Skip Prichard is the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future and CEO of OCLC.
Prichard has run global businesses ranging from the startup phase to mature businesses with over $1.5 Billion in revenue. Harvard Business Review labeled Prichard as a rare social CEO and a “relentless giver” and I ask him what that means.
Skip Prichard: Turn-Around Guy
Prichard has interviewed over 1000 successful people and has turned a fair amount of companies around from the bring. I had to ask, is there a pattern for turn-around success? Is there a dirty secret where he uses the same fixes help most companies? Sadly, it’s not that easy and many of today’s problems are unique because every company culture is different. Culture sometimes gets an eye roll… but changing it, is the only thing that will change results permanently. “Culture is creating cash” Prichard explains. The hardest think about changing a culture, however, is that leaders don’t want to do it.
Culture is hard to change and it’s a long-term strategy. Many leaders don’t want to deal with it, shareholders don’t want to consider it, and Wall Street likes to reward short term gains. So, how does a CEO or manager balance short and long term? Prichard discusses how great leaders are measured by how well the can focus on the future but prioritize short term when necessary. It’s not something I hear a lot, but short term thinking isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes we need short term thinking to save or turn around a company… provided it doesn’t sacrifice long term focus.
Different Times Require Different Leaders
We think of leaders in the context of good or bad, but it’s not that simple. Skip Prichard explained the type of leader you need depends on your organization’s age or challenges. Where one great leader may fail, another great leader may succeed. One’s not better, but simply, better for that particular challenge. Great companies need to be willing to shift not just their leadership, but their hiring with the times. Any good organizations will constantly evaluate the kind of leader as they look to fill positions that open up.
HR, if used the right way, can be the extraordinary catalyst to challenge leadership, drive the culture change, bring in new skills and constantly reach for the stars bringing in an era of positivity. The best HR leaders will bring that mindset of HUMAN resources, understanding that getting great people and treating them well is their unique differentiator and edge.
Negative Pattern For Broken Companies? Victimhood.
I asked Skip Prichard if there are any negative patterns he documents in The Book of Mistakes. The answer? Organizations that struggle claim a victim mentality. This mentality is the single greatest recipe for failure in our companies. Allowing this mentality is extremely dangerous. “There’s nothing we can do, “the market is squeezing us,” “the price is too high,” or “this person is holding us back” are all victim mentality statements.
The victim mentality, which can turn into a victim culture, develops when the organization doesn’t want accountability. In one case, Prichard worked with an organization whose head of sales blamed the product division for not having the product he needed to sell. Of course, the product division blamed sales for selling what they didn’t have.
He told Prichard “this is the way the game is played, if you’re a master, you shift the blame to the product team.” This is idiotic. Great companies hold themselves and their leadership personally accountable for their own success. All companies experience setbacks — great leaders and great companies master themselves and don’t accept victim status. Leaders bear this responsibility. It really does start at the top.
Skip Prichard’s Mistakes
Skip Prichard has listed the following mistakes you must avoid in The Book of Mistakes. We discussed numbers 2, 5 and 7 in the interview.
- Working on someone else’s dream.
- Allowing someone else to define your value.
- Accepting Excuses
- Surrounding yourself with the wrong people.
- Staying in your comfort zone
- Allowing temporary setbacks to become permanent failure
- Trying to blend in, instead of standing out.
- Thinking that there is a fixed and limited amount of success available.
- Believing you have all the time in the world
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