Times Like These…

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I am a huge Foo Fighters fan.  Over the years, they have evolved into one of the most popular bands in the world, performing in front of millions of fans.  What impresses me the most is their willingness to innovate and take chances, without straying from their roots of creating amazing music.  In the past several years, they have recorded an album in their lead singer Dave Grohl’s garage and supported this project by playing live shows in their fan’s garages throughout the country.  Their next adventure was to write songs in 8 cities throughout the US and record their experiences both with an album and a documentary series, all produced by Dave.  At their live shows, they have invited fans to come on stage to sing and play the drums, and have realized that their fans are the #1 priority in the world…google “Cesena Italy Learn to Fly” and witness their fan’s passion for a live show and the bands response.  This past fall, they recorded a surprise 4 song album as a thank you to their fans and offered this album as a free download.  They are true leaders in communicating with their fan base who is constantly asking for more.

Professionally, our teams and employees are asking for more…more feedback, more opportunities, more resources, more specific direction.  In this day and age,  we are constantly accessible to our teams, our peers, and our customers via cell phones, email, text messages, what’s app groups, instagram, twitter, etc…yet customer service seems to be suffering as a result of technological advances.  For external customers requesting assistance, it is very common to go through a series of prompts on your phone only to remain on hold for 10-15 minutes before speaking to someone.  If you send an email, it is normal to receive a response 24 hours later, which may point us to a FAQ document to find the answer. For internal employees, the #1 reason people change careers is due to their direct supervisor (this is not the only reason people leave an organization but is a major factor).   With all of our methods of communication, leadership has become shallow and we must figure out new ways to inspire our employees, who are our most important customers.  Much like the Foo Fighters, we have to innovate without forgetting who we truly are.

Tips to avoid shallow leadership:

  1. Talk more than type or text.  Texting and emailing should be touch points in your leadership style, however should not dominate your modes of communication with your team.  “Major” information (you have to determine what major is defined as) should be discussed live versus messaging.  For example, if your company is changing your strategic plan mid quarter, this should be considered major information and should not be sent via a group text message.  In addition, make a point to spend quality time actually talking to your teams.  You can find out more in 5 minutes talking versus 5 hours texting.
  2. Define what your team culture is.  Your team culture and what motivates them should be the #1 priority for you.  Peter Drucker says that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  I tend to agree with this statement, especially as it relates to leading others to conduct worthwhile work. Ask your senior leadership what their definition of your company’s culture is (hopefully they can answer) and insure you are aligned with their vision.  Before making any decision, ask yourself if this decision provides a positive impact on your company’s vision or culture…if not, then I would review other alternatives.
  3. Set aside 30 minutes per week to get better at something.  The best athletes and musicians practice a lot more than they play.  The Foo Fighters just don’t walk on stage to perform without hours of fine tuning their craft. Why should leadership be any different?  Set an appointment with yourself for 30 minutes per week to improve at anything (professional or personal development).  Treat this appointment the same way you would treat an appointment with your most valuable customer…if a conflict arises, make sure to reschedule this time.
  4. Lead with solutions, not problems.  When Dave Grohl broke his leg on-stage near the beginning of the 2015 Foo Fighters tour, many thought the remaining dates of the tour would be cancelled.  Instead, Dave crafted a solution with his tour crew to create a seat and throne in the middle of the stage allowing him to play guitar, sing, interact with the crowd, and not diminish from a Foo Fighters live show experience.  When challenges and opportunities arise, make sure not to focus too much on the situation, but present solutions that can overcome these potential setbacks.  My quote to my team is “come to me with your problems and solutions”.  This grants them ownership to lead through change.  Also, discuss challenging scenarios with your peers to gain additional insights before finalizing a solution…if you are experiencing certain challenges, your peers probably are as well.

When you listen to members of the Foo Fighters talk during interviews, you realize they have been through high and lows in their careers, both personally and professionally. Each band member realizes the individual role required to create music which pleases both fans and critics alike.  They seem to truly enjoy being around each other and have a true passion for delivering for their fans.  Over the last 20 years, the band has taught me many lessons around leadership…continue to challenge yourself to try new things, never forget your roots or who you are, and continue to be visible and relevant to meet the evolving needs of your customers, both internal and external.  They are a great example of “well done > well said”.

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