Six empowerment lessons from the rock industry by looking at the history of the Foo Fighters.
The Foo Fighters are a rock band that got popular in the nineties, made it through the two-thousands and still are popular in the two thousand and tens. During the years the setting of the band changed and a lot has to do with how the lead singer, Dave Grohl, changed his leadership style.
Dave Grohl came free from the popular band Nirvana after dissolution after the tragic suicide of lead singer, Kurt Cobain. In Nirvana, Dave was as drummer responsible for the heart beat of the band. But Dave had more talents than only drumming: he also could play the guitar and bass. He even could sing very well! After some solo (re)work, he started the Foo Fighters band with him as lead singer.
In the first set-up with the band, the drummer was William Goldsmith. When recording the album “The Colour and the Shape” in 1997, William was responsible for all drum parties. Dave Grohl had set a high ambition level and wanted only the best for the new CD. Because of his drumming experience in Nirvana, he knew very well how to play the drums and was not satisfied with the current recordings of William. When William was away for a while, Dave picked up his old drum sticks and redid all the drum parties of the CD in the way that he wanted them to sound. When William came back and was notified of this, he was very disappointed. Not very long after this event William decided to quit the band.
Dave made a typical leadership error when delegating which is taking back/over the work that was delegated and doing it himself. Because it was better, faster, tighter, etc. Instead of discussing the (mediocre) quality of the recordings and having supported William, Dave chose the shortest path and took the delegated work back.
Drummer William was replaced with Taylor Hawkins, which still is the drummer of the Foo Fighters, and we can see that Dave learned a valuable lesson. He now lets the drummer, Taylor, free to use his creativity and imagination when recording the drum parties. They have established a real cooperative relationship which even can be seen during the live performances of the band: the drummer (and also the heart of the band) is in sync with the lead singer. During their performance at Pukkelpop 2012 I was really impressed by how attuned they were to each other.
Six tips for bringing empowerment to your work floor
- Discuss what empowerment means to you and your team.
- Learn to really delegate.
- Explain the “why” and the “what”.
- Set criteria for the output and steer on these criteria.
- Do not get involved in the way works needs to be done. Leave the “how” for the delegee.
- Create a feedback loop.
- Give feedback on results.
- Discuss the problems, not the person.
- Discuss about facts, not assumptions or personal interpretations.
- Start with small assignments, give bigger ones when successful.
- Delegating assignments means also delegating the benefits that belong with it.
- Give recognition to your employees.