A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS
month we talk about the challenges of being the "outsider"
who's hired into a top spot, inheriting direct reports
who may be less than supportive.
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-Rob and Anne-
Grudge from the Past
month's serving of Dim Sum: When the Inner Circle Fails
LEADERSHIP DIM SUM, PART VII: WHEN
YOU'RE THE OUTSIDER
this company, the CEO had always been appointed from within.
The company had four divisions – one of the division
heads had always been tapped for the top job. That is, until
two years ago, when its first top manager from “outside”
had been hired. That hire hadn’t lasted long (“It
wasn’t a fit,” people said). And now a new CEO,
also from the outside, is in place, with his work cut out
for him. Of his four direct reports, two appear to be close
allies of one another – almost to the point of being
able to finish one another’s sentences. The third is
openly annoyed that the board has continued this trend of
“going for an outsider.” (“You’d have
thought they’d learn from their mistakes – besides,
it’s a slap in the face to us four business unit heads,”
he’s been overheard to say.) The fourth is an enigma
– neither welcoming, nor resentful – just silent,
with a perfect poker face.
Things to think about: Can you build a team at the top,
or from those not “your own,” when some people
are openly resisting your presence? How can you size people
up – quickly, but fairly? Where do you start, in such
a situation? Should you cut resistance off at the knees, or
can you afford to give people a chance to come around?
thoughts: Yes, you can build a team at the top from a team
that existed before you, but think of it as a grafting process,
which requires far greater care than straightforward assembly.
And take nothing for granted. Move slowly, and carefully,
to build personal trust with each member of the group, and
with the group as a whole.
you’re dealing with a “bad guy.” In that
case, speed is important. And yes, you have to cut him off
fast. But try, at the same time, to understand the source
of his resistance thoroughly. Look for ancillary, or underlying,
issues (which can come back to bite you if you don’t
ferret them out and deal with them, regardless of whether
this person in particular remains in your inner circle.)
you remember Gunter Grass’s allegorical novel, “The
Tin Drum?” (It was generally used to explain how Nazi-ism
grew.) The gist is that there was a character who had an annoying
tin drum, which he beat constantly. But when people would
take the drum away, he would shriek. The shrieking was so
intolerable, they would relent and give him his drum back,
and so on, and so on.
everyone is resistant, visibly, you’ll need to
make a decision quickly as to whether it is worth working
to overcome the resistance. If the answer is affirmative,
then rolling up one’s sleeves is what comes next. You
might not have all the information you might like to make
your decision, but you can’t necessarily wait weeks
or months for all the data to come in. It’s fundamentally
a gut call, and unless you love gambling, those calls are
about you? Have you ever been the outsider trying to build
a team? Or have you worked for an outsider? How did it go?
Let us know.
WITH THE AUTHORS OF THE TRUSTED LEADER
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