I’m So Angry I Could Fire Everyone! (Part 2)

The first part of this story dealt with a frustrated CEO/owner who ultimately realized that one of the issues he was wrestling with was what he really wanted from his organization.

He also had a partner who (he felt) took advantage of his management style and was making decisions that he disagreed with and were not approved. You can read all about it here. After spending some time talking with me and becoming introspective to his actions and the feelings he had, he realized that he had created the situation in the first place – the partner’s lack of performance was directly related to his inconsistent directions. So he had decided to call in the partner and discuss the issue.

What transpired next was an amazing display of courage, trust, openness, vulnerability and leadership. The CEO opened the conversation by apologizing for the confusion he had created, his unintentional mixed messages and for treating people unfairly. The other partner sat and listened. When the CEO had finished, the partner answered his issues with specific examples of what she believed had occurred and her opinion as to why these kinds of confrontations develop. It was not easy for her to stand up to her boss and tell it like it was. It was even harder for the CEO to listen. Once again, the CEO apologized for his lack of management consistency and his lack of clarity regarding what he wanted to accomplish.

The partner sat back in her chair. She had never heard him so contrite and owning up to an issue. She then apologized for some of the activities that had been going on in her unit which were causing the CEO frustration and acknowledged that she too had to do a better job of managing her people and the decisions they were making.

When the 45 minute meeting was over, the CEO had provided clear goals to one of his direct reports, indicating exactly what he wanted to achieve and in such clarity that there were no questions. The partner had never before heard this kind of direction from the CEO and was appreciative of the clarity. The CEO said he would make the same clear statements to the other partners and let them decide if they wanted to continue in this new direction. The partner agreed with the CEO’s new strategy and asked why he had not been able to articulate it so clearly in the past. As he had done during a previous conversation with me, the CEO admitted to being overwhelmed. He had allowed himself to become so involved in the daily activities of the business that he just assumed everyone would understand his direction from the modeling he was providing.

When all was done, the CEO felt heard, he had buy-in from his partner and he left the room relieved and able to focus on his demanding schedule. The partner felt enthusiastic and had a greater sense of  ownership with the goals of the organization and she, too, could now focus on managing her unit without second guessing what would happen next.

Some of the lessons from this management case study which could be applicable to you:

  1. As the CEO, you need to be aware that people monitor everything you say and do – more so than anyone else in the company and it has tremendous impact.
  2. As the leader of the organization, you need to be clear about your vision, strategy and what you want from the business.
  3. You need to think long term and stay committed to that stratetgy unless it is discussed with all the other stakeholders.
  4. Stop trying to manage all the details in your business. It’s an impossible task and I see CEOs trying to do it all the time. Whether you realize it or not, if this is you, it’s likely that you’re operating in a purely reactive mode with no thought to overall vision and strategy. Plus, you’ll be managing so many details that eventually you’ll forget what instructions you’ve given from one week to the next. The result for your people is confusion and fear of getting in trouble in an environment where the sands are constantly shifting. What will happen next is that they will start avoiding you.
  5. Don’t be a micromanager. If your team is capable, let your people do their job. If someone is not achieving his/her goals then you need to have a discussion with that manager about performance.
  6. If your management team is having problems getting results, you need to look at why they are having difficulty. Hint: it might be you!
  7. Whenever possible, think of your role in the situation and try to determine why things are occurring – not just reacting to the symptoms.

Image Credit: valdezrl

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