I never played team sports. When leading organizations, I realized team sports teach valuable leadership lessons. Although team sports weren’t exactly my focus, I did pursue some group activities. It turns out Music taught me a lot about Teamwork.
The choice pearl in my high school was to be a member of the Choraliers, a select, mostly a cappella music group. All singers craved membership. Our beloved music teacher, Dwight Sherwood, personally picked each member.
So, when I learned that I made the group, I was ecstatic. That is, until the first practice. It was then I realized just how much more talent many of my peers had!
If there’s any place where mistakes will stand out, it’s when people sing without accompaniment. However, Mr. Sherwood had a talent for making each of us feel important and to keep us all singing the same lines over and over during endless rehearsals.
When it came time for our performance, nerves were on edge and tension palpable. He had taught us well. We were perfectly lined up on the risers in front of the audience filled with proud parents, teachers, and friends. As Mr. Sherwood, stood, we all took the essential breath, and when he lifted his hands, our voices started on exactly the same note, blending as one. While he spoke not a word, his words echoed in our ears.
“Listen to each other,” he would instruct in rehearsal.
“If you can’t hear your neighbor, you’re singing too loud.”
“Pronounce the consonants.”
“Watch me. Watch me. Watch me!”
That night we listened, we pronounced, and we watched. While we had sung the songs countless times before, on performance night some magic happened. It was as if we finally understood in our bellies (where we were also supposed to be breathing) the most elemental idea: this is a team.
Our team can’t perform well unless everyone performs well. Every person is critical to the success of this team. If you don’t pull your weight, you pull down the team. If you pull your weight and give it your best, you can be a crucial force in making this team fly.
And fly we did. It was a great flight—and an excellent lesson for every team I participated in from that moment forward.
In many ways as leaders, we are like Mr. Sherwood. We give our teams what they need to be successful. We teach them the rules of success within the framework of our team. Then we stand before them and give them a place to focus their energy. Using these principles, Mr. Sherwood taught all of us in the Choraliers how to have teamwork with harmony–and without discord.
How will you teach this to your team?