Conducting a Team

Steve LudwigHiring ChallengesLeave a Comment

conductor conducting a choir

Business is often more art than science.

The art of building a team can be likened to that of conducting a choir, where the conductor must harmonize various components to create a unified and powerful performance.

The conductor of a choir and a team leader share a similar vision and purpose. The conductor’s primary role is to guide the choir members towards a common goal, blending their individual voices to create a harmonious whole. In a business context, the team leader has the same responsibility: to unite team members and direct their collective efforts toward a shared objective. This alignment of vision and purpose is essential for both the choir and the team to perform optimally.

A choir is composed of diverse voices, each with its own unique timbre, range, and strengths. Similarly, a successful business team requires a diverse mix of skills, experiences, and perspectives. In a choir, the conductor is responsible for organizing the singers into sections—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—based on their vocal abilities. In the same vein, a team leader must identify the individual strengths of team members and delegate roles accordingly. This ensures that each member is utilized effectively and contributes to the overall success of the team.

A conductor uses a variety of techniques to elicit the desired performance from the choir members. These techniques may include clear and concise communication, motivational gestures, and constant feedback. In a business environment, a team leader must also employ effective communication, motivation, and feedback mechanisms to optimize team performance. Clear communication ensures team members understand their roles and responsibilities, while motivation keeps them engaged and committed to their tasks. Regular feedback allows team members to learn from their mistakes, grow professionally, and refine their skills.

Both the choir conductor and the team leader must foster a sense of unity among their respective groups. A conductor achieves this by encouraging a collaborative atmosphere, where singers listen to and support each other throughout the performance. In a business setting, a team leader must nurture a culture of collaboration, where team members work together, share ideas, and support each other’s efforts. This sense of unity not only enhances team performance but also creates a positive working environment.

Adaptability is a crucial trait for both choir conductors and team leaders. A conductor must be prepared to adjust to unforeseen circumstances, such as a singer falling ill or a last-minute change in the performance program. Similarly, a team leader must be able to adapt to changing market conditions, a global pandemic, new technologies, or shifting organizational priorities. This adaptability allows the team to remain agile, resilient, and ready to tackle new challenges.

Also, like a choir conductor, a team leader often must find soloists. These are the choir members that have the best ability to sing a certain section of the song. This doesn’t mean the other singers are bad; it’s just for that song, those people fit for that solo.

In a business setting, these soloists are often Pathfinders. These are individuals that with a unique set of deep skills and mindsets to be successful in helping start new projects, lead and/or be members of self-managed teams, and find new markets or clients.

Pathfinders will hack through the proverbial jungle, developing the trail others follow.

How are Pathfinders different from other employees? Their characteristics include:

  • A strong ability to deal with ambiguity. When in situations without precedent, Pathfinders need to be agile and not just deal with ambiguity, but actually find a way to thrive within it.
  • Not being told what to do and operating without a playbook of any kind, the Pathfinder also needs to be self-directed. Specifically, Pathfinders are able to fully engage in tasks/roles largely, or even entirely, motivated by meeting a need. Broadly, Pathfinders see a need and jump in and figure things out as they go.
  • A curiosity that allows for creative solutions. This is critical when a lot of latitude is provided to find new solutions, products, or markets.
  • A hunger motivated by something quite different to many career climbers. We’d characterize this motivation as intrinsic rather than extrinsic. They are looking for something that is deeper and has a personal meaning for them.

The broad construct of a Pathfinder was operationalized into 4 primary (modules) with 13 sub-categories (values) based on the work experience of our team and interviews with recognized Pathfinders. This step was expanded by a literature review of the categories and a review of existing measurement tools.

We then developed an online assessment to ‘score’ people against these modules and values thereby enabling their classification on the spectrum of Pathfinder attributes.

Want to find your organization’s or team’s Pathfinders? We offer that online assessment through The Pathfinder Company. Individual’s can sign up to take the assessment directly, organisations can sign up for our private beta here.

If you are looking for your first sales hire of a B2B tech startup, The Right Five covers both the deep and vocational skills required to be successful. You can watch a demo here.

We also must remember, as critical as good Pathfinders and soloists are, they must work well with the rest of the choir and team in order for everything to operate smoothly. Someone trying to sing a solo at the wrong time or in the wrong key doesn’t work for anyone.

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