Reduce Team Burnout with Music

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MusicScottish regiments of the British army have traditionally marched into war to the sound of bagpipes. Although many people may shrink at the wail of the bagpipes, Scottish soldiers hear it as a rousing call to arms. The most celebrated bagpiper of the World War II, Bill Millin of 1 Special Service Brigade, piped his unit onto the Normandy beaches on D-Day. As Millin waded onto Sword Beach, playing “Road to the Isles,” he kept piping despite all the cacophony of bursting shells and whistling bullets. He kept it up as his unit triumphantly fought their way to their objective, Pegasus Bridge. When his unit reached their objective, Millin piped the troops across the bridge under the withering fire of German snipers.

Music can inspire accomplishment when fear or burnout threatens performance. It can also “soothe the savage breast” during times of great stress. According to Dr. Michelle Lefevre, Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Care at the University of Sussex, the pitch, tempo, and melodic pattern of music influence the listener’s mood and physical processes. High pitch, accelerated rhythm, and ascending melodic passages generally increase emotional arousal and tension. That’s why Millin’s bagpipes inspired his unit to accomplish its mission. Keep a compact music system in your work area or break room, and when you sense burnout creeping into your team, cue up your classic rock playlist with a lot of danceable tunes. On the other hand, music with low pitch, slow tempos, and descending melodies usually decrease the listener’s level of arousal. When you see stress causing a bit of frantic behavior, switch to Beethoven and Brahms. Don’t be surprised if one of your employees comments “You should have been a DJ, Boss!”

As we learn more from neuroscience and psychology about the incredible power of emotions on our ability to create, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team dynamics to increase creativity and innovation and performance, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Power of Emotions to Fuel Extraordinary Performance to be published by the American Management Association or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a thought leader sharing ideas on how to create a more just and peaceful world. She is also a CIO, and in this role she has led large organizations with hundreds of employees through challenging times and major transformations.
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