On New Year’s Eve 2023, I gathered with seven friends for an unforgettable overnight pajama party. Tucked away In a picturesque home, nestled within the serene Blue Ridge Mountains,  we reconnected over gourmet foods, wine, engaging games, and folk music. This night reminded me how music can be a wonderful tool to bridge bonds between people. It also reminded me that using music for team connection should always be part of my toolkit.

Inspirations From Childhood

Have you ever experienced the joy of a pajama party as an adult?  

The magic of revisiting this childhood tradition, especially when one of us appeared in whimsical gingerbread pajamas, brought tears of laughter and joy.

The evening represented a substantial upgrade from the pajama parties of our youth. It was marked by an impressive spread of favorite dishes like oysters, filet mignon, and abundant wine and champagne. Mixing our grown-up tastes with a playful childhood spirit made the night truly special.

As the countdown to the New Year began, we fought the urge to sleep — a stark contrast to our younger selves. It was the perfect moment to bring out my 12-string Larrivée guitar while everyone was in a singing and celebratory mood. We sang, laughed, and enjoyed the music until the ball dropped in Times Square at the stroke of midnight! And we were still awake!

Building Psychological Safety Through Music

When I work with a team, the first step is always to help the team members connect and build a sense of psychological safety within the team. This is especially important when we work together for several months. 

A few years ago, I worked with a nonprofit senior vice president who was responsible for four departments. During the pandemic, she wanted to bring all four departments together for a virtual retreat so they could get to know each other and have fun. Music was one of the great connectors!

Music is one of my favorite tools for enhancing team connection. I often play music as participants assemble and get settled in.  Some songs, like “The Pink Panther Theme” song,  can bring smiles and memories to many team members. This frequently leads to conversations about favorite songs they haven’t heard in a while or stories that a song reminds them of. 

Conversations about working styles often emerge, starting with who loves/hates having music in the background as they work and continuing into other related working-style  topics.

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3 Tips to Use Music for Team Bonding

Here are 3 ways I’ve used music to build connection among team members (give these a try!):

  • Favorite Song from high school. Ask your team for their favorite high school songs. Use your favorite music app (e.g., Spotify) to play the songs as people arrive for team meetings.
  • Who plays an instrument? Find out who plays an instrument and what kind of music they play. For musicians, it’s always fun to learn that someone they’ve known for a long time also plays an instrument.

~ Maybe you’ll even get lucky, and there will be an impromptu jam session!
~ One team I worked with for more than a year had a couple of impromptu jam sessions during lunch hour. We had guitars, banjos, maracas, bongo drums, a flute, and several other spontaneously created “musical instruments” (e.g., “bucket drums, “spoons, etc.).

  • Dance Party: Create a song list from your team members’ favorite musical genres. Pick a dance tune from each genre. Invite your team to take a 5-minute stretch break and dance—in a conference room, the parking lot, or in their home offices!

~ Freeze Dance Party Variation: The facilitator is the freeze dance leader. When the leader starts dancing, everyone can dance! When the leader stops dancing, all the players freeze and stop dancing. If a player is caught dancing when they should be frozen, invite them to perform an action (e.g., share something interesting about themselves, do five squats or lunges, answer a quiz question, etc.).
~ Pinky Dance Party Variation On a Zoom call, play a song.  Invite everyone to a “pinky” dance party. Using only their hands, ask everyone to stick up their pinky finger.  Keep to the beat of the music using only their pinky finger (cameras on). (Credit goes to Jan Keck for this idea)!

Music can be a powerful tool for enhancing team connection and giving people an anchor topic for safe conversation.

How have you used music for team connection in your workplace?

 

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