Have you ever listened to a symphony and marveled at how the conductor unifies the orchestra while capturing the unique abilities of each musician? A full-size orchestra often has over one hundred performers wielding a mix of instruments from various families: string, brass, woodwinds and percussion. The conductor spends countless rehearsal hours giving verbal instruction and feedback to the musicians but during the performance communicates only through hand gestures, signals and eye contact. It is truly magical.
While you probably won’t communicate with your team solely through body language, there are many similarities between gifted managers and orchestra conductors. Both may assemble their team of talented individuals themselves or they may be managing a group assembled by someone else. No matter how your team is assembled, great managers perform their magic by discovering, developing, and celebrating each individual’s unique qualities and abilities.
Use both objective and subjective measurement to discover talent. Job specific assessments, skills tests, cognitive tests and job function results can all be used in conjunction with peer feedback, client satisfaction and management input. The key to effective discovery is focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. A great conductor knows musicians perform best when playing within their instrument’s natural range. A great manager uncovers what an employee does naturally well and leverages it.
Be both proactive and reactive to develop talent. Proactive development could be a structured training program for the team or individual. If an employee does something wrong you might develop reactively by recommending a book or even a link to a short YouTube video. Development comes in various forms and should be aimed at improving strengths while minimizing weaknesses. A conductor would not suggest that a career violinist should improve by practicing the trumpet. An effective manager will find the appropriate methods to help develop each individual.
Audiences celebrate great performances with a standing ovation, but applause is not the only way to celebrate your people. A manager could recognize a team member’s unique contributions by highlighting them during a monthly meeting, reward exceeding a target by taking a deserving employee to lunch, congratulate a salesperson for landing an account by sending out a company-wide email, or celebrating any number of exceptional outcomes by authorizing a surprise bonus. Of course simple applause is always welcome to celebrate business successes as well. After completing that prize IT project or turning in outstanding metrics for the week wouldn’t it be wonderful for coworkers to stand and applaud your great performer walking back to their office?
An orchestra conductor discovers, develops and celebrates talent to create an outcome that far exceeds the performance of any individual musician. An effective manager can do the same to blend individual talent into a collaborative team that will improve your company’s performance exponentially. And won’t that music be magical?