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A Wish Sandwich – 3 Lessons HR Can Learn From the Blues Brothers

A wish sandwich is the kind of sandwich where you have two slices of bread and you, hee hee hee, wish you had some meat. Bow Bow Bow.

These are part of the lyrics to the song Rubber Biscuit, as performed by the Blues Brothers. This is one of my favourite Blues Brothers songs, even if it isn’t in the movie the Blues Brothers.

Last week, I read this great blog from Rob Jones, a UK HR Blogger entitled “10 Lessons HR Can Learn from Ghostbusters”. I so loved this blog that I decided to do a tribute to my Chicago/Toronto roots by writing this blog.

I was a teenager when the Blues Brothers movie came out. I was living in the northern Chicago boonies and I like all of my friends, I revered John Belushi. I also liked Canadian Dan Akroyd and because of him and a whole lot of other people in show business, I thought all Canadians were funny (and they are!). There was so much in the movie I could relate to, from the Chicago accent and all the familiar scenes to the desire to drive 100 mph down Lower Wacker and smash police cars.

For HR Professionals, there are some great lessons to be found within these scenes. It is the story of paying a debt and redeeming yourself. It is the story of two brothers, and their connection to “brothers of different mothers”. Take any HR buzzword today and you can find its use in the story including teamwork, leadership, resiliency, performance, diversity, redemption and talent management.

But without further ado, here are my top 3 lessons HR can learn from the Blues Brothers:

  1. We’re on a mission from God.

    Ok, I’m not getting all religious here, and indeed in matters of faith, HR is best to keep personal religious beliefs out of corporate culture. From time-to-time though it is important to take a break from being the employment standards police and do something inspirational. After all, the great Blues Brothers concert was performed in order to raise funds to pay the property taxes for Saint Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage.

  2. I hate Illinois Nazis.

    There is a scene in the movie where, upon hearing that the Illinois Nazis won their right to protest, the Blues Brothers decide to drive them off a bridge. We all cheered. We live in a far more diverse world now than thirty years ago. It seems absurd that a group such as the Illinois Nazis would continue to have a following but they do. From a human rights and anti-bullying perspective, it is really important for HR Professionals to keep this kind of rhetoric out of the workplace.

  3. I’ll have four fried chickens and a coke.

    Elwood always ordered dry white toast, and Jake ordered four fried chickens and a coke. It was a form of calling card and made them recognizable.

    For some people, blues music is a black and white issue. Or it is a north and south issue. Or it is a rich and poor issue. Or it is a class and trash issue. To me, it doesn’t matter. Blues music evokes a mood unlike any other. I listen to it sometimes just to feel “baad”; to understand someone else’s pain; to take me out of what is familiar to me. Sadly, despite growing up in Chicago, I never would’ve ever come to properly appreciate and enjoy the blues if two guys, one from Chicago and one from Toronto, hadn’t reached across the great divide and created awareness for some of the greatest music ever written by musicians with little airplay. For HR Professionals, the lesson is to look beyond your routines. Find things out of your comfort zone. Appreciate a broader set of talents. Bring something new to offer at your workplace.

Every organization is full of unique and perhaps hidden talent. As an HR Professional, find yours.



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