A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS
Hello, and welcome to the second issue of our Trust
and Leadership newsletter.
this issue, we introduce our "Leadership
Dim Sum" series of briefs. In this series,
we will describe a variety of scenarios involving the
people at the top - the inner circle. We'll talk about
some of the characters you'll find there and the messes
they get into.
servings of Dim Sum will give you a chance to objectively
view certain scenarios so that you'll be better prepared
when you are thrust into them.
forward this newsletter to your colleagues and friends
who are interested in organizational and leadership
issues. Your feedback is always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Rob and Anne-
will take courage to restore investors' faith
Dim Sum: Surviving the Porcupine
LEADERSHIP DIM SUM, PART I: HOW INTIMATE
IS YOUR INNER CIRCLE?
CEO now has 11 direct reports. He convenes a twice-monthly
management group meeting of those direct reports, plus their
top lieutenants. Nearly 60 people now take part. The pace
of these meetings has become one of “report-out”
after “report-out.” It has turned into serial
information delivery at turtle speed. And there isn’t
much, if any, depth to the discussions. Virtually no business
gets done there any more.
to think about: How does one define what “at the top”
really means? Is a group of 10 (or 20 or 60) too many? How
does the rest of the organization see an inner circle? What
expectations do they have of its members?
began with this scenario because we felt it was important,
as we begin the Leadership Dim Sum series, to tackle the important
question of who, exactly, we’re including in our definition
of “at the top.”
Did the Inner Circle Go?
A leader’s vision of his or her inner circle
and other individuals’ views on who that circle includes,
or should include, may be different. Someone recounted to
Annie their experience of being hired into a management position
in fast-paced start-up. Before this person was hired –
when she was considering the job, and the company was similarly
considering her – she was given access to everything.
“Business plans, confidential financial models, detailed
results, you name it,” she recalled. “ The CEO
asked me for strategic advice, and, I felt, truly valued my
she joined the company. And almost immediately, she realized
that she was not, in fact, a member of the inner circle. “Perhaps
no one is a prophet in their own land. It was striking how
forthcoming he was with information in the recruiting phase,
and how receptive he was to my ideas, and how much that changed
once I actually joined the organization,” she explained.
"The problem was that I had been given enough data ahead
of time about revenue projections, and I had access to daily
revenue numbers, so I quickly realized that the company was
in trouble. Yet when I asked for confirmation – and
wanted to weigh in with my opinions – the CEO shut me
out, told me everything was ‘just great.’ To compound
things, the other people in the organization expected me to
have information because they thought that I was in the CEO’s
inner circle. So they were less trusting of me because they
felt I was hiding things, holding back.”
the size, scope, and definition of an inner circle may vary,
we tend to think of them as being the small cluster of individuals
surrounding a particular executive who share most confidential
data and who feel comfortable speculating on outcomes and
scenarios with one another.
Is there a tipping point? We think there is. We think the
ideal inner circle is made up of no more than six or eight
people (OK, nine if you really stretch). Our sense is that
if the group gets much larger, it’s not really an “inner”
circle at all. A larger group cannot develop the intimacy
of a smaller one – and the bonds of trust are more likely
to form within niches within the group, rather than between
and among all members. You should use your own judgment in
the matter – your organization has its own unique dynamics,
of which we have no knowledge -- but keep in mind that it
is always easier to expand a circle than it is to shrink it.
of our clients uses the concept of chairs at a table to determine
the optimum size of their inner circle at the corporate and
regional levels. They look at how many chairs are placed around
the table, and who is sitting at each chair. They have found
that eight to ten chairs works best for them. But they always
have to ask the question - do we have the right people in
the right chairs? Good for them for constantly asking.
an inner circle be dictated by the org. chart? To a great
extent, yes. Let’s put it this way: If there is someone
on your senior management team whom you do not feel comfortable
including in your inner circle, then it’s time to consider
whether that person in fact belongs that high in the organization
in the first place.
is it important to be clear about who’s in? You bet.
If not explicitly, then implicitly. Remember Tom Wolfe’s
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? In it, he talked
about being either “On the bus” or “Off
the bus.” If you were on, you knew it. And if you had
to ask if you were on, you weren’t. Don’t make
people ask. Be careful not to lead people astray by giving
them signals that could be subject to misinterpretation. If
someone is not in the inner circle, don’t give them
information that would lead them to believe that they are.
WITH THE AUTHORS OF THE TRUSTED LEADER
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© 2003 Robert Galford and Anne Seibold
Drapeau All Rights Reserved