Nurturing Talent

Nurturing Talent

What business leaders can learn from the Suzuki teaching method

I've just returned from one of the most inspiring seminars I've ever attended.

So what was this event? A leadership conference with the most amazing keynote speakers, or maybe a business strategy event? Nope. I spent two days with one of my sons at a Suzuki violin workshop in Edinburgh.

You're probably wondering how on earth could a violin workshop attended by hundreds of children and their parents hold any business relevance. But I was amazed by how much I learned.

My six-year old son is learning to play the violin using the Suzuki teaching method. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violin teacher who developed a teaching method based on the same principles that children use to learn their mother tongue.

His fundamental belief is that anybody can learn to play an instrument. He believes talent, musical or otherwise, is no accident of birth. To him, talent is nurtured with love, in the same way parents nurture their children to help them speak, walk and master other skills they seem to just pick up. Over the weekend I witnessed hundreds of children from as young as three and four up to teenagers making the most beautiful sounds, all as equally talented as the next. I found this soul cleansing, to say the very least.

So how is this relevant to business leaders? The Suzuki teaching method places the responsibility of the child's behaviour with the teacher. If the child doesn't respond in the way you want, you try a different approach, play a game, or communicate differently until the child masters that small technical point. They must master each teaching point before they move onto the next one.

This mirrors a philosophy I teach in my leadership programs, which I call "Leadership Inside Out".

As a leader, whether you lead a large multinational conglomerate, a small sales team or wish to simply set an example for your peers, you need to understand what makes people tick. You also must know how to work with people so you draw out the best in them. This is a universal principle, whether you are working with adults or with children learning to play the violin.

One of the questions I often ask delegates at the beginning of my leadership courses is to name a person who has inspired them, together with a reason why they chose that person. The people chosen vary from famous industrial leaders to family members and community leaders, but the reasons delegates have picked them are similar. Some examples from past delegates are below:

  • "They led by example."
  • "They believed in me before I believed in myself."
  • "They inspired me to work harder, to expect more from myself, and to hold myself to a higher standard."
  • "They overcame some incredible personal setback."
  • "They had a vision."
  • "They lived a life of service."
  • "They took action when others hesitated."
  • "They always had a positive outlook."
  • "They were humble about their successes, preferring to pass recognition onto their teams."

If those around you were asked the same question of you, what do you believe their responses would be? Are you the kind of leader that inspires people to give more of themselves, or to hold themselves to a higher standard? Would you rather pass on the rewards and recognition to your team? Do you believe in others and see their potential, long before they perhaps believe in themselves?

The effectiveness of your leadership abilities, especially the ability to nurture talent in your business, has less to do with a rigid skill set and more to do with your personal qualities. The kind of person you are and the way you behave can draw out the best in others.

Spending the weekend with such inspiring teachers and their students made me refocus on my own ability to nurture talent in my family, my own business, and the businesses I've invested in. Suzuki died in 1998 and is buried in Matsumoto, Japan. His headstone reads:

"Man is the son of his environment" I say amen to that.

Nicola Cook  |
Nicola Cook is an award winning entrepreneur and twice published international best-selling author on professional selling and personal & business growth. She is the Founder of Aurora Consulting and a Director of Lara Morgan's Company Shortcuts, two businesses that are devoted to improving business results by injecting skill, passion and strategy to help those entrepreneurs and sales enthusiasts achieve the results they desire.