Everyone needs help, feedback, and criticism. Here's my take on finding it, giving it, and what to do with it!
Filtering by Category: Leadership
I was discussing with some friends and colleagues the other day their need to have more feedback in their own careers and workplace. The subject came up of asking people in their particular organization's leadership for guidance. I stated that I always felt like I work best when I ask for what I need. Whether that need is for guidance, feedback, support, permission, or just plain old perspective, I try not to overthink that process of asking. It's easy to think you will bother people or, worse, come off as a complainer or non team player. I suggested to my friends that asking for what we need, in a diplomatic, solution oriented way, is the best indicator to me of someone who is both confident and truly interested in improving and contributing to an organization.
If you work in a place where you can't ask those questions (or study with a teacher that won't tolerate them, or a spouse that won't support them!), then that's a dead giveaway that communication and leadership is severely lacking. The boat is sinking, it's only a matter of how fast it hits bottom!
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/01/failure-imagined-24-variations.html Failure imagined (24 variations)
Indicted though innocent
Out of cash
Out of tune
Out of your league
Feel free to avoid all of these things by doing nothing, by second guessing yourself, by being your own worst critic, always ready to describe the apocalypse waiting on just the other side of shipping.
Either that or you can risk the narrative and risk the fear and make a difference.
Seth's new book can be found here. I highly recommend it!
"Daddy, why don't you work at the brewery anymore?" That was my 6-year-old son's question a few weeks ago when we drove by the brewery that opened near my normal place of employment a little over a year ago. Kyle sounded a little sad and disappointed, even though we were on our way to hear some music performed by my fantastic colleagues on my son's day off from school.
Well, the answer was easy. I explained that I had simply run out of time, and that I needed to devote my energy and time to my regular job, and to him, his mother, and his newly adopted 2-year-old brother. While volunteering at the brewery, I got to show up once a week, do a lot of cool stuff brewers get to do, then go home. No pay, no set hours, no stress. It was fantastic.
My work at the brewery lasted from September of last year until about May of 2014. I connected with Bluejacket through mutual friends of the original head brewer, Megan Parisi. I learned a lot about brewing beer on a commercial scale. Recipe formulation, sanitizing procedures, recipe creation, and many other aspects were all taught to me by the 2 Brewers I worked most closely with. I could write 10 posts on what I learned from a brewing perspective. What knocked me out is what I learned about work, managing, leading, and passion from two very talented and hard working guys that get to make their living putting a smile on people's faces.
You might think on the surface that being a musician and a brewer have really nothing in common. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. The parallels lie both in the creative part of the job (making recipes, improvising with ingredients) as well as in the more blue collar aspects of the two crafts. In a brewery, sanitation procedures are key. Creating recipes, dry hopping beers, and pouring tastes from the latest cool rum-barrel-aged Belgain sour are the glamorous parts that only happen after the fundamentals are taken care of. Sounds a lot like music! As a trombonist, daily routines, practice, and study of the art are key. I got to watch some of the best in the business, and certainly the most motivated, in working under Bobby Bump and Josh Chapman. The guys about worked me into the ground my first couple of work days!
Most impressive to me, Bobby and Josh (and now Owen, too!) aren't afraid to make something and put it out there. Many times as musicians, we are taught and coached to practice and refine until we unintentionally drive all the life and spontaneity out of our creation! Because beer is a living thing, brewers don't get too much say on when and if a particular beer is ready to drink. Natural processes of fermentation, hopping, clarity, and conditioning all happen in their own time. I watched these guys making new beers, for the first time, on a system that was brand new to them, and putting that beer out for the public to drink, putting their reputation and that of the brewery on the line every day. That isn't to say they don't have standards. I witnessed a couple of occasions where beer was deemed not worthy and unceremoniously dumped. But, that was only a couple of batches out of over 100 brewed in the first 9 months of being open. What was interesting was that they didn't let the insignificant details hang them up and prevent them from moving towards the ideal of a particular recipe. In other words, if the concept was right and the beer was a pleasure to drink, they didn't let themselves get hung up on technical imperfections. They still served their beer.
And that's where we get to the hard part. Putting it out there. Do the work. Be the man (or woman) in the arena. We are all going to make some (lots of) mistakes. Keep coming back. Keep creating. Keep serving your customers.
"It's a beautiful day in Commerce!"
So began many lessons and greetings with my teacher, Dr. Neill H. Humfeld. It occurred to me the other day, that at age 41 I am the youngest person to have studied with Neill Humfeld. I feel that the special person and teacher that he was needs to be shared with a new generation of trombonists! I was fortunate to begin my studies with Dr. Humfeld in the spring of 1987, what would have been the end of my 8th grade year. My father studied with Dr. Humfeld in high school and knew exactly with whom I should have lessons! I left home in August of 1991 to attend Curtis, and Dr. Humfeld passed away that fall after a very long battle with cancer.
Neill Humfeld was born in Clay Center, Kansas. His early trombone teachers were Maurice Faulkner, and Wayne Snodgrass. He attended the University of Kansas where he studied with Gerald Carney while pursuing a degree in music education. Neill was a veteran of the United States Air Force, serving in a band that provided the bulk of the Air Force's West Coast musical needs during the Korean War. For an excellent article about Dr. Humfeld's life, please see the Fall 1990 issue (Vol. 18, No. 4) of the ITA Journal written by Vern Kagarice. Join ITA (if you aren't already a member!) and you can download the journal from the archives.
After his military service, Dr. Humfeld attended a summer workshop at Eastman to study with Emory Remington. At the end of the seminar, he was asked to stay on as a graduate assistant. He completed his Master of Music and went on to complete his Doctor of Musical Arts in 1962. It is notable that at this time, he was already a faculty member at East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas (now Texas A&M University - Commerce).
Mr. Remington is remembered as the "gentleman trombonist" and if there is someone who personified that example more than Neill Humfeld, I would be shocked to hear of it. He was the kind of teacher that motivated his students through his obvious love, both of music and of his students. Dr. Humfeld was an unfailingly positive person. Whether through his own health issues late in his life, or in dealing with his students setbacks and failures, he was the man who always looked on the bright side and, most importantly, taught the rest of us to follow his lead. In spring of 1991, he played a trio with my dad and I on the Commerce High School band concert. This was, as far as I know, his last public performance. He was obviously in great pain, but he still managed to walk out on stage and play the 3rd part to the trio with all the beauty and care that he always brought to his music. He had a smile on his face, and most importantly, left me with a beautiful memory of that concert together. That was just the kind of person he was.
Dr. Humfeld was a clinician for Conn for a large part of his career, switching to Selmer/Bach in his later years. He played a fair amount in my lessons, sometimes on his 1950s vintage 88H or on a newer model gold brass Bach 36B. What I remember most was his sound. Dr. Humfeld had the most beautiful, sweet, mellow trombone sound I have ever heard. He was not a "muscular" type player, but one who strived for efficiency, flexibility, and beautiful sound at all costs. I think most modern players would find his sound "soloistic", "bright", and "round". His fluidity while playing Rochut etudes and his effortlessness was something to behold.
Rochut's were a staple of nearly every lesson. I remember a very funny conversation I had about my sophomore year that went something like this:
Dr. H: So, do you have any questions, sport?
Me: Um, well, Dr. Humfeld, I was wondering when I'm going to start working on technique?
Dr. H: You mean, like playing fast?
Me: Yes, sir.
Dr. H: Well, let's see...(flips to back of Rochut book)... Try this one!
Me: Uhhh, oh, ok... I see what you mean now.
Dr. H: (big smile)
Dr. Humfeld impressed me another time with his empathy and positive attitude. I came in for a lesson the week after my Area band auditions my sophomore year. This was the step right before making All-State. I had practiced like crazy, made first chair at All-Region, and was ready to go… I totally bombed my Area audition! I walked in to his studio and Dr. Humfeld said, "Well, how'd it go?" I promptly burst into tears, and blubbered on about a bad warmup, and getting nervous, etc. I was embarrassed and mortified to be such a mess in front of him. He just smiled and proceeded to tell me a story about some recital he had once played that, according to him, was just about the most embarrassing event to ever take place in anyone's life, then we proceeded to talk about what went wrong at my audition, and what I could do to make sure it didn't happen again. Positive reinforcement, empathy, and problem solving! I will never forget that lesson.
There is so much more to touch on in this amazing man's life. It is my hope that other "Humfeld students" (as we all proudly call ourselves!) will chime in below in the comments and add your own stories and memories. Thanks very much for reading, and remember:
It's a beautiful day in ___________ (insert your place here)!!!!!!!