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Is your management Harmonic?

by | Feb 16, 2021 | Harmony, manage, The Fifth Dimension

Harmony is distinguished from Unison singing – everyone singing the exact same note together. When men and women sing together, even though they are singing the same note, they are often separated by an octave or more.  But choosing a Harmony requires intensely listening to each other, and you will often see the singers lean in, cover an ear, and then either read a note or more likely, trust their well-trained ear to pick up a note that blends together with the others.  As more singers are involved, you have to be careful to not only hit your note, but stay out of the way of the others… constantly juggling your own musical path with those around you…

Let me get a dissonant comment out about Harmony today while we are talking about management.  Many teams have no idea if they are singing Unison, Harmony, or discordant… but they sure understand a Solo.  It is typically a leader who stands in the front of a group and articulates a vision for where they want to go… with little or no regard to those that are actually needed for the path forward.  They expect that everyone will simply “get” their part and don’t need to actually be involved in any of the details of working out the plans, understanding the limitations, the lack of skills or whatever.  This time of year is full of these pronouncements…

Harmony is always centered on managing differing talents and strengths, and even the backstory of the Fifth Dimension makes that clear.  Lamonte McLemore was raised in St.Louis and then enlisted in the Navy where he became an Aerial photographer.  He also was a Baseball player who started with the Cardinals, migrating to a minor league team with the Dodgers which brought him to LA.  He started and managed his own graphics company, and became known for his pictures and was hired by Ebony, Jet, and Playboy, and even the Miss Black Beauty Pagent…

…where he met a young Marilyn McCoo who won the talent contest for her singing.  They started a group called the Hi-Fi’s that also included Harry Elston.  After some initial success, they were brought to Ray Charles, who took an interest, but by that point Harry wanted to go his own way and started the Friends of Distinction (Love or Let me be Lonely/Grazing in the Grass). Lamonte remembered another talent winner, Florence LaRue, and two other St. Louis High School friends Roland Townson and Billy Davis, and they put together The Versailles….

… changing their name to The Fifth Dimension, they created a new type of music – “Champagne Soul” – for the smooth vocal Harmonies and complex backing tracks.  They had a decent hit with yesterday’s track, which managed to get them today’s tune written by Jimmy Webb, an up-and-coming writer you may know for other hits like Galveston.  This particular song is one for the entire decade.  It won 5 Grammys including Record and Song of the Year, along with Best Performances for Pop and Contemporary.  Ironically most of it is sung in Unison other than “…Fly” and the ending 😉

So how can you manage to get that type of production from your team?  As you read the stories behind each of the players involved with the Fifth Dimension, all were talented in their own spaces, and had great potential.  What Lamonte and the team you will meet tomorrow did was find ways to blend that together that built on strengths.  And it meant they didn’t fall into the trap of so many management “slogans” that are flat-out wrong.

One, in particular, that is key in Harmony – “Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself”.  Ok – ask a Bass singer to hit the high harmony?  I can tell you personally that is highly unlikely, so I have to ask someone else to do that.  Managers who trap their team into only doing what they can do miss the most important part of Harmony.  Together, there are things that all of us do BETTER when we are all doing different things.  Singing shows me that every time. When I am singing, I am always listening to the voices around me, and find a great alto, soprano or real bass challenges me to bring my best baritone out…

….I have loved singing Harmony for many years – as Garrison Keillor mentioned – Methodists invented it because they couldn’t stand to stick out and solo 😉  Like Lamonte, get in there and figure out what your team can ACTUALLY do, and where they actually need training, skills, additional team members, or maybe just some encouragement.  With that, you manage to construct not just Harmonies, but actual tunes that will achieve the results that everyone talks about this time of year… with the pretty charts and graphs that go up and to the right… or as this amazing record says, Up, Up and Away!

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