More Cowbell

My favorite scene of the Saturday Night Live show is ‘More Cowbell.’ In this sketch we see a live studio recording of a famous Blue Oyster Cult song, including a disruptive ‘cowbell’ player. Finally the studio director steps in. To the surprise of many, he demands … more cowbell!

There is a lesson here for all us who aspire to become exceptional leaders. Exceptional Leaders are not afraid of ‘More Cowbell.’ They relentlessly focus on building their strengths and refuse to let their strengths be overshadowed by somehow trying to compensate their weaknesses.

They know that if you would focus your entire life on compensating your weaknesses, the only thing you would end up with is a large set of strong weaknesses. This is not a recipe for High Performance.

This single minded focus on your own strengths and the strengths of an organization is called the More Cowbell Principle. Here are three practical ideas how exceptional leaders inspire More Cowbell in their organization.

  1. They get rid of dysfunctional Performance Systems. Too many Performance Systems are aimed at identifying weaknesses to develop people. Focus on peoples’ strengths and on building High Performance Teams to compensate any individual weaknesses instead. When was the last time you used 360 degrees feedback to identify massive strengths, instead of the dreaded ‘development areas?’
  2. They reinvent delegation. Real delegation means giving something which is work for you, to someone else for whom it is play. Everyone is wired differently and playing to our strengths is often enjoyable and fun. When delegation is applied well, you will be surrounded by people who love to do what you detest doing.
  3. They continuously apply the principle of the Highest and Best Use of Time throughout their organization. Highest and Best Use Activities are activities which:

– The organization is skilled at
– The organization is passionate about
– Create (massive) value to others

Then they outsource or eliminate everything else

If you do what everyone else is doing, you are not distinguishing yourself and you are probably stuck. Exceptional leaders know this. They insist on More Cowbell, for themselves and for others. Only by showing courage and building on strengths they are able to unleash the entire potential of an organization.

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