Throughout your life you will be required to step up into that better version of who you are. And occasionally someone will help you see and navigate to that next level of excellence. In many ways, it is a paradigm shift.

I shared a story very recently with another high-performance executive coach about the time I was delivering a seminar in eastern Canada. One of my participants, a VP of a company, shared how the CEO, not well liked by his colleagues on the leadership team, had dropped the ball on a major project which would be a loss of about $1M, and was about to be fired by the Board. This VP was uncertain about what to do, if anything, so I walked him through a series of questions.

Had the CEO been fired yet? No
Was the Project a loss or could it be salvaged? It could be salvaged.
Did the VP know how to correct the problem? Yes
Did the other VPs know how to correct the problem? Yes
Was it within the VP’s control to correct the problem and get the project back on track? Yes
Was it within the other VPs’ control to correct the problem and get the project back on track? Yes
How long would it take for the VP to get the project back on track? Within a day.
If VP was promoted to a CEO and was working on a major project with a team and he dropped the ball, would he hope his colleagues would pick up the ball, run with it, get things done and complete the project as promised? Yes.

See where I am going with this?

I asked him if he wanted to set things right, and he said he did. So here is what I suggested he put into place immediately. I laid out the following and then had the entire room break for 15-20 minutes, so he could put the pieces into place:

  1. The VP was to call the Board immediately and have them postpone the termination of the CEO.
  2. The VP was to then to advise the Board that an urgent meeting (within 48 hours) was required and must be promptly scheduled with the CEO and all VPs present.
  3. The VP was to ask his support team to advise the CEO, the other VPs of the scheduled meeting time and date (within 48 hours).
  4. The VP was to take immediate action to get the project back on track with team support.
  5. At the emergency Board Meeting, the VP is to advise the Board that the project is back on track; apologize to the CEO for not pickup up the slack on the project; to strongly urge the Board to cease termination proceedings, advising that as a team, the VPs failed to take action on a project that was within their control and in their area of expertise. And if the Board still felt that termination was necessary, he recommended that the CEO and all VPs be terminated, And to humbly ask the Board for forgiveness and give assurance that the team would never allow anything like this to happen again.

The ability to take fast action, to do the right thing, and to do things right, are necessary in big business. Passing the buck and shirking responsibility is not part of the game, yet it is ever present in many corporations and businesses.

If we do not like someone, it can be much easier to let them take the fall for something. But if the shoe is on the other foot, we hope we have team members who will pick up the slack and take the project over the finish line to a tidy completion.

When the seminar break was done and the participants returned to their seats, the VP reported back that he had contacted the board, scheduled the emergency meeting, and had taken the initial steps to get the project back on track.

The final suggestion was to have a private conversation with the CEO and VPs. It becomes important to occasionally apologize. The VPs met privately with the CEO and apologized for not correcting the problem when things had derailed, and for not having the CEO’s back. There was a newfound respect between all parties and the VP and CEO have since become good friends.

End of story – pick up the slack and be a real team member. Have a conversation when someone drops the ball. Hanging someone out to dry is not the answer. Set things right. If you have read any of my blog posts before, there are four values which are very hard to find in the workplace – loyalty, commitment, integrity, and trust. Ensuring those values exist and are lived day in and day out, benefit all. One day, you are going to need someone to have your back.

© 2020 Deborah Reynolds www.DeborahReynolds.com


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