Join us today for Part 1 of the Interview with Al Comeaux, author of Change (the) Management: Why We as Leaders Must Change for the Change to Last...
This is Part 1 of the interview I had with speaker, leader, and change mangement guru Al Comeaux.
In today’s interview with Al Comeaux, we talk about change and why you need to understand how to do it no matter who you are. This week I ask Al about the wrong way to do change, why it’s on the leader’s shoulders to get their hands dirty, why we have to focus on changing ourselves first, and lots more.
Join in on the Chat below.
00:00:00 Thanks for joining us on episode 656 of the inspired stewardship podcast. I'm Al Como. I challenge you to invest in yourself, invest in others, develop your influence and impact the world by using your time, talent and treasures, to live out your calling. Having the ability to manage change is key. And one way to be inspired to do that is to listen to this,
00:00:27 the inspired stewardship podcast with my friend, Scott Mader, there is really only one thing that we 100% certainly can show, and that is ourselves. And when we sort of realize that deep inside us and, and, uh, obvious obviously to ourselves, when we do that both emotionally and rationally, and we take stock of ourselves and recognize that's really the only thing I have complete control over is myself.
00:01:05 Welcome. And thank you for joining us on the inspired stewardship podcast. If you truly desire to become the person who God wants you to be, then you must learn to use your time, your talent and your treasures for your true calling in the inspired stewardship podcast, who learn to invest in yourself, invest in others and develop your influence so that you can impact the world In today's interview with Al Como,
00:01:37 we talk about change and why you need to understand it no matter who you are or what you do this week. I asked Al about the wrong way to do change, why it's on the leader's shoulders and they have to get their hands dirty and why we have to focus on changing ourselves first and lots more. One reason I like to bring you great interviews.
00:02:02 Like the one you're going to hear today is because of the power in learning from others. Another great way to learn from others is through reading books. But if you're like most people today, you find it hard to find the time to sit down and read. And that's why today's podcast is brought to you by audible, go to inspired stewardship.com/audible to sign up and you can get a 30 day free trial.
00:02:28 There's over 180,000 titles to choose from. And instead of reading, you can listen your way to learn from some of the greatest minds out there. That's inspired stewardship.com/audible to get your free trial and listen to great books the same way you're listening to this podcast, Al Como, a former executive at Travelocity GE and American airlines is a decorated corporate pioneer and a global authority on change from inside organizations.
00:03:01 His career championing change as a senior leader at the Uber disruptive dot coms, as well as really established global world renowned companies and his 20 year journey looking into and researching. Why is it that change efforts fail and what's really needed for change to succeed making one of the world's most forward thinkers on what leaders must do. And even more importantly, how they must think to succeed at change back in 2019 Al founded primed for change set up to be a disruptive project,
00:03:40 created to prepare leaders, to take organizations successfully through change. Alan, his family live not too far from me, right up the road in Fort worth, Texas at Texas speak. That's not too far, uh, where he's deeply involved in his family, his faith and his community Al has recently released a great book. I've really enjoyed reading it, called change the management,
00:04:06 as opposed to change management focused on why, how leaders of all sorts have to get involved in the change process to bring successful change by pulling their people through change rather than pushing it or outsourcing it to others. Welcome to the show Al. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate, um, being able to join you, Scott, It's always a little weird to hear your own intro,
00:04:32 right? There's always that moment of really. I did that really cool. Okay. Yeah. Cool. I want to be that guy. He sounds pretty cool. At least that's how I feel about it. Yeah, no, absolutely. So, you know, as we get into it and start talking about this, uh, one of the things that I know we've talked previously and I looked through the book,
00:04:56 I've read it. And even though it's, it's kind of quote on corporate change and that kind of leader, the truth is we're all leaders at some place. You know, we lead at church, we lead in our family, we lead our scout troop. We lead whatever, you know, there's all of these different levels where we do that. We also lead within companies,
00:05:15 even though we may not be in the corner office as a leader. So when it comes to change, however you point out that we're often our own worst enemies, would you talk a little bit about the, the wrong way before we get into the right way that leaders often take when it comes to change? Yeah. So One of the things that,
00:05:37 uh, I see us doing as leaders Is we think about change As something that others have to do and others have to take on the change. So we think of it as a they issue. And it's really a we issue, right? Change is not about others having to, if anyone's going to change in the organization, if anyone's going to change in the organization,
00:06:03 we have to change. We have to show that what the change looks like. We can't ask people to go across an icy bridge that has no tracks on it. And no one knows whether you can get across it. And no one in our organization has been there before and then expect them to just go there without somebody leading them there. We're asking people to go to someplace often,
00:06:30 we're asking people to go to someplace, that's definitely out of their box. It's out of their comfort zone. And we, we put out, uh, an email, a video or some sort of thing like that. That's perfectly explained, explains perfectly why we have to do it. But one of the reasons why we fail at change is that we think of this as a rational exercise.
00:06:55 If we were to tell people why we need to change how we need to do it, if we just do that, they'll get it. And they'll go. The reality is, and neuroscience tells us this. The reality is that every single decision we make, every single decision we make has both a rational component to it and an emotional component. And so the science for a hundred years said,
00:07:22 every decision is rational. We only make rational decisions. You might have heard somebody say, ah, he's letting his emotions get in the way of his decision. And so people sort of thought, Oh well, that's, that's the wrong way to do well. Yeah, absolutely. But what we, what we've learned, and by the way, management grew out of that science that science has said everything's rational and therefore change management,
00:07:46 re-engineering transformation, those things they grew out of that science. Well, new neuroscience tells us that we have to have an emotional reason for doing things. We, without our emotional processors, we can't make the simplest of decisions. So we have to have an emotional reason to do it. One of the ways we get people emotionally engaged is to show them the way to actually change ourselves,
00:08:12 to show them an example. So we think it's a, they issue. It's really a we issue. And we have to get that into our heads. Another reason why we fail at change is we have these outdated ideas about communications. So we think that we can sort of send an email to everyone with this rational, rational explanation. We need to do much more than that.
00:08:37 In fact, most people think that they're over-communicating, if you think you are over-communicating, you should communicate about three times more. If you think you should overcome it, if you think that you're communicating about right, 10 times more think of Geico and it's 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance. Right? We all know that because they repeat it.
00:08:59 Now you have to believe that they are bored with that thing. It's they got so bored that they came up with cave men and a gecko and a lady whose husband chases squirrels, and just all the different scenarios that they came up with. Um, and, and so they came up with all these different ways to say it because they were bored. You will get bored,
00:09:19 come up with interesting ways to do it, but that's only one aspect of the communications that we have to do. So we think of communications as all of the emails and the, all the things that show up on our, um, on, you know, show up in our intranet and all those different sorts of things. But the reality is communications is 90% action and 10% words.
00:09:45 So while we are piling on the communications, explaining the exciting things that are happening, sharing stories of people succeeding at this change, we also have to be acting because if our actions are out of line with all the communications that we're doing came over. And so we have to, from our heart, invest in our ability, invest in our ability to act,
00:10:11 to show people the way again, I'm coming back to an a thought, but it really does come down to showing people the way this is not a day issue. This is a we issue and we have to show people the way, and then we let a nurse get in the way. So we, we have to grow ourselves in terms of our own ability to manage ourselves and to manage others.
00:10:31 We often will sit in the urgent and important quadrant of time management matrix is I use the one used by Dwight Eisenhower to win a thing called world war II. But, but we are, I don't know. I don't know if that one's proven and tested. So I use that and there's a quadrant called urgent and important, and there's a quadrant called important,
00:10:58 but not urgent if we can spend our time in the important, but not urgent training others, growing others, um, helping to think longterm planning, if we can focus our time there, instead of looking at what's urgent today, what's urgent today, we regrow others who can then take on the urgent work while we spend more time focused on, are we,
00:11:23 are we plotting ahead? Are we moving forward? How are we doing according to this? Um, so yeah, absolutely. Um, we can be our are our own enemies when it comes to change and we have to work on ourselves and grow ourselves and invest in ourselves to be better at leading change. And, and the interesting thing to me is,
00:11:42 again, if you, if you take everything you just said that plays out on every level within an organization, within a group, you know, again, take a church, right. Which is not an order. Doesn't matter if the leader's not able to do this things, then nobody else can, if the people in the organization aren't able to do these things,
00:12:04 doesn't work either. So part of your job as a leader is to help the rest of the people do what they need to do, you know, as well. So Yeah, and this can be a church, it can be a nonprofit, it could be any different set of levels in an organization. All of this can be your family. Absolutely.
00:12:22 You know, we, we tell our loved ones that they should be doing such and such. And then we go and do the opposite. Right? Well, that's that doesn't work Do, as I say, not as I do. I mean, some of these principles are very simple. They're just not common practice. Right? Well, and, and people,
00:12:41 you know, if you've been listening to the show for a while, you've heard me talk about my, you know, our coaching philosophy that I use, which is, you know, refocus gain control, set a plan. And, and it's, it's similar idea in that for a lot of times, what people want to focus on is set a plan.
00:12:57 Cause that's kind of the rational I can sit down. I can say, do step one, do step two, do step three. But the truth is, if you haven't done that early work of figuring out why, you know, why is this important to you? Why are you willing to do the uncomfortable thing, which is in the refocus and gain control part,
00:13:16 then you're never going to follow the plan anyway. So why bother her? You know, don't waste your time. It's also important to the, the sort of the refocus and plan. This is something that we not only do we do it, if we're going to lead change successfully, but we get our people to do it too. Right? So every human involved in the change has to also feel that they're part of this change.
00:13:39 They have to help us. They have to be in on the refocus. We have to share what we're thinking and ask them for their ideas. So that's a new, oftentimes as a leader, we think, Hey, we're at the top. We tell people what to do. The reality is the successful. And I looked at the winners that change and the losers that change the successful organizations,
00:13:58 they ask their people, what should we do? They, they had their people as part of that planning and part of that refocus project process, Really feeling like they're part of it too, just to be clear, this isn't that surface level. Well, we'll put out a survey and then we're going to go lock ourselves in a room and make a decision.
00:14:15 This is actually involving people in the process. Yeah. Perfect example is the movie studio Pixar. So Pixar was trying to get 15%, uh, cost reductions. Um, they have a weird way of doing unit costs. I won't get into it. So I'll just tell you, they were trying to get 15% cost reductions. They went to their people.
00:14:36 I mean, they could have said you've been in an organism in a company of four Scott, right? They could have just gone and said, here are your targets. You have to cut your costs by 20. You have to cut your cost by 10, we have to get the 15% instead. They went to their people and they said, here,
00:14:50 here's why we need to do this. What are your ideas? What sort of things could we do to reduce costs, to reduce our unit costs? And they gave their people, all the tools, online tools to go and give their ideas. Other people could, could share their thoughts on those ideas and the best ideas got voted on. And they got to the top,
00:15:12 They got built out even more by others who collaborated with those people. Everyone got involved in this, and then they shut the movie studio down for a day and they decided to have sessions on these most popular sort of best ideas. And some sessions, some ideas were so, so popular, uh, that people, so many people wanted to get into those sessions that they had to have two sessions.
00:15:41 But for this one idea, they had to have seven sessions and have seven sessions for this one idea. And that idea was not about cutting costs 15%. No, it was. How do we cut our costs 40%, which is you would think this is ridiculous. People are coming up with ways to cut their own costs by 40%, by more than they were asked for.
00:16:07 But when we, when people feel heard, they will do amazing things. They will do extraordinary things. And this goes on in our, in our own families, when our spouse feels heard, when we are patient enough to listen and truly want to hear and not want to say the next thing, but listen to what they have to say. They will feel heard and,
00:16:30 and, and their attitude will change and their participation in the conversation, uh, and the participation in the decision we're trying to make together that will change. So we need to do it by listening. And one of the things that we've talked about it, and we've touched on already in this, the answer is you talk about leaders, getting their hands dirty.
00:16:56 Yeah. That's one of the phrases that comes up in the book. What does it look like when a leaders quote, getting their hands dirty? Can you talk a little bit or tell a story about what that means? Yeah. So I like to tell, Talk about the leader who sends out the email or the video or whatever it is, or has a meeting of their,
00:17:15 they cast vision. What are you talking about? That's cast vision. Is that what it's called? So, So, um, so they, you know, they do that and then they think sort of they're done and, and they expect everyone to sort of get it and go, and the reality is, and then the next time they're really actually engaged in the change.
00:17:36 And they're sitting in a conference room looking, getting an update On how it's going, red light, green light. Yeah. Why is this a green? If it hasn't started yet, we've got a green next to it. Meaning it's in good shape. Why isn't it yellow or clear? Why don't we have no color there? That's how engaged they are in the change.
00:17:56 And the reality is we can't sit there. That's like sitting on a Barca, lounger, watching TV and yelling at the players and coaches on TV. The Harris, I try to tell my family and myself, they can't hear us when we do that. And by the way, we're 20 minutes delayed on DVR. So why are we even thinking they could hear us,
00:18:17 right? That's that's not what we do. As leaders know, instead of waiting for the outcomes, we have to be involved in the inputs. We have to get our hands dirty and get involved in the inputs. So, so we can't, if we want great outcomes, we're responsible for the inputs, as much as anybody and our people have to see us.
00:18:39 Our people have to see us engaged in this change. That that gets them emotionally to a place where they're willing to make a decision that says, ah, these leaders are getting their hands dirty. Well, I need to get my hands dirty. It's only logical, but we instead sit in our conference rooms and think that, you know, why isn't this going as well as we think it is,
00:18:59 why, okay, it's green now. But then two months later, it becomes yellow. What happened? What's wrong with you to the person who's leading, leading the, uh, the project manager or whoever is leading the change. I talk about a company, um, a small company, not very big company in the financial services business. After 2008,
00:19:19 they tightened everything up and they decided that there would be no risk, right? We wouldn't take risks like we did before, because 2008, all the banks took risks. And so they tighten everything up. But about three years later, they said, Hey, there's no, there's no curiosity here. No one is trying new things. That's that itself is a risk to our organization.
00:19:44 We could lose our organization because no one's taking risks. No one's thinking of new. No, one's doing anything like that. So they decided after talking to a lot of people that decided to create a new core value in their organization called continuous learning. And that's kind of vague, right? Continuous learners kind of vague, and they could have done all the right communications.
00:20:06 I talked about how much communications you need to do, but they also knew that they had to get their hands dirty. They had to be involved in the inputs. And so each quarter at their town halls, a single member of management would stand up on stage and say, they talk of all things about a failure, a failure that they had had and how they came to understand it was a failure,
00:20:30 how they pulled the plug on the, on the project, but also what they learned and how it was a great learning experience and how they wouldn't have gotten to the top of the organization. Had they not had this failure about this project or that wouldn't have worked. So they got their hands dirty by getting up in front of people, humbling themselves and telling people how they learned through failure.
00:20:55 It was okay again, to take risks, not risks that would, that were threatened the company, but risks, that things, it was okay if you failed, we would exalted instead of punish you for it. So that's what I mean by getting our hands started, we have to, we have to grow ourselves to understand that that's part of what we have to do as leaders coming through a change.
00:21:17 Yeah. That's one of those, uh, one of those things, cause you know, I've sat in some of those red light, green light, yellow light meetings. And the other thing I discovered whenever I got into senior leadership is, uh, you know, often in those color reports, quite frankly, you were being lied to anyway. Um,
00:21:33 you know, it w it wasn't because the information is only as good as the accuracy of people telling you the information and if they don't trust you and they don't really believe in the change yet. And they haven't really bought on where's their motivation to tell the truth, you know, instead it's like, Oh, it's green, because that makes me look good.
00:21:51 And then six weeks into it a year into it, you discover, no, it really wasn't green and it never was green. And then it was incorrect information that, that all these decisions were being based on And, and that speaks to trust. Um, and so trust is something we build every day. But one way to sh to build trust is to get our hands dirty show our humanity show that we're as engaged in it as,
00:22:16 as anybody. Um, because yeah, people do not want to tell people, tell their bosses bad news, and I've seen 150 $250 million projects go bad because people were not getting the bad news and that's on everyone because there wasn't trust, especially the leader. Yeah. There's that feeling of, you know, the emperor has no clothes kind of moment. Um,
00:22:37 in fact, I got a little bit of a reputation back when I was in the corporate world. It was always interesting to see who invited me to meetings and who didn't, because I got the reputation of being the guy that in the meeting would ask about the unspeakable elephant. The thing that none of us wanted to talk about, I'm the guy that brought it up.
00:22:54 Um, because of that, there were some people that never invited me to their meetings. You know, it's like, I was not on the invite list cause they didn't want me to bring it up, you know? Um, and then there were other people that sought me out and said, I want you on this project because by doing that, by being the thorn in my side,
00:23:12 you make it more likely that we'll succeed, you know? Yeah. Even though it's painful, I mean, it's not fun for me either, by the way, it wasn't, it's not like I enjoyed it. It was just, that was how I saw the world. As soon as in your heart, do you want this to succeed or do you want to look good?
00:23:29 Right. Right. You want this to succeed, even though there are bumps along the way. Um, and so you, you have to be willing to take counter counter ideas and people who will hold you accountable. Um, so you can hold yourself accountable. Another that we have to work on through change investing in our own accountability. So as a,
00:23:53 as a coach, we talked about this earlier, this idea of it's a, it's a, we problem. It's a me problem, much more than it's a they problem, you know, that they need to change. And I've seen people often expect others to change for us. You know, it's, it's all about other people changing. And yet obviously we all know at least at some intellectual level that the real person that you have control over changing is yourself.
00:24:22 So how does that kind of idea, can you unpack a little bit more how that fits into change management, especially for leaders? Yeah. You know, one of the things that we have to be very conscious of and sort of intentionally be conscious of is the fact that if we're trying to change anything, there is really only one thing that we, 100% certainly can change.
00:24:47 And that is ourselves. And when we sort of realize that deep inside us and, and, uh, obvious obviously to ourselves, when we do that both emotionally and rationally, and we take stock of ourselves and recognize that's really, the only thing I have complete control over is myself. When we do that, we come at it a different way. You know,
00:25:10 we, we realized that we have to act and then once we act others will follow, but it is only we ourselves who can start the change process. Even if there are people above us doing that. And people below us doing that, we, if we don't do it, there will be people who will look to us. They don't want to change.
00:25:33 They're looking for one person. Who's not being congruent with the change and not supporting it in some way. And they're watching us and we have control over that. We have control over ourselves and that's the one thing we can control. Once we do that, other people will be inspired people above us, people below us, they will see us doing that.
00:25:56 And we'll be a leader in that way. So the one thing we can do during a change is to actually do understand that we have total control over only one thing. Right? Yeah. And again, I'll go back to my own corporate experience. You know, I, I was in mid management. I had people above me. I had people below me,
00:26:16 you know, I had, I had leaders reporting to me who had people reporting to them. But then I reported to a leader who had many leaders reporting to them, to, you know, some mid-management right. Typical thing. And one of the conversations I had with every single person that was over me, you know, who I reported to one of the first conversations I would actually go in and have with them is I'd close the door.
00:26:37 And I'd say, let me explain my philosophy. If we're rolling out something and I don't agree with it, I'm going to come into your office. I'm going to close the door. And I'm going to argue with you in private because I don't believe we should do that in public. If at the end of the day you say, I've heard you,
00:26:54 I understand what you're saying. I've listened to you, but we're going to do this anyway. I'm either going to go out of the office and support you a hundred percent and do everything I can to make this a reality. Or I'm going to give you my letter of resignation, because if I can't be congruent and I'm going to be undercutting you, I don't need to be here.
00:27:14 You know? Cause that's not fair to you as a leader, I'll tell you what, every one of them that I said that to, it surprised him, but it also, they were like, okay, I can respect that again. It allowed me the freedom to speak up too, because I basically bought it. I got their permission. Um,
00:27:31 so if something was going wrong, I could go into the office and say, this doesn't work. Here's why, you know, let's do something about it as opposed to having to be quote the yes, man outside. Right, right. That's true. So Al could you share a few resources that everyone can learn to effectively to use so that they can effectively manage change?
00:27:57 I mean, obviously change the management, read that, um, that, that goes without speaking. So we top of the list and really it does, I've read a lot of change management books. This one has different stuff. This is not your typical change management book, but other than that one, what are some other things that folks can use?
00:28:16 Yeah. So again, change the management. Why we as leaders must change for the change to last, um, is the work of my life. Um, after 20 years of digesting, why people fail at change and what people, what helps people win? Uh, I think Stephen, Covey's seven habits of highly effective people. You know, it's,
00:28:35 it's, uh, 30 years old, but it's still, absolutely still is a very good book. I try to read it every 10 years or so just to sort of check in and see how I'm doing against it. Um, and you know, it's, yeah, it's stood the test of time. Uh, an, uh, an older, probably the best,
00:28:54 uh, change book, uh, in its generation was leading change by, um, I can't remember the gentleman's name who wrote it, but leading change is another book that sort of broke the, uh, broke the mold, uh, as it were. Um, it's again, it's from the nineties. So a lot of the things it talks about are from way back when,
00:29:18 uh, but, but that's also a good resource. Also, you, you know, you might find my website
00:29:40 And, and, and I share those with everyone so that they can, uh, so that people who read it can get, uh, other places to go and other places to look, you can follow email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org, which is probably a little easier to spell. He's also active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, all under at Al Como I'll of course have links to all of that over in the show notes as well.
00:30:09 Al, is there anything else you'd like to share with the listener? Well, I I'd love for people to engage on what I've been talking about, which is really about leaders needing to change all of us, needing to change by listening to others, by pulling people into and through the change, as opposed to pushing change on people. I really think that we can do a much better job at this,
00:30:34 make our economy more efficient and make our lives better if we can change in a better way. So I wish great change and good luck to everyone out there.
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There is really only one thing that we 100% certainly can change, and that is ourselves. When we realize that deep inside an do that emotionally and rationally that this is the only thing I have complete control of. - Al Comeaux
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