What good leaders have the willingness to do when they know they aren’t the best person to handle a problem

We spoke with EY’s Rick Fezell back in February about transitioning to his new leadership post in Chicago. Here’s a little more from that conversation as Rick talks about the value of asking for help – even when you’re the leader.

 

When Rick Fezell became the new managing partner of the Midwest Region for EY, he found himself in an unfamiliar setting. After spending most of his career on the West Coast, he was now in Chicago and had to get to know a bunch of new people.

“How I overcome that is I trust our other partners,” Fezell says. “If someone else has a better relationship and they’ve been there, it doesn’t need to be me and my title. It may be somebody else who has a relationship and can go and work through the issue. When you’re in a place for 10 or 15 years, typically you can just go out and handle those things. So I think it’s been a challenge to figure out where I should go and where we would be better off if I let someone else go who has a longer history with that client or person.”

It’s often not easy for a CEO to accept that there is someone in his or her company better equipped to deal with a problem. Those who aren’t able to accept it will find their opportunities for growth and expansion quickly become limited.

 

Setting ego aside

Fezell says stepping into a new situation is something most leaders will face at one point in their career.

“The biggest challenge for me has been not having a reservoir of goodwill to draw upon when you have to go into some challenging client situations,” Fezell says. “It’s particularly challenging when I haven’t been there before and my first meeting with someone is to work through a difficult issue. So they have no basis to trust me or know where I’m coming from.”

In those situations where you’re not the best answer, you just have to swallow your pride and trust your people.

“It’s difficult for me, not because of ego, but because I just want to fix it,” Fezell says. “We’re all fixers and with my title, it gives me the opportunity through influence and title to go out and fix something. But I also know that we have great partners and we’re all leaders in one way, shape or form. I just have a different leadership role.

“I think about what’s going to best help us get through the particular situation. In many cases, I’m not the answer. My team keeps me honest on that. They will say, ‘We don’t think you’re the right person to go do this and here’s why.’ So we find the person who is and move forward.”

 

How to reach: EY, (312) 879-2000 or www.ey.com

 

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