When Steven R. Covey's revolutionary Business and Self-Help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People hit the book stands in 1989, it was lauded internationally as one of the most important business guides of its time. (The self-help movement was a pretty big institution in the 80s and 90s.) Pretty soon, many learned Covey's book was more of life success book than a guide to a successful career book. One chapter garnered a lot of attention -- the one devoted to time management. He theorized that we should spend more time in the "Not Urgent Quadrant" than the "Urgent Quadrant." On the surface, he meant spend time doing the important, not urgent tasks before they become urgent tasks (aka emergencies.) That makes sense: change the oil in your car when you're supposed to so your car will run smoothly for a long time, and save you money in unnecessary repairs. But he meant for us to go deeper into what is really important. Steven Covey said the most important work we do, and where we should spend the majority of our time, is in building relationships.
What? That's crazy. The most important work we do is the work we do.
Seven years ago, I was floundering at SiriusXM -- the sheer amount of work was beyond overwhelming. There was no way it could all be done, and I knew I could not do it. To make things worse, there were personality issues, a raging political overflow and collateral damage from the recent merging of Sirius and XM, and the classical music department was totally disconnected from the SXM organization as a whole.
I worked nonstop, only ate lunch at my desk, didn't schedule time off unless absolutely necessary, including going to the doctor. The thought of being away from my desk for more than ten minutes, brought about panic I had never felt before.
Then one day, an Intern showed up. At first, I thought: great... one more thing to do: teach and train the intern (away from my desk) when I could be programming the daily shifts of two classical music channels.
But I did it. And there were benefits. I enjoyed sharing my radio programming ideas which I started believing in with even greater conviction. The intern, with her open mind, genuine interest and professional hunger took it all in...and bought in to it as well. We met regularly, and very soon she started doing some of my work, and she did it exceptionally well. The mentoring was extremely fulfilling for me, and my work load and panic levels decreased significantly.
I had a paid SiriusXM programming assistant assigned to me who knew nothing about classical music. Great....now I have to teach this kid about Bach and Bernstein. But, his lack of classical know how didn't matter. He was smart and tech-savvy, interested, motivated and eager to help me succeed. I spent more time away from my desk developing our professional, and personal relationship. Soon, under his direction, all of the trains started running on time, mistakes were caught before they became live mistakes, and my work load and panic levels decreased significantly. I was more productive, and more effective.
Both of these colleagues were millennials. #ahem
With those experiences and lessons learned, I started to develop relationships between the classical music department and the other music formats, the production units, the PR and interactive areas, the broadcast engineers and technicians. They learned that we're not all classically stuffy or elitist.
By spending time, by being present, helpful, friendly and supportive of their efforts, the classical music "department" grew from 5 to a devoted, loyal and enthusiastic 50.
And yes, once again, my work load and panic levels decreased significantly.
Team building and rah rah cheer leading, we know, is mostly a fake gesture and an insult to our intelligence. Usually. But when you take the time to genuinely create, build and mend relationships, a true team, your team, will emerge organically without fanfare and without some Manager proclaiming "We're a Team!"
You, as a performer, ensemble, conductor or composer might be a team of one or two. A team won't help you in the practice room, but it will help you when you want to apply your craft outside of the practice room. Who's on your team? The stage manager, the copy writer, the 20-something social media guru who can post your audio or video on line before you can say, "help!"?
The bow fixer, the mouthpiece maker, your former baby sitter who would love to stick address labels on your CD mailers? The receptionist at any office, the person who answers the phone at your Manager's office (or your future Manager's office)? Maybe it's a chef who's thinking about bringing live music into her bistro, or an author or and expert gardener with 1,500 followers.
And those unpaid SXM Interns and (paid) programming assistants? Two have been promoted to Manager positions at SiriusXM. Others are managers, publicists and writers at major music labels, music-blog sites, PR Firms and at NPR.
You can learn a lot from the person you mentor.They definitely helped me, and maybe I helped them.