Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Take a real maestro's approach to conducting your team's social media posting

From time to time, I encounter communicators who try to manage social media the way they think a symphony conductor would, furiously directing staff members as they attempt to post in real time.

But according to longtime conductor James Levine, they've got what a real conductor does backwards. He prefers to conduct furiously in rehearsals only, and avoid grandstanding gestures when it comes time to perform--and I think there are lessons here for those of you who manage social-media teams. In this recent NPR interview with Terry Gross, he explains what a real conductor does:
...the most satisfying performances that I hear live are usually conducted by conductors who have a very clear-cut idea of what their function is at a rehearsal and what their function is at a concert....in a rehearsal you use everything, every persuasive thing at your disposal to make the orchestra conscious of as many details of the conception as you can. But when the concert comes, or the performance comes, the orchestra has to be empowered to function within this conception without having to check with the middleman....it's not possible to feel and play and respond to what you feel inside and keep looking to have a constant kind of alignment, shall we say, with the gesture of the conductor....People like to imagine that the conductor does lots of things he doesn't do...I think one of the most important things we don't do is get in the way of the artistry of the musicians who are playing.
In his mind, there are three reasons to avoid over-conducting in real time: It's distracting to the audience, it's distracting to the players, and it means you haven't done your work in rehearsal.  So it's not just a matter of keeping your hands off the process when your team is posting, but of spending enough time discussing options and expectations offline and ahead of time, in your version of "rehearsal."

Too often, and in the rush to cram social media into an already full schedule, I think many communicators are skipping rehearsal and then conducting like they were in the Bugs Bunny overzealous version of a symphony (see below). Next time, try more communicating with your team to walk through scenarios and less flailing around with that baton, and see what happens.

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