Poor Leaders Suck Companies Dry

By E. Brown

I visited a company this morning that has been through a very volatile year. A new CEO had been brought in about a year ago. The leader had no previous experience in the industry he was brought into. Immediately, he started making sweeping changes.

So far, this does not sound uncommon for most mid to large organizations. However, follow on and then see what you think.

Spin: Employees were told there would be a reorganization
Most typical reorgs go through a process such as:
Discovery/evaluation – company direction, company structure, mission and vision, staff skill sets, company assets, customer base, etc.;
Planning/strategy – maintain or change course based upon key criteria established in the discovery phase, communicating with key stakeholders, etc.;
Execution – executing on the plan with no regrets;
Evaluation – checking milestones along the way, overall evaluations after changes take root are usually 1-3 years after the execution. There are also change management principles that are put into use regarding communication throughout the company, creating a guiding coalition, setting quick-wins, etc.

Unfortunately, none of this is what transpired.

Reality: Employees felt leadership did not know what they were doing
Instead of one cut and rearranging personnel, based on the Discovery phase, there were a series of lay-offs and no-win situations that drug out over the course of 6 months. Several employees I spoke with said they had been moved from department to department and from manager to manager routinely within a 4-5 month time period.

Some employees were terminated on one week and then hired (or asked) back the following week. About a dozen employees were hired and then mysteriously let go within their first three months of employment. Other employees were put into extreme situations, being asked to work as much as 80-120 hours, in what they termed “no win” situations, so that final termination was based upon “poor job performance”. Extremely talented personnel were fired, after which less qualified employees were hired to replace those positions.

Instead of encouraging communication, fear and intimidation were the rule of the day. Half cutting remarks, and in some cases lies, were told during staff gatherings. Everyone was looking out for themselves and the company moral was in the toilet.

After about a year, the new CEO said it was time to leave. Yes, the insecure leadership vampire had struck and left another hollowed out shaking company in its wake.

This company is now committed to a new course. No one knows what the future may hold but employees, fearing for their jobs or new and giddy with rose-colored glasses, trudge on in hopes that tomorrow will be a brighter day than the one before.

Words of wisdom
Do a solid review of potential leadership candidates. Don’t let their “sucking up” people-skills cloud your judgment. He or she may be a very nice person and also a very wrong fit for the job. As the old saying goes, “measure twice, cut one.”

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3 thoughts on “Poor Leaders Suck Companies Dry

  1. Peter Drucker told a story worth adding to this post. He once asked the former head of a very large, world wide organisation:

    “What do you look for in placing the right people into the right places in an organisation?”

    The old man, who had been famous for doing just that replied:

    “I always ask myself, would I want one of my sons to work under that person?”

    Whichever leadership style you adopt, it’s worth reflecting on the quite reasonable argument that people leave managers, not organisations. We’ve tried to elaborate on this at: http://www.the-happy-manager.com/good-manager.html

    Happy leading!
    Phil
    http://www.the-happy-manager.com

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