Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Do you have a one-buttock business?

Benjamin Zander , conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra talks about passion and music in this remarkable TED presentation.  But if you listen to the message in the spaces, he’s also talking about leading people and finding ways to provide a vision and excitement in what you do.

BZander_webHis realisation that the quality of his work depends on his ability to awaken possibility in other people, is a phenomenally powerful insight.  There are many facets to that art – allowing people to see themselves differently; showing them that they too are capable of running a marathon, or taking on that project, or going on that fantastic trip. Sometimes just giving them permission to give it a try is enough. Sometimes its just a case of stepping out of the way. And sometimes its getting behind them and giving them a shove that does the trick.

Working out just which actions to take to awaken those possibilities can be a daunting task for many leaders. But looking at how we act and the messages we’re giving, is probably a pretty good first step.

Our stance and language combine to speak volumes – perhaps more than we sometimes intentionally say.

So what does this have to do with the one-buttock business?  Awakening possibilities is an emotional act – you can’t do it without being passionate about the people. I think where you place the emphasis in your business is the key. Benjamin Zander’s presentation has a lot more than music at its heart – but you’ll have to watch it to find out.

Trust your intuition

At the recent Cambridge HR Summit we treated the delegates to a couple of sessions of glorious song from Collegium Regale – the choral scholars of King’s College. It was a slightly ‘out there’ decision to take, given that there wasn’t any obvious link between the choir and the conference theme (aside from the fact that both live in Cambridge).




Some people had expected to hear classical choral music and feared it would be rather dry. Most people couldn’t work out why the choir was on the programme – that was until they heard the first piece. And then they ‘got it’!




The choir picked just the right pieces from their repertoire. The post-lunch session ended with an uplifting rendition of ‘New York, New York’ which sent delegates back into the afternoon’s learning sessions with energy and bounce.




Absolutely the best comment I had was, “…the choir is fantastic! It’s like a palate cleanser for the brain”. Perfect. That’s just what we wanted from them.




Do something completely different next time you’re planning an event, meeting or away day. Our instincts told us that the choir would make the event memorable and would provide delegates with something completely different from the workshops they were attending.Go with your gut reaction.

Taking a Risk

A couple of months ago I read Seth Godin’s blog about hard work. I love the 15th item on his list:

Putting on a conference or – Taking a risk and making the conference interesting

This is exactly what Judith and I aimed to do when we started planning the first Cambridge HR Summit six months ago. We asked ourselves why a place like Cambridge shouldn’t have a world-class HR conference. Then we decided to make it happen. Seth’s point is well made and seems absolutely obvious – but if so, why doesn’t everyone do it? Perhaps its not so easy to do. There’s no single correct way to achieve excellence – but we chose the one we’re most comfortable with. Every element of this conference is one that we can get excited about. Here are a few examples of what we think is interesting:

  • Our keynote speaker is a lady who not only changed the world – she did it without shouting about it. Early in her career Dame Stella Rimington DCB, former head of MI5 didn’t believe that women couldn’t be field operatives. That was the beginning of her transformation of the organisation that most people associate with James Bond (007).
  • We’ve chosen workshop speakers who are different and push the boat out. For example:
    • Steve Boast, head of organisational development at HM prisons who says he has some of the most challenging customers in the world. I can’t wait to hear his approach to dealing with his ‘difficult customers’.
    • Richard Ellis head of CSR from Alliance Boots will lead the workshop which will uncover whether its possible for an organisation to be carbon neutral. And he should know – Alliance Boots have been leaders in the environmental awareness stakes.
  • The venue is amazing. Magdalene College, Cambridge has managed to combine state of the art facilities, beautiful design, fantastic spaces for informal networking and intimate workshop rooms. And along with all of this modernisation, they’ve still managed to retain the traditions and ethos of centuries of imparting knowledge.
  • And then we became a little self-indulgent and booked these guys to perform at lunch time. We chose them partly because music enhances learning, but also because every time I hear them perform (and that is one of the perks of living in Cambridge), I can’t help feeling utterly inspired.

We’ve got a few more surprises up our sleeves as well. But if I told you now, that would spoil it.

There’s no guarantee that just because we’re passionate about these things that everyone else will be too. But we sure as hell wouldn’t be looking forward to sharing all these aspects with delegates if we weren’t inspired by them. In my view, that’s a pretty good first step towards moving into the right hand column in Seth’s list.