I was enriched a couple of weeks ago at work when a colleague shared the story you’ll read in this post. We take a few minutes at the beginning of every meeting to talk about our shared values in a meaningful way, and it was his turn to lead that day. Our meeting started at 7:00 a.m.
We’re going to talk about “Tighten Up,” said Adrian.
Adrian told us that he was repurposing something he’d created for a leadership class assignment a few years back at the University of Houston. It sounded interesting…and it was! The assignment was to choose a song that represents your leadership voice, and provide an explanation.
Adrian Selected “Tighten Up”
In Adrian’s words (from the assignment):
“The song I chose to represent my leadership voice is called “Tighten Up”, which was written in 1968 by Archie Bell & The Drells, an R&B / Soul vocal group from Houston Texas. I heard it for the first time when I met my wife. She tells me that it was one of her Dad’s favorite songs to listen to while he was growing up in the Houston area. The song has a very catchy tune and it quickly became one of my favorites too. Go ahead and take a listen to it by clicking this YouTube link…
Adrian’s story continues:
“Now, how is this relevant to leadership?
Well, my most recent mentor/manager would always talk to his leadership team about “tightening up” any areas where quality could escape. He held this team accountable for seeking areas for improvement and introducing new solutions that would benefit the organization by reducing waste and increasing quality. These efforts required participation of all members starting from the top down. “Tighten Up” was a phrase that he used in many discussions and I’m not even sure if he even realized how he was using it when leading his department years ago. Until one day, his use of “Tighten Up” reminded me of the Archie Bell song and I decided to share it with him and another Team Lead.
They really got a kick out of the song and we quickly laughed aloud imagining ourselves actually going around the office environment telling people to “Tighten Up”. I don’t think any of us actually did because that would have been extremely silly, but the idea of identifying those areas for improvement and identifying those individuals that needed development (“Tightening Up”), is a concept that each of us three as leaders of this company continue to refer back from time to time.
I did a quick Google search tonight about the basic meaning to this song and it states that it has a double meaning. “Tighten Up” is about a dance which gets people moving closer together on the dance floor and it can also mean to ‘play music together in tempo or tune, with a psychological element that the band is emotionally engaged in the music.'” Just like Archie needs his drummer, bassist, guitarist, organist, and everyone else to “Tighten Up” to perform well, I as a supervisor/leader will work with each of my team members to develop their skills and improve the team dynamics so that we perform and execute in sync.“
That’ll Start the Day Off Right!
Wow! What a way to start a 7:00 a.m. meeting! The song is super-catchy. Did you listen? Isn’t it hard to stay still?
Back to the meeting: we all had our webcams on; our meeting was 100% virtual since we’re an international team, so we use our cameras to see each other’s faces. When Adrian played “Tighten Up,” we were dancing in our seats. And a couple of us, including yours truly, actually got out of our desk chairs and busted a move or two. I would’ve been a little embarrassed if it was only me, but our colleague in Norway joined me. It was FUN.
But there was also a wonderful work-related meaning, and now we use the phrase “tighten up” when we need to improve the quality of something we’re doing.
Thank you, Adrian! And thank you, Archie Bell and the Drells. It’s great how things that were meaningful in the past, like the song from 1968 and Adrian’s choice of it as a leadership anthem almost half a century later, can be meaningful again. And again. I think there’s a lesson there somewhere.
And now, I’ve gotta go “Tighten Up”.