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… that’s all you have when an old executive is named as a new executive

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Badconsultant has been watching some deck-chair shuffling on the poop deck of the Titanic of late. One’s in, one’s out, one’s across, one’s promoted, one’s demoted, one’s getting to continue in the role they were named in just two weeks ago – you know how it goes, maintaining the same faces, just claiming they’re doing something

[to perpetuate their pension estimates]


And, as ever, in listening mode, soaking things up, seeking potential for future statements-of-work, we realized that people were genuinely placing hope upon these executives. Despite having to get past the gagging, choking, suffocating sense of having been disappointed so many times before, these people were wishing upon these senior leaders. These hopes, these dreams, these wishes.

Three wishes.

  1. I wish they’d make me feel like my job is worthwhile
  2. I wish they’d do the right thing for the business
  3. I wish they’d hire some good people below them

And it was this latter that really got us thinking. Because we heard it consistently and continuously.

“Oh yeah, they’re crap all right and they’re bound to fail… but it all depends on who they get on their team.”

And that got these badconsultants to thinking.

Maybe this is how organizational evolution happens.

Maybe it isn’t through structured change management, or cultural assessment, maybe it isn’t through leadership. Maybe it really is as simple as Darwinism. The old fade out, the young grow up, the adaptable survive. And maybe, just maybe, it is these lieutenants – the next generation, for Picard’s sake – that are the next stage of that evolution.

Because, if we’ve proven anything in our career as

[myth busters]

professional counsel to senior leaders, it’s that senior leaders are pretty much ineffectual in making change happen. All they can do is create the space for success. Set the direction. Make it clear. Make it non-negotiable. And then believe in that future in every fiber of they’re being. Then, the organization itself will make the change happen.

But once they’ve outlived their welcome – when they are old, tired and heading out to pasture – even that isn’t enough.

And, as we know that organizations are largely incapable of actually making a tough call and actually save the organization a 6 or 7 figure salary by saying goodbye to yesterday’s people, the decision has to be simple.

Send them into the world of the ineffectual, minister-without-portfolio role where they can manage all the other low performers you don’t want to fire – let them be the team that has nothing meaningful to contribute to the organization and enable them to do just that because the organization has forgotten them.

Sign the pension check. Wave goodbye. Maybe buy them a little memento to celebrate a career’s worth of loyalty.

There, does your conscience feel clear?

OK. We’re glad. But all of that isn’t the point.

Because when you announce an existing, ineffective leader moving into a new, somewhat ambiguous role, when you hear people making wish number 3), when you hear that “… But it all depends on who they get on their team” refrain… That’s the point where you should stop dead in your tracks and make CERTAIN that you are spotting the lieutenants who could actually be hired by these dead-beats’ to save their rear-ends and, instead of letting them fester in the new teams under those proven failures, give them jobs that matter.

Let them save the organization rather than yesterday’s leader.

That is the challenge.

We know it can be done.

We just wish you would try it sometimes.