Watching Gareth Malone recently and his work choirs made me think about what the organizations had gained from taking part. Beside the more obvious brand awareness and encouraging people to want to work there by appearing on national TV are there some benefits that having a work choir save them? Organizations had workplace choirs before Gareth Malone came along, for example there's an Office Choir of the Year competition which was won by Norton Rose this year and Olswang were among the runners up.
What stuck me about the choirs in the TV program was that they bought people together from across the organization. The health service choir included consultants and porters and speech therapists who would have very defined roles in the organization and that would reflect how people saw them. In the choir everyone had a contribution to make, they were all at the same level, so there was a chance to see people outside of the normal hierarchy. For the water company they included people who spend much of their time out fixing leaks so a reliably isolated role so this keep them a chance to see people back at the office as real people rather than someone on the end of the phone.
If you've sung in a choir with someone and got to know them better and shared the adrenalin rush that comes from performing you are more likely to value their role at work. If someone else in your team starts sounding off about them or their team it's no longer someone faceless in distribution they are talking about it's the person you shared a part with at rehearsal.
You have to listen to each other to make sure your voices are blending together and not dominating, so working together rather than against each other is something to think about back in the workplace.
Think how useful this would be if you were asking those people to work together to solve problems that span the organization, the sort of thing you might do in a rapid improvement workshop for example.
There are also benefits for individuals. Standing up and performing in front of an audience and having them applaud is a great confidence booster. Performing as a choir gives you a chance to do this as a group rather than an individual, singing a short solo provides even more of a boost.
Having a choir can also be used as a way of building relationships with clients and prospects and your employees' friends and family. A concert or carol service gives you an event to invite people to, it does not have to last a long time and you can have a chance for people to mingle afterwards over refreshments. It can also be linked to your Corporate Social Responsibility activities by taking a collection in aid of your current charity.
Although I do not sing as such; as a musician who has played in a number of groups I can refer to all of this. Giving a business presentation is nothing like as scary as performing a flute solo in front of an audience of fellow flute players. Singing together as a team building activity is something that can be done in the office, in one law firm I've been working with the sounds of the choir practicing for the annual carol service is a pleasant start to the day.
© Melanie Haydon 2012