Leadership, Accelerate & Running

Brent Rineck  CPCU, CLU, ChFC, NetVU Chairman | 2/20/2018
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman observes in his latest book, Thank You for Being Late, that we have entered an age of dizzying acceleration and technological advances, a world where climbers atop Mount Everest enjoy excellent cell-phone service and self-driving cars have become a reality.

Friedman is optimistic about the future, but he acknowledges it is difficult for us to cope with faster and faster change; in order to thrive, he says, we must learn to be innovative and quick to adapt, and we must be adept at shutting out noise and holding to our deepest values. I’ve been thinking about NetVU’s leadership role in these challenging times and how the new name for our spring conference, “Accelerate, powered by NetVU,” is an apt description for how we must anticipate, navigate and shape change. The pace of change is accelerating; there’s no doubt about that. But it needn’t overwhelm us — although that is a danger if we don’t do a good job of managing technology at our firms.

Many of you know that I am an avid runner and have competed in marathons, including qualifying for the Boston Marathon four times. I often think about how leading an organization is similar to preparing for a marathon. So let me give you a few change-management ideas with a distinctly runner’s bent:

  • Be the regulator of change in your agency.  Just as the shoes I wear when running help absorb the impact of the road, leaders must be able to regulate the impact of change and harness it for the good of their organization. Software updates and new releases come out almost daily now. Do you have a plan for introducing these new features at your agency? Are you being intentional about change so your staff isn’t overwhelmed? Do you have an end goal in mind?

  • Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  I’m the chief information officer at my firm, so my customers are the employees — the people who use the technology that powers our agency. I try to put myself in my customers’ shoes, to look at problems from their perspective. How are the users in your office adapting to change? Does the rollout of new software make sense from their perspective? Do you understand what their needs are and how they actually use technology?

  • Be flexible and adaptable. It’s not likely that you will last long as a leader if you are rigid in your thinking or determined to do things “your way.” Good leaders will draw upon their experience and recognize patterns, but they also are willing to try new approaches. Whenever I run a marathon, my goal is to have a negative split, meaning that my time improves with each mile. Running each mile a little faster than the previous one puts me in the right frame of mind to meet my goals and keep up my pace. I can only do that, though, if I am willing to learn and adapt as I go.

Leading is all about knowing the course, breaking it down into manageable steps, training properly, having the right gear and focusing on the finish line. When we know the end goal, we can pace ourselves accordingly. Acceleration need not be a scary word. In fact, it can be exhilarating — if we learn to manage it properly.