Idea Initiation: The 3AM Rule
The key fundamental aspect of being a good business leader is that you want to initiate.
Warren W. Littlefield is an American former television executive. A protégé of Brandon Tartikoff, Littlefield developed Cheers, The Cosby Show, and The Golden Girls as senior and executive vice president of NBC Entertainment under Tartikoff. During his time as president of NBC, Littlefield created hit shows for the network throughout the 1990s such as Seinfeld, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Wings, Blossom, Law & Order, Mad About You, Sisters, Frasier, Friends, ER, Homicide: Life on the Street, Caroline in the City, NewsRadio, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Suddenly Susan, Just Shoot Me!, Will & Grace and The West Wing.
Each and every day, when we go into our work world, we have an agenda. And if we look down at that agenda and we go, “I have to accomplish this. I have to accomplish this. I’ve got to deal with this.” It’s overwhelming.
When I ran NBC entertainment, there were many days where I thought I’m a firefighter. I’ve got a big hose and I’m just spraying it and trying to put out fires. I could do that and pretty effectively for 12, 14 more hours a day putting out fires. Was I doing my job? Well, the answer is I wasn't because I wasn't initiating anything. I was reacting. I wasn't starting something.
And I think the key fundamental aspect of being a good business leader is that you want to initiate. You need to open up your world to the diversity of the people who are working with you.
And one of the things I think we accomplished at NBC is, as we defined who did we want to be, who were we going to be, we looked to our past to help define our future. And then, once we had an articulation of that, many, many meetings with lots of people so that there was a buy-in. I call it the 3:00 a.m. rule. You could wakeup anyone of hundreds of employees at 3:00 in the morning and they could articulate here’s what we need, here’s where we are.
You need that buy-in, so that all people in your organization are working for a common goal. And then, you take that goal, and in television we had to execute on a night-by-night strategy against that thematic. We never could have accomplished it. It’s not a one-man sport. Unless we had a buy-in, an understanding and a philosophy from every single level of employee, everyone working for that common articulated goal.
Those meetings can be long. Those are meetings that you may just want to cross off your schedule. I’ll do it another day. But those are the things that are about initiating ideas and being open to change, and that's critical to success.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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