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So focused on the solo that you’re missing the harmony?

October 21, 2012

A few years ago I changed denominations and joined a new church. At first, I was so eager to fit in that I focused on singing the hymns I knew and appearing like I knew what was going on. One Sunday there were a few hymns that I didn’t know, and really couldn’t fake, so I just listened and tuned into those around me for the first time. I was moved by the harmonies within the group and realized that I had been so focused on my insecurity – and masking it- that I had missed the richness, beauty and complexity of my surroundings.

Sometimes you can be so focused on your own “performance” that you miss the rich talents of individuals around you and nuances within the group.  

I suffered from this type of blindness (and bluntness) at the beginning of my first management position. I was in my early thirties and pretty insecure that everyone who reported to me – and everyone in my management group – was older than me. To earn their respect, I thought I had to show everyone that I knew all their parts as well as mine. I thought I had to be decisive. I thought I had to “perform”. I didn’t know the importance of hanging back to observe and undervalued the power that those observations can bring.

Fortunately, direct but helpful feedback,  a little maturity and more confidence softened those edges. Still, there are meetings where  I’ve been very focused on delivering my agenda item or on the impacts of the discussion on my team or workload.

Solely tuned into my thoughts, feelings and objectives I’ve missed critical observations like:

  • How are people reacting to the discussion (body language, facial expressions, etc.)?
  • Who’s deferring to whom in this meeting?
  • Who is most influential?
  • Are there cliques or special seating arrangements?
  • Are there nuances in the ordering of the agenda? (I promise a blog post on this intriguing tactic one day)
  • Who’s adding extra depth to the discussion? Who’s not afraid to challenge the status-quo?
  • What’s not being said?

These are all important considerations that you may miss if you are focused on your “solo”.

Another important element is understanding how your team performs together.

Is your team a talented choir that sings “across” the group – everyone knowing their part but still creating a single core of sound?


Does your group have divas where one voice is louder, rises above the rest or is prone to its own variations?

There’s a time and place for solos but someone who just can’t harmonize when it’s needed may have confidence issues or feel they are not getting enough “air-time”. Persistent need to be a diva in a group effort will definitely need to disharmony. (Sorry, who could resist that pun?)

I still don’t know all the hymns at church but now, even when I do, I’ll sometimes just stop and enjoy the great sound and spirit around me. I’ll really focus on the lyrics or check in with myself and think about how I’m reacting. It’s so much better than the sound of my own voice 😉

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather permalink
    October 24, 2012 8:13 am

    Great blog Dominique- very very true.

    • October 24, 2012 8:16 am

      Thanks Heather, I don’t always get it right but when I remember to look for these things there are always unanticipated insights.

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