A Rock’n’Roll Christmas – Part 1

Rockin' all over the world

This year I have been blessed to meet some fantastic people around the blogging universe.  They have kindly offered to send me a Christmas message, so here for your delight are some Rock’n’Roll life and business coaching tips taken from a magical mystery tour round the world:

We start out journey close to my home in London: Meet Doug Shaw, author of Stop Doing Dumb Things to Customers, who indulges me with a bit of punk rock.  “Joe Strummer taught me to be ‘anti-ignorance’ and for sharing ‘Without People You’re Nothing’

Doug also offered us the example of Neil Ellwood Peart from the supergroup Rush – for his ability to recover from personal tragedy and his endless thirst for improvement.  A class act.  Lest we forget:

We must rush on … to platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross to join The Flying Scotsman.  We are met in Edinburgh by Colin Millar, aka The Ranting Scotsman.  Colin cranks it up with a leadership lesson from classic rock:  Queen’s ‘One Vision, One Mission’.

Colin rants “The title and lyrics say it all and I think it’s a great message for business people – ‘One Vision’ is first and foremost about the ‘vision’ and extrapolating what that vision is and the unity vision creates, bringing people and cause together.  I also like the concept of ‘consensus in eden’ that runs through the song”.

From a big country we then take a passage to India, to hear from Sonia Jaspal, who focuses on the power of music to create and maintain emotions.  She says “I think without music, the world would lose the most beautiful power of expressive emotions. It touches the depth of our soul. I am still a person that when I listen to some of the softer numbers I have tears in my eyes. Yeah, I need a box of tissues while watching some movies.   Also, without music, one would lose most of the inspirations in life. When one listens to beautiful music it somewhere resonates deep within. It has the capacity to change emotions and thinking.

Sonia’s favorite song is from an Hindi movie titled Safar (Journey). The song is ‘Zindagi Ka Safar’ (Life’s journey) sung in Kishore Kumar.  It is portrayed via an actor suffering cancer.   He is singing the song:

Moving on to Canada, home of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion and Francois Guay, who leads the Attack Defend Disrupt blog.  His choice of music that offers us a lesson in life or business is ‘More than a Feeling’ by Boston:

Francois takes up the story “This song contains my favourite guitar riff ever.“ Editor’s note – I can sign up to that!  “Although most people see it as a man disappointed in a having lost someone he loved, the song to me is all about reaching your goal, i.e. When you achieve one of your key goals that is “more than a feeling” it’s sublime and must be reproduced again and again.”  Seems like a lot of people agree that music inspires us to focus on and reach our goals.

Back to Blightly to meet Alison Chisnell, HR Director of Informa and author of The HR Juggler.  Alison’s song with a message is Billy Joel’s ‘All About Soul’.  She takes up the story:  “The context is that as an idealistic 18 year old, I had just begun a six month stint working in a children’s home in Zimbabwe as part of my gap year and in the early days I felt isolated, homesick and terrified that I had made the wrong decision. This song resonated as a reminder to commit fully to the adventure I was experiencing, to bring my values and passion to the task at hand, to ‘man-up’ and become more resilient and to accept that standing up and being counted was and is a good thing. Bland is rarely, if ever, good….so don’t be afraid to be you and get stuck in! Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean that it won’t be hugely rewarding.”

Staying on the theme of soul, we finish with Sharon Howard, who offers us lessons in life and business from Bill Withers about the importance of delegation, support and asking for help. We all need the help of others in order to succeed and they need us too, we all need somebody to lean on 🙂 A truly inspirational piece:

Coming up, we have more stories from bloggers and cool people all round the world.

Hope you have a Rock’n’Roll Christmas! – if you have not yet treated yourself to a free copy of my new micro book ‘Punk Rock People Management’, get an electronic copy by mailing me at peter@humdyn.co.uk.  I look forward to hearing your comments on this blog, suggesting other songs that have meaning for you.

Have a great Punk Rock Christmas - Click on the picture for the free book - Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography http://lindsaywakelinphotography.com/

Knowing me, Knowing you aha – In praise of Slough

Whilst my life as a keynote speaker, mixing music with business concepts, is considered to be more exciting than the usual speaker fare by some of my colleagues, I often forget to mention that I spend about 50% of my time doing quite ordinary business consultancy without rock music.  Such was the occasion a few weeks ago, when Slough Community Leisure called upon my services to help them rethink their 5-year strategy in the wake of changes in their market, customer and stakeholder base.

If you run a leisure centre, never mind all the HR boll …cks about “People are our greatest asset”.  It really IS all about your people – there’s nothing else to separate you from the rest.  Customer service separates the sheep from the goats in terms of whether you get customers, keep them, or get them to become fans of your product / service and become active referrers.  This requires an emotionally literate workforce.  We only have to look at the comic emotional bankruptcy of Alan Partridge to see the polar opposite of the way Slough Community Leisure operates:

So, what do I like about Slough Community Leisure.   Well, the clue is in the title of this post, otherwise known as Emotional Intelligence.  Thick books have been written about EI by Daniel Goleman and many others, but it comes down to the issue of internal and external mastery, or as Abba put it ‘Knowing me, Knowing you’:

Emotional Intelligence unplugged

In Slough Community Leisure’s case, they think carefully about the customer experience – this includes offering services specifically targeted to particular groups e.g. late night go karting.  It is also modelled down to the last detail in everything they do both face to face and online.  It’s the same critical competence that first direct use to rise above other players in the banking industry.

To finish, let’s see another take on Abba’s genius – The Abba section starts at around 5 minutes 37 although the rest of the video is yet another masterclass in emotional (un) intelligence:

Please share your thoughts on innovation customer excellence here.  A recent interview on the topic with Tom Peters can be found at Innovation Excellence.

Happy talk – Motivation unplugged

"Cos' I'm worth it" - A marketing executive from L'Oreal rocks out at the Marketing Directors Forum in Athens

I was reading the blog of Video Arts the other day on the issue of happiness at work.  It reminded me of the words of honorary punk rockers Rogers, Hammerstein and Captain Sensible, “Happy talk”.  Yes, it’s nice to be happy at work, but that’s only half the story.  We looked at the blues and motivation previously.  The Smiths’ classic “Heaven knows I’m miserable now” is the mantra for people stuck in jobs that don’t fit their skills, attitudes, inner or outer desires.  Let’s check out the dark side of the motivational equation:

What then are the reasons to be cheerful at work?  Certainly NOT because the 360 degree appraisal system has been put online in full colour,  because the team has won a set of fake plastic palm trees inscribed with the company mission statement, or when the HR department places a ‘People are our greatest asset’ plaque in every toilet cubicle.

It may be slightly quaint or even old fashioned to say this, but whatever happened to good old job design, as described by Hackman and Oldham?  They pointed out that people work well when they have well designed jobs.  These include some good old fashioned but not out of date factors:

  • Skill variety – using an appropriate variety of skills.
  • Task identity – being able to see the whole task.
  • Task significance – the extent to which people identify with the task and its importance to something wider.
  • Autonomy – giving some discretion over the way in which work is done.
  • Feedback – gaining an idea of how well people convert effort into performance.

In practical terms, many of the tried and tested methods of improving job design at work still have value.  For example:   vary work where possible to encourage skill variety;  assign work as a whole unit to enhance task significance;  delegate tasks to their lowest possible level to create autonomy and responsibility;   connect people to the impact of their work through feedback.  Some of the world’s best workplaces such as Prêt à Manger use these principles intuitively as they are common sense, although they are not commonly applied.  Others have made significant improvements by just following them as a conscious protocol, such as I have observed in work at The Royal College of Physicians.

My latest book Punk Rock People Management offers us three chords on motivation:

  • Design work according to Hackman and Oldham’s principles.
  • Eliminate pointless tasks from the daily grind that add no customer / stakeholder value.
  • Remember that reasons to be cheerful include: being listened to; doing things that count; understanding why they matter; being part of something; not having to do pointless tasks;  getting meaningful feedback on what you do and so on.

‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available for purchase of as a FREE download via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.  If you like this extract from the book, you will also LOVE my other book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters, the daddy of them all.  Contact us to book your next conference keynote based on our heady mixture of business leadership and music.  Just back from Greece, and shortly appearing in Romania, South Africa and Slough – hardly a Rock’n’Roll schedule I admit! 🙂  Read a review by clicking on the picture:

Good companions

I leave not with Happy Talk by Captain Sensible, but with his rather more thoughtful anti-war / eco warrior song “Glad it’s all over” – The Captain ‘extinguished me’ with a fire hydrant at the Marquee during a Doctors of Madness gig, for which I am eternally grateful.

Pretty Vacant – 10 Punk Rock Business Management Tips

I kissed an HR girl and I liked it ...

We live in lean times.  Lean times call for lean thinking.  Punk Rock is all about brevity, simplicity and authenticity.   So, here for your viewing pleasure are 10 Punk Rock People Management tips (well, there may be more or less than 10!), from some self proclaimed HR Punk Rock gals and HR Rock Chicks, presented in a slideshare show:

PUNK ROCK BUSINESS WISDOM  – If you don’t use slideshare you can also find the slideshow at  I kissed an HR girl and I liked it

If you have not yet got your copy of Punk Rock People Management, now is a good time to do this.  The book recently overtook Dave Ulrich, Gary Hamel and the usual HR Gurus, having hit No 1 on Amazon Kindle in management and HR books.   There are a number of options:  Beautiful full colour print version,    Kindle version – UK,      Kindle Version – Worldwide.  The print version of the book makes an excellent and unique Christmas present.  Check this review out by the Open University Businsss School.  The contents page can be found here:

Lean People Management for Lean times

We’re off to deliver an HR keynote at the 7th international HR conference in Athens next week following on from Dave Ulrich and Lynda Gratton of London Business School.  To warm up for this, let’s finish with some classic punk – Pretty Vacant, a song which clearly predicted the current HR obsession with employee disengagement in its title! 🙂

Pictures courtesy of Lindsay Wakelin PhotographySue Cook and book design by PDS Hamiltons

Life on Mars – Reinvention Lessons from David Bowie

Compared with all the ‘one hit wonders’ in music, David Bowie has reinvented himself several times AND taken his audience with him.  The parallel lesson in business is that of changing what you do, keeping your customers AND gaining new ones.  What can we learn about business from David Bowie?  Read on.  This extract comes from the book “The Music of Business“. Before we start, let’s look at a Bowie classic – Life on Mars:

Bowie Business Lesson # 1.  Find your focus

David Bowie began performing music when he was 13 years old, learning the saxophone while he was at High School and began playing in a number of mod bands.  All these bands released singles, which were generally ignored, yet he continued performing. The following year, he released the music-hall styled ‘Laughing Gnome.’ Upon completing the record, he spent several weeks in a Buddhist monastery. Bloody good idea in my opinion, although I should be so lucky to have written this song in spite of its cheesiness!! Once he left the monastery, he formed a mime company – a non-obvious career move. This was short-lived, and he formed an experimental art group in 1969.

Bowie Business Lesson # 2.  Get the right people

As necessity is the mother of invention, Bowie needed to finance the art group, so he signed a record deal. His first album featured ‘Space Oddity,’ which became a major hit single in Britain. He began miming at T.REX concerts, eventually touring with Marc Bolan’s, bassist / producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Mick Ronson. The band quickly fell apart, yet Bowie and Ronson continued to work together. The next album, ‘The Man who Sold the World’ did not gain much attention. Following the release of ‘Hunky Dory,’ featuring Ronson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Bowie developed his most famous incarnation, ‘Ziggy Stardust’. Bowie quickly followed Ziggy with ‘Aladdin Sane’. Not only did he record a new album that year, but he also produced Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer,’ the Stooge’s ‘Raw Power’ and Mott the Hoople’s ‘All the Young Dudes,’ for which he also wrote the title track.  Lest we forget this great song:

Bowie Business Lesson # 3.  Re-engineer the Business

Bowie unexpectedly announced his retirement from live performances during his final show in 1973. He retreated from the spotlight to work on a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, transforming the work into ‘Diamond Dogs.’ The album was released to generally poor reviews, yet it generated the hit single ‘Rebel Rebel.’ Bowie supported the album with an American tour. As the tour progressed, Bowie became fascinated with soul music. He subsequently refashioned his group into a Philly soul band and revamped his image in sophisticated, stylish fashions. The change took fans by surprise. ‘Young Americans,’ released in 1975, was the culmination of Bowie’s soul obsession, and it became his first major crossover hit, peaking in the American Top Ten and generating his first U.S. number one hit in ‘Fame,’ a song he co-wrote with John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar.

Bowie Business Lesson # 4.  Challenge industry sacred cows

Once in Berlin, Bowie began painting, as well as studying art. He also developed a fascination with German electronic music, which Brian Eno helped him fulfil on their first album together, ‘Low.’ Released early in 1977, Low was a startling mixture of electronics, pop and avant-garde technique. It received mixed reviews, but was one of the most influential albums of the late ’70s, as was its follow-up, ‘Heroes’:

We’ll continue this blog at ‘Beyond Heroes‘ through several other ch, ch, ch, changes in Bowie’s career.

More on David Bowie at The Music of Business.”  I wrote a song for Robert Peston called Pestonomics. Peston is a massive Bowie fan and I include a few quotes from Bowie in the song, with donations from downloades to Cancer Research, after Robert’s wife died of the disease.

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  His latest book for Bloomsbury is entitled “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“. Contact him via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Books x 4

The 3 B’s of Reward – The Boardroom, the Bar and, er, the Brothel

I was astonished to read a report by BBC News Europe that revealed the story of how a subsidiary of re-insurer Munich Re organised an event in a brothel to reward its high performing executives. About 100 guests attended alongside 20 escorts who would fulfill any requests. A business newspaper reported that the escorts wore colour-coded arm-bands to signify their availability, and, in true German efficiency, the women had their arms stamped after each service rendered. For the full story see BBC NEWS.

This salacious story raises the vital question of how to design an effective HR Reward and Recognition strategy. So lets take a quick tour of some of the major motivational theories, with lessons for Munich Re. These are taken from my new book “Punk Rock HR – A no bullshit guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff”

Abraham Maslow pointed out that we have a hierarchy of needs ranging from basic instincts to realising one’s true potential. Reward and recognition strategies should therefore take account of ‘where people are ‘at’, rather than attempting to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach. On this model alone Munich Re could have profited from my guidance. High performers have probably satisfied most of their lower order material needs and would be more likely to be looking for what Maslow called ‘self actualisation’, or ‘finding oneself’. The provision of instant gratification at Munich Re’s subsidiary may have served only to emphasise the gap between material rewards and these higher level spiritual gains.

“Money don’t satisfy but it sure ’nuff pay for the search” – wise words from Prince, based on the wiser research of Frederick Herzberg from his theory of ‘satisfiers’ and ‘dissatisfiers’. Basically, the things that produce long term satisfaction differ from those that demotivate people. Money is a dissatisfier in Herzberg terms – double people’s salary and they don’t necessarily work twice as hard for twice as long over the long term. Indeed, better pay may just produce a desire for more money. It’s highly probable that sex operates in the same way (although I’m sure any good academic would tell us that much more research is needed in this area). So, poor old Munich Re will simply have built a problem up for themselves long term….

I could bang on about Victor Vroom and expectancy theory, but I sense that my words may be too late for the HR Department at Munich Re. I guess the real question that most HR people ask about reward and recognition strategy is “Has it improved performance?” Even here, I suspect we may fall into the trap of ‘premature evaluation’, as most serious HR professionals know that it is not the instant response of a reward strategy that counts, but longer term actions and the impact of those actions on the business. Since Munich Re have suspended one of their 3 B’s of reward, it’s unlikely they will ever get to know if sexual healing helps reinsurance executives hit the high performance ceiling!