Do you have a problem with how an organization publicly deals with an “issue”? Sure you do – with…
CEOs who lie on their résumés.
Employees who steal.
Coaches who sexually abuse their athletes.
Running backs who teach love by leaving their 4-year old still bleeding after 6 hours after a lesson.
Running backs who punch women.
Like most, you have a solution: Fire the CEO – because things will automatically improve. It’s a simple premise – since the fish stinks from the head, cut off the head and the fish will no longer stink.
Appears to me that leadership is no longer about true leadership but about what leadership should be as viewed by the most professionally trained members of society – members of the mainstream media (don’t worry – this won’t turn into a political bully pulpit).
Even athletes believe that the coach must go if the team is performing badly. Well that makes sense – rather than the team performing better, lop off the head and the body will magically go back to achieving greatness.
The problem with the lopping-off-the-head-of-the-stinking-fish approach is that it’s darn near impossible to graft on a new one that works with the body. Even more unfortunate, if you make a figurehead fire rather than working to identify the cancer and surgically removing it as well as modifying the mechanism that caused the cancer in the first place, little – if anything – really changes.
No, firing the CEO isn’t a cure – it’s vigilantism that feels good.
Many people want the CEOs in charge to go because they actually feel better about themselves when a person they perceive as being over compensated is fired. How many laypeople say, “I could do that job for that kind of money!”
No – you can’t.
What the armchair CEOs of the world don’t understand is that leadership isn’t an all or none quality. In fact, it’s only partially a quality. It requires experience in – and finding a delicate balance between – the financial, operational, legal, analytical, and organizational components of an organization. Sorry folks but Roger Goddell becoming Commissioner didn’t happen over night; in fact, it took 24 years. During his tenure, the league’s office has had to face many issues that were either new challenges to the league’s culture or issues that we actually part of the NFL’s culture for some time but were never properly addressed.
Walking on virgin ground and deciding what can be built upon it is a substantial part of the challenge of being a CEO and often leads to unpopular decisions by those who aren’t privy to all the reports and discussions. Behind these decisions we typically hear the impassioned opinions of those who are really just spectators calling for the beheading of the fish regardless of the facts.
However, one thing that is clear to me is that what comes to light in every sport with a public issue is that of the culture of the guiding organization. From this comes one simple question:
Where was HR?
Take PEDs – these are part of the culture in many professional and Olympic sports. Suspensions have been handed out, athletes have been vilified, and new organizations have been created to “address” the problems (practically a cottage industry).
Take coaches who take advantage of younger athletes, committing heinous crimes against the youth they’re being paid to develop. Coaches have been jailed and/or banned, lots of new policies have been created. Plenty of “we’ll solve the problem” from the sports’ organization leadership. Some of these leaders have even resigned.
Take players in a violent sport who commit violent acts in their private lives.
Culture. Culture. Culture.
HR wants that coveted seat at the table when times are good – but seemingly not when times are bad. Smiling on the day after the Super Bowl the NFL talks about how much money they made but being nowhere to be found when the player-assaulting-women videos are being played leads me to the simple conclusion that firing the CEO won’t improve at all the decades-in-development culture if the head of HR of the NFL isn’t the one responsible for fixing the problem.
New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief, who serves as the Saints’ union rep, doesn’t believe Roger Goodell should lose his job but suggested that a season-long suspension would be a fitting punishment for Goodell since that’s what Goodell handed Saint’s head coach Sean Payton in the BountyGate situation.
Said Strief, “What is the precedent for making a colossal mistake? The precedent has been you missed a season. It’s very simple. The exact situation has already happened, and it happened here. There was a punishment and that was the punishment.”
Culture. Cohesiveness. Consistency.
If HR wants a seat-at-the-table when times are great, they have to be there when the shit hits the fan and sticks to it.
And know how to clean it up…