Coach’s Challenge for 11/23/09

Good day team,

This week’s challenge is about teamwork.  My husband, David, and I went to see some musicians perform this past week. Watching them play reminded both of us of the beauty of great teamwork. I wrote a challenge about it and asked David to edit it.  His version was so much better than mine that I’m attributing this week’s challenge to him.
Bill Champlin is one of the best musicians you’ve probably never heard of.  As a band-leader, song-writer, keyboard player, vocalist and arranger, he fronted his own 9-piece band – the Sons of Champlin – from the early 70’s through the mid 80’s.  The Sons came out of Marin County, CA and brought a very funky and sophisticated sound to rock music.  They rose above the 3-chord psychedelic scene with with elements of jazz, really tight horn arrangements and soaring vocal harmonies. Their songs had a decidedly positive feel and the lyrics were rooted in spirituality.

Bill went on to join the band Chicago with whom he still tours.  But he wasn’t happy with the rather syrupy pop style that the band settled into.

Bill is a musician’s musician, often drawing people like Bonnie Raitt and Elton John into see and hear him play.  He’s in his sixties with silver gray hair and back now with a new band of mostly very young players, touring again and doing his own music. We caught the early show Thursday night at Jimmy Mak’s – a great local jazz venue.

Watching and listening to the new Bill Champlin Band is a lesson in leadership and teamwork.  They’ve picked up where the Sons left off as a funk band.  If you’ve ever tried to play funky music, you know that it takes incredible teamwork to do well.  It has to be tight. Everyone has to know his part and execute it with precision while listening to and playing off of the other band members’ parts.  The drummer and bass player lay the foundation and have to work as if they are one.  The keys and guitar have to follow the drummer’s lead and lay down a bed of syncopated chords and melodic riffs timed just right.  If any part is weak, the audience won’t feel the groove.

Champlin and his band laid down a 90-minute set of really tight grooves, great vocals and harmonies, and some mind-blowing solo work.  It was clear that Bill was the leader. But it was also clear that his leadership style left plenty of room for each band-member to show his or her strengths.  The band worked so well because each player knew his role – when to lay back and be part of the overall sound, when to solo and wow the crowd with individual talent, and when to add nothing but silence.  You could watch them communicate while they played with a nod or a smile, or a look toward Bill for a cue on timing.   Everyone on stage was committed to the same objective – working together to create a sound that made people want to move to the groove and feel really good.

Try to think of your management team as a band and imagine what instrument each would play.  Who are the leaders?  Who are the ones who love to improvise and solo?  Who are the drummers and bass players – the ones that keep the rhythm and lay down a solid foundation for the rest of the band/team? Would your team be good enough to play really funky music together.  Or would it sound more like a collection of one-man bands?  Who writes the music and who arranges it?  And are you all reading off the same set of charts?  And which band member are you?
Have a great week!
Kathleen

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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