You may not know Angus Clark but you have probably seen him.
Or you have at least heard him. Clark is a veteran touring and studio guitarist. He has performed and recorded with Joe Walsh (the Eagles), Paul Rodgers (Bad Company), and Jon Anderson (Yes). Clark appears regularly in the Broadway production of the musical Rock of Ages, and has played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (remember the guitarist on the platform in the flames with the flowing long hair? Yeah, him.) Clark is accustomed to being accompanied by pyrotechnics, lasers, and enough lights to illuminate San Antonio.
Clark is also successful in another industry: the business event team-building world as a managing director of Song Division. Song Division connects businesses with their employees, partners, and customers using the power of music. The company has pioneered a group songwriting process in which virtually any number of people, with no musical experience whatsoever, creates a completely original song while backed by some of the best musicians on the planet.
First hired as a guitarist and songwriting facilitator for one of Song Division's initial sessions in the United States, Clark now oversees the running of the business in North and South America, as well as emceeing and facilitating Song Division’s larger events.
Clark came to the position with a broad base of business experience from both music and the "straight job" world, having worked for various divisions of L'Oréal in the past.
I incorporate the language of modern business education and leadership development when it helps me get a point across, particularly in the planning process. However, with an event audience, it's more natural for me to speak as a musician and demonstrate various ways that creating a song as a group is a clear-cut task that will shake out a lot of what's right and what's wrong with the way their group is working together.
With business fundamentals, a clear picture of the meeting planner’s objective, and some of the greatest musicians on the planet, a facilitator such as Clark and a Song Division team of musicians take a group of any size and turn them into a song-writing team and performers in an hour or so. Keep in mind that Clark (or another Song Division facilitator) may have met the musicians in the band just hours prior to an event. How does Song Division develop a team and create a rock band that plays so well together, and with the audience, so fast?
At Song Division we pride ourselves not only on being the world leader at what we do, particularly since we invented the process, but also on having the largest network of some of the best musicians on the planet. This is entirely a referral-based network that is the result of my 20 years of touring and our entire management team's background in music. When we move into a new market, we put the word out to our trusted resources and then we have a vetting process to make sure everyone we hire is the right fit.
Usually we work very closely with a local point person who fully understands our process and then they assemble a local band where most of the players have worked together in one context or another. The great thing about our model is that we don't ask the musicians to do anything outside of what they always do; they just get to share some of the process and joy of creating music with people who might not have any musical experience. It's enriching both for the band members and the participants.
Clark says these are the keys to a successful team-building event:
1. Background research and client interviews pre-event are the most important thing for anyone facilitating a team-building event. If you can determine what the client's challenges are and understand their message, then you can boil it down to the fundamentals.
2. Have a clear goal, an accomplishable task—ours is that we have to write a song. It is a powerful thing to have a clear task and to get it done in 10 minutes or an hour, whatever your time limit is for the event.
3. Clear communication regarding logistics pre-event. We go over everything in great detail: load-in times, room turn-times, travel, A/V, writing materials, all that stuff. It's like a team-building exercise before the team-building exercise.
4. Have fun with the found elements and embrace spontaneity.
5. Above all, don't put a buffet or a bar at the back of the room during a team-building session.
Coming from the world of rock and roll myself, I had to also ask Clark: What has been the best musical surprise you have ever found in a corporate team-building audience?
That is a tough question. Keep in mind our song-writing sessions aren't a talent competition, no one is ever asked to sing on his or her own, but we do have opportunities for interested parties to strut their stuff if they want to, so we have seen some great displays of hidden talent. At a recent event for a tech startup in New York City, there was a man and a woman who could have given Jay-Z and Beyoncé a run for their money. And we've had some smoking guitarists (a metal-playing gent from Helsinki is probably my favorite), and the best stage moves I think were in Atlanta, where our band featured a couple of former members of James Brown's band.
Here are Clark’s final words of advice to any company management team:
Every workplace has a wealth of talent (and not just musical) hiding just below the surface. A team-building event should provide a low-pressure framework that allows work colleagues to learn a bit about this side of each other, which in turn helps the team collaborate better in the workplace.
Rock on Angus!
For more information, visit www.songdivision.com.
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[Image: Flickr user Oskar Seljeskog]