How Music Can Boost Corporate Performance with Ben Hines
Ben Hines founded Moving Performance in 2009 bringing together his two passions: people development and music. Working with some of the world’s leading companies, Ben has used music to help both executive boards and emerging leaders to reflect on their strengths and those of others, to move toward more collaborative and productive outcomes. Prior to forming a firm that married his passion for music to his knowledge of business, Ben spent a decade transforming teams’ performances at the U.K.’s Barclays bank.
SPEAKING.COM: What is the relationship between music and the corporate world?
HINES: Music (in the words of Daniel Barenboim) has the “ability to speak to all aspects of the human being – the animal, the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual. Music teaches us, in short, that everything is connected”. In the corporate world, which is overwhelmingly intellectual in terms of how it is run and led, there is a huge opportunity to open up peoples’ minds and hearts to new possibilities. Because music impacts everyone, it is a fabulous medium to address key corporate objectives such as:
- Developing high performing teams and leaders – we use music as a metaphor and experience to teach people how they can do this more effectively, using the best example of a high performing team which is relevant to the corporate world (the symphony orchestra which is made up of highly skilled talent – and ego – working in multiple small teams all needing to collaborate together for the greater good).
- A deep emotional enabler to open people’s hearts and minds to some of the deeper issues they may face through the uncertainty of change
- An experiential activity through making music together to encourage people to step out of their norm and their comfort zone to embrace ambiguity and to go for it (which is inevitably what the business leaders of today’s corporations are wanting them to do in a ambiguous and complex world!).
Finally I think that there is an opportunity to develop symbiotic relationships between corporations and music organizations to benefit each other through the above ways.
SPEAKING.COM: You are a “semi-professional orchestral French horn player.” Could you tell us more about your musical background?
HINES: I started the French horn at the age of 11 and have played orchestras ever since. I have been fortunate enough to tour with orchestra groups in Europe, USA and New Zealand. In my gap year I taught music in a school in Africa, prior to reading music at university. I have continued playing in orchestras ever since alongside my professional career in the business world. I also play the piano and keyboards and have recently bought a guitar.
SPEAKING.COM: The French horn is a notoriously difficult instrument. What drew you to playing the French horn over other instruments?
HINES: I started on the cornet when I was 8 or 9 and after a couple of years decided I wanted to play a lower pitched brass instrument. My school music teacher suggested the French horn and I said yes (not knowing what the horn was or how difficult it was!). So I cannot say it was ever a strategic choice on my part, and apart from a few teenage doubts, I have never regretted the choice.
I have heard it said that if you surveyed professional orchestral players asking them what instrument they would most like to play (other than their own) the most popular instrument is the French horn. It has a glorious tone and gets to play some wonderful melodies in the orchestra.
SPEAKING.COM: How did you get the idea to create your training firm, Moving Performance?
HINES: I have always thought the world of music has a lot to offer the world of work. The skills of musicians such as listening, collaborating, team working and leadership are very transferable and relevant to the business world. A musician’s life involves performing to an incredibly high standard in multiple different teams. The business world requires this of their people too, and yet many people in business have not developed the above skills to such an extent as musicians have. During my banking career I tried out various musical interventions with my colleagues and the idea for Moving Performance grew from that.
SPEAKING.COM: Prior to creating Moving Performance, how did music play a role in your corporate work?
HINES: Not a huge amount – I would use music on occasion in team away days or as an icebreaker. I would often listen to Mozart or Beethoven piano sonatas as I worked on complex financial models at my desk – the link between music and math is well known. I also kept playing the horn semi-professionally throughout my career, outside work.
SPEAKING.COM: How have you applied your experience in the corporate world to your work at Moving Performance?
HINES: My experience in the corporate world is critical to the success and message of Moving Performance. Without it we would not have the credibility and I would be a well-meaning musician trying to teach my thing to someone else. On a more practical level we speak the language of both, and have the relevant stories to bear. Simply put our clients appreciate we know what it is like in their world, because we have been there, and they trust us!
SPEAKING.COM: What can your music-based methodology accomplish that traditional workshops/training programs do not?
HINES: Traditional workshops and training are very good and I am involved in these too. What the music based methodologies bring is something more radical and different which is refreshing, new and exciting. They capture people’s emotions, they surprise people and genuinely amaze them. We know what we do leaves a lasting impact with participants that they will remember for years. They are also a lot of fun, and fun should be an important part of work!
SPEAKING.COM: What are some steps people can take to become better listeners?
1) Choose the right mindset for listening, such as “seek first to understand than be understood” or “I am curious about this other person’s view”.
2) Recognise that listening well is hard work, so put as much focus and energy as you can on the person communicating with you. Choose to put them first and to push out other thoughts and issues from your mind.
3) Great communication and listening is about balance. Balancing what you have to say with what others have to say. We can learn so much from how musicians do this – blending their contributions to those around them. I find the ratio between my mouth and ears useful for this; I have one mouth and two ears and will try to use them in that proportion.
4) Listening out for what is not said (i.e. the underlying thoughts and feelings) and being brave enough to share these with the person.
5) And of course clarifying, summarizing and confirming you have understood the details.
SPEAKING.COM: Many of your workshops involve interactive musical components such as performing or composing. What steps do you take to lower inhibitions in participants who claim they have no musical skill?
HINES: We use a number of ice-breaking techniques to lower inhibitions in an inclusive and rewarding way, and very quickly they trust us and are willing to come with us. Another factor that I think is really important is this mindset, that I believe in them and their ability to achieve.
Interestingly a number of people do claim they have no musical skill and I would challenge their assumptions. For example, in the UK, I sometimes find that a number of men say they can’t sing. When asking what they may get up to at the weekend, a lot of them say they watch soccer games live. Soccer fans are great singers – and hearing a grandstand of 30,000 fans singing is quite something. These guys of course join in wholeheartedly and freely admit they have goose-bumps on the back of the neck as they sing. With this simple example, I find it hard to believe people have no musical ability – I think it is an innate tribal – if not primeval – ability we have as humans to participate in musical performance.
SPEAKING.COM: Often you incorporate professional musicians into tailor made programs. Who are some of the musicians you’ve worked with in the past and how did they contribute to workshop objectives?
HINES: We work with leading musicians around the world. In London we work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and around the world with other top orchestral players – for example from Hong Kong Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony, Singapore orchestras. We also work with other freelance musicians who have been trained at the world leading academies (e.g. Julliard, Royal Academy etc). We also work with opera singers and one of our associate musicians is one of the world’s leading basses: Bindley Sherratt.
They contribute to the workshop objectives in numerous ways (depends on what we are doing) but typically will include key insights as a performer, ensemble member, aspects of leadership that work (or don’t work) as well as performing the music we are working on. We work with the opera singers specially on vocal techniques encouraging business people to use their voices and executive presence more strategically.
To bring Ben Hines to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.
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