How Hard Work got Chris Fired


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Heads down hard work lands you out the door, eventually.

Hard work is essential, but not enough, to keep earning promotions.

Fired not promoted:

The board fired the CEO of Callidus Software (NASDAQ: CALD) and Chris Cabrera assumed he was in line for the job. It made sense. Chris was the successful senior vice president of operations. Under his leadership Callidus grew from zero to greater than $75 million in annual sales. In 2003, they raised more than $70 million, when Callidus went public.

But, six months after the CEO was fired, Chris wasn’t promoted.

He was fired.

Lessons from walking the plank:

What happened?

Chris said he spent too much time focused on his team.

“My team loved me. We were doing great.”

But, Chris explained that he’d neglected relationships outside of his team.

“I was very insular. I had done a lousy job of managing up and down.”

Hard work apart from relationships
becomes a barrier to success.

The higher you go the more relationships matter.

Chris didn’t become CEO of Callidus because other teams and the board didn’t support him. He had neglected company-wide relationships.

Seven creative ways to build company-wide relationships:

  1. Invite leaders from other departments to your meetings.
  2. Ask for advice and suggestions from those over and under. Make others feel important.
  3. Ask for help. Those who help you feel connected to you. But, avoid being weak and needy. Ask for “easy help,” something easy for them and useful to you.
  4. Give more than you take.
  5. Volunteer for cross-functional assignments.
  6. Express gratitude, lots of it. Send thank-you notes.
  7. Think of people as people, not resources.


Don’t build relationships by being a butt-kisser. Make what’s best for the company best for you.


Chris “left” Callidus and started Xactly, #13 Best Small Place to Work in 2012.

How can rising leaders build company-wide relationships?