The lovely melody of chimes ringing outside my window is one of those small yet valued pleasures I really enjoy.  Last year due to some construction, I relocated my chimes from their anchor at the corner of my home to a branch in the yard.

Seasons changed, time crept by, and I realized the chimes had stopped ringing.  That lovely melody was gone. Though I didn’t immediately correct the situation. It reminds me a bit of what many of us have experienced during these last two years.  Sometimes things change and we don’t even notice. For me action happened when a storm blew those chimes off the branch into a heap on the ground.  From a distance, I thought the heap was a dead animal!

What does this have to do with leadership, teams, and the conflict mastery?  Plenty!

Conflict, while many want to avoid it, is a natural occurring phenomenon that creates beauty in the natural world and innovation in our human world.

The reason my chimes quit ringing is I took away the conflict.

The branch I hung them on was too springy.  As it turns out – chimes require a solid anchor or they can’t possibly make a sound because all the parts are moving together but don’t touch, at least not enough to make an audible sound.  The springy branch moved with all the parts.

 In this time of rapid change and the transition to more virtual relationships let’s explore the insights leaders can learn from the beautiful melody of chimes.

Chimes needs an anchor.
A leader, or anyone, without an anchor makes engagement with others almost impossible. Just like that chime, that springy branch moved about the same rate as the striker and tubes, so they didn’t collide to make sound!  For leaders, in times of rapid change and uncertainty, their only anchor may be their internal strength of values, purpose, and spirit.  External anchors are subject to change or disappear completely.  It’s the inner anchor that sustains us and allows us to be present to connect.

How do you as a leader nurture and grow your inner anchor?  I believe it is no longer a luxury but an essential survival skill to have an inner anchor or what I call in my practice ‘center’. This is an internal focusing process we do to create balance, calm, and personal strength. It is our method for becoming the calm eye in the storm of life. Without a strong center, the slightest breeze has you blowing in the wind without meaningful impact. 

Chimes need the striker and the tubes to connect to make a melody.
A leader without the ability to truly connect to others doesn’t create or innovate.  While that may seem obvious it bears pointing out. As relationships become increasingly virtual it can be difficult to create that melody because of lost in-person connection and a necessity to be tolerant and accommodating to peoples’ living situations.  This may even happen without your awareness because it’s not always obvious or so slowly occurring it’s a problem that has gained acceptance.

Initially when working from home it was fun to meet the kids, dogs, and cats. Yet, when letting the dog out and getting the kids refocused becomes a normalized interruption, that’s when others can start withdrawing and getting resentful.  Having the ability to have respectful conversations that set boundaries without alienating others becomes an essential skill.  It may be awkward, though it’s not fair to let those chimes blow freely without striking the tubes!  Left on that springy boundaryless limb it can eventually fall in a heap.

 Others can take fake virtual presence to an art form.  I’ve heard of people creating looping videos they play of themselves looking like they are present.  Leaders if you create live eye-to-eye connection, you actually connect and make those chimes ring.  Begin comfortable, or at least willing to be on a video is now a skill that must be required

The chimes need to be free of a damper.
To create there must be freedom of expression. If you hold the chime tube with your hand and strike it – the sound is discordant.   Same is true of if a leader is too controlling.  Discord happens.

 Many organizations are finding their employees now want the new freedom of working virtually.  When they want to bring everyone back to the office there have been revolts against this ‘damper.’

The chimes have to be arranged in a balance way for the best melody
Is your team, organization, creating beautiful melodies?  If not, it’s probably time to improve your conflict skills.  Like the chime – the conflict created by a free expression with appropriate boundaries is productive and beautiful; the conflict created when there is too much control or dampening is discordant and not sustainable; when there is no conflict because of no boundaries or anchor nothing is created…it becomes a heap after a strong storm. 

While we can program a chime melody on our phone, it doesn’t replace the value of live natural chimes colliding in the wind to create a melody – creating the just right conflict!

This article was orginally publshed in Newsweek February 2022