Four Lessons in Talent Management From ‘Cutetallica’

By Jon Hyman

Sep. 15, 2014

Those of you who’ve been reading for awhile know that my 8-year-old daughter plays in a rock band. “Band” might be too ambitious of a term. She’s taken guitar lessons at School of Rock, in Strongsville, Ohio, for a couple of years, and since January has taken part in its performance program, which is known as Rock 101 for the beginner musicians. For her first set of performances in January, she was the only student, leaving her to play guitar and sing on every song. That pattern continued for her next set of shows in May, as the band added a drummer, but no singers.

Norah performed her next set of shows over the past two Saturdays. This time, even though she was joined by two other singers, she still sang lead on three of the songs (while still playing guitar), and added a new instrument, bass, on the fourth. Needless to say, she killed it (again).

So you don’t think I’m just a shill for my daughter, here are four talent-management lessons to take away from my rock star:

1. Let employees be who they are. “Cutetallica” was born out of the show director telling Norah that she sounds too cute when she sings For Whom the Bell Tolls, which, after all, is about death and the Grim Reaper. Her guitar teacher, on the other hand, liked Norah’s cute-sounding version of the song. Hence, Cutetallica. Your employees are who they are. If you want their best, don’t try to force a round peg into a square hole. Instead, let them perform while being true to themselves and their talents.

2. Push your employees. School of Rock gets it. It knows how to push kids to their limits, and recognizes that, much more often than not, talent rises to the occasion. Let your employees rise and fall to their abilities. Push them hard, and take away the safety net. They’ll surprise and delight you.

3. Age has no role in the workplace. Don’t rely on age (young or old) as a factor in your employment or staffing decisions. If School of Rock limited Norah’s ceiling by her 8-year-old age, she’d still be playing one instrument, and would stay in Rock 101 for a few more years. Instead, they allow her to take off the training wheels and succeed by her ability, not the perception of her ability based on how many years she’s been alive.

4. Talent is not a substitute for hard work. What impresses me most about how well Norah performs isn’t the performance, but all of the time and effort she puts in to honing it. Yes, I can be the nagging parent (“Did you practice your guitar today?”), but she’s the one putting in the time in her bedroom, making sure she’s going to nail her solo in About A Girl, and guaranteeing that she won’t forget any lyrics in the second verse of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Talent can sometimes leave you in the lurch, but hard work never will.

This was Norah’s last Rock 101 performance. She’s graduated to playing with the older, more experienced kids. Four months from now, I’ll be back to entertain you with the music of Joan Jett, as strummed and sung by Norah Hyman, maybe with an HR or employment law lesson to teach along the way.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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