The Maestro

A lesson in greatness

You can learn so much from watching this short clip taken from a recent segment hosted by the late Bob Simon on 60 Minutes:

Click HERE if the player doesn’t work in your browser.

Conducting an orchestra and opera singers is different than your job as a Program Director. One of the reasons I have so much respect for radio programmers and performers is that you operate without a script, without all the notes already written down for the players.

But the first lesson is the palpable joy James Levine expresses when he is working. He loves this job, and that is apparent in every expression he makes. Do you love your job this way? Does everyone who works with you feel the passion, the joy you have for what you get to do every day?

Both you and James have the same task: making it better every day. You will never hit perfection, but if you’ve stopped trying to make it better each day, each show, each break… it’s time to move on.

You can’t take a risk unless you’re brave, and you can’t be brave if you’re looking down in the pit and you see the top of someone’s head. He gives you enormous confidence.”

Now this part is really important.

In my work, I tend to see one of two extremes when it comes to coaching talent, and this applies to GMs and VPs and everyone else who manages talented people, not just on-air performers: either no feedback at all or confidence-crushing negativity.

“…he always tells them how good they are before he tells them how they can and must do better.

I try to make a rehearsal room a very safe environment for a singer so that we can make improvements.”

Substitute “feedback” or “air check session” or “coaching session” for rehearsal room and Levine’s statement applies to your work as a coach too.

Notice how he stops the singer when she nails it so that he can give her immediate positive feedback and add specifics that build confidence rather than shake it.

No one can take the risks necessary to create a strong emotional reaction in listeners when s/he is worried about being lambasted if it comes up short.

None of us can feel joy in our work when harshly negative feedback is all we hear.

Your job, as coach, is to make the performer better every day, to build confidence rather than shake it, to inspire rather than deflate and if you’re not doing that every day, your performers will begin to settle for whatever content they produce that doesn’t generate negativity.

Watch the piece again. This time, feel it, the way Levine does.

Your job is harder in many ways, but you could do a lot worse than seeing him as a role model for yourself.