For as long as I can remember, I have been working – and not in a negative way. I love doing things, solving problems, creating things, particularly when they are complicated. As an executive I had to realize that making things EASY was actually WAY more important… and also, WAY more difficult. The way I would explain this to you in-person would be to draw a Venn diagram – which most of you won’t even remember from Geometry or Algebra. The idea is you have a circle, I have a circle. Where they overlap, we share… objectives, deliverables, targets, mission, etc. Easy with 2… but when organizations are large, the execution overlap becomes smaller and smaller… sometimes the Null Set…
… which can actually help organizations. Ironic that not executing can actually force Values to the forefront fastest. Declaring a breakdown – this will not work – the circles do not overlap – that will get management to really focus in a way that success rarely does. Saying them is one thing, but actually having Values that make execution happen better is another. What can bring those circles into alignment, and how do you as the leader help that happen, both with your team and with your peers?
Heavy Weather changed music. And the song that did it was today’s track. At the “top” of their skills, Zawinul penned something that allowed each player to do their own unique individual talent simultaneously while being in concert with everyone else. I chose a live track so you can actually see them doing it – opening with Jaco playing what is known as “artificial harmonics” – which I only barely understand. And Joe – surrounded by keyboards, playing all of them, while Wayne is riffing away to the thundering of the drums from Alex Acuna – who had barely joined.
The song is named for a club that was named after Charlie Parker, and hosted the monsters of jazz – Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie… and Joe said “… was the most important place in my life”. If you watched Ken Burns Jazz, the phrase he used was “A Masterpiece by Midnight”… EVERY night. This song was one of the few Jazz compositions to make the pop charts, and won a Grammy – for the Manhattan Transfer when lyrics were added, which I find insulting. It did win Jazz Album of the year, and this track was recorded by many artists.
As I rose into more senior roles, I realized that my love of solving problems needed to be tempered … into problems that could actually be executed with a large team that often was on different sheets of music. You would need to pull leaders together to understand what time signature they were playing at, and in what key… and then find a way to knit that together into some least common denominator that would actually serve well enough to only slightly disappoint everyone. I recognize that seems like a “minor key” but it is very common when you get senior people to really open up about what was possible… and what actually got executed.
I love this song, and this type of jazz frankly because it is the closest thing to what actually happens in my head consistently. Never having been officially diagnosed with ADHD, there is no question that I can and do keep many things in harmony at the same time… sometimes discordant/free jazz 😉 There is a basic theme laid out – like all Jazz – a couple of notes, and some rhythm. Then that vision is transformed into what each person hears, and the magic happens when they are all executing that AND staying together.
The one thing that all Teams struggle with is execution…. And not like you probably think. Sure there is the output thing… but that is a byproduct. Zawinul by this point knew each of the players, what they could do, what would put them into their own “flow” state, and how to tease something out of them that even they didn’t know they could do… until they were called on. And – that only comes from being TOGETHER.. A LOT. I know caps are annoying, the idea that Teams are without being together – yea – just listen to one track of Birdland. It sounds like noise..even with one of the best drummers ever…
Yes, this year has been hard, with a lot of talk of exponential growth. Teams that have thrived already knew the Value of being together: how to build and multiply what each other were doing while covering for what others couldn’t do. Listen as the 4 players weave in and out, leaving room for each other, then carrying it into harmony that can only happen when they are all there. What are you doing to execute a new approach for your Team and togetherness… and will it be… for the birds.. or… Birdland?