I’ve been playing in rock and roll bands, full-time and part-time, for almost 40 years. The best bandleader I’ve ever worked with once said, “This is the best job on the planet! Where else do people applaud and cheer you on while you’re working, and then when you knock off work they tell you how great you are for the next half hour?!”
The degree of teamwork required to create and maintain a successful band, however, is prodigious. Think of all your favorite music groups. How many of them are still around after a few years? The Beatles, the best selling band in history by a wide margin, only managed to stay together for eight years.
It’s like being married to multiple spouses at the same time (don’t try this at home). You have to agree on almost everything–what songs to play, who’s going to sing them, who’s going to take the instrumental lead(s), what order to play them in, etc. On top of that, you may have to live together on the road day and night for days, weeks, or even months at a time.
Do you recognize any of these band types in your business team?
- The Hot Dog. He’s always got to be the center of attention–it’s all about me, me, me. If he’s an instrumentalist, then he plays every note he knows in every lead so you’ll be impressed with how “good” he is, regardless of whether it fits with the overall plan to make the song sound good or not. Teamwork to achieve a higher goal is a distant point on his radar screen.
- The Mellow Dude. This person is just the opposite. He goes along to get along with everything and everybody. He’s the wallflower who fades into the wall and never has an independent or original point of view. People see him as “mellow” to a fault; he’s dependable, but he never really contributes anything of great value to the process.
- The Latecomer. He’s always late; to practice, to the soundcheck, and sometimes even to the shows. Somehow the overall needs of the band team effort never seem to make it to the fore of his priority list. There are always a myriad of excuses why he isn’t considerate that typically sound something like “Mexican bandits took my dog captive and I had to negotiate her release–it was quite a harrowing experience!”
- The Critic. Nothing is ever good enough for this guy–the glass is always half empty. The sound is too loud, the sound isn’t loud enough, the crowd is too small, the crowd is too big and too “crowded,” etc. He sets his performance standard at some mythical idea of “perfection,” and anything less is only worthy of scorn and derision. Oddly enough, no one in the band wants to stand next to him on the stage.
- The Seasoned Pro. He’s been around the game long enough to have realistic expectations of the ups and downs of the industry, and to understand that a high level of teamwork is essential to short term success (sounding good at the shows) and long term success (keeping the band together long enough to achieve some real measure of financial success). He’s got an independent point of view and is assertive about his needs, but he’s not overbearing. He’s consistently considerate of the needs of his band mates without being a “yes man,” and you wish you had more like him.
- Be very selective about who you invite into your team. All the teamwork in the world won’t compensate for not having the right “players.”
- Look for folks who are both competent and caring–they’re good at what they do and they can “play well with others.”
- Maybe you can coach Hot Dogs and Latecomers to be more team-oriented, Mellow Dudes to be more assertive, and Critics to be more nurturing; maybe you can’t. You’re better off to hire Seasoned Pros and Young Whippersnappers who have the potential to be Seasoned Pros–then you can spend more time leading and less time managing.
- Structure your business culture so you can keep “the band” together for long enough to achieve the financial success you’re after.