Rhythm and Blues Co-champions

I had the pleasure of seeing Mavis Staples, an American rhythm and blues singer, at the 15th Nelsonville Music Festival last weekend. Mavis, who will celebrate her 80th birthday next month, still performs over 200 shows a year. While watching her belting out vocal lines and performing for the crowd, I was reminded of a critical concept in strategic planning.

Due to being about ten feet back from the stage, I was able to see her and the band interact closely throughout the set. Great music is created through spontaneous and authentic reaction to your fellow musicians -- both through musical expression and from subtle non-verbal cues. I’ll tell you, great music was being played that day.

Rick Holmstrom is the guitarist and Mavis’ band leader. An accomplished musician in his own right, Rick joined Ms. Staples on many tours over the past decade. Based on their private on-stage banter, prodding from Mavis to keep his solos going, and small, sharp glances, it was clear that while Mavis was the show, Rick was directing the band to give Mavis what she needed.

In addition to being a great rhythm and lead guitarist, his presence didn’t distract from Mavis’ vocals. Instead, he supported and reacted to her vocal lines. These two have a great relationship and have developed a way of sharing the leadership role. It was most evident when Mavis had some small lapses in memory as to the next song. He gently reminded her with a raised eyebrow and a whisper of where to go next, in a non-judgemental and supporting way.

In strategic planning, we call Mavis and Rick “co-champions”. Mavis is the leader and Rick is the manager. Mavis looks out for the big picture and Rick makes sure that the details happen. Each of their roles are critical.

Over the years we’ve seen scores of strategic planning clients benefit from the co-championing model. Co-champions complement each other’s strengths, create mutual accountability, and can make the process more fun.

In our strategic planning software we’ve added features to allow different elements of a plan to be championed by multiple people.

If you aren’t already doing so, consider co-championing your next strategic planning initiative and see what sort of results you get.


Be sure to check out Mavis Staple’s latest album, “We Get By.”

Mavis Staples (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Mavis Staples (Photo credit: Wikimedia)