When it isn’t fun anymore: a lesson from ABBA

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“It’s sure not fun anymore.” Sadly, I’ve often heard that during this recession, from dealers to salespeople to association directors. All agree they once were having fun. But, the length and depth of this downturn seems to have pounded the fun out of them.

That’s bad news because behavioral experts tell us when we feel the loss of fun, it becomes harder to perform at the high levels needed, especially in tough times. Worse, the effectiveness of our entire team is diminished.

However, because I’ve always been into music, I know an example of a team that faced adversity but never let the fun disappear. Perhaps we can take away some inspiration from ... ABBA, a Swedish group of four singer/songwriters that became so commercially successful that they sold more than 370 million records worldwide and still sell millions more a year.

ABBA isn’t new. It was an acronym of the first letters of the band members' first names. For a decade (1972-83), these two couples — Agnetha Fältskog & Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson & Anni-Frid Lyngstad — toured the world, dazzled audiences and had legendary fun together on and off stage. Yet, during their unprecedented “reign,” both couples divorced and even had some recordings that were duds. It makes their example worth a look by any dealership team.

And a team is what ABBA was. By that I mean, unlike most pop groups, ABBA didn’t have a standout lead singer that the rest of the group just backed up. No, when you look at old videotapes of ABBA concerts, it’s obvious you’re seeing four equal performers cavorting on stage and really enjoying the performance of each other. The whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts . . . just as it is in our dealerships. They could never have made the same music alone and, in fact, Lyngstad and Fältskog later pursued solo careers that failed.

Having fun with each other on our team is the perfect remedy for that feeling of the “daily grind” this recession seems to have created. But it appears we have become faceless members of a team. Nowadays, we can be in the next office and we send an email or text from our Blackberry rather than call, never mind get up and walk over for face-to-face time. It’s the result of today’s IT that surely helps us speed communication and business, but also seems to be robbing us of the time to be together as a team.

ABBA had to be on stage together to perform their musical magic. We can call our dealership a team, but if we’re not actually planning specific face-to-face time together, sharing anecdotes, telling jokes, comparing notes and enjoying everyone’s successes together, we’re a team in name only. Every member of our team needs to be on stage.

These days, every time I hear the term “team building” I want to throw up. It’s so overused in business today. Show me a dealership in which all the players spend some time together, just having fun and enjoying face-to-face time with the other team members, and I’ll show you a successful dealership that deserves an ABBA award.

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