Business As Usual By Stuart Friedman
May 21st, 2013 – Pat’s company has grown an average of 10 percent a year for six years – a truly great entrepreneurial story. Pat started the company from her living room with two friends after a client recommended she work for him, full-time, as an independent contractor. Essentially, he would provide financial backing and offer encouragement and stability, while she pursued other clients and grew the company.
Today Pat’s company is in two cities. It’s thriving. Turnover, however, is a problem. Turnover is the purview of Chris, one of the original “living room” founders, who is now president.
Though Chris is bright, assertive and able to anticipate, she is young and has not developed professional management skills. She is poor at relating to people and shuns human contact, preferring to communicate via email or text message rather than face-to-face.
Chris shows little tolerance for people she considers less intelligent, and rarely acknowledges the ideas of others. With staff, she often rolls her eyes or puts her hands up as a way of telling others she doesn’t want to hear any more.
Chris is a good friend to Pat. She makes a hefty salary, plus receives regular bonuses and other financial incentives from Pat – all of which tends to condone Chris’s behavior.
Pat is aware of Chris’s actions, yet does nothing, even when faced with higher-than-average turnover for her industry. She blames everyone but Chris.
Pat just hired an executive VP. Jerry will report to Chris and oversee the company’s largest division. Jerry must go through a thorough, complete and deep on-boarding process. The quicker he can connect with his new colleagues, the sooner he can contribute to the company’s ongoing success. Jerry also needs to learn “Pat’s way” so he can carry out and carry on the culture and company legacy.
Together with all department heads, HR created extensive orientation materials for new managers/executives, complete with company history, a directory of employees, their competencies and skills, etc. Chris’s responsibility in the on-boarding process is to work with new managers/executives to create a schedule and overall approach for their work.
Chris, however, is often a barrier to the process. She simply provides the orientation materials to new leaders with a cursory, “Come see me if you have questions,” and little more.
Is it any surprise that Jerry is the company’s fourth executive VP in three years? Chris expects different results with each new hire, but she does the same thing over and over. Is it insanity, stupidity . . . or just business as usual?
Chris needs to realize that the more people she relates to, the more people she can leverage. She needs to realize that there is no better time than right now to bring Jerry in and do all she can to make his integration with the company successful.
Chris’s actions indicate she has little patience for others, that she does not like working on a team, and that she probably does not like her job. Maybe she feels trapped or obligated to stay for Pat’s sake, or maybe she enjoys the six-figure salary and other compensation. Who knows?
Regardless of “why,” Chris’s actions will no doubt impact the company both short-term and long-term. Only by making new choices will she do right by her CEO, her friend and the company.
Here are some thoughts to help her:
• Learn to work with others by listening to their ideas and learning interpersonal etiquette (even consider an etiquette coach).
• Learn to manage others with open and frequent dialogue, sharing her thoughts and philosophy freely (rather than rolling eyes).
• Communicate company updates weekly so staff feels more connected to the organization and to her.
• Engage a “life” coach to identify her fulfillment needs and develop a plan to get there.
Pat needs to make choices, too. Here are some ideas for her:
• Help Chris develop the skills and direction she so desperately needs.
• Change her own ways so she becomes more connected to the people in her organization (rather than leaving it up to others).
• Limit Chris’s role and cease monetary rewards for undesirable behavior.
• Ask Chris to move on from her position or even leave the organization.
For her company to enjoy similar growth and success going forward, Pat needs to move loyalties out of the way. It’s her choice . . .
(Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates, Inc. He is a business visionary who helps his clients get their companies “Unstuck!” He guides organizations through cultural shifts by getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. He is a leading consultant, speaker, coach, and author. Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)