Why do some business relationships fall apart, while others chug along successfully for years? Master musicians Joe Filisko (harmonica) and Eric Noden (guitar) have a business model worth emulating.

They have taught and performed as the RootsDuo for over two decades. Joe is the leader of Hohner Music’s Affiliated Customizer Program, and the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica named him “Harmonica Player of the Year” in 2001. Eric has performed at music festivals in over 15 countries and 3 continents, often with Joe.

Here are five leadership lessons that emerged from my recent conversation with Joe and Eric, along with questions for reflection after each guideline.

1. Turn an obstacle into an opportunity

The most effective leaders transform seemingly instractable challenges obstacles into rich opportunities. Before the pandemic, said Joe, “I was very adamant that I would never teach online. It was something that was not in my playbook at all. I was very opposed to it, until that became the only game in town.”

At first, Joe resisted going online to teach. “I was probably a figure in a very dark place for a good two weeks,” he admitted. “But I live by the saying, ‘When all you got is lemons, and make lemonade.’” So he gave it a try.

It was awkward at first, but that didn’t last long. Once he “got used to the idea of staring at a camera” and finding ways to overcome technical problems with the sound, what seemed to be a necessary evil turned out to be a boon to both teacher and student.

One advantage was that the online experience made Joe’s teaching accessible to an international audience. Before the pandemic, students had to be in the same physical space as Joe. Eric too. Now the world is their classroom.

For reflection

What seemingly intractable problem are you facing now? What would it take to transform that obstacle into an opportunity for the people you serve and your business too?

2. Adapt to excel

Leaders who are lifelong learners are the ones who stay ahead in an ever-evolving landscape. When the pandemic forced their business into the virtual world, Eric learned as much as he could about how to use cameras and lights effectively. It wasn’t something he’d wanted to do, but for his business to remain viable, he had to do it.

You may balk at adapting to new circumstances, but at least some of your competitors aren’t!

For Joe and Eric to adapt to virtual world, they had to be willing to make mistakes. Hearing this reminded me of what another Chicago legend, Michael Jordan, says in his IMAX film, Michael Jordan to the MAX: “I’ve failed over and over and over. And that’s why I succeed.”

For reflection

What new skills or knowledge can you acquire to keep yourself at the forefront of your field? What could happen if you don’t do this?

3. Act with purpose

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there,” sang George Harrison on his last album, Brainwashed. Acting with purpose, the flip side of this aphorism, is a key to successful communication in business partnerships.

To teach and perform online successfully, Joe and Eric had to learn a crucial skill that doesn’t come naturally to anyone: looking directly into the camera lens and speaking to it as if speaking to a person.

Watch one of their teaching or performance videos, and you’ll see why this is so effective. You feel as if Joe and Eric are speaking directly to you. They are looking directly into your eyes.

That is purposeful communication.

For reflection

What can you do to ensure that your communications to your team and your clients are clear and rich with impact?

4. Pay attention to the voice you hear that says, ‘This doesn’t feel right”

No business partnership, or any relationship, will last long if the people in it disregard how others in the group feel. Whether the matter at hand is a workshop or a musical performance, “If Eric’s unsettled about something” Joe confesses, “I can just feel in his disposition that it’s not working for him.”

Joe then acts accordingly. It’s not enough to be aware of others’ feelings. The trick is to choose what to do based on that awareness.

The upside to being mindful of everyone on the team, and not just yourself, is enjoying a union that will go the distance. “It sounds kind of cliche,” Eric says, “but I do feel like the combined powers get exponentially manifested when we work together.” A business relationship that is greater than the sum of its parts cannot be sustained if even a single person in that relationship thinks only of themselves.

For reflection

Think about a time one of your business relationships when you ignored the inner voice that says, “Be careful!” How did that work out? Conversely, what happened on an occasion where you did pay attention to that voice? What positive things might happen if you paid even more attention to the voice?

5. Aspire to inspire

Leaders who are merely effective get the job done, and that’s about it. Good leaders lead others toward what is good. “If I can inspire [my students],” Joe intones, “if I can bring music into their life and happiness into their life, then I’m making the world a better place.”

For reflection

If you had to choose one way that your team members think about your leadership, and they told you directly what that is, what could be better than, “You inspire me”?

link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *