The Key To A Winning Team Will Be Music To Your Ears

114047724A chance meeting in Melbourne gave me a new insight into how to build winning teams. Here’s what happened- and the lesson in it for you, your business, your life. Beware- it might depress you. Or spur you into action? Let’s see….

We arrived at the restaurant. My 12 year old mate suddenly grabbed my arm: “OMG! OMG,” he enthuised, breathlessly. “LOOK! Look who it is!! It’s…it’s Archie Thompson! And…and…(gasp)…Besart Berisha!” – two strikers from the Melbourne Victory football club. The entire team was in the private dining room. We approached Thompson. He graciously chatted, and then invited us into the team dinner room. We looked in from the door. What an inspiring group of young people- beautifully mannered, dressed, welcoming. The mood in that room was excited, warm, energised, inspired, bonded. I wanted to cut off a slice and take it home.

I returned to the table. “Now, that’s a winning culture,” I said. “They will do very well this year. I know this, because I just did one very simple thing….” This is what I did.

I listened to the music in the room.

Hang in there. This is good. I am going to ask you a question in 90 seconds time, and ask you to really, really tell the truth to yourself. Are you brave enough to do it? Hmmm- let’s see.

Back to the story. An hour later I was in Spain- well, figuratively so.

I’d seen a poster for a performance of Spanish composer Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjeuz, for guitar, which I had not listen to live since being introduced to it in Cape Town by my Dad when I was 14 years old- in 1974. The second ‘movement’ (not sure what they call the second bit in a concerto), is absolutely one of the most emotive pieces I have ever heard. Just prior to the Rodrigo, the orchestra played a very strange, modern, ‘fusion’ type piece by a Chinese composer, blending Chinese opera with Spanish flamingo. It was kind of interesting- but crikey- hugely difficult to listen to. Jarring, weird, clunky, bizarre. Not right for my ear, anyway ….

Point is, I listened to the music that night. One piece resonated, stroked, connected, inspired, empowered, calmed, evoked, felt natural and right. I wanted more of it. Just like the Melbourne Victory vibe. The other- well, something was wrong, off key, malfunctioning, less than optimal- to my ear anyway. I could not wait for it to end.

Here’s the point- and the ask of you.

First, ‘Listen to the music.’ If you are a leader, listen to the music in and from your team- does it feel right, strong, harmonious, on key? If not, then look squarely in the mirror, because YOU are the composer. Others have to conduct your tune or play the chords. If it feels off key, take responsibility. It is YOUR doing. Change the tune. Give your team better music to work with. Oh- and you always have the choice to change the players. No doubt. But look hard in the mirror first. If you’ve got the integrity and courage to do it.

If you’re a team member, and the music feels kind of like that Chinese opera/Spanish flamingo fusion depleting headache material, then you have a choice. Tell the composer (leader), and push him/her for change, or take the lead yourself-  and try to ‘conduct’ a more positive, inspiring rhythm yourself. Don’t follow the prescribed script- improvise and play a better tune. Or, join another band.

And what about other relationships in your life? With parents, children, lovers, partners, friends. How does that music sound?

Four questions for you. Be absolutely truthful with yourself now…..:

1.    Think about your work team- how does the music sound right now from your team? Or within a client relationship?

2.    If you are the leader, what can you do to change the score- to change the music?

3.    If you are a team member, get clear on what is making the sound jar- is it the composition, the conductor, colleagues, or is it you- you just don’t like playing the trumpet anymore? And – what can you do about it?

4.    And then think about the three most important personal relationships in your life? How are they sounding right now? What can you do TODAY to improve the music?

“If music be the food of love, play on…” So wrote Shakespeare in ‘Twelfth Night’ I think. Point is- Use ‘music’ as the food for progress. Listen to it. Use it. Improvise with it. Change it. Make better music. In everything you do.


1.    Melbourne Victory played its first game of the season on Saturday- against champion team the Wanderers. The Victory won 4-1.

2.    I got the ‘Listen to the Music’ idea from something a colleague said in a meeting this week, when he referred to this dialogue from the movie ‘Margin Call’, where the very, very big boss (composer), named John Tuld, told his more junior colleague:

John Tuld: So, what you’re telling me, is that the music is about to stop, and we’re going to be left holding the biggest bag of odorous excrement ever assembled in the history of capitalism.

Peter Sullivan: Sir, I am not sure that I would put it that way, but let me clarify using your analogy. What this model shows is the music, so to speak, just slowing. If the music were to stop, as you put it, then this model wouldn’t even be close to that scenario. It would be considerably worse.

John Tuld: Let me tell you something, Mr. Sullivan. Do you care to know why I’m in this chair with you all? I mean, why I earn the big bucks.

Peter Sullivan: Yes.

John Tuld: I’m here for one reason and one reason alone. I’m here to guess what the music might do in a week, a month, a year from now. That’s it. Nothing more. And standing here tonight, I’m afraid that I don’t hear – a – thing. Just… silence.

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14 Responses to The Key To A Winning Team Will Be Music To Your Ears

  1. Ben W October 15, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Thanks for sharing this gift. Very important for me and my workplace at this moment.

    • Chris Savage October 15, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      Thanks Ben!

    • Michele Harvey October 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      Chirs , how often is music everywhere but we do not connect with the rhythms of life in general, the buzz into the background, which we can hear when waking up if we listen which can take the feeling of waking from burden to piece by listening no just going through the morning routines. listen to family, listen to colleges and listen to friends. This post reminds me of “August Rush” stunning Movie also a reminder to listen also to your heart.

      • Chris Savage October 16, 2014 at 10:37 am #

        Well said, Michele!

  2. Alison October 15, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Love it! You’re so spot on with this post. This should be included in all management courses. yeh baby!

    • Chris Savage October 16, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      Thanks Alison!

  3. Richard Burrage October 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Reminds me of the concept of flow – time passes by quickly and the team are so focused, happy and attuned they don’t realize. That is the best music.

    • Chris Savage October 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      Agree- thanks Richard

  4. Simon Wood October 16, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    Really great analogy Chris – I have used it twice in the last 24 hours.

    • Chris Savage October 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      Good to hear, Simon!

  5. Jayne Albiston October 16, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Brilliant analogy – I will use this and mention your name every time Chris! It totally fits what we do in our consultancy. We help leaders and teams take the guess work out of what will happen to the music by introducing them to iMA Strategies. i (identify your own preferred communication or iMA Style and that of the person you are speaking to), M (modify your message so it is more effectively received) and A (adapt to & appreciate the differences in others). This means that the orchestra members know HOW to effectively communicate with their composer and composers (or team/company leaders) know how to connect with and communicate effectively with their teams and WHO can naturally be the gel in the team, naturally have the energy to create the excitement you speak about above. Really amazing analogy. I would love to meet you Chris. Are you in Sydney?

    • Chris Savage October 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      Thanks Jayne- glad it resonated. Yes I am in Sydney. Send me an email and we’ll arrange a time to meet. Chris

  6. Sandra Lopulalan October 17, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    You follow me on Twitter since yesterday, and I routinely checked out your profile when I stumbled upon this blogpost. How apt! I had just spoken to a group of professionals on exactly this topic, albeit with a different analogy. Nice to connect with a kindred spirit on the other side of the globe (I’m in the Netherlands)! Keep up the good work!

    • Chris Savage October 21, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks Sandra! That is exciting for me to get the feedback and to connect with a kindred spirit! … and I will follow your posts with great interest! Chris

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