First, let me be clear, I am in no way a musician. I taught myself to play the guitar in college and that’s about the extent of my musical capabilities. Would I love to be? Yes. Can I see myself as a knock-off version of Dave Matthews, with a guitar in hand, a killer band behind me, and 100,000 fans in front of me at Central Park? Well, perhaps that’s not a knock-off. That may just be my way of saying I’d like to be Dave Matthews for a night. Because the answer is unequivocally, yes!
Disclosure: Now is when I should note that I am currently enjoying Dave Matthew’s Band, Live In Central Park album in the background while I write this. It may not be my last comparison.
Back to business. I’m going to assume, because I think it’s safe to do here, that if you change the “who”— in my case DMB — out of the paragraph above and insert your favorite band, you too would relish the opportunity for that experience. Am I right? Great, it’s nice to be in good company.
Now, get lost in that for a moment. Picture yourself on the stage, singing your favorite song, the band hitting all the right chords in perfect timing and your fans rewarding that harmony with their excited screams and whistles. Listen close enough and you’ll hear them singing the song back to you. What a rush.
If you’ve seen my LinkedIn profile, you’ll see that I was in the fashion industry in my past, so I can even picture what I am wearing, but I won’t bore you with those details.
Ok, enough day dreaming. Let’s shift our thinking a bit and create a new version of that same experience. Instead of the band, picture your team; instead of the stage, you’re at the office; and instead of the fans, it’s your customers that are excited by your harmony. How am I doing? Still with me? Good. Let’s spend a little time with each of those critical elements of a great concert.
Before anyone is going to show up for a concert, you have to arrange the right individuals, with the right skill sets and personalities, and develop a shared vision of success and accountability.
Imagine what Dave Matthews Band would sound like without someone like Carter Beauford on the drums? You’re right, not even worth considering.
Once these individuals are arranged, you have to develop the right culture so that everyone trusts and relies on one another equally. Some of the most important traits of a great team in my opinion are, trust, loyalty, urgency, and shared accountability.
Now that we’ve got the right people, let’s jump on stage. How you manage yourself as a leader in the office will either make or break the culture. While it may be you at the microphone singing, at the end of the day your success is dependent on the band’s success. Here are a couple ways I try to increase my stage presence:
- Always, always, always put the team first. Honestly, no one cares what you as an individual did. Individuals don’t scale; teams scale. Build the team and promote your team. If you do it right, you’ll be building a team of all-stars that are sure to leave your team and go on to do bigger and better things — embrace that!
- Be mobile. The only way to get to know everyone in the organization and understand what motivates them is to spend time with them. Create reasons to walk the floor of the office and get to know your team. Take people to lunch. Learn about what drives them, what frustrates them, and what they love about working with the team.
- Don’t micromanage. You hired a great team, so put them in charge of what they’re great at and let them operate. Be there to break down roadblocks, but don’t get too caught up in the details of their job. In doing so, you’ll be setting them up for success as a leader in the future. On the flip side, set the expectation bar high. You’re not going to get involved in their work because you expect it to get done to the same level of quality as if you did it yourself.
- Dress the part. For those working with me at Dyn, I hope this one brought a smile. I am not recommending here that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a wardrobe. Simply suggesting that you present yourself professionally and look the part. You know the saying, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression”? In the office you don’t just give one impression, but rather you give hundreds a week. Make them all count.
What a perfect segue to our fans. I mean, our customers. Question: if you thought about your customers more like your fans, would you treat them differently? One thing most musicians (remember, I’m quite the talented musician and can speak on all their behalf) do is, remember to thank their fans. Without someone to listen to the music they produce, they wouldn’t be famous musicians. Similarly, without people who enjoy and understand the value of your product, you wouldn’t be in business. Thank your fans. Show them that you appreciate their business with you.
Customer Centricity is a phrase that has stepped into the mainstream as of late. In my opinion, being a customer centric organization is not something you wrap a strategy around, it’s the way you conduct your business. Day in and day out, week after week, month after month, the entire organization needs to be passionate about solving the real problems customers are facing.
Dedicate yourself to innovating on their behalf. Celebrate with them when a new feature or product rolls out. And above all else, always remain open to the positive and constructive feedback that you’ll get as you add more and more customers. As much as we like to think it’s possible, not all songs make it to the top of the billboard. Your customers can help you navigate tricky waters with real-time feedback on elements of your business that have upside for excellence. We all like to hear we’re doing a good job, but it’s more actionable to hear that we’re not.
Hold on a second. Enjoying the calls for an encore. Encore, Encore, Encore…
Can you imagine that? You’ve just played for 2+ hours to more than 100,000 fans and when you conclude, they rise to their feet and cheer for as long as it takes to get you back on the stage. That is when you know the harmony is working. When your customers are begging for more. Not begging in the way that we all think about begging. Begging for more because you make their life better. They enjoy connecting with you on a more intimate level. They rely on you for the product you provide. And when the night concludes, they’re going to be watching for your next release, so they can enjoy it just the same.
And now, with the night concluded and fans streaming their way out of the venue, remind your team how much you appreciate all that they do. They just made you look good. And remind yourself that what you just got to experience isn’t guaranteed to happen again in the future. There isn’t time to rest on one’s laurels. Time is of the essence to get back to the studio and innovate again for your fans.