I never shy from my love for music, especially when original songs are reimagined and expressed through the eyes of another artist, perhaps one from a different generation or genre.
Such was the case when Tommy Shaw, frontman and guitarist for the rock band Styx, performed with the Cleveland-based Contemporary Youth Orchestra at Sing for the Day! a unique concert event showcasing some of Ohio’s most talented teenage musicians.
Covered in chills would best describe my emotional and physical state as I watched these young virtuosos infuse a refined vitality into ‘Crystal Ball’, a song written by Tommy when he was not much older than they were.
The collective innocence, passion, and dedication to music, as much craft as artistic expression, was inspiring on multiple levels.
Their performance also confirmed that while external factors may influence where we are, what we do and when we do it . . . recognizing why we are, who we are, contributes to a much larger perspective.
Tapping into this realization, whether in music or other facets of life, is the secret to collaboration among seemingly diverse groups, most notably Generations.
“If you should see me walking through your dreams at night, will you please direct me where I ought to be, I’ve been looking for a crystal ball to shed the light, to find a future in me”
Do you remember feeling this way? Or does this resemble your current mindset?
These lyrics represent an extra verse to Crystal Ball, eloquently scribed by then 21-year-old Tommy Shaw. They capture the delicate balance between passion and practicality, wishing, hoping for some glimpse into what tomorrow has planned for us.
The performance at Sing for the Day! echoed a once youthful perspective, blended seamlessly along a time continuum with the promise and potential of a youthful generation, offering sublime evidence of a common thread among us.
Crystal balls may be in short supply, at least those worth their weight in revelations.
More plentiful and certainly more accessible is the life experience of the generations around you. Wisdom demands little in return, save for the opportunity to remind us that we’re not alone along the journey.
Willingness to share without judgement, paired with a willingness to listen within the moment, settles agitation caused by impatience and apprehension. The resultant clarity simplifies your perspective, eliminates unnecessary distractions, and allows pursuit of what matters most to you.
At least that’s how I choose to see it.
A Familiar Story
An appreciation for the wisdom of generations began as a young Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Listening to the stories of more experienced Officers and Enlisted Crew, seeking guidance as a resource for growth, and exposing myself to the unknown for the sake of awareness were trusted methods of developing skills and competency necessary for advancement.
That appreciation was enhanced when joining the Marriott organization several years later.
There was something intimately familiar in the story of J.W. Marriott, Sr., who at age 27 convinced his loving bride to travel from Utah to Washington, DC, where they opened a nine-stool A&W Root Beer Stand and sold it’s namesake beverage for five cents a glass.
It was at the age of 27 that I convinced my new bride to travel the opposite direction, from Georgia to Tucson, Arizona, and begin our lives together. Once there, we opened an 80 seat Italian restaurant for seemingly the same reasons that motivated Bill and Alice Marriott to open a Root Beer Stand.
We were pursuing youthful expectations, a future that evolved around an inherent desire for making others feel welcome, comfortable and among friends.
That the circumstances occurred decades apart did not detract from relevance within the experience. I could sense the spirit about which the company’s culture had formed, one that valued innovation, creativity, compassion for others, and endless drive.
I could also sense the fear and apprehension, instinct your solitary guide as you embark on a journey into undiscovered territory. The courage to rise from failure and live to face another day, without regret.
We had lived that same dream.
Weaving a Common Thread
Appreciation would come full circle when my responsibilities shifted to connecting the culture with employees, many of whom took their first steps in life long after Bill, Sr. had passed.
The first instinct was to place where, what, and when on a brief hold . . . thank you for your patience.
Instead, we began with openly discussing the persona (who) of the organization’s founder.
Bringing that persona forward capitalizes on the existence of a common thread, breathing new life into the mystique of the person, the same way a group of young musicians had revitalized a song written long before they were born.
Next Generation talent could feel who the person was, understand the why behind many of his character traits, and work to apply that approach in their current reality.
We were then free to explore what through initial questions such as:
“You’re 27 years old, you have an idea for a new business, featuring an innovative new product. What are you thinking? What’s most important to you? What’s going to keep you up at night?”
These questions cannot be answered in the pages of an Employee Handbook, or through an overview of an organization’s values and mission statement.
Discussion opens boundaries that prevent or prohibit learning. Answers to the questions asked began to connect familiar aspects within a journey to benefit growth and development.
More importantly, this discussion worked to establish perspective. There was relevance to the where and when of Brand Standards. People understood the emotion connection.
We were all living the same dream.
A Judgement Free Zone
Learning to balance personal values, generational values, and the values of your organization requires a willingness to share and listen, without judgement, on both sides of the conversation.
Doing so offers a wonderful panorama of opportunities to discover common threads and use them to overcome differences before they become obstacles.
This has application across the board but is especially true in Luxury or Niche segments of an industry.
For most employees, working in a luxury environment is as close as they’ll come to living a luxury lifestyle. It can be difficult to understand the relative importance of service standards and amenities, especially when it comes to the value they represent to guests or customers.
Having open dialogue around trends, technology, history, and culture works to cover all bases. It is the seamless blending of life experiences, providing the wisdom to moderate consistency and the creativity to inspire growth.
This perspective then becomes the persona of your target guest or customer, breathing life into a shared experience. Service is emotionally connected with those being served, regardless of generation or cultural differences.
Simplify Your Perspective
Bridging the expanse between generations or cultures requires both clarity of vision and simplicity of intent.
Place what, where, and when on hold for a moment.
Look for ways to openly connect with who a person is, to appreciate the why behind personality traits and preferences. Share and listen without judgement to discover common threads, then work toward achieving balance between moderating consistency (practicality) and inspiring creativity (passion).
This played out beautifully during the Sing for the Day! collaboration. Had we focused on the differences of what, where, and when, . . . we’d have a laundry list beginning with age, ability to read music (Tommy does not), wisdom, life experience, etc.
By first focusing on who Tommy is, the story behind Crystal Ball, and a shared passion for music, we simplified our perspective and overcame those apparent differences.
At least that’s the way I see it.
Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!