The Three-Way Change of Control

August 26, 2021 –

Since 2000, I’ve carried three black stones in the right front pocket of my pants. Every time I retrieve my car keys, I come in contact with the stones. I call them “Three-way change of control” stones.

Why three stones?

My son served in the Army for 20 years, flying AH-64D Apache helicopters. These are expensive aircraft, and the two-person flying team risks their lives in operating them. The Army has a mandatory regulation that ensures the two-pilot team knows who will pilot the aircraft. It’s called “The three-way change of control.”

If the first pilot wants to hand off the piloting to the co-pilot, he says, “Joe, you are in control.” Joe responds and says, “I am in control.” Then, the first pilot replies, “You are in control.” No room for doubt, excuse, or error. The two aviators know who is in control of flying the helicopter. There are two lives and a $45-million attack helicopter involved.

I used this three-way change of control often in my business career. When I assigned a project or task, I always finished with, “Mary, you are in control.” Mary responded, “Wayne, I am in control.” When I reply, “Mary, you are in control,” there’s no room for doubt, excuse, or error.

In my will, I will remind my children of the four principles of the stones:

  • FOCUS ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Stay focused on the one main thing that makes a difference.
  • COMMIT. There is an order of commitment. Commit to your faith, your family, and your organization—in that order.
  • BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE. Your stone may not be the biggest, brightest, or most costly. But it is perfect for this stone. Strive to be your best, and don’t settle for less than your best.
  • THE STONE IS SOLID AND PERMANENT. But nature can wear it down. In life, change and competition work to wear you down. Continual learning and training protect against weathering.

Two of the stones are the most important thing my son and daughter will inherit. Oh, they will get a little money if my wife and I haven’t spent it. But the money doesn’t carry the memories; the stones do. Every time I held those stones over the past twenty years, I thought of my two children. They control their lives, showing their integrity, business leadership, and love for their families.