What my secret life taught me about my job

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I operate in a parallel Universe. By day I am a trainer and by night I sing in a band at pubs and clubs. The two worlds earn money and I’ve always thought of them as entirely separate.

However, there is a huge amount of crossover. What I have learned in the band has helped me to become a more confident trainer. I’ve added some thoughts for managers and leaders, but you may well have your own reflections.

A band needs a setlist.

They will have a set list prepared and spend time thinking about the pace and energy of each song. Their list will give the audience a chance to take a break from dancing to chat and buy a drink, before getting them back on their feet again. They read the room when they arrive and consider if their setlist will appeal to the people there. If not, they draw up a new one.

A leader’s setlist is their strategy. 

Have clarity of the direction you want to take and how you plan to engage the team in the strategy. Allocate tasks that offer variety and allow the team to engage. Keep the pace at the right speed to get maximum productivity. However, insist on regular breaks away from work stations to allow the brain to rest and for the team to bond socially.

With a constantly changing context, is the strategy still relevant? Are you checking in with key stakeholders? Discuss regularly with your team and be willing to change if necessary.

Good bands realise it’s about the crowd, not them.

A good band will go in to the gig with the attitude of ‘we’re here to give you a party’ not ‘we’re here to show off our brilliance’. This means they make compromises, they will play songs they don’t necessarily like, but they know the crowd will love them.

For managers it’s about the purpose, not individual ego.

Instil this in your team and you should find you get less conflict and more cohesion in the team. A clear purpose means you don’t always have to lead from the front. Let the expertise of the team come to the fore when necessary. You don’t have to have all the answers.

The band needs to ditch the music stands! 

A music stand is a barrier to the audience and a signal of an under rehearsed band who lacks confidence. Good bands trust themselves to know the music and words, are willing to risk it, and forgive themselves if they make a mistake. Often it will only be the band who knows it has happened.

Managers need to take some risks. 

Safety is the metaphoric music stand. Safety means you will never progress, never learn. Yes, you will make mistakes along the way, but that is when teams do their best learning. Learn to see the virtue in failure, you don’t have to be word perfect.

Bands make use of call and response.

If a band just thrashes out one song after another, and never speaks to the audience, they may alienate themselves. The songs should flow, but a few seconds between occasional songs is a good way to connect with the audience. ‘Call and response’ is another great way to do this which is where the band get the audience to join in with the chorus, wave arms etc. It all adds to the night.

A manager’s call and response is the blend between formal and personal.

The work needs to be done, but if it can be mixed with a bit of a personal touch it makes people feel valued. Show a bit of interest in peoples’ lives outside of work, and share a bit about yourself too. Not too much, just enough.

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The band need a bit of charisma.

Being brilliant musicians may not be enough to hold an audience’s attention. The players need to have a bit of charisma in order to engage their fans and create a following. Venues like bands who have fans that follow them. This does tend to fall on the lead singer, who is often the focal point. They need to be larger than life and many put on a bit of an act.

Leaders need charisma too.

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘leaders don’t pick followers, followers pick their leaders’. Part of creating your own following as a leader is to have a bit of charisma. The big difference between leaders and lead singers is that they should not put on an act. Leaders need to be authentic to be believable. Charisma isn’t necessarily charm, it is simply clarity about the values you stand for backed up by consistent action that breathes life into those values.

Thank the bar staff. 

An agent may book the venue, but they are often not in the room. The bar staff are, and if they like the band, they will recommend them again (provided they’re good), so good bands value them as much as they do their crowd. Bar staff are the voices the landlord or landlady will trust once the band have packed down and gone home.

As a manager, who do you need to thank? 

Showing appreciation for your team helps engagement in the team, as does relevant praise. Often managers forget to consider key stakeholders. Like bar staff, there may be some in your network that are less obvious but could have considerable influence.

What parallel Universe do you occupy, and how might that support you in your day job?

 

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