business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s a common theme I hear or read whenever athletes or motivational speakers talk of teamwork. Simply put, if you want to go fast, go alone. However, if you want to go far, go together as a team.

In other words, teams can be challenging, and can lead to questions and dissent. But when a team is functioning properly, great things can happen by involving people with different strengths, points of view and maybe a willingness to ask the questions that need be asked.

So yes, a team may slow you down a little, but in the long run you’ll get a whole lot further and maybe even faster than you can believe.

My son, Corey, the classical musician I talk about regularly, is always schooling me on teamwork; he is a trombone player who reminds me that I know nothing about the world of classical music. But I have noticed that somehow an orchestra manages to combine an incredible range of instruments and sounds into wonderful music. I don't understand how it happens, but I know it is magical.

As a parent, it always sort of bothers me that my son the trombonist always has to sit behind all those violin players at the front of the stage. Yet I have learned that while those brass instruments can easily drown out the violins and they only make the beautiful music by blending together.

But now, teamwork goes a step further. One of the groups my son plays with performs ragtime music in a very interesting format. The ensemble presents classic and really old movies (think Charlie Chaplin) accompanied by the original music that a ragtime ensemble would have played in theaters back in 1910.

Now I have no illusions that ragtime is about to replace rap, but this ragtime ensemble is suddenly getting momentum, playing concerts in small towns across the country.

Corey says there are some simple reasons for this - starting with improved musicianship from the group. But the bigger change takes us back to the importance of teamwork.

The ragtime ensemble was created by one of Corey’s former classmates, who did his doctoral work studying ragtime and its roots in American history. At first, this young man did everything the group needed from finding the music and films to setting the performances to conducting the ensemble.

Of late, though, he’s learned to delegate and that, in turn, is leading to more concerts, better paying gigs, and better musicianship. Put another way, the group is running more like a team and thanks to that is producing better results financially and musically.

All of us who have managed teams know too well the frustrations of doing that. I can remember times when I wasn't too fond of many aspects of team management because it felt like every day was slowed down by talking with and listening to my team, hearing their problems, suggestions and ideas, when I knew I could move so much quicker if I just went off on my own.

But I also learned that I was endlessly smarter thanks to my team. I was always awed by how much they knew that I didn’t and I saw how much better we performed when I simply enabled them to perform. Thanks to them, my limitations no longer limited us as a group.

I’d argue that team strength is more important than ever thanks to the increased diversity of the workforce and the myriad issues every business faces. Managers at all levels need remember they’ll never move faster than when they go it alone. But they need also remember that only a team can take you further than ever before.

And with beautiful music!

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

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