Team Lessons from Listening to Fleetwood Mac (part 1)
Posted on: 10th February 2017
Fleetwood Mac are one of my all-time greatest bands. What a band, what a team. Rumours was one of the first albums I purchased – I was about 14 years young. Whilst it is no longer one of my favourites, it held records for sales, hits, and time spent at the top. Most of them stood until Michael Jackson came along with Thriller. There was a time I was so obsessed with their work that it had a significant negative impact on my emotional and spiritual life. I eventually abstained from serious listening from about age 18 and only fully re-engaged at about age 48! I probably overdid that gap, but 30 plus years later certainly sees me at a different life stage and yet no less appreciative.
Some important background context is required before I launch into the lessons. My favourite line-up, is still the current one, in many ways viewed as version 2 of the band. It is extremely diverse. This started when two Americans joined, both eccentric. The potentially troubled (I sympathise), Lindsay Buckingham on guitar and vocals. His then partner & lover, the beautiful Stevie Nicks, on acoustic guitar and vocals. I would describe her as part hippie, part fairy, part dreamer, and part Gypsy. The other lady is the lovely Christine Mc Vie on vocals and keyboards. She was married to bassist John. The drummer is an underrated eccentric giant Mick Fleetwood, who is not only brilliant, but does an excellent impersonation of a madman. The band’s name came from the combination of the drummer & bassist’s surnames. The original co-founder Peter Green had called them “his favourite rhythm section, ‘Fleetwood Mac'”. Whilst this line-up is not ethnically diverse, it was pretty unique at the time in rock and pop music. Many original fans blame the addition of the Americans for ruining the “real” Fleetwood Mac!
Lesson one – diversity
It is a key ingredient for success and legacy. In many ways this version of the band is like three different bands. In Tusk and Live, two of my favourite albums, it’s more like listening to someone’s rock & pop playlist, than listening to a single band or album. Most songs are written by either Buckingham, Nicks, or McVie. Buckingham is insane. His style is aggressive pop and rock like It’s not that funny with brilliant electric guitar work and pulsating Mick Fleetwood beats. Nicks is all dreamy in both style and lyrics like I am a storm and sister moon. McVie writes brilliant pop love songs and ballads. Each of them is so unique I can tell their songs apart within seconds. Additionally, each has a completely different voice and vocal style. Depending on the type of team, it is generally accepted that diverse teams will eventually perform at a higher level, if properly developed. Some never get to embrace their diversity because they cannot handle Lesson two below.
Lesson two – conflict
The greater the diversity, the higher it is likely. Embrace it! During the recording of Rumours, it is said that relationally things were more than a bit tense. Buckingham apparently wrote Go your own way for Nicks, but the first time she heard it was in the studio when she was required to sing the backing vocals. Similarly, she wrote Dreams about him wanting his freedom. And McVie wrote You make loving fun. Except it wasn’t about husband John it was about one of the crew she was having an affair with! I once heard Mick Fleetwood interviewed about it all. It sounded pretty wild and stressful. The result: one of the most successful albums of all time. Team research says diverse teams perform better – if you can manage the conflict! It is generally accepted that Fleetwood, who is a brilliant mediator, was the one who held the band together. The only song on the album credited to all five band members is The chain – a fascinating and unique item that brings all their talents together. I can only wonder what part he played in it containing the lyrics:
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain
Chain, keep us together…
Lesson three – identity
Who we are should not be bound by the team or partners. I have seen so many marriages, partnerships, and causes where the common purpose is so all-consuming that individual identity is lost. One example was me not being able to separate my identity from my previous brand, SeeLearnDo. Another is husbands and wives who have a combined Facebook account or have lost any distinctive individual personality. Fleetwood Mac have continually allowed each member to express their individuality both within and beyond the band. Solo projects abound. No one seems threatened by another’s success either within or beyond the group. Autonomy abounds. Finding my own voice on my own, and with the support of those closest to me has been my highlight of the past few years. No comparisons. Liberty. Liberty within community.
Lesson four – life is messy
Don’t throw away opportunities because they aren’t neat and tidy. After years of their “on again, off again” romance, Buckingham and Nicks still bring out the best in each other musically. After Fleetwood’s divorce, he and Nicks were an item. McVie has continued to do her best work with the band, including working with her ex-husband John. Recently I teamed with both my ex-wives on my daughter Sami’s wedding. Slightly weird, yet liberating to be the last to leave as we waited together for one of the suppliers to fetch their equipment at around 1am. Lovely conversation. Common goals. Each bringing their strengths. Unity where there shouldn’t be.
To be continued…
Disclaimer: these musings are not based on any verified information other than my own perceptions, experiences, opinions, and feelings. No endorsement or agreement from the band has been sought or obtained!