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Losing your followers Featured

6:02pm EDT November 29, 2001
CEO: I'm tired of being the bad guy, but I don't want to be seen as a wimp. I put most of my time and energy into my business, and I can't focus on business, employees and family life with the same intensity. I don't know if I can or want to change my whole personality. What am I supposed to do?

In the ongoing saga of a CEO in crisis, our man has hit the wall. Finally. That's a good thing, because he is a hard-line hitter.

He's been thumped on the head and realizes he holds the keys to success. And that's what his officers have been telling him. First, none wants to lead this company with him around -- there's just too much ego involved. Maybe someday he'll hand over the reins, but not now.

Besides, he's getting close to wanting to figure this out. Now is the time for him to realize this challenge is his opportunity.

Turnaround time is beginning, but this isn't a blame game, and resolution doesn't require the CEO to change his personality. In all fairness, it's not entirely the CEO's doing that he's like this. He was taught that being tough is equated with leading, and it suited him.

But beliefs are learned and can be changed. His beliefs no longer serve him, because he's losing followers. To borrow from my corporate sales days, "when customers complain, they're giving you a chance to do business with them again."

His people told him they were unhappy, but he didn't learn to listen profitably. We'll work on changing his beliefs and listening skills.

Our most recent session focused on one thing only: everyone was to look at the situation as is. We did several exercises to learn how to depersonalize the roles and focus on solutions. During the planning sessions, time limits helped focus on an outcome.

Every manager accepted three premises: To move away from negatives in daily interactions (both physically and literally), to think and talk bottom line resolution only and to accept that all suggestions were valid. Their patterns had to be broken, and their concurrence was critical for the turnaround to begin.

They got it. In fact, they were relieved to not be haranguing each other. The key is acknowledging the validity of everyone's suggestions and agreeing not to judge. These people want to feel valued, be treated respectfully and make contributions.

This first, crucial step takes a special effort, but they realize they're worth it. By setting boundaries around how they want to be treated, they have to honor others; by learning others' differences, they are becoming more aware and have something tangible with which to work.

In this way, depersonalization begins and disagreements are reduced.

Bernadette Mihalic, M.Ed., psychology, is an executive and organization coach specializing in emotional intelligence, communications and effective leading. Reach her at (412) 828-9501.

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