New CEO, New View

Source: flickr.com via @jmvnoos in Paris

The company’s new CEO addressed the office staff the other day. His appointment has taken half a year and once named, his background in turning around struggling companies was found and circulated. This was a fixer-upper CEO.

While looking like any other ordinary guy (middle-aged, white, paunchy and standard corporate styling) he spoke well, assuredly and with confidence. His spiel was about trust, doing the job well, focus and of course, cost management. It was all that you’d expect from a person with global experience in running big companies. They’re an interesting breed.

As a person who really doesn’t care about what happens next at this company, his talk just made me think about what I really want to pursue next and how I need to present myself. What do I want to be seen as (a fixer-upper? No.) and how do I ensure that I can deliver to that. A bit of work to do during the job search.


Performance Management: It’s Your Job

Source: Flickr via Margolove

Earlier this year I had to do what is probably the toughest thing in my work life. I had to manage one of my directs out of his job because he just couldn’t do it.

So, it goes like this. Last year I had to hire someone for a managerial role running an ongoing research program. As chance would have it, a guy from another department had been made redundant but had a strong analytical background. We (my manager, his boss and me) thought we could take a chance on him – after all, analytical skills should carry across functions whether you’re counting widgets or understanding consumer sentiment, right?

Well, no.

While his differing perspective was refreshing at first, it didn’t take long to realize that he didn’t quite understand the fundamentals of his job. He was used to the black and white nature of measuring things like widgets and he failed to transfer this to measuring how a consumer feels.

The worst part was when he was scheduled to present to one of our regional offices. Charged with the responsibility of influencing their upcoming commercial plan, we thought it best to practice his presentation in front of us. After all, we would be tougher judges than the regional office would. That was when it hit. He was a dithering mess. He was unable to convey the basics of his job and lacked any sophistication or understanding in his delivery. After a couple of hours of practice, my boss decided that I was to go.

Soon after, he was tasked with compiling a few reports for publication to the broader Marketing team. Again, he failed. His draft was unintelligible, lacking any semblance of grammatical structure. This was the time when I had to start managing his performance. Everything had to be documented: the work I asked of him; the drafts he compiled; our exchange on his progress. In the end, he really wasn’t up to it. We eventually came to an agreement for him to leave and for us to promote his direct.

This was difficult because he had tried so hard and yet was never, ever going to succeed in this role. I saw his efforts but could never reward him for it. In the end, the Marketing Director said that it was my job to have the right people to deliver my part. If he wasn’t going to be a contributor, I would be worse for it. My job was to do my job – if my team drags me down, change the team.

This still bothers me today. I know he’s right but somehow it hurts when you make a decision about someone’s career.


Leadership Program: Thoughts Part 1


I was fortunate enough to be nominated to attend an internal leadership development program earlier last week. The goals are fairly obvious and fairly well trodden – understanding what makes for good leadership and to develop my own personal style to adapt and apply to circumstances.

I then recalled a podcast I listened to about leadership and how to become a good one. Listen to it here.

The underlying thought I have to formulate my style is, “Why should great people work with me?”. This frames my entire technique. Gosh, I guess I’m on the path to being somebody.


Changing times

Just when I was getting comfortable on the new role, my manager has a quiet chat with me. During a recent overseas trip back home, he had put an offer on a house. This was quickly accepted by the seller and his plans to return to his native land are now accelerated.

So, my short stint with him is all I get. It’s such a pity – I have enormous respect for him and working with him was a big factor in my move. Such is corporate life.


Shuffling Decks


More changes at work. My current manager (who has been in the seat for about six months) has been promoted. That means the big chair has been populated by two people in the last six months; both had been from other states and obviously in a holding pattern until their real seats were made vacant.

The next guy in line isn’t as brilliant a thinker as the previous two but is arguably reasonably politic. My concern is whether the Director thinks this department is really one that produces anything or is just a holding bay until he can find a box for his mates.

It doesn’t fill me with any more confidence.


Following The Right Leader


Finding true leaders in business is rare. By true leader, I mean the type of person that is not only incredibly intelligent/wise, but also honest, personable and savvy. What you see on the surface is exactly what you see if you peeled away the suit, the Blackberry and the corner office. Is this person the same in business meetings as in a family gathering? I’ve had a few managers in my time and I couldn’t pinpoint one who had it all. There was always a flaw that undermined everything. One was an amazing networker but completely untrustworthy. Another was scarily intelligent but couldn’t relate to human beings. A more recent one was amicable, a political animal and brilliant but you couldn’t always believe his level of commitment to you. He was made of teflon, making commitments and promises but nothing stuck.

Am I seeking too much? And can I ever fully complete myself so that I’m not perceived in the same way?


It All Starts at the Top

 Et tu, Brute?

To me, company leaders are a way of marking the history of an organization. They’re the corporate equivalent of  tree-rings. The survivors bear the scars of everything that has passed and has shaped them into the beings that they are now.

The leaders in my company have had years and years of experience in the industry. As much as this has helped them push the organization onto its high perch, I think that this has bred bad behavior amongst the staff but also shuttered them from anything really new.

I think of it this way, we are social creatures. We imitate those that seem to be doing well for themselves. In my company the mantra is, “As long as the job gets done, I don’t care how you do it.” In such a dog-eat-dog environment with no moral scruples, it’s no wonder that so many people are disenchanted.

I read this article about “infectious leadership” and thought about our guys at the top: