I was recently re-reading an article in the March issue of Smithsonian Magazine about the life and career of Quincy Jones. If you don’t know who Quincy Jones is, he is possibly the greatest American music impresario ever. He’s a living legend, with multiple Grammy Awards to his credit. His career and the musicians he has worked with are simply amazing. What really caught my eye in the article was a small paragraph that gave some insight into how he has been able to create such huge successes with the artists he has worked with. Here’s the line that really made me think:
“He has an unusual combination of intensity and charm with which he has brought out the best from a wide range of idiosyncratic performers. As a producer, Jones is known to research every nuance, hire the best players, and set them free.”
It really hit me that that’s what all great producers should do. Hire the best, and set them free. As software development managers or scrum masters, we are the producers and we should always keep this little pearl of wisdom in mind. I think it’s what really sets great teams apart from mediocre teams. First and foremost, hire the best. Stop trying to find cheap resources that can “bang stuff out”. The best cost a bit more but in the end, they’re well worth the price you paid.
Second: Once you’ve hired the best, set them free to do what they do best. That’s why you hired them. As soon as you start constraining them to some corporate policy or restraining their creativity by imposing some project management mandate on them, you’ve lost your investment in the best. When we try to micro-manage or direct work too much, we can stifle the creativity and ingenuity of our best performers. Sometimes, this means having the sense of mind to let them go way out to and beyond the edge. That’s where genius resides. This requires trust, patience, and no big egos.
So, what I learned from Quincy: hire the best, and set them free to explore their space. Let them perform naturally with no bounds. By doing this, we can really break barriers and produce what Seth Godin calls a Purple Cow. Set your team free today and start creating truly remarkable things.
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