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Tom Monahan

Tom Monahan

Thomas L. Monahan III is the Chairman and CEO of Corporate Executive Board, a leading provider of best-practices research, data, and tools to more than 120,000 executives and organizations, including 80% of the Fortune 500 and 70% of the FT 100.

'What's my river?'

The power of Capt. Sully's story lies in its clearly accessible visual image (a crowded plane landing in a narrow river in full view of one of the most densely populated business districts on earth). It also helps that the goal the captain had to lead his organization to was "right" for all involved - he didn't have to worry about much territoriality or dissent.

Capt. Sully's success contains an important lesson for everyone trying to lead an organization: Don't forget to create a simple, powerful visual image that everyone in the organization can rally around.

This is sometimes hard. Many of us are not in roles that yield such immediate, high stakes, or tangible signs of success. And most of us are not pursuing objectives that are as clearly binary (either the plane and people get saved, or they don't). As a result, we have to push beyond our normal set of metrics and outcomes - 10% more of this, 10% less of that - to paint a simple picture that galvanizes collective action.

This question reminded me to ask myself: What's the river we're trying to get to? And who am I getting there safely?

By Tom Monahan

 |  October 20, 2009; 8:17 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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An interesting idea.

Progressive companies like Apple, Nike and IKEA have long been great at creating quickly identified 'images' of themselves that reinforce something that can easily be understood and related to.

Posted by: doughockey6 | October 22, 2009 10:07 AM
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Yes, Tom, so what vision were you accomplishing when you decimated your staff and sent half of those who remained to Chicago and San Francisco?

I saw "my plane" heading for a crash in time and was able to land safely outside of CEB. Too many others crash landed and are still bobbing on the Potomac outside of Waterview.

Posted by: eet7e | October 21, 2009 2:06 PM
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Wow, this is offensive. How DARE you equate a life-or-death situation with a business decision? "What's the river we're trying to get to?" I seriously doubt that anyone on that plane gave a damn about the next quarterly profit statement, or about management techniques and philosophy. For shame, Mr. Monahan.

Posted by: SouthofSpringfield | October 21, 2009 8:54 AM
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