CTL Career Corner: How to lead through change

By Wes Gibson, VP Financial Planning & Analysis

Last month, I reached my 15-year milestone at CenturyLink. I was fortunate to join the Company during a time of rapid growth through acquisition. This allowed me to work on numerous challenging projects and exposed me to a variety of leaders from different places with different backgrounds and perspectives. As I reflected on my 15 years, I looked at a “key learnings” list I maintain and thought sharing the “Top 10” might be beneficial to the organization.

  1. Bosses tend to split people into two categories, even if they do so subconsciously: people who make their lives easy, and people who make their lives hard. A director shared this insight with me my first year with the Company. This is a simple concept with fantastic insight. Understanding your supervisor’s pain points and working to make those go away is a great way to contribute to your functional area.
  2. Share good news fast….bad news faster! No one likes to share bad news, especially when they may have been the cause. However, I have seen more people get in trouble for not being transparent than for making mistakes.
  3. Focus on improvement, not perfection. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Don’t get down on yourself when you make a mistake, but take the time to understand the root cause so you don’t do it again. Also, learning from other people’s mistakes is a powerful tool.
  4. Why before what. What before how. How, before when. This process for taking on a task is powerful. We are all eager to get into action, but taking the time to THINK before you get started will help make sure you set up yourself and your team for success.
  5. Focus on outcomes. Make a hypothesis. And as Stephen Covey said: “Begin with the end in mind.” This might sound cliché, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who start on analysis or a project without a vision of what the end looks like. Making a hypothesis may remind you of your seventh grade science project, but doing so really helps organize data and analysis in a way to get to insights and conclusions.
  6. Organization is not simplicity. We should work to simplify our work and processes as much as possible. Power exists in simplicity. I am not discounting being organized, but simplification over time eliminates opportunity for mistakes and increases bandwidth for more value-added activities.
  7. Do more than what is asked. When you complete a task, take the time to review your work and anticipate questions. Answer potential questions in advance (see #1 above). Offer insights into what you see.
  8. Strive to become an expert in your area. Although you might have a narrow scope within the organization, the skills and abilities you learn in one function are easily transferrable to other areas. Focus on understanding “cause and effect.” Continually look for the key drivers moving numbers in our business and offer recommendations for improvement.
  9. Be humble; you can learn something from anyone. People are complex, and everyone interprets things differently based on their experiences and backgrounds. George Patton once said, “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” I believe that. Embrace differences. When you are in a leadership position, hire people who are better than you. My success at CenturyLink always resulted from the skills and abilities of people around me.
  10. Balance is important. CenturyLink is an important part of my life and has been over the past 15 years, but family is more important. Make sure you do not let the urgent get in the way of the important. I am preaching to myself a little on this one, but this is critical to long-term happiness both inside and outside of the CenturyLink walls.

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