Monday, March 23rd, 2015

CEO NIGHTMARE—OTHER PEOPLE’S PROJECTIONS

I’ve seen CEO’s come and go under good circumstances and not so good.
I’ve watched a company breathe a sigh of relief or gasp with dismay as one top leader goes and another is announced. It is one of the more delicate transition moments in an organization’s life.

Here is something to remember.  It’s difficult to see clearly as the top leader at any time. But it can take up to eighteen months for your company to get a real grip on who you are as their top leader—even if they have known you as a colleague.

You are often seen as the flip side of whoever proceeded you.  She was all about cost. You are seen to be all about growth. He was formal and distant. You are seen as informal and accessible. You aren’t wanted and are viewed as evil and the downfall of the company. You are magnificent and readily embraced and viewed as the Knight in Shining Armor.  

In other words, perspective is distorted and stays that way for a while when a new CEO steps into the role. The old mantra of team development holds true. “Form, storm, norm, perform”. The ‘forming’ is fun and often false due to the misperception I talk about above.  So know— that no matter how you enter into the CEO position, it is the storming that you want and it’s not fun. It is the moment when things get real. You are seen for who you are plus and minus and people begin to adjust around it. You are talked about, mulled over, criticized, and courted too. The ‘storming’ comes when it all blows up, when a crisis rips off every one’s polite cover, when the discontent pours out. It takes guts to allow and/or create the storm. 

It means you are a CEO who doesn’t take cover, who allows for critical feedback,
who doesn’t hide behind denial, and who can tolerate very tough interpersonal moments. (All of this should be part of a CEO job description)  And this storming seems to be a needed stage of development in a CEO’s tenure, whether you bring it on yourself through straight talk or it comes to you in a grand dysfunction. Some new top leaders avoid this moment for years until under performance is the norm. Please don’t. Wrestle your company norms to the ground through real contact with people and begin to perform with the power that comes  from making it all real.

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