What HR Leaders Can Learn from the World’s Greatest Rock Band

By TechFunnel Contributors - Last Updated on June 16, 2020

This post is republished from SethMcColley.com with the permission of the author, Seth McColley, Vice President Human Resources, Kirby-Smith Machinery, Inc.

When you look at this picture, I know what you may be thinking – what would compel four seemingly normal people to get THEIR picture taken with this guy flashing the “hook ’em horns” sign?

The reality is that this is me and I’m getting MY picture taken with these four complete strangers who went all out for the Kiss concert about two weeks ago. And by the way, I was flashing a “rock on“, not a “hook ’em” (but just a one-day-only, special circumstances type deal).

I got invited to the show (Kiss and Mötley Crüe are touring together right now) by a co-worker and I couldn’t resist. Free ticket, VIP box seats, been a Kiss fan since elementary school, owned a Kiss belt buckle, still own 13 Kiss LPs (no kidding), never seen them live, etc. It was a no brainer.

Not that you came here for a concert review, but if we were keeping score…

Kiss – 1 Mötley Crüe – 0

Don’t get me wrong, the Crüe was good. They were loud, they were blowing stuff up, they were raunchy, they were…well, Mötley Crüe. But I had a hard time discerning one song to the next and Vince Neil sounded like a hyena in heat. Just sayin’.

Kiss, on the other hand, was perfection. These guys are professionals, no doubt about it. They were just as loud, but they were crisp, they were tight and they were…not raunchy. Over the years they’ve been knocked for putting on shows that were too staged and too choreographed. Seems people wanted more spontaneity and “wheels off” stuff that comes with a live performance. Right, wrong or indifferent that’s not what Kiss is about. Let me be clear, they are very intentional about how performance should run. They’ve been doing this for nearly forty (4-0) years, for crying out loud!

Which brings me (finally) to my point. As I was soaking it all in and thinking about my experience that night, I couldn’t help but think about this from a talent angle. I came away with three key things that I think all HR pros and leaders could learn from the greatest rock band ever.

Be Willing To Take Risks

Dateline: New York City, 1973.

Can you imagine the reaction people had when these guys first pitched their idea?

“Let me get this straight…you guys wanna put makeup on your faces, dress up in crazy costumes, wear platform shoes and you, you with the long tongue, you’re going to split blood out of your mouth and breath fire? You won’t make out of your first gig alive!”

Guess what? It worked and it worked well. Still works.

As HR pros and leaders, we need to be willing to roll the dice at times and take a chance on something that maybe turn out to be a complete bust. Last week, Tim Sackett wrote this post about how some of the best HR ideas aren’t coming out of big HR shops. Best practices are well and good, but they’re safe and they’re not going to take you and your team to the next level. What are you doing to push the envelope and blaze your own trail?

Build Your Brand

Kiss, specifically Gene Simmons, is a marketing genius. Point blank. Check out this quote…

“Rock & roll is, in fact, all about gimmicks. Most people love gimmicks. I love gimmicks — Jerry Lee Lewis getting up and playing the piano with his foot. I love all of it — anything that puts on a show, where the performer makes a spectacle of himself — and that’s everything we’ve ever been devoted to. If people think of Kiss as performers first and musicians or anything else later, that’s wonderful. It’s the most boring thing to be known as a musician, because those guys eventually wind up playing Holiday Inns.”

The band has built a brand that is known throughout the world and still, to this day, pumps out new merchandise – oven mitts, diaper bags, grill covers, ornaments, garden gnomes (that’s pretty funny)…even reality television shows. Incredible. So what are we doing, as HR pros and leaders to build our brand? How do you describe what you do? Do you have an elevator speech that you’ve perfected or do you have a statement that paints a picture and creates an emotional connection for others? Which do you think is more powerful? I spent time this week with a job coach and she’s encouraged me to rethink how I answer the question, “what do you do?”. I’m working on it now and I’ll share when I’m ready to go public.  Keep in mind though, what you do should not be tied to your employer or who writes your paycheck. Our brand belongs to us and we should take it with us wherever we may go. Our surroundings and circumstances might change, but our brand should define who we are, how we operate, how we treat others and what makes us tick.

Engage Your Core

When Kiss first started out, they wore makeup and had these outrageous stage personas. I still remember, as a kid, wondering what they looked like without the makeup. The whole world, in fact, was wondering the same thing. Who were these guys? As their popularity began to fade a bit, they made the decision to shock the world and take the makeup off. Ten years after they got started, they released “Lick it Up” and appeared on MTV without their make up. Big news. They were back in business. Here we are now almost 30 years later and they’re still touring, with their make up. Looking around the concert the other night, the vast majority of the audience was at least 40 years old. Kiss knows who their core is and they know who’s going to pay money to see them, especially with makeup. Everything old is new again!

So, who is your core? I’m a big believer in the notion of opinion leaders. Opinion leaders are not necessarily peer leaders (although they can be) and not necessarily thought leaders (although they might be), but rather individuals in a given group who are true change agents  by way of the fact that their opinions carry significant weight and influence on others around them. As an HR pro, I am very intentional about seeking out and spending time with opinion leaders within a work group when there’s a significant change event happening. You get the buy in from the opinion leaders and you’ve nearly won the battle.

So there you have it. A funny photo, a concert review and three lessons from the greatest rock band ever. Rock on!


Seth McColley is all about relationships – building them, cultivating them and sharing them. By trade, he’s an HR professional with more than 20 years of action-packed, diverse experience in varied industries of telecommunications, restaurant/hospitality, distribution, software, retail and construction. He has worked for some of the largest Fortune 500 companies and been able to apply those learnings to help smaller companies grow. He is currently the Vice President of Human Resources for Kirby-Smith Machinery, Inc., a heavy equipment dealer that operates in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. He understands that we are not defined by the titles we hold or where we land on the org chart, but rather our relationships and how we can serve others. 

TechFunnel Contributors | TechFunnel.com is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicated to sharing unbiased information, research, and expert commentary that helps executives and professionals stay on top of the rapidly evolving marketplace, leverage technology for productivity, and add value to their knowledge base.

TechFunnel Contributors | TechFunnel.com is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicate...

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