“I wanted to apologize,” started the note.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about you since yesterday, and I’m sorry for missing chords and getting lost when accompanying you on the bandstand.”
I was stunned.
My accompanist was apologizing?!
A little context:
Janet and her husband Jeff produce the stage at one end of the annual summer street festival in my city. They do an amazing job, making sure the weekend is filled with a different musical act every hour.
I’ve performed there a number of times in the past (in fact, I was singing on that very stage when my husband first laid eyes on me, 16 years ago!), and when Janet asked if I’d like to play again this year, I jumped at the chance.
There was just one catch: although I used to perform a lot, for the past several years music has been on a proverbial shelf, so I had completely forgotten how to play a lot of my own songs! 🙄
So for weeks I practiced like crazy to get ready for this gig.
In fact, I was practicing so much that I overdid it, and developed tendonitis in my wrist! 😬
There was no way I was going to make it through even 20 minutes solo, let alone 45…
Thankfully, music, like business, thrives in a team setting.
When I told Janet I was going to need to bring in another musician to play with me, she offered to accompany me herself (after all, she’d be there all weekend anyway) — problem solved!
We put dates on the calendar for some practice sessions, so she could learn my songs, and we could rehearse playing them together.
But, of course, as so often happens with this kind of thing, there’s never enough time to prepare.
In fact, I actually got onstage knowing it wasn’t going to be a perfect performance, prepared to roll with it.
And roll with it I did.
💥 The tempos were faster than I was used to playing, so I had to scramble to fit all the words in. But I made it work.
💥 I sang the lyrics wrong on one of my songs! (Though probably nobody in the audience knew that.)
💥 I completely messed up some chords on my ukulele! But I just kept right on going.
💥 My voice was a disaster on my one ballad/love song. (But other people probably didn’t hear the awful wobbles and glitches that are so obvious to me.)
💥 Oh, and yeah, sure, Janet played a chord wrong here or there, but her ear is so good, she realized right away when it wasn’t right, and quickly got back on track. (Not only did few people probably notice, but there were no actual “train wrecks,” where the song went completely off the rails.)
If this had been twenty years ago, I probably would have beaten myself up for every glitch and gaffe.
But hey, we did as well as we could, given the circumstances.
And the audience LOVED the performance! I was kind of blown away by the feedback I got afterwards, from laypeople and fellow musicians alike.
Yes, there are many things I wish I/we had done better, or differently, but in the meantime, it’s important to recognize that the audience was delighted with the “current product.”
And then the next day I got that email from Janet, concerned that I was upset with her.
As a Leaders/Teams Communications Consultant, I realized there were some lessons to be drawn from this experience. Here are three big ones.
3 Lessons from My Imperfect Show:
1) Our self-perception is almost never the same as other people’s perceptions of us
I learned a long time ago that I’m a terrible judge of my own performance.
I hear every wobble, glitch, and imperfection, every sour note, and I’m comparing it to the platonic ideal in my head.
But the audience doesn’t hear the platonic ideal.
They don’t hear the gap between what I’m trying to achieve and what I’m capable of.
As far as they’re concerned, what comes out of my mouth is the way it’s supposed to be, so who am I to suggest otherwise?
Question for you: You may not literally get on stages to perform, but what’s the equivalent in your own life?
2) Mistakes are part of the process
Get used to mistakes. They will be magnified in your view, and often invisible to others. But they will always be there, to one degree or another.
As a teacher of mine used to say, every performance is a rehearsal for the next performance.
This is true for everything you produce or deliver: every iteration is a rehearsal for the next iteration.
(And, of course, mistakes are also often where the greatest innovative gold comes from, too!)
Question for you: Where can you apply this concept in your work/life?
3) You cannot overcommunicate
It would have helped Janet to hear more clearly and directly from me, immediately after the set, that I was grateful for her assistance, and happy with her work.
It would have eased her anxiety to hear me state, explicitly, that I loved playing with her, and that I thought she did a great job getting back on track when things didn’t go as planned.
Instead, she was left to ruminate overnight that I was upset with her about her mistakes, when nothing could be further from the truth!
It’s quite common for people to make assumptions, and because of our negativity bias, it’s easy for those assumptions to be negative. (“She must not have said anything because she’s upset with me.”)
Better to overcommunicate, than to leave people hanging.
Question for you: Is there an area in your work/life where you have undercommunicated, and left people hanging? What would overcommunicating look like?
To Sum Up
In an ideal world, Janet and I would have had about six more rehearsals than we did.
Of course, in an even more ideal world, I wouldn’t have tendinitis! (Though I love the opportunity to make music together that my hobbled wrist opened up for me. 🤩)
What made our tiny team function as well as it did?
The 5 Cs:
And what would have helped us function even better?
Communication, no doubt!
Every high performing team starts with connection and communication.
So tell me, how will you apply these lessons in your life? I’d love to know!
(And if you want to see Sunday’s performance, click the image below — my wonderful husband captured it all on video!)
I love working with researchers and tech teams to help them connect and communicate better, so they have more impact across (and beyond!) the organization. All using my F.U.N. Method™.
Ready for your team’s impact to match their smarts?
Book a complimentary Team Performance Assessment Call here: https://bit.ly/TeamAssessmentCall