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managing The Middle…

by | Nov 23, 2021 | manage, The Middle, The Moody Blues

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As I turned out of my subdivision this morning, I came face to face with a car that was coming down the hill right at me… and of course, that meant I was coming uphill right at him. Luckily we had a “centerline” and with the road curving, what appeared to be a problem was resolved as we both stayed “on our side”. It occurred to me how much implicit trust is involved in The Middle. The term even comes from driving – the “middle of the road”. The dawn of the day rose over the Blue Ridge Parkway as I continued my journey, and noticed all of the guideposts to drivers along the way – speed limit signs, lines on the road that showed when it was safe (or not safe) to pass… and overlooks that beckoned to pull over and appreciate what I was driving past…

… any week with the Moody Blues would have to include this song, but I really had no idea it would be this soon. The band was struggling after their pop hit as “another blues band in Britain”. Their deal with Decca was on the skids – other than the offer to help them with a brand new technology – Stereo. In 1966 it was standard in classical music, but very novel to rock music. The offer was made to the band to record “their interpretation of Dvorak’s 9th symphony – as a marketing gimmick for “Deramic Sound System (DSS)”. Since they really had no other options, they accepted, and with the addition of a new singer/songwriter, Justin Hayward, they started to bend Dvorak’s 9th Symphony to something different that blended together the two styles… or with today’s focus, the two sides…

Mike Pender, the keyboard player, acquired another new piece of technology – a Mellotron — think a synthesizer with physical tapes for each key — and sketched out a song “Dawn is a Feeling”. They hit on the idea of “the day in the life of an average man”, blending together a symphony score with rock instrumentation. Graeme poems to bridge the elements together and Justin wrote this song to “end the day”. All being classically trained to start with, they knew how to work well with the London Festival Orchestra, and recorded their “own” songs, much to the surprise of the management of Decca. The album is only 25 minutes long — well worth your time to listen to start to finish — and started an entire genre: Progressive Rock. Bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, and even The Who will point back to this album and the way it changed everything…

Management was missing many of those handy roadside guideposts as I stepped into it. In early exchanges, I noticed that many good ideas were often drowned out by the loudest voices, those that were strident, but often wrong. Since I have never been shy, retiring, or even particularly quiet, these early skirmishes went my way fairly easily, and I sped forward along the road. Soon I was easily passing those around me and going faster and faster, ignoring many of the signposts — until one of my Managers outlined a lot of the “roadkill” along my way. The car I had started with was scarred with bumps, and broken “chrome” from those encounters, and the saying that the faster they rise the faster they fall took on new meaning. In one particular encounter, I found later that we had a “perfect” answer in our group, but because that person didn’t talk, we lost the competition.

In the 24 by 7 news world, stories often run about only taking “your” side, and ignoring those going the other way. And… frankly, in the worlds of politics and academia, a driven, insular approach is rewarded. As people “go to the mat” for only their position, they leave many of us as roadkill because their “rides” are guaranteed, or the signs don’t apply to them, because they are… better than us. I understand it, but also, I don’t. As with driving, if I decide to stand my ground, that may end badly for us both. The Middle actually helps both “sides” achieve their results, with a minimum of collisions, and some pleasant overlooks for both sides to see what they are missing. As you think about managing The Middle, what will help you construct a stance that works… for all? Can The Middle help find your own rest – your own Nights in White Satin? Or will it be the Late Lament… I now know which I am now driving towards…

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bedsitter people look back and lament
Another day’s useless energy is spent
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one;
Lonely man cries for love and has none
New mother picks up and suckles her son
Senior citizens wish they were young
Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight
Red is grey is yellow-white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion

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