Maggie and I have been listening to Broadway music for a little over a year now – ever since I took her to see “Into the Woods” at the Washington Pavilion. We’ve enjoyed music from “Wicked” “The Book of Mormon” “Chicago” and of course “Hamilton.” (Gotta love Pandora making it easy for us to find music & listen!) It’s going to be awhile before Hamilton makes it close enough to us to make the trip affordable [key here is *affordable*], so Maggie put the soundtrack on her Christmas list. Thanks to Grandpa Rich for getting it for her! The soundtrack is phenomenal and we’ve gotten to learn Hamilton’s story and are having fun singing along! Maggie is getting really good at the Cabinet Battles.
As I was listening the other day, I found some HR lessons in the songs. So I decided to join the #HRMixTape Challenge. All commentary is based on the music from Hamilton and not on actual history, so don’t @ me for getting my facts wrong.
Starting out with Aaron Burr’s advice to Hamilton: Talk Less. Smile More. Fools who run their mouth wind up … well probably not dead in the workplace, but it’s never bad advice to Talk Less.
Right Hand Man: Washington needed someone to help him because he knew he “cannot be everywhere at once.” Burr puts himself in the running, but Washington was more interested in Hamilton. Hamilton had a reputation of being a self-starter, but no one else had been able to get him on their staff. Hamilton scoffs at the idea of being a “Secretary.” He wants to be in charge. But Washington is able to get Hamilton to see things his way and get Alexander as his right hand man. He gets Alexander excited about the opportunity to work for him and perhaps Alexander understands, kind of, that his best opportunity for a command is under Washington. [Though it’s 11 songs before Hamilton gets his Shot.]
- Take care when choosing a position or employer. You might not need to take the first one that comes along. Evaluate your options.
The Schuyler Sisters: Look around! How lucky we are to be alive right now! The Schuyler Sisters are early feminists, sneaking out, down to watch the guys at Work. They aren’t really looking for a man, but Angelica is looking for a “mind at work.” She wants someone who can challenge her. Angelica understands her role, but wants more. She sings of compelling Thomas Jefferson to include women in the sequel to the Declaration of Independence. She’s reading Thomas Payne and understands why the revolution is important.
- We are still lucky to be alive right now. History is happening. In light of the #metoo movement, it is wonderful to hear & sing these songs about powerful women in a time when their only job was to “marry rich.” We need to support women in all their choices.
Take a Break: Eliza implores Alexander to take a break, get away from work for a while. Alexander’s argument that he can’t is that he’s got to get this one project done (just setting up the banking system for the new country). Eliza brings her sister Angelica into the discussion and Alexander also uses Angelica to argue back to his wife (which so many people use).
- We should use this as a reminder that we all need to take a break, take a vacation, because if only Alexander had joined his family at the lake, he wouldn’t have been tempted to cheat and then be blackmailed. See what happens when you don’t take a vacation?
The Room Where it Happens: Aaron Burr is jealous of Hamilton, probably since Washington chose Hamilton as his right hand-man. Burr has watched Hamilton’s rise from the sidelines and has finally found his way to the spotlight by becoming a Senator. And yet, he is still left out and as we don’t know “how the sausage gets made,” it’s likely that Burr doesn’t know the details of what happened when Hamilton had dinner with Jefferson and Madison.
- We need to be open and communicate with our staff about decisions. If we can talk about how and why decisions are made, we should. If we don’t, staff will make up their own stories about it.
Washington on Your Side: I’m going to assume many bosses struggle with playing favorites. Washington, with all his strengths, fell victim to this with Hamilton. Washington was Hamilton’s mentor, guide through the political game. This was not lost on Burr, Jefferson or Madison, who sing about how it must be nice to have Washington on your side.
- We need to be careful that no one becomes “untouchable.” How many stories in the #metoo movement are there because the harasser was a “superstar” or had someone powerful on their side? Even in more benign situations, playing favorites can cause others to become less motivated.
One Last Time: Washington retires from public service, public life and wants to go out on a high note. He understands that he is not irreplaceable and that it is not good for the country that he stay on as president. Hamilton implores him to stay on, but in this beautiful song, Washington shares some parting thoughts, lessons learned. Washington wants to teach the country how to “say goodbye.”
“If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone”
(My favorite part of this song is how Hamilton is speaking the speech as he writes and then Washington begins to sing under, which Miranda takes from will.I.am’s “Yes We Can” video, which he made based on President Obama’s speech.)