Lessons for life and work from The Sound of Music

From the moment Maria exclaims that “the hills are alive with the sound of music” you know you are in for nothing short of two hours of sheer raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens and brown paper packages tied up in strings.  

When I recently took my children to see the musical production on stage in Melbourne – an excellent production by the way – everyone left the theatre elated, overjoyed and ready to climb every mountain.  But not me.

You see, I realised the deep dark truth that I am more Captain von Trapp than Maria.  I don’t have a guitar slung over my shoulder, I can’t turn valuable life lessons into a singalong, I can’t even hum a tune, and I certainly don’t rustle up summer frocks out of old curtains.  But I wish I was that person.  

Instead, I am more inclined to blow a whistle and issue military commands and have the day proceed at an orderly pace with everyone knowing their assigned tasks, roles and KPIs.  

My day starts with children lined up, me shouting various instructions, and then I march them out the door fed, dressed, hair combed, lunches packed, homework done – and all with military precision.  And that sets the tone for my day. Just once it would be nice if they saluted on the way out, I am just saying.

Maria brought to the von Trapps a kind of disruption.  She challenged the status quo, destabilised existing power structures and showed them a new way of doing things.   Her change programme involved a deep understanding of each individual and their needs, compassion, leading by example and fun. 

And then the fairy-tale-cum-text-book narrative is complete.  Von Trapp becomes aware of his behaviour, accepts that he must change, embraces the new paradigm, takes action and everyone thrives.  

Together, and in the face of impending adversity, they align their values and goals  - without a post-it note or white board marker in sight – and then they are empowered to achieve their vision of crossing the mountains together to escape the war.  The ultimate high performing team.

Before I buy that whistle, it may be worthwhile bringing a bit more of Maria into the home and the office.  I can’t see myself strumming a guitar or whipping up new outfits for the team, but maybe a little more personal attention and compassion and a little more fun will be more effective than my sergeant major approach.  

My kids at least think I should give it a go.   After all, it’s as simple as Do-Rei-Me. And now I am humming that tune.