I fell in love with The Beatles when I was a teenager in the 90s. Just when I wanted to shape a cultural identity for myself, they became an explicit reference point for contemporary guitar bands, and the Anthology series brought Beatlemania and its aftermath to vivid life on TV. It was love.
I did not envisage a future in which The Beatles might shape my professional identity, but a new feature-length documentary Get Back landed in December and re-sparked my obsession, and then a friend shared this brilliant Economist blog on The Beatles & the art of Teamwork with me so now I’m compelled to spread the word (it’s so fine, it’s sunshine).
The author highlights that in recording a world class team at work Get Back shows much of what management research can usually only tell us. This includes leadership lessons old and new, but the article wraps up with the key takeaway: a good team loves the work itself and while teambuilding exercises aren’t without value there’s no substitute for having people motivated to do their core jobs.
While reflecting on this, it occurred to me that The Beatles tried an away day. In fact, it wasn’t just a day (in the life) - it was a month-long transcendental meditation camp in India aimed at self-discovery. Some scenes in Get Back indicate the best thing the group achieved there was not a re-energised team spirit but yet more work. The trip set a philosophical path for George that the others didn’t really follow, but many of the songs on The Beatles (the White Album) gestated in Rishikesh when the lads should’ve been turning off their minds, relaxing and floating downstream.
I love my team and I love the results we achieve together but what I really love is the process of getting there together. The work we do. Building new teams, shaping and re-shaping solutions, creating fantastic partnerships – all with the aim of connecting talent with jobs. Impacting business strategies and impacting individual careers. That’s what makes RPO meaningful, and a lot of fun, to me.
You’ll never hear me bag on axe-throwing or see me miss the opportunity to sit down for dinner with my colleagues, but I love what I do and it drives purpose for me. The article lists many leadership lessons from Get Back: value everyone’s contribution; set stretching but attainable goals; keep things fresh. But it’s the last that resonates (like a chiming 12-string Rickenbacker) with me: performance is at its peak when a team takes joy in the work. Share successes, be consistently communicative about results, highlight purpose and you are on to a winner.
Do you want your team to be as good as The Beatles? It’s easy: All You Need Is Love.
“Managers who think that building esprit de corps requires a separate activity from work are missing a fundamental point. The highest-performing teams derive the greatest satisfaction not from each other, but from the work they do together."