Ode to the Maestro

As a cellist and owner of an MBA in Leadership, this marquee message, located on the side of the highway between Island Lake and Wauconda, IL, speaks directly to me.

A person who leads the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.

The leader of the orchestra – the conductor, the maestro – has a focus on the musicians in front of him. Although the music is made for the crowd, the conductor does quite literally have his back to them, except for the walking in and out part and perhaps a short greeting before the performance.

The musicians face the crowd and each have a role in the whole of the beautiful sounds that envelope the entire space. Orchestral playing – believe it or not – is highly intense and certainly causes me to sweat and catch my breath at times. A musician gives her whole self in public performace; it really seeps out of your soul and transitions to the instrument on which you have practiced and trained for this very moment.

An orchestra may consist of 60 – 70 musicians, and yet the star of any orchestra performance really is the conductor, the leader of the orchestra, who maintains his back to the crowd.

A leader isn’t an individual performer; he may not even know how to play all of the instruments that he conducts. But, it is the act of bringing all of these different instruments together, all operated by different people, all producing vastly differing sounds, to create a whole that makes sense and moreover reaches the human senses on a deeper level than usually expected from such peformances. (Shamelsss plug for the Harper Symphony Orchestra to follow.)

The best of maestros make it appear easy, like most experts do in their trade. They swing the baton around and everyone keeps time. It is such an amazing feeling to be a part of the group, to feel the music all around you, to be in cadence with everyone, the music literally flowing through your entire self. But the main rule is all eyes on the conductor. Abrupt changes in tempo or transitions between movements require a cue from the conductor. Things can quickly fall apart if the individual musicians don’t pay attention to the conductor, and the pressure is on the maestro to keep it all together, communicating to all in the orchestra what is next.

I appreciate the efforts of our local business to share this with our community. Profound thought belongs everywhere. Although I was unable to determine who owns this marquee sign, I hope to discover that and will post a link to their business when I figure it out.

Here we go – shameless plug –

I am a cellist in the Harper Symphony Orchestra in Palatine, IL, and invite you to like our Facebook page and jot down the dates for our upcomimg.2018 – 2019 season.

https://www.facebook.com/HarperSymphonyOrchestra

2018 – 2019 Season Concerts:

October 7, 2018

December 9, 2018

April 7, 2019

May 12, 2019 (Mother’s Day)

All concerts are on a Sunday and begin at 3 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Harper College in Palatine, IL. Hope to see you there!

Shout out to the Maestros who have been a part of my life – from Mark Bettcher back at Golfview Elementary and CMS who guided my transition from violin to cello, to Brian Groner here at Harper Symphony who gave me a chance after a 19-year hiatus ( I know that was a risk!), to my current Maestro and cello instructor, Tony Porter who continues to guide me in my growth and progression as a cellist. Guys – this blog post is for you!

Taking your time can actually increase productivity and reduce stress

Consider this non-scientific scenario:

A third grade girl has to get through 10 math problems correctly before going out to play. She is eager to play so rushes through the problems, getting all of them wrong. Now, instead of enjoying the victory of hard work, she must start again. Now, frustrated, crying, she breaks down, unable to focus at all. Time wasted, time lost, and she is still unable to successfully complete the task.

And that’s just homework.

This is all too true in the workplace as well with our own tasks from time to time. I won’t even ask for an invisible show of hands of how many people out there have unnecessarily rushed through a task just to “get it done”.

We stress ourselves out so well! Why do we do this to ourselves? In the case of my nine year old, she has better things in mind such as going outside to play or trying to catch up on her favorite shows. In the case of grownups, perhaps we just dread the task and want it over or maybe it’s the end of the day and you’ve just had it.

Whether you better relate to the exasperated nine year old or the self-rushed worker, we all have a story. The question is : why do we keep creating more stress for ourselves than we need to?

The go go! of the modern American lifestyle is exhausting. We constantly have a never ending to-do list and are often thinking about the next thing before we even complete the first. It does feel fantastic to check off that box, afterall.

My solution is simple – slow down! Now, I’m not advocating for soldiering in the workplace or becoming less than efficient or effective, but just to take time to do things right the first time.

My unscientific theory is that if we all slow down to understand things and get them as close to right the first time as possible, we save time and $$$ in the long run. This, in turn, helps the worker to better comprehend the task thus furthering toward expertise and therefore his or her own career. Bonus : Less stress!

So, pursue greatness everyday, strive to get your to-do list fully checked, but for your own sake, take a deep breath and take your time to do the job well and right the first time.

Now, if I can just convince my nine year old about this wisdom…

The Value of Perception

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day!

However you choose to state the sentiment, I hope you enjoyed a lovely holiday with your family.

This post is inspired by a conversation I had yesterday regarding the choice of words. Is the use of “Happy 4th of July” offensive to someone who chooses the “Independence Day” vocab? At first, I was quick to dismiss it as silly, but after some consideration, I supposed there could be a reason for offensiveness, though I am not at all in this situation.

It is possible that someone may be so patriotic and proud to be an American that saying the “4th of July” just downplays what the day really is.

In addition, I’ve seen some posts circulating stating the July 2 is the actual day. So, in a world where the date is in dispute, the “4th of July” may just be another day. In this scenario, “Independence Day” covers all bases.

So, although the difference is immaterial to me, I summarize that this discussion brought me to the conclusion that I’ll stick with “Independence Day”, to err on the side of caution.

There are lessons to be learned from this scenario:

  • Everyone has a unique perspective, their own way of seeing the world. Taking time to understand others’ viewpoints is critical in developing empathy for them.
  • Having a different perspective doesn’t (always) mean that someone is right and someone is wrong. Unless we’re talking about a crime, there can be two right parties in a conflict of views. Using the varying perspectives actually brings diversity of opinion into problem solving which can bring ideas to life that never before had a chance.
  • Don’t assume anything! Without inquiry, we never know what the purpose of another’s actions or words may be. This goes for managing others in a workplace as well as in your personal relationships. When we ask sincere questions to understand someone’s desired message rather than act with our own understanding or perception, we may just get it all wrong.

What are your thoughts on this situation?

The Rhetoric of Achievement

Sometimes, the smallest details can make a humongous difference.

Take, for example, a slight change of wording. Words carry not only meaning but substance and can define a situation based on the weight and temperament of the word in the perception of the readers.

Case in mind:

Instead of using the term “goal setting”, what if we used the word “dream planning”?

As important is the process of setting goals to achieve desired success, somehow it seems that the terminology is almost generic in a way. Goal setting and planning are such critical, lifeline processes in designing, running, and growing a small business – yet so many small business owner don’t have a concrete plan.

My idea is to revitalize the spirit in small business owners by bringing their consciousness back to what got them started in the first place: The DreamThe daily operations of the business often gets in the way of seeing the big picture of The Dream, as often the small business owner is a key producer of the organization, if not the sole producer. This is the central concept in my own small business, Laura The Project Gal – to help small business owners find, define, and achieve their dreams. 

I’d love your thoughts on the importance of rhetoric in goal setting. Am I making a big ado about nothing? Or could we dig into the spirit of entrepreneurs with a rhetorical concentration of words that touch the heart?

Please comment below – I’d love to get the conversation going.

Leadership 101 = Parenting 101

I’m a newbie in the world of leadership and parenting, and the correlations are just too strong to ignore.

 

Leadership largely as a study is an exploration of self. During formal study, you explore what it takes to be a leader and many determine, in fact, that they don’t really want to be in a leadership position. Much in the same manner as some friends in the past who determined that they may not aspire to parenthood after spending an afternoon at a friend’s little kid’s birthday party. So, what is it about leadership that so relates to parenthood?

 

First and foremost, being a good leader and a good parent is about the development of those around you, whether they are called your employees or your children. Being a parent is about guiding your child through the walks of life, even when it’s a matter of being the bad guy, aka the disciplinarian (my least favorite role in this position). Being a leader means guiding those around you to grow professionally under your wing. The adjective of “good” often stems from the “why”, which just so happens to be my three-year-olds favorite word at the moment.  Do you do it because you have to as a part of your role, or do you do it because you love to watch others develop and grow? I believe the root of our motivation correlates with our success. Whether it’s a matter of parenting or leadership, if you’re hearts not in it, it becomes quite obvious to others.

 

Another correlation of leadership and parenthood is the simplicity of success. Many times, we tend to overcomplicate things; at least I can speak for myself! Sometimes when everything hits the ceiling and my toddler is ranting and raving and tearing up the house, the solution is as simple as to turn off the television or perhaps to just put her in her bed. Moments like these hit me hard, especially in the wake of actually attempting to talk to her to calm her down or some other adult type of rationalization in the moment. Leadership is often similar. Leaders don’t necessarily have the singular role of motivating, leading, and developing their employees; they often have that dual role while upholding the business operations as well. So, life at work gets complicated. There are orders to be met, customers to keep happy, employees to manage, and bosses to answer to. Often, the simple reality of humanity underneath every function and operation of the business can be overlooked. That’s why I tell my management students probably 40 times in a semester class, “No matter how complicated your affairs may become, never forget that you are working with people, people who have lives outside of here and who have feelings dominating their beings and blood running through their veins.” I personally believe that much of what makes dissatisfied employees is that disconnect of humanity with management.

 

Finally, I’m not sure there is one right or one wrong way to be a parent or a leader, nor is there a textbook that will teach us what experience will. Different situations call for different styles in both situations. Nine months of pregnancy and endless books, blogs, websites, and chatting with other mothers could not have prepared me for what happened once my child was put into my arms. The moment dictates my actions. Sure, if I have a moment to ponder (rare), I can recall information about the situation that I had read in the past, but instincts kick in. The first look into those eyes and the promises start rolling – safety, happiness, vacations, strength, courage, manners, life’s lessons. I think a leader should take a similar approach with a new employee or team. The leader should promise to them what she brings to the table and what she hopes to help the team or individual create and become. In essence, this would be equivalent to the “Leader’s Charter”, a wonderful mission statement for any leadership position written by Art Petty and Rich Petro in Practical Lessons in Leadership. Start out simply knowing where you want to go, how you want to treat your people, take advice and lessons from life and books, and stay focused in the tough moments.

I have a little secret to confess: when I was a high school teacher, I used to secretly thank my students’ parents for the practice in becoming a parent. Human beings are sometimes tough to manage, especially in those difficult, hormonal years of self-exploration, and I got a crash course in teenagers! Again, the several adolescent psychology courses that I had to take certainly became a foundation of my knowledge but rarely could I ever recall a particular theory when in the moment of chaos in the classroom. Leading a classroom of teenagers or a team of adults or a child through the walks of life all have much in common, and I think the key to it all is to try to have an empathetic approach to everything. I say it and know in the same breath how challenging this can often be. But, the attempt to put yourself in another’s shoes itself, even if unsuccessful, proves the heart in you as a parent and a leader and the presence of the answer “because I care and want to help you” to the never-ending question of why.