RockStar Leader: Collaboration Starts With You

Rock and Roll Collaboration

I have found that people often have very limiting views when it comes to what collaboration is all about.  

Some think of it simply as an activity.

A Look at Collaboration

Others think collaboration is something that starts in a meeting or as a line-item on an agenda where the boss gets everyone together and says this:

“Okay team, I want you to collaborate around this project and have it on my desk by 2pm tomorrow.”  

Rarely have I seen teams or individuals inspired to greatness in that environment. I can’t imagine a record producer or band manager coming to me and saying this:

“I want you to get the band together at 2pm this afternoon, write a hit song that will touch people’s lives, change the world, sell millions of copies and have it on my desk by noon tomorrow.”

If this sounds crazy, that’s because it is!

A Collaborative State of Mind

Collaboration doesn’t start in a meeting or as a line item on an agenda.  It’s not  just an activity. It’s a state of mind and it starts with you and your mindset.

What do I mean by this?

When someone is in what I call the collaborative mindset, they are open to the possibility that every interaction they have has the potential to be a collaborative moment.

As a songwriter, my receptors are always firing. Everybody that I meet and encounter I view as someone who can share some kind of perspective, thought or idea that can spark something creative in me or add value to my thought process.

In fact,  some of the greatest gems I get for song ideas actually come right out of the mouths of other people!

I rarely miss those ideas because I’m always open to the possibility.

Playing Your Sour Notes

But in business we aren’t always wired that way…

We often play what I call sour notes.

These are barriers to collaboration. Unfortunately, most of us don’t even realize when we are playing these idea blocking notes.  There are plenty of them.  For example:

  • We are self-consumed: “I’m just too busy.”
  • We are impatient: “It’s faster to do it myself.”
  • We are territorial: “Hey, marketing has a great idea but I’m not giving up any of my operations budget.”  
  • We are siloed:  “That’s not my department or problem.”
  • We have a scarcity mindset: Why should I share my great idea with a big company or someone else who is gonna get all the credit and make a ton of money?  

Or, how about when we discount other’s ideas based on how we perceive their level of expertise.

For instance:

“I’m in marketing, what can a finance person tell me about a marketing plan?”

Something Sweet or Sour?

It’s so easy to do.  I recall times where the drummer in my band would want to discuss lyrics that I had written.  My default was to discount him immediately because he was the drummer and not a lyricist.

Looking back, I realize how incredibly limiting that was to the creative and collaborative process.  That behavior of mine is the antithesis of the collaborative mindset.

The good news is that achieving the collaborative mindset is relatively easy once you become aware of the sour notes. Beyond the sour notes, it simply comes down to making the choice to have an open heart and open mind.  You will be amazed by how sweet the sound can be when you don’t allow the sour notes to drown own the possibilities.


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Alan Schaefer is CEO of Banding People Together

He serves his clients with high-end music-based collaboration training
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