Working dads and their employers could learn a lot from the example of Coldplay when it comes to managing life and work
I’ve interviewed quite a lot of people in my time. When I told my son who I’d been speaking to last week he reckoned it was probably the richest person I’ve ever interviewed*. It hadn’t crossed my mind during our chat because we were talking about more mundane stuff. (Whereas 10-year-old boys tend to obsess about whether anyone can afford a Lamborghini).
My guest on the Lockdown Dads podcast last week was Will Champion, drummer with Coldplay. (And, according to the internet worth a cool £100 million).
And my first question was about his employment status. Really. There was a time I’d mine such a celeb for stories of rock star excess. Now I want to know if he’s employed by Coldplay or technically a freelance drummer. (It’s the latter).
I started Lockdown Dads as something to do while furloughed back last spring. About 10 months on it’s reached the stage where we’re having an international rock star as our guest. We’ve already had a rare mix taking in a couple of comedians, a Cbeebies presenter, academics, authors and the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. But I suspect this will be the most listened to episode yet.
I mention it not to show off. But because it was a fascinating conversation full of insight for dads and for workplace managers.
Both fed into the conversation. Will conceded that a group of four men in the male dominated music industry could easily get out of whack. But Coldplay contain the right mix of people to avoid fall outs, overreach, arguments or excess. Or at least to manage those things. They are all occurrences in families, and businesses. So what’s the secret to swerving them? Will put it down to luck. But after speaking to him I put it down to hard work. The members of the band consciously channel the best of their masculinity – the competitiveness in particular – in the same direction and fame and success inevitably follow.
They also don’t suffer the mismatch that many men know too well between home and work. Martin Robinson in his book echoed many of the dads that contributed to our Working Dads and Lockdown series in pinpointing the way his work persona and his home persona don’t match up.
It’s why so many working dads have said they actually miss the commute since lockdown kicked in. They don’t miss the experience of idling in the car listening to drivetime or an expensive ride in a stinky suburban train but they miss the opportunity to mentally transform from work to home identity. It may be easier to do when you’re a rock star but the members of Coldplay don’t feel that disconnect so keenly. They bring their whole self to work. Something all dads ought to aim for, while understanding that it’s easier said than done and there’s no shame in falling short!
And they are comfortable with the responsibilities of fatherhood. Tours are planned around their kids. Family is a familiar topic of studio conversation.
And Will explained that the band also avoid conflict because they all know their roles and are happy with them. Chris Martin’s the charismatic frontman. There’s no other member of the band desperate to replace him and take on all the attention he gets, for good and ill. No one else is jealous of Will’s spot with the sticks. Each band member brings something to the whole, each knows they are good at what they do, each is valued, each is comfortable. It’s a model team that many managers could learn from. Ensure employees are content in their post, give them room to develop and improve, allow them to bring their whole self to work. And that’s when the organisation will find a winning groove
And that’s the crucial point: they are massively successful. They may be in an unusual line of work but that doesn’t mean there’s no read across. It’s possible to be a present dad and a success in your chosen field.
If you’re a manager it’s possible to accommodate parents, channel competition and ego in the right direction and knit together a team that can conquer the world.
And if you think it’s a bit tenuous to draw life lessons from Coldplay then at the very least go listen to their song The Scientist. The lyric “Nobody said it was easy, no one said it would be this hard” is a solace and a mantra as we plod towards the end of lockdown!
*Actually on further reflection I think that honour goes to Leonardo DiCaprio. But that’s another story.