A Mountain To Scale

Yesterday, General Electric’s stock price fell to its lowest point in the past five years. The cause appeared to be new CEO John Flannery’s announcement of slashed dividends and only a limited closure list of the company’s far-flung business units.

But that’s not what struck me about the events of yesterday.

Flannery also remarked that as part of his response to the challenge of turning around the corporate giant, he was assembling a new executive team. The members of this team, he said would have “fresh eyes and institutional memory.”

Ah, now we get to it. Here is the focal point for my interest.

This, in and of itself, constitutes a monumental challenge: the task of finding team members with the delicate balance of seeking the new while savoring the old. And they will have to demonstrate the mastery of the delicate balance both as followers of Flannery and as leaders in their own right. Think about that last sentence for a minute longer. They have to join the future and past for two different organizational directions, each with its own obstacles, pitfalls, and barriers.

That is one tall order.

My counsel to Flannery and his executive team is that blending new and old will require something else. The “something else” will be a clear symbol or image that explains the old/new in just a few seconds. If they can find that symbol or image—and it’s a difficult quest, I grant you—they will go a long way toward success.

I leave you with two questions. First, what’s your leadership advice to Flannery? Second, have you done the old/new balance before?

Thanks for reading.