The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Analogies and Conversations with the CEO

It was on April 4, 2007 that President Bush held a press conference. He did many Bush-like things. But added to the mix at this press conference were some additional nuances that brought to mind holding this situation as analogous to instances when there are blatant signs that someone needs to take the CEO aside and have a very matter-of-fact conversation about succession planning. Immediate succession planning should be the subject of the conversation, or in the alternative, removal.

It was obvious that this is a sensitive conversation that should be broached by someone on a similar level. But when the situation is obvious to all who are part of the communication, who is the right person to start the ball rolling? Should the principal officer in HR seek out the most senior director or EVP? Should one of the recruiters broach the subject with one of these people? It’s a difficult situation and these are difficult questions to answer.

Perhaps that is why there was such balking on when the situation was posed to the minds there. Not only was there resistance to facing the situation, there was refusal to see the analogy. Even more ridiculous was the posting of comments that were completely off the topic and reported on the current price of gasoline in a particular location.

What also ensued from the community of employment workers were flaming statements, attacks, threats, insults, demeaning and defamatory comments and insinuations.

Indeed, there are some subjects that are very difficult to swallow. More recent analogies were not available this day. Patricia Dunn’s sins were more recent but not as similar to the matter being addressed. The only other examples that still come to mind are those of Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Arthur Andersen, et al. These examples of CEOs gone very wrong hail back to 2002. And in this regard, the person who most notably went against the grain was Sherron Watkins.

The discussion post to ERE employment workers was a gesture to hear others’ thoughts about how to handle such a touchy situation. It began with fair and accurate reportage in order to set the stage. Then it proposed to look at the matter as one in a corporate scenario and asked how it should be handled and by whom. The brief discussion post is below.

Bush held a press conference yesterday and made some averments regarding our troops and his intentions if Congress doesn't do what he says he wants in regard to the troops deployed in the Iraq and Iran wars. In recent months, news analysts and commentators are finally admitting that Bush simply ignores facts and barrels ahead with what he wants to do irrespective of what is the best or better option, in spite of advice and counsel, in spite of public opinion both domestic and abroad. He feels he is exempt and above all the rules. He seems determined to bend the rules to his designs and satisfaction instead of seeing that the rules set some limits on even the President.

But during the press conference, Bush did something that was an undeniable verification that he is out of touch with at least a small amount of reality. One of the reporters asked him about gasoline prices. Bush began spouting some type of answer that was incongruous with reality. A member of the press corps asked him if he knew how much gasoline costs these days. "$2.50 a gallon," was his response. There was a hiccupped laugh throughout the room.

Fortunately, Bush realized immediately that his answer was very far out of line. He tap danced a cover. Gasoline prices are regional and taking the average of all prices across the nation, gas costs $2.50 a gallon. The reporters recognized the covered embarrassment, stopped laughing, and resumed taking notes and asking other questions.

Bush has no clue what the prevailing price of gasoline is. [He] is oblivious to the fact that it is approaching $4 per gallon.

Let's look to Bush as an example of a Fortune 500 CEO. When you realize the CEO is self-motivated as opposed to making decisions based on the welfare of the corporation, its shareholders' interests, and the welfare of its workforce; when the CEO is oblivious to industry demands; when the CEO has lost touch with economic pressures and industry prices -- and it's obvious to everyone -- who should step in and talk with the CEO about stepping down, assigning his/her role to someone else?

It seems to me this is a job for another executive officer, not the corporate recruiter nor for the most senior level officer in HR.

Was this the wrong question to ask or just the wrong audience? What I later discovered was having gone through some of this analysis several years ago, before Enron et al. were part of the news wherein there was an analysis of

Given these thoughts, you are now challenged to answer the two questions.

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