Setting the Tone

I love music. I am a fan of many genres of music from rock, pop, gospel, country, classical and others. When I was younger I played various instruments in the school band and sang in the school choir. There is something about the sound of music that just appeals to me. It creates the right feeling within me. I guess it sets the right tone. When it comes to music, tone generally refers to pitch, quality and strength. In the workplace it’s very similar: The tone of the environment can have a huge impact on the performance quality of employees and the overall strength and success of the company.

In the work environment every employee plays a part in what the tone will be. However, it’s the managers who have the primary responsibility of setting the tone, ensuring it is maintained, and when necessary, adjusting or changing the tone. In essence, a manager is like the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor’s job is to lead, guide and direct each player. The main duty associated with leading, guiding and directing is to prepare the ensemble for public presentation. This entails letting each member know what their role or part is, when it is time to perform, the condition of the performance and ultimately how the performance impacts the performances of others as well as the overall perception created by those observing the performance.

In the workplace it is no different. The role of a manager or supervisor is to ensure that all employees understand their jobs along with the associated duties, responsibilities and expectations. It is also management’s responsibility to ensure employees understand the impact that failure to complete their duties, fulfill their responsibilities, and performing as expected will have on the organization. When it comes setting the right tone, consider the following:

TRAIN
Begin with training. Training involves providing your employees with the knowledge they need to successfully fulfill their assigned job duties and responsibilities. This entails telling them what they need to know, showing them how to do their jobs and observing their performances. As a conductor, it is not only your responsibility to train others, but to ensure you are trained. A conductor cannot effectively lead a group of musicians if they can’t read the music. A conductor must know the notes, understand the various symbols and instructions on the music, and know how to share that understanding with others

OPERATE
Once you know it, you have to do it. You have to operate within the guidelines that have been established to ensure your organization is on the path to achieving its mission. This means setting the example. The policies and procedures established by the organization have a direct impact on the tone of the workplace. As a conductor, it is important that you set the tone by following the implemented policies and procedures.  Also, you must ensure that those whom you direct and guide deliver a great performance. When members are out of tune, their timing is off or they’re just not paying attention, it is the responsibility of the conductor to address these issues.

NOTIFY
It’s almost show time. The orchestra has been rehearsing for weeks. The talented, well prepared team is excited and ready to exceed the expectations of the audience. The conductor, excited but anxious, is sitting at his desk the day before the show reviewing the playlist. Suddenly he decides to cut song number five from the list. Twenty-four hours later it’s show time. It’s a full house. The orchestra members are on stage ready to perform. The conductor walks on and begins the show. The first four songs go perfectly. The conductor raises his hands and begins conducting the next piece. Within seconds confusion, frustration and feelings of nervousness inhabit the minds and bodies of the orchestra and its conductor. Sensing something is wrong, the audience begins conversing one with another. The conductor suddenly realizes he forgot to notify the group that he changed the playlist. Due to his failure to inform them, the tone of the environment has been negatively impacted.

In the work environment it’s not uncommon for similar situations to occur. A change is made, a new procedure, promotion or product is implemented. You know about it, but you forget to notify others who need to know. A key component of setting the right tone is communication. You must notify employees of important changes and other information that could impact their performance and the service they provide. If you fail to communicate that information, the environmental tone will change. Confusion, frustration and poor service will occur that could impact the overall success of the organization.

ENERGIZE
The final thing to consider when setting the tone is energy. You have to find a way to create an environment where your employees are enthusiastic, excited, enjoy what they are doing and ultimately are energized to the point where their performance is exceeds expectations. In an orchestra, conductors do many things to help energize the performances of the players. One way they do this is by assigning additional duties and responsibilities such as selecting top performers to be the lead chair of their particular instrument section. In the workplace, finding ways to motivate employees can be one of the most difficult challenges. Often times, as managers we think the only way to motivate employees is to provide them some physical gift or incentive. However, in many cases simple things like publicly recognizing an employee’s good performance, thanking him or her for a job well done, acknowledging personal non-work-related accomplishments and a friendly greeting when staff arrive for their shifts is all they need. Behaviors such as these can have a positive impact on the tone of the environment and will energize your employees to perform at levels that exceed expectations.

In conclusion, remember that setting the right TONE involves ensuring employees know how to do their jobs, leaders being positive examples and addressing performance issues, keeping others informed of the things they need to know, and finding ways to energize your team members.

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