“Jazzing” Up Your Leadership Style

I first met today’s guest writer, New York jazzman Tim Armacost, in college almost 30 years ago, at a time when both of us were grappling not only with what kind of careers we wanted to pursue, but also with what kind of adults we wanted to become. While I eventually chose team development, training and coaching, Tim has been traveling the globe these last 25 years, pursuing a career as a professional tenor saxophonist — living in such exotic locations as Amsterdam, Delhi, and Tokyo. His CDs, including Live at Smalls, The Wishing Well, and Brightly Dark, have received high praise from the Washington Post and the Jazz Times. Fluent in Japanese, Tim is also a longtime student of Zen Buddhism; his meditation practice infuses his music and contributes strongly to his relaxed yet passionate performance style.

Today I asked Tim to share a few of his thoughts on team leadership ­ from a jazz improv perspective. Here are his insightful comments:

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The Seahawks’ Super “Mistake”

“You’re either a mistake maker or a life learner.”
–Anonymous

pete carroll

Given that over 120 million viewers were watching the end of Super Bowl XLIX this past Sunday, the chances are fairly good that at least some (if not most) of you witnessed the puzzling play calling from Seattle Seahawks’ coach, Pete Carroll. Here was the situation. Down by four points with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks have possession of the ball with one yard separating them from the end zone and, most likely, their second consecutive Super Bowl victory. The common-sense call is to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch, a bowling ball of a human being with the nickname “Beast Mode”. Lynch who, on the previous play, pounded ahead for four yards, has already run for over 100 yards in the game, demonstrating time and again that the Patriots can’t mount much resistance when a short gain is required of him. Everyone in the stadium (including this writer) is expecting a safe, off-tackle plunge from Lynch. But then something remarkable happens; the Seahawks’ brilliant young quarterback, Russell Wilson, unexpectedly drops back for a pass and slings the ball over the middle in the direction of wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, knifing towards the goal line. Against all odds, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler steps in front of Lockette and intercepts the ball, essentially ending the game and handing New
England their 4th Super Bowl victory.

What could Pete Carroll have been thinking?

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Engagement starts at home

Back in 1987, while wrapping up a stint as an English teacher in Japan, my college buddy Tim came out to Tokyo for a visit. An old-Japan hand from childhood when his father was a diplomat in the country, Tim (now a jazz musician in New York) knew a great deal, first hand, about the sometimes alienating aspects of living in Japan as an ex-patriot. I doubt if he was overly-surprised, then, to find the 24-year-old me in a negative state regarding the local culture and society.

Me: “Boy am I glad to be getting out of here soon! This place is crazy.”

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On-Site Hunt

We come to your office or hotel for this fantastic indoor, onsite, treasure hunt. Transform your meeting space into an interactive game! Great for inclement weather! With take-away lessons you can use immediately to start building your unstoppable team community.

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The Samurai and the Zen Master

A noted samurai general in old Japan visits a venerable Zen master at his temple in imperial Kyoto. Says the samurai: “Master, I have spent my entire adult life waging war after war with my enemies. I am ready now to turn my attention to my salvation.

The Zen master — bald, 70 years old, with wisdom lines twinkling around his eyes — famed throughout the country for his sage teachings, responds: “Visit me again in one month. During that time, meditate 90 minutes a day.”

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On-site hunt (virtual): Clue Trek Mini

Need a quick meeting energy boost, or perhaps a fun, impactful way to boost familiarity and camaraderie during your lunch or cocktail hour?  During your Mini-Trek, we come to you VIRTUALLY, transforming your meeting space into an interactive experience!  Great for inclement weather, with take-away lessons you can use immediately…

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What is Play?

I’d like to introduce you to my cat, Ava. At 15-20 pounds, 8-year-old Ava is one big Maine Coon feline. To say that she is a big as a raccoon doesn’t do her magnificent physique justice. When viewed from behind, the seated Ava is almost perfectly pear-shaped. When she spreads out on the ground, as she’s wont to do, Ava’s not just lying around the house…she’s truly lying around the house. And I say all this with utter love and affection.

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Life’s Three, Hidden Opportunities

As many of you probably know from reading my articles and blogs over the years, I’m a long-time volleyball player. Not that I’m an “A+” player, mind you… At 5’9”, I’m not exactly spiking the ball over people. But whatever the outcome, I do love getting out there and running around with my Sunday group of drop-in volleyballers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Over my 20 years of v-ball Sundays, I’ve been repeatedly astonished by how uncannily the game parallels life and, most particularly, the psycho-social dynamics in the workplace.

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