“In my search to understand life, I came across the opinion that life should be observed as some kind of large orchestra. It is not essential whether you and I play our instruments good or not, but it is important how we sound together. The only trouble with this theory is that it often happens that some members of the orchestra play in harmony, while the others do not. The most dangerous thing with the orchestra is when some members play out of the tempo. Those who make most mistakes, would often like to conduct most as it usually happens. However, the solo players stand up the most. In their minds, the orchestra is here just to follow them. Still, no one likes to be a trumpet, not just in orchestra but in life in general.”
This Interesting monologue of “flying Belgrader” a radio station from the tv series “Žigosani u reketu” makes me think of how the orchestra I play in looks like, more specifically what the orchestras I made up together with my associates look like?
Some think that complete harmony and perfection are obligatory in mutual relations between team members. The others however, stand on the point that occasional, controlled friction between team members even desirable. Their main argument is that complete harmony will lead us to single-mindedness, to complete lack of new ideas and experiments, and that people will always use the road with less resistance. I personally support the idea that team spirit and collaboration are absolutely necessary, but individual quality, improvisation, fruitful debate and exchange of different opinions are more than welcome.
In today’s world of modern technologies, almost everything is measurable, precise and can be expressed by a single number. Still, the greatest achievements of a modern society happened purely by chance, as a result of great enthusiasm and improvisation. Speaking about improvisation in the sphere of music, one of the greatest phenomenons of jazz music happened exactly as a result of improvisation.
I am talking about the best selling jazz album of all times – “Kind of blue”, by Miles Davis. The album was ranked 12 out of top 500 the best albums of all times in the “Rolling Stone” magazine, as well as the most influential album for jazz, rock and classical music – sold in more than 4 million copies. The album is still being sold, regardless the fact it was issued in 1959.
What is so special about “Kind of blue”?
Miles showed up in the studio, only with basic thoughts of future compositions, practically with sketches. The discussion about those sketches preceded every recording that was made only once without repetition. Miles wanted everything to be done from the first attempt, to catch the magic of the moment. So, the whole album was recorded within two days, without repeating and as such, was greatly part of a pure improvisation. In order to record all the songs “in one breath” Miles advised all the members of the band not to stop playing if they make a mistake, but to continue as if nothing happened”. The album was by itself an experiment, which became a master-piece. Something like this was possible only with the musicians who know each other by heart, and those were: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans (plus Wynton Kelly), Paul Chambers, Jimmy Kobb.
In spite of everything, Miles Davis said about this album later: “I missed. I did not at all want it to turn out like this. I know it is good, but I wanted it to be different.”
What made this team was neither complete harmony, rhythm nor serious practice. Each of them was an individual, full of himself (which made many serious bands fall apart), in one word – what made this album so special was “chemistry” among musicians, which was in the air in that studio, those days. In order to have such “chemistry” in a team, its’ members should share the same values, colleagues must be willing to help each other whenever necessary, to “cover” each other without asking a favor in return, because they know their colleagues would do the same for them, when most needed. Only then, people are ready to step out their comfort zone, to experiment and take over the risk and improvise. They do not have to agree about everything or to have a similar personality, it is even more than desirable that they are different. Still, in the end the team will not make himself alone. Someone has to make a first step, to gather the members together, to create a surrounding in which THAT chemistry will work. This is exactly the true role of a leader, the main reason they exist. Some of them are better in this, some are less good, while some completely lost their way. This is particularly visible when in one team you only change a leader, which is sometimes enough for a miracle to happen with team performance. Do not forget that for the creation of “chemistry” within a team you need two important things: patience and time. I have seen and experienced many such examples throughout my career, still I always come back to the example of professional, team sport as a good example. You can have the best individuals within your team, with excellent pay who work in perfect conditions, but at the end of the day – the results are missing. For those who indulge in football, the best example for this is the most expensive team in the world Paris Saint-Germain, which will not win the Champions League neither this year.
In the end of this blog, I will not tell you about Paris Saint-Germain nor Liverpool, nor about Red Star J. My story this time is about a volleyball club from my hometown Niš, the team that does not play the matches in the local sports hall “Čair” but in the school gym without heating for the most part of the season. This is a story about the team whose players received almost no financial compensation this year, although majority of them are professionals. This is also a story about the team which does not have the constant list of players, since it often happens that during the season, “free players” get better offer and leave the team. In spite of all this, they trained industriously, played and won matches. The base of this team is consisted of local players, born and bred in Niš, governed by their captain Milan Stojković. It was Milan, who took responsibility in the most important match versus the team of Smederevo – where return to The Serbian Super League was being decided – and led the team to so much wanted barrage.
At that moment, after the exhausting season they were two wins short from the return to the elite competition. They played magnificently, and won both matches, for the first time ever since the barrage was played – with the maximum result first as guests, than at home. You are probably asking yourself when the “chemistry” started working in the team. In my opinion, it was the moment when they “came back from the dead” in the set that had already been lost, and when they realized they still had their fate in the own hands. Is this not a good example of believing in mutual values, when we are ready to take over the risk, experiment and improvise in order to be “more than a team”.
It is the sentence written on one of the stands of Barcelone FC, „MÉS QUE UN CLUB“ meaning “More than a club” as well as by great deed of my town-mates from Niš, who showed they were “More than a Team” that inspired me to write the title of this blog.
Ask yourself is your team also ” More than a Team” and if not, why? :-).