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5 Lessons Rick Rubin Can Teach Us About Leadership

5 Lessons Rick Rubin Can Teach Us About Leadership

Rick Rubin is one of music’s most influential people. He’s produced some of the worlds greatest albums, saved the careers of flailing musicians and created two of the worlds most iconic brands.

Producing over 180 albums with an incredibly eclectic discography: from Neil Diamond to Slayer, Kanye West to Johnny Cash and System of Down to Run DMC. Chances are, you’re a Rick Rubin fan without even realising it.

But, being able to work with all these larger than life musicians at their most vulnerable state has given him a great insight in to being a leader. How to bring the best out of people, when they’re feeling their worst. To quote the late, great Johnny Cash, ‘I’ll always trust Rick because he believed in me, when I didn’t believe in myself.’

Here’s ‘X’ Lessons in Leadership we can learn from DJ Double RR, gleaned from his most recent interview with Zane Lowe:

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks

‘Every step of the way, people tried to talk me out of what I was going to do next’.

When he first took on the Rap Scene, after starting up Def Jam records from his dorm room – people said, ‘Why Rick? You’re into Punk!’, yet without that first step, artists like Run DMC and LL Cool J would never have changed the face of modern Hip-Hop. Then, at the time he was starting his American label, post all the rap success, people asked ‘Why would you want to sign a rock artist? You’ve had so much success with Rap’.

But he still went ahead and did it. Because, it felt right to him. It seemed the correct direction to go in order to push himself and his fans in the right direction.

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Without him taking those risks though, we would never have had iconic albums like ‘Californication’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, or Johnny Cash’s ‘American Recordings’.

Part of being a leader is trusting yourself and having the strength of resolve in the decisions you make. Not being scared of the unknown, or failing if you try. As a leader, it’s your job to pave the way for your followers and show them that risks are there to be taken – even when people say you’re stupid to do so.

2. Have A Clear Vision

Rick’s focus was always on the art, no matter what the label or the marketing teams said. His relationship with Russel Simmons was strained in the battle between Business and Artistic Merit – and Rick chose art every time.

Sales figures and pie charts have never meant much to him – all that mattered was that he could put out the best possible version of the CD for the fans to hear. His vision, whether working with someone at the start of their career, or coming to the end has always been the same, ‘It’s all about the music’.

And, every decision he makes has to fall in line with it.

As a leader you need to ask yourself, ‘Whats my vision?’. No matter what you want to lead in, you should have a clear view of where it is you’re going, or what you’re trying to achieve. Something to galvanise everyone that’s a part of it, so that you can work towards it.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Sir Ken Robinson wants to change Education. And Rick Rubin wants to create the best possible music.

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What’s your vision?

3. Know When To Change Course

Rick has been an avid risk taker throughout his career, but he’s also smart enough to know when something isn’t working out. As I mentioned before, his relationship with Russel Simmons was strained in the battle of Business over Music – so he confronted the problem and decided to leave Def Jam Records.

It wasn’t done out of malice or from a position of bad will, but because it was the right thing to do for their futures.

As a leader, it’s up to you to understand when a battle isn’t being won or when you’re energy is being expended too much in the wrong direction – and take a step away, or change the course of the problem.

You wouldn’t steer your car in to a tree on purpose, and you shouldn’t do it with yourself and those who follow you. Be big enough to understand when something is wrong and change the course.

 

4. Your Way Isn’t The Only Way

Rick’s way of producing has taken him to the top of his game and shown genres in a whole different light. But in his late twenties and early thirties, many relationships with artists broke down because he fought to make sure it was done his way.

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In his later years though, Rick stopped pushing his way on the artists, and started asking them what their way would be. Going through the band, taking their idea’s and going with the best idea that came along – even if it didn’t match up with his way in any way at all.

His results?

Better albums. Better relationships. Better ideas.

A leader’s aim is to facilitate the people they work with. To bring the best out of the resources they have to work with. Most of the time, your idea won’t be the strongest, or someone in your group will have a better suggestion. Put pride to one side, and listen to those around you – they have the answer you’re looking for.

5. Not Everybody Is Going To Like You

Rick may be one of the most revered music producers alive, but he isn’t without his critics. Corey Taylor of Slipknot is extremely Anti-Rick, even though he produced one of their greatest albums to date.

But, Rick takes it in his stride.

‘It’s strange, me and ‘The Clown’, the leader of the band, were so much on the same page – but the rest of the band, not so much.’

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Not everyone is going to love everything you do, every step you take or every decision you follow through on. You can be the best in the world at what it is that you do, but people still won’t like it. It’s impossible to please everybody and appeal to everyone on every level.

So stop trying.

A Leader knows who their followers are, what their vision is – and sticks to it. Regardless of whether it pleases people or not. As long as you can be proud of the outcome, and it’s done for the right reasons, nothing else matters.

 

 

Featured photo credit: Bryce Duffy via cdn.pastemagazine.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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