Change: What a Telecom and Taxpayers have in Common

The Comcast logo
Walter Neary at AWC meeting
Candid picture snapped of me and other city council members from around the state at a reception at Esther Short Park, Vancouver. I have no memory of what that hand gesture meant at the time, but in Hawaii it would suggest happiness…

Here we are in the Vancouver, Washington, conference center: Men and women, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. There’s a fella who retired after running Radio Shacks on Whidbey Island. There’s a lady who owns a machine parts-cutting manufacturing plant in Spokane Valley. There’s the bank officer, there’s the 20-something who runs a marketing and communications company, there’s the Realtor, there’s the guy who retired from an independent grocery store chain, and … well, several hundred others.

What we all have in common is that we are elected to City Councils across the state. Besides working for Comcast, I serve the citizens of Lakewood, Wash., as a city councilman. The group of us gathered this week for the 77th annual meeting of the Association of Washington Cities.

Usually my job for Comcast and my job for the citizens of Lakewood are separate in my mind. Thursday morning, I also thought of both my employers at a morning session about change led by Dr. Sheila Sheinburg, a motivational speaker. Most of the city officials in the room are looking at huge changes in their communities – big commercial buildings standing empty on major streets, for example, and a lack of tax dollars to do some of the things they want.

A lot of city council people are talked to are expecting to have to lay off city employees. So there’s brown fog hanging in the air when you get into the weighty subjects.

Comcast of course has also seen a lot of change – the acquisition of AT&T, various digital conversions, the deal with NBCU, and the technology: wow, the technology. When I applied for a job with the company I had no idea we’d be offering landline phone service. People who have been in cable for years have, like city council members, developed an extraordinary ability to thrive in change.

That doesn’t mean we understand HOW we thrive in change, which is what Dr. Sheinburg talked about. So I wanted to post some thoughts relevant to both my jobs. Her words were a comfort and a challenge, and she provided some guidance in the links and thoughts below.

She quoted Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of
the species that survives,
not the most intelligent,
it is the one that is most
adaptable to change.”

And she quoted John Kotter:

“What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.”

Her handouts include an excellent Kotter-influence paper on leading in change that I suggest you look at.

And she also spoke about the dance of transformation, something that takes place between inspiration and experimentation. In both my workplaces I see people all the time stretch themselves and their organizations. The seminar reminded me how crucial that is – as Dr. Sheinburg said, “If anyone else is doing something, it’s not innovation – it’s replication.”

Some tips from Dr. Sheinburg:

Read Fast Company. It’s a magazine that’s smart and looks ahead.

Read William Edward Deming’s The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education for a lot of practical ideas and tools.

I would commend you to Dr. Sheinburg’s website. A lot of it is about her availability as a speaker, but there are many useful downloads about change.

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