RELAUNCH: HOW TO STAGE AN ORGANIZATIONAL COMEBACK
by Dr. Mark Rutland
In fascinating slow-motion photography, Dr. Mike Wheatland, a professor at the University of Syndney specializing in solar astrophysics demonstrated the quite surprising movement of a suspended Slinky. Holding the Slinky at the top, he let it hang straight down, unfurled as it were. He then let go. The slow- motion photography proved that for a time (brief though it was) the bottom end did not fall. The Slinky collapsed from the top down. The sections at the top began to contract while the bottom stayed where it was.
This was caused, he explained, because the information that the slinky was no longer held in place at the top took some period of time to reach the bottom. In fact, by the time that information did reach the bottom it was distorted. The very top
sections of the Slinky contracted straight down, but those nearer the bottom eventually began to twist. The implications for leadership are huge. Leadership is communication.
- Information from the top never gets to everyone at every level at the same speed. The faster and purer it does, the less of the message gets twisted.
- Organizations do not collapse up. They collapse downward. Failure of leadership at the executive level doesn't immediately reach the mailroom. But it will!
- The collapse is not immediately apparent from the outside. To the naked eye the dropped Slinky seems to be suspended in midair. When leadership loses its grip at the top, it may take a long while or a split second for the whole thing to fall, but during that interlude everything may actually give the appearance of holding steady.
At the risk of being repetitive, I'm going to finish this chapter with this reminder: when it comes to articulating a vision, you cannot get bored with the sound of your own voice; it doesn't matter that you've said it a thousand times. That doesn't mean your audience has heard it - really heard it - a thousand times. The vision gets fractured, scattered, and twisted as it goes down through the ranks. It loses power and focus. You have to gather all those pieces up and speak them again with fresh energy. Speak the vision with enthusiasm and vitality every time, as if it's the most fascinating thing you've ever said. If you show the slightest boredom with your own message, that boredom will be more contagious than the Ebola virus.
Communicating vision to your organization is one responsibility that you must not delegate. Your subordinates need to hear the message directly from you, their leader and help. Even if there's somebody who is a more gifted communicator than you, resist the temptation to let that person commandeer communicating the vision. The organization follows the person who articulates the vision. If you let somebody else to do that, you're asking for serious disloyalty down the road. The people in your organization must know the vision and echo the vision, but the voice they echo must be yours.