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Uncovering the Secrets of The Rolling Stones

By Seiki "Stan" Hirota

Originally published August 14, 2019 on LinkedIn

I am an avid classic rock fan but when you peer down the timeline of rock music, it’s obvious that the Rolling Stones is a highly successful team. Twelve number one albums, eight number one singles, three Grammy Awards, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a five-decade history as a rock band which is unheard of.

This band was formed back in 1962. This is 4 years before I was even born. How is this band able to still captivate audiences, not being at all obsolesce, and commanding expensive ticket prices? The foundation is the same today as it was all those years ago when the five unknown musicians set out to make a name in London: teamwork.

There are hundreds of articles about the secret to the Stones’ success. The band’s manager says its stamina and desire. Other attribute it to the band’s authenticity of being true to oneself. There’s also the possibility that these guys can still strut in their seventies because of their healthy diet and regular exercise.

But at the root of the Stones’ success is the passion for being together, each time and every time. Cohesion is the invisible force that keeps a team together and is the basis for high performance as a unit. The Stones may have beat the odds, but the feat is only made possible by their ability to put all of the differences, arguments, fights, personal egos and agendas, and issues on hold when it’s time to take the stage as professional rock stars.

Like the Stones, teams that thrive do so not because of luck, title, or role. They achieve their goals because the following variables are always in play:

1. Psychological Safety and a Clear Method of Decision Making:

Everyone contributes and works together in creating a work environment that’s safe for interpersonal sharing and risk taking. Of course rigorous arguments and debates must be healthy and constructive and there must be some way of channeling the fission. The key is to ensure the focus stays on the issue and process – not the person. Over 50 years of togetherness the Stones have developed a set of rules and a method of decision-making that works for them.

2. Be Willing to Work:

Everyone has to put in the practice, homework, sweat equity, and there are no free rides. The hard work is always shared – and so is the reward from and recognition for success. Like all great teams, they know there is no substitute for the hard work of practicing together. Before their tours, the Stones commit two months to rehearsals, usually held in Toronto, before heading back on the road.

3. Commitment to a Shared Meaning and Purpose:

The team has to commit to the end result and goal, whether it’s a one-off project or a year-long goal, and the goal must be important and meaningful. The team has to acknowledge and appreciate individual contributions in the context of the person, but also in context of the team’s overall success. All four current Stones continue to be strongly connected to their shared passion for music and committed to the goal of being the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world.

In the case of Stones, the band’s CEO is basically Jagger. He has his strong vision and views, but knows that harmonizing is not about controlling and having yes men around that agrees on everything to make him feel good. It’s about respecting and building structures to allow emphasizing the differences together.

Keith Richards summed up the importance of collaboration and compromise to the Chicago Tribune: “We each go out on our separate branches,” Richards says, “and we might both hang ourselves. But we’re always open-minded and willing to let each other give something a new try."

Let’s learn from the Stones to respect and emphasize our differences, and figure out how we can better create an awesome chemistry amongst each other that are vital in ensuring a great balance of both creativity and longevity.

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