A Business Lesson in Good Jazz

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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"Music is my way of talking to you."—Louis Armstrong

What makes a good jazz band so thrilling? In his wonderful book, Leadership Jazz, Max de Pree credits good jazz to good listening. Hot licks and cool riffs require hours of practice, as does the tight sound of a solid groove. But because each player knows how to listen to the others, he or she knows when and how to play—or not to play—in just the right way.

"Successful organizations are like good jazz bands," De Pree says. Individual skill and experience matter, but a winning team melds individual talents. And that requires listening. We should ask ourselves how well we listen at work. Do we value our associates’ unique abilities and contributions? Does our listening communicate that we do? Effective listening consumes time and energy–a scarce commodity in our "need it now" work world, but worth the effort.

A modern proverb says we should listen twice as much as we talk because we have two ears and only one mouth. When I really listen to someone, I pick up cues and clues to make my input more encouraging and useful. When I take time to hear another person, I’m also reminded that God listens to us. He is deeply in tune with our heart’s music. He always pays full attention, and by his Spirit, we’re telling him things we don't even know how to put into words (Rom. 8:26). Knowing that God hears us, our faith and trust in Him grow along with our capacity to listen to others. And we can count on Him to help us respond in just the right way.

When we learn to listen, to appreciate others’ unique gifts, to effectively make our own contributions, we demonstrate the way Christ intends things to be in his kingdom.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor. 12:12–13)