ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Friday, May 27, 2016

When CEO's are Blindsided

When a new CEO joins a huge bureaucracy or government agency determined to change the dysfunctional culture, she has to develop a team that will be honest with her.

Unfortunately, all too often people who had been with the company for many years, as many as 30 years have been promoted from junior to mid-level to senior management - way above their levels of competence. For them, keeping the status quo is the safest.

Silos, lack of cooperation between departments - even lack of communication between departments become the norm. Sometimes it is impossible for the new CEO to get rid of the people who are blindsiding him because they have seniority, tenure, or other means to be protected.

Thus they give their new CEO what one of my clients once termed "happy words". In other words, they give her what they think he wants to hear - not what would necessarily be helpful.

In cases like this, honesty is rare. Political correctness is the norm. People are afraid that they will be stabbed in the back by others and everyone is ultra-careful not to do or say anything that will rock the boat.

New department heads brought in to improve things are sabotaged by their direct reports as well as by peers from other departments. No one wants the good guy who is honorable and capable.

If the CEO is wise, he will bring in a Change Consultant to spend a year or two in the company working a day or two a week to bring people together in a manner conducive to building trust, teamwork, and cooperation. This cannot happen in a one-shot deal intervention, but must be worked over and over again with different combinations of people in different ways.

It takes a real commitment to make the necessary changes.

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