The Close-Minded Executive
How open are you to new ideas? Beyond that, as an executive leader how do you view the people you work with, and do others interpret people for you? Not long ago, VIM Executive Coaching received a referral from the HR department of a very large accounting firm.
The executive leader, high up in the organization was having a difficult time retaining and nurturing employees. In fact, his department had one of the highest turnovers in the organization. The executive was more than happy, and quite open to reviewing was he was doing right and where his leadership skills could use encouragement and improvement.
It was apparent, as we started to talk that he was completely overwhelmed with work. There were never enough hours in the day, there were never enough people to do the jobs that were assigned and it was almost impossible for him to delegate any of the responsibility. This seemed somewhat incredulous to us, as he had more than 50 people under his supervision.
We wondered how he was able to get so many things done. He told us about his trust, administrative assistant Jane. He confided he wouldn’t know what to do without her. That was all very well and good we said, but there were several CPA’s under him, several junior accountants and clerks, why was he so reliant on an administrative assistant to manage the department?
He explained that Jane was a very perceptive person and she had her “ear to the ground.” She reported problems and had a pretty good idea of who was effective – or not, who was loyal – or not, and who was capable of someday, being elevated to higher positions.
At VIM Executive Coaching, our mission is not to point out mistakes, but to encourage change and improvement in leadership skills when we detected problems. It seemed as though this administrative assistant had been allowed to take on an inordinate amount of power. Much more than that, his opinion of his employees was open or closed based on second-hand information received from someone who was several layers removed from the executive.
Open Your Heart and Mind
In his overwhelmed situation, he admitted that if Jane didn’t like someone or even liked someone, he would rely on her input to form opinions about the employee. In essence, she was deciding who would succeed and who would fail. As he was hesitant to delegate any of his authority, it was his administrative assistant who was essentially running the department. In time, and with working closely with one of VIM Executive Coaching consultants he saw this as a major flaw, and indeed he was shocked at how much his administrative had influenced his thinking and closed his mind and heart to some of the people under his leadership.
When he first asked Jane to arrange meetings with many of the people in his department, to his “surprise” he discovered she balked at him have one-on-one meetings. She wanted to know if she should be present. She even seemed a bit miffed that she was not being included! He made it clear that the meetings were private.
In the meetings, he practiced the art of listening and understanding what his employees were experiencing. He allowed his heart to be open and his mind to be as clear as possible. He saw several disturbing patterns – and he had to admit that some of the issues were his own doing.
He had closed himself off, and wasn’t reflecting on the needs of some of the accountants who had been with him for many years. The department was restructured, input was more encouraged and nurtured from his staff. Senior people were promoted. The workload became more manageable and turnover lessened. Not surprisingly, Jane decided to leave the company not long after he “authority” was put into perspective.
The lesson in this is to neither become close-minded in your evaluation of others, nor to allow those evaluations to be unjustly interpreted for you.