What “frame” of mind are you in today? (Part 3 of 4)
Are you a Company Man or Woman?
If you are a company man or woman, you have to recognize that your loyalty and performance will do little for you if there is a change at the top. I can readily recall far too many stories of senior executives who despite achieving their numbers, found themselves on the outside looking in as a result of a new boss taking the helm of the company, either through a corporate shake-up or a merger and acquisition.
The following excerpt from my book should drive this point home with a resounding thud.
Sheila was a top flight executive who was being groomed for the chief position in her company when she was given the task of turning around the organization’s failing European operation.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, she accepted the difficult assignment with the understanding that this would solidify her expected promotion. Within a relatively short period of time Sheila turned the company’s lack of success overseas around, increasing revenues by 100 percent.
Based on her performance, one would assume that job security would not be an issue. After all, hadn’t she dutifully, at the request of the American operation’s senior management, moved her family from North America to Europe? Didn’t she undertake an assignment that to most would have presented a daunting, high risk endeavor that might have caused them to shy away? And didn’t she deliver results beyond anyone’s expectations?
Despite this glowing track record and the favor of her American bosses, when a new executive to whom she was to report in Europe was appointed, the unexpected happened. Within 30 seconds of their second meeting, Sheila was terminated.
How could this have happened? How could a smart, savvy executive who delivered extraordinary results suddenly be fired?
In her initial assessment of the situation, Sheila believed that the first meeting with her new boss was, in her words, “one of the worst first meetings” that one could imagine. In a follow-up call, and just prior to their second meeting, Sheila shared these feelings with this individual.
Could Sheila’s straight-forward dialogue have been at the root of her termination? After all, didn’t he ask for her opinion?
Apparently, at least with this new boss, such frankness was not only viewed in a negative light, it formed the basis for the dismissal of a top- notch executive.
At this point, you might begin to question the merits of stepping up and being heard. However, the fact that Sheila spoke up was probably the best thing that could have happened. As it turns out, her days were likely numbered prior to her first meeting with the boss.
Why, you might ask?
Sheila discovered that her new boss felt no loyalty toward her, as he had not initiated her transfer to Europe. Nor did he endorse her anticipated promotion. Thus he did not feel any obligation to keep her employed.
After the proverbial dust surrounding her firing began to settle, Sheila then learned that her new boss had a friendship with another member of the management team who was about to be fired. Apparently, and after her success at turning things around, Sheila’s expected promotion would have made this individual’s job redundant.
Rather than seeing his friend outplaced, the new boss made the decision to fire Sheila instead.
Sheila did land on her feet after this major setback because she remained true to her personal values. This of course is my advice to those of you who consider yourself to be Company Men or Women. Specifically, and in the immortal words of Polonius, “To thine own self be true!” This means that you will at times have to voice your honest opinion even if it goes against your loyalty grain.
If Sheila had been less open and honest in her dealings with the new boss in terms of expressing her dissatisfaction with their first meeting, she might very well have held on to her position . . . for a time. However her boss, whose plans obviously did not include her, would likely have done everything he could to undermine her authority and ultimately her effectiveness and credibility.
This would have been a far more destructive path.
The key point to remember is that blind loyalty can hurt you as it will lock you into a career holding pattern. This can cause you to wait until your reputation is destroyed and you have no choice but to leave. Instead, and as was the case with Sheila, by speaking up in the manner that she did, she took control of the situation and was able to leave with her dignity and professional image intact.
As an epilogue, by taking control of the situation Sheila not only received a fair financial settlement; her American bosses expressed their sadness at her unexpected departure.
Sheila fared even better from a career standpoint, being hired by a competitor of her former company whose innovative product line promises an even brighter future.
So what is the moral of Sheila’s story?
Live true to your values and speak up if your instincts tell you that something is amiss. After all, this is what any good CEO will do.