Co-Founder, Teams of Distinction
The NY Philharmonic is known to be one of the best classical music groups. They have always attracted great talent (Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta). They are a great team. To be in this team you have to be the best of the best. I had the pleasure to sit in on the open dress rehearsal of NY Philharmonic solo debut of Frank Huang, the new concertmaster (i.e. the first violinist). It was a moving musical experience. More than that, it was a peek into how a top leader of a top team operates. And it was an amazing lesson in how great individuals can become even greater, through small acts of leadership.
Listening to them play the first section of the first piece, I was deeply moved. It was a beautiful piece (The Last Spring by Grieg), played exquisitely. However, I was greatly surprised at what happened at the end of the section.
To me, the piece sounded as perfect as I could imagine. Yet, when they finished, being a rehearsal, Mr. Huang pointed out small areas to his colleagues which he thought could be even better. Small bow movements, timing, emphasis. Moments you and I couldn't hear or see, but he did. As they went back to replay small parts, each time they were measurably better. You could hear the difference. You could hear them playing tighter, more in sync.
Mr. Huang was still pointing out small things to make these great players even greater.
This is what great leaders do. For example, leaders at Facebook encourage small, but constant updates to Facebook.com – making small updates several times a day, every day behind the scenes without people seeing or knowing (which by the way is mind boggling to many in the technology space). They are making something already a leading product in the market even greater with small tweaks.
The CEO of a leading chemical company pushing his team to talk a little more during the week so they can learn a little more about each other's area to get even more ahead of the marketplace.
The CEO of a high tech security firm pushing her team to be even more proactive and empowering to create even better products faster.
The CEO of manufacturing division pushing his team to top last year’s results, which were the best results ever, by working slightly differently. This is what great leaders do. They find small things that you and I don’t see and they push the team to go just a little more. As a result innovation, collaboration, and profits grow.
Just as Mr. Huang pointed out how to improve the team in small ways, there were 2 moments when he noticed he messed up. Messed up in his mind at least. To our ears it sounded fine. One of these times he laughed out loud in the middle of a measure and everyone stopped. He had apparently hit a wrong note. He then started once, twice, and three times until he got it perfectly right. He did it with humor each time.
He was exhibiting how great leaders are not immune to the need to make small improvements of their behavior.
To be a great leader in business, you must apply the same approach of small improvements to yourself. I have seen a leader who recognized that their slight nervous laugh while delivering bad news was making people angry. He changed it, and the team morale and performance was elevated. I have seen a leader realize they were cutting off their team in excitement of their ideas, which when changed, allowed deeper conversations to emerge. Small change, big impact.
Towards the end of the rehearsal there was a most impressive visual display that this great team had reached an even greater level of performance. They were playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons. As they played, they violin section was swaying in sync. Left to right and right to left. They had become in sync. They were acting as one.
Is it Mr. Huang, the musician, who made this great team greater? Yes and no. Yes, he led the effort. Yes, he played beautiful solos. But it was more his attitude.
Great leaders like him are open to find the small areas to improve. They might not be noticeable to most, but when the leader is open, he looks and finds seemingly insignificant things, making their great team even greater.
What is one small thing you can improve to become even better in your job? As a leader? In your pursuit of athletics?
To learn what tweaks you can make to make your great team greater, take this team quiz: http://teamsofdistinction.com/assess-your-team/
Co-Founder, Teams of Distinction
Princeton, NJ 08542
office: 609.333.0653 cell: 845-323-9006
Does your team have swing? http://www.teamsofdistinction.com