Creating Harmony: A Teamwork Lesson From A Cappella Groups

August 9, 2015
Mary Jo Asmus

Driving along the highway with the radio tuned to the Here & Now show, I was just “sort of” listening. But then…..Deke Sharon (producer for The Sing Off and both Pitch Perfect movies) came on to be interviewed about the resurgence of interest in a cappella music. I pumped my fist and shouted YEAH! when Sharon mentioned that part of his job requires him to smooth over rough patches in the relationships among group members because:

“You can’t create harmony unless you have harmony within the group.”

One definition of “harmony” (Merriam Webster) is “a pleasing combination or arrangement of different things.” Harmony is what happens when relationships in the group are intentionally built. Sharon’s statement is also true of leadership teams and groups of employees who have to work together; harmony among the team members can create great results.

This is the work you need to do to create harmony on your team:

Be clear about the vision that you want to achieve. Working together with your team on the vision can be an exercise in working toward harmony in itself. Masterful a cappella groups spend a lot of time defining their vision: the BHAG’s they see themselves achieving in the future. They’ll work together on what they want to be known for, how they’ll stand out from the crowd, and how they’ll be working together to achieve their vision. Engage your team in an inspiring dialog about the vision, and you’re shaping the future together and setting the stage for harmony.

Capitalize on the unique gifts of each team member. In the finest a cappella groups the singers who are naturals at singing within a certain range (soprano, contralto, tenor, bass, etc.) normally sing the role meant for their voice. These groups blend their differences of range to create a unique, pleasing, and very complex sound. Your team members should work within their talents when possible, and blend their usual gifts with those of other team members to create a team that capitalizes on the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of each member.

Embrace conflict and address disrespect. In the movie Pitch Perfect, a female a cappella “underdog” group was only able to reach their potential when they addressed the behavioral issues that were holding them back. Work with your team to set some norms about what’s acceptable and what isn’t in terms of behavior. Conflict of ideas can foster creativity, but behavior that is disrespectful kills new ideas. What are the behaviors are acceptable when conflict arises? How will the team address someone who isn’t doing their part?

A cappella groups and work teams harmonize well when they have built the kind of relationships that can create extraordinary results. Harmony requires a lot of work behind the scenes. Be as intentional about facilitating harmony with your team as you are with the work that needs to be done, and you’ll have the potential to achieve more than you thought possible.

More From Mary Jo Asmus

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Curiosity: a Pillar for Great Relationships at Work

Renewing and Nourishing Work Relationships

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Pete under Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic

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