In Leadership Talent Is Not Enough

August 30th, 2014

I was recently taken with the similarity between the music business and being a successful leader.  As a former rock guitarist who just can’t leave it behind,  I subscribe to “The Lefsetz Letter” an commentary on the current music business.  A quote from the July 15, 2014 edition rings true in developing leaders” “Skills cannot be emphasized enough. Knowing how to play your instrument, sing or deejay, gives you a floor upon which you can build. But once again, talented people are a dime a dozen. …. Furthermore, creativity is king at this level. What can you do that both sounds professional and sounds different? …. Managers and labels are not looking for me-too. They can get that from “Idol” and the “Voice.” They’re looking for unique.”

That’s the key for you to become a better leader and to develop better leaders under you.  Don’t squelch creativity and uniqueness.  In fact there are a number of exercises that help expand your creativity and those of your team.  Try a few, and watch your team blossom!

Berry Gordy Was Right

August 9th, 2010

            What does the founder of a fifty-year legend known as Motown Records have to do with developing a Tricycle Leadership™ style? In a word, everything!  Beginning in a small boxlike two-story house in Detroit Michigan, Berry Gordy created an empire that dominated the recording industry in the sixties and the seventies, fueled extensively by his unique leadership style.

In Tom Brokow’s best selling book, Boom Brokow explained his key to management success. ‘Every Friday, at the peak of Motown’s popularity and success, Gordy would hold a meeting with everyone on his assembly line of hits – the songwriters, producers, and promoters – in order to review what they were going to do next.  He says, “There was a Motown philosophy: There are no stupid ideas, nobody could be embarrassed. Everybody spoke up. We didn’t let politics get in the way. It was about the best idea.”

That is the ultimate key to developing innovation and creativity, you must keep an open mind, you must be willing to listen to new and what might at first seem silly ideas, then ultimately filter them down to those that have a real chance of success.  Barry Gordy’s approach was systematized, i.e. it happened every Friday, and that is the key, it cannot be hit or miss it must be regular for consistency.

The Friday meeting of Motown has made an impression on most writers of the history of the company.  Gerald Posner, in Motown, Music, Money, Sex and Power says, ‘Berry set three ironclad rules for the meetings. First, no producer could vote on his own record; next, Gordy could overrule a majority vote; and finally, anyone who was more than five minutes late was locked out. The last rule was particularly important, since many of the artistic types who populated Motown’s hallways paid little attention to punctuality. Usually, however, after a few lockouts they became much better at managing their time.’

Posner went on to explain, ‘What made the Friday meetings so productive was that Gordy encouraged people to be honest and blunt. He promised there would be no reprisals for anything said, and it was a pledge he never went back on over the years. No one recalls anyone being punished because of something said at those meetings. And when people realized they were truly free to say what every they thought, frank expression became not just a right but rather a duty.  No one was free from criticism, and Gordy often let the attack.’

If there is any negative to his approach, it appears to be the personal attacks as a manager.  His attitude, because he was an entrepreneur, not a corporate manager was that ‘what ever went on affected his money ‘ so he may have been a little too close to the decisions. As Posner explained, ‘While words could sometimes become heated, those unique product evaluation meetings were key to Motown’s growth. The company’s strength was that it was small and nimble, able to respond to changes in the marketplace, and not encumbered with a burdensome bureaucracy that stifled creativity. Instead, thing “outside the box,” a later corporate maxim, seemed natural to early Motown workers. And there was also a spirit based on their high risk venture, a feeling that they had little to lose and much to gain.’

This 1960’s version of Tricycle Leadership™ included all the components for success, viz. fostering creativity and innovation, allowing employees to take a risk, and ultimately requiring accountability. Utilizing these three steps is foundational to creating collaborative and innovative leadership teams.

Tricycle Leadership™ – A new look at a proven team leadership style

January 23rd, 2010

So what’s this deal about Tricycle Leadership?

Well, Tricycle Leadership is a proven three prong, albeit a three wheeled approach to building collaborative and innovative leadership teams. My thirty years of advising executives and organizations has pointed out that through the implementation of innovation, the application of risk taking and the acceptance of the magic of accountability, solid leadership teams can be built.

These teams not only foster creativity and cherish collaboration, but they stand the test of challenging times. This insures that when those challenges rear their ugly head, the wheels won’t fall off.

The first key to making this happen is the development of innovation and creativity. This can be a real challenge for most individuals and organizations. According to respected studies the creativity of a four year old is squelched in half by age nine. One can only imagine what happens from age nine to high school graduation, let alone college. Through the consistent implementation of sound procedures and exercises you can bring back that resourceful challenging mind of our youth and construct that first wheel of Tricycle Leadership. This innovation wheel becomes the foundation of the leadership team.

The second wheel, the wheel of risk taking is often a real challenge for most organizations and individuals. We love the status quo, we hate stretching out of our comfort zone, or in any way rocking the boat. It’s only when individuals find that calculated and systematic risk taking yields improved productivity and collaboration that we become comfortable stepping over to this challenging side. Risk taking has to become part of an organization’s culture, and it must be reinforced even when there are failures.

The last wheel, the wheel of accountability is where these behaviors of innovation and risk taking are ultimately accepted, rewarded and challenged. This organizational tradition must never impede growth even though there are some small failures. It’s the combined implementation of these three wheels that develop collaborative and innovative leadership teams that stick together, even in the bad times, yes, so their wheels don’t fall off.

One interesting side note is that studies show that these three concepts work across generations, be it baby boomers, generation X or generation Y, but because of attitudinal difference they do have to be applied in specific ways for each group.

Is it as simple as just doing just these three things? No, it took my thirty years in the trenches as a national sales manager, an entrepreneur, and teacher to discover that there are many nuances and techniques that must be followed for the ultimate success of this Tricycle Leadership. Feel free to look on my website at tricycleleadership.com for some of the answers, and feel free to contact me if you want your organization to have the finest collaborative and innovative leadership team; a team that not only knows and understand these techniques but implements them as well.