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I had the great honor and pleasure of being selected for the 2016 class of Leadership NH. This nine-month, statewide program aims to create a group of informed and engaged leaders throughout the state. The program recently ended and I had the opportunity to reflect broadly on the program days and do a little digging into a couple topics that interested me.

In March, we visited the McDowell Colony for our Arts, Culture and Media day. One session of particular interest to me was a performance by the acclaimed Apple Hill String Quartet, based in Nelson, NH. The group is an ambassador for the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, whose director, Lenny Matczynksi, is one of the more quietly intriguing members of our class and, among a crowd of distinguished and exceptional people, is the only one among us with a Grammy Award. Take that, fellow overachievers!

One of the Center’s marquee programs is Playing for Peace, which addresses social change and conflict resolution through music. Apple Hill performs concerts and leads chamber music workshops in areas where there is a history of conflict: the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and many US cities. According to Apple Hill, “The principal tenet of Playing for Peace is this: musicians are assigned to play in small ensembles alongside musicians from conflicting communities… Each ensemble is coached in the skills of chamber music—listening, watching, adjusting, being sensitive and flexible—the same skills needed to work and function effectively in today’s contentious world.”

As I reflect upon the skills necessary to be successful performing chamber music, I realized that they are the same ways that I connect with my clients and prospects.

  • Listening: no good solution can be developed unless I listen carefully to the issues or challenges a client or prospect is facing.
  • Watching: any day I can be in the same room for a conversation with a client or prospect is a good day. When I explain concepts or ideas that may not be familiar, there’s no substitute for being able to see facial expressions and body language. It’s the difference between the “oh, yeah” that really means “keep moving; I don’t really get what you’re talking about but I don’t want to admit it,” and “oh, yeah!” that really means “holy cow, now I get it and see how it could be useful for my business. What’s next?”
  • Adjusting: a perfect solution might not always be the right solution for a client or prospect based on any number of variables including timing, budget, manpower, business cycles and a whole host of others. I need to be able to adjust to finding the right solution based on what we can and can’t address in a short, medium or long term.
  • Being sensitive: I do my best to tune into my intuition when I’m working with clients or prospects. I find that it opens up really interesting lines of exploration, which lead to more interesting solutions.
  • Being flexible: sometimes we get started with a client and we’re planning to go down one path. Then comes the wrench. The bump in the road. The hiccup. And we need to be flexible enough to adapt to the situation and be able to either continue to solve the original challenge, or change directions and follow the new path.

Finding out that I use the same skills as a music group that performs all over the world, and is led by a Grammy-winning artist, it dawned on me that one of my underlying goals when I talk to clients and not-yet-clients is to get in tune with them so that we can create a program that really sings, and makes a recognizable impact on their business.

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