A few weeks ago, the WSJ published a feature on the “biggest” mistakes that bosses make. They listed five. Anyone who has served in the capacity of being a “boss” could likely come up with a greater number than five.
But it’s a nice comprehensive number, so let’s use the Journal’s take on things for now. In the book, ALL THE MOVING PARTS: ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE MANAGEMENT, there are central elements, or features, that I mention as being critical to a status of having all the moving parts of an organization move together. And, of course, the CEO and other high-level management personnel are number one among those elements. So, to re-plow some of that earlier ground, let’s take a look at some of the WSJ commentary and add our own. Number One on their list of mistakes is “Telling People They Have a Voice When They Really Don’t.” When I talk about this failing, I talk about it in terms of what bosses should be doing, rather than what they don’t. Therefore, I consistently mention to our CEO clients that, when serving as CEO, one needs to be straightforward and honest in talking with and interacting with employees. That is, if you say that you are going to do something, then make sure that you do so – or give a good rationale for not, if the task proves impossible. By the same token, if you encourage your employees to speak up and share their thoughts, then make sure that you attend to those comments and show that you have. It doesn’t mean that you have to institute every idea that you hear from employees, but you need to find ways to indicate that you have heard what they’ve said and that it’s been given due consideration. And, by the way, I always encourage our management clients to operate an open and honest workplace where comments and constructive criticism are welcomed – that’s how one engages employees in helping to make the company better and, ultimately, to make it a resounding success. I won’t march us through all of the Journal’s points, but will mention only one more, which I find curious: “Bosses Who Don’t Know When to Slow Down.” Hmmm – the Journal has obviously been hanging out in some unusual workplaces – certainly not among the Fortune 500 crew. I have yet to come across a high-level manager at one of the country’s largest companies that approaches things in “too fast” a mode. By the time one makes it to a CEO’s position, one has learned to be good at accessing and analyzing a wide array of information as quickly as possible, but also with due diligence and deliberation. Fastina tarde is an Italian phrase that I’ve often used in my own CEO practice and advised other CEOs to follow, as well. It translates to: Go as quickly as one can but as slowly as one needs to. All the currently practicing and successful CEOs are superb at the practice.