THURSDAY THOUGHTS: How Do You Hear the Music?

As summer approaches, for our family, that means live music season!  Just this past weekend, my husband, our 12 year old son, and myself snagged phenomenal seats for the Judah and the Lion concert here in Wilmington, NC; as expected, it was an amazing show, beautiful weather, and tons of good vibes–perfect way to spend a Saturday evening.

Our little trio looks forward to attending multiple shows every year.  We love music, but a recent eye opening conversation in the car made me realize, even though we may be hearing the same song, we  “listen” in different ways; this revelation helped me realize I’d made some incorrect assumptions based on my own experiences.

Intrigued?  I certainly was!  Here’s what I found out.

I am a dancer, so anytime I listen to music, I “hear” it through the lens of choreography; I feel the beat, and think about the type of move that would match the energy and intent of the moment.  If it fits with my dance style, I don’t even notice the song’s topic or theme; if the beat creates a space that allows me to move creatively, I’m all in!  (And yes, I am totally that girl doing a full car dance routine while sitting at a stop light–sometimes Spotify hits at the perfect moment, and I can’t stop myself!)

On the other end of the spectrum, you will NEVER find my husband on the dance floor (opposites attract, right?); as a teen, he connected with the alternative music of the 90’s, so it should come as no surprise that when he “hears” music, he focuses on the lyrics.  He cares about what the song writer is saying, and the feelings they are trying to convey through words they’ve used.

Our son, who thinks logically and likes to problem solve, although he pays attention to lyrics (and corrects me frequently if I get a word wrong as I dance and sing across the kitchen), he “hears” music through the sounds being made.  He likes to pick apart the different tones, and identify what instruments are being used in the musical configuration.  Being that he plays no instruments himself, I find it fascinating that he can correctly identify the difference between a banjo, mandolin, or guitar being played…I certainly couldn’t.

So what the heck does this have to do with leadership?

EVERYTHING!  The way our family “hears” music provides a great analogy and insight for leaders today.

Work teams are made up of people that come with varied backgrounds, skill sets, life experiences, motivators, triggers, and accomplishments, so it shouldn’t be shocking that each person may “hear” a message differently, just like our family hears music differently.

If a leader shares “Change is coming to the organization.”, they should anticipate a wide array of responses.  Some members of the team may be seeking development opportunities and see change as growth, others may feel uncertainty and fear due to discomfort moving away from “this is how we’ve always done it”, and some may need specific details to understand the personal impact to them like “what does this mean for me—will I have a job?”

Leaders need to acknowledge, respect, and address the needs of each individual member on the team; provide resources and support accordingly.  One size does NOT fit all.

In my previous role as a Training Manager, I learned that how I shared information was even more important than what was being shared; to be an effective leader, I had to customize my approach to each person.  Everyone has a back story that impacts how they hear and apply feedback, deal with change, get motivated, or attack goals, and it takes time and effort to learn and understand what makes someone tick and how you can best support them on their professional journey, but once you do, you’ll be better equipped to lead in a way that truly helps teams “hear” what is being asked of them and why.

So if you are a leader, I encourage you to block time each week to find out more about your people.  Provide opportunities to engage in deep dialogue; ask questions that make people think and provide space to help understand what they really want out of this role, the organization, or from you as their leader.  Questions like:  “Why did you choose this company?”, “What are you hoping to accomplish this year, personally or professionally?”,  “What are you most proud of?”, “How can I better support you?”, or “Who inspires you and why?”.

Simple questions, but they will help you find out how your team members “hear”; the beat, the lyrics, the instruments, or maybe something totally unexpected?

So go on, TURN UP THE MUSIC… and see what you learn.