You mean Twinkies really don’t last forever?

The snack food poster child for invincibility shows how some leaders can’t stomach change

They’ve been dropped from six-story buildings, electrocuted, pierced with sensors under laboratory beakers, even left for 30 years on the desk of a high school science teacher in Blue Hill, Maine.

Known more for their chemically-fortified stamina to endure the elements than any redeeming nutritional value, Twinkies (and their twice-reconstituted baker Hostess Brands) have been around since Calvin Coolidge slept in the White House. As of two weeks ago, turnaround artist Greg Rayburn has the job of pulling Hostess’ buns out of the fire. Good luck.

Success does not happen overnight; neither does failure. The company had a long, long time to consider whether white bread, chocolate cakes with 19.5 grams of fat and Twinkies with who knows what inside would hold up in a market turning its moral palette toward yogurt, granola bars and seven-grain bread. The company is privately held, but whether they had a board of “advisors” or simply executives with their hands over their eyes for this long, they are the namesake of one of their products.

Ding Dongs.

Still, while we can joke about Hostess, what about Kodak or RIM (Blackberry)? Why do companies that once commanded the market fall to such disgrace?

Sure, there are a lot of factors, but the common theme is that these companies believed their early market leadership made them invincible, allowed them to dither on their next major move. They drank their own Kool-Aid.

So, here is the question: Whether public or private, what is the role of the board on such matters? Do you have a board of advisors/directors who are intentionally different than you, representing challenging perspectives and experience? Do they have a greater stake in how you perform in the future rather than just today?

When was the last time any of them told you, “No”?



About paulheagen

I am an executive coach, advisor and confidant who helps leaders better understand, refresh or redirect their purpose in their business and personal lives. Over my 35-year career as a corporate executive, communications consultant and trusted advisor, I have guided executives through “defining moments” – those unique times when the decisions they make, the words they speak, and the qualities they exhibit can influence not only the destiny of their organization but also their own lives and careers. When it comes to my clients and my life work, I am ferociously passionate and restlessly inquisitive about uncovering the unique dreams, vision and purpose that lead to exceptional leadership.
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