Welcome to RockStar Leader

•October 28, 2009 • Comments Off on Welcome to RockStar Leader

RockStar Leader
The Intersection of Music and Leadership

Do you love music? Do you love how it’s created? Do you appreciate all it takes to get a live performance or recording accomplished? If you do, you are going to love to interact with RockStar Leader. (We are part of the Linked 2 Leadership Group and L2L Blogazine)


RockStar Leader: Playing From the Same Sheet of Music

•September 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

RockStar Leader

Having played in many rock bands, I can tell you that when you start a band, everyone has similar goals.

  • “We want to be rock stars!”
  • “We want our music to change the world!”
  • “We want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone!”
  • “We want to be rich and famous!”  

Making Beautiful Music

What’s not so easy is getting all the band members to agree and (more importantly), “buy in” to how those goals are going to be accomplished. The clichéd sex and drugs part of rock & roll often leads to juicy headlines that seemingly kills bands and creates “former” band members.

But not playing from the same sheet of music is what ultimately puts the musical nail in a lot of band’s coffins.

Be Wise, Harmonize

For years I was convinced that my band was playing from the same sheet of music.

We all wanted the same larger goal which was to make a comfortable living playing our own original music.

  • Everyone was committed.
  • We all showed up for rehearsals.
  • We tried to contribute based on our perceived strengths
  • And to our credit, had very little conflict or drama.

Looking back, I realize that having the same goals and simply showing up wasn’t nearly enough.

In fact, we weren’t anywhere close to playing from the same sheet of music.

Finding Your Groove

So what does it mean to get everyone playing from the same sheet of music?  

More importantly, how do we get there?  

There are two critical steps in making this happen so your band doesn’t become a VH1 Behind The Music casualty.

Step One

First, it is necessary to create a set of norms for how you are going to treat each other in the creative and decision-making processes.  What does that look and feel like?  Try to create a jam-session-like vibe that energizes and inspires band members to feel like theycan contribute AND be heard.

Keep in mind that a great jam session starts with open-minded players, is never forced, and feeds off positive creative energy.

Step Two

Next, you have to get everyone to clearly agreed-upon strategiesgoals and desired outcomes.  If you send a band into a studio and there isn’t a clear vision of what kind of record is being made, guess what you get?

  • You get chaos, arguments that go nowhere
  • A project that goes way over budget and takes too long
  • And ultimately, a record that sucks.

Sound familiar to anyone?

A Broken Record

The EdgeIt might surprise you to know that the band U2 came dangerously close to breaking up when they recorded the album Achtung Baby.

They spun their wheels into frustration because of a severe lack of direction or vision.  So much so, that it made them question who and what they were.

They were literally going to call it quits until the band’s guitarist, The Edge walked in to the studio and played the riff for what would become the song One.

Luckily for the rest of us, they came together in that moment, gained clarity on the kind of record they were going to make and were able to record a great record.

The magic didn’t happen until they all started playing from the same sheet of music.

Playing in Harmony

To determine if your band is playing from the same sheet of music consider the following questions:

Have you ever gotten the band (your team) together to collectively define the creative and/or decision-making process? If asked individually, would everyone in your band describe the record your making in the same way? Do all of your band members clearly understand how their efforts support the larger vision? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Never miss an issue of RockStar leader, subscribe today
The Intersection of Music & Influence

Alan Schaefer is CEO of Banding People Together

He serves his clients with high-end music-based collaboration training
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Web | Five Star Iris Band

Banding People Together   

RockStar Leader

Image Sources: thetransitionist.com, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Edge. BandingPeopleTogether.com

Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Better Man

•April 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Music and Lyrics: Kevin Moore / O. Osbourne
Recorded by: Keb’ Mo’
Album: Slow Down

Sittin’ here in my problem
What am I gonna do now
Am I gonna make it
Someway, somehow

Maybe I’m not supposed to know
Maybe I’m supposed to cry
And if nobody ever knows
The way I feelIt’s all right
And it’ll be ok

I’m gonna make my world a better place
I’m gonna keep that smile on my face
I’m gonna teach myself how to understand
I’m gonna make myself a better man

Climbing out of the window
Climbing up the wall
Is anybody gonna save me
Or are they gonna let me fall

Well I don’t really wanna know
I´ll just hold on the best I can
And if I fall downI´ll just get back up
It’ll be alrightIt’ll be ok

I’m gonna make my world a better place
I’m gonna keep that smile on my face
I’m gonna teach myself how to understand
I’m gonna make myself a better man

I’m gonna make my world a better place
I’m gonna keep that smile on my face
I’m gonna teach myself how to understand
I’m gonna make myself a better man

Maybe I’m not supposed to know
Maybe I’m supposed to cry
And if nobody ever knows
The way I feel
That’s all rightIt’ll be ok

I’m gonna make my world a better place
I’m gonna keep that smile on my face
I’m gonna teach myself how to understand
I’m gonna make myself a better man

I’m gonna make my world a better place
I’m gonna keep that smile on my face
I’m gonna teach myself how to understand
I’m gonna make myself a better man

Image Source: soundunwound.com

Raising the Talent Bar

•February 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The moment Sean’s audition was over, the rest of us looked at each other with a single word in mind: whoa. Strong, rhythmic, tight and articulate, Sean’s drumming would be  a quantum leap for our band. Our original drummer had left us – the victim of real life intruding –  and we’d been conducting auditions for weeks without seeing anyone with half of Sean’s talent.

Better yet, he was an easygoing guy with an abiding love for all the same music we loved – and, it seemed, an encyclopedic knowledge of drum charts. Put simply, Sean was better at his role than anyone else in the band was at his; if we invited him to join, in one move, the drum seat would go from being the band’s greatest weakness to its greatest strength.

Would that be an issue? What would happen to our band dynamic?

2-4-6-8, Everyone Recalibrate

After all, we’d started as a jam band over beers in my basement. Everyone was mutually supportive of everyone else, since we all brought a particular package of strengths and weaknesses to the table. Mike, our singer, is a talented songwriter and guitarist but had never been a frontman before. Jay was just picking up the bass. I’d played on and off for over 20 years, but of late, more had been ‘off’ than ‘on’ – and the rust showed. Our original drummer was in a similar spot – he hadn’t played in years and was contending with a newborn at home. Now we were essentially bringing in a professional to man the drum seat. We talked it out, in fairly frank fashion, among the three original members. We knew what we were getting into: everyone would need to step it up to keep Sean interested and engaged in the band. We decided to go with it, understanding that new demands would be placed on us.

What ended up happening was the best possible scenario. We all felt more supported by a locked-down drum line: Jay found it easier to drop into the groove and work with Sean as a real rhythm section. I found I could count on Sean to be on the right beat at the right time, and I stopped worrying about phrase timing and took the ‘slack’ out of my playing. Mike, feeling confidence in the music being played behind him, stepped out into the spotlight with newfound confidence of his own.

It could have been a disaster. Instead, it was the best thing that’s happened to us yet.

Recalibrate Your Team at Work

Introducing a talented new team member can be a challenge, but it’s also a managerial opportunity. Hiring someone who’s clearly a cut above creates a new dynamic within an organization.

These questions can arise:

  • Will other team members support the new hire by working closely with him or her?
  • Will they lean on their talented new associate too hard?
  • Will they rebel against the introduction of a new talent by undermining his or her efforts?
  • Or will existing team members elevate their game?

Much of the success or failure of a talent infusion is on the shoulders of the group manager. It’s a tough task: talking through the situation, as we did, acknowledges the talent level of the incoming hire and tacitly communicate an awareness that the stakes are being raised. Or you can let your new hire shine without a major discussion up front – communicating, perhaps, that ‘this is the new standard.’

Either way, you’re taking on a package of risks and rewards.

Ultimately, however, there are only two kinds of managers; those who go out of their way to hire people better than them, and those who go out of their way to avoid those people. I keep a set of Russian nesting dolls on my desk to remind me of this: if everyone hires someone better than them, we become a company of giants. Conversely, if we each go the other way – hiring someone we’re comfortable with, but who isn’t going to push the talent envelope outwardly –  we slowly diminish: in aggregate talent, in accomplishment, and in organizational performance.

Dave Mayer is EVP & Executive Director of Aristeia, Inc.
He can be reached at david.mayer@aristeia-corp.com

Image Sources: carmencja.artspan.com, rack1.vladstudio.com

Leadership Lessons from Wynton Marsalis

•January 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

Here are 15 lessons to help you become and stay a better leader from Wynton Marsalis.

1- THINK BIG, BUT DON’T BE IMPATIENT. Deferring the rewards of long-term success is difficult but necessary if you are going to have the mental fortitude to achieve them.

2. BE PERFECT IN INTENTION; YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT IN EXECUTION. Mistakes, by you and your staff, will happen.

3. YOU CAN ONLY DO THE BEST THAT YOU CAN DO. Keep your goals high, but don’t set yourself up for failure. Be patient.

4. DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR A MISTAKE. APOLOGIZE IF YOU DON’T PLAY. Knowing that effort is what matters gives people the courage to always try their hardest.


6. BELIEF IN OTHER PEOPLE’S CREATIVITY ALLOWS PEOPLE AROUND YOU TO BE THEMSELVES AND ACHIEVE THEIR INDIVIDUALITY. If your staff members have the freedom to achieve as individuals, the returns will be manifold.

7. APPROACH YOUR TASK VERY SERIOUSLY-BUT WITH HUMOR. Discipline should never come at the expense of closing one’s self to new ideas, and vice versa.


9. IT ISN’T MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY. Learn to compromise and be flexible.

10. WHEN YOU’RE A LEADER, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW, TOO. Good leaders know they don’t have a monopoly on brilliant ideas. Be objective and willing to follow Insights you may have missed.

11. HUMILITY INSPIRES PEOPLE; ORGANIZATION INSPIRES A STAFF. Always try to give your staff clear plans and goals, but allow them room for self-empowerment.

12. RESPECT THE FREEDOM OF OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR CREATIVITY. JAZZ MUSIC TEACHES THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE. Giving your staff the freedom to improvise opens the floodgates on innovation.

13. YOU CAN’T LOOK AT ANY PERSON AND TELL WHETHER THEY CAN PLAY. ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE CAN PLAY. Some of the best talent can be found in the most unexpected places.

14. THERE IS A LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN DEMAND FROM SOMEBODY ELSE. Nothing erodes the spirit like a boss who can never be pleased.

15. BE FUNDAMENTALLY TRUTHFUL. Without truth, your success will unravel.


from GottaGettaBLOG!, 12/2007

Image Source: diaporama.ladepeche.com

Book a Bigger Gig

•January 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

You could say that I booked the first major club gig for our band because of the opportunity to play in front of a larger audience. Or because of the massive sound system we’d get to run through. Or because we could finally hand out actual tickets – with our band name on them! – to our friends and fans. You could say any of those things, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark, but in truth, I booked it for another, more fundamental reason: our band wasn’t going anywhere at the time.

We’d played block parties, office get-togethers, impromptu jams for friends, even a late-night (very late-night) supporting spot at an obscure club outside Denver. What I noticed, along the way, was that we made all the same mistakes, over and over again; we were ragged in the same places every time, and no one – myself included – had yet put together an ‘A’ show.

Part of the problem was that we weren’t creating any pressure for ourselves.

Our friends loved to get together and have a few beers while we jammed away on rock favorites, but they weren’t exactly going to begin throwing things at us if we flubbed a rideout or misplaced a lyric. In short, we were playing what soccer teams call ‘friendlies’ – events without a lot of downside if we performed poorly.

After six of these in a row, without making any progress as a band, I decided it was time for an ‘unfriendly’ – a real club date, opening for an established band, with real lights, real sound, and a real crowd. We got it – and in preparation for it, everyone stepped up his game. I certainly stepped up mine – and I knew what my motivation was with this booking. But something about the reality of this moment, stepping on stage at a well-known Denver rock bar with our set, caused everyone to put in extra practice hours, double-check stage gear, and make more time for rehearsal.

All of that extra effort was clear the moment we began our set. Our old issues and occasional raggedness vanished onstage; it was easily the best set we’d played to date, and it’s gotten us invited back again and again.

On Stage in the Office

We’ve all experienced this moment in managing groups and teams: the project has stalled. Uncertainty has killed momentum. Tentative steps have replaced bold strides; there is more frivolous debate than forward progress in team meetings, and, as managers, we move from project area to project area, trying to re-ignite the fire that drove the team in the early stages of work. Deadlines have been pushed out once, twice, even three times, and the message from your own executive management is clear: more progress is needed.  At moments like this, don’t overlook the possibility of triggering a uniting event for your team – a ‘deadline within the deadline’ that forces disparate operating groups together for a single intermediate goal.

Often, I’ve invited executives from other areas – sales, marketing, operations, finance – to a project status meeting in which I’ve tasked our project heads with presenting the current roadmap and outcome expectations. Or I’ll schedule an analyst day for project heads to meet with a key industry figure and discuss the project’s goals and progress. Or I’ll ask a project team to get its current progress documentation onto a single sheet of paper.

It’s useful, sure – but it’s got an underlying motive, too.

What I really need is a moment of truth for the team; I need them to pull together for a specific moment in time and feel that sensation of unity and progress again. Often, it’s just enough to get factions talking again and working together to get the project moving forward. Even the task of meeting to discuss a PowerPoint slide for the presentation can be a catalyst to air issues and dismiss old roadblocks. It’s the effect of bright lights, booming sound, and a big crowd; we all get better for those moments.

Trading the comfort of the cubicle for the conference room has the same effect. If your project team or task group is stalled on a plateau, consider booking them a ‘bigger gig.’ You may be surprised at how much progress is made in a very short amount of time.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Email to a friend

Dave Mayer is EVP & Executive Director of Aristeia, Inc.
He can be reached at david.mayer@aristeia-corp.com

Image Sources: blog.nbc.com, screenhead.com, mnn.com

Design Your Best Year Ever

•January 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Design Your Best Year Ever.

Clean, Crunch, and Lead

•December 21, 2009 • 1 Comment

Clean, crunch, and lead…

They’re the holy trinity of tone among guitarists – endlessly discussed, tweaked, and refined. We’ve all heard dozens of variations on each in popular music.

Clean is the sparkling guitar tone in the introduction to Boston’s “More than a Feeling.”

Crunch is the thick, meaty  tone that opens Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”

Lead is the soaring, incendiary tone on famous guitar solos – think Eddie Van Halen’s seminal “Eruption.”

Guitarists obsess over these three separate, but related, guitar tones; famous ones are analyzed at ridiculous lengths by guitar magazines, and a billion-dollar industry exists in the trafficking of tone replication gear . Most of the famous amplifiers in guitar history are discussed reverently in terms of these tones.

“How’s the clean? Is it Fender clean? Does it have Marshall crunch? Does it have Engl lead?”

Google any new amp and you’ll invariably find someone reviewing it on the merits of these three basic tones. They’re the foundation of every songwriting session, studio recording, and live performance that uses an electric guitar.

Boston | Boston | AlbumAs fervently as guitarists work to craft each one of these tones in their performing rigs, they’re also conscious that all three need to work together to sound like a tonal family. A warm, sparkling clean sound can’t transition into a cold, sterile crunch or lead; a singing, musical lead tone can’t move into a dull, woofy crunch or a dry, undefined clean sound. All three need to transition seamlessly from one to another during the course of a song, and all three need to sound as if you’re listening to variations on a central, core guitar tone.

Listen to Tom Scholz transition through his tones on the early Boston albums, or Jimi Hendrix’s seemingly infinite continuum of tones and sounds, and you’ll notice that despite a broad variety of tonal characteristics, you always know who’s playing. There’s unity in the variation, a sonic anchor to the innovation and creativity.

That’s no accident.

Van HalenThere are, literally, thousands of hours invested in those tones. Knobs have been twiddled and tweaked; effects like compression and chorus added, subtracted, changed, substituted, tossed in disgust. Fantastic tones in one area have been developed to the nth degree – and then chucked wholesale when they didn’t work in the tonal family. There’sinvestment in building those tones – layer by layer, frequency by frequency, effect by effect – to work together perfectly. They’re also remarkably consistent over time – that’s why you could turn on the radio in 1977 or 1987 or 1997 or 2007 and say, “sounds like Eddie Van Halen.”

Good leadership across a wide variety of business conditions is a great deal like guitar tone. There’s not one fixed style and managerial ‘voice’ that works for every situation you’ll encounter in business. As circumstances change, your leadership style has to change with it – whether the horizon looks ‘clean,’ whether you’re in a deadline ‘crunch,’ or whether things have begun to unravel and you really need to ‘lead.’

There are a few basic questions to ask yourself about your own leadership style in relation to business challenges.

First, have you invested the time to develop a stylistic variant for each of these different situations? What will you change about your core leadership style – your ‘anchor tone’ – for each situation?

Second, will your group, division, company, corporation recognize each of those leadership style variations as different aspects of the same core style? In other words, do the changes you apply to different leadership situations still reflect a ‘tonal family?’

If you can’t answer each of these in the affirmative, there’s danger ahead. Your everyday management style might not work in a ‘crunch’ – and if you’re not ready, with a recognizable and effective ‘variant’ on that style, it’s easy to fail in pulling your team through a difficult time – or keeping their attention and respect.

We’ve all worked with, and for, managers who were fantastic as long as there were clear skies ahead, but came apart under pressure situations or simply couldn’t manage through a crisis. Make sure you’re not one of them by crafting and honing a leadership ‘tone family’ that can meet every business challenge.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Email to a friend

Dave Mayer is EVP & Executive Director of Aristeia, Inc.
He can be reached at david.mayer@aristeia-corp.com

Image Sources: rattana.org, rockinwithremedy.com, mtv.com