Recently I had the privilege of engaging in conversation with a good friend who happens to be dean of a private school. Since we are good friends, the conversations between us flow naturally, but you might find yourself asking, “What does the dean of a private school and an entrepreneur have in common?” The answer is: everything.
We pride ourselves on being “solution-based thinkers”
Let’s start with common operations. Whether it’s overseeing campuses, hiring educators, dealing with parents/customers, ordering materials, or simply setting the tone for a quality education program, it takes a leader to accomplish those tasks. So our conversations often hover around three distinct areas. The first and most important area is vision. The second area is potential problems and the third area has to do with productive solutions. The common goal that we share is harmonizing the solutions with our visions.
What I enjoy the most about our conversations is that neither of us dwells very long on problems. Our mutual approach is to identify, investigate, comprehend, and provide effective solutions. When problems are intricate, we commonly execute deep-dive tactics such as examining all the influences that have allowed the problem to gain in strength or complexity as well as any frailties that would create any unwanted residue going forward.
Vision: true leaders are not afraid to think differently
The challenge faced when being visionary is that you are ahead of the current reality. You are speaking from the “potential” and not from the “actual.” My favorite Albert Einstein quote is, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness from which it was created.” That also applies to vision. If you don’t visualize improvements or higher expressions, they can’t be actualized. To quote Wayne Dyer, “You have to believe it to see it.”
This is where the conversation with my friend really takes off and runs. Everything we discuss around the topic of effective partnering, or ways to work together creatively for the common good, is based in a “you could also” mentality. When you raise the level of conversation to “its highest potential,” the quality of thoughts exchanged between people improves exponentially.
Honesty: another admirable trait
“Truly a breath of fresh air” is the way I describe my friend. Why does he strike me that way? It’s because he puts honesty first. Many business leaders are matter-of-fact and frank, but the walk to integrity is a long one and honesty is the only path. If a problem is exposed, my friend simply and honestly discusses what he believes to be “the fix” or a better way. He never worries what you might think because he has nothing to hide. He knows he works diligently every day to make his school better and if he is challenged, it doesn’t upset him because he has learned not to make it personal. He rises above his personal feelings to
find the best solution for his school. Trust me, it’s hard when your integrity is challenged, but when you elect to put your personal feelings aside and solve the problem objectively for the good of the all, you know you are a true leader. That is when the people you surround yourself with really matter; they are objective and will reinforce solution-based thinking.
Your Best Tool is the “Think Tank”
My friend gently reminds me THAT our best tool is the importance of trusted resources or, as I call it, a “think tank.” I find it no surprise that his wife has her own successes in education and is also a solution-based thinker. I met the dean through another trusted friend who is a multi-business owner and married to someone who has two separate careers: one in medicine and one in education. None of these folks are in the music industry.
They all have high-profile jobs that demand they be at their creative best every second of every day. They have a fresh view because they have no emotion or ego invested when finding solutions. They are simply objective. That particular philosophy coincides with my personal beliefs, as well as most leaders I know in the music industry. Because of that, I can also help my friends vet their problems in return. I consider myself fortunate to have friends that have been involved in public education their entire careers, and I call on them often. When you combine those resources with the wonderful leadership I experience through the music industry and NAMM, it is no wonder I feel that together there are very few problems we can’t solve.
There are many challenges that face us every day, no matter what job you hold in the music industry. Solving those challenges will always come down to your leadership skills and the quality of the people you surround yourself with. Think about the first guy you call for a ride at three in the morning when you have a blown gasket in your car. Whoever that person is, whoever you elect to call first, that is the person who has unique skill sets.
Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column.