I still remember it like it was yesterday. I am standing on a chair, surrounded by 200 strangers, all singing “Happy Birthday” to me at the top of their lungs! Not how I envisioned my day when I woke up on April 1st over 15 years ago. I was out of town at a leadership development conference. I did not know a soul, and as an introvert, that was fine with me. It was my birthday but I had no plans to celebrate until I returned home. Yet I ended up celebrating with a roomful!
How did it happen and how does this relate to strategy, you ask? A conductor is the answer to both. I heard Robert Eichenger speak this week. Eichenger is co-founder of Lominger Consulting, vice chairman of the Korn/Ferry Institute on Leadership, and the co-creator of the Leadership Architect competency tool, and he believes that the first overall responsibility of a leader is to orchestrate a strategy for change. He uses orchestrate to clarify that leaders on their own don’t create or implement the strategy. They pull together the diverse talents on their team and draw out a strategy that leverages each person and delivers on the overall group or institution’s vision. Leaders are the conductors of strategy, not the creators.
It was also a conductor who orchestrated an unexpected birthday celebration for me and a leadership lesson for orchestrating a successful strategy for change. Benjamin Zander, world renowned conductor for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, was the morning keynote speaker at the conference I was attending many years ago. Zander believes that leaders can become transformative conductors and help teams reach new, unknown, levels of performance if they follow three simple rules when orchestrating the strategy for change, outlined in a FastCompany interview.
- The conductor doesn’t make a sound. Focus on what you can do to help your team “sound better.”
- Everybody gets an A. Help your people operate from their talents, where they get A’s.
- Play the contribution game, not the success game. Transform the conversation and the strategy to focus on how each person can make a contribution.
In less than 10 minutes Zander had a sleepy group of strangers all singing, in harmony, with smiles on their faces and me standing on a chair. A magnificent performance that none of us knew we were capable of achieving. A successful change.
This isn’t a video of my birthday song but in this TEDTalk you can watch Zander help people realize their untapped love for new possibilities. As one of the comments states, “Be that guy!”