The story of two concerts

It’s fine for a manager to be grumpy – as long as they are ‘genius’.

The Eagles and Bob DylanI recently attended two concerts in Dublin’s 02. The first sojourn was to hear the Eagles. Even if you’re not an Eagles fan, the concert was stunning. More than the music, they told the ‘story’ of how the band developed and the staging (audio visuals etc.) was excellent.  The concert ran for almost 3 hours, a tour de force of musicianship and entertainment.  How they survived those ‘Hotel California’ days is a medical miracle (Bill Clinton is so lucky that he didn’t inhale!).

And then there was Bob: Exactly 1 week later, we went to see Bob Dylan. I’ve become a fan in recent years – based on a better understanding of his songwriting skills. He’s a brilliant lyricist e.g. “When the rain is falling in your face. And the whole world is on your case.  I can offer you a warm embrace. To make you feel my love”.  The concert started off well – he sang ‘Things have Changed’ – one of the songs that our little band play on our World Tour of the GAA clubs in north county Dublin (it’s only a matter of time before we are discovered!). So far, so good. He then went on to play about 16 songs that I’d never heard before (no-one sitting around me seemed to know them either). Many of these were in a 12-Bar-Blues format which, after 13 or 14 songs, becomes a tad repetitive. He didn’t address the audience at any point, not even the (almost) obligatory “Good evening Dublin”. He didn’t introduce the band members.  He actually never spoke a single word. And there was no musicianship of particular note (other than some terrific harmonica playing by the man himself). The concert lasted under two hours. Best feature: I had a particularly early start the next day; it was good to get home by 10:30.

So What? What has all of the above got to do with you?  Well, here’s a possible twist. The definition of the role of a manager is someone who gets their work done through others. Managers don’t play alone. Successful managers ‘engage’ others and harness the collective energy. Why? Because, even if you are personally ‘brilliant’ – you only have 50 to 70 hours a week to contribute. But if you engage others, you can leverage the performance of thousands of hours. It’s this ‘ability to excite and engage’ (rather than personal brilliance) which distinguishes successful managers from the also ran’s – those people who simply occupy the chair at a moment in time (but don’t fundamentally move the needle forward).

Whoa! You could argue that this ‘argument’ doesn’t stand up. After all, Bob Dylan is incredibly successful even if his stage shows leave a bit to be desired from an ‘engagement’ point of view. But this argument overlooks the simple fact that Dylan is genius - perhaps the most influential star in the modern music era. Now, unless you can lay claim to genius, I suggest that you start working on your engagement skills. Because when they master staff engagement techniques, even ‘ordinary players’ can soar like an Eagle.



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