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April 2009 | Volume 2, Issue #10

In This Issue
Ronald A. Heifetz' Core Chart for Great Leadership
Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
What People Are Saying about Brian's Facilitation
What Brian's Been Writing
Public Events Where You Can Experience Jazzthink
Preview a sampling of slides that Jazzthink uses
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links
Mary Catherine BatesonLife is an "improvisatory art," writes Mary Catherine Bateson in one of my favourite books.  As we move forward in life, she suggests, we "combine familiar and unfamiliar components in response to new situations, following both an underlying grammar and an evolving aesthetic." (Composing A Life, p.3) 
The power of that image struck me afresh when I was invited to offer workshops for the BCHRMA this month on wellbeing in stressful times.  I think resiliency is the key to wellbeing.  You can't get wellbeing from without.  You have to compose it from within.
Geoff Colvin's new book, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everyone Else (2008) draws attention to 'deliberate practice', an activity designed specifically to improve performance.  Without it, talent accomplishes very little.  It usually involves a teacher's help, is repeated a lot, involves continuous feedback, is highly demanding mentally, and isn't much fun.  Jazz musicians understand how important this is in developing the capacity to improvise and adapt in the moment with other musicians. 
Developing resiliency rituals is a deliberate practice to strengthen your capacity to flourish in the midst of stress.  You won't eliminate stress.  You can only learn to handle the strain better.  The purpose of 'deliberate practice' in this field is to develop resiliency rituals that enable you to choose and model wellbeing in the midst of increasing stress.  Such training (and that's the kind of discipline it requires) helps you develop and learn an 'underlying grammar' of health and use it in creating an 'evolving aesthetic' of flourishing and wellbeing. 
I think there are three kinds of rituals worth practicing and mastering - rituals of calming, rituals of curiosity, and rituals of appreciation.
Rituals of calming attune your body to healthy responses to stress.  They involve repeated times of physical movement related to breathing, stretching, strengthening, and enduring.  These rituals oxygenate your body, especially your brain.  Equally important are nutritional practices that regulate your glucose levels well throughout the day.  In essence, eat often and eat light.
Rituals of curiosity focus your mind and heart on healthy responses to stress.  Asking questions that offer other people the opportunity to have themselves understood and really listening to the responses build connections by showing respect.  They nurture open minds and open hearts.  They initiate compelling conversations.    
Rituals of appreciation align your spirit to your healthy responses to stress by creating positive meaning and significance.  They involve visualizing and imagining the positive potential you can realize in collaboration with your colleagues.  They involve being grateful for the benefit that can be created by your resilience and for the opportunity to model this way of being. 
Positive psychology researchers, on the basis of over 1 million surveys, have concluded that two attitudes are crucial to resiliency in the workplace - hope and zest.  Hope has to do with an optimistic orientation to the future, expecting the best  and working to achieve it.  Zest has to do with high levels of vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, and energy.  It gets you in the groove of living life as an exciting and fulfilling adventure.  For much more on such research being done by the Values in Action Institute on Character click here.  
Rituals of calming, curiosity, and appreciation help you stay grounded in your hope and zest.  From my own experience, I can testify that these kinds of rituals empower you to flourish in stressful situations.
To get a read on how resilient you currently are, click here to take the resiliency quiz developed by Al Siebert, author of The Resiliency Advantage
brian at desk 2008 
Ronald HeifetzRonald A. Heifetz' Core Chart for Great Leadership

I have always found Ronald Heifetz thinking on leadership provocative and very much in tune with the dynamics of jazz.  In 1994, he wrote Leadership Without Easy Answers (Harvard University Press). This was the book that introduced me to the idea of adaptive leadership, what Heifetz describes as the creation of relationships that enable groups to tackle challenges and opportunities for which there are no adequate responses yet available, things like crime, poverty, educational reform, and organizational improvement.  These things require conversations about innovative approaches, including a serious consideration of values.  Adaptive leaders convene and encourage conversations that explore these issues.
There are four key practices that form Heifetz' core chart for adaptive leadership:
 Determine what parts of the organizational culture or DNA to keep, what to discard, and what innovations to initiate to build a new future on the best of the past;
 Engage in adaptive experimentation;
 Align and coordinate behaviours and mobilize people to perform at their best;
 Frame the right questions, identify the key realties to be addressed, and challenge people to take responsibility and hold each other mutually accountable.
Those elements are also key to a great jazz performance.  Musicians have learned things with each other by playing the piece or similar ones in the past that can be incorporated into a new rendition of the core melody.  They willingly and joyfully experiment with what's possible, often making mistakes and occasionally discovering an idea with great value in the midst of the experimentation.  They constantly encourage each other to play their best and align themselves to make that possible.  They query each other with phrases on their instruments, nods of their heads, expressions on their faces - all designed to find out what's possible and hold each other accountable for taking the performance to higher ground and pleasing the audience.
That's the heart of adaptive leadership and it's an approach to leadership very much needed in tough and turbulent times.
3Jazz, Leadership, and Teamwork Quote of the Month
[Note:  I ran across this quote and realized it encapsulates so much of what I am hearing from leaders of jazz groups as I interview them for my next book that I decided that it does fit in this section. BF]
Leadership is like being a good host at a dinner party. Consider what that entails. A good host thoughtfully plans the evening, carefully composes the group, takes pains to create the proper environment, arranges the appropriate seating, sets the agenda or program for the evening, introduces subject matter for discussion, lubricates difficult situations, soothes relationships, takes responsibility, moves things along, attends to details, keeps controversy at a manageable level, adds humor and optimism, comes early and stays late, brings guests into the conversation who previously may have been marginal, handles one thing after another, shifts attention easily, listens well, doesn't dominate, is at ease with self and others, and, most important, enables the guests to be at their best.
- Richard Farson (to read the whole article, click here)

What People Are Saying about Brian's Facilitation
A resounding WOW! to Brian Fraser and the Jazzthink Trio. Motivating our team to work as a team and move forward as a group always seemed so challenging with all of our different perspectives and perceptions of others being 'hard to work with'.    Seeing teamwork in action with the jazz trio and having everyone identify what characteristics they saw opened up an amazing flood gate of observations. Brian is so focused on the positive and turns all the negative stuff around so quickly and effortlessly that participants seem to fall over themselves looking for solutions together.   And they laugh while they do it. It's hard to agree to be accountable for your own responses to situations but when we did this, we found that everyone was able to move forward instead of staying stuck. How the heck do you do this so quickly! If you've got no time, no money, lots of different personalities and more work to do than you ever think you can get to - ask Brian to spend some time with your team. It's fun and it works. Thanks Brian and the Jazzthink Trio!
Norah Wilsdon
Community Homes Manager
Coast Mental Health
Vancouver, BC

What Brian's Been Writing


Public Events Where You Can Experience Jazzthink

April 22, 2009
BCHRMA Employee Wellbeing in Stressful Times - Resiliency Rituals: Modeling Wellbeing in Stressful Workplaces. Click here for details and registration
April 29, 2009
Vancouver Board of Trade Leadership Skills Boot Camp 2009 - Lessons from Jazz: Leadership Skills in Uncertain TimesClick here for more information and registration.
May 12, 2009
Vancouver Chapter to the International Society of Performance Improvement monthly  meeting - Getting REAL About Performance Improvement: Lessons From JazzClick herefor more information and registration.
June 25, 2009
Vancouver Chapter of the International Coach Federation - Finding Your Coaching/Consulting Groove:  Lessons from Jazz.
  Click here for more information and registration details.

Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

The Cellar Logo

 "Vancouver's answer to the Village Vanguard, this small (70-seat) club/restaurant presents the best local jazz, as well as some touring acts.  Great sound, which has been used to enhance the club's record label, Cellar Live."
- Down Beat magazine's list of 100 best jazz clubs in the February 2009 issue