30 years ago U2 released The Joshua Tree. This month in 1984 Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA came out. 3 years ago I released my own album.
I took some time out in 2014 to focus on personal projects, and was concerned it might be lost time from my career. In just a couple of weeks I had fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing, recording and releasing my own piano album. Its sales will never compete with the likes of U2 or Springsteen, but the process taught me three valuable lessons I took back to work.
To build strong relationships bring your whole self to work.
Until recently many of my colleagues didn’t know I played the piano, or that music was one of my passions. I never talked about it, sticking instead to more work-related topics, wrongly believing that hobbies were just part of home life.
After releasing my album I started to tell people about it, and of course they were interested and wanted to find out more. It’s even come up in job interviews.
Sometimes we box ourselves in, or create false boundaries between “work” and “home”. Strong and meaningful relationships with our teams and peers enhance creative thinking and team cohesiveness.
Bringing Your Whole Self to Work, a Harvard Business Review publication, explores the importance of these “human moments” and how they drive emotional well-being at work.
Make time for experimentation and play.
So much of our time at work is focused on processes and results. If we allow more time for collaboration and experimentation we can often find different processes and get to better results.
When I wrote my album I knew in advance how I wanted each track to sound, then played around with different themes and improvised several ideas before finding what worked best.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Peter Gray notes, “One reason play is such an ideal state of mind for creativity and learning is because the mind is focused on means. Since the ends are understood as secondary, fear of failure is absent… players feel free to incorporate new sources of information and to experiment with new ways of doing things.”
Focus on boundary spanning leadership.
Writing and releasing the album required improvisation and flexible, holistic thinking. When peers from other departments heard about it, we had creative conversations beyond the usual day to day business topics.
This multidimensional thinking and communication is essential to what the Center for Creative Leadership terms Boundary Spanning Leadership. In their 2011 White Paper the authors define this as “the capability to establish direction, alignment, and commitment across boundaries in service of a higher vision or goal”. Although 99% of surveyed leaders defined this as “important”, only 7% believed they were “very effective” doing it.
Since writing my album, I regularly use these lessons for more effective leadership. What tools and strategies do you use to enhance your leadership performance?