Comparing Influences

Teflon Coated Dreams. Fast Forward. Touch. Snafu. Exit 4. Virtual Dandelion. Left of Center. The Anne Deming Band. Nine Tall Booms. Voodoo Hodown.

What do all these names have in common? They are all names of bands I have been in over the years. In each case, before we picked up our instruments to make some sort of music, we talked about our influences.We discussed what other bands, musicians and music moved us, what had entered into our musical consciousness and could (ability permitting) be heard in the way express ourselves on our instruments.

It was a critical conversation, and one that had to happen before the creative process could begin. It allowed us to get to know each other as people and as players, and instantly created a strong bond or told us “this might not work”. Ultimately, it was about finding common ground.

I wondered the other day what would happen if we adopted some of this process when we hire employees (or even talk to them about their career goals)?

Now, with full disclosure, it will be no surprise to anyone reading this that this is by no means a fool proof system, as evidenced by how many bands break-up over creative differences versus how many actually stay together. However, it could be argued that perhaps the “influences” conversation didn’t initially go deep enough for the bands who didn’t make it, or, someone in the band got too big for their britches.

As part of the process of getting to know potential applicants or your current employees, what can be gained by asking them what, or who, has influenced them in the past?

  • How they think: often you will hear about a situation that happened, and why it was good or bad. You may now have a better idea about how they will react to things in your workplace.
  • What they value: what did they learn, or takeaway from the experience that shaped who they are? Do those values match yours, or those of your company?
  • What moves (or motivates) them: did this situation or person move them to action in anyway, whether wanting to follow their lead or avoid their mistakes?

If you like the idea of having a better understanding of what your applicants/employees think, what they value and what motivates them, maybe it’s time to ask them about their influences.

Let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading!


About the author: In case you were wondering, some of Matt’s musical influences include Rush, Marillion, Yes, Pink Floyd, & Living Colour.  If you are familiar with those artists, does that give you an idea of what he values, how he thinks, and what motivates him?

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