Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Arrogance in the enterprise catches up sooner or later, the damage is however done !

Over the years he had built credibility within the enterprise rising through the ranks to head his function. The years also added to relationships internally and externally helping him win in cross functional projects. Recognition and industry awards followed, after all he had earned them with his hard work and perseverance. Elevation within the company with associated trimmings and perks got him excited like a child, soon his behavior started rubbing a few the wrong way; initial incidents were ignored as one off by his watchful manager.

Changing industry dynamics required high levels of collaboration across functions to keep winning; most new initiatives required cross functional teams to acknowledge the dependencies and work to ensure that the end outcome is relevant and uncompromised in its ability to work. He knew the business well enough to define the specifications which he did despite his team imploring him to validate with the business team. Many months later when the solution was delivered, the business started poking holes at it.

Not that the solution was bad or did not achieve the desired results, the thrust in your face ensured that they took no direct or derived ownership. Having spent a significantly large budget, the CEO attempted to push the adoption with limited success. Review meetings unearthed the chasm that existed between the folks who created the system and those who had to use it. The resultant adverse business impact was not taken kindly by the enterprise, resulting in forced exit for the CXO and loss of opportunity for the business.

You will unanimously declare that this is a clear case of success gone to the head; and you would not be entirely wrong in that diagnosis. Many are unable to handle success and thereby end up being rather presumptuous in their approach to people; their feeling of invincibility ends up creating high risk ventures. Unable to garner respect of teams and organize them into cohesive groups, they use arrogance as a medium to subdue any resistance, citing past accomplishment as their continued license to leadership.

With past sins remaining hidden in the archives, he secured an even more lucrative assignment; he got off to a good start with some of the initiatives underway prior to his arrival succeeding and delivering value. He expanded the new portfolio with significant investment decisions which set the path for audacious goals, uncharted territory for the company. The management enamored by his confidence decided to give it a try; a few objections and words of caution were brushed aside as being too conservative and old school.

Taking the endorsement of his plan as a carte blanche he subdued alternative views labeling them insubordination, casting aspersions on competence and credibility of the older team. He decided to change the project direction to his past way of working, unilateral decision making and forcing the team to accept his way of managing the project. Very quickly it alienated some of his impacted peers who were willing to stand up to him in the interest of the enterprise and the project which was important to all stakeholders.

This time around his team did have a couple of members who took no quarters nor gave any; they were high professionals who feared no one and had delivered consistently across organizations they had worked in. The duo decided to align to the stakeholders surreptitiously initially and then opened up the doors to others with visible progress that none could refute. Seeing progress, the antagonist decided to ignore the recalcitrant behavior of the team only to take away credit opportunistically from them.

Behaviors change only if they are acknowledged as limitations or opportunities for improvement; ignoring all feedback with a determined mindset will precipitate the matter over time. Organizations are hesitant to admit bad decisions especially when hiring senior staff; they also hide under the carpet any wrong doings or damage, giving neutral or masked feedback about the person thereby adding fuel to the fire. Good riddance, it’s now someone else’s problem to manage, until they end up getting another dud.

Formal reference checks are like that only; it is the industry and common customers and/or suppliers in the extended ecosystem who can provide candid feedback on a person, his persona in work and life. Unfortunately such feedback is also seen as breach of confidentiality, which it is to some extent, but then how to separate the good from bad, superficial knowledge from expertise ? Psychological tests serve a limited purpose, the skill is in the interviewer to spot the difference and take the right decision.

A year later, he was again changing companies, this time in a different part of the world where bad news will take some time to reach !

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