Is your executive team making music that moves your organization?

Leadership StrategiesLeadershipBoard and CEO AdvisoryAssessment and BenchmarkingTeam Effectiveness
min Social Post
Erin Marie Collins
November 08, 2022
3 min
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipBoard and CEO AdvisoryAssessment and BenchmarkingTeam Effectiveness
Executive Summary
High-performing executive teams have what it takes to move an organization forward.
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3 CEOs I’ve spoken to in the last month have likened high-performing executive teams to symphony orchestras. As a former concert harpist, here’s why I like this metaphor:

Orchestras make music. Playing in an orchestra requires technical competence of your instrument and mastery of your part. But those are table stakes. That’s what you prove in an audition that earns you a seat in the orchestra. The whole purpose of coming together as a group is to make music that individual instruments cannot play on their own. And in order to do that well, every musician must focus outwards – following the conductor, listening to one another, feeling each other’s next move. Executive team members often earn a seat the executive table because of their demonstrated competence in one or several functional areas. But acting as an executive team requires every person to come together to collectively address the big strategic challenges and opportunities ahead and to ‘make music’ on behalf of the enterprise.

Diversity is built in. Full orchestras consist of over 25 instruments and yet orchestral music can include upwards of 50 different parts. A violinist could play the part of first violin or second violin; the flute section may require four flautists to play four different parts. Having a wide range of instruments and musicians isn’t ‘nice to have’, it’s a requirement. Even when instruments look the same, they play different parts. And even when not carrying the melody, each instrument adds something different to the tone and texture of the music. Can you have a symphony orchestra without a harpist? Only if you’re willing to accept that there are certain pieces the orchestra cannot play (Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, Mozart’s Concerto for Flute & Harp). On an executive team, diversity of thought, style, experience, and background is a requirement for the team to be equipped to address a range of challenges, work through different market demands and business cycles, and draw on a breadth of perspective to create a way forward that is holistic, nuanced, and sustainable.

Music elicits feelings. Music tells a story, not through words but by stirring feelings and emotions. For far too long, the hallmark of a good leader was stoicism and unwavering focus on business objectives. We need focus, resilience, and results, yes, but we also need humanity. We need leaders of our modern organizations to acknowledge their feelings and the feelings of others. We need them to show vulnerability so that their teams can do the same. They must demonstrate emotional range – showing heroism and inspiration through Holst’s Jupiter, finesse and sensitivity through Debussy’s Clair de Lune (a personal favorite), resolve and determination through Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Doing so will allow colleagues throughout the business to feel a sense of belonging and comfort to experience and express the full range of emotions that work can elicit every day.

If you’re a CEO, ask yourself these questions: Does my executive team come together to ‘make music’ for and with our organization? Do we have the diversity we need, on the executive team and throughout our staff, to be able to address challenges in a holistic way? Does the executive team foster an open and inclusive environment, talk about their feelings, and create the psychological safety for others to do the same? If your answer to some of these is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’, RRA can help you to build a high-performing executive team. If your answer across the board is ‘yes’, your executive team is truly world-class – keep making music! 

#topteamdynamics #leadership #dei #vulnerability