The Music of Teams

Published: April 18, 2013

The executive leadership team I coach on Friday mornings doesn't always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes, a teammate opts out of the discussion when he or she isn't getting their way. As a coach, I finesse a way to invite them back into the conversation. The musicians who gather in my basement on Friday nights find ways to collaborate without words. It's a universal language. Sometimes there is harmony and other times there is dissonance. There is always communication. Fridays are full of lessons.

Imagine the outcome if we put musical instruments in the hands of the executive leadership team and equipped the musicians with business priorities. The leadership team might be forced to listen to the subtle dynamics arising from the instruments that didn’t sound like their own. A vocal member of the team might defer to a quieter teammate. A couple of teammates might seek improvisational harmony. Dissonance might get appreciated for the contrast it provides to the eventual resolution.

The musicians might be compelled to identify ambitious goals and the actions needed to achieve them. They might hold themselves and each other accountable for adequate practice and preparation. They would adapt to the expected and unexpected changes in their day with poise and resilience. Anchored in the rhythm and tone of their collaboration, they might be inspired to create something that makes the world a better place.

We live in an orchestra of exchange. If I am able to receive the gift of your creativity, I accept permission to express it in a way that does justice to your generosity. If you are willing to consider the position of my perspective, you are empowered to use it as a platform for your viewpoint. Occasionally we’ll take different parts and sometimes we’ll sing in unison. We can join the chorus or risk a solo. Others will judge the beauty of our music but we’ll be responsible for its creation.

It’s time to get the band back together.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.