My Way or the Highway: Oh, Really?

Marsha is an incredibly talented business development executive. She’s an independent thinker and a real go-getter. She makes things happen.

Marsha has put together complex multi-million dollar deals that involve the government, global utility companies, private industry etc. On top of all that, she is highly experienced and savvy in the alternative energy industry space.

Marsha was recently recruited into a well-positioned alternative energy start-up. They pursued her with a vengeance because of her reputation and industry knowledge.

The VP advocated strongly for hiring her and fought to make an exception to the “standard” offer. They considerably jacked up the base salary and incentive structure to make it happen. Everything fell into place – Marsha received an incredibly lucrative offer.

Sounds like a happy story, right?

Well… there has been a new development. Marsha has been there for six weeks. When I spoke to her, the first sentence out of her mouth was “I’ve got a big problem here. I’m not sleeping and I find myself experiencing a lot of anxiety. My gut is telling me there is something very wrong.”

What was the problem? Here is the down and dirty.

  • Boss assumes everyone is available until all hours of the night and sends emails expecting an immediate response.

[By the way, Marsha has a full personal life with many family responsibilities and community interests]

  • Boss believes in the traditional method of volume calls to create qualified leads and wants to see the ‘numbers’ every day. He sees business development as sales.

[By the way, Marsha has a different style of developing business with a focus on relationships that build over time. Her approach has led to numerous multi-million dollar deals.}

  • Boss is hyperactive and often rude, pointing at people (including Marsha) and publicly saying he wants to see MORE, MORE, MORE and FASTER, FASTER, FASTER.

[By the way, Marsha expects to be treated with respect, just as she treats all of her colleagues, and feels insulted by the way the boss is communicating.]

There’s more, but you get the picture.

The bottom line is that unless the boss changes his communication style and becomes more open-minded about how his staff gets the work done, he is going to lose a very talented person, and fast.

Who really loses?  I say the organization loses in the long run.  If Marsha could bring in a couple of multi-million dollar deals within a year, is it worth losing her because she has a different approach?

Patty Inglish noted in a short piece entitled “Top Ten Reasons Why Employees Quit” that the reasons most people quit their jobs include:

a) Lack of autonomy and respect

b) Health problems or burnout

(note: the article is from 2007 but is still applicable)

In this economy there aren’t too many blogs being written about employees quitting their jobs because so many fear being unemployed.  But don’t let that fear fool you. When talented people feel unreasonably pushed and not respected, they’ll leave as soon as they can.

Marsha has a responsibility in this situation too. She needs to communicate what the problem is in a way that doesn’t put the boss in a defensive stance and allows them both to see the benefit of working this out. But not at the expense of her health or her family.

The boss has more “organizational power” but Marsha has personal power…she is ready to walk because she is confident that she can take her talents elsewhere.  I would bet that Marsha is right.

Leaders, listen up: Assess your tendency to take the  “My way or the highway” approach. In the end, you could be biting off your nose to spite your face.

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Have you ever been in a situation like this? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from both leaders and employees.

Please leave your comments by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” phrase written below (in very small print). Thanks for reading.

Reluctant Harry: Networking Redefined – Part Three.

True story. (adapted for confidentiality)

One of my clients, Harry, is aspiring to be an academic editor for the latter part of his   successful career. He wants to start by getting his feet wet through freelance writing while he still holds his position as IT Director, and noticed a job posting for a temporary project editor at a book company specializing in textbooks.

Now, just for your information, Harry tends to undervalue his writing talent and underestimate the power of networking.

Harry is in sort of a rut. He has done a darn good job of convincing himself that editing cannot be a part of his future. At least not getting paid for it.

‘It’s too late’ is Harry’s favorite phrase.

Upon seeing the job posting, Harry’s inner critic immediately started mumbling

You’ll never get this job – they probably want editors who are experienced or at least have academic backgrounds.

So Harry didn’t take any action.

After talking about how unproductive it was to dismiss a potential opportunity just because of the negative chatter in his brain, I convinced Harry to apply.  He did.

Did he hear anything back in the ten days? No. The black hole of Internet applications is alive and well.

I suggested he look on LinkedIn to see if he found anyone who previously worked at the company or who works there now.  He reluctantly agreed to look, saying ‘I doubt if I’m connected to anyone in that world – it’s probably a waste of time’.

Lo and behold, there were dozens of people listed and even a few that were only 2 degrees of separation in his network.  I thought I might have seen a glimmer of hope in Harry’s eyes (not sure).

Harry immediately wanted to send a message to one of the HR people at the company, asking for the job. I suggested that he try taking a more subtle approach.

There was a person (Mike) listed that currently works in the department that he had applied to.  All Harry needed to do was ask one person (Sally) in his network if she would be willing to connect him to Mike.

Harry didn’t think that this would work, but agreed to give it a try. He clicked on the  “Request an Introduction” link and wrote his notes to both Mike and Sally. His note was friendly and professional, yet had the tone of a cover letter asking for the job.

“How about just asking to have a conversation so you could learn more about the company”? Good idea.

Harry heard back from Mike within 48 hours, and they scheduled a time to talk by phone. Mike thought Harry was very articulate and they discovered they both had a love for sailing. Harry learned a bit about the company as well as the name of the hiring director. (Mike was very generous in sharing this).

Harry contacted the hiring director, met with her the following week, and is now working on his very first part-time editing project. And yes, he is getting paid for it.

Harry is reluctant no more.

Go Harry.