What’s Your Tough Call Quotient?

Walt Disney

What’s Your Tough Call Quotient?

Walt Disney ignited a fire in the entertainment world that continues to burn brightly decades after his death. Perhaps no single figure has so dominated American, and indeed even global, popular culture the way Walt Disney has and still does. Each year, millions view Disney movies, visit theme parks that bear his name, watch Disney-branded television shows, listen to Disney recordings, buy Disney products, and read books by and about him. He still holds sway in much that has touched our lives, inspiring millions of people and generating billions of dollars.

We cannot measure Disney’s influence as a film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist only by numbers or encomia. However, we can state that, most notably, he changed the shape of American recreation with his Disney parks, re-conceptualizing the amusement park as an all-encompassing imaginative experience—a theme park—rather than a series of diversions, shows, or rides. He made TOUGH CALLS to open Disneyland and then made a series of additional TOUGH CALLS to create a chain reaction—a domino effect. We remember Disney as a leader whose influence went beyond his initial area of concentration. He encouraged space exploration, urban planning, and an appreciation of history, context, and perspective. In short, he demonstrated how one person can assert his will on the world and “wish upon a star”— to become the leader of the Club he made for you and me.

What could this entertainment icon, a food giant, portfolio managers, and prisoners of war possibly have in common? Each fostered success,not in dramatic responses to crises, but in the unglamorous, unpopular, day-to-day world of TOUGH CALLS. I have built a thriving business working with leaders in these arenas, observing how successful leaders approach TOUGH CALLS and how the unsuccessful ones dodge the TOUGH CALLS, make the wrong decisions, or don’t keep their jobs long enough to make another one.

Typically, executive leaders define organizations in vast, sweeping generalizations—everything a priority, so nothing a priority. Now we’re beginning to understand that only some parts of a given organization demand the TOUGH CALLS. Which parts? And why do we continue to count things that don’t count?

TOUGH CALLS has three parts. Part One debunks many of the sacred myths about decisionmaking and looks at the beliefs that drive behavior and create organizational environments. Part Two ties these beliefs to behaviors, especially a leader’s most significant actions—making or dodging TOUGH CALLS. Part Three establishes how beliefs and actions influence results and offers practical, actionable, empirically supported approaches, calling to mind the early work of Edgar Schein. Decades ago he taught that a change-oriented leader cannot produce change without measurement, but a measurement-oriented leader cannot produce change without a strategy that integrates the measurement of the change process.

Although I’ve based this book on my work with CEOs and their leadership teams, and they remain my primary audience, the theories apply to everyone who wants to face life’s TOUGH CALLS with more clarity and confidence.

Walt Disney and others of his ilk . . . Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Lee Iacocca . . . committed the sin of making TOUGH CALLS without worrying about what others thought. They remind us that ineffective leadership seldom results from rusty management skills. Similarly, organizational disasters and triumphs usually don’t occur because of a flawed culture. Both happen when imperfect leaders fail to make the TOUGH CALLS—when they ignore the links among beliefs, actions, and results.

Philosopher John Dewey observed, “Saints engage in introspection while burly sinners run the world.” From now through December 1st, I’d like to offer you a complimentary E-copy of Tough Calls: How to Move Beyond Indecision and Good Intentions.I make this offer to honor burly sinners—those leaders who make the TOUGH CALLS because they realize failure is instructive and smart people learn as much from disappointments as they do from successes.

Please email me for your copy at Linda@henmanperformancegroup.com and put “complimentary copy” in the subject line.

[Image courtesy: traveljunction]