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When I first wrote this post in July, I had heard of rumors of layoffs coming at the end of summer, but I did not anticipate the magnitude across WarnerMedia.
Warner Bros. was particularly hard hit with 600+ employees impacted. The first wave of pink slips were handed out over the course of the week, and after some additional restructuring, more is expected to continue through October.
Those who were laid off as well as those who remain will feel the impact of this executive action in months and years to come, which I wrote about in last week’s post about the Corporate Game of Thrones. Ironically, the layoffs have nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic. This cost-cutting measure was contemplated last year and is only playing out now.
One of the more visible layoffs included Kim Williams, the CFO of Warner Bros. I expressed my gratitude to her in a letter, and I would like to extend a brief excerpt of it here.
You came at a time when we needed a breath of fresh air, to look at the work that we do from a different perspective and to open up to collaboration. Many of the great ideas were implemented over time. It was not an easy feat and it did not get unnoticed.
In an offsite a few years ago, Kim had gathered her lieutenants and spurred them to create an environment that encourages risk taking, to lean into ambiguity, to break down silos in communication, and to drive results through cross-collaboration across the finance organization.
Dutifully, the head of our department talked to his direct reports as well about delegating leadership. This was unprecedented in an old school environment, where everyone was expected to work long hours, to have face time with execs, and to be at the exec’s beck and call. Despite our skepticism about whether this latest effort would have any legs, a few of us stepped up to lead some efforts to create positive change.
During that period of time, Andrew would say that I volunteered for too many committees. I chaired the Town Hall Committee and the Rewards & Recognition Committee as well as participated in the Communications Committee, Process Improvement Committee and facilitated the monthly leadership meetings.
In addition, I championed a telecommuting program that eventually rolled out department-wide (and prepared the department to work-from-home safely during the coronavirus pandemic). Together with Lorring, we shepherded a job shadow program, which we called “Team Pikachu” to follow the finance lifecycle of a film within a studio from rights acquisition to production to distribution in all markets.
Finally, I launched the department Idea Board to provide an opportunity for every voice to be heard and democratize the process for change. Through this, we had a practical mechanism to override senior management decisions on policies and initiatives.
As I was preparing for one of the Town Halls, I searched for an inspirational video that could serve as a good starting point for a fireside chat with Kim. What I found was this video on Everyday Leadership by Drew Dudley. If you have 6 minutes, it is well worth viewing.
The basic premise is no one ever thinks of themselves as a leader. The issue is that we made leadership into something that is beyond us and about changing the world. We also treat it as a title that one day we are going to deserve.
Because we are only assigning the designation of “leadership” in instances where it is elevated, public-facing, and only achievable by very few who have money, power, title and influence, we minimize everyday leadership.
We devalue the small moments of leadership that we each have experienced to turn around someone else’s life.
On my last day at the office, a colleague came up to me and told me a story. Liz was one of my direct reports in my early days at Warner Bros. She had since moved around, left the company, and returned to the department in a different role. Much like the example in Drew’s video, I had absolutely no memory of this event, and yet it profoundly impacted her. As we were saying our goodbyes, Liz wanted to let me know and to express her gratitude.
I was gobsmacked.
During this year of transition from being quite private to becoming more public, I am reminded of these small gestures and opportunities to help others. SerenadeWind.com is one of those ways where we can leave some thoughts, stories and ideas that may one day help you make a change or reveal an answer you may be struggling with.
In turn, this could also be an opportunity for you to redefine the concept of “leadership” in your life and determine what it means to you. The reality is you are already a leader in your everyday life, and it shows up in how you interact with your family, friends, and acquaintenances, whether in person or online.
Finally, take a moment to think about when someone said or did something that made your life better. Perhaps you could share your gratitude with them and tell the story of your lollipop moment.
I leave you with the full quote from Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlighted about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
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