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How to make your team R.O.C.K.

How to make your team ROCK

by David Fishof and Scott Keller

To learn about teamwork, management gurus tend to study collaboration in companies. Most don’t consider rock ‘n’ roll groups as an appropriate venue for studying teams. After all, what is a life in rock ‘n’ roll if not a quest to escape the 9 to 5?

As the CEO of Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp (David) and part-time musician and Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company (Scott), we’ve observed that the best bands - the ones that last - achieve levels of teamwork and collaboration that business leaders would envy.

This makes sense. You must learn to work together if you’re going to spend life together on the road (imagine taking your team on a nine-month offsite!) and regularly “innovate” a new product every year or so for fickle customers with endless choice. Success at the end of the day, as Judas Priest’s lead singer Rob Halford put it, is “all about working together.”

We asked rockers who work with Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp’s “Team Rock” corporate team-building program what they consider the most important lessons corporate leaders can learn from their experience. Here are their insights (shared in a framework intended to be as memorable as the chorus of your favorite rock anthem!):

R: Role clarity: Heart’s Nancy Wilson, who has sold over 35 million albums in her career, explains: “Staying relevant in music is like in marriage, you have to renew your vows every few years. Everyone has to understand and commit to what their role is, and they have to do it well. I play guitar, and I’m expected to play guitar well; it’s not a prop! At the same time, you can’t expect others to do things they can’t do. Great bands figure out each other’s relative strengths and weaknesses and members play their roles accordingly.”

O: Objective setting: Paul Stanley from Kiss, among the highest selling rock ‘n’ roll acts of all time, shares: “Success doesn’t happen by chance. Without big goals, you’ll never make it big. At the same time, breaking the journey down into smaller, manageable goals on the way to the big picture makes those larger goals feel achievable. Those small victories start to accumulate, build momentum, and, in time, what may have felt impossible at the start becomes reality.”

C: Communication: Roger Daltrey of The Who, one of the 20th century’s most influential rock bands, reflects: “Communication is fundamental to the success of a band - it’s the lifeblood. When things start to go off the rails, it’s not going to come back without good communications. And if the band doesn’t communicate well with each other, they’ll never be able to connect with their audience. Keep it simple and straightforward, be respectful but honest with each other. Then you’re building on a strong foundation.”

K: Killer attitude: (Yes, by “killer” we mean “excellent” - that’s rock ‘n’ roll!) Singer and guitarist Sammy Hagar, with 25 platinum album certifications, describes: “The biggest thing that gets in the way of teamwork in a band is ego. When someone, or everyone, thinks their ‘thing’ is the most important thing, it all falls apart. The great professionals and greatest bandmates are confident in their abilities and humble enough to work to build others up, and themselves be open to learning. When this happens, there is mutual respect. When mutual respect is there, magic can happen.”

The last word goes to Ed Oates, Oracle’s co-founder and a guitarist, who sums it up well: “In a band you’ve got different people with different attitudes and skills coming together to achieve a common goal. When it works, the outcome is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s far more than just five individual stars. It’s the same in business - it’s that kind of teamwork that’s behind sustainable success.”

As it comes to teamwork, then let us say - and say it loud, “Let there be R.O.C.K.”

David Fishof is the founder and CEO of Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, and author of “Rock Your Business: What You and Your Company Can Learn From the Business of Rock and Roll.”

Scott Keller is a senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-author of “Leading Organizations: Ten Timeless Truths” and “Beyond Performance: How Great Companies Create Ultimate Competitive Advantage.”