untitled-50aMany of you know that I’m a working musician in my free time. I was invited to join the Jones and Raine band in 2007; it is the most talented, musical, and enjoyable band I’ve ever experienced. The reason why may surprise you. It’s not about musicianship or cool gear or great songs or even teamwork – though all those things certainly help. It’s about listening.

Live music is an interesting challenge. Great live performances are not created by individuals playing their parts at full volume! That creates noise and static which is not pleasurable to listen to.

Great live performances require well-prepared, skilled players who work WITH each other, listening carefully to leave space for others’ contributions, and not step on anyone’s toes with an unfortunately timed vocal or instrumental. Every note played, every word sung, needs to serve the song’s message and the listener’s receipt of it. Every tune played needs an intentional strategy to guide the players and the performance.

Recording in the studio is a different deal. In that sterile setting, individual players can lay down perfect tracks. The producer and engineer(s) mix and master those tracks to position parts (instruments, vocals, lead instrumentation, etc.) in the stereo soundstage, to ensure clarity of tracks, and to present the song in it’s best, final form. For performers, studio work is less complex than live shows – you come in, play your parts, and then leave the mixing and mastering (HOURS of hard work) to the pros.

In a live setting, it is all too easy to create a “wall of sound” that doesn’t distinguish vocals, keyboards, or guitar performances – or the song’s meaning. The best bands – like the best work teams – listen carefully, in the moment, to work together to present the best possible combination of skills and performance for the receiver(s).

Does Your Team Create Music or Noise?

In organizations, it is all too rare that a team cooperates, listens, and leverages team members’ best selves in service to internal and external customers. Most teams create noise – where individual performers do their thing without clear regard for the total package.

That noise may not be intentional. It could be that individual performers see themselves in a “sterile setting” much like that of a recording studio. They perform and leave the “mixing and mastering” to someone else.

In most cases and with most teams, there isn’t someone else to pull it all together. If you want your team’s live performance to be pleasurable to your “listeners” (customers), every team member needs to bring their best performance, listen for the right space to contribute, and offer space for team mates to contribute, too.

Please join in the conversation! What are your experiences with work teams – has it been music or noise or something in between? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © Kevin Krayna at Creation Photoscapes

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarMark Deterding says

    Chris, this is an outstanding analogy to the importance of listening and working together in the moment to drive great results. In my experience the better job a leader has done creating a culture with clear expectations and an atmosphere of “No fear”, the more effective the team will be in bringing their best to the table in the right moments. When that is happening the flow of the workplace is amazing. People understand the importance of their work, they are engaged, and recognized, and the “music” sounds phenomenal. Thanks so much for your fabulous work in this area!


    • S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

      Mark, you are RIGHT ON – the flow of the workplace is a critical element for leaders to pay attention to!

      I appreciate your work with your clients to reduce the NOISE and make more MUSIC!



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