The Rules Have Changed

Published: July 6, 2011

The band has been together for 25 years through various changes in personnel. Add a bass player...find a new drummer...introduce a talented new lead guitarist...stumble upon a vocalist. Through all the transformations, the band adapted and kept generating good music. That is, until recently, when the rules changed.

The band was originally formed with no plans to ever play in public. It was simply an outlet for guys to get together, enjoy each other’s company, and create original music. There were no rules. Just show up with a collection of instruments and join in. Sometimes it was magical and other times it was awful. It was always fun. It was always a healthy vehicle to release the week’s pressures. Month after month, year after year, additions and subtractions of musicians gathered and created.

Then came the gig (imagine haunting, ominous music fading in). At first, there was excitement about the chance to play for an audience. Then, some hard realities began to settle in. We needed to learn songs. We needed to practice and do homework. We needed to reduce mistakes. We needed to make our music “audience-ready.” Through all these years, performing had been easy under no pressure. All of a sudden, stressful conditions and new expectations were getting in the way of performance.

The first mistake was that we stopped listening to each other. Everyone became focused on their own parts. Sure, the music came out of the instruments but communication between instruments had ceased. Our next mistake was failing to realize that we each had unique personalities and skill sets in addition to different musical abilities. Some of us were relieved to have the focus of homework while others felt robbed of the freedom to improvise. The result was chaos.

As always, crisis breeds opportunity. The band’s last practice was devoted more to conversation than to playing music. We acknowledged that the rules had changed. We agreed to abandon our comfort zones. Most importantly, we committed to resume listening to each other musically. As of this writing, the band has three remaining rehearsals before playing in front of our first real audience. The challenge is now clear.

Acknowledge, Adapt, Re-invest, Trust, Innovate, Celebrate

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.