Several days ago I was listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole sing his rendition of “Over the Rainbow” (often called “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). This led me on a brief journey of memory and a teaching I derived from it. I knew that the song was first performed by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. But who wrote the song? That is a really neat story and provides food for thought in our business and peronal lives.
The composer Harold Arlen and the lyricist E.Y. (Yip) Harburg were hired to write the songs for The Wizard of Oz. Harold Arlen was a remarkable man. Considered one of the giants of twentieth-century music, Arlen composed over 400 songs, including the hits “Stormy Weather” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Arlen and Harburg were given only two months to complete the assignment of composing The Wizard of Oz’s entire score. Imagine trying to accomplish that!
They met the deadline–but the story gets even better. The “rainbow” song was initially deleted from the film after a preview because MGM thought the song “slowed down the picture”! Of course, the song was eventually reinstated
Where am I going with this? First, you can guess why the song was removed? It probably came about through a decision that was a careless consensus. I bet at one time or another we have all worked in an organization that demanded consensus decisions. Decisiveness is nowhere to be found. The course of action is usually the child of a tepid compromise designed to suit everyone polled. How was the song reinstated? Most likely, a leader brought decisiveness to the scene. He or she said, “There is no way that song won’t be in this movie”. The good sense fostered by decisiveness prevailed and we came to love a song recently voted the #1 song of the century and the greatest movie song of all time!
Remember, the seemingly common events and decisions we observe or participate in daily—that we sometimes dismiss or even disparage as boring or at best pro forma—are imbued with wisdom if we will be alert to it. These “frames of” or “slices in” highly meaningful time occur in every aspect of our lives, but companies and organizations, because they are Action Central for high-stakes decisions, offer a rich lode of wisdom-they merely have to be harvested.
For example, if you attend a meeting called to reach a decision on a key issue, more than one opinion will be offered up–and folks choose sides for a hundred reasons, stated or not. When a decision comes down after that meeting, take the time to understand how the decision was reached, what the winning side did to prevail, when you might begin to see the results, and what further or unexpected effects may follow on from the original decision?
I can remember a situation where two different views on an issue were brought to a meeting. I was a little surprised that one person’s view was quickly adopted by management. On inquiry I found that one of the proponents took the time to sit with the decision makers before the meeting to answer any questions they might have concerning his view. His opponents had not. Consequently, the folks in charge were fairly comfortable with the soon-to-be prevailing opinion even before the meeting occurred. They had had time to think about his view with an especial focus on the benefits of going his way.
By paying attention when decisions are made you will be seen to be an “intuitive, insightful” leader, when, in fact, you have simply taken the time to be an observant, caring, and careful one.
Here’s some tag-on advice. If you are having a difficult day, pull up the words to “Over the Rainbow.” Surely, each of us has days when trouble does not “melt like lemon drops.” But never is there a day “when the dreams that you dare to dream, can’t come true.” That is completely within your control, exactly where it should be, if you will take an interest, pay good attention, and learn from what you find in the processes all around you. In this way, Mondays are never mundane, meetings never boring—they are healthy grist for your mill.