Team Management Tips from the World of Jazz

Have you ever wondered what jazz music and management have in common? Jazz is a musical genre that originated in the African American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterised by improvisation, syncopation, swing, and complex harmonies. Jazz musicians often play in small groups, where they communicate and collaborate with each other to create spontaneous and expressive music.

Management, on the other hand, is the process of planning, organising, leading, and controlling the work of a group of people to achieve a common goal. Managers often work in teams, where they communicate and coordinate with their subordinates, peers, and superiors to execute tasks and projects.

While these two fields may seem vastly different, they actually share some similarities and principles that can help managers improve their performance and effectiveness. Here are some management techniques and leadership styles that you can learn from jazz musicians:

How to Manage Your Team Like a Jazz Musician

  1. Be Flexible and Adaptable

One of the key features of jazz music is improvisation, which means creating or performing something without preparation or a fixed plan. Jazz musicians improvise by using their knowledge, skills, and creativity to respond to the changing musical situation and the interactions with their fellow musicians. They also adapt to the audience, the venue, and the mood of the moment.

Similarly, managers need to be flexible and adaptable in their work environment, which is often dynamic and unpredictable. Managers need to improvise by using their resources, abilities, and innovation to solve problems and seize opportunities. They also need to adapt to the needs, expectations, and feedback of their stakeholders, such as customers, employees, and partners.

  • Hands – on exercise: To practice flexibility and adaptability, you can ask your team to brainstorm solutions for a hypothetical scenario that changes every few minutes. For example, you can start with a scenario like “Your team has to deliver a project to a client by tomorrow, but your main server is down.” Then, after a few minutes, you can add a twist like “The client has changed the requirements and wants a different feature.” You can keep changing the scenario and see how your team adapts and improvises.
  1. Listen and Communicate Effectively

Another important aspect of jazz music is communication, which means exchanging information and ideas with others. Jazz musicians communicate with each other through verbal and non-verbal cues, such as eye contact, body language, and musical signals. They listen attentively to each other’s playing and adjust their own accordingly. They also communicate with the audience, by engaging them, acknowledging them, and inviting them to participate.

How to Manage Your Team Like a Jazz Musician

Likewise, managers need to listen and communicate effectively with their team members and other parties. Managers need to communicate clearly and concisely their goals, expectations, and feedback. They need to listen actively and empathetically to their team’s input, concerns, and suggestions. They also need to communicate with their customers, by understanding their needs, delivering value, and building relationships.

  • Hands – on exercise: To practice listening and communication, you can ask your team to play a game called “Yes, and…” This is a game where one person starts a sentence with “Yes, and…” and then adds something related to the topic. The next person has to repeat the sentence and add something else with “Yes, and…” The game continues until everyone has contributed something. For example, if the topic is “How to improve customer satisfaction”, the game could go like this: “Yes, and we can ask for feedback after every interaction.” “Yes, and we can offer incentives for referrals.” “Yes, and we can follow up with thank-you notes.” This game helps your team to listen actively, build on each other’s ideas, and communicate positively.

3. Be Collaborative and Supportive

Another essential element of jazz music is collaboration, which means working together with others to achieve a common purpose. Jazz musicians collaborate with each other by sharing roles, responsibilities, and resources. They support each other by giving space, encouragement, and recognition. They also collaborate with other artists, by learning from them, joining them, and creating with them.

How to Manage Your Team Like a Jazz Musician

Similarly, managers need to be collaborative and supportive with their team members and other colleagues. Managers need to collaborate with their team by delegating tasks, empowering decisions, and facilitating processes. They need to support their team by providing guidance, feedback, and recognition. They also need to collaborate with other managers, by sharing best practices, aligning strategies, and creating synergies.

  • Hands – on exercise: To practice collaboration and support, you can ask your team to form small groups and create a short musical piece using whatever instruments or objects they have. For example, they can use pens, cups, keyboards, or phones as instruments. They have to assign roles, share resources, and support each other to create a coherent and harmonious piece. They also have to present their piece to the rest of the team and explain how they collaborated and supported each other. This exercise helps your team to work together, appreciate each other’s strengths, and recognize each other’s contributions.


Jazz music and management may seem like two different worlds, but they actually have a lot in common. By applying some of the techniques and styles of jazz musicians, managers can enhance their skills and abilities to lead and manage their teams more effectively and efficiently. So, the next time you listen to jazz music, pay attention to how the musicians improvise, communicate, and collaborate with each other, and see if you can learn something from them. You may be surprised by how much jazz can teach you about management. 🎶


Further reading

Introduction to Management – 3 Skills For New Managers

Team development

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

In the professional world, the ability to be assertive is an invaluable skill, especially when dealing with senior managers, clients, and stakeholders.

Assertiveness is expressing your needs, opinions, and boundaries with confidence and respect.

Here are 8 useful strategies you can adopt as you aim to master this essential art in the workplace.

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

Recognising the Importance of Assertiveness

Senior managers, clients, and stakeholders often hold significant influence, and navigating interactions with them requires a delicate balance of respect and assertiveness. Being assertive in these situations establishes your credibility, ensures your contributions are acknowledged, and fosters a more transparent and productive working relationship.

Confidence in Your Communication

Confidence is the cornerstone of assertiveness. Before engaging with senior managers, clients, or stakeholders, take the time to prepare. Confidence comes from knowledge, so arm yourself with the facts, anticipate questions or concerns, and be ready to articulate your thoughts clearly and concisely.

Choosing the Right Language

The language you use plays a crucial role in assertive communication. Be direct and specific in expressing your ideas, needs, or concerns. Avoid ambiguous or overly apologetic language that may undermine your message. For example, instead of saying, “I’m not sure, but maybe we could consider…” say, “I recommend that we explore this approach because…”

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

Setting Boundaries Diplomatically

Senior managers, clients, and stakeholders may have demanding expectations, and it’s essential to set boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. When faced with unrealistic deadlines or excessive workloads, assertively communicate your capacity and negotiate more realistic expectations. For instance, say, “I understand the urgency of this project, but given my current workload, I propose extending the deadline by a week to ensure we can deliver high-quality results.”

Active Listening and Constructive Feedback

When engaging with senior managers, clients, or stakeholders, listen attentively to their perspectives and concerns. Acknowledge their input before presenting your own, and be open to collaborative problem-solving. Constructive feedback should be framed positively, focusing on solutions rather than dwelling on issues.

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

Managing Conflicts Professionally

When conflicts arise, address them promptly and professionally. Use “I” statements to express your feelings or concerns without placing blame. For example, say, “I feel there might be a misunderstanding, and I would appreciate the opportunity to clarify my perspective.”

Adapting to Different Communication Styles

Being assertive requires adaptability. Pay attention to the communication preferences of senior managers, clients, and stakeholders. Tailor your approach to align with their preferences, whether it’s providing concise written updates, scheduling regular face-to-face meetings, or using data-driven presentations.

Balancing Confidence and Humility

Assertiveness doesn’t mean arrogance. Balancing confidence with humility is crucial in building positive relationships. Acknowledge the expertise of others and be open to learning from their experiences. A collaborative and humble approach fosters a culture of mutual respect, making assertive communication more effective and well-received.

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients


Mastering the art of assertiveness when dealing with senior managers, clients, and stakeholders is essential for professional success. By building confidence, choosing the right language, setting boundaries, actively listening, managing conflicts professionally, adapting to communication styles, and balancing confidence with humility, individuals can navigate these crucial interactions with effectiveness and integrity.

Further Reading

Assertiveness Simplified

Ten Ways to be more Assertive at Work