How to Bring Clarity Through Tuning-Fork Leadership

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Originally posted July 3, 2012

Take a minute and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is everyone in the organization clear on our overall direction?
  • Is everyone clear on our highest present priorities?
  • Does everyone see how their contribution fits into the big picture?

If any of these questions cause your leadership alarm bells to go off, it might be time for tuning-fork leadership.

 

Image via iStockPhoto.com

Tuning-fork leadership is a skill leaders can develop to make sure that clarity is being re-established throughout the team. My teammate Brian McKenzie introduced me to this term after I had helped to re-clarify his understanding of a key initiative.

An actual tuning fork is a simple tool used as a standard of pitch to tune musical instruments. And like a piano tuner, your job is to chime the tuning fork to make sure your teammate is operating with complete clarity.

How does it work? Here are 4 key components of tuning-fork leadership:

1.   A “6th sense” ability to perceive misalignment
As a leader you must be constantly listening and watching for indications of very subtle mission drift among your team.

2.   A patient, listening posture
Follow up your hunch with a casual, inquisitive conversation. Your job is to confirm, or dispel, your notion that a teammate has drifted off course. Such a conversation must be safe and unthreatening.

3.   An environment of affirmation
If your teammate has drifted, chances are they are only off-base by 10%. Affirm the 90% they are getting right.

4.   A clear ringing of the tuning fork
Now you’re ready to ring the fork. This involves unflinchingly pointing out where the drift has taken place, and ensuring your teammate’s understanding is back on pitch.

It’s important to note that tuning-fork leadership is an ongoing, never-ending process. Mission drift is inevitable in every organization. And just when you think you’ve brought everyone back into alignment it will be time to re-clarify things for someone else on the team.

So always keep your ears open to the subtle indications that a part of your organization is out of tune.

Always keep your tuning fork handy.

How do you keep your organization in tune?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

2 comments

  1. Excellent article Scott. As a musician this make complete sense to me. I have never thought of leadership in this way before – getting a sense of your team by listening as you would an instrument being tuned. I can hear subtle changes in tone that tell me something is not quite right and I know where to I need to retune just by the sound of the tone. Thanks for your excellent insight into leadership.

  2. David, I’m sure your musicianship actually would help you in this aspect of leadership. I have found that, in the same way that a musician can hear when the music is not quite right, so too can a leader “hear” or at least sense, when something is not quite right in the organization.

    Bill Hybels puts it this way; “When you as a leader sense that something in the organization is ‘funky’; engage!”

    That’s tuning fork leadership at its best.

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