On the promotion of musicians and non managerial employees


Photo by Jayel Aheram

“School of Rock”

Yesterday I was watching (again if I might add) the film “School of Rock“. It is a light and fun comedy staring Jack Black who plays the slightly past it rocker, stuck in a groove of 70s heavy metal rock and roll and refusing to move on – until his band fire him. Not sure how to pay the rent, he answers a phone call intended for his schoolteacher flatmate and accepts a job as supply teacher at a top school (although he has no teacher experience or training). Soon he has the kids not only studying the history of rock and roll, soundproofing the room and playing rock instruments, but actually competing in a major ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition.

Now, this movie is a kind of a nightmare for me. As my singing was banned by the Geneva Convention as a form of torture and I have no ability to play an instrument whatsoever (or even keep to a beat for that matter), being in a class that only deals with music would be a disaster for me. However I really liked this movie because it is an amazing example of what I talk about in my E-book, “Playing It to Excellence and Happiness in Real Life – Five Concepts I Learned by Playing Basketball, Working and just Living” – a leader-manager that uses the comparative advantage of his team. Jack’s character spends time with every student in his class finding out their strengths and tapping into them. Not only does he assign kids to play the guitar or to sing he also encourages the band members to play the song one the kids wrote. Moreover, even kids who can’t sing become part of the band as he uses their talents and strengths to do costumes, lighting and even act as the band’s manager. This is a great manifestation Marcus Buckingham’s find the Strengths concept.

Not becoming a manager

While I was watching the movie I was also reading this article by Patrick Sweeney called “It’s Not All About Becoming a Manager” (I am sure you are all impressed by my multitasking). In it, Sweeney tells about an employee of his that was promoted to be a manager and just could not take it. He was a great employee and was great at his job and the only promotion option available for him was getting to be a manager. But being a manager was just not for him. So, after a few months he wanted to quit the company. This got Sweeney thinking as he describes in his article:

It is customary for top performers to be identified as “high potential,” then placed on the fast track to management. This is considered the ultimate compliment, sending a strong message to them that they are on the right track.  But what if that employee is not cut out for managing others? Is managing others the only way to get ahead? If someone can’t manage others, is that the end of the road?

These questions are really important and as I mentioned I discuss them in my E-book. I think Sweeney explains very articulately why it is important to develop other promotion pathways for excellent employees that are just not cut out for management roles.  Although Sweeney does emphasize the advantages an organization can gain by developing such roles, I think he misses one of the more important points. When we take someone who is not only excellent at his job but is also a bad manager we lose twice. Instead of doing a great job 100% of the time, this employee now does a great job only 50% of the time and does a bad job as a manager 50% of the time. And the worst thing about it is that instead of encouraging him with a promotion, we actually got him frustrated doing things he does not like.

So, what is the connection to “School of rock”?

I got to thinking about musicians and their career paths. Musicians do not have a set promotion path by their management, they need to do it on their on. When you look at musicians, not all of them continue performing as their sole occupation.  If they can’t become managers, what do they do? Some of them go into producing. Some of them teach, some of them take jobs as managers of music organizations. Others consult organizations regarding music or host talk shows. A lot of ways to use their experience without actually being the manager of a musician. Musicians find their own way to promote themselves to area they feel good with what they do. Some of them just continue to perform, because that is what they are best at and where they feel best at. We should learn from them and from Sweeney’s lesson and build our organization to support non managerial promotions to continue helping the excellent professional employees to excel and get promoted in no managerial roles. Both the organizations and the employees will benefit from such programs.


3 Responses to “On the promotion of musicians and non managerial employees”

  1. Nick Siewert Says:

    Interesting post. School of Rock is a great example of a “teacher” who really only knows one thing, the most important thing, which is that each kid is unique and wants that known. We really need to start engaging kids in strengths discovery early on in their education. Why should they go through the majority of their schooling without articulating, building on or reflecting on their strengths? Seems like their school experiences could be more valuable with that knowledge. The definitive book on this topic is Jenifer Fox’s Your Child’s Strengths (Viking 2008). She lays out both why and how we can get kids strengths oriented. Buckingham wrote the forward. Great book.

  2. sherfelad Says:

    Hey Nick,
    Thanks for your Reply.
    It is very interesting! I actually have not heard about the book and it makes me happy to hear that there are different way ot thinking about how we should educate our children. I think the most important thing to lead our children to be happy and self fulfilling while being adults that take responsibility for their action. I hope approaches like this will be able to advance this “dream”.
    Hope to see more of your replies

  3. Outliers « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] kids practical intelligence (or what some call EQ) – how to communicate, how to speak to authority, how to imagine, how to speak publicly, how our day to day economies work (Hebrew link) and much much more. In […]

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