The Musician And The Manager

frankenfunkMy son, Michael, started playing trombone in 4th grade, played in high school band, and in the first two years of college. In his sophomore year of high school, Mike took up the electric bass. While his trombone playing was good, it was his bass playing that amazed me. He developed a passion for that sound and for that instrument that unleashed creative excellence.

Along with three other high school band buddies, Michael formed a band called FrankenFunk. These kids had been playing drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, and saxophone for less than 10 years. They studied music theory, they studied the practical aspects of playing their instruments, they learned how to perform together, and they learned how to please an audience. Over time, through daily purposeful practice, they developed skills and capabilities that led them to compose their own songs – really good songs. I’m not saying that because I’m his dad. Listen for yourself:

Lincoln (2:40). Matt Bronson (drums), Tom Cavanaugh (guitar), Mike Emiliani (bass), and Sam Hollings (keyboards and saxophone).

Hazel Blue (5:53). Matt Bronson (drums), Tom Cavanaugh (guitar), Mike Emiliani (bass), and Sam Hollings (keyboards and saxophone).

Their goal was to make good music. And the quality of the music that these young people made was amazing. (If you’re interested in bass guitar, check out Mike’s blog Smart Bass Guitar and connect with him on LinkedIn).

Let’s contrast the work of musicians with the work of managers. Most people become supervisors in their late 20s, and many go on from there to higher levels of management. Typically, they are thrust into the supervisor job with little or no formal management training, so they make lots of rookie mistakes. Their role models are mangers who learned management in much the same way. They make lots and lots of mistakes too.

In most cases, neither new supervisors or seasoned managers do what the young musicians did for many years prior to making good music. They did not study management theory, they did not study the practical aspects of management, they did not learn how to work together, and they did not learn how to please their team members. The lack of purposeful daily practice of management fundamentals shows in the overall poor quality of management that we have long seen, wherein people say 8 out of 10 managers they have had were lousy.

Unlike the young FrankenFunk musicians, their goal is not to make good management. Young musicians improve over time, through daily study and practice, yet most managers do not improve over time. For most, daily management practice and a lack of study results in a deterioration of management skills and capabilities. How is it that skilled amateur musicians make better music than “professional” managers make management?

Managers should treat team members as well as musicians treat listeners.

The managers that are most like musicians are people in the mold Art Byrne. They are  musicians of management. People respect them, admire them, and love their work like no other manager they have ever had.

That is a challenge to aspire to.

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