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Last week we all witnessed the public disgrace that Ann Curry experienced as a result of her dismissal as the co-host of the Today Show. Her release was featured on every major news and entertainment media outlet and was most likely one of the worst professional experiences she has ever endured. As in any corporate change of leadership witnesses had a myriad of opinions which they expressed freely and openly. I watched friends and supporters offer kind words and reminisce on the positive aspects of her career and I witnessed those who were happy to see her go gloat and take cheap shots at her personally and professionally.
As a woman and a professional I think there is value in examining what happened that day and considering alternatives to both behaviors and thought patterns exhibited as a result of this change.
Corporations Have a Responsibility to Handle Changes Professionally
Let's be honest; business is business. Business decisions are made with profitability and performance in mind. Not every employee fits every role and sometimes change is necessary - this is entirely understandable. Yet corporate change management should be administered in ways that both edify the previous regime as well as promote the new vision. Change should be clearly communicated and should not be done impulsively, overnight, or without clear communication of the entire change process to all employees. Change that happens in contrast to these guidelines is painful and disturbing for everyone involved.
The Professional Response to Change
Change is hard. Period. There are many emotions that accompany change and when it is sudden it can be very difficult to see the "forest for the trees" as they say. In the case of Ann's speech to the public that she would be leaving I was painfully aware of this process unfolding in front of the world.
"Ann Curry confirmed two things on the "Today” show Thursday that most of the world had already figured out: She's leaving and she doesn't like it. Choking back tears and fighting to maintain her composure, Curry said, 'This is not the way I expected to leave' the show where she has worked for 15 years. 'For those of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball over the finish line,' said Curry."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/ann-curry-announces-today-show-exit-air-nbc-moves-replace-matt-lauer-co-host-article-1.1103817#ixzz1zgfQlWQd
There are a couple of things revealed in her speech and composure that I'm sure if she had more time to process the situation would not have played out in front of the entire nation.
- She was being asked to leave and she didn't like it.
- She couldn't maintain her composure speaking about it.
- She saw herself as failing herself and others
Second, feelings of failure accompany all unwanted and unexpected change. This is sentiment and the emotional responses to it are experienced by males and females alike. However, it is important to note that this emotional response is just that; an emotion not a fact. Ann will eventually realize that she gave her best to this role and is likely to be proud of herself for her dedication and the connections she made with others as a result of that position. We as individuals need to step back and assess personal change such as this in the same way. As leaders who implement change we should also focus on the facts and downplay emotional expressions as we lead change for our organizations. Again, change management is management and should be led, not allowed to evolve on its own. If we are leading change we are extolling the virtues of the past while we promote the even better vision of the future, thus preventing an environment for bitterness and regret to develop.
Third, pay no attention to the haters. People will always have an opinion and it's up to us to determine whether or not that opinion is of value. Pay no attention to words intended to degrade, defame or insult and dismiss those ideas immediately and without consideration. This stuff isn't worth your time to consider it or respond to it.
Final Word to My Sisters
Women are relatively new to high profile leadership roles and as so can be somewhat inexperienced at handling public dismissal or humiliation. Change management should be a topic of study for women in leadership roles while the waters are calm to ensure a positive response to both personal and professional changes. We will not always be able to control the circumstances that bring about change, but a solid understanding of change processes will allow us to express the highest level of professionalism in response to whatever situations we find ourselves in. This affords us the greatest opportunity of successfully navigating difficult public situations.
It's Your Turn:
Regardless of your opinion on whether or not Ann Curry should have remained as a co-host on the Today Show what observations did you make regarding her public address? Did you reflect on this situation and did you learn any lessons from that reflection?