Everyone in the organisation knew it. It was one of the worst kept secrets. The only thing we didn’t have was a name. Most of us that is.
The local newspaper and radio news were full of it. A new Chief Executive Officer had been appointed and was on his way to shake up our organisation.
In my case it was old news. A reliable mate in another organisation had filled me in. Besides the name, all he had to say about our incoming CEO was,’ruthless, cold, unsmiling, uncaring, unforgiving, unapproachable, unmovable, undeterrable, unreasonable, unsympathetic, unlikeable, 100% self assured and totally performance oriented’.
He also added a vivid description of the individual’s parentage and a few other colourful adjectives that I’d never commit to print.
The only comments I thought were positive were the self assured and totally performance oriented tags.
It was armed with that background information that I met the new CEO at a civic reception held in his honour.
Our new CEO is of impressive stature and upright posture. Well over 2 metres(over 6 foot) tall, solidly built with a shock of silver hair, he made an impressive figure as he stood with other dignitaries receiving and being introduced to the invitees, myself included.
As the evening progressed and the CEO worked the floor, I had the opportunity to observe him in action first hand. He had a disarming smile, proffered his hand to all and appeared to be almost bowing in a most gracious way as he spoke with the ladies who seemed to gravitate towards him.
Finally it was my chance to engage with him and I was most surprised when he greeted me by name in a well modulated Aussie tenor voice. Immediately he had runs on the board. His elongated face was surprisingly smooth for a man in his early fifties. It was the eyes that drew my attention and held it. They were ice blue and almost unblinking. His gaze was piercing and I could sense that he would use it and his towering height to make people feel ill at ease if he thought it would be to his advantage.
We engaged in some light hearted banter and when the opportunity presented itself I said,’ You have a tough job ahead of you’. With a coldish smile, not at all like the ones I’d seen on him during the evenint, he replied, ‘What makes you say that’?
I said,’ Being a change agent in a bureaucratic organisation is never easy’.
His reply gave me window to the man himself when he said, ‘Oh no, it’s my way or the highway’, and without another word he turned on his heel and walked away to the next group of people.
My thoughts went to what my mate had told me. I decided to keep an open mind and allow coming events to shape my opinion of the man himself.
Over the following days, weeks and months his strong reforming activities in the organisation gave the press and radio commentators lots of opportunity to conduct a running commentary on his activities, some positive, some negative. I should add, not a balanced commentary either, a typical press approach. Appropriately though, the reporting was on a purely business basis and nothing on a personal nature was promulgated.
He was certainly a mover and shaker in the organisation. The strategic plan was re written, job descriptions changed, staff came and went, with the emphasis on went. If streamlining was part of the job description then at his annual review he would get 10 out of 10.
In the process, he created an anxiousness within the employees yet at the same time, productivity increased, community relations improved and the newly set objectives were being achieved in an economic and expeditious manner. What a positive change for the customers and the employees as complaints rapidly diminished.
My mates description of our new CEO’s modus operandi was spot on. However, in a past life I’d had a similar change agent’s job and what my mate had described were, in the main, essential CEO attributes. They had to be learned too and were generally required to achieve organisation objectives and outcomes.
I knew that in time, staff anxiousness would settle, promotions would occur and esprit de corps would be renewed.
As time went on, I met the CEO at a number of social and community events. His physical stature and cold blue eyes were natures gifts, not an acquired accessory. I came to the conclusion that his apparent chilly aloofness was part of his body armour.
I came to appreciate his fine sense of humour, raconteur’s ability to enthral an audience and a natural gift of the gab, coupled with his pleasant, well modulated tenor voice. In fact, it’s now always a pleasure to be in his company, away from business. I should point out, we are associates, not friends.
He had rapidly absorbed local history, the communities’ wants and needs, their approach to expansion, development, transport and amenities. This has won him much support and the palpable apprehension that existed prior to his arrival is rapidly dissipating.
I can’t pay the man a greater compliment than to say if I was in need of mentor I could think of no one better than our new CEO. I don’t envy his physical attributes. I’m a big man myself, but, if I’d possessed his change agent skills in my previous existence I could have written for myself a far greater success story.
I’ve conveyed my positive feeling to my informant mate . Oddly, he wishes that his previous foe would return as do most of the workers in his organisation. Apparently the individual who took his place is an abject failure, has created many uncertainties but this time through total disorganisation, lack of clarity and a wishy washy approach to everything.
Disorganisation, lack of clarity and a wishy washy approach! Certainly these tags could never be applied to our CEO.
Thank heaven that I didn’t take on board all the negatives that had been conveyed to me.
We’re lucky to have our new incumbent at the helm. I’ve learned a lot of positive things from him.