String Cheese and Rock Star Leadership

•December 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment


I liked the format of Time magazine’s 12/14/2009 interview with Foo Fighters front-man, Dave Grohl – regular people emailing in questions for Grohl to answer, which he did with surprising candor and aplomb. But something he said really got me thinking about an important element of being a Rock Star Leader (RSL).

First, an excerpt from the interview: To the question, “Has becoming a father changed the way you write music?” Grohl replied:

“I used to tour nine months out of the year. Now I don’t like being away from my kids for more than 12 days. It’s changed everything that I do. When you have kids, you see life through different eyes. You feel love more deeply and are maybe a little more compassionate. It’s inevitable that that would make its way into your songwriting.”

Makes sense, yes?! But what brought it home for me was his answer to a seemingly unrelated question: “How do you manage to scream consistently in your songs and still have one of the best singing voices around?” His answer was this:

“I’ve been destroying my voice for, like, 15 years. My vocal cords probably look like string cheese at this point.”

Exactly! You see, he probably wouldn’t have even known even was such a thing as “string cheese” if he wasn’t a father. (And I’m not talking about the band, The String Cheese Incident, either! )

So under the category of “You Don’t Know What You Know until You Know What You Know,” what DO Rock Star Leaders know about leadership that most “lousy” leaders do not? Here are a handful of possibilities:

1. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of GETTING “IN FRONT OF” MEETINGSIt’s no surprise that meetings are some of the absolute worst places to get things done! That’s why RSLs work to have key conversations, with key players, in advance of ‘formal’ meetings on the topic. Doing so dramatically improves their views being properly heard, understood, and incorporated into the decision-making process. That’s how “influence” happens.

2. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of KNOWING HOW TO MOP-UP QUICKLY Obviously, delegation is an essential leadership skill. But even more important is knowing how to clean-up quickly, efficiently, and satisfactorily, should something you delegate go wrong. So whenever RSLs delegate, you can be sure that they spend at least a few moments considering how to handle things if they don’t turn out as planned.

3. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of ASSISTING OTHERS ACHIEVE SUCCESSThere’s a real paradox in modern leadership: Individual achievement is, typically, what brings us the recognition we need to get promoted into a leadership role, but it is our ability to help others be successful that ultimately defines our real success as leaders. RSLs understand that if they help enough people be successful, what goes around will come back around.

4. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of MICROMANAGING … YOURSELFNo one likes a boss who micromanages. Why would they?! It implies that their boss neither trusts, nor respects, them. That might not be what you, as boss, actually believes, but it sure is what it looks like from down below. RSLs know that with good planning, delegation, and communications skills, there’s really no need to micromanage. Being able to consistently providing direct reports with clear, concise, meaningful, and deadline-driven projects and assignments does require the RSLs to micromanage someone, though … themselves!

5. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of MODELING HOW TO HANDLE FAILURE Nobody’s perfect. That means that, from time to time, we’re going to do things that make us look a bit … imperfect! So be it. RSLs know that HOW they react to their failures makes a BIG difference – just consider the difference between a boss having good laugh at his/her own expense and an awkward, defensive, hissy-fit! RSLs make a point of modeling the behaviors they want to see from their staff when things go well, and when they do not.

These are just some of the things that Rock Star Leaders know that “lousy” leaders likely do not. Like Dave Grohl and his string cheese reference, he knew what he knew, because he knew what he knew – just as Rock Star Leaders know what they know because they know what they know, too.

Want to know more about how leaders excel at leadership? Visit www.leadershipmoves.com.

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Barry Zweibel is president of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. (www.ggci.com)
He can be reached at
info@ggci.com and followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ggci.

Image Sources: buzzworthy.mtv.com, sargentocheese.com

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RockStar Leadership: Commitment, Not Compliance

•December 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Songwriting is a lot like cooking blindfolded.

You go in with a general idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, but the end product doesn’t always look (taste?) anything like your original vision. Salt is mistaken for sugar; lemons are fumbled for limes; what felt originally like a jar of salsa was chutney instead.

The result can be anything between brilliantly inspired and wildly unpalatable.

The same goes with my rock band. I’ve brought forward song ideas to our group and watched verses become choruses, choruses become bridges, bridges become intros, and intros become cutting-room casualties. I’ve seen measured rhythm become syncopated and vice-versa. I’ve had a general idea of a lyrical theme in mind and seen our lead singer bring in a completely different idea. Often, what ends up on the session recording is magical. Sometimes, the feedback I get from other band members causes me to see that the original song structure was untenable; then I’m back to the drawing board to try again.

Ya’ know what? In the end, it works – and something truly magical has happened along the way.

A monologue has evolved into a dialogue and then into a musical conversation. Our drummer hooks onto the general idea of the song and asks, “how about a big break here and a double cymbal crash to come out of it?” Our bassist decides – with a little help – to invert a scale progression and add tension to an opening section. I’ll trash an early guitar solo as the piece evolves and rewrite it to fit the new vibe. What began as a scribbled riff in my notebook, or a throwaway recording on my handy Zoom H4, has become something very different; it’s music owned by everyone in the band. Everyone’s got his say, and everyone adds value and vision to the process.

Don’t get me wrong. There are arguments along the way. Occasionally one or more of us will stand on a point; this can’t go there. I don’t feel it. We need that vocal held, because I want to come up under it; you need a different word. The drums need to stay with this line. But we all understand that by flexing where we can, we build something stronger than one person’s monolithic vision – we build music we believe in. I see it when we’re onstage – when Jay is nodding along with the groove he helped build, when Mike goes for the high note he wrote with everything he has, when Sean is pounding away in commitment – not compliance. It’s ours.

Frankly, it doesn’t happen if any one of us comes in with an autocratic vision. Sure, I could hand out sheet music and start counting in. But what I’d get is compliance. Compliance sure looks like commitment in the early stages of a project, but it lacks inspiration, fire, agreement. It’s the shadow of a larger, grander, multidimensional object that exists only when everyone on the team is granted the freedom to give to the best of his or her abilities.

Leadership isn’t always about circling a destination on a map and telling the troops to march toward it.

That’s instruction, but not development; order-giving, not activating. Real leadership is putting people in a place to lead themselves; then, to lead others around them; ultimately, to lead a group. You’re not going to do this forever. (Are you?) Their first efforts on this front aren’t likely to be pretty, but unless we’re willing to accept that as the price of progress of improvement – and, on occasion, have a backup plan ready to quietly share – employees don’t grow and evolve. The next time you’re given a task to carry out, or have an inspiration for a project, keep your sheet music in your pocket. See what your team writes. You might be very surprised at the passion in the music that comes forth.

Are you willing to accept the price of progress in your organization? Do you have the professional courage to invest in people for the longer-term benefit of the team? Or do you frighten more easily under the pressures to produce and shortcut others’ growth? How challenging is trusting yourself and your team in leading development of others? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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

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Taking Time With Talent

•December 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

Our bass player struggles at times. There; I said it.

He still sometimes refers to fret number instead of note (“do I play a 3 or a 5 there?”) and gets flustered occasionally when we speed up past about 120 beats per minute. It’s perfectly normal. You see, he’s only been playing for a year and a half, and in the band we play in, no one else has less than a decade on his instrument. I’ve got two decades; our drummer, almost three.  Jay’s got a ton of natural talent, strong hands, and a terrific work ethic.  He’s going to be a great bassist. We all know it.

All he’s missing is time on the instrument, and there’s no shortcut for that.

What I’ve noticed about Jay in the past two years are the phenomenal strides he’s made as a musician in a supportive environment. It’s easy to forget at times that the “big chunks of getting better” come early, not late, in our careers, and they come only when we feel like we’re in an environment in which mistakes get made and can be safely corrected.  Jay’s gotten better – a lot better – since his first tentative steps jamming in my basement studio, in part because of a clear message the rest of us have sent him.  What we’ve told him, in essence, is “you’re new to this; you’re important to us; we’re going to wait for you and be there for you.”

He knows that we’re going to raise our expectations as we go – but there’s no point in starting off with those expectations. All they’re going to do is frustrate him, discourage his continuing efforts to practice and improve, and ultimately cost us a good guy. We didn’t try and do a stage show for almost a year after we began; it just wasn’t the right setting for him. Letting him slowly come along in basement jam sessions was a better environment for him to learn his craft. But once he gained his confidence, and improved his performance, he’s been fantastic in live shows.

Making Music at Work

I see this same concept executed well – and, sometimes, executed poorly – at the leading organizations I consult with as a solution delivery executive with Aristeia. Companies recruit top talent from prestigious universities around the country, but all too often forget who they’re bringing on board: kids. They’ve done it all, on paper – but never when it mattered. Do we need new collegiate-age hires to come up the curve quickly? Yes. Do we also need to be patient with them as those “big chunks of better” manifest themselves? Yes.

We also need to recognize the moments when they’re ready to take a step, and allow them to take it safely.

I’ve brought this idea to a number of client organizations, where our engagement team has worked with HR to institute ‘jam sessions’ for new hires. They’re provided with a forum of mentor executives within the organization and encouraged to research and present a topic of potential interest to the organization – a new product concept, an assessment of a key competitor, an overview of an existing process with recommendations for improvement. They’re then given the floor to make their presentation with all the accoutrements; often, the boardroom is scheduled for the event, and lunch is provided. The only rules are that criticism can only be constructive, and anything that needs to be discussed in greater depth is done offline. It’s a safe environment.

The results for our clients have been fantastic. Everyone wins; young employees get valuable face time with senior execs, and they’re less nervous about presenting ‘for real’ down the line if they’ve seen those executives and answered their questions in a less formal setting several times before. Execs get to meet some of the company’s brightest young stars early in their career and develop mentoring relationships with them. And, every now and again, a presentation that was supposed to be a ‘trial run’ turns out to be something of real interest and importance to the organization – a product idea gets enacted, a process gets re-engineered, et cetera.

Practice Makes Perfect-ish

The presenter is almost always asked to be  a part of that team working on the project, in a ‘safe’ role. The time involved in preparing a presentation is minimal in the scope of the employee’s week, generally just a few hours’ time scheduled out to work on it, and the process also encourages new hires to meet and interact with other members of the organization in different operational areas.

Talent grows and flowers; it evolves, breathes, and expands. It’s not a shrink-wrapped commodity that’s switched on at a certain point in our lives and remains at a steady state. Carl Jung wrote that “…great talents are the most lovely and often the most dangerous fruits on the tree of humanity. They hang upon the most slender twigs that are easily snapped off.” As we recruit and hire new employees for our organizations, these are important concepts to keep in mind. Rush a new hire along too quickly in the never-ending quest for productivity and improvement, and we risk gaining nothing from his or her tenure. Carefully managing our new human resources and bringing them along at a comfortable pace, however, ensures years – perhaps decades – of productive, creative service.

What steps are you taking in your organization to ensure that your young recruits are protected from harsh elements in the beginning stages of employment? How are you mentoring them with a sense of safety and encouragement? What else is needed to insure that your organization is providing the proper environment for professional and personal growth? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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

Image Source: alispagnola.com, riversidemusic.com

Rock Music Rocks Stocks

•November 17, 2009 • 2 Comments

Okay all you Rock Star Leaders out there – get a-load of this! USATODAY reported on November 17, 2009:

“Sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll — and the stock market? [S]ome academics and analysts are wondering if trends in pop culture might provide more accurate clues of where stocks are heading.”

This idea is that America’s “mood swings” determine not only what music we listen to, but if we want to buy or sell stocks!

“When people are in a collective good  mood, for instance, they tend to listen to bubble-gum-pop music with a steady happy beat.” Think back to January 2000, when the market was waaaay up, boy bands, Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, and the Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas smash hit, Smooth, were tops.

“Conversely, when they’re in a funk, people gravitate to music with dark, complex tones and themes.” No wonder that Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight peaked as stocks began to tumble in 2007, AC/DC hit #1 on the Billboards charts in 2008 — even the Sex Pistols got back together during the 2007 Dow slide!

“The connection of music, stocks and mood is more than coincidence,” said Philip Maymin, professor of finance and risk engineering at New York University Polytechnic Institute, who studied the “beat variation” of music during market tops and bottoms.

So what’s the message, here, for Rock Star Leaders? Perhaps a rousing chorus of Livin La Vida Loca?!

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Barry Zweibel is president of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc.
He can be reached at
info@ggci.com.

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Rock Star Leadership In the Key of … “See”

•November 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Music.

MUSIC.

M-U-S-I-C!

So can music really teach a leader how to be a Rock Star Leader?!

Well, let’s see what M-U-S-I-C has to offer:

  • “M” reminds us to always strive to Motivate Others.

As a Rock Star Leader, it’s not just about helping others to raise their game when it’s convenient, or when you feel like it. It’s about ever-being the role model, the one others look up to, and the one who  doesn’t just play the (Leadership) music, but someone who understands the (Leadership) music – and can explain it to others in increasingly powerfully engaging and relevant ways.

  • “U” suggests we always Utilize our Resources.

A Rock Star Leader knows who’s good at what, who likes doing what, and how to those very skillful (and willful) people to stop what they’re working on, and willingly do what the Rock Star Leader needs done.

  • “S” counsels us to purposefully Stretch and Grow.

Rock Star Leaders are not, to use the vernacular, “One Hit Wonders.” They’re continually upgrading their skills, savvy, power to influence others, and impact – not just by doing whatever they already know how to do, but by improving their “chops” accordingly.

  • “I” informs us to Introspect Regularly.

Even the Rock world’s best “shredders” slow down and do the power ballad thing from time to time. So, too, with Rock Star Leaders. As pianist and composer Arthur Schnabel said, “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.” Pause, introspect, and learn something about yourself and how to be a better leader.

  • “C” recommends that we Collaborate Freely.

Let the creative juices flow. Stretch what’s possible. Push the limits of what you typically do. Mix and Match. If Robert Plant and Alison Krauss can collaborate, and win multiple Grammys for it, surely you can pick up the phone and schedule coffee with that guy down the hall! If Carlos Santana can collaborate with … sheesh! who hasn’t he collaborated with … then so can you. But more importantly, if Mary in marketing and Steve in IT can collaborate together, then so can you!

So go on. Have at it. Let your Rock Star Leader flag fly! The M-U-S-I-C will show you how.

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Barry Zweibel is president of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc.
He can be reached at
info@ggci.com.

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Why Dogs Don’t Enjoy Music

•November 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

“Anyone with normal hearing can distinguish between the musical tones of a scale: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. We take this ability for granted, but among most mammals the feat is unparallelled.”

So reported Sandy Fritz in Scientific American Mind, last year, to the dismay of barking Labradors, woofing bassets, yelping Yorkies — and Rock Star Leaders –, everywhere.

Yet a study conducted by researchers at UCLA, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Weizmann Institute of Science, concluded that “humans can easily detect frequencies as fine as one twelfth of an octave — a half step in musical terminology. Dogs can only discriminate resolutions of one third of an octave.” (And “dog” employees? Well, they can’t hear even that!)

The implication for Rock Star Leaders is this: You may be, unkowingly, diluting your impact by communicating with your employees  in a too-subtle, or too-convoluted, manner.

Granted, this conclusion has less to do with hearing than understanding, but stay with me.

Subtlety is often considered a more “refined” form of communication. The problem with subtle communications, though, is that they ask the listener — they require the listener — to be much more discerning when listening. And depending on circumstances, that could be asking a LOT from someone.

Too much, perhaps.

Indeed, expecting someone to give you their full and Undivided Attention could be far more than they’re ready for — or capable of — in this busy, distracted, juggling priorities, go-go, world of ours.

So what if we purposefully avoided such splitting of “dog hairs” when we’re sharing our content with others? What if we focused, instead, on talking more clearly and crisply (and in larger octave steps, perhaps?) so that everyone — even those with lesser abilities to listen so carefully — could completely understand what we’re talking about anyway?

What would that sound like, I wonder?

Hopefully, this isn’t too subtle a point to be making for Rock Star Leader readers. I suspect it is not. And i hope that it will encourage (and help) you to communicate more effectively than you might otherwise.

And, hopefully, that will be music to EVERYONE’S ears!

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(excerpted from: http://www.ggci.com/blog2/2008/11/why-dogs-dont-enjoy-music.htm.)

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Barry Zweibel is president of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc.
He can be reached at
info@ggci.com

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Music-Based Learning 101

•November 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment
 
A one, and’a two, and’a One, Two, Three!

I have the greatest job in the world. And I’m keeping it.  When I go to the office I get to talk about which musicians are being featured in the next event and I get to call up Billy Joel’s saxman and talk music, I get test out new guitars and bring people together at companies like they never have before. It is fun.

It wasn’t always that way.  I used to run an online solutions agency.  It was cool, but it didn’t satisfy my soul. When the day was done, I’d go out and jam with friends.  I watched the dynamic in the room during those jam sessions and I noticed something incredible.  The room was in tune.  Each person was listening to the other in ways regular folks don’t.  When I came away from those sessions there was a deep sense of satisfaction no job could provide.

Eventually I sold the agency and had a chance to re-evaluate my career.  At the end of each day, I’d go home and pick up my guitar and play… just like yesterday.  There were two fundamental things I noticed.  People I used to jam with when I was a kid were dusting off their guitars again and going back to the activities they enjoyed most.  And the music industry was changing dramatically.  Today, music is all about live performance. Professional musicians are constantly looking for new places to perform and new audiences to share with.

I had a vision. Harness the power of music to teach eadership and collaboration.

As I became more and more intrigued with music as a tool for teaching collaboration and leadership, my wife bought me a copy of “This Is Your Brain On Music”, authored by Daniel Levitin.  This book brought it all together for me in an instant.  Mr. Levitin’s research confirmed everything.  I wasn’t the only one thinking about this topic.  This is where the passion connected with the science.  I then spent the next year creating a program for non-instrument playing people to experience the power of music-based collaboration.

The response to these programs was instant, and today, three years later, The League Of Rock provides a full array of Music-Based Leadership Training & Team Building programs to companies on both sides of the border.

One might think “oh, music-based learning… our company is way too conservative for that”, or “what’s music-based learning? We can’t waste our time listening to music and jamming. We need to get our people working more effectively on software programming”.

Music-based learning, simply put, gives people a deeply enjoyable, universal language for communication.  We don’t deploy new fangled wacky practices or wierd exercises.  The League Of Rock‘s programs utilize an age old approach to listening and trading ideas.

Simple. Fun.

In future installments I’ll talk about discovering the Customer Service Rep at one of Canada’s largest cell makers, who turned a rock song into a Dub Reggae tune as his work-mates thankfully joined him in the process.  They didn’t know he had this talent, and they didn’t know they could collaborate on that level. These people came into the event as relative strangers who happen to work together, and they left as a deeply and emotionally connected team.

In future installments I’ll cover issues such as “why do I feel like no-one on my team hears me” and “As a team leader, I’m having trouble getting my people to execute the way I need them to”.  The odd time I’ll toss in a few stories about a jamming with great players such as Richie Cannata. I’ll share inside scoops from Rod Stewart’s long time guitarist Robin Le Mesurier and many other music based back stage stories.

Where I live, it’s all about leaving the ego at the door, tossing the ball around, sharing, listening hard and enjoying the process.

Giving adults an engaging experience they truly enjoy to make sure they retain more information is the basis of everything we believe in at the League Of Rock.  Our clients usually come to us after having gone through many events where eight out of ten participants either fall asleep or try to make a break for it to “end the madness”.  During our events there’s always at least one participant who comes over to me and says “Terry, I wish I had your job”.  I inevitably agree… I wish I had my job too.

So, to give clarity to this “self-generated” introduction, this is how I arrived here today.  In 2006, I gave myself one year to “find myself.”  The challenge was to take my past experiences, my inner belief system, my understanding of music, and combine it, to transform my life experiences into a force for great collaboration and leadership.  When it all came together in my mind, the vision was League Of Rock.  An organization dedicated to helping people learn better leadership and collaboration through music.

This brings me to the end of my first installment on Music-Based Learning 101.  Please stay tuned… I’ll try to keep it fresh, engaging, a little on the edge, and always informative…  If you have any questions, I welcome them. Please feel free to connect with me at Terry@LeagueOfRock.com

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