THUNDERBIRD PILOT NICOLE MALACHOWSKI TALKS ABOUT TRUST AND FLYING 400 MPH AND 3 FEET APART Trust: It’s the fuel that feeds high-performing organizations. 21-year Air Force veteran Colonel NICOLE MALACHOWSKI, USAF (Ret.), the first-ever woman USAF Thunderbird pilot, is frequently asked to talk on the subject. Her story about making the transition from fighter pilot to Thunderbird pilot is filled with valuable lessons for organizations looking to elevate their performance.
TAKING A STAND Have you noticed how more and more business leaders are becoming outspoken advocates on important topics? And - they’re making business decisions based on their convictions. The company that first got my attention on this was CVS which banned tobacco products from their stores in 2014, the first national retail chain to do so. They couldn’t reconcile being a health-focused company and selling a product proven to compromise their customer’s health. CVS has prospered in the aftermath. Since then, there’s been a trend of stakeholders holding companies accountable – asking them to stand for something more than just profits. These are the times we live in – and navigating that is tricky stuff for any business leader. Just ask Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods who banned assault-style rifles and raised the age to purchase guns to 21 after finding out his store sold the Parkland High School shooter a shotgun. That gun wasn’t used, but he felt the company needed to do something. They turned $5 million in assault rifles into scrap metal. Actions like that have a profound impact on the corporate culture of an organization as well as how the company is perceived by the public.
The end of the year is always a time of reflection – and appropriately, I’ve been thinking… Thinking about the mess that so many business leaders have made of their companies—from the slow-motion withering of General Electric, the management darling of the Industrial Economy, to the overnight implosion of WeWork, the once-celebrated icon of the New Economy. How did so many smart people do so many stupid things?
NAVIGATING DISRUPTIVE CHANGE As a leader, you and your organization confront the unexpected every single day. In an environment of constant disruption, the survival skill of our times is the ability to adapt on-the-fly. The foundation of that competency is a culture that is resilient, innovative, and constantly experimenting. In formulating a response to disruption, leaders must recognize - first and foremost - that all change goes against the rules. Polly LaBarre has devoted her career to uncovering the best examples of leaders and organizations that are succeeding by thinking differently about the forces driving change inside and outside their organizations. Polly is co-author of Mavericks at Work - Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win and also founding writer of Fast Company magazine. As co-founder of Management Lab, the think-and-do tank that provides counsel to top companies all over the globe, Polly tackles real-world obstacles to organizational competitiveness by helping clients create cultures that can adapt to change almost as fast as change itself. I asked Polly for her best advice for leaders who are navigating today’s unpredictable business environment. Here are highlights.
BILL TAYLOR, the co-founder of Fast Company magazine, has devoted his career to studying how the best companies and leaders navigate a world filled with disruptive change: new business models, groundbreaking technology, and so much more. In his three books (the most recent, Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways), Bill highlights the mavericks who have transformed their organizations and become industry disruptors themselves - in banking, in healthcare, in manufacturing, in transportation, in food service -- even a parking garage!
COL. NICOLE MALACHOWSKI (USAF, RET) wanted to fly military fighter jets since the age of five when she saw her first air show. She achieved that dream and then some. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Nicole was among the first group of women to fly modern fighter aircraft, one of the first women to fly in combat (logging 188 combat hours), and the first-ever woman to fly in the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron.
For every leader unsettled by rampant disruption, unbounded competition, relentless commodification, and the specter of automation, there is a powerful antidote already inside the organization: the untapped audacity, imagination, energy, resourcefulness, curiosity, eccentricity, and passion of its people. Those fundamental human qualities are the engine of the creative economy—the source of all value. And yet, too few organizations are designed to unleash, mobilize, and amplify that human edge.
Imagine this: you've just taken command of the near-worst performing ship in the U.S. Navy. Your job is to try and turn things around - something others before you have tried and failed to do. Where do you start? What's the first thing you'd do? That’s was the intriguing question that was posed to MIKE ABRASHOFF during the Q&A session last month. Mike is the former Navy captain who came to the world’s attention in a Fast Company magazine cover story. The magazine heard that he’d taken command of a poorly-performing performing ship in the Navy and transformed it in just about a year's time into the best ship in the fleet – using the same crew. That’s some organizational transformation and the magazine wanted to know how he did it.
“Nearly three-quarters of Americans age 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service due to obesity, other health problems, criminal backgrounds or lack of education, according to government data. That's a harsh reality check for the Pentagon’s plan to recruit tens of thousands of new soldiers, sailors, pilots and cyber specialists over the next five years.” So says this article on Politico last week. The piece is definitely worth reading.
COL. NICOLE MALACHOWSKI USAF, (RET.), a rock star in military aviation, has just joined the D'Amelio Network which will manage her speaking career.