Friday, June 13, 2008

The Oblivious Executive

Yesterday’s rogue gallery of fired Wall Street executives, portrayed in a slideshow that would make Al Gore proud, made me wonder why their faces are being beamed across the Internet. Looks like a different version of the perp walk.

Dethroned leaders, ranging from such notables as Carly Fiorina to Tom Freston, didn’t get to the top without a large measure of skill and competence, but once ensconced, a fair number of executives lose sight of the landscape below, sometimes to the detriment of their own careers.

Clueless in the C-suite …

Several years ago, the CFO of a major NYC hospital called me in to “shape up” his direct reports. Citing underperformance, he attributed it to deficiencies in their teamwork, collaboration, problem solving, reporting systems and decision-making skills.

As I met with each one individually, assessed the problem areas and received the required feedback, a recurrent and consistent theme became apparent. Everyone claimed that the CFO’s lack of leadership was the cause of the department’s dysfunction. The litany of complaints ranged from inaccessible to short-tempered. It had devolved to the point where this team felt they were playing without a quarterback.

You learn a lot when you ask the right questions.

Shaking out the stupor …

After distilling and compiling the feedback in anonymous format, I presented it to the CFO who was, in fact, shocked. Having no idea how his staff regarded him and to what lengths they went to avoid him, he became visibly upset. All had ranked and rated their peers highly. All had ranked and rated the CFO poorly.

While he may have been oblivious, he was not immune to reality. He understood that there was a problem … he just never considered that it was his doing.

I wonder if that’s how those execs in the slideshow feel.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree some of these top dogs are out to lunch.

kc50 said...

There are no excuses. The buck stops here is how they should feel.

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