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  • Writer's pictureM Osborne

From the Podium: extracted from our autumn "Tutti" newsletter

"What am I doing to make someone’s eyes light up?!"

Managing people has been a popular topic over the last forty years. Whether you’re a chief executive or a team leader, stories of bullying have long been making the headlines, and occasionally, moments of inspirational leadership too. Whether it is the idea of sitting on bean bags during meetings or having machines track your every movement, the controversies of differing styles of management affects us all. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes they do not. When, a few years ago, Salford United football team were bought by several Manchester United players, the search for a manager made it onto TV, and what good viewing it was. Ryan Giggs and co. hired two guys to manage the team, who came as a pair. The tirade of shouting and swearing that followed was prolific. This was real old school management and led to very low morale. The mood of the players was low, shoulders were down and nothing ever seemed to go well for them. Well,not until the management was sacked and replaced by an alternative approach.

There’s a TED talk by the American conductor Benjamin Zander where he talks about conducting and about the fact he doesn’t make the sound himself. One day, conducting the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, it dawned on him that his actions were going to determine the effect he was going to have on his players, and whether his actions had a positive effect or not might require some thought. It was at this point that he realised that he would really have to engage with people to achieve the effect he wanted, and so he began asking himself the question… ‘what am I doing to make someone’s eyes light up?!’. It's a wonderful lecture that millions have watched and it reminds us of how we should deal with people, generally, on a daily basis. As humans.

Conversely, Engineers in South Korea have developed the world’s first robot conductor. The machine was programmed to conduct through thirty cycles of beat patterns but wouldn’t have been able to deal with any conducting emergencies. They are planning to use artificial intelligence to improve it though, for the future. Should I listen to Benjamin Zander, and not worry, or should I perhaps get myself down to the job centre. Let's see..... John

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