Sunday, February 03, 2008

Michael Buble's Funfest: A Sign of the Leisure Economy to Come

I had the pleasure of observing a Michael Buble tour up close and personal recently. I discovered a welcoming, well-run organization with a pervasive spirit of fun mixed with---as the younger generation says--- “awesome” virtuosity. With talk of the rise of a leisure economy again, this could be a signal of things to come for managers and leaders working with the “twenty and thirty-something” generation.

My daughter Jennie and two of her singer colleagues were engaged by the organization with which Buble is partnering for the logistics side of his cross-country tour to perform back up to “That’s Life” in the Toronto and environs area. As the tour passed through Toronto, London, Kitchener and Hamilton, I willingly became the chauffeur to provide safe passage for the girls to London and Kitchener. An unexpected perk was being able to observe the clockwork activities behind the scenes and upfront. The litmus test was its impact on how we experienced being there from the beginning to the end.

Despite being run off his feet and dealing with all manner of challenges, the head logistics guy took the time to guide us to and within the venue at each step of the way. Driving directions to the place especially once at the city limits from the highway. Where to park (security was ready for us). What door to enter (and he was right there to greet and escort us). Where to hang out to get ready (dressing room). The location of the food. The check points before the performance. Who would be taking care of the women to guide them to the stage. How they would watch over their belongings while performing. The security outside the dressing room door. Periodically, he would waft by to see how we were doing. With his eye on serving Michael Buble’s overall performance for the evening, the logistics guy did all the right things: he made sure the singers were emotionally and physically-supported each step of the way.

The icing on the cake was Michael Buble and his entourage. No doubt, Buble is the fun spirit behind the whole of the enterprise. Without him, the atmosphere would have been different. Perhaps the logistics team would not have been quite as pleasant and competent.

Besides having a great singing voice, Buble is a barrel of laughs and infects all the performers accordingly. He missed his calling as a comedian. He sprinkles his performance with outlandish comments and antics. He takes his energy from the audience and engages them well in the whole experience, sometimes worrying his security detail, no doubt. His very capable live band partnered smoothly with him to entertain us and lend some lightness to the serious array of songs from Buble’s album “Call Me Irresponsible”. The opening act, a gospel a cappela group called “The Naturally Seven” was astounding in its ability to mimic various instruments and lift the rafters with their inspirational songs.

My prime takeaway from this was the importance of the emotional climate in an organization. With no effort whatsoever, I immersed myself in it and felt better for the experience. My volunteer work was unexpectedly acknowledged with free tickets to watch from the front rather than the back. I did not see big egos ensuring that a hierarchy was firmly in place. Respect for each other pervaded the whole. The prime intent was to serve the customers. With that aim in mind, no stone was left unturned.

The second takeaway was the glimpse at an emerging phenomenon once again: the “leisure economy”. Retiring “workaholic” baby boomers are discovering its allure. But by accounts from many researchers probing the brains of the up and coming generations who will be our next crop of leaders, the “twenty and thirty somethings” will want copious opportunities for leisure throughout their careers. That means on the job “fun”, definitely a culture of respect and caring and non-traditional arrangements for holidays.

Linda Nazareth, in her book, The Leisure Economy: How Changing Demographics, Economics, and Generational Attitudes Will Reshape Our Lives and Our Industries, poses some provocative questions:

“What if more people chose to work less and give themselves more time?”

“What if they start making decisions not on the basis of speed---choosing things that can be consumed or done fast, or that let them do things faster---but on other values?”

Leaders and managers are already noticing this shift. And, it’s worrisome from the point-of-view of succession planning. The Boomers are now coming to grips with the reality: the subsequent generations don’t want to be like them (having unbalanced lives). At the same time, they do want to make a difference.

This trend is good for our health, well-being and longevity. Let’s embrace it and use our creative brains to make it work. It’s good for business too.

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