This is a June 18, 2013 article by Josh Linkner from Inc.com. thanks for repost permission http://m.inc.com/?incid=48954
I tried to post the link earlier, but it didn't seem to open correctly, so here is is in full form...
Jazz musicians are agile and dynamic. They are gracious--but
not shy. Here's what you can take from
the stage to the board room.
Some people would introduce me as a venture capitalist,
since I run a venture firm in Detroit. Others might reference me as an
entrepreneur, given that I've founded four technology companies. I guess these
people wouldn't be wrong in their verbiage, but it's not an introduction I
Instead, I'd rather be deemed a jazz musician. After decades
of training, countless hours of practice, and a whole host of gigs nationwide,
jazz is my passion--and its something that has benefitted all other aspects of
my life tremendously. While on the surface it would seem that jazz musicianship
is the polar opposite of running a business, the two practices are linked in
Just as you'd learn a great deal from a trusted advisor, so
too can non-traditional sources help you to expand your knowledge base. Jazz
musicians are agile and dynamic, carrying their group's song and themes through
the diversified landscape to the end. Quite frankly, I don't know anyone better
to provide leadership advice than a professional jazz player for this very
reason. Here are some powerful takeaways I've picked up along the way from
incredible musician leaders--let these lessons shine at your business, and your
cube will get a lot swankier.
1. Playing it safe gets you tossed off the stage. Some
executives would say that in today's turbulent economy, takings risks isn't
wise. If you don't take risks you'll never excel. Playing it safe all the time
becomes the most dangerous move of all.
2. There are no do-overs in live performances. For every
hour in a "performance" setting, you should spend five hours
practicing. Athletes do this, musicians do this--muscle memory is no different
in the board room, in front of a new client, or with your team. So why aren't
you doing this?
3. Listening to those around you is three times more
important than what you play yourself. If you're the one talking all the time,
you're not learning anything. Listen, absorb what you hear, and use the
information to make a conscious choice about whatever you're facing.
4. There's a time to stand out as a soloist and a time to
support others and make them shine. You rocked a project--nicely done. Praise
is well-deserved. However, as a leader, it's more likely the case that your
team members rocked a project, together. Susie was on top of her game with the
slide deck? Tell her--and tell the client. Johnny couldn't have articulated
the challenge to the press any more astutely? Refer back to
his commentary as a stellar example. When you can share the wealth, everyone
5. Expect surprises and adversity, since jazz (and life) is
about how you respond and adapt. If running a business was always smooth
sailing, everyone would do it. That being said, the old adage explains that
"a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor." Anticipate hurdles and
maximize your team's effort to jump over them.
6. Know your audience. If you're playing for a group that's
looking forward to something slow and calming and you get on stage and play a
wild and crazy, upbeat riff, nobody will dig it--even if it's a well-crafted
piece. Your customers are the same. If you're not working to provide them with
something they want and need, you're doomed to fail.
7. It's always better leaving people wanting more, rather
than less. Of course as you live and breathe your business, you have a visceral
urge to share every piece of minutia with anyone who asks. Don't. Instead of
pouring it all on at once, give people a teaser, so they crave the next bit you
explain. In similar fashion, don't try and launch 15 products at once for a new
line; start with one or two to get people begging for more.
8. The best leaders are those that make others sound good.
Big band leaders bring out the best in their troupes--during a sax solo, his
job is to make sure the drum line supports the sax player with a quality
backdrop to make the riff shine especially bright. Are you putting these pieces
together on your team? Where could someone excel that they're being held back?
Shatter those boundaries and encourage creativity to soar.
9. Pattern recognition is easier than raw genius. If you
drive the same way to work every day for a year, you're bound to learn
about--and avoid--the pothole on Main Street that you pass each time. Jazz is
no different; if you've played combinations countless times, it becomes second
nature to pair new things together based on previous patterns. So too in business,
seasoned executives and professionals have seen so many types of people, deals,
projects, and processes, so it becomes much easier for them to avoid these
proverbial potholes, rather than having to start from scratch every time.
10. Shy musicians are starving artists. If you're playing a
gig, you get paid when there's butts in seats, so you can't be shy in telling
people about the upcoming show. Why haven't you been this bold in your new
product launch? Are your employees evangelical about your company's culture?
Are your vendors singing your praises?
11. Keeping it new and fresh is mandatory. Jazz has its
roots in real-time, collaborative innovation, just like the act of starting and
growing companies. If you're not actively seeking new challenges and ways to
expand your horizons, you are automatically falling behind.
Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck put it best, and his
words resonate not only on stage for musicians but also in life for business
leaders. As he so eloquently described it, "There's a way of playing safe,
there's a way of using tricks and there's the way I like to play, which is
dangerously, where you're going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to
create something you haven't created before."
Freddie Hubbard Rochester NY 1976