Lessons from Team Coco

by Joe Lavelle on January 28, 2010

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I am sure that all of you are familiar with the controversy that took place recently over the late-night television programming on NBC.  The network was not happy with Jay Leno’s prime-time slot ratings and the executives wanted to bring him back to his old 11:30pm home for a half-hour every night, with Conan O’Brien taking over at midnight.

This decision, understandably, did not sit too well with Conan.  Public outrage over his treatment grew, with people across the country declaring themselves to be members of “Team Coco.” (If he had received such vocal support in the months leading up to this debacle, perhaps his ratings would have been better.)

While perhaps more high-profile than others, NBC is a business with employees, expectations, and a certain professional culture just like the offices in which many of you work.  So, what are the (not-so-serious) lessons we can take away from a work-related feud that left Conan O’Brien with a much shorter tenure as The Tonight Show host than expected?

1. Don’t double-cross Boston boys. Both Leno and O’Brien were raised in the Boston area, but that shared hometown pride was not about to lead to an attempt at compromise.  I live in Boston guy myself and we have a lot of pride!

2. Don’t say that you are ready to retire or leave a position if you aren’t. Jay Leno obviously still had a desire to work in late night, or he would not have agreed so quickly to return.  This lesson should be noted by Brett Favre, Garth Brooks, and a host of others who must admit they won’t purchase the easy chair just yet.

3. Be happy to let others feud while you go about improving your own reputation. How many people are talking about David Letterman’s relationships with his staffers since this NBC fiasco blew up?  I imagine that Tiger Woods has thought about sending thank-you notes to Leno and O’Brien as well.

What are your thoughts about the late-night battles at NBC?  Can you add to my “lessons learned” list?

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