What I Learned From AC/DC

Kathy Rapp Communication, Culture, Employee Engagement, Engagement and Satisfaction, Generations, Good HR, HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, Innovation, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Development, Pop Culture, The HR Profession

If you read my bio,  you know I’m a music fan.  In particular, I get excited by loud, vibrant and heart-stopping tunes.  So when a former colleague messaged me he was touring with AC/DC and they’d be in Houston, I had no shame in asking (ok… begging) him for tickets.

Not only did we have amazing seats, but he also hooked us up with backstage access and made sure we had time with the band. In fact, we ended up shutting down the bar at Four Season’s together—but that’s another post.

In addition to having an awesome time, I reflected back on the concert and conversations and realized I had takeaways relevant to the HR community.

And yes, even though most of AC/DC’s hits are from the 70s and 80s, my revelations are actually current to 2016 and how we approach our “people” profession.

be joyful. “If you don’t have fun and exude joy, it’s going to be really hard to get customers to buy from you,” said Robert Herjavec, co-star of Shark Tank. AC/DC has been touring since last April.  They do the same show every night.  They deal with crazy fans and none of them can hear.  Yet, in talking with them I truly believe they love every bit of what they do.

HR jobs are not always easy or fun, but you have to love what you do. Otherwise your “customers” won’t buy in. Your programs, culture initiatives and leadership coaching will fall flat.

be resilient.  After the show I learned Angus Young, the 60-year old who played a 10-minute guitar solo and never stopped running, was really sick.  You would have never known.

Layoffs, losing out on a great talent, helping employees through difficult situations and generally knowing more than you can share is tough. Resilience is never complaining about any of it. Channel any negative energy into making whatever better. Keep playing.

be relevant.  There were people of all ages at this concert. Seriously. There was a woman with a walker along with groups of teenagers.

Talking about handbooks or why James hasn’t turned in his performance reviews is likely not relevant to moving your business forward. Know what matters to your leaders and align your work to make a difference.

be approachable.  I would think the last thing lead singer Brian Johnson wanted to do after singing for 2+ hours was talk to people backstage. But he did—and with genuine interest and a smile.

The people in your organization need to be able to talk to you. About anything. A “Chief People Officer” doesn’t hide behind an admin or a door. Being approachable also means being out and about. Walking into someone’s office vs. sending an email. Hanging out on the call center floor during lunch. Wearing jeans and leaving the office during summer hours to demonstrate it’s ok to do so.

be bad-ass.  AC/DC rocked out. Non-stop. Full throttle. Without hesitation.

You have to approach your HR “job” in a similar fashion. Love what you do, do it well and do what works for your business. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Raise your hand to volunteer for an assignment or project that might be risky.

What can you learn from a bunch of dudes in their 60s? A lot. So don’t stop listening.

Kathy Rapp

Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.