I learned everything I ever needed to know about business and teamwork from being a rock drummer

Stacy Shaw

Stacy Shaw
IT Strategist for Small and Medium Business

One of my earliest childhood memories is the first time I picked up a pair of drumsticks.  I can remember even before that day that I already knew I had to play the drums.  Looking back, it still amazes me that 5-year-old me was as sure about my need to be a drummer as I would ever be about any decision in my life.

I never did put those drumsticks back down.  In fact, being a drummer has taken me places that my 5-year-old self never imagined.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to play with so many people from diverse backgrounds, yet even though we may not have had a lot of common life-experiences, we all shared a love for music. 

Lesson #1 – Great teams can be built around a single-shared goal, and diversity strengthens any team.

Throughout my childhood education, I participated in every musical opportunity presented to me.  During those years, one of those opportunities was to be a member of the school’s performance band.  Here, I learned from my very patient instructors not only the skills required to become a percussionist, but even more importantly, I learned that in order for a team to come together and produce a good result, precision mattered; quality mattered.  Everyone had to commit to playing their part the best they could, every single time.  I learned that my teammates were counting on me to do my part so that when added to theirs, the result was music instead of just noise.

Lesson #2 – To succeed, I need to bring my A-game every day.

Another great experience in terms of my education in music was participating in my high school’s jazz band.  Jazz band introduced the concept of improvisation.  This added a new layer to performing a piece of music.  It taught me how to find opportunities to enhance a given performance, while still keeping within the overall structure of the song.  Maybe that meant adding a sweet fill to set up a guitar solo, or perhaps that meant backing off to get out of the way of a vocal part.

Lesson #3 – Always be looking for opportunities to assist or enhance what your teammates are producing.

One of my favorite musical experiences while growing up was performing in high school musicals.  Here, the musicians sit in a pit directly in front of and below the stage.  The challenge here is the music has to be precisely coordinated with the performance the actors on stage are giving.  That wouldn’t normally be difficult, except in this case you cannot see, or sometimes even hear what the actors are doing.  Your only window to what is occurring on stage comes from the conductor of the orchestra.  So while in other venues I could always see and hear what was going on throughout the performance, here I had to learn to rely on, and ultimately trust my teammates, and most of all, my leader.

Lesson #4 – A team will function best when there is a solid trust relationship between its members.

Once I completed high school, I began to get opportunities to be a member of a few local rock bands.  I initially did not know what to expect in terms of even getting a chance to join a working band.  Often the members would be two to three times my age.  Why would they trust me, a kid with no professional experience, to be in their band? 

Thankfully, my years of music education gave me much of what I needed to know to succeed in this new environment.  You see, a common trait amongst drummers, especially those starting out, is that they can often approach playing their part in every song as if it were a 4-minute drum solo.  That has a bit of a look-at-me vibe that would not work in most scenarios.  No, that wasn’t going to work.  As I thought about what I had learned over the years, and also about what appealed the most to me in songs that I liked, I realized I had one main function as the drummer in a rock band – groove.

Groove is the foundation of nearly every piece of music a musician will encounter in a rock band.  Groove is what ties everything else together; it’s the musical component that gives a song it’s feel.  I quickly learned that as I looked out over an audience as we were performing, if folks could not help but move their bodies in reaction to the music, I was giving the song the groove it needed. I would often think to myself, If butts ain’t movin, we ain’t groovin.  Corny, I know, but still true.

It wasn’t too long before I earned the respect of my bandmates, and withing the local musician’s community.  I began to be offered more and more opportunities, which allowed me to experience performing in larger venues, performing and being interviewed on the radio, studio recording, live television, and even producing for other bands.

All of that came out of having learned the fifth and most important business lesson of all –

Lesson 5 – Always ask myself what I can do to enhance what each team member is doing, and how can I help the team achieve their goals? 

Being a drummer taught me the value of making everyone around me sound better, of making sure we were connecting with our audience.  It taught me in order to achieve the best outcome, I need to check my ego at the door and take a collaborative approach.  It taught me that I need to bring a deep curiosity to learn and understand what my bandmates were doing.  Ultimately, it taught me that succeeding as a band, or a team, was always a more rewarding experience than succeeding alone.

Over the course of my career in IT Services, I’ve looked for ways to apply the lessons that being a drummer taught me.  This is why my company is not in the business of trying to maximize profit out of every engagement.  Instead, we seek to maximize the potential within each client.  What my company has and will always value is working with each client in a collaborative approach to help them achieve and exceed their goals.

If you believe that your company could achieve something greater, I’d love to hear about where you are and where you’d like to go.  Together, we can walk through the opportunities that modern IT provides you and your team.  We’ll show you how the right solutions, applied the right way, can not only lower costs but can also enhance revenue. 

Let’s rock this!