And I should know because I tried it. As some readers know I play piano for fun. Over the past six months I have been playing in a local senior center and recently was invited to play at a second senior facility. No big deal except this other facility has a tradition of inviting student musicians from the University of Michigan to play concerts. Such young people have exceptional talent; many will one day make their living playing professionally.
Naturally I was a bit nervous about the situation – how could I play up to such standards? Then I received some advice from a colleague, Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel, who in addition to being a licensed clinical psychologist is a former concert pianist and specializes in performance anxiety. What she advised changed my perspective.
“Focus on sharing rather than proving,” Dr. Julie said. When you focus on giving rather than impressing you become more relaxed and more calm. Doing this takes the pressure off self and places it where it belongs: entertaining your audience. After all the audience doesn’t care if you not the world’s greatest; they simply want a good show. So give it to them!
The concept of sharing versus proving resonates in leadership. Someone who seeks to be number one in order to “prove” how competent he is fails a fundamental concept of leadership. Focus on what you can do for others rather than for yourself. Besides no one likes a know-it all; that is not something that encourages followership.
By contrast the individual who shares what she knows, and does so in manner that is inclusive, makes people want to pay attention. We all know we can get better at some things so when a boss is willing to take time to provide a word of advice, or occasionally impart instruction, that is someone we are more ready to listen to, and maybe even follow their lead.
Executives whom I rate as effective are those who put Julie’s mantra of “share not prove” into action. They build teams that collaborate more readily amongst themselves. And it makes sense because if the boss is one who shares then he or she provides no excuses for those who want to hoard things for themselves.
The essence of positive teamwork is sharing. Think about your favorite sports team. If it is winning, likely it is because the team plays “unselfishly.” Players work at sharing the ball, literally and figuratively. They play as if they do not care who gets the credit; they simply want to win. And to do so requires collaboration. Teams don’t do this naturally; they are coached to collaborate. The coach sets the expectation for it just a bosses do.
Collaboration is rooted in the example of a leader. As Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic puts it, “I think it’s a very important collaboration between the conductor and the orchestra – especially when the conductor is one more member of the orchestra in the way that you are leading, but also respecting, feeling and building the same way for all the players to understand the music.” A leader who believes he or she is part of the team, and not above it, is one who demonstrates what it means to share.
Such sharing is rooted in respect for others and in the joy that comes from meaningful collaborations.
Note: My “debut performance” went just fine because I was more relaxed. And I have been invited back.
By John Baldoni
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