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September 21, 2011

How to Save Your Change Management Program From Cancellation

Tvcar60sEarlier this week, I was leading a workshop for a group of leaders in a company that’s been around for a long time. They’re at the beginning of an enterprise wide, top to bottom reimagining of the business. There’s a mix of excitement, ambiguity and uncertainty in the air. Everyone knows that big changes are needed. What’s not clear is whether or not, after years of success doing things a certain way, the necessary changes will take root.

As luck would have it, I’d just heard a story on NPR that offers a lot of clues about why change management programs fail so I shared it with the group. The story was about the annual Fall premiere week on the television networks. The Variety TV editor, Andrew Wallenstein, pointed out that every year dozens of new shows are launched in the same week and every year more than 75 percent of them are cancelled after the first season. It’s not so much a program quality program as it is a math problem. This year, for example, 58 new shows are launching during premiere week. Given that most people only have so many hours a week that they can dedicate to watching TV, most of the new shows never gain an audience.

It costs a lot of money to produce a TV show. You’d think that the networks and producers would want to improve the odds of a return on their investments by spreading out the premieres over the course of the year and giving more people a chance to actually watch more of the shows. Pretty simple fix, right? So why have they been doing the same thing every year for the past 50 years? Wallenstein offered the answer.

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September 19, 2011

Being Busy Makes You Stupid

Being busy makes you stupid. And when I say, "you", I mean me. Heck, I'll just say it out loud. Being busy makes me stupid.  

I realized this in a conversation with my wife on Friday night. We were out for a long, relaxed “just the two of us” dinner. Of course, we had scheduled that months in advance because of our calendars. Anyway, there we were, relaxed and focused on the conversation. She’s starting a new business and was telling me about her plans and what she has already accomplished. I was blown away. One reason for that was because she’s got a totally awesome plan and is executing it with precision. The other reason is because, until that moment, I wasn’t aware of about 80% of what she’d been up to in the past month.


I know that makes me sound like a jerk. Maybe I am.  

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September 16, 2011

Picking Up and Letting Go at Sea

About a month ago today, I was a guest on the US Coast Guard Cutter Venturous leaving their station in St. Petersburg, Florida and getting under way for a patrol in the Florida Straits. In this last of the videos from the trip that I’ll be posting on this blog, you can see what it looks like when a Cutter gets underway with a lot of new crew members that need training.

Most of the video is shot on the bridge and you’ll see that there are a lot of crew members up there as the ship gets underway. In normal circumstances there might be 5 or 6 people on the bridge. Because about a third of the crew was new to the Venturous on this patrol, there were about three times that many on the bridge on day one so that the experienced crew could teach and train the newcomers.

One of those experienced officers was the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Troy Hosmer. He’s a 39 year old career Coastie and the Venturous is his fifth ship. You can spot him in the video by looking for the guy with the scrambled eggs on the bill of his cap. When you see him, you’ll notice that he’s a pretty quiet presence on the bridge.He’s clearly the final authority onboard but he gives his crew plenty of room to teach each other and make decisions.

Cmdr. Hosmer is a great guy to talk with and I was fortunate to spend a fair amount of time in conversation with him.  One of the things he shared with me that first day was that he would have loved nothing more than to drive the ship himself. It’s his passion. He understands, however, that that is no longer his job.  There may be no one on the Venturous who’s a better ship driver than Cmdr. Hosmer. He’s an expert in that domain. As he’s taken on higher leadership roles within the Coast Guard, however, his technical skills have become less important and his leadership skills have become more important. He’s not the take charge, be the hero ship’s captain that you often see in the movies. He’s a quiet leader who knows when to let go and step back so his crew can pick up new skills and step up. 

By approaching his job in that way, Cmdr. Hosmer creates the bandwidth to do the things that only he can do in his role as captain of the Venturous. The only way that he can rise up to fill his role is if his crew rises up with him by building their capacity to run the ship.

How does that same dynamic apply to you in your leadership role? What do you need to let go of and let others pick up so you can do the things that only you can do given the role that you’re in?

 

September 14, 2011

A Five Step Plan for Speaking Truth to Power

Elmendorf Let’s hear it for Doug Elmendorf!  

It’s possible that, as was the case with me until yesterday afternoon, you don’t know who Doug Elmendorf is. He runs the Congressional Budget Office and was the star witness at a hearing yesterday of the Congressional Super Committee charged with reducing the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. I heard parts of Elmendorf’s appearance in a story on NPR and knew immediately that I was blogging about Doug today. When it comes to effectively speaking truth to power, Doug rocks. He’s a role model for any leader who has to sit or stand in front of a group of powerful people and tell them things they may not want to hear.

You owe it to yourself to listen to the NPR story. It’s a little over four minutes long and you may want to stand up and cheer when it’s over. In the meantime, here’s my breakdown of Doug Elmendorf’s five step approach to speaking truth to power:

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September 12, 2011

Three Things Resilient Leaders Do

Memorial1 Watching the ceremonies on TV yesterday, I was struck by the beauty of the 9/11 memorial in New York. It’s a park built around the footprints of the World Trade Center towers and waterfalls flow into the footprints. Looking at the memorial, I was reminded of the first time I saw Ground Zero after the attacks. I had worked on Wall Street a block and a half from the WTC in the late 1980’s so I knew the area pretty well prior to the attacks. The Trade Center had been my subway stop in those days.

My first trip there after 9/11 was in the Fall of 2005. I had a client in the Wall Street area and flew from Dulles to Newark on an early morning flight and eventually caught the PATH train to go underneath the Hudson and into lower Manhattan. What I hadn’t realized when I booked the arrangements was that the PATH train station was at Ground Zero. As the train came out and up from under the river, it emerged into the foundation where one of the Towers had stood. My first view of the site was literally from the inside out. The view out the window was so unexpected, that it literally took my breath away. It almost overwhelmed me. I started looking around the train to see if anyone else was having a similar reaction.

No one was. It took me a few moments to realize why. These people who were on the train, reading their newspapers or listening to their music, were on another daily commute to their jobs. They took this trip everyday of the week. A lot of them had probably made the same trip prior to 9/11 and now, a few years later, they were back to doing what they do.  

It hit me then how resilient human beings can be. I’ve thought a lot about that since then and have, in observing my own life and the lives of others, identified what I think are three characteristics of the kind of people who bounce back. Whether they’re bouncing back from a world changing tragedy or a common disappointment, here are some of the things I’ve noticed about resilient people and resilient leaders:

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As an executive coach, speaker and author of The Next Level, Scott Eblin advises hundreds of executive leaders every year. The Next Level Blog is where he shares "news you can use" to raise your leadership game.

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