I have a client who started a company out of her living room. She began with herself and two close friends and now the company has grown, on average, 10 percent per year for the last six years. Currently the company is situated in two cities, it is growing and thriving. It is a great entrepreneurial story.
One of the original employees, a friend, who started working out of the living room with the founder/CEO, is president of the company. The president and the CEO have been through thick and thin over these last few years. Lately, turnover in the company is creeping upward.
The president is young and has not developed professional management skills. Although she is bright, able to assert and see down the path and anticipate, she is not good when it comes to relating to people. In fact, she would prefer to avoid human contact entirely. For example, even when someone is in the office, she would rather send emails and text messages rather than meet face-to-face with anyone.
Additionally, the president shows little tolerance for people who she perceives are not as smart as she. She shows little acknowledgement for other’s ideas, rolls her eyes during meetings with her staff and will literally put her hands up in someone’s face when she is done hearing–not listening–to someone else. (She says it’s better than yelling at them to “stop!”)
The CEO has witnessed the president’s behavior and has not said nor done anything. Instead, the president continues to make a very good salary and receives additional monetary gifts because the CEO perceives her president as the gatekeeper for her. The CEO also believes that the president’s actions are justified because the company continues to grow at a consistent rate. The turnover rate, which is higher than the respective industry standard, is blamed on everyone else but her president.
So, not only is the CEO condoning these actions, she enables the president to continue with bad behavior because she is rewarded for bad behavior.
For the president to do right by the company as well as her friend/CEO, she needs to make new choices:
- Learn to work with others.
- Listen to others’ ideas.
- Learn interpersonal etiquette and see an etiquette coach for assistance.
- Learn to manage others with open and frequent dialogue.
- Share her thoughts and philosophy on a regular basis so people can align.
- Communicate weekly about what’s going on within the company so people feel a part of the organization and have a sense of relationship with her, that way she is someone they want to go to for assistance.
When the CEO brings on an executive vice president to oversee the largest division of the company, it is crucial that he be successfully brought on board so he can begin carrying out the company vision. (He is, after all, the fourth person they have hired for this position in the last three years.) For this hire to be a success, the president must pull her head out of the sand and stop thinking of herself.
However, instead of connecting one-on-one, she simply provides the VP with a training manual and other executive materials explaining the company history and approach.
Her frustration with others and disengagement overall indicates a lack of fulfillment. This is overflowing into her work and will ultimately have an impact on the company both in the short-term and long-term.
One has to wonder:
- Does this president really like her job?
- Does she really want to do what she is doing?
- She has little patience for others, does she not like working on a team?
- Does she just feel an obligation to stay in this job and to continue to support her friend because of their history?
- Does she stay only because of loyalty?
Additionally, the CEO has to examine the situation to get past loyalties:
- Help the president learn to adjust so she can work with people in a collaborative fashion.
- Be more connected to the people in her organization rather than leave it up to others like the president. It is, after all, her company.
- Limit the president’s role and cease the monetary rewards for behavior that doesn’t warrant reward.
- Possibly the president needs to move to a different role or out of the organization.
If growth and success is hampered by employees that have been kept on because of loyalty, then loyalties need to be re-examined. While there may be difficult decisions, hanging on to loyalties for loyalty’s sake, will harm the business overall.
The choice is yours!
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