The Secret of U2’s Success

Excerpted from Connection Culture by Michael Lee Stallard.

U2 began as a rock band that people booed and laughed at. Now,after receiving its 22nd Grammy Award in 2005, U2 has more than any band in history. It recently surpassed the Rolling Stones’s record for the highest revenue grossing concert tour ever. Critics rave over the band’s music, and fans worldwide can’t seem to get enough of its songs and concert appearances. All the signs indicate that U2 is at the top of its game and will be going strong for the foreseeable future. So how did this group rise to such lofty heights, and what can we learn from its success?

The way U2 functions is even more extraordinary than its music. The band’s four members—lyricist and lead singer Bono, lead guitar player “the Edge,” bass guitar player Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.—have known one another since they were teenagers in Dublin, Ireland. Bono has described the band as more of an organism than an organization, and several of its attributes contribute to this unique culture. Members value continuous improvement to achieve their own potential, always maintaining the view that they can become even better.

U2’s members share a vision of their mission and values. You might expect a band’s mission to be achieving commercial success as measured by number 1 hits and concert attendance. However, U2’s mission is to improve the world through its music and influence. Bono has described himself as a traveling salesman of ideas within songs, which address themes the band members believe are important to promote, including human rights, social justice, and matters of faith. Bono and his wife, Ali, help the poor, particularly in Africa, through their philanthropy and the organizations they’ve created.

U2’s members value one another as people and don’t just think of one another as means to an end. Bono has said that although he hears melodies in his head, he is unable to translate them into written music. Considering himself a terrible guitar and keyboard player, he relies on his fellow members to help him write the songs and praises them for their talents, which are integral to U2’s success.

Bono has also had his band members’ backs during times of trial. When Larry lost his mom in a car accident a short time after the band was formed, Bono was there to support him. Bono, who had already lost his mother, understood Larry’s pain. When U2 was offered its first recording contract on the condition that it replace Larry with a more conventional drummer, Bono told the record company executive:There’s no deal without Larry. When the Edge went through divorce, his bandmates were there to support him. When Adam showed up to a concert so stoned he couldn’t perform, the others could have thrown him overboard for letting them down. Instead, they had someone step in to cover for him, and then went on to help Adam overcome his drug and alcohol addiction.

Bono’s bandmates have his back too. One of the most vivid examples of this came when U2 campaigned during the 1980s for the observance of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. Bono received a death threat that warned him not to sing “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a song about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at an upcoming concert. The FBI considered it a credible threat. Bono described in an interview that as he sang the song, he closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes again at the end of a verse, he discovered that Adam was standing in front of him to shield him from potential harm. Years later, when U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bono thanked Adam for being willing to take a bullet for him.

Unlike many bands in which one megastar gets most of the economic profits, U2 shares its profits equally among the four band members and their long-time manager. This further shows the value Bono has for his band members and manager. (We’re not saying that all organizations should split the company’s economic profits equally; simply recognize that when leaders take too much it works against engaging the people they lead.)

Each member has a voice in decisions, thanks to the band’s participatory, consensus-oriented decision-making approach. If one person strongly opposes a particular action, the band won’t do it, which encourages the flow of knowledge among band members, allowing the best ideas to come to light. Their passion for excellence is also reflected in relentless arguments over their music. Bono has stated that this approach can be slow and frustrating at times, but the members of U2 believe it is necessary to achieve excellence.

These factors—which Connection Culture calls shared identity, empathy, and understanding—create a culture of connection, community, and unity among the members of U2. Bono has described the band as a tight-knit family and community. Their commitment to support one another extends beyond the four members of the band to a larger community that includes their families, crew members, and collabo-rators—many of whom have known each other for decades.

The secret of U2’s success is its leadership and culture. Bono connects as a leader among equals because he communicates an inspiring vision and lives it, he values people as individuals, and he gives them a voice in decision making. It is this culture of vision, value, and voice that has helped U2 achieve and sustain its superior performance. This is a connection culture. In examining how U2 operates we see the influence a connection culture can have on the individual, as well as the group as a whole.

Learn more about U2 and the Connection Culture at our Soundview Live webinar with Michael Lee Stallard: Fostering a Culture of Connection.

Process versus the People

Today’s guest blogger is Linda Sharkey, author of Optimizing Talent. Dr. Sharkey is an HR Executive and Business Strategist with experience coaching and developing leaders and teams in Fortune 10 companies.

Is your Performance Evaluation System Helping or Getting in the Way of a Talent Rich Culture

Process versus the People

Are your year-end performance discussions more painful than they are worth and would most of your managers prefer to throw the system out?  Are you doing them merely to comply with legal requirements or to decide who gets paid what?  If so you are missing the mark on a very powerful system that can build your brand as a talent based culture and market leader.

We need to consider some key human resource systems to make sure that they are aligned with the culture you are creating and not working against it.

As we researched performance management systems in over 500 Fortune 1000 companies and talked with HR leaders in over 60 of them we discovered that the process was often more important than the outcome.  Checking the box once a year to make sure the employee and manager had at least one performance discussion seemed to be the prevailing outcome achieved.  Others focused on compensation alignment.  Few focused on creating a system where employees and their managers truly had a dialogue that actually helped employees understand how they could continue to grow and improve.  To quote several senior HR leaders “we are highly tactical in our approach and we don’t really use it to drive alignment to our culture and to our overall business strategy”.

Getting it Right

Here are ten proven steps that everyone can use to support a talent rich culture.

  1. Be crystal clear on the purpose of your performance management system.  What is the people philosophy that you are trying to promote through this system?
  2. Ensure that the system aligns with your values.   Make sure that these values are discussed so that everyone understands that what you do is as important as how you do it.
  3. Create a working profile of what the values look like in action.  State the values in terms of behaviors that everyone can recognize.  This way everyone in the organization understands the standard of the” best”.
  4. Train all you leaders and managers to recognize great behavior, assess talent and provide specific and actionable feedback.
  5. Teach managers and leaders how to effectively coach.  Agree on a coaching model and consistently apply it throughout the organization.
  6. Create peer coaching circles to help teams support each other in learning new skills and “grooving” new behaviors.  These circles enable employees to learn to ask each other for help when they need it and share suggestions and ideas.
  7. Create a simple form for year-end performance reviews that is 1 page – no more than 2 if you must.  Include specific business achievements, behaviors demonstrated, career goals and aspirations and finally what the employee needs to do to continue to grow in their current role or prepare for the next role.
  8. Don’t just reward for business outcomes; reward for expected behaviors as well.
  9. Measure and track the impact your system is having on the desired culture.  Examine your employee engagement scores to ensure feedback and coaching is happening through the year and measure your alignment to your culture so that you don’t lose sight of keeping your values on track.
  10. Link all your talent and performance discussions together to make sure you are sending consistent messages in the talent discussions as well as in performance calibration discussions.
  11. Communicate, communicate and communicate more about the impact of an effective system and how it is building a great place for shareholder value, customer loyalty and employee engagement!

If you follow these ten steps you will build a system that becomes part of your DNA, where people and leaders regularly help each other to succeed through effective feedback and coaching.  This was you will be providing performance feedback through the year and the end of the year “pain” goes away!  Try it you might like it.

You can hear more from Linda sharkey about optimizing talent at our Soundview Live webinar on May 7th: What Every Leader Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce.

It’s What You Do With The Job That Counts

Great work is work that makes a difference in people’s lives, writes David Sturt, Executive Vice President of the O.C. Tanner Institute, in his book Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love. Sturt insists, however, that great work is not just for surgeons or special-needs educators or the founders of organizations trying to eradicate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. The central theme of Great Work, according to Sturt, is that anyone can make a difference in any job. It’s not the nature of the job but what you do with the job that counts. As proof, Sturt tells the story of a remarkable hospital janitor named Moses.

The Story of Moses

In a building filled with doctors and nurses doing great live-saving work, Moses the janitor makes a difference. Whenever he enters a room, especially a room with a sick child, he engages both patients and parents with his optimism and calm, introducing himself to the child and, Sturt writes, speaking “little comments about light and sunshine and making things clean.” He comments on any progress he sees day by day (“you’re sitting up today, that’s good.”) Moses is no doctor and doesn’t pretend to be, but he has witnessed hundreds of sick children recovering from traumatic surgery, and parents take comfort from his encouraging words. For Matt and Mindi, whose son McKay was born with only half of a heart, Moses became a confidant. As Sturt explains, “Moses took his innate talents (his sensitivity) and his practical wisdom (from years of hospital experience) and combined them into a powerful form of patient and family support that changed the critical-care experience for Mindi, Matt and little McKay.”

How do people like Moses do great work when so many people just work? That was the central question posed by Sturt and his team at the O.C. Tanner Institute, a consulting company specialized in employee recognition and rewards systems. O.C. Tanner launched an exhaustive Great Work study that included surveys to 200 senior executives, a further set of surveys to 1000 managers and employees working on projects, an in-depth qualitative study of 1.7 million accounts of award-winning work (in the form of nominations for awards from corporations around the world), and one-on-one interviews with 200 difference makers.

The results of the study revealed that those who do great work refuse to be defeated by the constraints of their jobs and are especially able to reframe their jobs: they don’t view their jobs as a list of tasks and responsibilities but see their jobs as opportunities to make a difference. No matter, as Moses so ably exemplifies, what that job may be.

The Five Skills

The study also pinpointed the five skills that all those who do great work seem to possess, and much of Great Work is spent exploring these skills.

The first skill is to ask the right question. Cell phones are ubiquitous today, but they were invented because someone asked a question that had never been asked before: Why do we have to call a place instead of a person?

The second skill is to see for yourself. One of the cofounders of Netflix resolved the core problem of the nascent company — how to avoid damage to DVDs as they are being mailed — by spending hours in a mail sorting facility and noticing the relative gentleness of the larger “flat mail” automatic sorter.

The third skill is to talk to your outer circle — which means to go beyond the usual core group of people you speak with frequently. In today’s digital age, the outer circle is almost infinite, as the success of crowd-sourcing proves.

The fourth skill is improving the mix, which means knowing what to add or subtract from your job and also “checking for fit”: ensuring that the elements of the mix are in harmony.

The final skill is delivering the difference: to continue working almost obsessively until people love the outcome. Sturt tells the story of school yearbook photographer Tina, who accepts the challenge of photographing autistic children, trying hard to create the best picture she can of children who often cannot focus on the camera or even stop themselves from drooling. One mother told Tina her picture was the first picture of her son in which he looked as she saw him.

Great Work is packed with inspirational stories of people in a wide range of jobs and circumstances. Readers will inevitably return to their jobs with a new attitude and renewed hope to make a difference.

New Summaries to Make the Most of a Moment

A single moment can be a turning point for you and your organization. What leaders often don’t realize is that every day is filled with dozens of these potential moments. Soundview has three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries that help you leverage your abilities and make the most of each moment.

Now available for download:

by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee
by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee

Flex by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee. Executive coaches and global leadership strategists Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee present lessons on “flexing,” which is the art of switching leadership styles to more effectively lead people who are different from you. Flex offers a proactive strategy for managers to navigate and leverage diversity effectively. Lessons from the authors will help managers of multicultural workers to bridge the gap with more effective communication, feedback tools, building healthy teams and closing the gap with clients, customers and partners to create innovative solutions.


by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff
by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff

A Team of Leaders by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff. With emphasis on the design of a team, A Team of Leaders offers a new way to energize groups of employees and improve performance. Authors Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff present the Five-Stage Team Development Model, which outlines a set of characteristics of traditional teams and the progression to creating teams of people who think and act like leaders. By improving the core design components – the systems, processes, knowledge, management and visual management – teams will take responsibility for delivering better results.


by Lisa Kay Solomon and Chris Ertel
by Lisa Kay Solomon and Chris Ertel

Moments of Impact by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon. Innovation strategists Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon share what it takes to design creative, collaborative problem-solving sessions using strategic conversations. Strategic conversations combine the best ideas of people with different backgrounds, which ultimately delivers breakthrough insights. Moments of Impact provides a creative process by which leaders can make good strategic choices while engaging more people with different perspectives more effectively.

Three New Summaries Help You Focus on Greatness

The pursuit of excellence requires equal parts devotion and focus. To help your effort to achieve new levels of success Soundview is releasing three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries. Learn how to spot and hire game-changing innovators, a new method to focus on your biggest goals, and the organizational groups that dictate much of what your company is able to accomplish. Now available for download in multiple digital formats:

by Nolan Bushnell with Gene Stone
by Nolan Bushnell with Gene Stone

Finding the Next Steve Jobs by Nolan Bushnell with Gene Stone: Nolan Bushnell founded the groundbreaking gaming company Atari in 1972, and two years later employed Steve Jobs, as well as many other creatives over the course of his five decades in business. Here Bushnell explains how to find, hire, and nurture the people who could turn your company into the next Atari or the next Apple. Bushnell’s advice is constantly counter-intuitive, surprising, and atypical. When looking for employees, ignore credentials. Hire the obnoxious (in limited numbers). Demand a list of favorite books. Ask unanswerable questions, and much more.


by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan: You want less. You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. And you want more. You want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time. In The One Thing, you will learn how you can have both — less and more — by cutting through clutter, building momentum, staying on track, and much more.


by Dave Logan, Halee Fischer-Wright and John King
by Dave Logan, Halee Fischer-Wright and John King

Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright: Tribal Leadership offers a fascinating look at corporate tribes — groups of 20-150 people within a company that come together on their own rather than through management decisions — and how executives can use tribes to maximize productivity and profit. Drawing upon research from a 10-year study of more than 24,000 people in two dozen organizations, the authors argue that tribes have the greatest influence in determining how much and what quality work gets done. The authors identify the five stages of employee tribal development and offer advice on how to manage these groups.

Take the next step on the path to greater success with these new summaries!

Leading Your Business Through the Great Economic Power Shift



The balance of the global economy is on the verge of a critical shift. According to business advisor and speaker Ram Charan, it will be an era in which your company can fade into obscurity or rise to claim a stake in the $2 trillion of new economic growth. In Global Tilt, Charan tracks the migration of production, innovation and power to the part of the world that lies below the 31st parallel.

Charan is globally renowned for his ability to pierce the complexities of business ideas and deliver concise observations that motivate and guide. His record speaks for itself with best-sellers such as Execution (co-authored with Larry Bossidy),
What the CEO Wants You to Know, What the Customer Wants You to Know and Profitable Growth is Everyone’s Business, among others. The paradigm-smashing Global Tilt has the potential to be Charan’s most impactful book since Execution.

Bridging the Chasm

Charan removes the blindfold and allows executives located in the traditional economic powers (the United States, Western Europe and Japan) to stare at the widening business chasm between their own region, which Charan labels the “North,” and the “South.” Charan groups a number of countries in the latter category, from obvious selections such as China and India to nations such as Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Nigeria.

The southern nations are on the rise due to a confluence of factors. Some of the reasons are well-known (low-cost labor and massive numbers of graduates with technical expertise), but it’s Charan’s ground-level factors that might elude analysis by northern companies.

For example, Charan discusses the hesitancy of northern companies to invest in southern countries due to a lack of infrastructure and political tides that can shift and change the rules of the game. He writes that leaders of southern companies “are accustomed to the vagaries of the government and regulators and to the inadequacies of ubiquities such as electrical power.” Through observations such as this, Charan forces executives to do a bit of soul searching. Tapping into a $2 trillion growth market sounds tempting, but are northern companies prepared to set up shop where offices may not have air conditioning?

A Mirror and a Lens

Charan has an amazing gift for succinctly depicting a situation and drawing comparisons that connect with readers. Other authors have made attempts to describe the economic landscape in terms of where we’re headed. Charan simply writes, “Think of the 19th-century United States.” When executives think of the Industrial Revolution and the titans it produced, it becomes easier to see how developing nations, aided by the X factor of the Internet, can produce their own Vanderbilts and Rockefellers in the span of a fiscal year.

There is nothing fanciful in Charan’s discussion of the global shift. He deals in realities. Executives will be in his debt for stripping the sugar coating from his insights and leaving actionable plans for better business execution.
Global Tilt holds up a mirror to northern ideas while creating a lens to see the southern countries in a new light.

The book forces executives to confront some painful realities about the nature of the northern way of doing business. Charan makes no apologies for citing the “short-termism” of satisfying shareholders each quarter as endemic of northern economic decline.

Charan is one of a handful of current business authors whose work can genuinely transform a company. He sets the stage for a dramatic renaissance for northern companies. The question is whether the leaders of those companies will have the skill and fortitude to break free from convention and take up the challenge.

Book Review: Can’t Buy Me Like

by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy
by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy

The perplexing state of the business landscape is beautifully summed up by journalist Bob Garfield and strategic consultant Doug Levy in their new book Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results. They write that the current era “is a confounding paradox: an economic revolution that in one critical aspect takes us backward.” Social media and other digital tools enable any business to reach tens of millions of people. Capturing the attention and purchasing power of those individuals in large quantities remains an almost unapproachable mountain for the majority of businesses. In the recently released Soundview Executive Book Summary of Can’t Buy Me Like, Garfield and Levy offer a better method to grow your business in the age they call the “Relationship Era.”

The Relationship Era is the product of four major forces as outlined by Garfield and Levy: the collapse of mass media, the increase of transparency, the rise of social connectivity and the primacy of trust. Garfield and Levy provide extensive insight into the workings of the relationship era. They then guide readers through a multi-step process to navigate the Relationship Era and create a productive interaction between a company and its supporters.

Garfield and Levy call this process “The Shift.” They describe it as “the shift from mass to micro, the shift from top-down to bottom-up and the shift from traditional marketing to purposeful marketing.” Can’t Buy Me Like also signals a critical, positive shift of its own, a shift to a philosophy of authenticity in how a business engages its online audience. Hopefully, executives of organizations big and small will take notice. The summary is an excellent place to start the conversation.

Three New Summaries to Win Your Biggest Battles

Leaders contend with a number of hardships but some difficulties seem constant. Growing your customer base while improving your relationship with existing customers is a challenge. Finding a better way to manage meetings is tough when you need to schedule a meeting to search for a solution. Soundview has three new Soundview Executive Book Summaries that tackle the above two common frustrations as well as the correlation between struggle and leadership itself.

by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy
by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy

Can’t Buy Me Like by Bob Garfield and Bob Levy. Today’s brands face an apparent choice between two evils: continue betting on their increasingly ineffective advertising or put blind faith in the supposedly mystical power of social media, where “likes” stand in for transactions and a mass audience is maddeningly elusive. We’ve entered the “Relationship Era,” where the only path for businesses seeking long-term success is to create authentic customer relationships. Authors Bob Garfield and Doug Levy show you where these authentic customers relationships come from, what they look like, and how to build them.


by Martin Murphy
by Martin Murphy

No More Pointless Meetings by Martin Murphy. Wasting time in pointless meetings is the one thing that never seems to change. Martin Murphy, however, has helped a “Who’s Who” of corporate clients transform time-sapping meetings into breakthrough sessions that are measurably productive. His strategy is not simply to make meetings more palatable; instead, he reframes the entire concept of collaboration and introduces four “Work Sessions” that replace meetings to get more done, faster than ever before.


by Steven Snyder
by Steven Snyder

Leadership and the Art of Struggle by Steven Snyder. For author Steven Snyder, adversity is precisely what unlocks our greatest potential. Using real-life stories drawn from his extensive research studying 151 diverse episodes of leadership struggle, Snyder shows how to navigate intense challenges to achieve personal growth and organizational success. He details strategies for embracing struggle and offers a host of unique tools and hands-on practices to help you implement them. By mastering the art of struggle, you’ll be better equipped to meet life’s challenges and focus on what matters most.

Each Soundview Executive Book Summary is available for download in multiple digital formats. Confront your biggest leadership challenges with these great titles.

Book Review: The Art of Explanation

by Lee LeFever
by Lee LeFever

It doesn’t matter how wonderful a product you’ve created, if you can’t simply explain it to someone, there is little chance it will ever be purchased. Into this dilemma steps author and “Chief Explainer” Lee LeFever with his book The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand. LeFever provides one of the most original communication books to come along in recent memory. His book is now available for download in multiple digital formats as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

LeFever is the co-founder of Common Craft, a company frequently mentioned as one of the originators of the video explanation industry. The Art of Explanation is the result of years of trial and error to find the core of what makes explanations simple, effective and (of greatest importance) memorable.

The Art of Explanation is densely packed with lessons for executives. In the same way in which books on presentations stress the importance of practice, LeFever reminds readers of the critical need for planning before attempting to craft an explanation. He provides five questions you should ask yourself to help make your explanation more effective.

While the book has obvious emphasis for marketers and sales professionals, there is a universal quality to the power of LeFever’s ideas. Leaders who are preparing to lead a change initiative, for example, can use a great explanation to help calm the initial tide of employee fears that often accompany a new direction.

As previously stated, many of the ideas that shape The Art of Explanation arose from LeFever’s work for Common Craft’s clients (including Intel, Google, Dropbox and Ford, among others). LeFever’s labors bear fruit for anyone who picks up his book. Getting this essential information without having to spend years of trial-and-error to develop it is a benefit that needs no explanation.

Book Review: Care to Dare

by George Kohlrieser
by George Kohlrieser
There have been many terms used to describe the act of leading others. Leadership is a job, a responsibility and a vocation, but the word organizational and clinical psychologist George Kohlrieser prefers is “opportunity.” In Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership,Kohlrieser and co-authors Susan Goldsworthy and Duncan Coombe present Kohlrieser’s “Secure Base Leadership” model as a method to enable leaders to make the most of their opportunity. This title is now available in multiple digital formats as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

The importance of Kohlrieser’s model garnered the attention of leadership icon Warren Bennis. Care to Dare joins the exclusive company of a handful of titles be named to the Warren Bennis Signature Series (Editor’s Note: Another Bennis signature title The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steven B. Sample has also been summarized by Soundview).

The academic grounding of Kohlrieser’s work has no negative impact on its readability for executives. In fact, one of the reasons it received the Bennis designation is its contributions to both management thought and practice. The secure base model and its accompanying four-stage bonding cycle are well developed and supplemented with practical examples that are not specific to an organization’s size or industry.

Kohlrieser’s years of experience as a psychologist allow him to add a unique perspective to certain aspects of leadership philosophy and practice. This reaches its peak with his discussion of grief as a critical part of any workplace. If this seems too far-fetched for executives, reflect on this question: how do you feel when a star performer leaves your team? What emotion would ripple through the team to which this MVP belonged? This is just one example that Kohlrieser and his co-authors address through their influential work.

Download your copy of Care to Dare and begin building your secure base as a leader.