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What Can An Orchestra Conductor Teach Us About Communication

Well, rather a lot really. Having enjoyed a Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall last week I was, as always, mesmerised by the conductor. If you’re not familiar with the Proms you can read more about it here

Much as a great orchestra is made up of incredibly talented musicians, and the Proms has some of the world’s best, you need a conductor to bring them all together. Conducting an orchestra is all about communication and it becomes obvious very quickly when that communication breaks down.

Leaders of companies set the tone of their organisation’s communication, and just like the talented conductors we’ll see over the next eight weeks, they will be pivotal in the end result. As a definition I read in says:

At the most fundamental level, a conductor must stress the musical pulse so that all the performers can follow the same metrical rhythm

Isn’t that the same principle a manager of a team should adopt? I believe it is so here are my top three communication tools that we can learn from the best orchestra conductors.

Less is more

A conductor will often have just milliseconds to convey a direction to the orchestra, so they learn very quickly in their training, how to simplify their message into clear and concise directions. If you want your team to understand your message, it’s usually more effective to keep it short and simple.

It’s how you say it that counts

Empathetic communication usually gets the best results in the long term, both with an orchestra and a team. Conductors command the best respect when they think about how they say something as much as what they say – why should managers be any different?

Share the successes

At the end of every concert, you’ll see the conductor recognise the whole orchestra and give them the opportunity to be appreciated by the audience. That’s also true in business; as MaxDePree, the American businessman and writer said:

I’ve worked with many musical directors over the years and I’ll always remember what one of them, Gordon Hough, told me:

Conducting an orchestra is as much about managing personalities as it is about musical knowledge.

So, it’ll come as no surprise that I believe that if you want your company to sound like a fabulous proms orchestra you need to think about how you communicate with your teams. Effective managers and company directors, just like orchestra conductors, are usually the ones who prioritize people above all else.


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