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Parsons on Change

Posted by: Jena McGregor on March 17, 2008

Richard Parsons, who stepped down from the Time Warner CEO job in December, has been called the media company’s fixer, a “prodigy” who stabilized one of the worst corporate mergers in history, and, some have suggested, a potential mayoral candidate for New York City.

But now, just call him Chairman. In his first interview since giving up the CEO post, Parsons speaks with Ariane de Bonvoisin, the founder of First30Days, a New York-based media company “focused on guiding people through change.” (Parsons, who’s occupying himself with his vineyard in Italy, his grandson, and toying with the idea of becoming a radio disc jockey, is also an investor in First30Days.) The podcast can be downloaded here, but Management IQ got an exclusive sneak peek.

Parsons on leaving the CEO role: “The thing that has been a bit of surprise is that really simply stepping down isn’t enough. I mean you really have to forcibly almost remove yourself from some things because inertia, [bodies] in motion, tends to stay in motion, right? If you don’t do something different, other folks won’t assume that there is anything different going on.”

On sticking around as chairman: “It certainly has not been tumultuous or in a deep sense unsettling but it is hard sometimes to sit and watch things happen, particularly if they are happening to people who are your colleagues [in which] you’re powerless to intervene or you have rendered yourself powerless to intervene because you have to get out of the way of the new guy. So I can see why many people, when they leave, they literally leave, so that they can remain unaware of what’s happening to the shop.”

On the job offers he’s received since leaving the CEO post: “Someone asked me if I would be interested in being the head football coach at Syracuse University. … [Someone else asked if] I wanted to go on television as a commentator on one of these morning business shows. … The usual suspects, you know—teaching, taking over another Fortune 500 . … But none that I [have] particularly zeroed in on.”

On running for mayor: “There is this persistent rumor that I am going to run for mayor, which as I told you a moment ago, is a highly unlikely proposition. It is not something that I want to do at this stage in my life.”

On change: “Once you master a skill or get comfortable with a set of activities, and comfortable that you are succeeding at it, change brings about the potential for failure at whatever is next. And I guess my advice to, well, certainly CEOs, and to people in general, is to understand that change is inevitable. I don’t even say change is good or change is bad; change is inevitable. Change just is. Understand that going in and don’t fear failure.”

Reader Comments

Jean J Alexis

March 18, 2008 8:06 AM

How can Parson sit here saying all this jumbo mombo ......during his tenure at time warner I am yet to see any improvement on aol their stock been diving for quite a while i see no growth there .....rule of tumb is when you been put on a post you must guard the post better than the guy before you........"improve and sustained it should be in your priority list everyday ..........the merger was a complete dissastor.

Robbie Laughing

March 18, 2008 12:29 PM

Parson didn't 'run' TWX - he just sat there milking it for all he could, as he NEVER had a clue! Clearly, another CEO not worth a wooden nickel! But, he gorged himself, he enriched himself, while destroying shareholder value like most Wall Streeters, the clowns at YHOO! and far too many other firms. GOOD RIDANCE!!!!!

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