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executing Together

by | Dec 18, 2021 | execute, Ray Charles, Together

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🖋 Through daily iterations of a spreadsheet of 1765 engineers around the globe, we were as ready as we could be to execute Project One on January 1. If someone ever suggests you do a massive corporate reorg at the first of the year, just say the sentence that I work with leaders on the most. A complete sentence that, as they say in Charades: 1 word, 2 letters. “No”. I would love to tell you we were confident this would be executed well, but honestly, we were really never sure what the real objective was in the first place, so we would hit something…

… but what? Looking back now, I can see what should have been done, but those lessons are rewarding to the next generation of leaders I am honored to work with. It is mostly “advice” and “mentoring” – not what I am supposed to do as a “coach”, but they are eager to hear the stories… or haven’t made enough progress with “No” 😉 Suffice to say that there was a Senior VP role that called to me… but was denied because I didn’t have “experience” with a team of that size. It was one of those that a different country artist wrote about – Garth Brooks’s “Unanswered Prayers”.

🎵 It is one of those moments I would have loved to be at… but I was only 3. Sitting in the studio, listening to the final mix of this album. Did Ray and Sid really know what they had executed Together on tape? Within 3 months of its release in April of 1962, it had already sold 500,000 copies – when albums were still fairly “new” in the distribution channel. And Ray didn’t need to worry about ABC’s support as we discussed yesterday – their marketing muscle was on full display. There were 4 singles released, all of which charted near the top, 2 of them crossing over to Adult Contemporary. If you want to hear what they had executed in changing music, here is the original of today’s track, from 1940, Floyd Tillman’s version of his classic.

The album became Number 1 in the nation… knocking West Side Story out of that slot. Think about that for a moment… an album of Country and Western COVER songs put another Genius, Leonard Bernstein, into second place. It won the 1963 Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording – ironic as it was entirely a Country album – or was it? As Ray said himself, “[T]he words to country songs are very earthy like the blues, see, very down. They’re not as dressed up, and the people are very honest and say, ‘Look, I miss you, darlin’, so I went out and I got drunk in this bar.’ That’s the way you say it”. Executed Clearer – “You take country music, you take black music, you got the same ____thing exactly”. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and is ranked number 104 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

🖋 Initially slotted for a role in a cross-organizational “staff” position because I could bring everyone Together, I adroitly got one of my directors promoted to VP, leaving me to “compete” with one of my good friends for one of the 3 VP roles left in engineering. One was already taken by my closest peer, and it was my “old team” – the one I built, loved, and now, was not going to be able to stay and benefit from seeing blossom. I had a few tricks left, and landed the role that appeared to be the more interesting one – in the Mobile Cell phone part of our business. And it was great, and also, I knew that the end was in sight… for me… and probably for this business. I could execute a difference in the slope of the line, but not the endpoint.

Nearly 12 years later, I have reconnected with a leader who worked with me in that season. I have been honored to be her executive coach through the last year of transition where she has just executed a landing into the role she was really destined for… similar to my own landing here. It is interesting to reminisce about what she saw, what I saw, and how those differences of perspective were dramatically different. What persists is the relationships that were built, and some of the processes that we mutually developed and honed. And a focus on execution that we Together had to unlearn a bit there (and now) to allow things to play out at a pace that would be manageable for all.

As we all turn towards the New Year, who do you need to reconnect with that can remind you of some of the qualities you naturally bring to work – often things you don’t even know you do.? And what is the right pace of change that you need to execute now, with the opportunities that are before you and your team? And how will you leverage each of them – peers, directs, customers – bringing them all Together. What unifying goals or approaches… or are you like I was heading out of corporate America … and need renewal (come back tomorrow…)… either way, does It Makes No Difference Now?

Makes no difference now, what kind of life fate hands me
I’ll get along, without you now it’s plain to see
I don’t care what happens next, I’ll forget somehow
And I don’t worry ’cause it make no difference now
It was just a year ago when first I met you
And I learned to love you and I thought you loved me too
But that’s all in the past and I’ll forget somehow
Well, I don’t worry ’cause it makes no difference now
Now that we have really parted I can’t believe it’s true
I don’t blame myself and I’m sure I can’t blame you
There was something, had to happen and it did somehow
Oh, I just don’t worry ’cause it makes no difference now
After all is said and done I’ll forget you
Although I know it will be hard to do
Let things happen as they will, I’ll get along somehow
I don’t worry, it makes no difference now
It makes no difference now, oh, no difference now
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