Emily’s Hip (Issue 1136)

In which we are reminded that, in team or group selling, it’s helpful to have someone in the group step up as the leader to set the tempo.

As a high school junior, I played the baritone horn in my high school concert band and I auditioned for a seat in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District Band comprised of high school players from nine counties in eastern central Pennsylvania. One of the audition pieces was a march. Typically, a march, like a John Phillip Sousa march, would be played at 110 – 120 beats per minute. This particular march was set at 100 beats a minute… slow.

The two band directors who auditioned me asked me to play a section of the march which involved playing a minor scale and a major scale, up and down, one after the other, in sixteenth notes (four notes to a beat). I played it flawlessly… at something like 135 beats per minute. After a brief silent pause, one of the two directors said, “Thank you and I’m wondering… Can you play it slower, at the indicated tempo?”

It took me a couple of tries. Eventually one of the band directors clapped his hands to set the pace before I started.

Turns out that I was technically proficient on my instrument and that I had a lousy internal clock. No matter what the tempo when I started a piece, I would rush. Apparently, any piece of music worth playing was worth playing fast or, at least, faster than the composer intended.

These days, every couple of weeks on a Friday night, I sit with six friends, informally but musically intentional, to play and sing music drawn from sources ranging from The Carter Family to the Grateful Dead to Indigo Girls. Just for fun.  Four guitar players, two singers. Turns out that I still have a lousy internal clock. No matter at what the tempo we start a piece, I want to go faster. I tend to rush. (Maybe, so do some others in the group, from time to time.)

At one point during the evening, last time we met, I noticed one of the singers, Emily, standing just to my right, patting her left hip to keep time. Seemed like the more she felt us (me?) rushing, the more vigorous her hip pat. “I can take a hint,” I thought, so I watched her hip and followed.

When we finished that song, I called it out and thanked her. She gently deflected my comment but others in the group had noticed her hand, too. Turns out that Emily is a good singer who also has an AWESOME internal clock, a rock-solid sense of rhythm. After brief discussion, we decided…. never mind our communal neighborly informal just-for fun-thing… going forward, we’d play better with a leader: Emily’s hip!

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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