Dealing with grown ups

PEOPLE_muddy-siblingsThis weekend a woman asked me what's kept me going on this blog topic for eight years. I told her to stay tuned: I’d answer her question in my next post! Then I realized I’d written about this a couple of years back. All the better, I thought. I'll update my old post and take the night off.

People occasionally ask me why I concocted this blog.

Simple answer: to make the business-lessons-from-rock case—namely, that rock & roll bands have much to teach us about developing bold, creative, passionate teams—and to promote an upcoming book of the same name.

But then people say, “What got you going on THAT?"

Well, when I first began management consulting and team training 30 years ago I felt a little dislocated in my new environment. I had played rock & roll for a living until then and had avoided anything resembling a corporate life. So when I started working in business I just couldn't relate to the lack of play, fun, humor, passion, engagement, creativity, personality, chutzpah, and free-thinking independence that I frequently encountered. These were qualities in abundant supply in the music world.

I felt like a kid surrounded by grown-ups who had forgotten how to have fun and be themselves. But as I began to work more closely with leaders I began to see them (even the top executives) as kids also, underneath their well-designed work costumes. Viewing them this way, I could better relate to them—and help liberate them from their limiting beliefs and blocked self-expression. Off with the disguises!

15 years later I realized that this was what Tom Peters had been evangelizing in his books and talks. So I began working with Tom’s company and got my start as a blogger on his website, which then led me to start this blog.

A decade later, now working on my own, I’m more clear than ever that too many folks in the workforce are dealing with an almost incapacitating fear of being themselves, of thinking for themselves, of expressing themselves, and of standing up for themselves. It’s also evident to me that some combination of play, fun, humor, passion, personality, etc. is what's urgently needed to displace that fear.

And—surprise!—these are the very same qualities needed for teams and organizations to be successful in the creative economy.

Here's an earlier post about a band that demonstrates these qualities.

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  1. I felt completely disconnected when I entered the working world 40 years ago. It all seemed design to foster misery, and the only fun came from having the power to amplify the misery of others.

    I struggled through 20 years of it and gave up. Now, I don't work with anyone who doesn't want to have fun along the way.

    I never met those people in my corporate life. Didn't know they existed. I'm still amazed and intrigued that you crossed the insulation and spent time blending the two worlds with people who believe that business can rock.

    1. It was easy when I worked with Tom's company, because our clients were self-selected. They had read Tom's books and wanted to build a culture based on "serious play." Earlier in my career, it was a little tougher. My colleagues and I had to make the case to organizational leaders that to achieve their business goals they had to have a workforce—especially a front line—that was excited about what they were doing. Of course instilling that enthusiasm in a workforce—or, more accurately, removing the obstacles to the natural expression of it—is tricky business.

    1. Yes and no. There is a lot of freedom to be wildly expressive and have a load of fun in small, private companies. But I've seen it work in larger firms. At one public corporation that was implementing a lot of Tom Peters' philosophy, it got so wonderfully wacky we had to make sure that the customers didn't get wind of it, given the serious nature of the services that were offered. Like having a high school band marching throughout one facility. It created some interesting moments for the Call Center. But in the end it all helped the bottom line.

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