Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What difference does it make when you get in sync?



Brad Cheeseman Trio at The Steel City Jazz Festival, 2016

Most people think that having more influence means one of two things: either they can somehow eliminate resistance so people will do what they want or they can achieve enough status and power so that people will do what they want. There's nothing wrong with either of those as goals, but there are many things you might want people to do that won't come from choosing the right words or having the power to make people comply.

I am a teacher, and I often teach adults who have more money and power than I do. I don't have a carrot or a stick to motivate them to do what I want them to do. Even if I did, carrots and sticks are not good motivators of self discovery, of reflection or of the pause that comes before a sound decision. The influence I want will not come from carrots or sticks. So I have to look for other models of influence and leadership.

This is one of the reasons I listen to jazz. If I want to isolate the power of rhythm in leadership, I can learn by listening to a jazz trio. Their direction is set by structure (the piece they agree to play together), by rhythm (the key to playing together instead of on top of one another) and by suggestion (one solo leads to another collaboratively).

If they don't have a way to be in sync (to share the rhythm) then they can neither collaborate (suggest) nor communicate meaningfully (play the piece). 

Now think about the influence you want to have on a person or a project. Ask yourself: are we in sync? If you're not, it's  your job to change so that "sync" happens. You can't count on other people to come to to you; you'll have to gather them by sharing their rhythm until you can move into something that works better.

Think of getting in sync as sharing a set of expectations that occur in time. Some times you expect action (the sound) and sometimes you expect preparation (the silence).  You can shorten the intervals by increasing the tempo (but then you don't leave time for thought) or you can change the relationships between sound and silence (by changing the rhythm so that sometimes there is more time in between and sometimes less). The beat sets the priorities (so that some actions govern other actions).

It's so complicated. Yet you have listened to music and tapped a finger or a foot. You have listened as musicians layer different sounds to make music. You have walked away from meetings knowing when a team was in sync (and when they weren't). You know that being in sync means that priorities and actions become reliable.




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