After seventeen years, on May 29, 2009, Jay Leno made a clear exit from the tonight show and graciously handed over the reigns to Conan O’Brien.
Three months later, Jay Leno launched The Jay Leno Show. Of course, as the master of humour and timing, his debut was not a disappointment - well, not entirely. I have to admit, however, that I was a little bit disappointed. I was expected something new and I thought new meant different.
His new was not dissimilar from The Tonight Show. Jay’s loyal sidekick, Kevin Eubanks, also made his debut with The Prime Time Band (different in name only from the Tonight Show Band).
Just Like a CEO
As I processed my disappointment with the apparent lack of creativity, I realized that Jay Leno is the same as CEOs who move from one company to another. After many years, they develop their formula for success. They have a certain way of getting things done that leverages their strengths. They also have a network of close associates that they trust, that understand them and that they can rely on to get things done.
When a CEO moves from one company to another, the strategy he or she will initially employ to make a mark and put some quick successes on the board is entirely predictable. It will be the same strategy that brought them success in their previous role. In order to execute that strategy, the CEO will need to be surrounded by reliable people. Inevitably, they will recruit their trusted network into the new company in an effort to reduce the number of unknowns associated with their new role.
When Does This Approach Fail?
This is a perfectly reasonable approach except in the following circumstances:
1. The new environment differs significantly from the old one and the strategies that worked well in the old environment are ineffective in the new one. This can be as a result of the strategies being ineffective in the new environment or the strategies violating deep-seated cultural norms or tightly held values.
2. The trusted network that is recruited into the new environment does not have the deep relationships and influence that are needed in the new environment in order to get things done.
3. A competitor understands this tendency and employs a counter-strategy that sets the CEO up for failure.
What Does This Mean To You?
First, realize that all of us are creatures of habit and we repeat the strategies that work for us. Consequently, you should work to show up on the radar of your C-level clients as a resource that can be trusted to make them successful. If you do, they will take you with them wherever they go.
Second, if you are taken into a new situation by a new CEO, don’t assume that the strategies that worked in the past, will continue to work. Be sure to assess the environment you are being brought into and determine what variables have changed.
Third, when a new CEO shows up in your environment, take the time to find out where he or she is coming from and what/who made him or her successful in his/her previous role. Look for the strategies and the people that were employed and expect elements of the previous strategy to be immediately repeated. If you are competing against such a CEO, figure out what steps you might take to neutralize these strategies. If you are supporting such a CEO, find out how you can ensure these strategies become more effective in the new environment.
Finally, if you are hiring an executive, realize that people will do what they have done. Hire someone who is doing or has done exactly what you need done. Don’t hire someone hoping they will figure out what needs to be done and they will grow into what you are looking for.
The Success Formula
Jay Leno knows what his success formula is and he knows the people he can rely on to execute his strategy. Your C-level clients know their success formulas. Are you on their radar as someone who they can rely on to execute their strategies?
About the Author:
Adrian Davis is President of Whetstone Inc., a management consulting firm, devoted to helping business-to-business organizations tap unrealized profit potential, forge deeper connections with their customers and unlock the power of their purpose and passion.