by Rob Fletcher | June 19, 2017

Rob Fletcher, Quixote Consulting"Hey everybody! Let's have some fun! Let the good times roll!" sings one excited participant as the rest of her team plays blues riffs on their harmonicas. Someone is playing the guitar; another, the tambourine. Everyone on stage is wearing retro-sunglasses and classic blues hats and having fun.

As a music team-building facilitator, it's always a pleasure to tell a group they're going to learn how to play music. They light up, relax and get a little playful. Let's face it -- some people look forward to team building, and some are a little more ambivalent. But everyone loves music. And most people wish they could play music, not just listen to it.

While I've combined music and team building in a variety of ways -- like forming rock bands and writing and singing songs -- the most popular is the "Play the Blues” program, where everyone receives a harmonica and learns how to play. For the grand finale, teams write and perform original songs they wrote about themselves. And it's not just the blues -- "Piano Man,” "Love Me Do” and of course the perennial favorite "Rawhide” are some of the songs that groups have learned over the years.

The best team-building programs incorporate something that people are already interested in with something new that will enrich their lives at work and beyond. I love it when I hear back from former participants that they now start every meeting with a song, or that they went home with their harmonica and taught their kids how to play some of the songs we taught them.

All of the performances are memorable, whether in quality or silliness. Everyone's a beginner, and that really helps to break down barriers within groups, especially when they are on very different levels on the organization chart.

There are a lot of closet musicians in corporate America. Someone always surprises their team by picking up the guitar and playing or singing like Aretha Franklin. There are roles for everyone, and safety in numbers on stage helps even the most shy to have some fun.

Does this sound like your team? Everyone has a clearly defined role, an expertise and passion for that role, and the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. There's a clearly defined goal that is adaptable enough to address the realities of the moment, a common rhythm, an extraordinary amount of listening, responding and interplay that's all in the service of a tangible, customer-focused final product. That's what a great band does, and it helps teams to connect the metaphor of playing music together and working productively together in the workplace. A great band or orchestra is perhaps the best model for a work team to aspire to.

In the debrief at the end of the program, people talk about improving their listening, communication and creativity skills. They like getting to know each other in a different way and especially love discovering the hidden talents in their group. But the two words that come up most often are memorable and fun.

A few other factors to consider:

Your brain on music
Brain research has revealed a number of enhancing effects that music has. For one, our brains link up with others when we play music together. Daniel Goleman talks of this phenomenon in his landmark book, Social Intelligence. Other studies have shown that music enhances how we think, reason and create.

The right place
I've led groups of almost every size and setting, from small gatherings of senior executives in a boardroom, to a theater-seating of hundreds to groups playing on a House of Blues stage. I've seen music team building work for groups across sectors, ages and nationalities. However, certain conditions work better than others. The more the atmosphere of a room can be transformed from the ordinary, the better. Meeting planners I've worked with have incorporated mason jars with candles in them on the tables, blue lights, blues videos playing on a big screen and a riser for performances.

The right group
Groups that have "been there and done that” with team building often respond well to making music, as well as even first-timers who aren't all that excited about the idea of team-building.

The night time is the right time
I have led music programs first thing in the morning, and they've worked out fine, but the best time for a fun and memorable time together seems to be the evening. Beer and wine are a nice complement to the program.

Rob Fletcher is a consultant, author, speaker and coach for a wide variety of corporations and organizations. He is the founder of Quixote Consulting.