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October 2011 | Volume 5, Issue #4      

In This Issue
The Jazz Quote of the Month
The Power of Coaching for Nonprofits
Jazz Vespers at Brentwood
Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club
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I hear a lot of complaints from my clients about meetings. They're long, contentious, disorganized, draining, and useless.


I've talked in these e-zines and in our Jazzthink sessions about the importance of leaders creating the space for significant performances to happen. This is particularly true for meetings. Leaders who see their meetings like jazz performances will inspire a different quality of conversation, engagement, and accomplishment. Let's think a bit about how that might work.


Jazz ArtA jazz group without a melody to play is in serious trouble. The melody sits at the centre of the space within which the team performs. It provides the gravitational pull that keeps the group paying attention to the same purpose - playing the melody as energetically and creatively as possible. Meetings need clear melodies, clear purposes embedded in a clear agenda, to provide the gravitational centre for the conversations.


And remember, a meeting is a series of conversations. The chair sets the tone as well as holds the space. The welcome chairpersons provide, the invitations to participate that they offer, the ground rules for engagement that they establish, the respect that they show, the order they maintain - all contribute to the quality of conversations that determine the experience and the results of the meeting. There is no reason that the fun, synergy, creativity, respect, communication, blend, mutual support, and trust that participants in a Jazzthink session see in the performance of the jazz group cannot characterize the flow and impact of a meeting. The leadership of the chair in setting and sustaining the tone makes the difference.


The more I play with these ideas, the more convinced I am that meetings can be like jazz performances. If we would all manage our voices in conversations like jazz musicians manage their instruments in performance, many of the complaints I hear over and over again would disappear. Meetings would be a productive and enjoyable.


I really do think it's worth a try. How about you?







Tjasa Zurga's illustrationNote


I am a great fan of Tjasa Zurga's illustrations, like the one used in this month's lead article. They are clear, provocative, and fun. Click on her name to see her portfolio on iStockphoto.






The Jazz Quote of the Month

Cynthia McCauley
This month, the jazz quote is taken from a recent white paper on the systemic flow of leadership written by Cynthia McCauley - "Making Leadership Happen." It's not directly related to jazz, but does capture some of the essential dynamics in the art form. It's another example of the dialogue that can enrich our practice of teamwork when we bring the arts and leadership/management into conversation.

McCauley and her colleagues found that "leadership happens in the interactions and exchanges among people with shared work. ... So when we say making leadership happen, we mean making direction, alignment, and commitment happen. In fact, we think the only way to know if leadership has happened is to look for the presence of these three outcomes."


Direction, alignment, and commitment - you always see all three in the perfomance of a jazz group. The direction is set by the melody/mission. The alignment happens around this as people bring their varied talents, competencies, and viewpoints into a coordinated effort to play the melody well or achieve the mission successfully. Commitment grows as people get caught up in the positive vibe/energy of the performance. Commitment feeds off alignment and alignment feeds of commitment. It's an integrated dynamic that generates superb performance. And none of that integration would happen without clarity on the melody/mission being pursued.


Here are some self-coaching questions to ask yourself about your contribution to your team.  

  • Is the direction clear?
  • If not, what is the most powerful question you can ask to draw your team's attention to the need for greater clarity in direction?
  • Are you aligning yourself in the most positive way possible with others in moving in the desired direction?
  • If not, what is the most powerful question you can ask to draw your team's attention to the need for better alignment in the service of the direction?
  • Are you as committed as you can be to the team's project?
  • If not, what is the most powerful question you can ask to draw attention to the need for greater commitment to the direction to ensure alignment?

Generate this DAC vibe - Direction, Alignment, and Commitment - and you will enjoy continually improving teamwork.




 The Power of Coaching for Nonprofits


Brian coachingWhile attending the annual International Coach Federation conference last month, I went to a gathering of their Special Interest Group on coaching with nonprofits. It is clear that there is a growing interest in the value of coaching in nonprofits, especially for executive leaders in the field. These people are on the front line of facing growing demands for their services, diminishing resources to provide those services, and conflicts within their organizations on how best to weather these turbulent times. The Alliance for Nonprofit Management, on whose board I sat for a couple of years, has also recognized the importance of coaching and established a Coaching Affinity Group  Funders, scholars, board members, and nonprofit executives alike are seeing that coaching is one of the best investments that can be made in capacity building at the grass roots. Click here to find a collection of video clips compiled by the Eveylyn and Walter Hass Jr Fund that speaks to the power of coaching for nonprofits.


A considerable proportion of my professional coaching practice over the past decade has been with nonprofit leaders. The wisdom in these clips rings true for me. To explore whether I can help in any way with the nonprofits that you lead and/or serve, please contact me at fraser@jazzthink.com.


October Jazz Vespers

Support Live Jazz in Vancouver


There are some great jazz musicians coming to The Cellar this fall and a new chef with a new menu. I urge you to enjoy the thrill of live jazz, sample some tasty food, and support Cory Weeds' endeavour. 

The Cellar 
For information on October's schedule and reservations, click here.