JULIAN SAYS: I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever answered an agent’s Dilemma by advising them to follow the example of The Rolling Stones, who recently completed yet another successful tour. I remember walking away from their Hyde Park gig in 2013 saying to my companion that we may well have witnessed the last ever Stones gig. They are, of course, still going strong. Over half a century of success in a notoriously fickle industry is mighty impressive – what can we learn from them?
At the top of the list is that the Stones have a rock solid cohesion. This is described by Khoi Tu, author of one of my favourite books, Superteams, as “a dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency of a group to remain united in the pursuit of its goals and objectives” and “an invisible force that is the basis of high performance”.
HOW TO DO IT
Mick Jagger’s and Keith Richards’ passion for blues and rock’n’roll was the initial common driving force. Once formed, the band lived together, spent massive amounts of time travelling from gig to gig in the back of a van getting to know each other – warts and all. Initial hard work, practice, playing shows all helped them gel, as did the relatively swift success.
Their different areas of musical expertise blended into a powerful unified collective result. Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, vocals – each Stone was a master of his craft, each recognised and respected the ability of his teammates, whilst being recognised similarly in return.
Putting the team together in the first place is the most important stage of all. Forming (and reforming) a team with complementary elements in any industry is critical to team success. The current Stones line up comprises supremely talented individuals in their own role, who complement the talents of the others.
Conflict in any team is inevitable, being defeated by it is optional. To achieve success, your team must be committed to the goals.
The Rolling Stones are not a team without conflict. Big egos, the oft quoted “creative differences” have pushed lesser bands to split. Drug use led to problems, with a negative impact on writing, rehearsing or recording. Friction between Mick and Keith is often tempered by Ronnie’s tact and neutrality and Charlie Watts’ uncomplicated, no-nonsense nature.
The intensity of life on the road strains the best of relationships. The Stones ensure breathing space with separate pre-gig areas and rituals. They undertake solo musical projects and pursue other interests. This time apart aids band cohesion, not least because each member is left in no doubt that his greatest success commercially comes from being a member of Team Rolling Stones.
Working on new ideas helps to maintain a collective vision. The Stones don’t need to produce new material but they do, keeping team members interested. Fairness is also at the heart of a cohesive unit – Mick and Keith may earn more than the others (due to their songwriting output) – but recognition, reward, media coverage and so forth sits comfortably with all four.
Conflict in any team is inevitable, being defeated by it is optional. In the Stones’ case, all the members remain steadfastly committed to their goal of being ‘the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world’.
APPLY THE PRINCIPLES
Cohesion is key and a team leader is ultimately responsible for the level of that attribute within the group they are overseeing. You must create an environment where each member keeps their promises to one another, clients and customers. Reliability and consistency are team elements that are examples set by the leader. These build trust among team members. Do they spend quality time together outside work to ensure they get to know each other, increasing the likelihood of allowances being made when problems arise in the workplace?
You must coach, train and develop the skills of each individual then allow them to display those and be seen as successful contributors by their colleagues who then ultimately recognise the integral part their teammates play in achieving the group’s goals and objectives.
The final point that as a leader you must be unstintingly focused on those goals and objectives. What does success look like? What is the vision? Do all team members fully grasp those factors and their roles and responsibilities in helping to achieve them?
There is much more to building and maintaining a team than the aforementioned principles, but creating that cohesion is critical – without that, as the Stones themselves almost sang, you may find yourself getting no ‘Satisfaction’.