Leadership Dim Sum, Part II:
Surviving the Porcupine

by Rob Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau

You have a new colleague – a fellow division head. You don’t know him that well, but he and you will now have many occasions to interact, as your divisions are closely linked. A trusted colleague comes by and says “My condolences. I’d count the silverware after he leaves your office. Especially the knives. And I wouldn’t turn my back.”

Things to think about: Can you build trust with someone who may not be very trustworthy? Why is that person where he is? How are you going to work with him? (Q: How do porcupines make love? A: Very carefully.)

Most CEOs assert that there is no room on their leadership teams for someone who doesn’t represent the core values of the company (and we will assume that trustworthiness or some proxy for it is one of your core values). Yet we’ve seen some of these same CEOs make compromises when a member of their leadership team creates exceptional value to the business. (For example, we’ve seen a CEO promote someone into his inner circle because that person was a brilliant strategist, even though that person was verbally abusive with her own direct reports.)

Think carefully about Aspirations and Alignment before you make such a move. If the behavior of your senior executives is inconsistent with your aspirations, then you lose trust and credibility across the entire leadership team. If one of your players moves in ways contrary to what you would hope, it looks VERY obvious to the rest of the organization. And don’t count on “coaching” to fix things. When coaching is imposed upon someone, the result isn’t satisfactory nearly as often as you would like it to be. In addition, there are LOTS of coaches out there, and they vary dramatically as to quality, impact and value.

If you’re thrust into a situation where you’re expected to deal closely with someone you believe is untrustworthy (or who has that reputation), tread carefully. You’ve heard the phrase from the Reagan years “Trust, but verify.” That would apply here. So would “tread carefully.”

Rob Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau are the authors of The Trusted Leader (The Free Press, January 2003). More information on the book is available at http://www.thetrustedleader.com . Robert Galford is Managing Partner of the Center for Executive Development in Boston, and has taught executive education programs at Columbia, Kellogg and, most recently, Harvard. He is the co-author of The Trusted Advisor (with David H. Maister and Charles H. Green). He may be reached at rgalford@thetrustedleader.com . Anne Seibold Drapeau is Chief People Officer of Boston-based Digitas and has held management positions at Pepsi, J.P. Morgan, and FTD. She may be reached at adrapeau@thetrustedleader.com .

The Trusted Leader:
Bringing Out the Best in Your People and Your Company

by Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau
Free Press, January 2003

Many more articles in Creative Leadership I and II in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Rob Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau. All rights reserved.

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