As a coach, it’s not unusual that people call me in crisis. I actually work pretty well under pressure, especially when I can call the shots. An analyst once called me “the sweetest bad-ass coach he knew.” Another colleague called me a “Steel Magnolia.” So, have no fear. Big change can be taken on, one small sweet step at a time.
When emergencies happen I am calm. Some hate that – mainly my family – but others pay me for being able to take action while sizing up outcomes at the same time.
Last week I got hit with something like that. Here’s what happened:
A company is ready to execute its succession plan. The CEO called me. He has thought long and hard about how to step away, how to make plans for all the things he’s been waiting on for…well, for most of his life. He always wanted to take three weeks off – not two – three. Maybe four! And now he has the rest of his life to figure out what to do, and when to do it. But what will he do when he wakes up in a busy house and has the day to himself? He wanted me to create his plan. I suppose he’s used to that course of action. (I, of course, recommended yoga, which doesn’t really go over that well.) Whoops! First problem.
When lots and lots of planning will move him to the edge of the cliff, when it’s time to leap into a new realm, there’s not much visualization about what could be. But here’s one…
He sits down and explains to his wife, a powerhouse in her own right and definitely not retiring, that their first adventure will begin in one month – surprise! He has a big trip planned, Australia, a lifelong dream, but she didn’t have much say in how it was about to go down. And he had no idea she was in Europe for a two-week customer visit tour that took months to schedule.
He had a great idea, and great intentions, but since his wife had the starring role in his vacation. He may have wanted to check in with her c-level schedule, or her desires. Whoops! Big problem… and big argument to.
Then, as his plan to step out gets closer, he checks in with his trusted advisors, who have become friends over the years – a lawyer and an accountant. They review the plans. Legalities, check! Finances, check! Yes, this will work. He’s all set.
Mr. CEO begins to tell his trusted advisors within the company. His son will step in, and his son knows what Dad’s vision is for the company. His son will continue business as usual. Colleagues begin to talk. They decide to have what would be described in other circumstances as an Intervention. They need to say things that he may reeeaallyy dislike: That most of the employees reeeaally dislike his son.
His son is arrogant, disrespectful and doesn’t do much of what he says he will. Employees will start to look for new jobs. And his trusted advisors tell him they are also concerned they will become disengaged. They feel the disruption now. Whoops! BIG problem.
So….what happened?! Next week we’ll see how retirement and vacation get taken off the agenda…for now. What Mr. CEO forgot to do was consult with himself, and his loved ones. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, or what his wife wants. He doesn’t know his son’s fears, which will have huge impact on his company’s sustainability.
We begin by taking a look at the options and constraints he has in front of him, and discussing what that road looks like. What will have him celebrating with champagne next summer? (Maybe yoga is still an option?!)