A Chic approach to success

Chic at Glastonbury 2013

Chic at Glastonbury 2013

Glastonbury, arguably the world’s largest festival, came to a close last weekend with veteran rockers The Rolling Stones drawing the curtains on an estimated 135,000 fans. I’ve not yet seen all of the coverage but did catch a couple of performances from the Friday night and one band stood out for me by a country mile.

Chic played on the West Holts Stage to a packed crowd, belting through a series of hits such as Everybody Dance, Good Times and Le Freak. But what surprised me most was the back-catalogue of hits and interludes that followed. These included (amongst others):

Let’s Dance – David Bowie
The Sugarhill Gang – Rappers Delight
Like a Virgin – Madonna
We Are Family – Sister Sledge
I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
Get Lucky – Daft Punk

Not only was I taken aback by the songs they performed but even more so that I came to learn that all of these hits were either personally written or co-written by Chic frontman; Nile Rodgers.

After I’d finished dancing and prancing around my living room I took a seat (and a breath) on the sofa next to my daughter and reflected on what I’d just witnessed. Yes the music, dancing and costumes were brilliant. The sound and lighting looked great too, and a special mention goes to the larger than life Welshman in the crowd, pint of beer in hand, who happily sang along to Chic’s version of Madonna’s Like a Virgin. But I’d now started to think about what I could learn from Nile Rodgers’ genius.

Although I’ve dabbled in DJ’ing and attended plenty of concerts and nightclubs in my time I am by no means a musical expert but, having watched that performance and learnt a little more about Chic, I realised I could apply something from them to my career. Chic have demonstrated brilliantly that you don’t need to be constantly blinded by the media limelight to be at the top of your game; leadership and influence come in a range of guises.

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, some 30+ years ago

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, some 30+ years ago

For Nile Rodgers and Chic it was about being part of a collective; a production team that has this inspired ability to work with a whole host of individuals to deliver a series of successful hits, the world over.

These guys have built a résumé for themselves that is not only glittered with some astonishing personal achievements but one that is adorned by some of music’s greats; some of the best in business who simply have to work with them – not just them with they.

You see, to be successful in business it’s not always about being the Rolling Stones of Glastonbury who (deservedly so) took all of the pre-festival headlines, it’s as very much about; the consistent performer; the team-player; the flexible approach; the diverse talent; the innovative architect; the relentless trainee.

So for this valuable lesson; Nile Rodgers and Chic, I thank you.

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Does the classroom make you smarter?

Blackboard b2s

A couple of week’s ago I became a student once again for the first time since my days of University almost 12 years ago. This was also the first time I’d had to sit any exams since I was 17 years old as, having chosen to study Design, my degree was more of a practical style examination.

The week long course came as a result of my place in our Talent Academy and one of the commitments from Bromford was to enrich my personal development plan. Having spent the last 18 months working on the Home Rewards Club I wanted to further my knowledge of Project Management so it was suggested that I should immerse myself into the world of PRINCE2.

To say the week was intense is probably my biggest ever understatement. The 6am get ups I was fine with. Public Transport by way of bus and train each morning and every evening wasn’t too bad; the fact I could check in with my emails (don’t get me started on those) using Virgin’s free on-board Wi-Fi was great. The homework wasn’t pleasant but it allowed me to reflect on the day and put some of the learning into some of the mock exams we’d been set, so yes, I was OK with that too. But, (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?!) the 8 hour long classroom environment just didn’t do it for me.

As I mentioned earlier; my last experience of education outside of the workplace was in my University days where energy was in abundance, creativity was the norm, teamwork was essential and thinking outside the box was encouraged – in fact just like my workplace! So to be sat behind a desk for hours on end, nose in book and where the infamous ‘death by power-point’ was portrayed – you can probably sense that this wasn’t overly stimulating.

Don’t get me wrong I totally get PRINCE2; I get its Principles and its Themes and I understand why it’s considered as the leading method in project management – the world over. It brings together considerations for all types of project, no matter what the size, and if used correctly and widespread will instil a common language of project terminology throughout your organisation. But, (there it is again!) I’m not sure that the week long course was necessarily the best use of time on this occasion. Perhaps just a couple of days getting to grips with the ‘Foundation’ element would have been sufficient.

PRINCE2 themes

We are very fortunate to have an extremely experienced Project Manager here at Bromford; Barry Hodge. Spending time working alongside Barry and under his close supervision I would deem as being a far more worthy approach to learning about the curriculum. Barry will know his audience far greater than any external speaker would; he can put his own unique style of delivery into any training and engage with the room with some real-life examples of how PRINCE2 projects can be applied here at Bromford – I see this as bringing the whole experience alive.

Where I’m going with all of this can be summarised in this fab quote:

“Going to college doesn’t make you smart it will teach you to memorise things from books. Real knowledge comes from experience”

So, if you’re thinking of expanding your knowledge – I encourage you to do it, but I would ask that you first think about what experience you have within your organisation before committing yourself to an external source – and realise your inner talent.

Think inside the box!

Just recently leadership took on a whole new meaning for me when I realised a certain someone started to watch my every move, they were repeating things I’d say but not always doing as I’d ask of them. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a disruptive colleague – in fact, this person doesn’t even reside in my workplace.

At 08:32 on Monday, 5th July 2010 I became a father to the most beautiful creation on the planet; Jessica Rose. Since taking on this new heir of responsibility I’ve watched with admiration how she has grown and developed over the last couple of years – from drinking that first bottle to taking her first steps; nothing comes close to the sense of pride I get from these milestones – all of which came from the nurturing between my wife Julia and me.

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But, as with all relationships they are a two way thing and I’m learning lots from Jessica as she is from me. There is something we can all learn from the way children think; they know no boundaries. We all share the same stories at Birthdays and at Christmas time when the giving of presents results in a young child being more likely to play with a box than with its contents, but why is this?!?!

Children are not bound to a set of rules that would come with a toy; it goes forward, it goes backwards; this goes here, that goes there; it turns on, it shuts off. A child’s natural inquisitive nature tells them to look at the bigger picture, to take a step back and look at their surroundings. What is it that’s actually before them? That brown cardboard frame that housed the expensive toy you just brought for them is more than just a box; it’s a den, it’s a train; it’s a house; a castle! The toy they have just unwrapped hasn’t gone to waste, they’ve just found a much better way to enjoy it – that we hadn’t thought of!

I recently heard a story how Disney’s Chief Imagineer kept trying to convince a room full of board members how it feels to be close to animals on safari – he was trying to sell an idea to them that would eventually unfold into what we know as Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After a number of failed meetings, unsuccessful presentations and countless heated discussions, he had one final go to convince the jury; he took a tiger into the meeting room!

How could we use this realness principle for our new ideas or service improvements?We all need to get more creative. We need to be radical in our approach. We need to throw out the rulebook. Take down the boundaries. We need to get inside the box!