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‘Music Paradigm’ Teaches Better Way to Wield Baton


Maestro Roger Nierenberg led the International Franchise Association annual conference attendees today through the Music Paradigm, linking lessons in business leadership to what happens on stage with an orchestra.

I play the flute, trombone, piano and organ and sang in a symphonic choir, and my alternative career path, albeit never followed, was to be an orchestra conductor, so the Music Paradigm presentation today at the IFA’s annual conference was right up my alley.

What I had never thought about before is what can be learned about business leadership from the orchestra, both from the maestro’s podium and from the musicians spread across the stage. That intriguing idea is what Maestro Roger Nierenberg, Music Paradigm’s founder, explored with conference attendees, illustrating the unexpected organizational dynamics within the orchestra and designed to show leaders how to “foster a culture of high-performing teams that produce remarkable results,” as the description said. It was a thought-provoking performance.

First, Nierenberg led the orchestra through segments of a piece, then asked audience members who were mixed amongst the musicians toward the front of the cavernous room about what they observed. They talked about how intensely focused and skilled the musicians were, and how beautiful the sound they made.

Then he strode to the back of the room and selected two people to come on stage and listen to the selection from behind the podium. Both remarked how it sounded “completely different” from up on stage, with much crisper sound and a more immersive and lush experience.

“Any organization has some kind of podium,” Nierenberg noted afterward, in his deft manner to connect what happens with an orchestra to what goes on in any organization. “You are at the podium and they are in the chairs,” he said, meaning the leader and the workforce, respectively, “and automatically blind spots are everywhere.”

In another example, he asked the orchestra to play a beautiful and intricate passage, and then asked just the second trombone player to play his part all alone—two long, low notes without any other movement. “You can see how it is for people in their jobs to feel estranged,” he said. “So the podium’s blind spot might be—how can we get the second trombone to feel important.”

There were many more lessons—about teamwork, for example, that is, how musicians can perform wonderfully well even without a person wielding a baton to conduct them, because they are skilled professionals who know how to do their jobs well.

Nierenberg would challenge the musicians to, without a conductor, play the piece and speed up gradually throughout, or make it sound suitable for Kermit the Frog to sing during a children’s TV program, or make it sound like a French baroque piece. The musicians, led only by their concertmaster nodding her head to start, listened and adjusted to each other to make the different scenarios happen.

Then Nierenberg showed what happened when he returned to the podium but conducted in a dysfunctional way: first, conducting rigidly, without connection to the musicians, striving mightily to “get it perfectly right” but leaving the musicians feeling flat and bored, as they told him afterward.

Then, he showed what happened when he overly conducted each little part, switching from side to side and trying to show each musician exactly how to play his or her notes—musicians said they felt restrained from playing how they play best.

“How is it that a leader can conceive of a certain result and put it out to a workforce and have the workforce execute it as if it were there own?” Nierenberg posited. It’s having a clear vision about what is wanted, and having a clear strategy to convey the vision to the group. “We weren’t operating them. We were leaving the operation to them,” he said after demonstrating the right way to do it.

And then, for his final example, he invited as many people on stage as could fit and conducted the full piece to gorgeous effect, with the conference attendees’ faces rapt throughout. With a conductor at the helm, emoting the vision but not micro-managing, the orchestra soared beyond what it could achieve on its own. Bravo!

The International Franchise Association’s annual conference continues through Tuesday, at the Phoenix Convention Center.




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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is senior editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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