- 29 years as a management consultant and trainer, working with Peter Senge, Fernando Flores, Werner Erhard and most recently Tom Peters.
- Author of management blog, "Business Lessons from Rock," applying the success qualities of top rock-and-roll bands to mainstream business teams.
- Clients have included: Anglo American, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Commerce Bank, Deloitte & Touche, DHL, Digital Equipment Corporation, Emerson & Cuming, Innovation Associates, Johnson & Johnson, Lincoln Financial Group, Lockheed Martin, MacMillan, Bloedel, Minorco, Pfizer, Schindler, TPI Composites, Teck, Tyler Equipment, US Army, Wellpoint/Anthem, Weyerhaeuser.
- As a musician, singer and songwriter for 18 years before launching business consulting career, shared the stage with more than two dozen Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members and more than 50 other famous rock, pop, blues, folk, or country artists.
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Fostering Creative Teams - Business Lessons From Rock
- Organizations don't know how to manage and harness conflict.
What’s required in the 21st Century workplace is a diversity of backgrounds that can stimulate new ideas and solutions through the creative abrasion of conflicting world views and mindsets. But many organizations do not have the ability to tolerate and harness conflict. Some business cultures are simply conflict-averse to begin with, which is counter-productive in a world of turbulent change. As many of the most successful rock bands have demonstrated – from Fleetwood Mac to the Eagles to Police to Oasis – the sparks of artistic and personal differences and disagreements can forge a powerful crucible for creativity.
Other business cultures do tolerate conflict but allow it to go unrestrained, leaving a battered and bruised workforce. They can’t contain it, manage it, and capitalize on dissent for its creative potential. But given the proper tools, team members will be able to passionately disagree with each other –without damaging relationships – and collaborate to create new products, services, processes and strategies.
- Companies are unwilling to remake an obsolete business model.
Many companies are struggling to keep up with the disruptive change of global business. They may not realize that their fundamental way of doing business may no longer be suitable for today’s marketplace. It may be time to “blow it up” and start over.
If your team has the mandate for it, creating a new business model may be appropriate (and necessary) – either to compete in a cutthroat market or to shake up a cautious or somnolent organization. A new model can push you to rethink every aspect of your business. It’s inherently risky of course, but so is standing pat. The greatest bands – like the Grateful Dead who pioneered the “give-it-away-free” model that later took hold on the Internet – knew how to create entirely new business models, as did The Beatles, Kiss and Radiohead.
- "Bad Boss Syndrome" undermines teamwork.
Some individuals in leadership positions have such dismal management and communication skills that it disables effective teamwork. “Bad bosses,” according to many studies, is the primary reason that employees leave their job.
Often the individual manager will describe the problem as recalcitrant or incompetent workers. But the problem is just as often looking back at him or her in the mirror. Many leaders have gotten by for years with such limitations but they finally reach a ceiling where their skill set is no longer effective and they don’t understand why.
Such managers need some combination of education, training and coaching in 21st leadership competencies to allow them to continue in their job.
- Rampant bullying shuts down creativity and causes talented employees to leave.
Related to the Bad Boss is the Abusive Manager who routinely threatens team members, triggering instincts to flee, freeze or fight. Under these conditions, many talented employees will depart, others will stay but shut down their creativity and self-expression, while others (the “actively disengaged”) will resist through sabotage.
Teams and organizations do not have to be love fests. But a continual pattern of abuse from a leader needs to be challenged. Some of the best rock bands – from The Beach Boys to the Grateful Dead – had to deal with abusive, abrasive business managers (or bad bosses) whom they eventually had to fire. Dealing with a bullying manager in a hierarchical organization is a challenge, but HR should be there to help. Respecting people’s boundaries is no longer optional in the litigious environment of 21st Century business.
- There is too little focus on the "intangibles" of work.
Businesses need the tangibles: top talent, good products or services, the right systems and procedures, etc.
But it's often the intangibles that keep organizations from becoming extraordinary. The spirit in which teams work can make all the difference. A team that can operate with humor, compassion, persistence, creativity, freedom and even a little attitude is always a more engaged team, as the best rock bands have demonstrated over the years.