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Emma Sue Prince



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Sing and the workplace sings with you


Choirs seem to be everywhere in the UK these days. If they're not in a community hall near you, they're on TV reality show in their swathes. Everyone is being encouraged to sing and if you've been watching "Sing While You Work", you'll find loads of support for setting up your own workplace choir. According to the choirmaster fueling the trend for singing while you work, Gareth Malone, “Singing cannot change things; it can’t make you better if you’re sick, it can’t turn round the fortunes of a company. But it’s really, really amazing what it can do for morale.” There is tons of research now about the health and psychological benefits of singing. And it's incredibly good for the workplace.

There are lots of parallels between a choir and a group of people at work.

I started a community choir in my home town 18 months ago (Godalming Community Gospel Choir) and have been singing in a gospel choir, of sorts, for many years. I think gospel singing, in particular, taps into a deeply spiritual side of our beings. It’s not about religion, it’s about the emotion, spirit and engaging a more primal part of ourselves…

Here are some of the ways singing highlights things we need to strengthen in the workplace:

Working as part of a team – in a gospel choir and many other types of choirs, you sing in harmony sections – each section has to learn to listen to each other and become one voice – no egos involved! How often do we do that in the workplace? And you can clearly see it in the workplace choirs on TV - CEOs alongside junior staff. Senior hospital consultants side by side with nurses and cleaners.

Getting out of your comfort zone – singing solo can be a terrifying experience – grabbing the opportunity to do this with the support from the choir means you can definitely do this in other areas of your life and work. How often do we do this? And we need to! Expanding your comfort zone helps you to be adaptable, flexible and spontaneous - all crucial  skills today.

Improvising – when we sing we project enthusiasm, passion, joy and emotion. Once we let go of our self-consciousness and allow ourselves to relax and tap into the music, these are the things that emerge. We practice this by improvising. So we must in life and at work. Because we are faced daily with greater uncertainty and the unexpected.

Social skills – I guess we all think we have great social skills. When you sing in a community choir, though, you automatically mix with people from quite different backgrounds and cultures. Singing is the great leveler and the thing we all share and have in common. It transcends any barriers – perceived or real.

Performance skills – life is a bit of a performance (with no dress rehearsal!) and work is too – quite often we actually DO have to perform whether that is when we give a presentation, when we really want to effectively contribute to a meeting or discussion or when we need to really listen to others.

And you can also find exactly the same things that are negative about the workplace reflected in a choir. These can range from too many egos (and soloists!), lack of support between choir members, politics, gossip, lack of leadership to factions and cliques forming among various groups. The difference is that singing in a choir means that these are far more visible and highlighted faster than at work, where they may simper, unheard or invisible, but very much there, for months on end.

If you don't believe, this, start a workplace choir and you'll see these emerge more or less immediately. Even better, start a workplace choir and combine it with strong, robust management development coaching. Now that would make a good reality TV show!

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Emma Sue Prince


Read more from Emma Sue Prince

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