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  • Gregorian chant for tech, part 1: hearing and being heard

    September 3, 2017 | Teamwork
  • I sang and taught Gregorian chant for 20 years – nearly as long as I have been working in technology. I learned a few principles that may have some relevance for technology delivery.

    When teaching a group class, my initial piece of advice was always the following:

    • Sing loud enough so the others can hear you, but not so loud that you can’t hear them

    It is amazing how this one principle helps bring a random collection of singers into nearly instant connectedness. Each person has the responsibility to make their voice heard; each person has the responsibility to listen to the others. This “mama bear” principle of not-too-loud-not-too-soft translates well to the communication needs of other sorts of collaborative teams. Speaking up requires a sense of psychological safety – which is the group’s responsibility – as well as personal courage – which is the individual’s responsibility. Being quiet enough to hear what others are saying is equally difficult, and requires patience and trust (this is my personal challenge, as anyone who has worked on projects with me will tell you).

    Singing together has the great benefit of instant feedback – as long as you’re listening, then it’s immediately obvious when something goes awry. In other endeavors there’s a delay between expression and impact, which makes careful listening all the more important. So: how is your workgroup doing by the standards of my chanting principle? Are you making your voice heard? Are you listening?