I have played in an 8 person musical group called the Evergreen Club Gamelan Ensemble for about 26 years. We play these beautiful bronze pots and gongs from Java, Indonesia and perform music in a variety of styles ranging from traditional Indonesian repertoire to some very avant-garde stuff. We’re definitely not famous by pop music standards and I am sure you haven’t heard of us, but I know you have heard us as we’ve been lucky enough to be on some Hollywood movie soundtracks.
26 years is a long time to be with the same organization. And although there have been a few changes in personnel over the years, there is a core of us that has been with Evergreen for at least 2 decades.
Even after all these years, when I perform with this group I love it as much as the day I started. Don’t get me wrong. It has not always been easy; there have been many changes over the years, lots of challenges, disagreements, highs and lows, disputes, resolutions, and most often acceptance. With time we have learned to work with each others pluses and not worry about our minuses. We have come to terms with who we are along with all that entails.
I know what has kept us together is simply that what we achieve together as a group can’t be found anywhere else, and that what we do for each other helps us each be better at our craft. We are not all best friends, but we have had lots of conversations, lots of meals on the road, lots of shared experiences. It is safe to say that we all have the deepest respect for each other, combined with the confidence that we will each perform at our highest level when need be. That just can’t be beat
All these factors contribute to what I call being engaged. It’s a big word for me. It encompasses how I act with this group no matter what we are doing. It’s how we all act. Whether it is in a meeting about business issues, in a rehearsal or on stage. This attitude of being engaged doesn’t go away for the others or me. It is always there because we have the end in mind – to put on great concert performances. I know that when this bunch of disparate individuals is on stage doing what they do best, it’s going sound and feel fantastic. Selfishly, it truly satisfies my “what’s in it for me” to play music at the highest level with others. A key factor in being engaged.
I realize not everyone gets to experience engagement the way I have. I have been very fortunate to experience this, maybe you have been this fortunate as well. But good fortune aside there has been a lot of learning along the way, a lot of personal growth, a lot of realizing my abilities and coming to terms with my limitations. My biggest realization going back many years now is that if I support others (musically and otherwise) in this group I can always satisfy my “what’s in it for me”.
When companies ask me to address this idea of engagement with their teams, this experience is what I draw from. Words can’t fully explain what engagement really is. It is hard to sum up all the steps one needs to take, what one needs to go through to be engaged. I like to let people feel it, to live it. When their they’re done playing, they cheer, they pat each other on the back, talk about what worked, and perhaps joke about the things didn’t go as planned (much like Evergreen does each time we come off-stage after a concert). But no matter what they have now all felt what it is like to be truly engaged.
Yes, engagement is a feeling, a powerful feeling, perhaps even a state of being, yet one that is under the surface. It is usually not proud or showy. It comes in varying intensities although it can always be seen if you look for it. It shows up in simple ways and often through simple actions but can tackle the most complex tasks. Perhaps if you look around your office now you can see it in action. Once you’ve got it, it propels all your actions in all the tasks you need to do to get the job done.
Some people for whatever reason get that right away. Others need to get to know it over time. But the best way to understand it is to experience it with your team and think about what it did for your team and what it did for you. You need to take a moment and think about how it all came together. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can bring that with you when and wherever you need to.
Let’s get drumming!