When Jill and I were in New Orleans earlier this year, we spent some time rummaging around the book store that occupies the ground floor of William Faulkner's house in the French Quarter.
I found a gem. It's a volume called Jazz Poems in the Everyman Library series. One of the favourite lines I've found so far is from Maxwell Bodenheim's 'Bringing Jazz:'
Burning up the pain into a gale of jazz
That's great poetry for improvement artists. You feel the pain of the problems you face, but you do not let yourself be defined and debilitated by it. You burn up that pain in passionate conversations about possibilities. They form a gale that blows away some of what's causing the pain and leave the jazz of constructive conversations to work its magic.
Those conversations work best if they have a poetic focus composed of the most powerful words that give voice to your purpose. This works for organizations and for individuals. I spend whatever time it takes in consulting and coaching to provoke my clients to find those words and create that poetry. In jazz terms, this poetry becomes the chord or core chart around which the practicalities are developed, explored, and played.
I'll use my own chord chart as an example:
I convene SMARTer conversations that generate flourishing communities
There is a keynote speech in every one of those words. They have swirled around and stimulated my work for the past five years. Prior to that, various other expressions of poetic purpose moved me forward.
When I am feeling the pain, when lose my bearings in the midst of conflict and resistance, I take three deep breaths. On the inhale of each breath, I say calmly to myself, "I will convene a SMARTer conversation," and on the exhale, I say appreciatively to myself, "in order to generate a flourishing community." That simple little breathing exercise shifts my attention to the poetry of my purpose and encourages my energy to flow there.
That community you are generating may simply be between two people, or it may be with a small team sitting around a board table, or it may be among a group of 100 colleagues engaged in a complex organizational change project. The size of the group does not matter. The poetry of the purpose and the emotional clarity of the expression is the real key to aligning the practicalities into successful execution.
In the next Jazzthink E-Zine, I will pick up on how the practicalities flow from the poetry.
As always, if you think Jazzthink can help provoke the poetry and practicalities of improvement in your organization or in your leadership, get in touch with me to explore the possibilities further at firstname.lastname@example.org.