#293 from Innovative Leader Volume 6, Number 8          August 1997

FORUM—from our readers

Let Go! Trust Us!

I’m one of nine directors who report directly to the company president.  Our company has no vice presidents (as you’ll see, that’s a symptom of our problem).  The president founded this company about eight years ago, and is (or, at least, was) one of the world’s experts in the technology underlying this rapidly-developing field.  We have approximately 200 employees, and the president gets intimately involved in just about everything that goes on here.

He contacts customers and tells them to call him directly if there’s any problem.  Of course, problems occur all the time.  That keeps him on the phone with these customers much of the day.  When he’s not on the phone, he becomes involved with development, finance, administration, manufacturing, and our other departments. 

There’s hardly enough time for him to listen to an explanation of our problems or ideas.  Usually, before we can finish two sentences, he makes a decision and walks off.  We have no recourse to further discuss the issue because he’s on the phone again or dealing with a problem in some other department.

The company is doing well in spite of this.  But I’m afraid that our success will all come crashing down soon.  With the president’s day taken up with customers and micro-managing, he’s unable to concentrate on the company’s future.  We need to plan our next generation of products, and we need to try out some new marketing opportunities.  But the president just doesn’t have the time or energy to see beyond current crises.  We have yet to discuss long-term (two years?) strategies.  The president somehow has confidence that our products, and our success, will naturally evolve.

He’s “up to his ears” in work.  The directors are quite skilled and would like to take on more responsibility—including contacting our important customers.  This would free up time and energy so that the president can sculpt a plan to direct our future.  Many of us have told him this, and he nods in agreement.  But his agreements have yet to be implemented into action.  He is unable to lose even a small degree of control.  I think that he would act the same even if we were the world’s most capable directors.

Anyway all of the directors have signed a letter expressing our concerns.  I just delivered the letter to his mailbox.  Perhaps he will realize that there’s a time when one just has to let go and trust the staff.  Perhaps he will realize that his leadership is essential for directing us to future success.  Perhaps he will realize that his directors need to take on more responsibilities for their own career growth.  Perhaps he will even become more insecure as some of us leave the company to be replaced with people he will trust even less.


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