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October 14, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

Do You Remember the First Time??

Bit of a random blog here but on my way home from work yesterday I was listening to Marquee Moon by Television. A good few years old, I know, but still an incredible debut album.

Incredible because it sounds so fully formed…for a first attempt it sounds like a band that had been together for ages and in total mastery of their sound. There have been many other great debut albums – Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Stone Roses, and Arctic Monkeys to name but 4 personal faves – where everything that the group had worked and practiced for, believed in and hoped for, seemed to come together at the first attempt.

For all of them it’s arguably the case that the debut was their best and nothing they did after ever matched it again.

It got me wondering… what happens when your first shot is your best shot?

If you start a new job, what if your first few months are as good as it’s going to get?

If you’re in HR, what if your first interventions/strategies are the most effective?

If you’re in sales, what if your first quarter is your best quarter?

Will your future achievements be defined by and measured against your first ones?

There are lots of workplace scenarios in which you can start off firing on all cylinders and end up fizzing out. Over years in recruitment I have interviewed many candidates who have started their new roles like a runaway train and then seemed to lose their appetite or creativity.

I’m interested to know how you deal with this. How many chances do you give someone to show that they can still do it? How long does someone live off their early promise?

With the exception of the Arctic Monkeys, all the other bands I mentioned split after 2 or 3 albums…if you’re someone who gets your new role off to a flyer, then maybe struggles to get that momentum back, when do you know if it’s time to quit trying and seek a new challenge?

Despite splitting, they are all still very influential bands, even now…so do we lose our effectiveness and influence the longer we try (unsuccessfully) to replicate early successes?

Let me know what you think…

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2 Comments

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  1. Doug Shaw / Oct 14 2010 8:58 AM

    Wow! You’ve made the hairs on the back of me neck stand taller than Mr Curtis.

    I’ll come back to Joy Division in a minute.

    It takes confidence to build on initial success. There’s something rare and unusual about confidence. The word comes from con, meaning with, and fide…faith. Doing things with faith, a belief not based on proof.

    Confidence implies that you have faith in yourself that you can handle challenges and succeed. Confidence enables people to focus externally and reach out to others. That outreach through conversation and dialogue leads to new knowledge that increases self-awareness that leads to greater confidence, so long as you keep asking questions.

    For many, initial success can cause folk to step beyond faith to arrogance. The word arrogance drives from two Latin words ‘ab’(from) and rogare (to question) and means ‘to turn from questioning’.

    This may be in part what makes it difficult to move on from initial success to even greater things. So maybe folks just need to be mindful of confidence and arrogance and the danger of drifting from one to another? And if and when they do drift, the skilful manager might gently coach and encourage them to turn back to asking again?

    Back to the music. Afraid I don’t know much about the other bands you mention but Joy Division stand out for me. I think that Unknown Pleasures is (just about) the better of their two studio albums but for me, three of their finest peaks are Transmission (raw power), Love Will Tear Us Apart (can you beat that outro?) and Atmosphere (I can’t listen to that one without tears in my eyes). I don’t think these three greats appear on either album?

  2. Kevin Ball / Oct 15 2010 10:27 AM

    The practical answer for bands is often that they have years in relative obscurity to refine the tracks for their first album and a few months under scrutiny and pressure to produce ‘that difficult second album’. I think success brings expectation in all fields and, as you say, work is no different.

    The key for managing others to achieve consistently is to manage the pressure for them – both the pressure that the organisations gives them and that they give themselves. The key for managing yourself, as Doug says, is to stay humble. Recognise that initial success doesn’t absolve you from future graft and keep grafting.

    Incidentally, on the Arctic’s I think ‘Humbug’ gets better every time I listen to it and the critics response on its release was unduly negative. The fireworks of “Whatever…” are behind them I still believe their best is yet to come.

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