Music Teams and Johari Windows

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Johari Window model: this version (c) Alan ChapmanJohari Window model: this version (c) Alan Chapman

While we're thinking about music teams (well, I am even if you haven't been), it seemed a good moment to reflect on an analytical grid that was developed specifically as a way to think about how team members work together. It's name, Johari, makes it sound rather exotic I always think, but in fact it was named after its inventors, who went by the names Joe and Harry.

The grid categorises information about a person as either known or unknown, both to themselves and to the rest of the team. 'Information' here can be knowledge, skills, thoughts, feelings - basically anything that can be known or unknown about a person. The point of the analysis is that the more that is known to all (the open quadrant, top left), the better a team can communicate and cooperate.

You increase the size of the open area through two processes: disclosure (where you tell others things about yourself they didn't previously know) and feedback (where they tell you things they have learned about you that you previously weren't aware of. There's a nice outline of it here, which makes the point that the primary value of the grid comes simply from people knowing about it while they go about their day-to-day team activities.

So I've been reflecting on what needs to happen for a choir's music team to increase the size of their open quadrant. Some of this is obvious, but it's still worth thinking about. (Heh, that could be a strapline for this entire blog.)

Opportunities to Interact

It is through interacting with people that you learn both about them and about yourself. That's the obvious bit. Also obvious, but less often acted upon, is the point that you learn more if you interact in a greater variety of circumstances and types of activity.

If your main activity as a team is a periodic planning meeting in which you make decisions about repertoire, performance plans, audition procedures and development programmes for the choir, you will learn a good deal about certain aspects of each other. You will figure out who has the energy to get things done, who has the best attention to detail, who is good at generating new ideas.

You won't necessarily learn who has a demon ear for pitch, or a wonderfully expressive way with certain types of phrase-shape, or a particular knack for calming people down when they are nervous.

This is one reason why I put practical music-making at the heart of my workshops for Music Teams, but the point has a wider applicability for a group's habits and working methods. Have a team meal out every so often; take it in turns to sing a song to the rest of the group; go to a concert together. All work and no play makes a team narrow in its appreciation of each other's interests and capacities.

Opportunities to Observe Each Other

In some ways, this is a subset of the first point, but it is worth articulating separately as so much of the work that music team members do for the choir is done in parallel rather than together. The archetypal example of this is that section leaders rarely if ever get to see what other section leaders do in their section rehearsals.

But you learn so much from observing other musicians in action - as directors, as coaches, and as singers. You discover new ways of doing things, you notice things you were already doing well but hadn't fully appreciated, indeed, you get better at watching and listening.

Again, this principle is built into my workshops for Music Teams, but it can also inform how the team works with the choir as a whole. Making opportunities to observe each other in action fuels the development of both individual skills and the combined effectiveness of the team.

Developing a Culture of Mutual Feedback and Disclosure

This is easy to say, and actually not that difficult to achieve, but it doesn't just happen by saying that's what you want to happen. It takes etiquette too. Trust is something you build over time by rigorously respecting each other's safety needs.

The main thing that builds a team culture in which people are happy both to reveal of themselves and hear about others' perceptions of them is the reciprocity of adult-to-adult relationships. By analogy with 360-degree appraisals in the workplace, it's not just that you need to know the effect you're having on all the people you interact with, it's that it keeps you honest if the people to whom you are giving feedback will also be returning the favour in due course.

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