In 1996 I went to work for a very talented executive at Prudential Financial. Fresh out of business school I was hired into a newly formed internal consulting organization that traveled the world fixing operational problems in claims and call centers for their insurance and healthcare businesses. It was an exciting time in my career and everyone in the organization was charged up about the change we were going to bring to the giant, and somewhat lethargic, insurer.
Several months into the job there was a big organizational restructuring. I got a new second line exec. We moved from one organization to another. It was a bit of a fifty-two-card pick-up sort of thing. The company and its management system were going to take some time to consume. The people who worked for me (and myself as well) spent a lot of time on “water cooler” talk trying to sort out what this meant for us and our organization going forward. This restructuring, not the business at hand, was top of mind for everyone.
At that time my boss, Sekhar Ramaswamy, brought us all together and reminded us that our day jobs hadn’t changed. The business still required our transformation help. The meetings that were on the calendar weren’t going away. Our customers would still need to be served by our stakeholders. And, in short, no matter what was ahead of us, for now, we were along for the ride. His message: “Don’t get distracted!”
He was right, we were getting wrapped around the axle thinking about every possible meaning of every action and rumor and every possible negative outcome that could come with change. It was a total waste of time and energy.
I’m now in a situation where I have a new organization and I’m that new guy. I know that this change is going to cause a lot of water cooler talk. I know that folks are uncertain about their futures. I know there’s lots of angst about what could be, might be.
I need my leadership team to be communicating that same message: Don’t get distracted. At the same time I need to be creating clarity and transparency even if that message is “Hey, nothing’s changing anytime soon”.
For now, I’m in listen mode. I’m also drinking from the proverbial hose trying to sort out just exactly what I’ve got. But I’m also focused on the people. They need to continue to deliver for our clients, stakeholders and investors. They can get distracted. I can’t distract them.