That was then: When I was 17, I learned to play the guitar. Weekly lessons with a local guy. Played for a couple of years, plateaued at a low level and lost interest. I knew I wasn’t great when someone remarked: “Is there no beginning to this man’s talent?” Somewhat brutal, but true.
This is now: Roll the clock forward 30 years. I bought a new acoustic guitar and rediscovered the fun involved in playing. There are a couple of ways to get involved in music:
a. Form a band (too old)
b. Gig professionally on your own (can’t sing, can’t play)
c. Play for fun in pubs (they let anyone in, provided you buy your round)
So a couple of times every month, I end up in various northside pubs banging out the Gene Genie, Whiter Shades of Pale and a few Kings of Leon numbers to maintain my street cred. While it’s tough on the listeners (my solicitor is expecting the equivalent of ‘Army Deafness’ claims in a couple of years), it’s brilliant for the participants. Park that image for a moment.
X-Factor: The only thing that makes the Irish winter bearable is X-Factor. People, young and old, being embarrassed on TV. Louis sucking up to Simon. Cheryl speaking in that funny New-castle accent. Oh, and the music is a bonus. So the theme here is that music creates a feel good energy. Just take a stroll through town and count the number of people who are engrossed in their own musical world, hidden behind those white earphones. While the notion that people like music is hardly novel, the question is, managerially, can you tap into this energy at work?
Tops of the Town: In pre-historic corporate Ireland (circa 1970’s) there was a competition called Tops of the Town. Companies would stage mini talent shows internally and then compete against other companies in a grand finale (Cadbury’s versus Jacobs etc.). I’ve spoken to a number of people who were involved. The consensus was that the level of personal time invested in rehearsals and the general professionalism of the shows was amazing. The release of talent and creativity, the competitive edge and the excuse to dress up all produced a high-energy buzz. A positive grapevine was unleashed.
Releasing the Fun: Some people in the consulting world like to think that managing people is a cerebral exercise. It’s correct – up to a point. A plethora of techniques are available to engage staff in internal problem solving and external social reach projects. Great. But if you want to really up-the-gas in energy terms, there also has to be humour and entertainment value. It’s no coincidence that the words humour and human are closely related. So, my advice is simple. Launch a talent competition internally. Dust off those old sets (or build new ones) and get out the war paint. Set an example by having members of the senior team do their party piece (anything except Tie A Yellow Ribbon normally works well). The good news is that it’s free. The really good news is that you don’t have to be talented. Think of a balding Jedward and you start to get the picture. As a special reward give yourself a new title. Become the Minister for Fun in your organization.
Without doubt, work is serious business. But work and fun are not mutually exclusive. If you’re still not convinced that music can be terrific fun, have a look at the following clip.
PS I am available as a solo artist for Christmas Parties, Christenings and Funerals. Very cheap!