Solution Saturday: Should I Confront the Golden Boys
Love your Leadership Freak blog. It’s always a good read with my morning coffee. A subject that I am looking to see is a situation that I am in.
My boss has announced his retirement and is nodding for me to apply for his job. But I am actually trying to leave.
The reason is his leadership on upper management has been good but his lower management skills regarding his employees has deteriorated to employees giving F bombs and low motivation.
The current situation actually makes certain employees are overworked while the elite group, as we call them, the golden boys lounge around.
The issue becomes I know where the skeletons are buried. I know what is right and wrong, but if I try and change the culture, I am in the minority. How can leaders change a culture that is embedded so deeply?
I’m concerned that shining the light into the dark closet can cause lashing out.
Concerned about shining the light
Thank you for your kind words. It’s a joy to be of service.
You are right to feel concerned about culture change. The “Golden Boys” will lash out. But organizations do turn around.
I just finished, “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround,” by former CEO Louis Gerstner. The turnaround of IBM is largely a culture change.
His story, along with other turnaround CEOs, demonstrates the focus, challenge, creativity, courage, and grit it takes to succeed when major change is necessary.
Major change causes painful disruption.
Culture change confronts the stable status quo. Rest assured, it’s turbulent and painful.
Decide if you are willing to put yourself on the line for your organization. How committed to your company’s success are you? If you are highly committed, then consider the personal side of taking the leadership role, before you move forward.
How much do you enjoy feeling respected?
What I say next may be unpopular, but I believe the fear of failure is powerful in these situations. The other way to say this is, how strong is your need to succeed?
Another question is, how much authority will you have to make tough decisions? Turnarounds require tough decisions.
Here’s another question, how much do you need to be liked?
Finally, why is the boss nodding in your direction? I would expect him to choose one of the Golden Boys.
You might not want to, but it’s likely that some members of the current team will have to go. You might try to manage them out. But the feeling I have is that some will be led out the door kicking and screaming.
Should you accept this challenge:
- Be prepared for sleepless nights. There will be intense pressure to leave things the same.
- Seek advice from outsiders.
- Practice transparency. Dancing around issues might be pretty, but it doesn’t change them. Say what you see with kind candor.
- Generate early wins.
- Don’t declare victory too early. Culture change is a lifelong journey.
Jack Welch believed in a culture of candor. He was CEO of General Electric for 20 years. He moved the needle toward candor. But he said, after 20 years, there was a long way to go.
Steve Jobs brought Apple back from the brink of bankruptcy. He made tough decisions like narrowing the product line, cutting expenses, and moving toward online music.
Doug Conant turned Campbell’s Soup around. He worked to create a positive culture. During his tenure he wrote 30,000 handwritten thank you notes. But you should know that much of upper management left in the first two or three years of his tenure.
If you take the leadership role, the golden boys club will be gone. Don’t expect them to change.
After reading your email, my gut says you shouldn’t take the job. I’m placing a lot of emphasis on the idea that you are looking to leave. However, if you decide to apply, I have given you some things to think about.
What suggestions do you have for “Shining the light”?
*I suspend the 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.
If you know you can make a difference and have the authority to “clean house” go for it!
In any group there needs to be accountability for for all participants.
Draw a line in the sand and fix it, even if you have to start over.
The other reality is leave and spend the time wondering if you could have or should have saved the ship.
Thanks Tim. I’m glad you took the other side of the coin. I was up in the air, but made a decision to suggest he walk away.
Really depends on many factors, deep in ones ethically driven values the answer resides. Surely the road to stay would be tough, ” when the going gets tough, the tough get going”!
If you are selected to replace your boss–you have position power to assign tasks, evaluate performance, hold people accountable etc. You have an opportunity to straighten out the problems you identified. Take work away fro the overworked and increase tasks given to the ones with light loads.
Some people may not step up to the new demands and expectations. They need to be replaced. But there will be some hidden stars who will shine when given the right opportunity.
Here’s your opportunity to lead and make a big difference. Go for it!
Thanks Paul. You’re the second person to suggest that Shining take the role. Anytime an important decision is made, there should be alternatives. Thanks for jumping in.
I find myself relating shining’s story to my own challenge over the past 18 months. The challenges are great and the golden ones kick, scream, sabotage, and bully. It is understandable … they have had it easy for a long time, it was successful, and they can’t really understand why it needs to change. But the greater team can see the future, do want the better culture and are passionate for success. Some roles have been replaced. Some processes changed. Progress has been steady even if slow. Oft times it’s a step forward and 2 backward.
I do know that at times I have wondered whether it’s worth it … the stress, the sleepless nights, the constant energy drain. I have considered departing for other roles … but I stop myself because I know it can be done, we will succeed as a team, and I want to be able to stand in front of them one day … honoured to be their leader as they bask in their success.
You see it isn’t personal glory I seek, that’s just a side benefit of the journey. It’s knowing I’m having a positive impact in the life’s of the team, our clients, our families and the future.
Maybe a bit cliche but it’s why I chose to lead.
Brilliant Rob. I want to stand and salute.
I suppose if we don’t wonder if it’s worth it – at least once in awhile – the path is a bit too easy. On a personal note, I feel like you are becoming more of your best self as you work for the best of others. Perhaps that’s a cliche as well. But there’s a reason things become cliches.
I’m so glad you joined the conversation today.
If you stay, and fire the group, everyone else may band together against you in fear. But if you fire onlyone person, the others often take heed and cooperate.
Thanks Ginny. You bring a powerful idea to the table. When you deal with a ring leader the followers may change their behaviors.
Talk about in between a rock an a hard place. I feel for you, Shining. This is where a good coaching session would be helpful.
Thanks John. Good point. Sometimes we get so buried in the weeds that we need some help climbing out to look around. 🙂
You will have 30 days to make your first “clean house” decision. After another 30 either everyone else is on board or there is another “clean house” decision. The lazy will either shape up or go on their own. It will be hard and will get harder until you have a group that is committed. You are not the only one that knows who the lazy golden boys are – those committed ones will be watching for change and will be energized by it.
Thanks mg. Your focus on decisive action requires, gathering insights/information, making an informed decision, and staying the course long enough to let it work.
If we move too quickly, we look like we don’t truly understand the situation. Too slow and it seems like more of the same.
Every leader has a byproduct of their style. EVERY leader. Were any one of us to take the role of replacing your leader, there would be “downside” to that style. A teachable and vulnerable leader will surround him/herself with others who can bring balance.
It’s very possible that your leader is nearing the end of their legacy and seeing the same issues you are and is giving you the nod because you are that balance. Not wanting or possibly not equipped to do the heavy lifting himself he’s looking to someone who can rectify the legacy.
You wouldn’t have to accept the challenge of “haz-mat” clean up. I’m sure there’s a much easier road out there.
But at the same time this frustration you want to walk away from could be the opportunity of a lifetime.
Wow Greg. You bring the rubber to the road. Organizations reflect their leaders. That can really sting when we see things we don’t like.
I love how you brought this conversation into our personal leadership journey. I’ve started asking leaders, “What does your 18 month self say you should do?” The idea is to reflect on the last 18 months. The challenges you’ve faced and the victories you’ve won. What does that person tell you to do.
Superb post, Dan. I have managed several turnarounds of departments, programs, teams, as well as worked to implement new tech solutions, and you are spot on. Identifying the current status, knowing the goal, then mapping the gap involves changing mindsets and creating new (or resurrecting old) values that ultimately can result in a culture change.
As with all projects, there will be the early adopters who are eager for the change; the lukewarm bystanders who want to wait to see whether the change leader’s management is supportive; and the mules who you have to drag kicking and screaming or decide to cut the reins.
In every successful turnaround in which I have been involved, the key factor is my management’s CONSISTENT support–especially when there are setbacks. Unfortunately, if the change leader’s manager signals a lack of support, the time frame for achieving objectives is unduly extended and may never be reached as oftentimes the change manager, after considerable effort, will move on and take their talents elsewhere.
While it is great to hear about how the CEO’s spearhead and achieve culture change, it is also very important to hear about non-CEO culture change leaders’ stories, tactics, and landmines.
Thanks Cynthia. One thing I love about writing Leadership Freak is the insight of those who leave comments.
Thanks for bringing mangers to the conversation. These are the people who get things done.
I was thinking about the importance of working with true believers. Go with people who believe in the change. When you create a few wins, the footdraggers may join in.
Mules require skill, especially when they have position and power. Perhaps marginalizing them for a time is a wise path forward.
This is a minefield. How was your boss’s relationship with his boss, other team leaders etc? What’s the “golden boys” status with the managers who will be your peers if you take the job? Are those at the bottom going to thank you for clearing out the golden boys, or will they just see you as a hatchet man and wonder who you’re going after next? Are any of the people left going to wait for you to drop something then stab you in the back? On the whole, I would follow your first instinct and leave. If you tidy up a nuclear accident site, it’s still a nuclear test site.
Thanks Mitch. Wow! Great questions for Shining. “What’s the golden boys status…” That’s something to think about.
Dear Shining, Sometimes it’s easier to leave and start afresh where you can assert yourself without any baggage. With a new company, people expect change with a new leader. With an existing company where a negative culture is so entrenched, people resist change. Best thing is to trust your gut. If you believe you can turn the culture around and it’s a challenge you are up for, ensure you have 100 percent support of the person/people at the very top to what is needed. If you don’t, all your good intentions will come to nothing and in turn it has the potential to cause you frustration and decrease confidence in yourself. If you do take on the challenge, two excellence books for bringing about change are The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins and Leading Change by John P. Kotter. The First 90- days is critical to a turnaround and gives you strategies to accomplish this. Leading Change focuses on developing a vision for the future and gives you very practical steps on how to bring about change. Good luck with your decision.
Thanks Carolyn. Of all the things leaders do, culture change begins at the top. Yes, we can change our immediate environment. But culture change for an entire organization is a top down activity. Very helpful.
There is an advantage to knowing the score. All organizations have buried skeletons and challenging dynamics once you become familiar with the circumstances. A new job is just temporary ignorance.
Love it, Dr. Dawn. A corporate head hunter told me, a job interview is a conversation between two liars. It might sound cynical, but everyone is putting their best foot forward.
This is a minefield. How was your boss’s relationship with his boss, other team leaders etc? What’s the “golden boys” status with the managers who will be your peers if you take the job? Are those at the bottom going to thank you for clearing out the golden boys, or will they just see you as a hatchet man and wonder who you’re going after next? Are any of the people left going to wait for you to drop something then stab you in the back? On the whole, I would follow your first instinct and leave. If you tidy up a nuclear accident site, it’s still a nuclear accident site.
An interesting stage of your career where you need to decide to quit or stay with the organization! A dilemma which needs to be reviewed by way of your own & the Organization’s SWOT Analysis.
It all depends on your reasons of leaving and the confidence of flourishing in a good progressive environment. You can change the environment and bring the needed turnaround if the top management is supportive & willing to give a free hand to bring the needed changes.
If your boss has remained as a major concern of your leaving & other things are favorable then better to stay and accept the challenges with courage.
Find out why the “golden boys” are classed as such. Is it through what they know or who they know? Take it from there.