Motown: The Music, the Meetings, the Magic

The smashing success of the music production company, Motown Records, was and is, quite literally, off the charts financially and in its timelessness. Outrageously creative talents were nurtured in Detroit, MI under the caring tutelage of the multi-hyphenated wonder, Berry Gordy. Gordy fostered a creative environment dubbed the Disneyland of Music. Everyone involved with the Motown music was a part of the Motown team. Writers like Holland-Dozier-Holland, could stop the Supremes in the hall and ask Diana Ross to try out one of their new tunes. They didn’t set up formal collaborations that required specific introductions with detailed contracts before a conversation could happen. Creativity flowed and new music was created.

Hum along with your favorite Motown tune while pondering with me how a building full of primarily artists and creatives, run by the artist Berry Gordy, managed to become a very professional business operation. Motown wasn’t a few chance hits. Artist after artist released industry changing music under the roof called, “Hitsville USA”.

The answer is simple. While creativity was vital to success, so was respect for the importance of what was produced and the time going into making that happen. Berry Gordy’s way of managing meetings made this quite clear. 

Never, ever show up late to Motown meetings

Meetings were an important part of collaborating on the business of Motown. While artists often have a reputation of taking time as a suggestion, Gordy did not allow for that. Meetings at Motown were to be treated with utmost respect, so much so that if you were over 5 minutes late to a meeting, you were locked out! Gordy explained to a late arriver who made it through the door, “this is serious meetings because out of these meetings comes the records that Motown releases out to the street.” When the latecomer apologized and tried to join, Gordy accepted the apology but did not allow him to stay.

It was clear that when Gordy booked meetings, they had a purpose. Anyone not being respectful about arriving on time to a meeting was disrespecting the business of Motown, which was not excused lightly.

Gordy’s inspiration from working the assembly line

As a Detroit native, Gordy had a period of time where he worked for the Ford Motor Company. While at Ford, he gained an appreciation for the assembly line process. Gordy saw that if each part of a finished project is analyzed on its own level, all the parts can come together with an expected outcome. He ran Motown, coming out of Detroit’s Motor Town, heavily influenced by the concept of an assembly line. Each piece stands on its own, but the sum total of the pieces coming together to produce a product and create a business. 

Learning from Berry Gordy and Motown’s

The amount of time wasted in meetings is calculated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars each year. How and why do we allow that to happen? 49% of professionals reported that people leaving early or arriving late to a meeting is their biggest meeting irritation. If each of our meetings were thought of as being a serious one, where the outcome of that meeting is producing part of the assembly line that builds what our company is “releasing to the streets”, would we still show up late to meetings and would tolerate other meeting attendees showing up late to our meetings?

Also Read: Let’s Get to the Real Meaning of Collaboration in Meetings

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