Posted 1 years 11 days ago ago by Hugh Ballou 0 Comments
The music director is a Transformational Leader. Leaders get things done. Leaders know how things get done. Leaders influence others in the following ways:
The choice is yours. Which do you choose?
Music directors have a specific amount of time to influence people and produce a final result that is of the highest quality. Leaders are judged by results created. The results created by musical directors are immediately evident, so we are, as conductors, as good as our most recent result. Staying on top of our game as leaders in a music environment is dependent on consistency and clarity of purpose.
Leaders teach others how to behave, it's more obvious and directly apparent with music than in organizational non-musical functions, however, there are many similarities.
During the year 2012, Leadership Tools will highlight examples of leadership from the perspective of the church musician.
Last month I shared tips for avoiding attracting negative results. You will notice some of the same themes in this month's column on how we as conductors and leaders inspire good or poor response from those whom we lead - this set of tools applies to managing conflict.
5 Leadership Tools for Managing Conflict
What is conflict and why does it exist? - The free dictionary online by Farlex defines conflict as follows:
1. A state of open, often prolonged fighting; a battle or war.
2. A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash.
3. Psychology A psychic struggle, often unconscious, resulting from the opposition or simultaneous functioning of mutually exclusive impulses, desires, or tendencies.
4. Opposition between characters or forces in a work of drama or fiction, especially opposition that motivates or shapes the action of the plot.
Let's assume that we are not at war and not a part of a drama (however, some days working in the church seem like we are participating in a drama or are at war - however, we don't need to participate in either). The definitions #2 and #3 present a working definition for the purpose of this article.
Conflict is accompanied by some real or perceived negative emotion between parties in some kind of relationship.
Conflict exists for many reasons. Basically, conflict is a sign of energy in an organization. The absence of conflict means that the organization is dead (and maybe the people as well.) Conflict is a part of life when people are independent and free thinking individuals. We learn to embrace it and address it directly.
Our job as a leader is to move toward conflict rather than avoid it. Avoiding conflict allows the problem to grow. The longer it takes for the leader to deal with it, the higher the cost - to the organization and to the relationships.
As choral conductors, we deal immediately with wrong notes, out of tune singing, incorrect rhythms, and other issues impeding accurate music making. We deal with those issues without blame (singers don't usually sing wrong notes with intent). We deal with these corrections as a matter of fact and not as a personal attack. We can create a culture of high function in committees and other groups where we have or share leadership responsibility.
Setting Expectations - Develop a set of guidelines for group interaction. In choirs and orchestras, there is a culture of high expectations and a culture that the leader (the director) will deal with issues directly and openly. We do not attack singers. We nurture higher functioning by encouraging that each participant be responsible for their own functioning. This is no different in non musical settings. Set the stage by getting buy-in from participants for helpful comments from you, the leader. Ask others in the group to allow you (as is customary in a choir) to make the corrections or you will have everyone making corrections and this may have negative results, especially when others are not skilled in controlling language and tone that will solicit positive results. Use language such as, "May I give you my observations on your actions?" or "I have a different perspective that you may find helpful. Would you like to hear it now?" Be sure to affirm the person and the attempt to produce good results and follow up your comments with an invitation to talk further privately if more discussion could be helpful. You can also invite the group to give you feedback on your performance as well. It takes a healthy self esteem to ask for this - it will not usually come automatically, you may need to ask for it. When you do, ask in an inviting way, then pause with a long time of silence to allow for them to formulate a response. You are setting a standard by modeling what you want others to do.
Exposing Passive-Aggressive Behavior - Much conflict is created through passive aggressive behavior, principally when a person does not deal directly with the leader and makes comments to others about the leader in the absence of the leader. Participation is this indirect pattern of conflict creation that can be deadly. Do not create these kinds of triangles yourself. You would not correct the tone of a tenor by addressing a soprano because you don't want to make direct contact with the tenor. Speak the truth in love directly and ask others to do the same. Declare in each group that the culture is safe to openly debate ideas and to solve problems creatively. Talk about passive-aggressive behavior and ask people not to create this kind of triangle and not to participate in receiving information that creates a negative triangle. Get a commitment from team members to openly discuss issues in the group sessions.
Controlling Our Own Anxiety - I have talked about anxiety in the last several articles because this is a constant challenge for most of us in leadership. If we are nervous and anxious as a conductor, it then effects the quality of the choir's performance. Anxiety in the leader spreads to the group. We want singers to be balanced, centered, and calm. We model this in our physical and emotional presence. In non musical settings, we want people to like us - so we worry about what they think of us as kind Christian people rather that thinking that people will respect us if we are skilled in dealing with tough situations. We can also be anxious about how people will respond - here are some tips to insure that we come across as a nurturing, pastoral church musician and transformational leader:
1. Think about what you want to communicate - what is the message, what words will be clear and nonjudgemental?
2. Be clear on your intent - why are you intervening now? Be aware of emotions so you do not escalate the emotions of the group or the individual.
3. Address the issue and do not attack the person - just like you do in choir - it's about actions and behaviors and not about them as a person.
4. Stay on a single issue or topic that is current - something that just happened - stay out of the past and do not bring up multiple issues.
5. Claim your own opinion - do not quote "others."
6. Be sure that you make eye contact, maintain a calm tone of voice, and look friendly. Sometime when we are stressed or worried about the outcome of the conversation, we might appear too serious and even look mean.
7. Be sure that the correction is appropriate to discuss in a group - you might need to ask for a private meeting if the topic or person might present a challenge and make the rest of the group uncomfortable.
Dealing with Toxic Behaviors - In his book Antagonists in the Church<, Kenneth Haugk teaches about antagonistic personalities. He makes a point that we, as leaders, cannot treat them as we treat others. Once you identify this person, realize that they will not be satisfied no matter what you do - they simply want to complain and to be unhappy. We can't really teach someone who is tone deaf to sing. If we want to inched them in the choir, we place them where they can't influence other too much and praise their strong voice by asked them to sing softly. It's really a waste of time to attend to either of these people. In extreme cases, it's important for the health of the choir or the committee to quietly ask that person to withdraw from participation. You might have stress over doing this, however, in the long run, you will create a healthier, stronger choir or committee without this disruptive presence. Our duty and delight is to make leadership decisions for the benefit of the organization and not for the benefit of needy or disruptive individuals.
Managing Self - IRealize that you are the person that is responsible for the health and productivity of any group you lead. If the choir sings wrong notes, incorrect rhythms, out of tune, etc - then it's you who are responsible. You know how to address these issues in rehearsal because you have studied the music and understand how it should sound. When leading teams, know what you want and how you are going to get there. Plan meetings like you plan rehearsals. Have a rehearsal plan for meetings as well. Be prepared, How up being fully present. Be rested and centered. Be confident that you are doing God's work, following God's will and living in God's strength. Set the standard for open and transparent behavior. Be authentic - be you. Be vulnerable - if you don't know the answer, then admit it and tell people you will get the answer. You have a lot of skill as musical director - transpose those skills to other situations when you have a leadership role.
How does a conductor of choirs and orchestras teach leadership? Very enthusiastically! Hugh Ballou teaches leaders around the globe how to build synergy with teams and how to put is place effective processes that bring success to any organization - no matter how big or small. Get Hugh's eBook, Creating Healthy Teams
© 2012 Creator Magazine All Rights Reserved
by Hugh Ballou
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