One of the really special things about the holiday season in my town is the concert put on each year by the high school music department. They held the 75th annual one over the weekend and it was great. It also offered us an instructive business point as well.
The school’s band, orchestra, chorale, and choir all perform. While I never played in the orchestra, I did play in my school’s band (saxophone, thanks for asking) and I sang in the choir. When I go to concerts of this sort, I always listen for the one thing my conductors used to emphasize: the blend. If you’ve ever gone to a school concert, inevitably you hear the voice or playing of a really talented kid above all the others. That’s exactly what you don’t want to hear, because it has the effect of distorting the overall sound. Really wonderful musical groups sing and play as one instrument. Every component of that instrument is in sync – on exactly the same beat with exactly the same dynamics. It’s the conductor‘s responsibility to make that happen. I recall how when our musical groups were doing extremely well in rehearsal, the conductor would often walk to the back of the auditorium and listen. We were all working together so well that we really didn’t need to be lead.
Like that conductor, a great manager needs to be able to make the blend happen. We need to let individuals sing their parts loudly, but we have to blend all of those parts together in a single, overarching product that’s our brand presented as one. Without the blend, it’s just a cacophony. It’s not just within your own unit either. The blending across departments is critical today more than ever. As an example, think about how marketing and tech have become so totally intertwined. The Chief Marketing Officer must blend with the Chief Technical Officer in a seamless duet or the organization is absolutely not going to sound right.
The next time you hear some live music, listen for the blend and think of your company. Are you putting out a unified sound that’s greater than the sum of its parts, or does the world hear a lot of strong pieces that are disjointed and not pleasing to the ear?