Challenges are Opportunities…

Recently one of my CEO clients had to make a tough and courageous decision: what to do about the recently hired COO who was using fear tactics to enforce accountability. The CEO assigned the COO with making the workforce more accountable for their results; however, the CEO was not clear about the boundaries and guidelines in carrying out this task. Therefore, the COO used an approach that was familiar and effective for him in his previous positions, but entirely inappropriate for this organization’s culture. Because the CEO had communicated the new direction and need for increased accountability to the workforce, employees assumed that their complaints about the COO would fall on deaf ears. The COO’s intimidation and bullying methods continued for several weeks without the CEO’s knowledge until one of the Directors finally told the CEO about the COO’s behavior and its impact on employee morale.

Without a second thought, the CEO took swift action and promptly terminated the COO for violation of company values and mistreatment of employees. What’s even more impressive is what the CEO did next to repair any damage the COO caused to workforce morale. The CEO held a meeting with the Directors and asked why they had not spoken up about the COO’s behavior and the harm it was causing and apologized for any actions that may have made the CEO appear unapproachable. The CEO also made it clear that she needs to know the truth no matter how painful it may be to hear. Next, the CEO held a meeting with the entire workforce to communicate the termination of the COO and to reiterate the company values, with an emphasis on “respect” being the highest value that trumps all other company values. In this critically important meeting, the CEO communicated three things:

1)   The COO was terminated because lack of respect and mistreatment of employees are not tolerated in this company.

2)   The CEO cares deeply about the employees – they are not expendable as the COO had told them – employees are in fact the company’s most valuable assets.

3)   The CEO wants to hear the truth even if it’s bad news, and appropriate action will be taken without retaliation to employees.

After the meeting, several employees thanked the CEO for restoring their belief and conviction in the company and in her as the leader. Upon reflection after this meeting, the CEO realized that instead of beating herself up for what had happened with the COO, it would be more productive to view this situation as an opportunity. It taught her that she wants to do some things differently going forward, and it actually resulted in increased employee morale and loyalty because she handled a very difficult challenge with courage, integrity, and heart. I couldn’t be more proud to call this CEO my client.

 The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” – Maya Angelou

 I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

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