The New Pack Leader: A Modern Business Fable, Part Two

(If you missed Part One of Sue CEO, check here.)

The next evening over dinner . . . Sue CEO unfolded her napkin and looked at her dinner companion. “I’m glad you were free this evening.  I’ve been meaning to call you ever since I heard you lead that discussion on corporate culture and business execution a few weeks back at the conference, but I’ve just been up to my neck in problems.”

“So what changed?  The problems gone away and you now have lots of free time?”

“Hardly.  I still have the same issues with my company’s performance and with my management team, but I now realize I might be a big part of the problem, and hopefully the solution as well.”  She shared the story of the dog-walker and also the in-fighting and lack of teamwork among her management team, as well as her company’s declining performance.  Her guest nodded and replied.

“Most companies are organized and work like yours, in silos, and they experience the same issues: turf battles, budget fights, lack of accountability and poor overall performance.  As W. Edwards Deming, the father of the modern Quality Movement was fond of saying:

It’s the processes, not the people.”

Sue looked puzzled.  “I’m not certain I understand.  I have 10 direct reports, all of whom lead an important business function. We need excellence in all these functions to perform well as a company. Don’t we?”

“Let me guess”, her guest replied.  “Each one of your direct reports meets their budgets and functional objectives every year yet overall your company is falling behind on its strategic objectives.”

“Absolutely right.  And they work hard and long hours.  It’s not like they are goofing off.

“I didn’t imply they weren’t working hard.  What I was saying is that their goals and objectives are probably not linked nor are they fully aligned with the overall strategic goals.  I’ll bet people also complain of initiative overload.  Too many ‘important’ projects to work on and not enough staff or resources.”

Sue took a spoonful of soup and sighed.  “I hear it everyday.  The complaints about too many new projects, then the bickering starts for larger budgets.  And it seems like each one believes their projects are the most critical. To be honest, it’s getting me down.  I really don’t look forward to going into work anymore.  I know that sounds awful, but it’s true.”

Her guest put down his spoon. “Did you ever think your staff probably feels the same way?  When there’s no obvious solution and working harder doesn’t seem to make any difference; that’s when dejection and even cynicism sets in.”

He paused, looked around at the other tables then leaned forward.  “Einstein once said:

‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!’

“I guess I have been a little insane these past few months,” laughed Sue.

Her dinner companion continued.  “And cynicism kills company momentum.  Remember, organizations are shadows of their leaders, so if the leadership team is frustrated it magnifies downwards into your company.  You’re creating a culture of hopelessness!”

“So, is there any good news?”  Sue was working to keep her spirits up.  She knew these issues could be overcome; she just wasn’t certain how.

“There’s lots of good news, and the biggest one is YOU.  You realize two important things:  first, it’s a common problem and second the solution begins with you setting rules, boundaries and limitations on your team’s behaviour.  With those two ingredients I believe I can add the third: a structured leadership process to help your senior team better manage the company by aligning strategy, objectives, metrics, projects and accountabilities to create a culture of discipline, innovation and execution.

With your disciplined leadership and these new tools your team will soon be leading the industry.  You’ll become the pack-leader in more ways than one.”  He grinned and Sue felt reassured by his confidence and certainty.

“I can see the potential of my team and I know I must set clear rules, boundaries and limitations.  But tell me a little bit more about this joined-up leadership process. And just what is a leadership process?” Sue leaned forward, her curiosity peaked.

(Catch up with Sue CEO in Part Three to find out more.)

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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