Lessons on teamwork from the orchestra

You will recall that yesterday we reviewed lessons from the conductor on leadership.  The genesis for this was a session I attended a couple of years ago involving a professional orchestra led by Roger Nierenberg, the author of Maestro.  Today, we look at this session from the perspective of the orchestra members…that is, team members.  There is much we can learn by observing highly effective, high performing teams and I can attest that this orchestra was both.

First, if you have not already done so, you might listen to the link below.  This piece was the highlighted orchestra piece in my session.  Try to hear how all the individual musicians blend together to a terrific final result:


There were several lessons on teamwork that I derived from my session sitting with the orchestra and observing the leadership of the conductor that day:

  1. You must see and watch the conductor – each orchestra member was seated to allow them to see the conductor.  If they could not see, they shifted their seat.  And, they were situated to allow them to watch the conductor most of the time during the performance.  This ensured they were following the direction and intent of the conductor.  Similarly, we must ensure that we can see and follow the leader of our team or organization.  If we do not continually know the direction, we may become mis-aligned.
  2. Your work must blend with the work of those on your team – it is important that each orchestra member listen carefully to others to blend the sounds properly.  One member cannot play so loudly that they drown out the sound of others.  In the same way, each team member must carefully consider how their work fits into the overall work of the team.  We should not individual over-power others on the team.
  3. A team is no place for a showboat – an orchestra does not allow for individual interpretation of the music.  This might be good in jazz, for instance, but not classical music.  Similarly, we must be careful as a team member that we remain collaborative and do not use our own abilities to get our team off track.
  4. You must do your individual job well – as with any team, the members of the orchestra take accountability for their own job.  They practice and work diligently to achieve perfection with their own part of the music.  As team members, we should also strive to be the very best that we can be in our own job.  A group of individuals that each performs well and aligns their abilities with each other is the definition of a great team.
  5. Count and follow – it is imperative for members of the orchestra to follow their music and count the beats, otherwise, they will lose their place and fail to play when needed.  Similarly, members of our teams must work to stay connected to the project or function.  You cannot thrive individually or as a team unless members know the status of activities and when they must play their part.
  6. You may have to sacrifice for the good of the team – though members of the orchestra may be among the very best in the world on their instrument, they remain under control and participate as a collaborative member of the orchestra.  It is the same with us.  We cannot “do our own thing” when we want.  And, we may have to “play second fiddle” even when we know we are fully capable to play the lead role.
  7. Timing is critical – in music, it is essential to play exactly when needed – when the music says to play.  Similarly, we need to be aware of our part, when it is needed, and in the way expected.
  8. Preparation is critical – orchestra members spend hours each day practicing and preparing for performances.  In the same way, we must do our own preparation to fully participate as a team member.  Just showing up is not synonymous with intentional preparation to do our best work.
  9. Try to enjoy, not simply endure – knowing that practice can sometimes be tedious, the orchestra members know there is a pay-off when the performance occurs. Likewise, though our efforts may not be recognized every day, we need to work with the end in mind.  We are serving critical needs for patients in difficult situations.  Knowing that we serve them should help us serve with a better attitude.
  10. Celebrate successes – at the end of the concert, the crowd always shows its appreciate for a job well done.  We need to celebrate more.

We can make beautiful music together if we are willing to follow these key principles.  Thanks for reading.  Have a “top ten” day!

One thought on “Lessons on teamwork from the orchestra

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s