In this episode, you will have the pleasure of hearing from Orvel Ray Wilson as we translate his lessons learned from leading a volunteer orchestra into valuable guidance for leaders who are working to influence across their organizations without direct authority.
About the Guest:
Today’s guest is an award-winning professional speaker, executive coach, and best-selling author of 6 of the legendary Guerrilla Marketing business books, spanning 57 titles, translated into 62 languages, and with more than 26 million copies sold worldwide.
Since 1980, he’s been helping people just like you learn how to get the edge they need to win in today’s competitive marketplace. He’s presented keynotes, workshops and seminars in hundreds of cities, in 47 countries, and all around the world. He holds the highest level of certification recognized by the professional speaking industry, the “Certified Speaking Professional.” And he’s been voted one of the world’s “Top 5 Sales and Marketing Speakers” a record 5 years straight. After 40 years on the international speaking circuit, he now coaches experts into authorities into thought leaders who deliver their unique message to the world.
You may reach at OrvelRay@gmail.com or 303-517-0866.
About the Host:
Amy L. Riley is an internationally renowned speaker, author and consultant. She has over 2 decades of experience developing leaders at all levels. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Deloitte and Barclays.
As a trusted leadership coach and consultant, Amy has worked with hundreds of leaders one-on-one, and thousands more as part of a group, to fully step into their leadership, create amazing teams and achieve extraordinary results.
Amy’s most popular keynote speeches are:
The Courage of a Leader: The Power of a Leadership Legacy
The Courage of a Leader: Create a Competitive Advantage with Sustainable, Results-Producing Cross-System Collaboration
The Courage of a Leader: Accelerate Trust with Your Team, Customers and Community
The Courage of a Leader: How to Build a Happy and Successful Hybrid Team
Her new book is a #1 international best-seller and is entitled, The Courage of a Leader: How to Inspire, Engage and Get Extraordinary Results.
Links mentioned in the episode
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Teaser for next episode
Tune in next for Courageous Destiny: Build the Ultimate Vision for Your Work and Life with my guest, Kristin Crockett.
Welcome to the Courage of a Leader Podcast. Today you will have the pleasure of hearing from Orvel Ray Wilson, someone who has a vast amount of experience in marketing and leadership. And today, you'll hear us as we translate his lessons learned from leading a volunteer orchestra into valuable guidance for leaders who are working to influence across their organizations without direct authority. Get ready to want to immediately apply what Orvel Ray has to share.Amy Riley:
Welcome to the Courage of a Leader podcast. This is where you hear real life stories of top leaders achieving extraordinary results. And you'll get practical advice and techniques, you can immediately apply for your own success. This is where you will get inspired and take bold, courageous action. I'm so glad you can join us. I'm your host, Amy Riley. Now, are you ready to step into the full power of your leadership and achieve the results you care about most? Let's ignite the courage of a leader.Amy Riley:
Orvel Ray, thank you for being here today. You mentor experts and authors and leaders in a variety of ways to achieve a variety of outcomes. And today, we decided we were going to talk about you the experience that you've had in leading a group of volunteers. The folks that are in the big band called The Flatirons jazz orchestra. And we wanted to talk about that because we thought listeners could glean some important lessons learned some techniques of how we influence without authority. Because here you're influencing you're leading a group of volunteers. So first of all, tell us about the Flatirons Jazz Orchestra.Orvel Ray Wilson:
I started playing drums when I was in high school. And then I spent 30 years on the International Circuit as a professional speaker. Yeah. And I always, I always played music on the side as a side hustle. I was in a community band here in Boulder, and I played with them for several years. But in 2014, I was helping a neighbor fix his roof and took a very nasty fall, broke my back broke most of the bones in my left foot broke my leg broke my arm real bad. And three surgeries to put my arm back together. See the scars? Yeah. And, and the surgeon said that because of the damage to the nerves in here that the these are the muscles that move your fingers up in here and near the elbow. And the doctor said you my left hand was was very badly paralyzed. And she said no, you will probably never hold a drum stick canAmy Riley:
you told me about that accent? I didn't know you were told you'd never be able to hold a drumstick again. Yeah,Orvel Ray Wilson:
well, just yeah, don't don't tell me what I can do. Yeah, I got into PT and got busy and got really serious about about playing drums again. And a friend of mine invited me to help him host a jam session at this nightclub. And so we did that for a while and accumulated this list of musicians. In the meanwhile, things that knit community band are going from bad to worse they I just got so frustrated with them. So we this bass player and a guitar player and I decided to start our own project. And so in 2015 we founded the Flatirons Jazz Orchestra with the intention of being a professional working Big Band we're a traditional 18 piece instrumentation fives axes for trumpets, four trombones, piano, bass guitar, drums and one of the best singers in the state. Deborah Stafford, she's just recently won the Colorado blues society Talon for the third year in a row was the finalist went to Memphis one of these days is going to get a recording contract and will never speak to people or so there's just so amazingly talented. And we're now in our ninth year. And we we play in regular rotation at all of the big to any room big enough to hold the band that size will play there. We have a regular standing gig in a nightclub in in town that has this on the second Sunday of every month. And then we do weddings and receptions. And that will be doing a big concert in Winter Park in the same phase as the winter practice festival, coming up in July. So it's it's been a really, really exciting and very rewarding project for me musically. But it's also been a laboratory for leadership. Yeah. Which brings us to your topic. Because, you know, with 18 mouths to feed. Everybody's lucky to get gas money, even though the venue's are pretty generous with us. But you know, we were going up against the not four piece rock and roll band and doing Beatles covers, and so the economics of it just just don't quite work out. And I, you know, every Sunday afternoon, when we get together for rehearsal, I just, you know, I open every every rehearsal with, you know, a profound tank of all, yeah, here you are a perfectly, perfectly Sunny, beautiful afternoon in Colorado, you could be doing anything else. And here you are. And I'm grateful. Thank you. Thank you for that for being part of that. So I suppose the question I table is, how do you create an organizational culture where you have a certain level of discipline and accountability, and no formal authority? Yeah. They're all in effect volunteers.Amy Riley:
Yeah, I definitely wanted to get into when you when you're bringing new members on board, when you grew that from the original three founders, to the 18 members that you now have? How did you invite folks, how did you explain the opportunity also asked for the commitment?Orvel Ray Wilson:
Well, a couple of things. One, I mentioned this, this open stage that we hosted. And so we had a notebook for people to sign in, who wanted to come up and play. And so when we decided to form FTO, we took that notebook and, you know, started calling everybody else to listen to you play saxophone, we're doing this big band project, you're gonna play big band. And on the 14th of January of 2015, we had 16 people show up at a rehearsal hall to learn what this is all about. A dear friend of mine, a fellow professional speaker, he was also the music director for the US Air Force Academy, a band program for a couple of decades retired from that. He gave me a great piece of ice said it's all about the book. Okay, me meaning the music. So. So we were very careful, we gave a lot of thought to the book. And so that gave us a great kind of jumping off point. And so we decided to constrain our time zone to the, from mid 1930s, to about the early 1950s. That what's known in jazz as the swing era, okay. And artists like Duke Ellington and Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and, and with a focus on dance music. Because, you know, with my background in marketing, I helped write the books on Guerilla Marketing. Yep. And so, we knew that if we, as long as we could get people to show up for dances, that we would always have gigs. That would be our focus that we constrained, we started with this very large book, narrowed it down to this particular time range, narrowed it further. So you know, we played dance, Big Band dance music. And then over the years, the band has evolved and we do more concert pieces, starting with the book and then within that another layer, which is we shall play no songs that suck. Because yeah, there's a lot of bad stars out there. You know, it'd be bad transcript as Yeah, that's the real book. You know, the classic American Songbook is notorious for Miss transcript and the bad chord measures missing. So, that was the neck. Okay, we will play note parts that suck. Sometimes we'll pull up a new chart that will run through at once and we look at each other ago. This arrangement sucks. DeleteAmy Riley:
next night, not us. Okay. I love this. Orvel Ray. And I know we wanted to be translated in your experience of leading this orchestra to leaders, even individual contributors inside of an organization who are trying to influence others. We're all in matrix organizations right now and they might not be a direct report of ours right yet. We're trying to influence their work in Some ways, I've heard a couple of pieces of guidance, if you will, from what you shared already. You talked about the open stage, right, like ways that you invite people in, let them know about your team or your work or this project or this initiative that's coming their way. Right? Give them a way to say that they're interested or this would be the piece that they'd be more most interested in learning more about or contributing to? I love that you were clear about who you were. You were a lot of managers,Orvel Ray Wilson:
a lot of businesses. You ask the employees, you know, what, what, what do you do? What do you sell? I don't know. I? I just, you know, working in the warehouse? I have no idea. And I'm reminded of that cliche story about the stonemason. You know, he's asking, What are you doing is I'm carrying a piece of stone, and that's another guy on the job site is what do you do? He says, Well, I'm building a wall. And he asked another age, what are you doing? He says, I'm building a cathedral. And as the fourth guy says, what do you what are you doing? He says, I'm getting closer to God, with every stroke of my hammer, the purpose. So being really adding, not just not just being clear about it, but having boundaries around it, what business are we in? What do we do? What do we always do? What do we never do? Who are we doing it for? You know, where do we find those people? And then one of the things we did is we went to a dance clubs. And we asked dancers help us make a list of songs you'd like to dance to?Amy Riley:
Ask your ultimate customers what theirOrvel Ray Wilson:
grades. Right? So we have, we had an enthusiastic audience from the beginning. So as a musician, the worst thing that you can do is show up and play to an empty room. Yeah. So a lot of what makes this organization attractive is that everyone's clear what we're up to. And they all want to be a part of that. That's great. That's great. Well, that covers Yeah, knock yourself out. But this is what here's what we do. And you're out there. You want either that's what you want, or you're in the wrong place. That's all Yeah, no, a couple grades. Jim Collins said get the right people on the bus. And then you got to tell them what kind of bus it is. We wrote a manifesto to be a one page Word document that basically spelled out you know, this is the mission. You know, these are the expectations. Some ground rules. If you show up late for a gig, you will be sent home period no questions. Expect to be there 30 minutes before soundcheck dressed and ready. noodling as when people begin to noodle around on their horn playing in between songs or whatever. High school kids do that professional bands never noodle.Amy Riley:
I didn't know that. They learned that.Orvel Ray Wilson:
If you hear something, you say something nice. We're very different in that when we set up to rehearse, we put the band in a square, with the trombones on one side, and the trumpets and then the saxophone section. Everybody, the singers in the middle, everybody faces each other. And so there's no place to hide. And if you make a mistake, nobody is going to hear it. You know, and I'm not going to tell you how to play the saxophone. I don't play the saxophone. I can barely play the trumpet. But, but there are some going on in measure. 53 Can we take a look at that? Yeah, you know, and and yeah, so. So everybody's had the same number of years. And if it ain't right, you know, please speak up. And it's always about the music. And it's never personal. You're not allowed to say, Gary, you keep screwing up that solo. You're not, you know, you're not allowed to ding anyone. And so we get a lot of great crosstalk and suggestions. What astonishes me about that environment is it also creates a lot of data, a lot of 40% of a person's motivation for participating in volunteer activities like this is social. Okay, so we have to give them time to stat among themselves. Somebody wants to tell the story, somebody wants to hear a joke. You gotta make room for that you can't be all business all let's work work. We're gonna get this done. We're getting away from the show. There's got to be room for that kind of, of, you know, off off mission communication. And I know a rehearsal is going really well when I hear a lot of laughter which totally Trainwreck and ending or thymine or half the band misses the coda to go back to the whatever, and it totally blows up and I was like, Oh, really? From the top toAmy Riley:
three. I was gonna bring I was gonna bring up humor earlier when, when you have the we shall, we shall play no songs that suck. Right, also underscores being really clear about what you do and what you don't do. And since then, you've also said that you went out and asked your customers, right. So that's guidance for everybody. Whether those are external customers or internal folks that you're going to serve with this project are this work? Right? Ask folks what they need, what's going to be most important to them? Love this one pager, might not call it a manifesto for your initiative, but folks that are going to play significant roles. What are the expectations? What are the rules of engagement? How is it going to operate? What are your ways of working together? Love this about creating the square and everybody facing each other? And translating that to the workplace? How do we create visibility of what everybody's working on? Right? Do we have shared folders? Do we have shared miro boards? Right, where we're working and we're crafting? How do you callOrvel Ray Wilson:
it even on a bigger scale than that? Look at Apple's new headquarters? Yeah, literally. Right.Amy Riley:
Yeah. How do we see each other? How do we create that cross talk, get suggestions going back and forth? Have that forum where it's like, bring your issues? Or, you know, what are you looking to accomplish in the next phase? Let's have everybody their ideasOrvel Ray Wilson:
in we also encourage people to bring your music, you know, if there's, if there's something you'd like to do you suggest it, you know, I'll go find the chart. We'll you know, we'll go by it if we have to. We just we had a suggestion from one of the trumpet players who said, you know, we could feature the trombones or the Pete called that Stanton did. It's called but beautiful. And it was never a hit. But it is so pretty. We should try it. And the first time we played through it, the trombones is big, fat horns in four part army as the fifth, or am I just brought me to tears. The first time I heard it,Amy Riley:
it was beautiful.Orvel Ray Wilson:
It really is. But this really beautiful, beautiful piece of music. And so we, you know, as we put it in the lineup, the alto saxophone came in it came to us, oh, I found this chart. And it's outside of our time zone, but it kind of fits our style, and it features the first Alto and I'd like to play it again and again. And so we did, I really try to hold open space for that.Amy Riley:
Lovely, lovely, right. So asking team members, what do you want to contribute? Where do you see us taking this? What skills and interest Do you want to explore inside of the work that we're doing? All right. Oh, Orvel Ray, let me tell our listeners a little bit more about you. Orvel Ray,Orvel Ray Wilson:
what must we know? Go ahead. Well, IAmy Riley:
only take a moment. Orvel Ray Wilson, my guest on the podcast today is co author of six of the legendary guerrilla marketing books, which is translated into 63 languages and more than 25 million books are in print. For more than 40 years, he has been traveling around the world helping people just like you learn to get the edge you need to win in today's competitive market. He's spoken in more than 1000 cities in 47 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. In an international internet poll, Orvel Ray has been voted one of the world's top five sales and marketing speakers a record five years straight. As an executive speech coach, he helps professionals discover, develop and deliver their unique message to the world. I'm so delighted to have you on the courage of a leader podcast today. Orvel Ray.Orvel Ray Wilson:
Well, thank you as well, I want to meet this guy.Amy Riley:
He is he's fast and fascinating.Orvel Ray Wilson:
Yeah, that's my day job. I take people who are experts and help them become authorities and thought leaders and grow their business using my experience as a speaker as an author.Amy Riley:
Yeah, and I know you've you've talked about the flat irons Jazz Orchestra, we'll get some some information in the show notes so that folks can see where your regular gigs are and where they might see you in the near future. I'd also love to point them to the link of a video so they can see you playing ifOrvel Ray Wilson:
jazz orchestra.com just like it sounds. We have a channel on YouTube with a whole bunch of stuff. You just again, we just released a new CD. We're very proud of it. I'm holding it up here for the video camera. Yeah. And we post our shows regularly on Monday. other YouTube, so you can find us there. If you go to our website flatironsjazzorchestra.com, look in the upper right corner for a big red subscribe button. That'll take your form for your email, and then we'll send you a notice, let you know when we're playing.Amy Riley:
Excellent. And I know if you're also interested in talking to Orvel Ray about his day job, they can reach out to you and get an hour of your time a coaching session. How do they do that? Orvel Ray?Orvel Ray Wilson:
Yeah, I'll give anyone an hour just for asking. So if you're a professional and you get that book inside, you is gonna have to come out? Are you thought about using presentations or seminars or public speaking as a way to grow your practice? That's what I do. And if you just send me an email, O R V E L R A Y Orvelray@gmail.com. And I'll get you on my calendar. I'd love to meet you.Amy Riley:
Lovely, generous offer. And I k now I learned from you, Orvel Ray, every time we talk. So take him up on that one. Orvel, where you're really describing a safe place to bring your ideas a safe place to learn in front of one another? How do you create that safe space? What allows for that?Orvel Ray Wilson:
You know, I mentioned this manifesto is one of the things that that that we're clear about is, it's always about the music, and it's never personal. And we're just, you know, we're all just having fun. And if, if it's not, if it's not fun for you, then let me know if you know what's going on. Our music director, Doug, he sometimes gets a little wound up and will raise his voice, you know, sometimes and, and I have to take him aside and say, you know, listen, this is, this is a sacred space. This is a place where we come as artists, to explore and try new things and take risks and, and make mistakes and learn and improve. And so you never raise your voice that anyone you'd never be, you know, we required, I have to hold the example. And, and maintain accountability for anyone who misspeaks or crosses that boundary and just remind them, you know, we, we are all committed to this being a safe place. Yeah. And what's what's interesting is that that same ethic carries over onto the stage. So when we get to, you know, we do a show. Somebody misses an Indian or somebody, Mrs. A, it's a bad note or whatever. It's like, okay, yeah, let it go. As long as they're dancing, I don't care.Amy Riley:
Yeah. Yeah. We don't have a reaction to that while we're on. And yeah, being being listened toOrvel Ray Wilson:
her, you know, mistakes happen. And because of that, the quality of the performance that we get so much better, because, you know, no, we don't have that performance anxiety going on. We don't you know, people aren't worried about, oh, my God, if I screw up. Right, there's like, Hey, let's go, let's rock let's, let'sAmy Riley:
lovely, so I'm playing a pianoOrvel Ray Wilson:
player. I don't care if I don't care if it's a bad note, just as long as you play like you mean it.Amy Riley:
With confidence, it's supposed to be that way. I love this chord and translating this to any work project or initiative. Are you saying it's always about the music? Alright, so having people focused on what's the bigger picture purpose of what we're doing here, folks? Right, what are we committed to? And then I'm hearing as the leader or as the project leader, right, or whoever's the keeper of the culture, right? If someone exhibits a behavior that could shut people down, or could make them feel not safe, making sure that that's addressed. Having that conversation with with someone, right, like, hey, that's, that's not what we're about here. And that could have some negative consequences, and what we're doing and what we're trying to create here,Orvel Ray Wilson:
right. And because of this environment, we attract. We attract some of the best players in the city. Yeah, I, our bass trombone player is working on his master's degree in trombone performance. He's going to wind up in some big city symphony orchestra, one of these days, but can I make that a master's degree in trombone? And he going up at an event center to play for two and a half hours for 50 bucks? Yes, because he wants to be part of this thing. Yeah, he wants to play this music with these people. Because it's just so much fun. And it's such a contrast to the environment of being in an orchestra where you've got a guy with a stick up front, whacking everybody, literally, you know, they, there's, we're all there for the love of the music. And that shows up in the way that the art comes together. And so another principle here, I would add to your list, and maybe the most important idea of this conversation is that the music is not the art. The organization is the art. And it's alive, and it's organic, and it you know, and it breathes, and it moves and it feels and it requires constant attention and commitment. And it's, you know, it's harder to keep alive than tropical fish. Yeah, it's a byproduct. But the band is the art. Yeah,Amy Riley:
yeah. Well, I'm just hearing being really present and talking about the special thing that you're creating, and doing together. Celebrate every every milestone, right, let's talk about, hey, we've worked together really well, in these ways. Let's call that out. How do we double down on that? Excellent.Orvel Ray Wilson:
The organization is you whatever business you're in. You really is, as Kevin Robert used to say, you really are all in the people business. And your job is not to, you know, move the boxes or build the product or process the claims. Your job is to keep your team together and keep them happy and to hold open a safe space for them to contribute in the best way that they know howAmy Riley:
to recognize those people to have fun to give the trombone player the solo, right, let people shine and have visibility. Right. Let them know that.Orvel Ray Wilson:
Literally when when they do Yeah,Amy Riley:
that's a great analogy. One more question. I think it builds on what we're talking about. So you've got 18, folks, or maybe more with your singer, right on this in this orchestra. And everybody's got some of them might have different day jobs. We've got different phases of life. Work might get busy, there might be a new baby or grandbaby in the family, like how do you keep people interested and committed over time?Orvel Ray Wilson:
Well, that's an interesting question. We have a number of players in the band. Now, nine years later, who were there at the beginning. Every time somebody leaves, there's somebody else standing in line often, and we have a list of people who, you know, come to rehearse with us. So they can learn the music. So that they can be first call if somebody's sick, or whatever, has a conflict or they're on vacation. And, and so FTL has really evolved into this kind of this community, this constellation, and we kind of have our core player, but that creates a gravity well, of, you know, I have a spreadsheet of more than 100 musicians, wow, in one capacity or another have come through the band or come and go or they play in other groups or Retrade, music or whatever. So it's it has directly it has evolved out into this this community network that covers the whole music scene from one end of the state to the other. That's really fun. It's never quite the same twice. always evolving.Amy Riley:
Yeah, there's a leadership development program that I lead and where we talk about, hey, all of you as people leaders, it's your job to continually attract and engage talent, right? And how do you do that in a way that leverages your strengths that feels appropriate to you that feels aligned with your, with your brand. So that's what I was thinking about when you're like, I've got this list of musicians, right. We always want to have our eye out there, right, who are the great people that have the great talents in our orbits that we might want and need to get involved in some way at some time. Orvel Ray, you have shared so much great guidance through this lens of leading the Flatirons Jazz Orchestra. Let me just recap some of this for our listeners. Giving an invitation right sharing about what you're Are what you're doing so that you can find out who's interested like you did with your open stage, you're really clear on the book, who you are and who you're not. Right What we're not going to be involved in. Because we all know that scope creep can happen so easily check in with your customers from time to time. What kind of dance music do they want to hear? Right? What's working? How could you work better with them? What's your one pager? Right expectations, let's be clear about who we are what we're up to how we're going to work with one another, giving visibility on the team, to what different folks are working on. Give them ways to interact, encourage that cross talk, that it's always about the music, right? It's we're not blaming people, we're looking at the process and the purpose, what we're up to and address when folks are exhibiting behaviors that don't allow the space to be safe and collaborative. It's about the people, recognize them, build them up, give them opportunities for visibility, and know who that who are the next people that you're going to get involved. So much great guidance. I hope that many of our listeners Take a listen to the Flatirons Jazz Orchestra. And thank you for sharing some of your expertise and experience with us today, Orvel Ray.Orvel Ray Wilson:
It's my pleasure, Amy. If I can be of service to any of your listeners to send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get you on my calendar. It's been a pleasure.Amy Riley:
Yeah, been a real pleasure. And thank you for that generous offer to the listeners.