselves when needed.
If you want to be a professional, you need to be extremely well-prepared, but also humble enough to admit it when you’re not.
- Listen to each other
A choir is like a living organism where you need to be completely in sync, even to the point of breathing together. Unless called for explicitly, you should not be able to hear any individual singer. Which is why you need to constantly tune in to your teammates in terms of volume, pitch, and sound. Fail to do this, and the result will be cacophony, not harmony.
The same should apply at work: even if you’re technically right, you need to walk in the same direction as your team, not just run off on your own.
- Follow the leader
A well-performing choir should be an instrument on which the conductor can play and express his/her art. When we all know our material and listen to each other as one, we have the energy and ability to follow the direction. And we need direction. Sure, we may challenge the details, and we often arrive there together, but in the end it is the conductor’s call: there is just one performance, not 25.
At work, we all have contributions as well as opinions. These are welcome, and most decisions should be robust enough to stand a challenge. We also need to respect our differences; individual personalities should not be left at home. But once the shit hits the fan, you get in line and perform at your best.
- Connect with your audience
Rehearsal is one thing; but at a performance your utmost objective is to create a space in which the audience may connect with the sublime. Acknowledging the people of your audience, as well as the surroundings and acoustics, is essential. The conductor plays an important part in gauging the mood of your audience, but everyone has a responsibility for making the music come alive and move beyond the edge of the stage.
Likewise, in order to deliver outstanding business results, I believe it is essential not only to have a sound strategy and skilled and aligned employees; you also need people motivated around a shared objective. You could call this a winning culture – but winning not over staid KPIs, but by giving your customers/users/etc. a truly memorable experience.
Can it happen?
In Camerata, most of us are amateurs, and the con amore effect should not be underrated. Still, I believe most people, like me, actually want to make a difference, also in their professional lives. It shouldn’t be that difficult then, should it?