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What #TwitterXmasSingle Can Teach Us About Teamwork!

Posted by: Miriam | Posted on: December 2nd, 2011 | 6 Comments

140 characters – many of whom had only ever interacted previously on Twitter  –  got together in The Westin Dublin hotel, on the last Sunday in November 2011.  They tackled the impossible in less than one day:  I was privileged to be there.

The previous week, Brenda Drumm (@BrendaDrumm) had Tweeted the question “What about recording a Twitter Xmas single/anyone?”  The rest, as they say, is history.  Ground-breaking, heart-warming and possibly record-breaking history.

Brenda Drumm tweets

#twitterxmassingle choir recording in The Westin Dublin's wonderful banqueting hall. Photo by @EmilyCoCo

Day by day Brenda’s project grew legs as Tweeters flocked to offer their services and become part of this unique phenomenon. Then last Sunday, a band of volunteers – which included producers, singers, musicians, organisers, photographers, and many more – came together to record a cover version of Winter Song (Bareilles & Michaelson) for charity.  All proceeds from downloads of the #twitterxmassingle Winter Song will go to the neonatal baby unit (Unit Eight) at Dublin’s National Maternity  Hospital, Holles St.

What galvanises a big team like this to achieve the impossible?  How can a newly-formed team skip the traditional storming, forming and norming stages of the team life-cycle and enter the performing stage immediately and hit the ground running?

As a management consultant with a particular interest in getting things done through effective team-working, I’ve thought about this a lot in the week since the recording.  I think anyone who is trying to accomplish anything through teamwork can learn a lot from the #twitterxmassingle experience.  Here, in retrospect, I offer my perspective on the X factors of #twitterxmassingle’s extraordinarily successful teamwork:

A higher purpose that participants could identify with.  Brenda invited Tweeters to take part in the charity nomination and selection process.   The National Maternity Hospital was selected as the beneficiary by democratic vote.

A pre-existing network of goodwill.  Before meeting face-to-face for the first time, many people were already acquainted with each-others’ online personas.  When you met people in the room, their eyes immediately dropped to your name-tag which gave your twitter ID.  Incidentally, many of which bore no relationship whatsoever to the wearer’s real name!  Some people even resorted to Tweeting to help them to find online friends whom they knew were physically present but couldn’t recognise.

Inspiring leadership.  I had never met Brenda before Sunday, but she struck me then as one of that rare breed – a natural leader.  Her sense of passion, purpose and belief is truly infectious.  Remarkably, when Brenda asks people to jump, the inevitable response seems to be ‘how high?’  She’s not bossy, authoritarian or loud.   She’s calm, modest and funny. People follow her because they’re happy to.

Ian and Brenda – Photo by @Shane_Murphy

Skillful team management and encouragement.   Ian Callanan (@icallanan) was our arranger, producer and musical director.  With his confident expertise, patient guidance and charming smile, he coaxed the best possible performances out of the choir, the soloists, the musicians… and basically anyone with even the tiniest input into the recording.  When we began to flag, he recharged us by playing a snippet of the harmony we had made. The spontaneous collective gasp within the room was quickly followed by a dawning that together we were creating something really and truly special.  I’m sure Brenda won’t mind my mentioning that when she heard this first sweet evidence of her vision becoming reality she was quite overcome – as were many of us.

Team-members playing to their strengths.  The volunteers taking part in the #twitterxmassingle  recording event chose their own roles.  Some of us were happy to sing in the choir;  others auditioned for solo parts.  Some natural organisers ensured that everything ran smoothly.  A few very talented photographers took the most amazing photos which they have generously shared online. Thanks in particular to photographers @EmilyCoCo @David_Ferrie @Shane_Murphy and @randomirishphotos.  Caroline from @CKennedyPR handled media relations. Everyone just did what they do best and it worked – beautifully.

Supportive team colleagues.  This was one of those “you had to be there” times.  You really need to read the other great blogs about #twitterxmassingle to truly understand what I mean.  The wave of goodwill surrounding everything to do with #twitterxmassingle is profound.  People at their very best.  At the end of a long and tiring afternoon’s recording, many of the choir members stayed behind to support the soloists.  Two were just 13 years old.  Most soloists had never recorded anything in their lives.  It was nerve-wracking and you could see the poor souls shaking while they strove to give their all. Each got an enthusiastic round of applause from the rest of the team when they delivered their peak performance.

Constructive external support of the team.   Many other people made significant contributions to the success of the #twitterxmassingle venture.  I’ll mention just a few to illustrate the point.  Brenda has said that Louis Walsh gave some invaluable early-stage technical advice.

Dr. Rhona Mahony. Photo by @David_Ferrie

Dr. Rhona Mahony, incoming Master of the National Maternity Hospital, attended the recording and reminded everyone that we were doing this to help ‘the tiniest of our little people’.

Some thoughtful home-bakers brought, or sent in, the most amazing cakes to sustain the troops. TV producer Bill Hughes dropped in to lend his support. TV3’s Sinead Desmond (@sinneaddesmond) called by with producer, Debbie O’Donnell (@debbie_odonnell), who covered the recording the following day on Xposé. The #twitterxmassingle Twitter stream was projected on the wall during the recording and reinforcement from the national and international Twitter communities kept us both encouraged and entertained.

Cynics might say that the #twitterxmassingle participants were not really a team, just a group of people who came together for a short while to do something together.  To those people I say: Just take a look at the faces below, then pop on over to Twitter and ask the people on the hash-tag stream what they think.  I’m 100% confident that they’ll leave you in no doubt whatsoever this this was one of the best teams they’ve ever been part of.  This fantastic ‘itsa wrap’ photograph by the wonderful @Shane_Murphy says it all!

Update 6th December 2011

The #twitterxmassingle cover version of Winter Song was released on Sunday 4th December.  Within 8 hours it had reached the Irish iTunes no. 1 position.  If you would like to hear it, download it here now.

Comments (6)


  1. Susan Condon - Reply
    December 5, 2011

    Beautiful Blog Miriam that captured the entire #twitterxmassingle experience!

    So glad to be a part of something so wonderful – and number 1 on iTunes already – looks likes it’s only the beginning . . .

    • Miriam - Reply
      December 5, 2011

      Thank you Susan. You’re absolutely right. We made a wonderful memory that day and now, hopefully, ‘our’ version of Winter Song will become a classic, oft-repeated Christmas favourite!

  2. Peter Robbins - Reply
    December 7, 2011

    Congratulations Miriam for being part of such a memorable and worthwhile initiative. Your insights are most illuminating!
    What next, the book? the movie? the album? – with that kind of impetus, anything is possible!
    Peter

    • Miriam - Reply
      December 8, 2011

      Thanks for dropping by Peter. Does #twitterxmassingle qualify as incremental or radical innovation?

  3. Lita Moeck - Reply
    January 8, 2012

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I definitely enjoy reading all that is posted on your website.Keep the information coming. I enjoyed it!

    • Miriam - Reply
      January 16, 2012

      Thank you Lita. Best of luck in achieving your goals for 2012.

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