I was in Sydney last week and spent an evening at a concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Based on counsel from those who know the hall, I booked a seat in the choir section, above and behind the orchestra. I have never had the opportunity to watch an orchestra from the musician’s point of view. It was a wonderful object lesson in perspective.
I learned a lot about how the conductor interacted with the orchestra that I would never have observed from the distance of the stalls, watching the conductor’s back. And because there are always concertgoers in the section, we were not a distraction to either the conductor or the musicians.
For decades now I have worked with executive sponsors of change and organizational leaders who want to lead from arm’s length. “What do they want from me? I authorized the work. I write the checks and get a report every quarter.” When that sort of leader shows up for a project meeting, it is a major deal to the team and his presence becomes the center of attention. Sadly, that leader will not get the perspective of understanding how the “conductor” of the team or department gets results.
Yes, we can see a lot about how conductors get their results from behind. But look at the differences evident in 3 top tier conductors and how much more we know about them by seeing how they engage with the musicians that they lead. Organizational leaders usually know if their reports deliver results- but often miss or even ignore the way those results are achieved. In the best case, a leaders who does not understand how her directs get results misses out on opportunities to coach. In the worst, aggressive leaders get results through bullying and manipulation, exposing the organization to high turnover and even legal liability.
A savvy boss shows up to observe often enough to not be a distraction or worry the person running the meeting and as such, he gets to see the how results are accomplished.