ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A set up for failure

I was reading a book on Leadership and Persuasion today, in preparation for some workshops I will be conducting when I had an epiphany.  I was brought in to consult for a company that had been sold to another company - and was set up for failure.  Let me tell you the story.

The Vice-President of HR hired me to work with the conflict and emotional turmoil that was occurring because of what felt like a hostile takeover.  In fact, the merger was really an acquisition.  So, many people were being fired when I arrived.

Rather than introducing me to the rest of the executive staff, I was left to my own devices.  Rather than clearly articulate my role, I was left to define it myself.  Rather than being available to me as I needed him, this VP was always "too busy."

In talking with other executives, I learned that they asked him many months previously to hire me (or someone like me) to help with the turmoil of the acquisition.  He stalled.  Presumably the reason was because he thought his regular HR team could handle the fallout.  His team was weak.

Many members of the executive staff told me that they no longer needed me.  The damage had been done.  They needed me months previously to help them explain what was happening to their teams, counsel members who were being fired to help them with their resumes, interviews for new jobs, etc., and to work with the guilt and anger those remaining were experiencing.

The HR VP was seen by the other executives as ineffective - and as working hard to protect his own job and his own turf.

Since I knew his wife socially, I later learned that he claimed that "I didn't understand the power politics" and was unable to ingratiate myself into the company.

At first I thought the failure had been my fault.  My epiphany today was the realization that he made a series of errors that made me look bad.

Consultants are often in vulnerable positions.  They absolutely need the support of the senior executives who hire them.  Without that, they are wandering in the wilderness.

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