Posts by Alan Schaefer

Founder and CEO of Banding People Together, a collaboration company that uses music and songwriting as a platform for collaboration, team building and change management. I have toured the world as lead singer and front man for the band Five Star Iris and consulted for companies such as Best Buy and GMR Marketing.

RockStar Leader: Collaboration Starts With You

Rock and Roll Collaboration

I have found that people often have very limiting views when it comes to what collaboration is all about.  

Some think of it simply as an activity.

A Look at Collaboration

Others think collaboration is something that starts in a meeting or as a line-item on an agenda where the boss gets everyone together and says this:

“Okay team, I want you to collaborate around this project and have it on my desk by 2pm tomorrow.”  

Rarely have I seen teams or individuals inspired to greatness in that environment. I can’t imagine a record producer or band manager coming to me and saying this:

“I want you to get the band together at 2pm this afternoon, write a hit song that will touch people’s lives, change the world, sell millions of copies and have it on my desk by noon tomorrow.”

If this sounds crazy, that’s because it is!

A Collaborative State of Mind

Collaboration doesn’t start in a meeting or as a line item on an agenda.  It’s not  just an activity. It’s a state of mind and it starts with you and your mindset.

What do I mean by this?

When someone is in what I call the collaborative mindset, they are open to the possibility that every interaction they have has the potential to be a collaborative moment.

As a songwriter, my receptors are always firing. Everybody that I meet and encounter I view as someone who can share some kind of perspective, thought or idea that can spark something creative in me or add value to my thought process.

In fact,  some of the greatest gems I get for song ideas actually come right out of the mouths of other people!

I rarely miss those ideas because I’m always open to the possibility.

Playing Your Sour Notes

But in business we aren’t always wired that way…

We often play what I call sour notes.

These are barriers to collaboration. Unfortunately, most of us don’t even realize when we are playing these idea blocking notes.  There are plenty of them.  For example:

  • We are self-consumed: “I’m just too busy.”
  • We are impatient: “It’s faster to do it myself.”
  • We are territorial: “Hey, marketing has a great idea but I’m not giving up any of my operations budget.”  
  • We are siloed:  “That’s not my department or problem.”
  • We have a scarcity mindset: Why should I share my great idea with a big company or someone else who is gonna get all the credit and make a ton of money?  

Or, how about when we discount other’s ideas based on how we perceive their level of expertise.

For instance:

“I’m in marketing, what can a finance person tell me about a marketing plan?”

Something Sweet or Sour?

It’s so easy to do.  I recall times where the drummer in my band would want to discuss lyrics that I had written.  My default was to discount him immediately because he was the drummer and not a lyricist.

Looking back, I realize how incredibly limiting that was to the creative and collaborative process.  That behavior of mine is the antithesis of the collaborative mindset.

The good news is that achieving the collaborative mindset is relatively easy once you become aware of the sour notes. Beyond the sour notes, it simply comes down to making the choice to have an open heart and open mind.  You will be amazed by how sweet the sound can be when you don’t allow the sour notes to drown own the possibilities.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Alan Schaefer is CEO of Banding People Together

He serves his clients with high-end music-based collaboration training
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Web | Five Star Iris Band

Banding People Together

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RockStar Leader: Playing From the Same Sheet of Music

RockStar Leader

Having played in many rock bands, I can tell you that when you start a band, everyone has similar goals.

  • “We want to be rock stars!”
  • “We want our music to change the world!”
  • “We want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone!”
  • “We want to be rich and famous!”  

Making Beautiful Music

What’s not so easy is getting all the band members to agree and (more importantly), “buy in” to how those goals are going to be accomplished. The clichéd sex and drugs part of rock & roll often leads to juicy headlines that seemingly kills bands and creates “former” band members.

But not playing from the same sheet of music is what ultimately puts the musical nail in a lot of band’s coffins.

Be Wise, Harmonize

For years I was convinced that my band was playing from the same sheet of music.

We all wanted the same larger goal which was to make a comfortable living playing our own original music.

  • Everyone was committed.
  • We all showed up for rehearsals.
  • We tried to contribute based on our perceived strengths
  • And to our credit, had very little conflict or drama.

Looking back, I realize that having the same goals and simply showing up wasn’t nearly enough.

In fact, we weren’t anywhere close to playing from the same sheet of music.

Finding Your Groove

So what does it mean to get everyone playing from the same sheet of music?  

More importantly, how do we get there?  

There are two critical steps in making this happen so your band doesn’t become a VH1 Behind The Music casualty.

Step One

First, it is necessary to create a set of norms for how you are going to treat each other in the creative and decision-making processes.  What does that look and feel like?  Try to create a jam-session-like vibe that energizes and inspires band members to feel like they can contribute AND be heard.

Keep in mind that a great jam session starts with open-minded players, is never forced, and feeds off positive creative energy.

Step Two

Next, you have to get everyone to clearly agreed-upon strategies, goals and desired outcomes.  If you send a band into a studio and there isn’t a clear vision of what kind of record is being made, guess what you get?

  • You get chaos, arguments that go nowhere
  • A project that goes way over budget and takes too long
  • And ultimately, a record that sucks.

Sound familiar to anyone?

A Broken Record

The EdgeIt might surprise you to know that the band U2 came dangerously close to breaking up when they recorded the album Achtung Baby.

They spun their wheels into frustration because of a severe lack of direction or vision.  So much so, that it made them question who and what they were.

They were literally going to call it quits until the band’s guitarist, The Edge walked in to the studio and played the riff for what would become the song One.

Luckily for the rest of us, they came together in that moment, gained clarity on the kind of record they were going to make and were able to record a great record.

The magic didn’t happen until they all started playing from the same sheet of music.

Playing in Harmony

To determine if your band is playing from the same sheet of music consider the following questions:

Have you ever gotten the band (your team) together to collectively define the creative and/or decision-making process? If asked individually, would everyone in your band describe the record your making in the same way? Do all of your band members clearly understand how their efforts support the larger vision? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Alan Schaefer is CEO of Banding People Together

He serves his clients with high-end music-based collaboration training
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Web | Five Star Iris Band

Banding People Together


Image Sources:,

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