November 16, 2015

To Vent or Not to Vent, that is the question!

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I suspect that we have all vented our anger at some point in time.

You know, let off some steam, in the moment or after the fact, whether directly at the apparent source of our anger or at a substitute (like an innocent co-worker).

We may even have encouraged another to vent!

But, is venting a good idea?

My colleague, Tammy Lenski, recently described venting as one of the great conflict resolution myths that still abounds today:

“While venting anger may feel cathartic, venting anger doesn’t purge aggression from your system or improve your psychological state. In fact, venting is more likely to increase anger and aggressiveness than reduce them.”*

Wow!

She bases her assertion on the research by Dr Brad Bushman at Iowa State University:

“Catharsis theory predicts that venting anger should get rid of it and should therefore reduce subsequent aggression. The present findings, as well as previous findings, directly contradict catharsis theory (e.g., Bushman et al., 1999; Geen & Quanty, 1977). For reducing anger and aggression, the worst possible advice to give people is to tell them to imagine their provocateur’s face on a pillow or punching bag as they wallop it, yet this is precisely what many pop psychologists advise people to do. If followed, such advice will only make people angrier and more aggressive.”**

The dilemma: We need to acknowledge our emotions, but not in a way that reinforces anger or aggression.

Rather, we need to get the emotion’s message so we can respond consciously in the moment, and if possible release any unintegrated negative emotional charge from our past.

Venting seldom changes the situation in a positive way, or prevents it from happening again.

In fact, it becomes an unhealthy habit that makes things worse! We traumatize ourselves with each retelling, searing more neurons to wire together around our pain.

So, what can we do?

Venting is not the emotion. It is the behavior.

Meaning, with awareness of our anger, we can choose to behave differently.

The emotion of anger signifies that we care about something, but feel powerless to address the situation to our satisfaction.

Instead of indulging in the behavior of venting we can explore strategies to address our needs in a positive manner.

And, if we must vent, we can limit ourselves to express it just once and then, as is often suggested for folk working in crisis centers, for not more than 5 minutes.

We can choose the person that we express our dissatisfaction to with care. Some are going to encourage us to take personal responsibility for our feelings and act consciously. Others are going to encourage us to do battle and blame.

And when we can, we can explore why it is that we experienced anger in the first place.

Exploring the energetic relationship between what is triggering us in the present moment, and the original emotional imprinting points the way to reducing our negative emotional charge (real results).

So be careful with venting.

It’s not as beneficial as we have been led to believe.

Unless we seek more anger and aggression in our lives!

*5 Common Beliefs about Conflict that are Dead Wrong by Tammi Lenski

** Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding, by Brad J. Bushman at Iowa State University

October 29, 2015

What’s the difference between Empathy and Sympathy, and why has Sympathy got such a bad name?

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By John Ford

Have you ever wondered about the difference between empathy and sympathy?

And if you have, why sympathy has got such a bad name?

I addressed these very questions in the recent pilot of my online course that focused on Challenging Workplace Relationships, but was prompted to write this after watching a short online video  narrated by Dr. Brené Brown.

In the video Dr Brown says that empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives disconnection. To empathize, she says, we must 'internalize the feelings of another'.

In the examples she gives she suggests that we sympathize when we avoid acknowledging others difficult feelings and also when we minimize the experience of another, such as when we ‘silver-line’ with expressions like, “at least you have a job,” after hearing that the person was demoted.

I agree that these last two practices (avoidance and minimizing) are not empathetic, but I am not sure that they are what sympathy is about. Or indeed the real reasons for sympathy’s bad name.

As is often the case, words have numerous meanings. Sympathy’s Latin roots point to ‘similar feelings’ (sympathia and pathos).

However, the primary sense in most modern dictionaries suggest that sympathy means “pity or sorrow for someone’s misfortune.”

Sympathy as pity is dis-empowering and fuels disconnection. Comments like “I don’t want your sympathy” confirm this.

We want to be allowed to feel our feelings, rather than be rescued by the sympathizer who can never actually feel for us!

I agree that this sense is unfortunate and I suspect a reason for sympathy’s bad name.

But sympathy can also refer to the original Latin meaning and our capacity to recognize a common feeling. We sense that the other person may be feeling something similar to what we have previously experienced and sympathize.
As the listener, if we express our sympathy we may say “I was also ‘gutted’ when my team lost!”

The apparent danger is that unless we are careful we shift the focus away from the other. Now it’s about me and my team!

That’s another reason for its bad name.

So what then is empathy, and how is it different?

Empathy is our capacity to sense and understand what another is feeling from their – nor our – point of view.

This to me is vital. The focus is on them and how they make sense of their feelings.

So while I listen to my English friend bemoan their loss in the rugby world cup, I can sympathize as suggested above as I know what it feels like to lose.

But I can also empathize.

And when I do the shift is apparent. “I imagine you were gutted when your team lost! Especially as hosts. Must really hurt!”

As is suggested by Paul Bellet and Michael Maloney, our perspective becomes superfluous, certainly secondary to that of the speaker:

“Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's shoes.”

At best my frame of reference and knowledge of rugby can help me to understand what my friend is feeling (sympathy), but empathy lies in my ultimate ability to demonstrate to my friend that I understand him and his woes.

Empathy builds connection, and is based on authentic attention to the other.

Sympathy can move us toward, but is not the same as empathy.

In the same way that avoidance and minimization are neither sympathetic nor empathetic.

Much ado about nothing?

Not so sure. Words matter.

Sympathy has its place, but there are dangers.

Which is why for life’s challenges,

I prefer empathy!

August 10, 2015

Are you safe from Mixed Messages?

Yes_no

I recently received feedback on a video I had created to promote my online course that focuses on the skills to handle Challenging Workplace Relationships.

I had posted the video on my personal Facebook page and asked my friends for some honest feedback! 

Let’s just say, that wasn’t easy! 

But I did it - anyway. 

And what I heard, from a number of kind friends, was that there was a disconnect between the use of my hands and my voice! 

Also - that I was looking down at my audience. Rather than being on the level! 

I can easily change the angle of the camera. But what about the disconnect? How best do I address that?

Very simply, by ensuring congruency between my words, the tone of my voice and my body language.

According to Albert Mehrabian, a communication researcher from UCLA, when we are conveying our feelings or attitudes and there is any incongruency between what is being said, the tone of the voice and the body language, we place the least importance on the words used. 

When there is an incongruency, the words have a value of 7%, the tone 38% and the body language 55%. 

If someone shouts “I’m not angry” and pounds the desk while glaring, we discount the words. We give primacy to the message of the body. 

Sadly, this statistic has been misrepresented to mean that in all communication words only constitute 7% of the message! 

I was at a workshop recently where the presenter said exactly that. That’s more like an incorrect message! 

This short video called Busting the Mehrabian Myth that makes it crystal clear what the research really says. 

To peace at work with peace of mind!

July 17, 2015

Why are some - but not all - relationships challenging?

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"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." 
Carl Jung

When relationships challenge us, it is stressful. 

It does get dramatic. 

We do lose our sanity. 

And we do wonder about the meaning of it all.

Physically we experience the sensations of tension, numbness, headaches, stomach ache, pain, stress, fatigue and illness. 

Emotionally our landscape includes drama, manipulation and conflict. Negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, contempt, confusion, disgust, depression, fear, jealousy, worry and sadness are common. 

Mentally things aren’t better. We experience sense making challenges and misunderstandings. The temptation to narrate a right-wrong victim story, be judgmental and have punitive thoughts predominates. 

And we may even lose the plot, questioning life's ultimate meaning and purpose. 

But that is really just HOW relationships are challenging.

What about the WHY! 

Why are relationships challenging?

First, a relationship is challenging because of one, or a combination of three things: YOU, the OTHER and the CONTEXT!

Second, you and the other, as humans, have limitations that can create challenges.

For one, we are far more emotional than we really care to admit. Another is that our memories are not that reliable and we remember things differently without deceptive intentions. For those that try to do too much at the same time, it is now clear that neither woman nor men can really multitask. And if that’s not enough- the placebo affect confirms just how often expectation creates our reality! There is a reason we talk about self-fulfilling prophecies!

Third, most of us lack awareness of our own challenging behaviors or attitudes. Without awareness change is unlikely and even when we are aware, we are oftennot motivated to change.

For those that are aware and are motivated, there may be capacity challenges that make it impossible.

But if we or the other can overcome these obstacles, then the focus of the challenge turns to skills. Specifically, the development of emotionally resonant relationship management skills. 

To navigate the reality of your challenges you need to be able to listen with empathy, express yourself clearly, give and receive feedback openly without defensiveness, assert collaboratively (and sometimes say NO), resolve differences fairly and at times to forgive authentically.

And what this confirms is that there is a lot that you can do yourself first, before you consider the other or indeed the context.

Jung reminds us our challenges can become our opportunities for insight, change and growth.

As we understand ourselves better, we understand others better too. 

If you are tired of being stuck in relationships that are stressful, dramatic, confusing and depressing and are interested in transforming your challenges into opportunities please get on the wait list for the next time  the six week online course Challenging Workplace Relationships runs. 

July 03, 2015

What exactly is a challenging relationship?

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“Sometimes people behave badly on purpose, but often we just lose touch with who we are.” Sharon Salzberg

The question of how best to deal with relationship challenges in our life is not new!

And as Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness at Work, notes; ‘bad behavior’ can be as a result of intentional malice but most often is not.

When we perceive ourselves to be on the receiving end of what we label as ‘bad’ or challenging behavior, we are often judgmental of both the behavior and the motive (intent) of the other.

It is not uncommon for there to be blame.

And it is also not uncommon for us to also lose touch with who we are.

Just as much as the other who acted ‘badly’ may have lost touch with themselves.

That seems to be the difficulty. That as much as we want to control our external world to secure inner peace we find that there is much going on within us that is also part of the challenging mix!

So then, what exactly is a challenging relationship?

Very simply, a challenging relationship is one that you have concluded is challenging!

In other words the test is subjective and very personal.

It means that your difficult person may be liked by many. You may or may not be the only one bothered. And, you may be shocked to find that others – using this same subjective test - find you challenging at times!

This subjective approach is intentional. It avoids ‘typing’ and excessive labeling in which the identification of qualities justify a diagnosis or ‘type’.

See, for example, the book “How People Tick: A Guide to Over 50 Types of Difficult People and How to Handle Them” by Mike Leibling. How anyone can remember all the 50 different types of difficult people or indeed what to do for each is beyond me.

At the end of the day, you will know if you are at peace or not. And if your perception is that the relationship is in any way;

  • Threatening not safe
  • Negative not positive
  • Difficult not easy
  • Defensive not open
  • Hostile not friendly
  • Confusing not clear
  • Draining not energizing
  • Toxic not healthy

Then you have a challenging relationship!

Now, I hasten to add that this conclusion does not entitle you to blame or do any of the other things that will make the situation worse.

But at least you won’t get stuck arguing about whether the behavior or attitude meets the definition of challenging behavior. Or which type it is! Or what to do assuming you have the correct type!

There are 10 things that I have identified that are guaranteed to make things worse. One is labelling and typing.

Another is blame!

When things turn out differently to what we hoped and we are disappointed and even angry because our needs are not being met, we often blame the proverbial other for what went wrong.

The benefit is that we may get sympathy and care. Sometimes shared outrage! And as long as the focus of blame is more external on the other or the environment, we can avoid our own feelings of pain and responsibility. Remember, our part in the challenging mix!

When we blame we make a judgment and hold the other person responsible for a situation from the past based on our perception and interpretation of the facts. As the authors of Difficult Conversations (Stone, Patton, Heen) say, “blame is about judging and looking backwards.”

Blame elicits defensiveness. It reduces the likelihood of learning about what is really causing the difficulty or from doing anything helpful about it.

A blame conversation is not the only conversation humans can have when things go wrong. I will always be grateful to Stone, Patton and Heen who revealed a worthy process alternative: a contribution conversation.

“A contribution conversation is about understanding and looks forward.”

Instead of asking whose fault is it, we openly ask how we each contributed to the situation in question:

What is my contribution to the situation?

What did we each do?

What can we learn?

Instead of defensiveness and concealment that prevents learning when we take the blame route, we discover through our candid revealing that we can learn from our individual and collective mistakes.

Here’s how the two approaches look side to side. Where the blame cycle grows and leads to more of the same challenge, the contribution conversation is balancing and reduces the problem.

Blame

We all experience challenging relationships and as the wise Sharon Salzberg cautions - most of the time it is from good folk, like you and me, losing touch with who we really are.

How positive do we need to be in our relationships?

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According to evidence based psychologist, John Gottman, “the ratio of positive to negative affect during conflict in stable relationships is 5:1; in couples headed for divorce, it is 0.8:1!” 

As Gottman points out, this does not require that we declare war on negative emotions.

All emotions have value when we view them as sources of decision making information to navigate life. In fact, without them, we would be rudderless! 

Take anger, as an example of a negative emotion. 

Anger arises when someone or something is interfering with the attainment of our actual or expected needs. There is a sense of being powerless about the situation. It burns a lot of energy and is ultimately tiring. There is a danger of impulsive and premature decisions.

Importantly, emotions are not the same as the behavior that follows. Slamming the door, shouting and acting out is the behavior. Not the emotion! 

These graphics give us a window into what is occurring. In the healthy couple on the left we see that the trend is generally upward despite moments of rupture and contraction. On the right, the trend reflects the downward spiral of poorly managed conflict.
 
GottmanPositiveRatio
 
One practical application of this insight (where I have had great success) is with email. As research by Kristin Byron, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005, shows, regardless of the sender’s intention, recipients interpret the impact of emails to be:

• Neutral when they are positive
• Negative when they are neutral

I was coaching a client recently. He told me that he had just received an email from his boss, and needed to respond. His concern about what he was going to say was preventing him from focusing, so I asked if he’d like to draft his reply during our session. 

He said yes, and I gave him a moment to write something out. We then took a look together and I asked him to indicate – sentence by sentence – whether his boss would perceive the statement as positive, negative or neutral. His score: 5 negative, 2 neutral and 2 positive sentences!

As a result of this review, his changes and additions, we were able to significantly shift the tone and tenor of the email from negative to positive. We removed ‘unnecessary story’, negative leaks, and outright threats while also adding more positive statements. 

We didn’t get to the gold standard of 5:1 and his score after our process was 3 negative, 4 neutral and 4 positive sentences. Still way better!

He sent it, and we got back to focus on our session goals. And here is the best part: before the session ended he had received a positive reply back from his boss. The relief was palpable.

And now he was struggling to focus because he was so happy!

Challenging relationship are a reality. We all have them. And there are things that we can do to change the quality of our experience as we navigate our challenging relationships.

So the next time you have to send out an important email, take a moment to review each sentence and determine your score. See what you can do to clean up your message and give yourself the best chance of being heard.

What's the difference between Mediation and Toxic Triangulation?

"We are always 100% responsible for our 50% of any relationship." 
Source Unknown
 
And yet in life, when things are challenging, we often observe how humans focus on the other's 50% while ignoring their own. 
 
This tendency to deflect responsibility is common in the workplace with employees blaming others while ignoring their own contribution to a problem.
 
And when they are unable to address their challenge directly themselves, they often turn to third parties-typically those with some power to address the situation in their favor. Their narrative may reveal a victim mentality. Regardless, they want their perspective validated and something done.
 
If your company has an 'open door policy' employees may go above their supervisors head to address their concerns with someone higher up the chain of command. And from time to time employees do go to HR.
 
This is where you have to be careful, as there is a thin line between actions that are helpful and those that are not! 
 
Triangulation occurs when a third person gets involved in the relational dynamics of two others. Toxic triangulation occurs when the third person doesn't restore direct communication, and instead distorts it and either unwittingly or intentionally colludes with the person who complained.
 
Here's what author's Wilmot and Hooker (on page 226 of their book, Interpersonal Conflict), have this to say about toxic triangulation:

"When people perceive that they are the low-power person in a conflict, their typical response is to try and form a coalition with another person....Three people find it difficult to maintain balance in a conflicted relationship. Usually they become structured as a "dyad plus one. Communication triangles are unstable, leaving one person out."
 
Ideally, employees who have a functional interdependency, address their issues directly, and find working resolutions themselves. 
 
When you become the go between for communication and use your influence or positional power to address a challenge on another's behalf, not only do you make it difficult it for yourself, but you support toxic triangulation!
 
This is what toxic triangulation looks like. B who has less power than A goes to C for support. C takes B's side and communicates with A on behalf of B:
 
TT1x
As always, in challenge, lies opportunity!

The potential to take more of a mediative posture arises when we are that third party. You can support direct communication and restore responsibility for decision making to the two involved.

When you do that, and don't take sides, you are effectively mediating. You are equally there for both of them. Instead of contributing toward toxicity, you foster conditions for peace and harmony.
 
This approach is exactly what the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) expects as per their 2014 competency certification model. Here is a link for those interested in a short summary of the relationship management competency, which expects among other things, that senior HR managers "will mediate difficult employee relations as a neutral party."
 
MS1x

April 30, 2015

The Future of Mediation

By John Ford

"If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

A coach once asked me to predict which way a drop of water would go around a rock up ahead. Of course there is no way of knowing: the water drop may not make it due to evaporation to the atmosphere, absorption by the river bank, and then if it does make it to the rock, whether it goes left or right, over or below. However, even if the future is uncertain, we can still comment on where the drop of water is at the moment.  Even its relationship to our imagined future. And of course about its past.

When did mediation start?

I wonder when the first human chose not to resolve a conflict or dispute of others by telling them the solution but supporting them to find their own. Especially where they had power to impose (make and enforce) a solution. And how many such interventions have been made through the course of human time.

Mediation is both an idea and a process. As an idea it promotes self-responsibility and embraces self-determination. It believes in the ability of humans to take care of their own lives. As a process it has evolved to a point where there are many difference approaches (facilitative, transformative, narrative, party directed, and evaluative) that all use the term mediation to define how the idea is brought to life.

The field of mediation

The idea and process of mediation appear to be enjoying an expansive phase in their history. A self-organized field of mediation has gained self-awareness of the uniqueness of the process and the importance of its role. Some call it a profession. International and regional membership associations for mediators that create voluntary standards of conduct are common.

Debate amongst proponents of different approaches at conferences of professionals who self-identify as mediators is lively. For the most part mediation has been based on intuitive insights of how to resolve conflicts - coupled with reflective practice. More recently we are seeing the emergence of an evidence based or scientific approach to mediation knowledge.

Mediation in contemporary society

Mediation continues to be practiced in many diverse ways around the world both by professional and community members. Mediation has found fertile ground as an idea in many legal systems. The motivation has been varied. Some have advanced more practical social benefits like cost savings while others point to the quality of the decision made in mediation, and more abstract values like self-determination.

The field of mediation has created specializations in a variety of areas such as family, workplace, elder, environmental, commercial and the like. And some professions like HR, realtors, and hospital administrators who routinely find themselves at the intersection of conflict have also started to embrace and internalize the process (skill) of mediation.

Governments of the world are increasingly including mediation as part of the resolution process to address civil right disputes especially in labor, employment and family arenas. Some even provide the mediator’s.

While there is a growing general awareness of mediation, specific awareness of mediation as a valuable or indeed as an applicable option, is low.

World Peace

One way we venture into the future is through vision statements. Like Roosevelt, my vision is world peace. My only question is how long will it take?

Clearly we are not there now, and as result I anticipate that the popularity of mediation as an idea and process will expand and contract cyclically but with a steady incline as we get closer to world peace.

And in my vision, peace is not the absence of conflict. At this point mediation and other collaborative, non-aggressive processes will have become the norm.  The violent and adversarial past will be something people read about and find hard to comprehend!

Humans are getting less violent and yet continue to invest in aggressive and violent approaches to conflict resolution.

Until then

In the more short term I anticipate more scrutiny of the mediation process, especially in the legal context, with developments being more evidence based than intuitive. The courts will be rich learning grounds for insights, in part because the participants will test the limits of competition within a collaborative frame of reference, such that mediation provides.

Where I see the biggest opportunity however, is not in the legal system. I believe that the biggest role mediation has to play, is as a process that is institutionalized within the social fabric of our interactions with one another, not just when we are at the court house steps, but when our differences are first emerging, wherever we happen to be.

The Reality

However, given the current low social awareness of the value or applicability of mediation, education of both end users but also providers will be crucial. I see this as an ongoing challenge. For example, currently in the United States, most HR professionals know about mediation but believe that it is something that other professionals do.

Interestingly, the largest professional membership organization for HR professionals in the world, the Society for Human Resource Management, has established competency standards for certification that expect senior leaders to be able to mediate difficult situations among employees.

As this happens, and similar positive developments take place in schools, businesses, clubs and homes we will seed the slow ongoing improvement in the ability of humans to live together in peace with others. Mediation will continue to have an important role to play.

 

 

 

 

We need to carve a third way forward to characterize the employer-employee relationship!

“We need to recapture some of the trust and relationship-building of the family model while acknowledging that the current economy for employers and employees alike demands a certain amount of flexibility. We need to carve a third way forward to characterize the employer-employee relationship.” 

“An alliance between HR and your employees is a relationship where two voluntary actors enter into a relationship characterized by mutual trust, mutual investment and mutual benefit.” 

“Lifetime employment may be over, but a lifetime relationship can and should endure.”

Ben Casnocha, former chief of staff of LinkedIn, gives the closing keynote address at the SHRM 2015 Talent Management Conference & Exposition

 I am encouraged! It comes back to the idea that we can be happy and productive in the workplace. I'm excited to see what emerges as the third way forward!

April 23, 2015

Guest Blog: From Failing to Unstoppable: Transforming Your Team

By Maria Simpson, Ph.D.

info@mariasimpson.com
www.mariasimpson.com


The wine shop had been losing money for a long time, and the owners were in debt and not talking to each other. Staff members were frustrated that their expertise was being ignored and they were treated disrespectfully. The little wine tasting bar with a short food menu had few if any customers, and the band that played once a week was terrible, even if it was the owner’s band. The place was disorganized and messy.
 
Call in “The Profit!” Marcus Lemonis is a business consultant who saves businesses,and does it very publicly on CNBC. His method of saving a business provides an excellent example of what it takes to transform a failing team to a really excellent, unstoppable team. Some of the drama is probably hyped for reality TV, but most of it feels quite real. The decisions Lemonis makes and the leadership he demonstrates are excellent examples of how to create an effective team and run a business.
 
Lemonis buys 51% of the business, making him the decision-maker. In this case he took several steps immediately. First, he gained support from the staff by asking them what  wasn’t working and what would work better, and respecting their insight. He listened carefully to understand the interpersonal and management problems. Then he went back to the numbers and wasn’t shy about asking the owners how it could have gotten so bad. Finally, he acted immediately to address the problems he found.

As a result:

  • After laying out the terms of the investment, one owner decided to be a silent partner and just took his share of the profits.
  • Senior staff members were made partners and given a share of ownership. When the not-so-silent partner objected, Lemonis reminded him that he no longer controlled the business. (Lemonis asserted his leadership authority generally without anger and respectfully, but he wasn’t averse to arguing, either.)
  • Staff members were involved in all decisions from banishing the band to determining what to sell and how the physical space should be reorganized. They started to work collaboratively.
  • Staff expertise was respected, and they had authority to make decisions in their own departments.
  • Conflicts were addressed immediately. When someone asked to talk to him, Lemonis said sure and went to a private space. He did not ask to finish a conversation, come back in ten minutes, or make an appointment. He acted immediately.
  • When there were blow-ups he worked at repairing relationships, even with the difficult owner.

Of course, the team was transformed, the business flourished, the angry owner changed his behavior, and everyone made a mint. Since the name and location of the business are quite public (Amazing Grapes) the case is real and can be tracked down through CNBC.
 
On the other hand, challenges are faced very differently in a successful team. 
 
The guest conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was ill, and although he’d made it through the first three pieces on the program, he couldn’t make it through the fourth. The concert mistress announced that they would perform Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony” without him.  The symphony is well-known, these are world-class musicians, and they have played it many times before, but not without a conductor, and everyone wanted to see what would happen.
 
The musicians clearly respected and admired the concert mistress, they respected her position of leadership, and she respected all of them. And the audience was once more greatly impressed with the expertise of the musicians. They might have gotten a little plodding in the middle of the piece, maybe because they all wanted to be very careful, but she said something to her colleagues just before the final movement, and they played with enormous energy. The bravos were loud and the applause long. It was wonderful.
 
What differentiated this team from the business team? First, the musicians had enormous mutual respect for each other’s expertise and for the leadership role. Many of the musicians have independent touring schedules or play with other groups, and their CDs are available at every performance. Also, many of these musicians have been together for at least ten years, playing a wide variety of music, so they knew they could count on each other to play well. Mutual respect was lacking in the wine shop.
 
Second, the musicians were well-prepared for their jobs. They had just completed a very modern piece, which required extraordinary musicianship, so they had broad musical experience and preparation that made it possible for them to rise to any challenge. They knew their responsibilities and managed them expertly. They didn’t need oversight. In the wine business, staff expertise was not respected and was instead undermined and ignored.
 
Third, leadership was obvious and inspired commitment. The music director is beloved by the orchestra and the audience, and his commitment inspires the commitment of every musician there. I’m sure no one misses rehearsals or comes to a new piece without knowing how to play it. In the wine business, the owners were rarely on site but gave no authority to the department heads to make decisions in their absence. Lemonis told the angry partner that all he had to do to be part of the new team was show up, and he failed to do that until the day when the store was being renovated and he had had no input into the decision. Lemonis told everyone what would happen and then stuck to the plan even if it meant leaving someone out.
 
Last, the LACO musicians trusted each other and their leadership. If they had had disputes, and what team doesn’t, those were put aside in performance so they could reach their mutual goal: wonderful music for an greatly appreciative audience in what was, for them, a bit of an emergency. The lack of trust among wine shop staff undermined everything they tried because they wouldn’t commit to a plan when they couldn’t count on each other to make it work.
 
And perhaps trust is the most important element in any team’s success. With trust they can talk about anything, explore difficult issues, examine their own performance and count on each other in difficult times or unexpected circumstances. In the wine shop the lack of mutual trust was obvious. Without that basic trust, bad decisions couldn’t be reviewed and better ways of doing things found.
 
It’s easy enough to have an unstoppable team. All you need is trust, competence, and a shared vision with equal commitment from all. And some really good leadership.