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Lessons from Music for the Businessperson

Interview for Opus Osm, 2010

The world of music provides many examples of people working together to create great things in time of change.

Essential Tips for Working Together

Today in the era of globalization, communication between people is of the highest priority in management, for today and for the future. We search to understand the qualities of teamwork and look to all resources to find how to enhance communication at our workplace as well as in our personal lives.

Executives and musicians face common issues at their workplace, in dealing with teamwork, change, achieving performance value, competing to succeed. The world of music provides many examples of people working together to create great things in time of change. In that way we can consider music a valuable metaphor to understand leadership and teamwork.

For me as a musician, from very early childhood playing with other musicians was the most natural thing. My first collaboration was with my sister, a pianist, 3 years older than I. My first lesson was that I was not the leader and my sister the accompanist who would obediently listen to me, but that we were equals working together to perform our very best for our teachers, family, and friends. We had to learn how to match our tone (our ideas) and at the same time be able to lead or quickly switch to accompany the other.

One of the first essential tools one had to learn as a musician were good manners: when one player gets lost, the others have to stop or give immediate support to continue, not just carry on because they can and they know where they are. And then they have to be ready to restart playing at any time.

These first lessons set up the principles by which all my further collaboration with other musicians up to this day is based on, whether it is playing together with my pianist, or a guitar player, or with a larger chamber music ensemble.

The ultimate goal of teamwork from the music perspective is to achieve an "upper, outer voice," a corporate personality that is more than the sum of its parts. Steve Jobs used the Beatles, a quartet, as a model for business: they were "four guys who kept each other's negative tendencies in check, they balanced each other, and the the total was greater than the sum of its parts. And that's how I see business."

Ms. Pelić sees many links between teamwork in business and in the orchestra

When a music group starts to work, the initial A is played at the beginning to "tune" in the ensemble/team. It expresses a vision of partnership, teamwork, and relationship. In giving the A "the tone," the manager and employee become a team for accomplishing the extraordinary. When I come to think of it, my long-time music partners and I constantly have a silent dialogue taking place during our rehearsals.

Looking further into a music team, each member knows his part, is highly trained in his skills, and is responsible for delivering his best. You must know how you fit within the whole, what your role is in the picture. Flexibility is needed as various situations can arise where there will be the need to improvise, cover up for someone, restart, and play on.

Depending on the music score (business plan), you have to be ready at any time to take over leadership, pass it on, or share it. It is a constant give and take situation.

Working extensively together, you learn each other's moves and in that way create the platform for a successful and empowering team.

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