Management is Judged by its Second Act

I have a new HR Crush and his name is Ben Brooks – check him out, the dude is a crazy smart HR dude from NYC (VP of Human Capital Performance at Marsh).  I saw him present at HR Tech about his company and the cool stuff they’ve done, are doing, etc., and he used this quote (he might not be the original, but after an extensive Google search I couldn’t find anyone better to attribute it to – Ben says his CEO at Marsh said something similar and he adapted it):

“Management is judged by its second act.”

Simple enough, but very powerful.  Think about that for a moment.  It would seem most leadership/management that I run into seem to want me to judge them based on their first act, right?  It makes sense, any time a new leadership person/team comes into an organization there is always some low hanging fruit that needs to be taken care of.  We always talk about how hard it is coming in as a new leader, but there are also some easy pieces to being a new leader.

New leaders have a small window of time where they get to point out all the obvious crap that’s wrong, like they’re some super genius consultant, and everyone thinks they’re brilliant.  They then go around fixing that stuff (the low hanging fruit) and then they live off of that for as long as possible.  Leadership lore is filled with “turn-around” specialist.  Leaders who come in, turn around a company, then take off to do it again, and again, for other companies.  They sell themselves as specialist, when in reality – they are just coming in and doing what everyone knows what needs to be done, they just don’t have the guts/influence/backing to do it.

The hard part of leadership is to perform your “second act”.  What do you do once all the easy stuff, the obviously broken stuff, is taken care of?  Yeah, that is hard!

Want to help out your C-suite?  Go to them with this concept and start helping them design their second act.  You might first have to help them define their first act! Let’s face it, leadership is a bit like politics, the more you market what you’ve already done, it helps buy you time to go and do some more stuff – but you still have to let people know what you’ve done!   Once you get act two drafted, you begin the marketing process for that as well.  It goes a little like: “Hey, we’ve done all this great work in Act 1, so now we are getting ready for our next stage and Act 2” – but with specifics, don’t really say Act 1 and Act 2 or you’ll sound like an idiot!

Act 2 won’t be easy – remember you’ve taken care of the easy crap.  Act 2 is going to be defining and it’s really where you get to understand, as a leader, am I any good at this leadership thing. At building a vision. At delivering something that moves an organization forward.  Most leaders never get to Act 2 because Act 1 is so gratifying they can’t pull themselves out of the theater, they just keep running the same show over and over, and many companies keep buying seats.

Have you begun your Second Act?

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