What does Adele have to teach us about business?


I recently scored tickets to Adele’s opening night concert in London. It was as spectacular as you would expect and as the ticket prices reflect. Even after reviewing the concert for Culture Map, I have not been able to get the concert out of my mind. And of course, being in the business world, there must be some business lessons to learn that will allow me to savor the experience, at least on paper, a bit longer.

Adele’s meteoric rise is obviously tied to her talent. But there is more to maintaining iconic status than just talent. She has many talents that I see in successful CEO’s.

1. She is Efficient
The tickets stated a start time of 8 pm, and the website said that Adele would start on time and end about 10:30. Although Adele was a few minutes (less than 15) late, it was because the 20,000 sell-out crowd was slow getting to their seats. And despite a seemingly unstructured concert with lots of give and take, the concert was smoothly orchestrated, and indeed ended on time. Compare this time efficiency with Madonna, who is making herself notorious these days for starting shows as much as 2 hours late. Time is money, and time management is an indication of both one’s reliability and value placed on fans (clients and customers). Use your time well. Do what you say you are going to do.

2. She Is Authentic
After her first three songs Adele said, “I have so much to tell you,” and started chattering away about her son, her tour, the crowds in Belfast, breast feeding, a skin blemish, and how awed she was to be at the Oscars. It was not scripted; it was as if she were talking to an old friend. She was just being herself, and that authenticity gave her beautiful songs so much more meaning and emotional depth.

3. She is Vulnerable
Adele opened the show with her number one hit single, “Hello,” singing the first few words and then letting the audience finish the song because she was overcome with emotion. “I’m so nervous,” she said, that “I thought I was going to burst into tears as I came up to the stage.” She understands that being open and sharing her experiences does not equal weakness.

4. She Made the Audience Feel Special
Adele reached out to individuals in the audience, stopped the concert to take selfies with them, and acknowledged the various placards that he fans were waving. Even in a venue filled with 20,000 fans, everyone felt she was singing just to them. To watch her do this so naturally made me think about the times we all miss opportunities to make our colleagues feel seen, heard and valued. She displayed a well-known trait of highly successful executives, to make someone feel like they are the only one in the room.

5. She Is Confident
To interact with a large audience, calmly and enthusiastically, to respond to fans yelling your name, and to engage on a personal level with fans takes a huge amount of confidence. Think about the concerts or performances you have been to. Even pros such as Paul McCartney, Bono and Bruce Springsteen limit their interactions to specific, scripted times in their concerts and for the purpose of dancing to a song. Not Adele. She said, “I’m really eager to talk to you,” and proceeded to do just that. She even addressed the fact that some in the audience may not be adoring fans and confidently stated, “Those who didn’t want to come or came because of a friend I’m going to win you over.” And she did.

6. She is Grateful
Adele simply but impactfully thanked the audience, repeatedly and in different ways. “I know it is hard to get out on a Monday night.” “Thank you so much for coming to see me.” “Thank you so much for waiting between my albums for me to come back.” “Thank you for giving me some privacy to raise my son.”

7. She Has A Healthy Sense of Humor
After her fourth song she cracked, “you know my songs are tear-jerkers. This one isn’t so you better stand up and dance while you can.” When she asked someone from the audience who she had invited to the stage because he yelled he came from Brazil when he had arrived and he answered, “last year,” she laughed as hard as we did.

8. She Keeps It All In Perspective
Although it is the source of much of her personal and financial accomplishment, Adele knows that performing doesn’t define her. She stated “these next 93 concerts (she will be touring through the end of the year) are not my life.” She later said, “I don’t even know how to put on make-up. This me –all dressed and made up—is not me.”

9. She’s Got Talent
And of course, she has a voice that is one of the best of our generation.

And what is Adele’s advice for the audience?
Find your passion. Adele spoke of her passion for music, but more importantly, that having a child was “singularly the most important thing I have ever done in my life. I’m so incredibly proud of myself for bearing this child.” Whatever you do, find your passion—something that you love.