CONNECTION CULTURE: 3 Practices That Propel the Rock Band U2’s Success
The rock band U2 has had an extraordinary run, as evidenced by a remarkable 22 Grammy awards, more than any band in history, and album sales topping 170 million. Its worldwide 360 Degree Tour was the highest revenue producing tour ever. How has U2 been able to achieve sustainable superior performance for more than 40 years now? Examining U2 provides insight into the factors that make groups of all types and sizes thrive for sustained periods, from committees and teams to organizations as large as Fortune 500 companies.
Several elements of U2’s culture are consistent with the elements that our research has shown produce a “Connection Culture.” A Connection Culture is an environment that develops a bond of shared identity, empathy and understanding. In a Connection Culture, individuals move toward group-centered membership. This type of culture is necessary for individuals and for organizations to thrive.
Connection Culture’s 3 Core Elements
With U2 as a model, let’s look at a Connection Culture’s three core elements of Vision, Value and Voice.
- Communicate an Inspiring Vision
U2 is comprised of four members who formed the band in 1976 as teenagers in Dublin, Ireland: lead singer Bono, lead guitar player “The Edge,” bass guitar player Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. They share a Vision of their mission and core values. Surprising for a rock band, U2’s mission is to improve the world through its music and influence. Bono calls it “the spark.” He feels it sets U2 apart from many other bands. U2’s songs address themes the band members believe are important to promote such as human rights, social justice and matters of faith.
The band has a core value of excellence in the music it produces and in its concert performances. Bono describes this value as a collective desire to continuously improve in order to achieve the band’s potential. U2 is never satisfied that they can’t become even better.
- Value People
The members of U2 appreciate each other’s unique contributions and help each other achieve his potential. Although Bono is the band’s megastar, he consistently shines the spotlight of praise on his fellow band members. Bono has said that although he hears melodies in his head, he is unable to transfer them into written music. He considers himself a “lousy guitar player and an even lousier piano player” who relies on his fellow band members and recognizes that they are integral to his success. These are more than words too. U2’s economic profits are split equally between the four band members and their manager. What better way to show your fellow group members that you value them than to treat them as equals?
Another way to value people is to help them through the inevitable difficult seasons in life. A few years after Bono’s mother died when he was 14, Larry Mullen, Jr.’s mother passed away. Bono reached out to console Larry during his time of grief and the two developed a close, supportive friendship. When The Edge went through divorce, the band members were there to support him. When Adam Clayton became addicted to alcohol and drugs, the band members helped him recover.
Bono describes U2 as a tight-knit family and community. He has said, “People with a strong sense of family and community…are always very strong people.” The commitment to support one another extends beyond the four band members to include their families, crew members, and collaborators. Many of them have known each other for decades.
- Give People a Voice
U2 is further unified by a decision-making style in which the members seek each other’s opinions, share their opinions and ideas honestly, and safeguard relational connections. The members of U2 relentlessly discuss how to improve their music, which reflects their passion for excellence. Their agreement is to go forward only if no one strongly disagrees. Bono has stated that this approach takes time and can be frustrating but that U2 feels it is necessary to achieve excellence and unity.
Creating a Connection Culture will unite and motivate the members of your organization, department or team. People who feel connected to the organization and their colleagues are more likely to give their very best efforts, align their behavior with the organization’s goals, cooperate, collaborate, and contribute to creative conversations that improve the organization through innovation. We’ve seen it in U2 and numerous other case studies and in our clients’ experiences.
Three areas to focus on are as follows:
- Vision – Identify your group’s mission and core values then regularly express them in ways that inspire your group’s members,
- Value – Articulate and reinforce a culture where every member is valued, and
- Voice – Develop decision-making processes that, whenever possible, inform and give members a voice in decisions that are made.
For a list of 100 attitudes, uses of language and behaviors that connect people, sign up to get a free copy of the 28-page 100 Ways to Connect e-book. This guide features practices from diverse organizations such as the U.S. Navy, NASA, Google, and the Girls Scouts as well as from thought leaders including Gary Chapman, Dr. Paul White, and many others.
As you begin to intentionally infuse connection into your culture, you’ll recognize the impact of this often overlooked source of competitive advantage.
All quotes in the article are from Bono by Michka Assayas.
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Tags: Bono, excellence, family, The Edge, U2, vision
Categories Relationships, Teamwork