Leadership lessons from Bananarama

Business Coaching, Education, leadership, Life Skills, motivation, teaching, team building

Before the summer, having booked to see Michael Buble in concert at Hyde Park with my wife for our anniversary, we discovered that one of the support acts was Bananarama. Who ended up being the highlight of the show since we missed Buble due to a torrential downpour and a toxic mix of alcohol and antibiotics on my wife’s part that led to our departing early!

Bananarama opened with their 1982 hit ‘It ain’t what you do’ which reminded me of some leadership advice I’d received long before. The full lyric goes, ‘It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it and that’s what gets results!’. How very true. This is usually the difference between effective and ineffective leaders and teachers; the difference between successful businesses/schools and those that are lacklustre. Because leading anything is going to involve interaction with people.  And people are strange and complicated creatures whose moods and whims are constantly changing.  Whether you succeed or fail will be down to people: customers/clients… whether they buy and engage;  employees… whether they stay and follow; investors… whether they commit. So the way you interact and present to these people is critical. You may have a great product but if you can’t communicate with your audience or motivate your team then your product will never see the light of day. It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it.

In education the same is true. As a teacher I always found that my success or lack thereof was dependent on the extent to which I engaged my students – not my subject knowledge but the way I went about inspiring & energising my classes. This fundamentally begins with good relationships: caring, taking an interest, humour, authenticity. I always remember during my training someone saying: “When someone asks, ‘What do you teach?’ Is your answer,’Maths’ or ‘Geography’ or is it ‘Children: I teach children’. The point is about emphasising the personal: that’s the way that you do it.

So if success is significantly down to our ability to engage effectively with people, then how do we do that?

Simon Sinek developed his idea of the ‘Golden Circle’: What, How, Why. He suggests that “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” Do you know your WHY? Most people can tell you what they do and they can tell you how they do it, but many don’t have clarity over WHY they do it. But communicating the WHY to your investors, employees, students or customers is what provides emotional wind and gives your business or school its soul. This speaks to the way you go about engaging your audience or target market, and the way you go about leading your team. People centred or product centred. Student centred or data centred.

What’s your WHY? WHY do you do what you do? Are you doing what you do because you believe in it? Or is it just to get money and pay the bills? Is it just a job to you? If it’s just a job then you won’t stay the course.  When a better paid job comes along you’ll take it. Which means you’re not committed to what you’re doing.

Also and more importantly, if you don’t believe in what you’re doing then your customers or students will see that: you lose authenticity. No-one was ever inspired by box-ticking – doing something for the sake of it. They won’t believe in what you’re selling because you don’t believe in it yourself. And you wouldn’t buy from or follow someone who doesn’t believe in their product so why would you expect anyone else to?

Does your team know WHY they’re doing what they’re doing?  Do they believe in it? Have you communicated your WHY to them?  Are they on board?  Because if they’re not, if it’s just a job to them, then they too will jump ship when something better comes along.

When your company or school lives and breathes your WHY, you give your customers/clients more than just a product or service, you give them a motive: a reason to buy, a reason to invest, a reason to engage, a reason to follow.

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