Dare to Be the Unsung Hero

Photo of John Bonham courtesy of Flickr/Dina Regine

The coolest member of any band is the drummer. Hands down.

I say this because I spent most of my pre-professional life as a drummer. From banging on pots as a toddler to learning my way around my first drum set in adolescence to playing in rock bands in high school and college, drumming was always a part of my identity.

The cool thing about being the drummer is you can have a tremendous impact on the band’s sound but still stay somewhat in the background. Behind every great band is an out-of-this-world drummer — even those that don’t really seem to do much.

While the singer basks in the spotlight, and the guitarist and bassist woo with charisma, the drummer is responsible for holding it all together, often without feeling the need to be flashy.

I loved this. I could find a beat for a song, throw in a cool groove here and there, and feel very little pressure to do something over-the-top. Drumming was a way to enjoy playing music while contributing to the greater good of the group, not necessarily about beingrecognized.

Achieving recognition is on talent leaders’ minds. It’s no secret that HR has traditionally been viewed as the ugly stepchild in business. So it’s unsurprising that as HR continues to be more strategic, its leaders are seeking more recognition.

An example of this dropped into my inbox recently when a co-worker passed along an email about the establishment of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.

Modeled after the Financial Accounting Standards Board, SASB’s mission is to incorporate sustainability measurement standards, including human capital metrics, when a company reports earnings to the public.

SASB’s board members argue that corporate financial reporting to the public is limited, and that for investors to have a more accurate picture of a company’s performance, sustainability measures are needed.

As columnists John Boudreau and David Creelman delve into on page 42, SASB is pushing human capital measures like diversity and inclusion, recruiting, development and retention of talent.

These are absolutely legitimate elements of company success and performance. But the more I read, the more I wonder if this is just another example of business leaders trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Should stockholders fixated on P/E ratios and earnings per share care about a company’s talent management practices? Absolutely. But if a company recruits well, treats its workers fairly and provides them significant and innovative opportunities for development, wouldn’t the fruit of those efforts come out in financial reporting?

There are companies that don’t treat workersproperly that are going to perform well financially and vice versa.

In his book “Invisibles,” journalist David Zweig argues that ambivalence toward acclaim, a focus on being meticulous and a willingness to shoulder responsibility for behind-the-scenes tasks are valuable traits that have become lost in today’s economy of self-promotion and personal branding.

He legitimizes this point through vignettes showing how “unsung-hero” workers — like the band Radiohead’s instrument technician — are significant contributors even though they’re rarely recognized.

Talent managers might consider the power of invisibility. Continue to develop strategies that align with the business and help employees perform at a high level; recruit the best talent and create inspiring workenvironments.

And be honored to do it. 

Because every band needs the unsung hero who makes the lead singer look good.