“If you are a leader, like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors and habits.” — Michael Hyatt
I once experienced one of the largest reorgs in the history of an 80k person enterprise company. My team was split up across three different organizations. I spent the next three months in daily 1:1s to keep them at the company.
Eventually, I was asked by a new GM to come into his organization and help build a team from scratch. I agreed on two conditions: I could bring a few people from my current team to jumpstart the group and I’d report directly to him.
Unfortunately, this organization was highly political and your reporting structure significantly impacted the influence you held in the business unit. I knew that having anyone between me and the GM would limit the amount of impact I could have and the visibility of my team. I wanted to make sure the work of the team was valued and recognized.
The GM agreed and my team and I were off to new adventures. For a while at least.
After a few months, I received an email invite on my calendar from someone I didn’t know. He was a business development executive, whom we’ll call Marco. My colleague, whom we’ll call Brad, also received an invite. Brad was the head of product management for our business unit. He sent me a direct message asking if I knew who this person was. Brad’s guess was as good as mine.
Fast forward a few days to my 1:1 with Marco, the business development executive. Marco apologized for the unannounced 1:1 on my calendar. Then, he apologized for the awkward situation, asking if my GM had told me that Brad and I would now be reporting to him.
I told Marco that our GM had not discussed this with me and that I couldn’t speak for Brad.
Missed opportunity #1
Our GM had reputation for avoiding difficult conversations and situations. He didn’t like conflict.
An effective leader would have approach us, explained that she/he needed to reduce the number of direct reports, asked what questions we had, listened, and worked through a transition plan together. Instead, our GM chose to avoid that conversation and offload it onto Marco.
Missed leadership opportunity #2
Our new boss, Marco, had a background in business development. He openly admitted in our initial 1:1 that he knew nothing about product management or design. Initially, I was encouraged by his openness.
Our design and product teams would have an opportunity to help him understand the value of design for his business unit.
Unfortunately, that’s where it stopped.
Pretty soon, we would learn that he wasn’t interested in learning about us, our roles, the value we were bringing to his organization, or how we could help him grow the business.
Missed leadership opportunity #3
He did hold a leadership team offsite in his first 90 days. It seemed like it was going to be a great opportunity to get to know him, his leadership style, and his vision for our business unit. We were all encouraged that he’d be curious and want to learn what each of us did and how we could help him grow the business unit.
After all, several of us had helped our last GM grow his business unit in double digits across five different categories. This had never been done before at this enterprise software company.
Our multi-day offsite concluded with Marco thanking all of us for our hard work and ideas for how to grow this business unit. Then, he ended with a single question.
Now, normally, you’d think asking a single question at the end of an event like this would be inspiring. As a leader, you’d want to challenge your team with something that encourages them to go out and change the world. What was Marco’s question?
“What happens if we do nothing?”
Was he being serious? No. Wait. He’s joking, right?
“These numbers all look good. The business is stable. Rather than invest in additional headcount and resources to grow it, what if we just ride the wave and do nothing for the next 3–5 years? It doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.”
A quick scan of the room revealed looks of shock, dismay, and confusion. Our excitement turned to hopelessness.
We were all looking to Marco for his vision for our teams, this organization, our business unit. His vision: do nothing and just ride this thing out for a couple of years. It was the beginning of the end.
It’s well known that people leave leaders, not companies.
I left about six weeks later. Most of my colleagues started looking shortly thereafter. And within 3–6 months most of the high performers were gone.
Leaders set the tone and pace for the organization.
Some good news
After leaving Marco’s organization, I was given the opportunity to grow a team and build an organization at another enterprise software company. This new company was defined by great leadership and a proven track record of investing in and developing their employees.
My old team from Marco’s organization jumped at the chance to join me at this new company. They’re all doing really well, in new roles, growing and developing still to this day.
What’s your story of a leader who missed a chance to grow and develop you, or your team?
Share your story. I’d love to hear it.
Do you want to increase your influence in executive decisions, communicate better with colleagues, or increase your confidence presenting to groups?
Check out my presentation mastery course. Our next class starts in March 2020.