Kool Derby

Many years ago, I worked for an organization that couldn’t keep a director more than a year. In essence, the director was in charge of managing the day-to-day business of the company. Other than working into the evenings on some days, the position didn’t seem too tough, especially since much of the work was delegated to the competent staff.

During an initial meeting with the staff, the director, Mitch, made it clear that he was going to be the end of the line. The revolving door approach was over.

“Hello, everyone,” he said. “I want you to know that I’m not planning on going anywhere. I’m here for the long-term, like it or not.”

I was unsure whether to believe him or not. I didn’t know him well, so the benefit of the doubt seemed like the best approach.

Because my work required meeting with clients outside the office, I didn’t see him often. In fact, if it weren’t for the mandatory 9 a.m. Friday meetings, I could go a month or two without running into Mitch.

As it turns out, Mitch did stay longer than the other director. I believe he lasted about three years, which is a tremendous accomplishment. However, I think that three years doesn’t meet the definition of long-term. It would appear to me that one can claim longevity when north of seven years.

On a drive to Austin, where I was teaching a project management seminar, I had a chance to mull over reasons why Mitch didn’t last, and here’s my list:

  • He had a short-time mentality, but wanted to say the right things.
  • He was unaware of the expectations, and quickly realized that he was in over his head.
  • He lacked the director skills. In his previous job, he served a manager role, which didn’t require the leadership skills of directors.
  • He realized that working long hours wasn’t worth the compensation.
  • He was ill-equipped to handle the pressures of the director position.
  • He realized that it was difficult to manage employees who were self-starters, requiring little guidance.
  • He delegated too much. Sitting in his office doing nothing was boring.
  • He found another job that paid much more, and couldn’t pass it up.
  • He found another job paying about the same, and with less responsibility.
  • He found another job paying less, and he needed a change.
  • He found another job.

After working with Mitch for several years, I had the opinion that he wouldn’t last. It wasn’t part of his DNA. He talked a big game, but he was too soft. He handled tough issues by either avoiding them or delegating to others. It’s impossible to be a leader when one delegates tough decisions. An effective director of an organization is prepared to handle the tough aspects of the work, and Mitch was not the type.

Mitch is now working at Company X, and I’m sure that his meeting with the staff began with the following introduction: “Let me tell you about me. You can expect me to be here for the long-term, whether you like it or not.”

Right on!