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How Music Can Impact Performance

Does music have the power to change the way we work?

by Ben Hines

“If music is the food of love, play on,” Orsino cries, in the opening to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. An unhappy, lovesick Orsino orders his musicians to entertain him, acknowledging that music has the power to move our hearts. Research confirms that music can lift our mood and boost our happiness. But does it have the power to change the way we work?

Music That Means Change

Our work with world-class musicians is about more than boosting your mood. We’ve found music to be a great metaphor for organizations that are looking for something that will engage their staff in a deeper, more lasting way. These are businesses that are intentional about finding powerful and effective tools that teach us how high-functioning organizations perform at their best.

Music has the ability to do this. It is one of the most powerful neurobiological tools we have. It engages us individually and communally; personally and in a crowd. It opens up our emotions in a non-threatening and accessible way, which makes it extremely effective for corporate life where it can provide the inspiration for significant change.

Music That Empowers

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals.” Across diverse fields such as sports, education and healthcare, music is recognized for its ability to impact our emotional and physical performance.

Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist. He writes about the power of music for peak performance: “I used music to stay optimistic and see the glass as perpetually half-full while doing ultra-endurance races. You can use music as a tool when you work out or in your daily life the same way.”

Music That Can Impact Organizations

We believe that it is also good for business. We use music as a metaphor to help individuals, teams, and organizations become more effective at what they do.

At its most simple, music is a joy to listen to. However, it can be a powerful tool as well as an enjoyable pleasure. These are some of the ways that we’ve seen a positive, measurable and lasting impact on organizations around the world:

High-performing teams

Through an immersive experience, inside a world-class orchestra, we draw out the secrets of their success, the power of effective communication, and the role of teamwork in that environment. For a cohort of emerging leaders from an international insurance company, this provided a unique experience of a diverse and high-performing team pulling together to see how leadership can thrive under pressure.

Inspirational leadership

Accompanied by a successful string quartet or brass ensemble, we create experiential learning activities, helping individuals to manage themselves and their teams in ambiguous circumstances. For 1000’s of top-level consultants around the world this has equipped them to understand how to lead their teams through times of challenge and transition.

People engagement

Through songwriting and performance within large corporate gatherings, away days and conferences, we’ve empowered individuals to overcome their fears and step up to their company objectives. For a multinational IT and communications company, we led over 500 senior leaders in an original composition, accompanied by a live band, flash mob, and professional recording, resulting in a room full of engaged and inspired individuals.

Finding your voice

In observing and learning from world-class singers, individuals can find their voice, within their corporate culture. For newly appointed partners in a global investment bank this meant discovering their leadership presence.

Music That Moves You

So music is not just a mood-enhancing method for lovesick Orsinos. Or even a helpful device for improving your physical and mental health.

Many leadership development programs address the mind with insight and advice on corporate change and team management. However we have found that music impacts the mind and the heart, and that’s what makes it so effective at inspiring individuals to facilitate significant change.

Through music, we provide businesses and other organizations with a unique opportunity to experience what they’re truly capable of. More than a great training program, this translates powerfully back into the workplace, where it increases engagement and productivity, changing organizations for the better.

The original version of this article appeared on Moving Performance.

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