Retail Observer

April 2019

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 43 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM APRIL 2019 44 R ight now, at two separate organizations located thousands of miles apart, two CEOs are wondering why the members of their executive teams are struggling. These organizations have little in common, with very distinctive leadership styles. One organization has a long history in finance and economics – the other in social work and healthcare. Their leadership, from the highest levels with the greatest influence, authority and experience, don't have the same jobs or areas of focus. I've worked with one organization for more than ten years, and the other, less than two. Yet the behind-the-scenes coaching conversations we have are similar, and the potential impact on each organization including its teams, employees, finances, clients and communities, could be the same. If neither CEO is able to resolve the serious problems they're having with their executive team, the best case scenario is that both organizations will continue to lose valuable employees. And that's big, because the cost of turnover ranges from .75 to 1.5 times the departing employee's salary, as well as lost institutional knowledge and work productivity, and potential loss of clients and customers. If they can't fix what's broken, and do it fast, their executive-level structure will continue to be flawed – riddled with interpersonal strife and continued loss of reputation and clients or customers. In the worst case, they might be positioned for increased risk of lawsuits and scandal. What the heck is going on at these companies? In each situation, the executive leadership members are talented, seasoned professionals with 20-plus years of experience in their fields. In each case, they've been with their respective organizations for more than five years. In both cases, the CEO hired the exec with highest hopes, and by all accounts they've helped their areas grow and succeed. They've supported the strategic initiatives of the CEO and the board, and they are both personable, bright, and in some cases, well-liked. In each instance, recent employee departure and employee engagement data and closed-door conversations in human resources specifically name these leaders as the reason for voluntary separation, low morale, low performance, and low trust. There are no overt accusations of sexual harassment or prejudice, but terms such as "abusive" and "bullying" are being circulated, with specific examples of conversations and incidents pointing to behaviors that became intolerable to some, crushing to others, and the subject of gossip for others. With all of the evidence apparently in hand, why are these leaders still at their posts? Why would no one in either organization be surprised to hear any of the above disturbing data? Why are the CEOs unable or unwilling to address what seems blatantly obvious, with both known and anonymous sources offering evidence that these leaders' behaviors are negatively impacting everyone they touch, and threatening to impact the credibility of the companies' CEOs? Gosh. Why aren't they gone? In each situation, the leaders have a gap between intention and behavior, between what they say they are doing, and why they say they are doing it, and how others perceive them. In both situations, there is denial about how their behavior is impacting others. Each seems to habitually miss clear-cut cues about how their anger, negative non- verbals, tone of voice, belittling, gossiping and put-downs are impacting recipients and observers. Each executive can handily justify their behavior – they'll cite passion and concern for the issue-at-hand, good intentions, exhaustion, commitment to the mission, etc. In each situation, their talents are valued over their interpersonal behaviors, leading many people in the organization to enable them to continue behaving the way they do. Why doesn't the CEO do something? Because they simply aren't seeing it. Because they aren't observing the behaviors themselves, and they can all too easily dismiss secondhand reports as hearsay or the complaints of sour-grapes employees who are on the way out – or the reports just don't jibe with what the CEO sees in team meetings and one-on-ones. Also – because the CEO simply doesn't want any of the evidence to be true. And because the CEO basically believes in the leader and his or her desire to help the organization meet its goals. And again, because the CEO cannot reconcile the mounting evidence with his/her own experience with the leader. It doesn't make any sense. How long, we wonder, can this go on? MIND THE GAP PART 1: The long space between intention and perception Libby Wagner Culture Coach RO Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain profit cultures.

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