Have you ever watched your favorite musical group perform? They look at each other, nod, gesture, smile—and sometimes speak! They’re intentionally connecting and communicating about the music they are creating together. This is called ensemble and the word literally means “together”. What a valuable skill, and one that is also present in all successful workplaces. Whether you’re in retail, manufacturing, professional service or non-profit organizations, working together well in ensemble means enjoying operations that work. What are some components of ensemble?
Operations that Work: Humility
First, humility. When your idea or way of doing things is accepted in the group, and the project goes well—remember to give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge the members of the group and their contributions. Don’t take all the credit yourself. In fact, stepping back and allowing others to shine is the ultimate way you can contribute to the rise of the group or company to higher levels of accomplishment. This is also about not always thinking your way is best or that you have the best or right answer. Your viewpoint is valuable, but it’s not the only one. Be willing to listen and take a back seat while someone else suggests a plan of action or a new idea. Quick quiz: in the music world, which genre of music exquisitely showcases this ensemble attribute? Answer: Jazz.
Operations that Work: Teamwork
Next, let’s hear it for Teamwork! To be on a team doesn’t automatically mean you’re working together well. In fact, it actually takes effort to become a real team. Business and team expert Patrick Lencioni says, “All leaders espouse a belief in teamwork, but few actually achieve it because they either don’t understand or underestimate the work that teamwork requires…Rather than agree half-heartedly to a team-building effort, let’s accept the sacrifice and labor that goes into achieving real teamwork.” What kind of work does this take? A leader who models vulnerable behavior and builds trust with colleagues. Colleagues who share candid dialog. Proceeding at a consistent pace, working outside of comfort zones, and keeping the end result in view so that motivation remains intact. Getting back to our music analogy, it’s like the weeks it may take for a symphony orchestra (team of 90-100 musicians) to work cooperatively together with the conductor in rehearsals to produce a final concert. A team working well together is ensemble at its finest.
Operations that Work: Getting it Right
To set yourself and your work environment on the right track for operations that work with great ensemble, answer the following questions and follow up with actions to support your answers.
- Do I think of myself as part of a group who works in ensemble to produce results? If not, why? How is my work connected to the work of others in my company or organization? (This question is equally valid for high level leaders through front line workers.) In answering these questions, you will determine your current status as a participant in true ensemble work. If you cannot yet see how your work fits with others’ work to accomplish overarching goals, then you need to have a conversation with colleagues to find out how you fit. This initial reality check is the first step in identifying opportunities for improvement in ensemble for operations that work.
- Am I leading others to create operations that work? As a leader, address humility and teamwork with your direct reports. In the course of regularly scheduled meetings, dialog about these characteristics of good ensemble and why employing them helps create operations that work. Then, decide together how you may implement aspects of ensemble to improve the working environment and success of the company or organization.
About the Author
Dr. Renée N. Hale is Lead Consultant at WellSpirit Consulting Group, Inc. WellSpirit Management Consulting provides custom company/organizational management solutions, individual leadership coaching and stand alone workshops. Located on the 84th floor of the Willis Tower, Chicago. Call (312) 283-8020 to schedule an appointment today. To join the Business Worth Living community, use the sign-up form on this page to receive our weekly Business Worth Living newsletter.