I still get a rise out of Tom Cruise’s “Help me help you” speech in Jerry McGuire. I can’t help it.
I’m not writing to tell you to go easier on your helpers. To appreciate them more. Respect them more. Or understand them more. Actually, I know you appreciate them. Respect them. And understand them. You know how much they mean to you. You show them all the time. In the ways you thank them, in how hard you work, and how committed you are.
I’m writing to tell you that making your dream come true is about long haul coalition building. Not just getting the one person, two people, or five around you right now. But to inspire every person you encounter along the way. To make it easy for them to support you. And as you do, above all else, to ensure you are winning more than you lose. Because you will lose some. That is okay. That is just a fact of life and being human. Nobody needs to be perfect. Perfection isn’t what builds the bigger things. Attention is.
So often in the music business people focus on who they want to “get.” A manager. An agent. A label. A publisher. A publicist. A radio promoter. A distributor. A DJ. An interviewer. A critic. The getting becomes a carrot to chase. And once they “get” the deal or the gig or the person, they think they’ve won. But people are not acquired. The getting is not the win. The deal isn’t what we’re after. It’s the relationship. And all that relationship cultivates. And how it moves over time. There is no getting – only relating.
Coalitions are built of team members, it’s true. But the mortar that makes your team strong is made of people who support you, wish you the best, and sometimes are able to help – in little increments – whether or not they are “on the team.” All the little increments of help and hope make a difference.
We can’t please everyone. Nor should we try. But we can make it easy for people to help us – in our own authentic ways.
We can remove paths of resistance, and offer people simple ways to further our cause. We can design our asks so yes is easy.
Teams are built quickly, but coalitions are built over decades. You can’t rush it so don’t even try. Just trust that each supporter/investor you gather is another inch toward your dream. That every person matters. There are no important people and unimportant people. We are all humans.
You build coalitions by showing up where the people are. They won’t come to you. You have to go to them.
You keep coalitions by being consistent. The thing that surprises people about you will be the thing that gets attention. But the things you are consistent about are what become your MO – your reputation – what you are known for.
Change is a process. Coalition building is, too.
The next time you ask someone to do something for you – be it large or small – think of these questions…
– Are you asking them to do something that is easy for them to do?
– Are you making it easy for them to do it for you? If not, can you?
– If you make it even just a little bit easier for them, will they be more likely to help you?
– What does the way you are asking indicate about who you are? What is the nature of your relationship with them?
– What relationships of theirs are you asking them to leverage on your behalf?
– Is what you are asking them to do on par with what you can do for them now or in the future?
In all things, we are at our strongest when we operate together. You have that on your side always. People want to belong. They want to be part of something that is growing. If you can find ways to make it easy for people to be part of what you are doing – if you can draw on their strengths in ways that further their own missions as well – if you can make their investment as much about them as about you – you will find yourself surrounded by a family of true supporters.
You can do this.