And the Big Winner is………

Alyssa Campanella, Miss California!! Congratulations, Alyssa, for winning the Miss USA pageant!!

But wait, Alyssa isn’t the only big winner in the news this week.

The inaugural issue of the Leadership Development Roundtable Challenge introduced us to Rob, a new manager hired to come in and shake things up and drive change. However, when Rob wanted to take action to put the leadership team in place he felt he needed to succeed, he was met with resistance from HR and his boss’s boss.

Seven leadership development experts were asked what they would do if they were Rob, or what advice they would give Rob. There was also no shortage of reader opinions as to what Rob should have done or should do.

The experts and our readers seemed to be split right down the middle on this issue. Many felt Rob was the problem, with comments like:

“Rob sounds like a bit of a jerk”

• “Rob appears to be a victim of a growing epidemic among corporate leaders. They’re so busy doing that they can’t see what really needs to be done”

• “I would advise Rob to be open about his employees’ potential and hire a coach for himself to assist him in tempering his aggressiveness and find new ways to lead these employees”

• “Rob may have misread the organization’s culture and tried to push too hard too soon”

• “I’d have Rob work on his leadership presence”

Others were more in Rob’s camp:

“I cannot assume anything is wrong with Rob. Maybe Rob is the “one” with insight”

• “There is nothing wrong with Rob’s approach”

• “The underlying issue is not Rob; it’s his boss”

• “Unfortunately, you want to use a Ferrari to arrive at your destination and it appears that key players in your firm would rather you use a skateboard”

However, the voice of reason and the “winner” of this month’s challenge is Art Petty, from
Management Excellence, who offered the following advice:

I’ve been “New Guy Rob” before, and I appreciate the dilemma. The burning issue of solving the “underperforming” problem is running head-on into the organization’s discomfort with rapid change.

For future reference, Rob must recognize that he erred on the front-end of the transaction by not gaining a clear understanding of the mandate and support for change from his new bosses. Having said that, my recommendation is for Rob to focus his energies on strategy and execution and spend a bit more time (90 days to six months) objectively assessing the talent he inherited. He might just be surprised.

The “rush to replace” is almost instinctive for new leaders and often wrong. Rob does not have a clear view to the capabilities of each of the managers, and is better served focusing on resetting strategy, execution and operations, and assessing talent as he goes. Some managers thrive with new challenges and others show their weaknesses or lack of commitment. Additionally, strategy must drive talent needs…not Rob’s gut-level assessment of people.

Bottom-line: focus on the business Rob. Assess talent under fire, involve your bosses and HR in the strategy work and on-going talent assessment, and then make fast, fair, informed decisions.

Congratulations, Art. The way you sized up the situation, your ability to see both sides, and your practical advice seemed to resonate with the voters. I think even Tom Peters would have to agree with you on this one (Art’s has had the honor of being shot down by Tom in an online discussion forum. I’m sure winning this month’s challenge helps to heal that wound).

By the way, if case you have not guessed the story of Rob is based on a true story. When I first heard about the changes Rob wanted to make, I was on his side and supported him. I thought his bosses boss was a slow, overly conservative decision maker, and HR was being unrealistic and too “by the book”. I thought Rob’s assessment of his management team was pretty darn accurate, he had a solid vision, strategy, and plan, and he had an urgent mandate for change.

He ended up having to slow down and work with “the cards he was dealt”, as one reader put it. Later he admitted that he may have been too fast to judge, and a couple of his managers stepped up to the challenge and really surprised him. He couldn’t move as fast as he wanted to and had to scale back his expectations, but at the end of the day, the business survived.

I hope readers understand that receiving the highest number of votes does not mean it’s the “right” answer, nor does receiving fewer votes mean it’s a “bad” answer. The voting and reader’s comments are only an indication of how our readers are responding to our advice, and it’s a way to have a little fun in a competitive way. In real life, the best coaches and consultants often give advice that our client’s don’t always want to hear, however, it’s what they need to hear.

So the loser said. (-:

The Roundtable members will be gunning to topple Art when he hosts the next Leadership Development Roundtable Challenge on July 13th. What will he pick for a challange? Who will he select as his guest expert? Who will be the next winner? That will be up to you to decide!

As they say in billiards, loser racks ‘em and winner breaks.