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Leading Change with Al Comeaux

”Everyone has a stake in change, everyone has a role in change, and everyone should be bought into the change. “

Change is hard, there is no doubt about it. But it’s even more difficult when it’s led poorly and the people who are deemed responsible for that change were never brought into it properly in the first place. That’s why solid leadership and guiding a team through change is important. 

In this episode of Time Limit, decorated corporate pioneer and global authority on change Al Comeaux shares his thoughts and experiences working through change in organizations like Travelocity, GE, and American Airlines. He also covers some themes and lessons from his new book Change (the) Management: Why We as Leaders Must Change for the Change to Last. The interview with Al covers a lot of ground, including:

  • What is change management
  • The failure rate of change management
  • Why leaders need to be an active part of change initiatives
  • How an organization’s leaders can lead change
  • How to plan and manage change
  • Stories about failure in change management at large organizations
  • Four things winning leaders can do to successfully lead change
  • How to communicate change
  • Using SMART goals to facilitate change
  • Managing process change from Waterfall to Agile

Resources mentioned in this episode:

About our guest

Guest

Al Comeaux
Founder, Primed for Change

Al Comeaux, a former executive at Travelocity, GE and American Airlines, is a decorated corporate pioneer and global authority on change from inside organizations. His career championing change as a senior leader at uber-disruptive dot-coms as well as established, world-renowned companies—and his 20-year journey researching why so many change efforts fail and what’s needed for success—make him one of the world’s most forward thinkers on what leaders must do—and how they must think—to succeed at change.

In 2019, Al founded Primed for Change, a disruptive new project created to prepare leaders to take organizations successfully through change.  Al and his family live in Ft. Worth, TX, where he is deeply involved in his family, faith, and community.


Episode Transcript

Transcript

Brett Harned:                                          Hi there. Welcome to Time Limit. Whether you're new to the podcast, or you've been listening for some time, I just want to say thank you. Thank you so much for listening. We really do appreciate it. And I hope you get something out of the episodes, especially this episode, where I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with change management consultant and author, Al Comeaux. We talked all about, of course, change management, but also about how leaders can shape the way an organization navigates its way through a change.

                                                      Al just released a new book called Change the Management: Why We as Leaders Must Change for the Change to Last. And Al himself has been through major change initiatives in his career at places like Travelocity, GE and American Airlines. So in the interview, we discuss his experiences as well as the themes of the book. And we gained some good insight on how to approach change in our own organizations with our own teams. Check it out. Al Comeaux, thank you so much for joining me on Time Limit today. How are you?

Al Comeaux:                                            I'm great. Thanks for having me.

Brett Harned:                                          Absolutely. It's really good to have you here to talk about a topic that I think we all face, both inside business and also outside of business, and that's change management. So I'm really looking forward to digging into the topic with you and to dig into parts of your new book, which is Change the Management: Why We as Leaders Must Change for the Change to Lead. So I've had an opportunity to dig into the book a little bit, haven't finished it yet. But what I've read so far is great. Thanks so much for writing it.

Al Comeaux:                                            No, it was a joy. After 30 years in corporate life and 20 years at the top of divisions and even at the tops of companies in my profession, which is communications, and spending 20 years of researching change, it's overdue because change has been going on since the beginning of time. Change management is a process that's come up and has some great things about it, but has some missing pieces.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. If it's okay with you, I kind of want to take it from that point. Can you kind of set the stage for our listeners, just by telling us what is change management? What is it that we're going to talk about today?

Al Comeaux:                                            Yeah. Change management comes out of management. And it's I guess a body of knowledge and work that goes on inside organizations. I'm not going to do a perfect explanation, but to think about the project managers, the finance people, the technology people, who have to bring forth a change within an organization. It may be as simple as a new technology tool, or it may be an overhaul in the culture of a company, what it stands for, what it means, what it wants to do. It may be a strategy change. And all of those things are critical to the future of the enterprise if it's going to succeed and keep up with its competitors and keep up with newcomers in their space.

                                                      But as many people as there are who are great at doing the work of project management, developing and delivering technology, making sure that there's training and all the different things that have to happen for some sort of change to happen, there's a big gap in terms of leadership. And leaders won't admit it to themselves often, but there's a big gap between those who are working and trying to get the actual change to happen to execute it, and the lack of support, even if verbal and even some time commitment on the part of leaders. There has to be a different way to get people to want to change.

                                                      So what most companies, and by the way, change management fails 2/3 of the time, we spend something on the order, and I'm being conservative here, something like $3 trillion a year on change in our organizations. And if we lose 2/3 of the time, we waste something on the order of $2 trillion.

Brett Harned:                                          Wow.

Al Comeaux:                                            Now what's $2 trillion? Well, I set out to have a shopping spree for $2 trillion. I bought Apple. My nephew and I did this. I bought Apple. I bought Marriott because I needed places to stay, American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines. Then I bought a bunch of other cool things. And then my nephew said, "Well, let's buy every NFL team." That's how much money is wasted every year. And by the way, we'd have to have a shopping spree the next year because that's how much money gets wasted each year on this thing called change.

                                                      So I set out to understand. What's the difference between the winners that change and the losers that change? And what I found is all these people who work on change and spend all their time and head hurting energy on this massive work that has to go on for a change to take place, all of them are great at what they do. That's not where the problem is. That's not where we fall down. Where we fall down is support with the organization, people wanting to change. So most people don't want to change. This is an interpersonal thing. It is not an execution thing.

                                                      And the reason why we can't get people to want to change is how we as leaders go about trying to get our people to want to change. So you've got all these great people doing all this great work getting this new system ready to go, but people don't support it because they didn't ... It wasn't their idea. They weren't brought in on some of the processes early to hear about it. And so it's a surprise to them.

Brett Harned:                                          Sure. Yeah. So I mean, change is tough. Right? No matter what, whether it's in your personal life, whether it's something work related. But if you're not a part of that change and you have to adapt to it, it makes it even more difficult. We all react differently. I think it's tough to manage as a leader. You can't just snap your fingers and have people react in the way that you want it to happen. Are you kind of saying that change management fails because people aren't typically on board? Is that your point of view on why change management fails?

Al Comeaux:                                            Well, so in order to, when I studied the winning companies and the losing companies, and I studied a lot more losers than winners, but I looked to understand what was the difference between the winners and the losers. And it wasn't, again, it wasn't execution. It was the mindset of the leaders. The leaders at companies that lost at change largely said, "We have to get our people to change." Everyone understood that if people don't change, there is no change. Almost everyone understood that. But the winners at change, instead of saying, "We have to get our people to change," they said, "First, we have to change. And second, we have to get our people to want to change."

                                                      And the difference between getting our people to change and getting our people to want to change is huge. It is a big, big gap between those two things. And it is a mindset shift that has to happen on the part of leaders who, if they think their change is important, are going to have to invest the heartfelt care about this change that their people will see. And the other thing is that people, because we naturally are averse to change, or when people are told that they're going to have to change, or when they learn they're going to have to change, they have something cognitive dissonance. I don't know if you've studied it, but it's been around for decades. It's just kind of been on the shelf.

                                                      Cognitive dissonance is this psychological discomfort that we get in our bodies and our brains when something that we value or believe in is challenged or countered. So millions of people every night avoid Fox News because they're politically liberal. They don't want to be challenged. Millions of people every night avoid MSNBC because they're politically conservative. They don't want their ideas, their values, to be challenged or countered. At work, the number one idea, and I've worked in 30 countries, I've lived in two, I've been in all kinds of different industries, the number one thing at every level in every organization that people hold dear is something called the way we've always done it, the way we do it today.

                                                      And so when we are challenged to learn that the way we've always done it is not the way we're going to do it, it sets up a natural resistance. And we as leaders have to overcome that. And we can't overcome that by sort of handing down change, telling people to change. There are a bunch of other things that we have to do.

Brett Harned:                                          Right. Yeah. So in the book, from what I've gathered, you're pretty much challenging leaders to be more involved in the change process. Right?

Al Comeaux:                                            That's right.

Brett Harned:                                          To me, that seems really important. But at the same time in the book, you say that senior managers are the enemy of change. So there's a little bit of a rub there. And I think that's a really interesting topic. I wonder if you might kind of dig in on your point of view and rationale there.

Al Comeaux:                                            Yeah. And here's how I came to say that. So I was part of a really bad change program. The first time I was in a leadership position, I was on the leadership team of a division of a large company. And the leader wanted to change the organization, new leadership team, wanted to change the organization. Then sort of what we learned was that while the leader said he wanted to change the organization, he really didn't have any sort of skin in the game or put any skin in the game. And it was very disappointing for me to be such a failure. I feel like I was such a part of a failed effort. I was in charge of communicating the change, and so that was my role in addition to sitting on the executive team.

                                                      And two years of work later, he got a promotion. I got a lesson in how not to do a change management transformation, a re-engineering. And so I set out to understand. What is it that causes people to lose at change? And what is it that causes people to win at change. And I just kept running into the same thing over and over again. Leaders who thought they supported the change, thought their people just couldn't change. And employees who said, "We tried our hardest to change, but it's really hard when you have a leader who's acting out of sync, who's not acting congruently with the change." Over and over again, and I would ask leaders, "Well, was it you who had to change? Or was it your people?"

                                                      And voices would get higher. Oh, no, it was our people. They couldn't change. They've been doing things the same way for so long. The voices, they raised their voices. There was defensiveness. And I did a lot more research on the matter to find out who won, and who lost and why. And what I'm try to do by saying, "We are the enemies of change," is to make it impossible, and of course, it's always possible, but to make it impossible at least for readers of my book, to not be introspective about this. Leaders need to be introspective about whether they are rationalizing decisions that are counter to the change, but are good for short-term results.

                                                      Some of the things that we have to do if the change is important, we will do. But we often fall short. And so I wanted to make sure that no one could point the finger at others. And I make the point that everyone has a stake in change and everyone has a role in change. And everyone should be bought into the change. No one should be excluded from that. But we as leaders at the tops of organizations have the biggest stake and we have the biggest opportunity to make change fail.

Brett Harned:                                          That makes sense. Right? I mean, in many areas of leadership, it's about modeling behaviors. And if you're not going to set the tone for how and why and when a change should happen, how can you expect that other people would just jump on board?

Al Comeaux:                                            No, that's right. And I've failed at it, and other people have failed at it. I give a story when you talk about modeling a change, a story, I was at Travelocity. And we woke up one day to find out that we had a $1 fare to Fiji on our website.

Brett Harned:                                          I read this, yeah.

Al Comeaux:                                            That was not on purpose. That was an accident. And it was our fault. It wasn't the airline's fault. It wasn't some intermediary's fault. It was us, so we fixed it. But in the meantime, we found out, the way we found out was a reporter called us to tell us, "Hey, there are all these people on this message board high fiving each other because they got this $1 fare to Fiji. They got it for their mother-in-law, who now likes them." They got it for all kinds of people. And what to do? What do we do? This is now in the media. Everyone's talking about it. And you have to understand what we were going through at the time.

                                                      So going back 18 months, we'd gone from the 33,000th largest travel agency in the country to the fifth largest travel agency in the country. And that was about putting people in seats in our call centers and just getting people to answer the phones and try and help. We had not really differentiated ourselves, and others had gotten big too. And it became real easy for people to comparison shop. And we didn't want to be a comparison shop. We wanted to be something different. So we wanted to add more value, and the way we determined to do that, long story short, is to develop something called a customer first guarantee.

                                                      So we recognized that this was a lot of work. It's not an ad campaign. It requires change in your philosophy, on customers. It requires change in a lot of tools and systems and processes. What we found as we got into it was that our people in our call centers were not on board. They were not on board at all. They were folding their arms. They were looking at us strangely when we started talking to them about customer championship and this whole idea of a guarantee, given that we had really just been spending our time growing and not investing as much as we should have in the customer space. So we find ourselves about having spent millions of dollars and 18 months getting ready for this change in how we're going to run our organization, think about our organization and talk to our customers and work with our customers.

                                                      And they're folding their arms. We sent the training people out after we announced it. And they said, "Look, it's a 50/50 coin toss as to whether they're going to come with us. We did a lot of work to try and help explain what we're doing here, but we're not sure." And if we don't have our people with us, we're dead. And our future as an organization is really in bad shape because we've spent 18 months getting ahead of the change curve with this project. And then right in the middle of this, two weeks before we were about to launch, we have this $1 fare to Fiji. Again, what to do?

                                                      Michelle Peluso was our CEO, brilliant, brilliant person. Michelle recognized that while she had Wall Street, she had a quarter to make, she had a boss at our parent company. She recognized that the whole world was watching her, and most importantly, the whole company was watching her. And if she rationalized away this $1 fare to Fiji, and journalists were saying, "Hey, shouldn't people know that they bought a $1 fare? It wasn't real." Michelle could've easily rationalized away the $1 fare to Fiji. And you can imagine the people in the call centers were saying, "Now we're going to see whether they're real about this customer championship thing."

                                                      Michelle went out on that message board 24 hours later. And she said, "For those of you who bought a $1 fare to Fiji, have a great trip. And by the way, if you bought a $1 fare to Fiji, here's some great hotel deals that you can get. Here's some great things to do in Fiji," because in that 24 hour period, because she knew she had to model the change. She had to model the change because she knew there was no way out of modeling the change. She and her team, the bus-dev team, had done a massive, massive deal with the Fijian Hotel Association, the Fijian Tourism Authority because it was a big publicity boon for them.

Brett Harned:                                          Right.

Al Comeaux:                                            And she paid for it, more than paid for it, and turned it into a positive in many ways, financially and otherwise. But when you understand that you have to model the change, there is no way out. When you truly believe that, you will find a way to model the change in even the worst of circumstances, and those were terrible circumstances. But she came out of it with a guarantee that 15 years later, now Travelocity's been sold once, it may get sold again. And it's had I don't know how many CEOs since Michelle, but 15 years later, it's still the chief differentiator that Travelocity uses in the marketplace, the guarantee. So that's a lasting change. That is a lasting change. But it could've fallen apart. It could've either not gotten launched or fizzled out, which it would've fizzled out if people didn't believe it. Instead, everyone recognized, oh my God, they are serious about this thing called customer championship.

Brett Harned:                                          Definitely. I like that story because I think it illustrates a point that you make in the book about kind of communicating change initiatives and how it's really about authentically showing people the change through action. And Michelle's action obviously really kind of illustrated that change. Thinking about the folks listening who might be more on the project level, or even let's say on the discipline level, leading teams. Can you share any kind of communication tips or tactics that might help when it comes to helping a team kind of buy into or get through change?

Al Comeaux:                                            Yeah. So the things that I see the winners at change doing are really four things. It starts with a mindset of, as I talked earlier, we have to get out people to want to change. But the way you do that is with the mindset of understanding that we as leaders have to get our hands dirty. We can't simply put a communication out and assume that it's sort of done. And that's something we're all, as leaders, we can be very, very easy to be very guilty of. We sort of assume that once we have a conversation with somebody, it's done and we don't think about it again. But this is change. This is much bigger.

                                                      So we have to get our hands dirty. We can't sort of wait until the next meeting in the conference room where we sit there and look at greens and reds and yellows. We have to be ... That's sort of like being on a BarcaLounger with our remote control, yelling at the players and coaches on TV. I keep telling my family, "They can't hear us." But we can't be that. We have to be in the game. We can't be sitting around debating whether something's green or not on our KPI list if it hasn't started yet. Should it be empty? Should it be green? Should it be white? Should it be yellow? That's an outcome. What we have to be focused on is inputs. We have to get our hands dirty.

                                                      And the first way we do that is by pulling our people the and through the change, no matter how on fire we are. I've got examples in the book of people whose industries were being taken over by the internet in 1998, and yet, they took the time to ask their people to come humbly with them, to share their own concerns and their own worries about how they're challenged by this change, to be more humble about it and to pull people rather than push the change onto people, to listen first. So I use the story about Pixar. Pixar was looking to cut costs by 15%. And instead of sort of giving people targets and saying, "Go cut your costs," they went to everybody and said, "How do we do this? We want to cut costs by 15%."

                                                      Now people have to be scared when they hear that we're going to have a cost cut of 15%. But they went to everybody and they said, "Here's some digital tools. Give us your ideas. Comment on other people's ideas. Vote on your favorite ideas." You may have seen tools like this before. There are lots of tools now that do this. And they listened, and then they closed down the studio for a day. And based on the votes, there were a certain number of sessions for if it was a popular idea, there was a session held during that closed day. If it was very popular, there might be two sessions. One idea had seven sessions. More people wanted to be involved in this one idea and this one discussion than any other. And it was not about cutting costs 15%. It was about cutting costs 40%.

                                                      When we listen, our people feel heard. One, we get a better solution set because our ideas are naïve. We don't really know what goes on inside the organization day to day, whether we have 10 people or 10,000 people. And when our people feel heard, they will do extraordinary things. So those are the things that we have to do as leaders rather than sort of saying, "Hey, we're going to change. We have to make these cuts. Here's how it's going to go. Good luck." No, we have to be very involved in the change. If we want this change to happen, and it is that critical to our organization, we have to have the time for it.

Brett Harned:                                          Right. And it sounds like it's more than just the leaders being involved on a kind of day to day basis, but being ingrained in that change. But also, making sure that those leaders understand that in some way, they need to find ways to really get teams and individuals involved because without their buy in, the impact would either go in a negative direction or a positive direction. Right?

Al Comeaux:                                            One of the things that I learned in writing this book is that we as people, when we don't want to change, we look for every reason not to. And it's real easy to see a leader not acting congruently with the change in doing so. Another thing that I learned is we in business think that most ... Management came out as a practice during a time when science told us that every decision that we make is a rational decision. And so we believe that management came up believing, okay, we make rational decisions. And so management was built around that and change management was built around that.

                                                      But more recently, with new technology in neuroscience, we know that without the emotional processors in the brain, we can't possibly make a decision. So these researchers at University of Iowa, now at USC, they met up with a group of people who couldn't decide where to go to dinner tonight. They would say, "Well, we could go to this restaurant, but it hasn't been crowded lately. As good as it is, maybe it's not good anymore. But if we went there, maybe we would have more time to talk and we could hear each other talk. But maybe the service isn't good." And they'd just go back and forth and back and forth. They can't make the simplest of decisions. And what they understood about these people is that they were missing part of their emotional processing parts of the brain. They didn't have parts of the limbic system. Either it was damaged, it was diseased, and they had to remove it. Something had happened to it.

                                                      And so we think that we need to give people a rationale for the change. And what we need to do in addition to that is fulfill the emotional part of the decision making process that have to take place. And so I call it smart because we have this, change management has this way of measuring things. It needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, time bound, and so forth. It's called smart but we have smart and heart. Right? We have to have people's hearts in the game because we can have all the great technology, we can make all the right decisions on the execution parts of change, but the emotional part of change is our biggest barrier especially if we don't appreciate it. And we need to appreciate it more.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. That absolutely makes sense. This kind of made me think about a really specific and big change that I think is happening in many organizations, specifically in delivery organizations, and that's the change from . And I think based on what I know of you that you've been through this kind of change in your career. Is that right?

Al Comeaux:                                            Oh, yeah. In fact, the third time when I was at a company that was going through this, and it was the third time in my career where I was at a company that was going from . I ran into or was working with the person who was running the project of changing, going from , which for those listeners who don't know what it is, real simply, it's going from a very long timed, less prescriptive way of doing development, software development, to a more prescriptive, more personal accountability on a day to day basis with short sprints they're called when developing software. And so it's a big change. It's a radical change in how things are done. And it's sort of swept the industry over the last 20 years or so.

                                                      And so we were going through this process. And I'd seen it done well before, and I've seen it done poorly before. And I went to the person who I was working with. And I said, "Hey, Tina. What's going to get people to want to change? What's going to get them to want to change?" Well, she looked at me like I was from another planet. She's like, "Al, they have to change. It's their job." I said, "Well, the reality is that our people don't have to change. They can go other places." One of the things I say when I'm speaking to people is, "Our dogs have to change. But there is no barkedin.com. Our dogs have to shake, or lie, or do whatever we tell them to do." But there is no doggydoor.com. There's glassdoor.com. There's LinkedIn. There's best 100 places to work for. There's no best 100 masters to live with.

                                                      Our people have places to go. They can leave. Perhaps they came here because we do things the old fashioned way. We still use waterfall. And they were going through a change at their company and left. We've got to figure out how to get them to want to change. And so that's just an example of how people sort of think about this and sort of think sometimes that people have to change. And the reality is, in this competitive world, even at a time when there's unemployment, we're still in a race for the best talent and to keep the best talent. And I've we've got that best talent, we can lose the best talent because it's the best talent. So this is important, and we have to get people engaged and on board and wanting to change. And by the way, she worked with me, and it was a successful launch and successful all the way through.

Brett Harned:                                          Cool. I'm curious about the change from Waterfall to Agile. And I would assume that a lot of our listeners are really kind of experiencing this, thinking about it, or have been through it at some point. I'm curious. We talked a lot about the people side of things. And I feel like that must be one of the biggest challenges, getting people on board with the change. Are there any other kind of challenges that you'd want to kind of, for lack of better term, warn people about if they're thinking about going through this Waterfall to Agile transition?

Al Comeaux:                                            I think what I would say is the showing how supportive leadership is, is really important. In the particular case I was talking about, the leader, the CIO and other leaders actually became trainers. They became mentors or leaders for some of these groups, small groups that would work together and have a daily stand up meeting. And they also shared with them their own challenges when they've had to change or when they've gone through these sorts of things. It wasn't just this is going to be great. This new change is going to be wonderful. It's so much better for our customers, et cetera. Those are good, rational arguments.

                                                      It was wow, these people are dedicated to the change. They're taking time out of a very, very busy schedule with all kinds of urgent and important things on it. And they're going to train me on it. They believe in this that much, I'm going to come along because, or at least I'm going to put my toe in the water because clearly, they're saying this is important. So that's the kind of thing, I don't really have any further warnings. I would just give you that example of how dedicated, how truly in the game we have to be, rather than on our BarcaLounger cheering everyone on.

Brett Harned:                                          Yeah. It really feels like your point of view. And I mean, it's in the title of the book. But in order for a leader to make change happen, they really and truly have to be dedicated to it and dedicated to being a part of it.

Al Comeaux:                                            That's so right. And I've seen leaders win and I've seen leaders lose. I've seen organizations win. I've seen organizations lose. And it has been on the shoulders of the leaders. You can point the finger at all kinds of other places. But I want us to point the finger at ourselves and to do some self thinking about this because ultimately, if you're going to go through a change and do all that work and have it fail, and spend all the money that you're doing. Why are you not spending all the time investing in this? If this is the most important thing happening in your company, then you should be spending that time and devoting a lot of effort to it. Otherwise, it's not that important, so don't do it. And just get further behind the change curve, which is sort of a tough statement to make.

                                                      But it's either important or it's not. And I think lots of leaders know rationally that it's important. But there's another part of them that doesn't understand the emotional side of it. And I try to bring that home in the book.

Brett Harned:                                          Right. So I know that you mentioned smart goals. You've mentioned KPIs. What kind of things should people, whether they be team leads, or even just executive leadership in an organization, what kinds of things should they look out for to make sure that the change is on track, the change is happening? Is there some kind of master project plan that's showing benchmarks or milestones? How does that play out?

Al Comeaux:                                            Well, obviously we have KPIs and reds, yellows, greens, we have the smart side of things. I had someone when I was writing this book ask me, "How do we measure heart?" Right? You've got smart. How do we measure heart? It needs to be measured. Everything has to be measured. How do we do that? And again, science taught us, management came out of this old science that said everything's rational and needs to be measurable. And I agree that we have to have measurements. And there are ways to measure. There are ways to measure heart. There are annual engagement surveys, but those are annual. We may be involved in an 18 month change, and we're only going to see one engagement score.

                                                      There are ways to measure. You can have flash polls and surveys, but people get survey fatigue. And you also can have change fatigue to look out for. That's a big thing because there is so much change going on. People are just tired of it. But there are some things that are important that actually you can't exactly measure, you can't measure exactly. The things to look out for though are things like people having trouble deciding on things, people having trouble moving forward with things because one of the things we have naturally during a change is fear. We haven't been there before. We haven't been to this place that they're sending us to. No one has in our organization, and they're sending us there.

                                                      So of course, that's why I would say we need to go first as leaders. Somebody's got to go first before we ask people to go across an icy bridge. But we have to watch out for people having trouble making decisions because it's usually fear that's causing this problem. And so that's just something to look out for. We know that's possibly a lack of emotional engagement in the change.

Brett Harned:                                          So I have one kind of final question for you. And you've touched on it a little bit, so I'm going to try to reframe a little bit. So I apologize if this is a curve ball. So you know the theme of the show is Time Limit, kind of nodding to the fact that in business, we're all strapped for time, from the top to the bottom of an organization, everyone is typically pretty darn busy. And sometimes we're strapped for resources as well. So when it comes to making a change and committing to even a long-term change, like you mentioned an 18 months kind of cycle for a change, and it's a goal that everyone's focusing on. But as a senior leader, you've got a lot going on. Right? And what you're recommending is being a part of that change, being in meetings, making the time for it.

                                                      I think I really love that advice. And I agree that you have to embed yourself in that change to actually make sure it happens. But that means that you probably have other things that you might have to give up or pass off to someone else. How do you deal with that kind of prioritization? Is it about making kind of an executive decision on what needs to be let go, so that you can focus on a change? How have you handled that in your career?

Al Comeaux:                                            Well, actually, I'm going to go to someone a little bit greater than me. Dwight Eisenhower, when he ran World War II, he had to do this sort of thing. And I first read about this in Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People a long time ago. And it has to do with how you manage your work. Eisenhower used a four box grid. And on one side is the importance of things and the urgency of things. And what you want to do is do as little of the urgent but important things, and do as much of the important but not urgent things. You have to work your way out of this, but by delegating, teaching, et cetera, doing those sorts of things, planning, et cetera, which are important but not urgent things.

                                                      Training others, et cetera, those are important but not urgent things. When you do that, you eventually have less of the urgent, important things to do. And so you can actually, because you've trained people, because you've delegated, because you've had to do that while also doing this other work, this planning, all of the big picture thinking that you have to do, while doing ... By figuring out how to offload the urgent but important things, you are now in a place where most of your time is spent on the important but not urgent things. And you want to get rid of the non important urgent things, and then non important, non urgent things. Those are things that go away right away.

                                                      But the big hard lesson that people have is this understanding of which quadrant to live in because we grew up ... I mean, the human race, the people who lived were people who were able to work on the urgent, important things, meaning survival. And they handed their genes down to us. And we live in this world where we want to just get this done and get that done, and do this right away because it's this feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. But we have to, as leaders, we have to grow into this space where we might not get anything done today. We might need to do something in an avocation or in a pastime, where we can get things done in our lives because we're at this place where we have to be thinking about the big picture, and we have to let the little things go to others.

                                                      And that's why we have to have very good people working for us, and we can't lose them because we've started a change that they don't agree with. So there is actually a way, and I share it in my book, that I've used. I keep this, my own version of the four quadrants right below my computer screen. And I glance down there during the day. And I'm like, "I'm stuck in this wrong quadrant again. Here I am." It's a constant battle that we all do, all use, because there's some pressure here or some pressure there. And so we have to make sure other people around us, those who are expecting things from us, our bosses, help them understand how we operate. And maybe we don't have anybody above us, and we don't have to do that. But most of us do, and once they understand that you're working on something bigger, and they buy into that bigger thing, they may let a few things slide that they might not otherwise slide. So it's a lot of communicating in every direction.

Brett Harned:                                          Absolutely. Really, really appreciate your point of view on this. I personally typically take that strong communications kind of approach as kind of central to everything that we do in our career. So I see no reason why it would stop here, particularly when it comes to leadership and guiding people through something that is clearly very important to you as an individual, but also to the organization that you're leading, or even the team that you're leading. So thanks os much for this, really appreciate it. Thanks for joining me [crosstalk].

Al Comeaux:                                            Great discussion. Great discussion. And thanks for having me.

Brett Harned:                                          Thank you. All right, folks. That's it for this episode. If there's anything I took away from the interview personally, it's that change is hard no matter what. You won't make it any easier for people, but you can try to get them more comfortable with the change by actively working on it as a leader with teams. And I personally really appreciate that approach. It just feels right. And I can only imagine employees feel the same way. So check out Al's book, Change the Management. And I hope to have you back for our next episode. But in the meantime, check out TeamGantt and all the free educational videos, live classes, templates, guides and resources that we offer over at teamgantt.com. Thanks a lot.

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